Mary Deane

Mary Deane's part in the early history of Calgary, and her connection with the North West Mounted Police, is often ignored by chroniclers. Although not a member of the force, her story deserves mention and, as such, is included here.

Mary Dennehy was born in Aldershot, England - the daughter of Cpt. Barry Dennehy, formerly the governor of Kilmainham Gaol, where the famous Irish patriot Charles Stewart Parnell was incarcerated. She came to Calgary with her family in 1898. Mary was trained as a nurse and, in 1906, found herself caring for the victims of the great San Francisco earthquake. Mary rejoined her family in Calgary and, in the summer of 1907, was assigned the task of attending to the commander of the Calgary NWMP barracks, R. Burton Deane, who was recovering from a back injury.

Cpt. R. Burton Deane was a graduate of Sandhurst Military College and had been an officer in the Royal Marines before joining the NWMP in 1882. Deane became adjutant to the force and served in Regina during the Northwest Rebellion. He was a witness in the trial of Louis Riel, who spoke well of Deane's humanity. Deane was know as an ultimately fair man, well liked by the rank and file. He always went "by the book", but often re-wrote the "book" when he found it lacking.

In 1906 Deane was posted to Calgary as the commanding officer. His first wife, Martha, was ill and had been sent to the west coast for treatment. Deane ordered the construction of a new commanding officer's residence and encouraged the workers to finish the house in time for Christmas. Sadly, Martha Deane died on December 23rd and never lived in her new home. The house, known as "The Deane House", now a restaurant and historic site, forms part of the Fort Calgary Historic Park (a function which Deane would heartily approve of). The gardens, of which Deane was particularly proud, have been lovingly recreated by the Calgary Horticultural Society. Deane brought Martha home to Alberta and laid her to rest in the Mountainview Cemetery in Lethbridge (photo on left).

In the summer of 1907, it was announced that Prince Fushimi of Japan was touring Canada and the Mounted Police were charged with escorting and entertaining him on his brief stop in Calgary. A short tour of the city was arranged and Dean (a stickler for punctuality) took it upon himself to check and time the route. While on his inspection, the wagon hit a hole in the road throwing Deane from his seat and injuring his back. Deane was confined to bed and missed the Royal Visit.

During his convalescence, Deane became infatuated with his nurse. He later wrote in his memoirs;

"My nurse stayed with me in all for eleven days, and after she had left I found that life was insupportable without her bright eyes, cheery manner and Irish wit, and, to cut a long story short, I haunted her in a quite persistent fashion until she consented to marry me."

The two were married on April 2, 1908, just before Deane's 60th birthday. Mary was 15 years his junior. The Calgary Herald announced; "A very interesting wedding took place Wednesday at the parsonage of St. Mary's...".

The wife of a NWMP commanding officer was essentially the barracks' hostess and Mary Deane, always an active woman, took an enthusiastic role. However, she developed pneumonia in the fall of 1911 and later underwent surgery for empyema. Mary never fully recovered and by 1914 it was discovered that she had tuberculosis.

In 1914 the Calgary Barracks were closed down and Cpt. Deane retired from the force. The two moved into a house in West Calgary where Mary could be cared for. The summer was hot, so Cpt. Deane constructed a canvas house in the back yard and sprayed it with water to keep it cool for his patient. Mary died on July 22.

Mary was buried with the rest of her family in St. Mary's cemetery. Cpt. Deane left Calgary shortly thereafter and returned to England. He liked Calgary and its people but the city held too many bad memories for him. On Mary's monument Deane inscribed the same epitaph that he had inscribed on Martha's tombstone 8 years earlier, "Peace, Perfect Peace". But this time, the sad and passionate Cpt. Deane added the words, "With Loved Ones far Away".