By ALEXANDRIA DEER
Rob McGuire is not your average 51-year-old sales representative. When he’s not juggling raising two teenage daughters, travelling all over Ontario and entering operating rooms with surgeons who are using the medical devices he sells, McGuire likes to shoot at Americans.
Somewhere in the chaos, he finds time for his hobby – re-enacting.
McGuire has been involved in re-enactments for the past four years with a unit called the First Royal Scots Grenadier Company, which is based in London, Ont.
“A few years ago I began singing in a choir and one of the ladies in the choir was a re-enactor. She introduced me to the hobby,” McGuire said. “It’s like any good hobby. Once it gets to you, and if you really like it, you don’t need a reason to continue, it just grabs onto you and holds you.”
McGuire has a love of history, Canadian history in particular, and once dreamed of becoming a history teacher.
“I have a large collection of books on Canadian history, largely Canadian military history. As any of my close friends will tell you, I eat up anything that’s history. I don’t care what it is,” he said.
McGuire was a soldier in the Canadian reserve for six years. In the re-enactments he participates in, he plays the role of a private soldier.
“We don’t pretend that we’re modern day soldiers. A number of my friends who are in the unit were in the military as well. It does tend to draw on some of that, but it’s not like a second home for ex-military people,” McGuire said. “There are a lot of people in the unit who were never in the military and are in the front line as well.”
Re-enactors are often referred to as living historians. They impart their knowledge of Canadian history on others to give a sense of prospective into what it may have been like for people during that time. That is one of the many aspects of re-enacting that McGuire loves.
“I get to talk about what I’m doing to people who don’t know the history, so I guess in that way, I get to become the history teacher I never had the good fortune of being,” McGuire said.
Re-enactments run from spring to the fall. McGuire will be participating in a training session in Fort George in April followed by a large re-enactment the first full weekend in May outside of London, commemorating the Battle of Longwoods, to kick off this year’s re-enactment season.
“The re-enactment groups gather during the winter and they decide which battles we’re going to attend. The ones that tend to be standard for this part of Ontario are Chrysler’s Farm near Ottawa, Fort George, Fort Erie, Longwoods and Stoney Creek,” McGuire said.
The final re-enactment McGuire will be participating in this year will take place on Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights.
“I think we live in a world that is very fast-paced. We represent a period of time in history where it was a lot more sedate, but it was based a lot more on community. People survived because they could rely on each other. I like the sense that I’m connected to these people in some way.”
During the re-enactments, McGuire often finds himself wondering what it would have been like for a soldier who was on the front lines during the War of 1812.
“I find myself imagining, what must those people have done? What must that have been like for them, because I just face smoke and powder coming out of the end of that musket. I don’t face a lead ball and I don’t face cannons and I don’t face people charging on a horse with a sabre. It’s very easy to let your mind go back in time and think what this must have really been like,” McGuire said. “It gives you a chance to explore a deeper sense of history within yourself and what that really means to you, especially with Canada and this being the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. For me, I think it gives me another opportunity to appreciate the fact that I am Canadian.”
McGuire encourages anyone interested in Canadian history and re-enacting to give it a try.
“It is not an elite club. We would welcome anyone who wanted to join a re-enactment unit,” he said.
McGuire is looking forward to having his 89-year-old father, accompanied by his sister, come out to a few of the major events this upcoming season.
“We all have a love of history, share a military background and understand the importance of the bicentennial.”