RANDAL, STEPHEN, teacher, office holder, and journalist; b. 1 Jan. 1804, probably in Danby, Vt, son of Benjamin Randal and Roxana Case; m. 1828 Lamira Juliana Munson in Saint-Armand, Lower Canada, and they had at least two daughters; d. 27 April 1841 in Stanstead, Lower Canada.
During Stephen Randal’s childhood, his parents moved across the Vermont border to Saint-Armand, where he came to the notice of Anglican missionary Charles James Stewart, becoming his protégé after the death of the senior Randal in 1811. Stephen’s education, provided and directed by Stewart, was intended to prepare him for holy orders. After preliminary studies in Saint-Armand, in 1819 he entered the grammar school (from 1821 the Royal Grammar School) in Montreal. He studied there, under Alexander Skakel, until 1824. Because Randal did not feel a call to the ministry, Stewart arranged for him to take charge of the grammar school to be opened at St Thomas, Upper Canada, in the Talbot settlement in 1825. At the school (later named the Talbot Seminary) Randal acquired his first experience teaching classical languages; he later wrote that Colonel Thomas Talbot, the founder of the settlement, had been “very kind” to him.
In 1827 Randal applied for the position of headmaster at the Gore District Grammar School in Hamilton. The trustees disagreed over the choice from among the three applicants, one of whom was John Rae*, and the matter was settled in Randal’s favour by John Strachan* in his capacity as president of the Board for the General Superintendence of Education. Although a later biographer, Mabel Grace Burkholder, found Randal “fond of the classics and weak in mathematics,” reports indicate that he was a successful teacher. Burkholder provides a rendition of one of Randal’s reports: “Boys 41, girls 24; 16 in Latin, 4 in French, 7 in mathematics; English grammar, geography and astronomy 10; arithmetic 25; writing 40. To six pupils education was given gratis.” Early in the 1830s Randal proposed an “evening school” for adults (to be started if he received 12 applications) but the pioneering move in adult education never materialized.
Randal was also involved in various other aspects of life in Hamilton. In 1833, the year of the town’s incorporation, he served as town clerk and for a few months that year he was secretary of the newly formed board of police. An inseparable friend of George Hamilton, the founder of the town, Randal, aided by his wife and sister, gave frequent parties for the young people of Hamilton’s prominent families. In 1835 he was a charter member of Christ’s Church, the town’s first Anglican church.
Late in 1831 Randal, having decided to combine publishing and teaching, issued a prospectus for a semi-monthly literary paper, the Voyageur, “devoted one half to native literary productions and the remainder to good foreign selections.” It is uncertain exactly when it began or how long Randal published it (it had ceased by 1836); a contemporary, Charles Morrison Durand, blamed its demise on “it being too refined for the times.” Late in 1833 or early in 1834 Randal resigned from his teaching position to edit the radical newspaper the Hamilton Free Press, founded by William Smith. Again it is uncertain exactly how long he edited this paper but by 1836 he claimed to have been “riddled by the shot of both [political] parties. Unacquainted with the management of a printing establishment, I was cheated, bamboozled and ruined.”
After trying unsuccessfully to support his family by running a private school, he sent his wife and family back to her father to allow himself “a year to wander.” However, “surprised at the result of the elections (1836),” which saw the bulk of the reformers defeated [see Sir Francis Bond Head*], he returned to Upper Canada “determined to spend the remainder of the year in getting better acquainted with the real sentiments of the people.” He travelled throughout the province “sometimes as a political lecturer, sometimes as an editor,” and he again published a short-lived literary journal, Randal’s Magazine, in Hallowell (Picton).
When the Upper Canadian rebellion broke out in December 1837, he returned to his family in Lower Canada and took a teaching position at the Frost Village Academy, receiving the meagre salary of £40. Less than four years later he died in straitened circumstances at the age of 37.
Stephen Randal was described by a contemporary as “a very odd but gifted young man.” According to Durand, “he prided himself on walking and looking like Lord Byron, in whose day he lived. He and Byron had club feet and curly hair and a look of genius.” Perhaps it was Randal’s personality, as well as his political and educational views and teaching ability, that has caused him to be remembered in spite of his many failures and his short life.
HPL, Board of Police, minutes, 16 March, 17 Aug. 1833; Scrapbooks, H. F. Gardiner, 216: 90 (Charles Durand, letter to the editor, Herald (Hamilton, Ont.), written 16 Aug. 1900); C. R. McCullough, “Famous people, landmarks, and events.” Documentary history of education in Upper Canada from the passing of the Constitutional Act of 1791 to the close of Rev. Dr. Ryerson’s administration of the Education Department in 1876, ed. J. G. Hodgins (28v., Toronto, 1894–1910). DHB. R. W. James, John Rae, political economist; an account of his life and a compilation of his main writings (2v., Toronto, 1965). Johnston, Head of the Lake (1967). Mabel Burkholder, “New light on Hamilton’s first school teacher,” Hamilton Spectator, 7 Nov. 1942. “Evening ‘Times’ ready to move to new quarters; Hamilton journalism from small beginnings up to the present . . . 1831 to 1888,” Evening Times (Hamilton), 3 April 1888.