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"Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee" [DANC]

Word is getting around about this fall's Sherlockian and Doylean conference in Toronto: "Jubilee @ 221B", celebrating the 50th anniversaries of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Public Library, and of the Bootmakers of Toronto. (The ACD Collection officially opened late in 1971, and the Bootmakers became a thing a few months later.)

The Bootmakers will co-sponsor the Jubilee event along with the Friends of the ACD Collection, a group that raises money and awareness as a unit of the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

The Friends were in the spotlight a few months ago, when (for the second year in a row) their flagship event, the Cameron Hollyer Memorial Lecture, took place online because of public health restrictions. The speaker was playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, who has put Sherlock Holmes on the stage more than once, was invested in the Baker Street Irregulars in 2018 as "The Five Orange Pips," and incidentally gave another major lecture, this one for the BSI itself, in New York in January 2016.

The Friends event has been a fixture for more than twenty years now, but this year I noticed that not a great deal was said on the Zoom presentation about Cameron Hollyer himself, whose name it honors. That name will be familiar to most people in the Sherlockian world, no doubt, but possibly there are some — especially those who have joined our ranks since Cameron died in the summer of 2000 — who may know little or nothing about him.

Cameron Hollyer (image credit: Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection)

Cameron Hollyer (1926 – 2000)

He was the curator of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection from the time it was created at what was then the Metropolitan Toronto Library in 1971 until his retirement twenty years later. He was also a Sherlockian scholar of note, a friend to just about everyone who crossed his path, and such a representative of Sherlock Holmes that when Colorado State University decided to award Mr. Holmes an honorary degree, Cameron was invited to show up (in deerstalker and Inverness) to accept it on his behalf.

Said one tribute in Canadian Holmes, the magazine of the Bootmakers of Toronto, in 1991: 
"Though he has never been our president — for it seems generally acknowledged that his talents lie elsewhere than in administrative efficiency — he has always been our presiding genius."

His many contributions were traced by several writers in that issue of Canadian Holmes on the occasion of his retirement, as well as in his own reminiscence, "The Curator's Egg," an informal history of the Toronto collection. 

Born in 1926, he joined the staff of the Toronto library as a young man, and in 1969 was involved in the inspired decision to form an Arthur Conan Doyle collection, as well as the 1971 Weekend with Sherlock Holmes that launched it. 

He was subsequently not only an influential Bootmaker but a respected figure across the Sherlockian world, known for his gentle humour, his kindness, his way with words, and his vast knowledge.

When I had the opportunity to give the Cameron Hollyer Memorial Lecture at the Toronto library in 2005, I said a few words about the man whose name it bears:
"It is not easy, for me at least, to separate the atmosphere of the Arthur Conan Doyle Room here from the image of Cameron Hollyer, tall, stooped and tobacco-stained, ready with information and anecdote and literary allusion. He once told a story of a visitor, not exactly one of the initiates, who wandered into the ACD Room, spotted Cameron and asked in something like awe, 'Are you Arthur Conan Doyle?' Cameron, who did not like to say no to anybody, decided to temporize. 'What does it say on the door?' he asked, and the visitor nodded in satisfaction — and, fortunately, wandered out again.

"Cameron did not look like the broad and beefy Conan Doyle, or share his booming voice and sporting tastes, and it is something of a wonder that Cameron ended up specializing in the life and work of a man so unlike him. We will perhaps appreciate Cameron best if we remember that before he was a Doylean, he was an authority on twentieth-century American literature, a product of that erudite alma mater, the Harvard College of the 1950s."

Members of Cameron's family have attended many of the annual lectures over the past two decades — members of his family by blood, I mean; for those of us who are Sherlockians, certainly those who are Canadian Sherlockians, are all members of Cameron Hollyer's family.

Jubilee @ 221B is scheduled for September 23 – 25, 2002, at the Toronto Reference Library in downtown Toronto. Nicholas Meyer has been announced as the keynote speaker, and other information is coming out bit by bit through the Friends' website and on other Sherlockian media.

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