The Baron’s Palace


Every city in Canada had them when I was a kid – Calgary, Toronto, Montreal. The baron’s palace. That building that had been put up in the heyday of British Imperial Rule and was intended to house transplanted nobility. Or at least transplanted money.

I don’t mean the various actual official buildings – Government House, The Barracks, Parliament House, etc. No – I mean the Scion’s Palace – the colonial foothold that provided relief for someone who had too many sons in England. The Remittance Man’s Fortress. Olde Englande’s Greene Ande Pleasante Shore Somewhere Awaye Frome The Reste Of The Familye…

We had one down on the Elbow River – a half-built set of baronial walls that never got above chest height. A relic of some relic who drank away the money needed to finish it. We populated it with ghosts around Halloween but the rest of the time it was Cowboys and Indians ground for the kids.

I have just been rounding the Swan River here in Rossmoyne and have discovered our very own Baron’s Fief. I have no idea to whom it belongs but I can make a few shrewd guesses*. The suburb has gentrified up on an exponential scale over the last 40 years and can now not be approached without a platinum credit card, a sense of reverence, and a small phrase book in the oriental languages. For all this, it is a pleasant place and as yet they have not walled it off or installed laser cannons. Lesser mortals are allowed on the river beach – but I wouldn’t fancy their chances of camping out there and fishing for prawns on a summer night. There is only so much indulgence in the resident’s association.

One day I will go to look at the Taj Mahal in Nedlands or Peppermint Grove – the unfinished and unpaid-for palace of what was stated to be an extremely rich Indian family who declined to complete it. I believe there was some difficulty with industrial or financial matters that saw an end to their ambitions, but the thing is still too new to have ghosts. As they have decamped there would seem to be a psychic as well as fiscal vacancy there so we shall see.

Note: Someone channelling William Randolph Hearst…I hope he names it Rosebud.

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