The episode of Murdoch’s Mysteries that has intrigued me most was Episode 6 in Series 4, entitled “Dead End Street”. An autistic young woman who was incapable of speaking had created a model of the street on which she lived and in one house a man is pointing a gun. This leads Murdoch to wonder if a murder had occurred in the neighbourhood even though one had not been reported. What interested me was the location of the drama—one of the little residential streets at the east end of St Lawrence’s Ward. The backdrop used on the set included St Paul’s Catholic Church rising high above the houses in between. The story was based around a series of events that took place during an Orangeman’s Day Parade on the 12 July—a parade that proceeded along Queen Street and all the inhabitants of the street had gone up to the top of their road to see it pass.
The episode had two links to my census work. First, I had been working on that part of St Lawrence’s Ward in the week before seeing the TV show. The area was not densely poplulated in 1861, but maps of the time indicated that it was shortly to become so. The picture of the street as seen on television will always be the vision of that part of Toronto in the latter half of the nineteenth century for me, no matter how true an image it is. Secondly, I recalled transcribing a census form produced in St John’s Ward. The form asked for reports of deaths during 1860 and one poor widow with twin infant boys reported that her husband had died after playing the fife in the Orangeman’s Parade. I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The census--all life is there.