Hayes, Kate Simpson (a.k.a Mary Markwell)
Teacher, Domestic Servant, Milliner, Journalist, Playwright, Legislative Librarian
Kate Simpson Hayes was a vibrant figure in Regina’s early days. Her life was intertwined with Nicholas Flood Davin, the charismatic newspaper publisher with whom she had a doomed love affair. However, Kate Simpson Hayes’ life was more than just tragedy and scandal. She was a playwright, an author, a journalist and a leading light in Regina’s artistic community.
Katherine Simpson Hayes (some sources list her first name as Catherine or Kathleen) was born in 1856 in Dalhousie, New Brunswick. She attended Normal School in Fredericton and taught throughout the Maritimes before marrying C. Bowman Simpson in 1882. They had 2 children together, Burke and Elaine, who was always called Bonnie.
By the time that Bonnie was born, Kate Simpson Hayes decided to leave her husband. She moved to the prairies in 1885, settling temporarily in Prince Albert, where she worked as governess for J. Lestock Reid (for whom Lestock, Saskatchewan is named.) She did not stay long in Prince Albert, moving in short order to Regina, where she would remain for many years.
Hayes opened a millinery shop and became the Catholic Church’s organist. Soon she founded the Literary and Musical Society and began to write plays and prose under the pseudonym “Mary Markwell” within a month of her arrival.
It was shortly after her arrival that Hayes met the man who would capture her heart: Nicholas Flood Davin. Their love affair scandalized the town. Hayes was still legally married and had 2 small children. Davin and Hayes paid no attention to the gossip, however and began a relationship anyway.
Davin and Hayes formed a dynamic partnership. It was Davin who hired her to write for the Regina Leader (as the first female reporter) and it was Davin who put Hayes’ name forward as a candidate for legislative librarian, a job she would hold for 8 years.
Their romance culminated in the birth of 2 illegitimate children, a son and a daughter. The son, Henry Arthur, was born in 1889 in Vancouver and was immediately placed in the care of a housekeeper. The daughter, born in 1892, was placed at first with a nurse, then was sent to the St. Boniface Roman Catholic orphanage in Winnipeg. Later she was placed in a private home.
Davin repeatedly begged Hayes to divorce her first husband and marry him, but she refused. Whatever her reasons, she gave their children away and turned down all of Davin’s proposals. A devastated Davin then married Eliza Jane Reid, a spinster from Ontario. Reginans were surprised that Davin had married Reid, but she had apparently consented to raise Davin’s “nephew” and “niece” – really the children he had with Hayes. The boy was located and soon came to live with Davin and his new wife, but the girl was nowhere to be found.
Hayes continued to write poetry, prose and plays after her breakup with Davin. She moved to Winnipeg in 1899 to become the editor of the women’s page for the Manitoba Free Press. She also worked for the CPR as a writer and then as an immigration commissioner in England. She helped to found and later was president of the Canadian Women’s Press Club.
Later Hayes met Davin in Winnipeg in 1901 at the post office. They quarrelled over the fate of their children. At the end of the conversation she shouted at him, “You go your way and I’ll go mine!” Those were the last words she ever spoke to her former lover; 2 days later he committed suicide.