Lilias Massey

Lilias Evva Massey (formerly Van Buskirk; née Ahearn;[2] 1918 – January 19, 1997) was a Canadian dignitary, who served as châtelaine of Rideau Hall during her father-in-law Vincent Massey's term as Governor General of Canada.[2][3] Vincent Massey was a widower whose wife Alice died 18 months before his appointment as Governor General. Lilias, who was married to Vincent and Alice Massey's son Lionel, is to date the only person to have served as the official host or hostess of Rideau Hall who was not the Governor General's spouse.[4]

Lilias Massey
Acting Viceregal consort of Canada
In office
February 28, 1952 – September 15, 1959
Governor-GeneralVincent Massey
Preceded byCountess Alexander of Tunis
Succeeded byPauline Vanier
Personal details
Lilias Evva Ahearn

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
DiedJanuary 19, 1997[1]
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Douglas Byrd Van Buskirk
(died 1941)

(m. 1946; died 1965)
Parent(s)T. Franklin Ahearn (father)

Due to the conventions of formal address that were used in the 1950s, she may also be referred to in some references as "Mrs. Lionel Massey" rather than by her own given name.[2] However, she was not given the honorary style of Her Excellency,[5] which is normally given to a Governor General's spouse, nor was she inducted into the Order of Canada, as a viceregal consort generally is.


The daughter of businessman and politician T. Franklin Ahearn,[2] she was raised in Ottawa just a few blocks from Rideau Hall at 7 Rideau Gate.[5] She worked as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War II before marrying Lionel Massey in 1946.[2] She had previously been married to Flying Officer Douglas Byrd Van Buskirk,[6] a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot who died in combat in 1941.[7]

The Masseys resided in Saskatoon, Toronto and Canton, and briefly in London, England, until Vincent Massey was appointed as Governor General in 1952.[2] Being the spouse of a Governor General is an important public role in its own right, thus Vincent Massey's status as a widower necessitated the appointment of an acting châtelaine, and Lilias Massey was selected for the role.[8] Lionel Massey simultaneously served as Secretary to the Governor General of Canada.[9]


As châtelaine, Massey's duties included hosting visiting dignitaries at Rideau Hall,[5] and accompanying the Governor General on his official state visits and public appearances.[10] During her term as châtelaine, Lionel and Lilias Massey maintained their primary residence at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall,[2] while also sometimes returning to Batterwood House, the Masseys' private family home in Canton, for weekends and vacations.[2]

In 1953, she accompanied Vincent Massey as Canada's official representatives at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II,[11] and later hosted a state visit to Ottawa by Dwight Eisenhower.[12] In 1954, the Masseys in turn undertook a state visit to Washington, D.C.,[9][13] and later hosted Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Rideau Hall.[14] In 1955, they hosted Princess Mary, Princess Royal at Rideau Hall.[15]

In 1956, she accompanied Vincent Massey on a tour of the Canadian Arctic,[16] during which she became the first woman ever to fly over the North Pole.[17] Upon the end of the tour, she briefly fell ill and was taken to hospital in The Pas, Manitoba.[18] As of that trip, she had accompanied Vincent Massey on all but two of his 86 official trips across Canada.[19]

In 1957, she was the official presenter of the Lady Tweedsmuir Cup, a women's curling championship trophy named for Susan Buchan, Baroness Tweedsmuir, to the winning Royal Montreal Curling Club.[20]

Other dignitaries she hosted at Rideau Hall included Jawaharlal Nehru, Queen Juliana and Haile Selassie.[1]

Later lifeEdit

After Vincent Massey stepped down as Governor General, Lionel and Lilias returned to Batterwood House.[1] Following Lionel's death in 1965, Lilias returned to Ottawa, where she lived until her death in 1997.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "OBITUARY -- LILIAS EVVA MASSEY: Governor General's daughter-in-law was official hostess at Rideau Hall". Ottawa Citizen, January 22, 1997.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mrs. Lionel Massey Leads Busy Social Life". Ottawa Citizen, May 14, 1954.
  3. ^ "Massey Family Arrives in London". Ottawa Journal, July 6, 1957.
  4. ^ "From Autocrat to Adviser: Powers and whims whittled and restrained--the changing role of the Governor-General". The Globe and Mail, May 13, 1967.
  5. ^ a b c "Girl Who Grew Up Around Corner Rideau 'First Lady'". Toronto Star, May 10, 1952.
  6. ^ "Massey-Van Buskirk Vows Of Dominion-Wide Interest". The Globe and Mail, June 17, 1946.
  7. ^ "Douglas Byrd Van Buskirk - The Canadian Virtual War Memorial". Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 2020-08-07.
  8. ^ "Death of King Affects Many World Problems, Says Vincent Massey". The Globe and Mail, February 18, 1952.
  9. ^ a b "Warm Wet Welcome: Governor-General Greeted by Downpour on Visit to President Eisenhower". The Globe and Mail, May 4, 1954.
  10. ^ "Longest in Post: Mossey Was Regarded as a Success as First Canadian Governor-General". The Globe and Mail, August 3, 1959.
  11. ^ "Coronation Sidelights". The Globe and Mail, June 1, 1953.
  12. ^ "Chilly Day Warmed: Visitors Inspire Easy Atmosphere". The Globe and Mail, November 14, 1953.
  13. ^ "Governor General Massey Receives Tremendous Welcome in Washington". Lethbridge Herald, May 4, 1954.
  14. ^ "'Never Lovelier' Response of All to Queen Mother". The Globe and Mail, November 15, 1954.
  15. ^ "Rideau Hall Gay for Princess Royal". The Globe and Mail, October 12, 1955.
  16. ^ "Shyness, Giggles Welcome Massey To Trading Post". The Globe and Mail, March 21, 1956.
  17. ^ "First Woman Over North Pole". Sandusky Register, March 29, 1956. p. 1.
  18. ^ "Temperature 102 Massey In-Law Goes to Hospital". The Globe and Mail, April 5, 1956.
  19. ^ "Mrs. Lionel Massey: Arctic Preparations Offer Many Hazards". Ottawa Journal, March 15, 1956.
  20. ^ "Mrs. Lionel Massey Presents Tweedsmuir Cup". Ottawa Journal, February 2, 1957.