Friday, February 27, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Hints of a Troubled Future

Anne Flaherty.
Her name surfaced for the first time
in this letter of my father's.

Anne's husband, Mike Flaherty,
took over the nursing station in Lansdowne House,
after Margaret Kelly left for a nursing position 
in the hospital in Sioux Lookout 
in late September, 1960.

None of us had any idea how important
Anne's family would become 
to our family in the future,
and all because of a massive forest fire.

But that's a tale for future posts.

I'm not trying to tease or frustrate readers.
It's just strange for me to see 
an innocuous first reference to someone 
whose family has haunted me all my life.

You cross the paths of countless people
as you go through life, 
and most are anonymous people 
you never meet again.

And some, well, some are much, much more.

I wish I had a picture of Anne, 
but I don't.

Sunday, October 9, 1960 
My father wrote:
Ready, or not, here we go again:
Today was very quiet, 
and there is not much to tell you.  

We slept quite late and missed breakfast.  
In fact, Uno missed Mass in the morning.  
I got up about ten o’clock, 
and I wrote up the letter for Saturday.

This afternoon, Uno went for a canoe ride 
out on the lake, and I read some more 
out of the Charlottetown Guardian and the Post 
and played some chess with Duncan 
who dropped over for a short visit about three o’clock.

  Chess Pieces

Opening Position from the Black Side

This evening I wrote a letter to Grammie, 
one to Sara, and a couple to the Indian Agent in Nakina.  
That pretty much ties up Sunday.

I don’t feel too well tonight. 
I am afraid that I may be 
coming down with something.
Thank goodness that 
I have had chicken pox, 
because it is rampant among 
the Island Indians right now.

Oh, by the way, 
I am getting a new pupil soon.  
Mrs. Flaherty, the nurse’s wife, 
wants to do some studying to improve her English 
and increase her general knowledge.  
She is Indian and never went past grade four or five. 

Mike was wondering if she could come 
to school like the other Indians 
and do regular grade five or six work.  

I think it would be better if 
I dropped into the nursing station every day 
for an hour or two after school 
and tutored her and corrected her exercises 
and just supervised her studies 
and helped her with her difficulties.  
We are going to decide before Anne starts her studies.

  My Father's Classroom
Lansdowne House

Uno and the Father are quite miffed 
that Mike asked me to do it, instead of Uno, 
since they are Catholic 
and Uno is Catholic 
and I am Protestant.  
None of them came right out and said anything, 
but I can feel the displeasure.  

In fact, when Mike asked me if I would, 
I felt that there might be hard feelings 
and suggested that perhaps, since he was Catholic, 
the Father might prefer that he had Uno teach her.  

He said that he didn’t care what the Father thought 
and he wanted me because I had a better education, 
spoke better English, had more experience, 
had a more disciplined classroom, and happier children.  

This is only Uno’s second year teaching 
and he still hasn’t finished his grade eleven.  
Besides he is several years younger than Anne, 
and she thought she would be uncomfortable 
taking lessons from someone younger than herself.  

I hope Mike never sees my spelling; 
he might change his opinion about my ability to teach.  

Oh well, I have had good success so far 
without being able to spell, 
and I don’t think I should have any trouble with Anne.

Well, that wraps it up for tonight.  
Will be seeing you all tomorrow.

Bye for now,
love, Don

This letter also hints at 
some of the conflict and violence that  
racked Lansdowne House in the future;
although, I am quite certain that
no one recognized what was to come
at the time Dad wrote this letter.

An earlier clue appeared in
a letter that Dad wrote on September 20, 1960:
"The chief is Protestant, and he is quite disturbed 
that I am living across at the Mission with the Father.
I explained that it was the only place 
that I could find to stay."

I didn't realize the significance of these lines
when I published my 10/10/14 post
On Canoes and Procreation.

But then I hadn't yet stumbled across 
the research book
When Freedom Is Lost:
The Dark Side of the Relationship 
between Government
and the Fort Hope Band
by Paul Driben and Robert S. Trudeau.

I saw things much more clearly after 
reading this stunning and disturbing book.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


  1. Replies
    1. Aloha! I finally got hooked up with the internet in our hotel lobby, and I was feeling some suspense because I wasn't sure if my scheduled post posted! I'm hoping that you will be surprised in more ways than one down the road! Hope all is well with you, Debra!

  2. Oh, I really love this!!! :) :)

    1. Aloha, Linda! We're finally in Oahu! It means so much that you are enjoying this! I'll be around to your blog and all my others later tonight. I'm going to get kicked off my lobby table shortly because it's reserved for something shortly. I can't tell you how wonderful the Hawaiian air feels after snowy, cold Colorado! Take care!

  3. Sometimes that displeasure can sure be felt. Oh what religion can do. Way to tease future posts too lol

    1. LOL, Pat!!!! I hope things are going well in your corner of the world. I've been incommunicado for several days, other than a brief connect with the internet in McCarran Airport yesterday. I will be visiting your blog and catching up later this evening. Take care.

  4. Replies
    1. TeeHee! Hope all is well with you! I'm in heaven now that I've made it to Honolulu! Have a good one!

  5. How hard it must have been for your Dad, and maybe the letters the only real outlet for his feelings about the discontent right there. He , from his letters and your words, was a very intuitive man, and I will wait... and wait... till next time when you reveal the next episode.

    1. Hey Jean! Thanks you for your thoughtful comment. Sorry to leave you hanging ~ well maybe not! Writers like to keep people hooked. Hope all is well with your and your hubby! I'm soaking up the humidity and warmth, having finally made it to Honolulu and settled into our hotel. Take care!

  6. Replies
    1. Aloha, Peaches! More will be coming. I'm hoping that I can keep on top of things while on vacation. Now I have access to internet, although I have to be down in my hotel lobby. I'll be visiting later tonight and catching up on your blog! Have a good one!

  7. Replies
    1. Hi Martha! More will be coming!!!! Hope all is well with you!

  8. Oh me, oh my, the suspense!!!! :-)

    1. TeeHee, Audrey! I hope that you have been surviving the cold and storms. I've not even seen the news in several days, but now I'm connected with the internet. I did finish "The Secret Life of Bees" on the plane to Honolulu yesterday. What a fabulous book! I'm going to reread it and then leave it in the book exchange shelf in our hotel's lobby. We are staying in a small, funky, old time, family owned hotel just several hundred feet from Waikiki. I'll be telling everyone about it! Stay safe. I will be visiting soon! Terry just got back with dinner for us from a nearby farmer's market! Take care!

  9. Hi Everyone! I faded rapidly last night and didn't get around to your blogs. I'll be visiting, asap! I think all the weird traveling hours and sleep caught up!

  10. Oh you ARE good, Louise! You have us right where you want us!!! in the palm of your hand!! lol
    actually, I did wonder at some point if there were any undercurrents between the different groups.....especially being so isolated.
    I so enjoy these letters and actually imagine myself being there. Thanks.
    Now don't worry about replying to this. Get out on that beach and into that water!!!

    1. Thanks, Jim! I have been on the beach and in that water ~ and my collection of umbrellas (from mai tais) is growing. It's sprinkling right now, and we're deciding what we're going to do. We're in our second room, having had to make a change because we extended our stay once Terry decided when he was going to retire. We are meeting so many Canadians in our hotel. I was swimming at Waikiki, and as we were bobbing in the waves on our floaties, I met a French Canadian resource teacher from New Brusnswick who updated me on Campbellton and Atholville. I was in Atholville before she was born! It was a hoot. We had the grandest long chat with her bobbing around! Aloha!


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