Friday, July 24, 2015

The Lansdowne House Letters: Human Refuse 3 Revisited ~ A Northern Teacher Departs

Back again with another repost
of my earliest northern posts.
It was a couple of months before
I could tackle Human Refuse 3,
but I did so on February 1, 2013.

I'll be home and publishing new material soon.

It was just happenstance that my family landed in the North.  
In the summer of 1960 my father was planning 
to return to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 
to pursue his Bachelor of Education.

University Hall, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

On a whim, prompted by curiosity, 
my father answered an advertisement for a teaching job 
in the Church of England Indian Day School 
at Lansdowne House on Lake Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario.

Lake Attawapiskat:  Look for it Under the Second T 
in the Word Attawapiskat 
inland from Akimiski Island, James Bay

 Note also:  Sault Ste. Marie
Between Lake Superior and Lake Huron 

He was hired almost immediately; 
and, although he jokingly liked to think 
that his speedy acceptance was due to his qualifications, 
my father knew that it was largely because of 
how desperate the Indian Affairs Branch was 
for teachers at that time.  
It was an offer too good to resist.

On the day my father left, the letters began - 
letters that have come to me for safe-keeping.  
The first I have was written by my mother 
to my father's mother, Myrtle Jane (Pratt) MacBeath, 
on September 4, 1960.

When I touch these faded pages, 
I feel my mother’s presence and her unwavering love, 
not just for me, 
but also for her husband, children, and extended family.  
These letters are among my most precious possessions.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I'm trying to imagine what it was like for my parents 
that last evening before my father left.
Dad was heading into isolation, 
and Mom was staying in Nova Scotia 
with five children aged one to ten.  

My parents had no idea how long they would be apart; 
but, they faced separation and difficulty 
in the hope of improving their financial circumstances.  

They shared a dream 
that all five of their children would go to university; 
and, not just any university, 
but Acadia University, their alma mater. 

At that time and place, 
university was a given for a son. 
But four girls?  
That was considered a waste of good money.

Donald Blair MacBeath and Sara Margaret MacBeath
Acadia University, 1950
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved


There was so much unspoken in the words my mother wrote 
the day my father left Smith’s Cove for Halifax, 
Charlottetown, and on to Ontario:

I imagine Don will be on his way North when you receive this.
We certainly hated to see him go
and are lonely already without him ...

Don and I spent last evening with Grammy at Aunt Nan's.  
It was a beautiful night, 
and we watched the sea in the moonlight 
and enjoyed the fireplace.

Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

The second letter is from my father to his Sally,
September 7, 1960.
Travel was quite different then: 

I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie 
after a very tiresome trip from Char’town (Charlottetown).  

I left at 11:45 a.m. 
& didn’t arrive at the Windsor Hotel
until 12:30 p.m. (1:30 your time).

Sault Ste. Marie

I had to wait 2 hours & 30 minutes in Moncton, 
55 minutes in Montreal, 
& 3 hours in Toronto.  

Then when I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, 
I had another unpleasant surprise.  

There is no airport in Canadian Sault Ste. Marie.  
We landed in Michigan at a USAF base 
& had to drive by bus to our hotel.  

What with waiting for ferries etc., 
it took 1 1/2 hours to get from the plane to the hotel – 
just about as long as it took to get from Toronto 
to Sault St. Marie.

Sault Ste. Marie:  Aerial picture of the Soo Locks 
between Lake Superior and Lake Huron 
dividing the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA (right) 
and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada (left).

I almost missed the plane in Toronto.  
I didn’t hear them call the departure of the flight.  
When I realized what had happened, 
I dashed out to see the aircraft 
just as they had closed the door & taken away the ramp.
However the stewardess saw me through the window 
& notified the pilot.  
He cut back the engine, 
they put up the ramp again, & I got aboard.  
I felt mighty foolish, I can tell you.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

To be continued …

Note:  I’m figuring out my way as I go for it.

I would appreciate any constructive criticism.

Is it interesting?
Appropriate length and details? 
Helpful visuals?

I hope, as I get into the story
that you, kind readers,
will find the North as compelling as my family and I did.
Thank you for your support as I go through this process.

Much further along in the journey,
I appreciate your support and encouragement even more!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


  1. Sure much further along in the journey now indeed. Oh what can happen on a whim and where the road can take us.

    1. You're so right, Pat! A spontaneous blind date in Madrid changed my life completely. I've lived my adult life in the USA instead of Canada as a result (I married my date!). Have a good one!

  2. Just the right amount of details and like the visuals.
    Wow, it took a lot of vehicles to get your father to his destination.

    1. It's still hard to get to and from Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia! Can you imagine today a pilot cutting the engine back and allowing the ramp to be moved back in place so a late passenger could board? LOL Enjoy your weekend!

  3. Perfect amount of details, visuals are good and I want to keep reading. Can't wait to read what happens next.

    1. Thanks, JarieLyn! I have more of the old posts coming as I am traveling a lot this summer and am often unable to get online. Have a great weekend!

  4. He was lucky about them putting the ramp back down! I love these posts.x

    1. Thanks, Kezzie! I'll be visiting you soon to catch up! Hope all is well with you!

  5. I'm so glad that you are publishing these early accounts that I have missed. I live for Friday's and the adventures of Don.

    1. You are so kind, Peggy! I may keep up with some of these earlier posts for all you special people who have missed them! Have a great weekend, and I do hope that Sadie is feeling better!

  6. Friday's letters are a highlight of the week for me, I am taken back there, I Google some of the places you and your Dad have written about, and find a world that fascinates and entrances, Hard times for both your Mum and Dad, and parents who want their children to have that good education make sacrifices we do not realise how hard they were till many years later. ( in my case I didn't till I was many, many years as an adult), Happy journey for your next trip away from home.

    1. Thanks, Jean! Everyone is so encouraging. That makes my week! Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. I LOVE these posts. I feel like I'm reading a great novel. What an incredible family history you have. And I also love that you share photos!

    1. Thanks, Martha! I love that I get to share photos. Photography is no fun if you can't share. I love that blogging gives me an opportunity to share creative things; but best of all is I get to meet inspiring people like you!

  8. I love these ...interesting and very informative.

    1. Thanks, JackieSue! I was telling Terry last night about how you used to pick places to live: His jaw dropped! LOL Have a good one!

  9. Louise, I love your posts, and I also love seeing those old Canada stamps! I remember them and back in those days postage was so much less expensive, but then again, so were the salaries.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I think the old stamps are beautiful, and I certainly wish people wrote letters today because the new ones are really cool. Have a great weekend!

  10. I was intrigued with your name and glad I checked out your blog. I love Nova Scotia and once, in 1992, paddled to the James Bay--the northwoods of Canada are incredible. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for visiting and following, Sage! How I would love to paddle into James Bay! I have paddled in the northwoods in a number of places: some of my best memories. My blog name comes from the fact that I have an ability to get into trouble, love the Bay of Fundy (which I was born overlooking and which my ancestors have lived on for some 300 years). Have a good one!

    2. Have you read the works of Alistair MacLeod? He tells great stories about Nova Scotia (and Cape Breton in particular)

    3. Yes I have!!! And enjoyed them!

  11. Hello,

    Lovely photos and I like the word NOVA SCOTIA. I am enamored of this lovely word from the time I was in school.

    I admire your parents for the great sacrifice they made for the welfare of their children. Your mother in particular is a fantastic lady with great courage to take care of five children alone without the help of her husband.

    The letters are very interesting and surely gives an insight into the pangs of parting.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Joseph! How lovely to hear from you! Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. Have a great day!

  12. Those Queen Elizabeth stamps take me back to my stamp collecting days. I remember having tons of those stamps in varying colors and denominations.

    What an adventure you tell.

    Wrote By Rote

    1. Hello again! I used to collect stamps too, Lee; but I think my brother got them out of me years ago. I'm working on a memoir of my family's time in the north using my father's letters as a primary source. Thanks for visiting and leaving a kind comment. Have a good one!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.