Friday, May 27, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: A New Year's Day Feast

I have no memory of how my mother and we five kids
spent New Year's Day 1961 in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.

But from the time I first heard my mother read
my father's letter describing his New Year's Day 
in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario,
I never forgot it.

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

On Monday, January 9, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Everyone:
It’s a very dull Monday.  Nothing worthy of my comments has happened all day,
so I’ll have to devote this edition to something that happened during freeze-up.

This not in correct chronological order, but I think that 
one of the most interesting things that I witnessed 
during the freeze-up was the New Year’s Feast 
that they held in my school on New Year’s Day.
Everybody contributed food to this feast, except me.  
I had no food to contribute, so I got stuck for $15.00

I was invited to the feast, but although I made my appearance,
I did not eat anything because the food looked singularly unappetizing.
For instance, the Indians just love lard, and one of the
main delicacies of the feast was a lump of cold lard
weighing about a quarter of a pound.  The lard was bad enough,
but the fellow that was serving it had extremely dirty hands,
and he used one very dirty finger to scrape the lard
off the serving knife onto the plates.


Another mainstay of the feast was bannock,
and a third item on the menu was oatmeal porridge.
The Indians love to put their lard on their porridge.
This wouldn’t be too bad if they ate it immediately,
but everything has to be served to everyone before anyone eats.
As a result, the horrible taste of the cold lard is compounded
by the equally horrible taste of the cold porridge.

You will have to excuse my spelling in this edition,
for it is bad enough at the best of times, but tonight Duncan
and Brian are over, and I’m trying to actively participate in
a four way conversation as well as type, 
with the result that I am missing about half the conversation
and am making lots of mistakes in spelling.  
(Dad’s roommate Uno was there too.)

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

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

Uno Before the Guests Arrive
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

To get back to the feast and the Indian insistence on a fair division,
somebody donated twenty pounds of hard candy for the feast.
There were some thirty-five people at the feast, and they counted
the whole cotton pickin’ twenty pounds into thirty-five equal piles. 

Hard Candy

Seven piles ended up one piece short, 
and a rather heated argument ensued, 
but after a while it was settled, by the measure of giving
the Indians who were short the candy one extra cigarette each.
Thank goodness the cigarettes came out even, 
or we would still be there.

The feast lasted from one in the afternoon till about five, 
and three of those hours were spent in dividing the food.

Well, I have to either stop typing or stop talking, so I guess I had better sign off.  
It wouldn’t be polite to ask my guests to stop talking.

Bye now,
Love, Don

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

The closest I've come
to tasting delicacies
such as these
was eating
Navajo fry bread
baked over an open fire
by Susie Yazee
in Monument Valley.
And it was delicious!

Susie Yazee in her hogan.

Well, except for the hard candy ~
that was a Christmas mainstay in our home
throughout the years.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1  Lard:
     Lard is fat from the abdomen of a pig that is rendered and clarified for cooking.  Google

2.  Bannock:
      Bannock is a traditional Ojibwa and Cree flat bread made with salt, lard, baking flour,
      flour and water.  It could be cooked over an open fire or in an oven.  nativetech

3.  Uno:  Dad's roommate and teacher at the Catholic school.

4.  Duncan MacRae:
     Duncan worked for the Department of Transport,
     and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.

5.  Brian Booth:  The clerk at the Hudson Bay Post.

6.  A Personal Note:
      Still no internet access.  I have northern posts written and scheduled to post automatically.   
      If I can get online, I will reply to any comments and try to visit as many  blogs as I can.   
      Sorry about that!  I'll be back soon! 

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Freeze-up Clarified

At home in Nova Scotia, my mother and we older kids
were very curious about the phenomenon of freeze-up,
and we anxiously waited out the period over which freeze-up
took place and we were cut off from all news of my father.

Needless to say, when my father's typed Lansdowne letters
started arriving in the new year, we were thrilled and avidly
listened as my mother read them to us.

I always read my father's letters over and over again,
often taking them to school to share with my teacher and classmates.

Winter Today in the Canadian North
Flickr ~ Travel Manitoba License

On Sunday, January 8, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Everyone:
Here I am again, just as I threatened to be, and I hope everyone
is in a receptive mood.  Myself, I feel a little like Uncle Remus.

You know, I didn’t know that water could freeze up as fast as it froze over up here.
I don’t remember the exact dates now, but on a Friday night
I went across to the mainland in my canoe; no, I beg your pardon,
it was on a Saturday night, and Monday morning I WALKED
over the same piece of water on my way to school.

Some of the Indians were walking across on Sunday night,
but I didn’t risk it till I saw a rather large Indian with a
four-dog team and a rather heavily loaded sleigh go across.

Library and Archives Canada
Credit:  Bud Glunz. National Film Board of Canada. 
Photothèque e010962320 

For the week after freeze-up we had some wonderful skating,
but then the snow put a rather abrupt end to our skating for the year.  

Everyone was out skating, except Bill Mitchell who is
an old country Scot who never learned to skate. 

I went for a nice skate about five miles down the lake and back.
It was wonderful.  There was no wind to speak of, and the day
was a nice crisp winter day with the temperature around ten below.
This was about the seventh or eighth of November.

Ice Skating on a Northern Ontario Lake

The first two or three inches of iced formed very quickly,
but it takes seven inches or so to support a Cessna and
over nine inches to support a Norseman or a Beaver,
and the thicker the ice became, the slower it froze.  

A couple of heavy snowfalls didn’t help the situation too much either.
The freeze-up period is not the time it takes for the water
to freeze sufficiently for you to walk on it;
it is the period required for nine inches of ice to form to enable the planes to land.

A Modern DeHavilland DC-6 "Twin Otter"
Equipped with Skis
Flickr ~ Sahtu Wildlife    License

I’m glad that I wasn’t living in Ogoki, for this mission
is situated on a rather swift flowing river,
and their freeze-up didn’t end till after Christmas.
I don’t know how my emotional hibernation would have endured,
if I had been cut off over the Christmas holidays.
It would have been pretty miserable here without my Christmas presents.

Incidentally, I want to thank you all (Louise and Carl also)
for the lovely things that you sent to me.
I have thanked you all individually, but since then,
the weather has been real cold (35-50 degrees below at times),
and I want to assure you all that I really appreciated the nice
warm underwear, pyjamas, and shirt that you sent me.
I never thought that I would see the day when I would be begging for long underwear;
me, who always boasted that he never wore a suit in his life.
The end of the page and the end of today’s edition.

Bye now,
Love, Don.

No More Canoe
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1961
Photo Probably by Duncan McCrae
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

What I would have given chance to fly down Lake Attawapiskat
on a pair of skates, even at 10 below zero!
I did get to canoe down the lake to the base of the peninsula,
but that's a tale for another day!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Uncle Remus:  
      I'm not sure what my father meant by this reference other than he felt like a storyteller.
      Uncle Remus is a fictional narrator of a collection of American-African folktales
      compiled, adapted, and published in a book by Joel Chandler Harris in 1881.  Wikpedia
2.  Miles to Kilometers:
     5 miles = 8 kilometers

3.  Fahrenheit to Celsius:
     -10º F.  = -23º C.
4.  Inches to Centimeters:
     2 inches = 5.1 centimeters
     3 inches = 7.6 centimeters
     7 inches = 17.8 centimeters
     9 inches = 22.8 centimeters
5.  Ogoki:
     Ogoki is a community managed by the Martin Falls First Nation.  Wikipedia 

6.  A Personal Note:
      I am still without internet access.  I have several northern posts written and scheduled to 
      post automatically.  If I can get online, I will reply to any comments and try to visit as many 
      blogs as I can.  Sorry about that!  I'll be back soon! 

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Lansdowne House
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Albany River on the left, Ogoki River Tributary on the right
The Ogoki River was part of a canoe route from Hudson Bay to Lake Superior: 
James Bay, Albany River, Ogoki River, portage, Ombabika River, Lake Nipigon, Lake Superior. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: The Space Traveller

During freeze-up in the late fall and early winter of 1960,
our family did not hear from my father in Lansdowne House.
When you lived in an isolated fly-in community 
in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, you were cut off
from the Outside twice a year during freeze-up and break-up.
We all had to wait for news of my father, 
just as he had to wait for news of us.

Winter in Northern Ontario
Flickr ~ J.H.   License

On Saturday, January 7, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Everyone:
Well, your favourite northern reporter is back on the job again.
It is nice to be able to relate to you all my adventures,
and in some cases, my misadventures.

It’s been a quiet weekend so far,
so I guess that I will devote most of today’s edition
to telling you about some of the things that happened to me
during the time that I was without a typewriter.

Uno's Typewriter in the Father's Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This is where my father usually typed in the bedroom of the two-room shack that
he and Uno rented from Father Ouimet at the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.

Let’s see now, with the exception of yesterday’s edition,
I have not “gone to press” since the beginning of freeze-up,
so I have an ample supply of adventures on which to draw.
I guess to preserve some sort of continuity,
I’ll start with those things that happened first
and gradually work myself to the present.

Freeze-up was quite an adventure in itself.
It was a rather unique, and I must admit, not all-together
unpleasant experience being cut off from the outside world.

Granted, I was terribly lonely and missed getting my weekly letters from all of you,
but along with being cut off from all news of the outside world,
I was also cut off from all worries having to do with things of the outside world.

It’s strange, but instead of being worked up and worried about
not knowing what was happening to my friends and loved ones,
I was never more relaxed or felt better in my life.

Oh, I could have driven myself crazy with worry and anxiety,
if I had so desired, but I adopted the attitude that whatever happens,
I can’t do anything about it, so why worry about it.

If a terrible disaster struck any of you, I would be notified by wire,
and if it wasn’t important enough to merit a wire,
it would either wait till after freeze-up,
or and which is more probable,
would have solved itself before freeze-up ended.

I hope that you don’t think that I am too heartless or selfish,
but that was my way of dealing with a unique situation.
I found out later, to my great surprise,
that that is precisely how most of the people who spend
prolonged periods alone in the bush react to the situation.

Uno, on the other hand, couldn’t adopt this attitude
and went almost foolish with worry, loneliness, and nerves.

Uno and Dad with Baby Duncan
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Duncan McRae
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

They are sitting on Uno's bed on the other side of the bedroom in the two-room shack 
they rented from Father Ouimet at the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.

As I said before, it is the queerest sensation to realize that you are almost
completely cut off from civilization, except for wireless, which is erratic at the best up here,
and to know that the only way out is a 150-mile trip by dog team.

Flickr ~ Sue Lowndes    license

I have some idea, now, of the feeling that a space traveller might experience
on a prolonged voyage when he could conceivably be cut off
from the world for several weeks or even months.

The Blue Marble


I think that the best way to describe it is to call it a sort of emotional hibernation.
You don’t exactly forget about your loved ones and your responsibilities,
but you cease to actively worry about them
or to be stimulated to worry or anxiety by thoughts of them.

Well, enough about my personal philosophy about living in isolation,
and let’s call a halt to my rambling for today.
I’ll be back at the same old stand tomorrow night,
just as sure as death and taxes.
Till then, I’ll be seeing you all.

All my love, 

I, too, have experienced what it is like to be cut off from the outside world;
but I was a girl, and it was an exciting adventure for me.
I never even thought of the potential dangers.

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

One time during break-up,
in April 1961,
my brother Roy and I decided
to climb a tall wooden tower behind
the Hudson's Bay Company post.

We were having great fun running around on the flat top 
and peering over the open sides until Mike Flaherty, the community nurse, 
came flying out of the nursing station yelling up at us:
"Get down!  Get down right now!
What do you expect me to do if one of you falls and busts yourself up? 
I haven't got enough morphine to stop your pain,  
let alone a plane to fly you out if I can't handle your injuries."

Chastened, we hurriedly climbed down.
Not satisfied that we grasped the gravity of the situation yet,
Mike told us a horror story or two about northern nurses 
having to operate on patients on their kitchen tables during freeze-up or break-up
while following directions from a doctor over a shortwave radio.  
We slunk away.

It was not the first time, nor the last, that Mike chewed us out
for doing stupid kid stuff

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  The Blue Marble:
     This is one of my favorite photographs of the Earth captured on December 7, 1972, by the crew
     of  the Apollo 17 on its way to the Moon at a distance of about 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers).
     The Arabian Peninsula, Africa, and Antarctica are visible in the photograph.

2.  A Personal Note:
      I will be without internet access in the near future.  I have several northern posts written and
      scheduled to post automatically.  If I can get online, I will reply to any comments and try to
      visit as many blogs as I can.  Sorry about that, but at least I've gotten some blog writing done 
      in advance.

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Take Me to Church

My father resumed his northern Lansdowne Letters to our extended
Nova Scotian and Prince Edward Islander family in early January, 1961.

In his first edition he wrote about his experience attending
an Anglican service at a small log church in Lansdowne House,
not far from the Hudson's Bay Company Store
and next door to the Forestry shack my father was trying to rent,
so my mother and we five children could join him in the North.

Guaranteed this
Anglican Church of Canada
service was unlike any 
that most people coming from
my sheltered, orderly, and traditional
Baptist background
had ever experienced!

The Coat of Arms
of the Anglican Church of Canada

The Hudson's Bay Company Store
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1961
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In this photo you can see the Hudson's Bay Company Store in the center, 
the HBC Manager's House to the right of the tall tower, and in the trees, the HBC warehouse.
The Anglican Church is hidden beyond the trees at the middle right of the photo.

On Friday, January 6, 1961
my father wrote:

Hi There Everyone!
The Lansdowne Letter is officially back in business again.
The part for Uno’s typewriter finally came in; 
and so, I can now resume my editorial pursuits.

Since I have been silent for so long,
I think that I will devote a considerable portion of my time
bringing you up to date on the highlights since the beginning of freeze-up,
as well as keeping you posted regarding the daily events.

I survived Christmas, though at one time,
I didn’t think that I would survive.
I was as sick as a dog over Christmas - couldn’t eat any
of the lovely things that Maureen baked for me.  Perhaps
I enjoyed the things that Sara and Mother had sent up for me to eat.

The Christmas Party at My Father's School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, December 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath (before he caught the flu)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I think that the most interesting thing to happen to me recently
was my first Indian church service; so,
I’ll devote the remainder of this edition to describing it.

The service was an Anglican service,
which is confusing enough
for a poor Baptist at the best of times.
Last night I wasn’t confused, I was completely lost.
I didn’t have the haziest notion of what
was supposed to be happening.

Actually, I should have been able to follow the service,
because I had sat through lots of Anglican services
when I was going to St. Paul’s Sunday School,
but it was only once or twice during the proceedings
that I saw or heard anything vaguely familiar.

Basically, it was an Anglican church service,
but at various times during the evening it took on the characteristics
of a revival meeting, a political rally, recess time at a reform school,
and a mob scene from a C. B. DeMille production.

The Indians are very sincere in their religion,
but their attitude in church is almost irreverent by white standards.
If they don’t like the seat that they are sitting in,
they move to another one.

Last night most of the congregation became dissatisfied
with their seats at some time during the service,
with the result that there was an almost constant movement in the church.

White people frequently stay away from church
because they have small children (Sara and I),
but not so the Indians.  The whole family goes.
I don’t think I have ever seen, or will ever see again, 
so many tikinagans in one place.
The crying of the babies and the rocking of the tikinagans, 
which resembles the sound of a very rickety rocking chair
being rocked on a squeaky floor, 
added to the general confusion of the occasion.

Indian Mother and Child
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Fall 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath (before he caught the flu)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In Indian church services the men all sit up front, 
and the women and children all sit at the back.  
Being a true MacBeath, I was late for church and had to sit at the back.
There I was right in the middle of all the women, children, and tikinagans.  
I’ll never be late for church again at Lansdowne House, I can assure you.  
I never went through such agony in my life.  
I think children should be quiet in church, 
but the Indians don’t subscribe to this belief at all.

The minister only manages to get into Lansdowne House 
once or twice a year, most often once, and so 
there are a lot of church matters to be attended to 
when he does make his appearance - marriages for instance.  

The fact that there is no minister available
to perform marriage service doesn’t hold up the Indian.  
If a young family wishes to get married,
they just build a home and start living together.

They will get their union solemnized and legalized
at the first opportunity.  Quite frequently,
when the minister gets around to marrying them,
he also has to baptize their first child.

Indian Family and Pets, 
Fort Hope, Northern Ontario, 1913
The National Archives UK
CO 1069-279-15

I don’t mean to infer that the Indians have a low standard of morals.
On the contrary, they are almost puritanical in their morals.
They are honest and extremely faithful to their wives.
You will find far less scandal among the Indians at Lansdowne House
than you’ll find among an equal number of white people.

No, the Indians haven’t loose morals,
they are just exceedingly practical.  
As the Reverend Mr. Long said marriages are God-made
and are essentially agreements between men and women
who want to live together and raise children.
The marriage service is a man-made device,
and while he doesn’t advocate the abolishing of the marriage service,
the minister doesn’t see anything basically wrong
with the Indian custom of living together,
providing they get married at the first chance.

Well, anyway, to get back to my account of the church service.  
All in all, it lasted from 7:30 to 10:45 and consisted of
scripture readings, a sermon, two weddings, three baptisms, Communion,
and a couple of things that have me completely in the dark.

Oh yes, I took Communion last night,
and while it was just as spiritually gratifying
as a Baptist Communion,
I will admit that it was considerably different
from what I had been used to.

Communion Cup

At one time during the service,
I was quite skeptical of the whole thing and almost backed out.  
This was when I had to partake of the Communion wine.  
As you probably know,
Anglicans use a goblet in their Communion service,
and everyone drinks out of it.
The man that was kneeling beside me at the communion rail
was one of the filthiest looking creatures that I have ever seen.  
He even had some sort of running sore on his face.  
I didn’t fancy drinking out of the same cup that he did, 
but the minister assured me before the service
and reassured me after it, 
that he had never known any kind of disease
to be spread by the communion goblet.  
Well, anyway, I took the wine, and I am still alive,
so I guess my fears were groundless.

The service lasted for over three hours,
but the Indians just stayed for what they were interested in.
Frequently, if they got bored, or something,
they would go outside for a smoke and came back in.  
A couple of times I joined the Indians outside for a smoke.

The marriage services were quite interesting.  
There was considerable confusion lining up the witnesses,
the best man, etc.
Indians don’t believe in planning ahead,
and although they knew that they were going to be married
for at least six months in advance,
they didn’t line up the best man, maid of honour, etc.,
till just before the marriage service was due to begin.
This lead to considerable movement and consultation within the church.  

In the second wedding of the evening,
after all other delays had been endured
and all the functionaries sorted out,
the wedding was delayed for a further twenty minutes
while the mother fed the baby.

I am telling you, it was quite an experience.
I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

  Back in Business
   Photo by Uno Manilla
   © M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
   All Rights Reserved
I have had quite a few more
interesting experiences,
and I will be relating them 
to you in future letters.
Now that the typewriter is functional again, 
I’ll resume my daily editions.

However, since the mail plane
is due any moment now,
I’ll sign off for this edition.

I am sorry that I was unable
to continue the letter during
the months of November and December,
but it was impossible without a typewriter.

Well, bye for now,
will be seeing you next week in the Letter.

I, too, had the chance to attend an Anglican service
when my mother and we five children joined Dad in the North.
That later service was alien and fascinating for me,
although as ten-year old girl, I was less perplexed than my father
by the dissonance between the Anglican and Baptist services.

There is one startling omission in my father's description
of the service that he attended, something that was unforgettable for me.

Reverend Long conducted the service sentence by slow sentence
with the help of an Indian translator. 
The minister would say one sentence in English,
and the Oji-Cree translator would repeat it in Ojibwa.

Dad always said that the brain could absorb
what the butt could endure.
I'm afraid both of mine gave out before the service was over.

As a female and child, I had to sit among 
the rocking tikinagans with the women and children.
That didn't bother me.

What bothered me was the endless 
sentence by sentence service,
English, Ojibwa, English, Ojibwa,
and the fact that I had to sit there setting an example
of modest, proper church behavior,
while my father slipped outside
to smoke cigarettes with the Indian men!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  The Anglican Church in Lansdowne House:
      I'm not sure if the church was named St. Benedicts, but the Parish was.  dioceseofkeewatin
      The parish belonged to the Diocese of Keewatin.
      As of July 31, 2014 the Diocese of Keewatin ceased to exist
      after the creation of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh,
      This is the first self-determining, self-sustaining Indigenous church within
      the Anglican Church of Canada.

2.  St. Paul's Sunday School:
     I have no idea why my father attended Sunday school at St. Paul's Church,
     an Anglican church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Google
     We, as children and Baptists, attended whatever church was available
     in some of the small communities we lived in (And, yes, we behaved!).

St. Paul's Church, Charlottetown

3.  C. B. DeMille:
     He was a famous American filmmaker and considered a founding father
     of the Hollywood film industry.  He produced films known for their epic scale and
     cinematography.  Wikipedia 

4.  Fort Hope Indians:
     Fort Hope is located about 45 miles (73 kilometers) south of Lansdowne House
     on the Albany River.  At one time the Oji-Cree in the two communities both belonged
     to the Fort Hope Band.

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Map of Lansdowne House
Sketched by Donald MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This map shows the Father's Island and the tip of the "Mainland" peninsula
that contained the community of Lansdowne House.
                                                 #12 HBC Store
                                                 #13 HBC Warehouse
                                                 #14 HBC Manager's Home
                                                 #15  Department of Forestry Shack 
                                                 #16 Church of England (Anglican) Church

Lansdowne House, Ontario