Friday, August 4, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: On My Father's Mind

As April 1961 flew by in Lansdowne House,
my father had two things foremost on his mind,
the approach of break-up with its complete isolation from the Outside
and the possibility of a promotion to District School Superintendent
in the Sioux Lookout Indian Agency office.

Saturday, April 22, 1961
(with excerpts from an April 16th letter
and minor editing for clarity)
My father wrote:

Dear Mother:

This will most likely be the last letter
before break-up, as the ice is getting
pretty bad for planes to land on.
It is still safe enough to walk on,
but there is a lot of slush on the ice.

Donald MacBeath Walking Louise (Me)
Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 1950
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Last night when Roy and I went over to the Island to get the Brother to cut our hair,
we had to wear rubber boots, and the slush almost went over the top of Roy’s.
Besides, when you consider the ice, you have to remember that
it would be twice as bad down south as it is here.

My Father with Brother Raoul Bernier 
Kitchen, Roman Catholic Mission
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I got your wire today, and I am glad that you liked the painting,
but I am badly confused about what you say about selling the house.
Who is buying it?  How much are you getting for it?
When are you selling it?  Will you still live there?
These are just a few of the questions that run through my mind.
How about answering them, eh?

My Grandmother MacBeath's Apartment Building and Home
(We lived in the two-story apartment with the red and white door in the mid-1950s.)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

I came over to the school to type up these letters that I have to get out before freeze-up,
and I see that I have forgotten to bring over your last letters, so I can’t answer them,
but I believe that there were no questions that were pressing for answers,
so I can just make this a newsy letter till I run out, and then I can sign off gracefully.

I finally heard from Ottawa regarding that proposed position in Sioux Lookout.
They wrote telling me that an interview would be arranged at the end
of the school term at a place mutually convenient to both the department and myself.

It looks as if they are very interested in obtaining my services.
But, even if I don't actually land this position,
it is very gratifying to know that they think
highly enough of my work to consider me at all.

However, I think from the latest letter,
that if I make out all right in the interview,
the job's mine for the asking.
I also think that the interview is not so much to assess my suitability for the job
as to thoroughly brief me on my duties.

However, I may be deluding myself with wistful thinking.
Perhaps they are corresponding with a half dozen candidates;
but never-the-less, it is still nice to know that my name is under consideration.

If I get to the interview, I think I will stand just as good a chance as anybody else,
and perhaps better than most teachers,
as I have had a wide experience in meeting with and talking to highly-placed officials.
It sure would be wonderful to get that job.

Hindsight is 20/20 
Barbie and My Father, School Superintendent
Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Enclosed you will find a letter from Brigadier A. W. Rogers which is self- explanatory.
I am sending it to you just to show you what loyal friends I have.
I think it is wonderful to have friends who will stick by you, isn’t it?

Of course, I must have pleased Rogers when he was in the regiment,
or he wouldn’t have been so generous in his praise,
so I guess the time I put in for the regiment wasn’t wasted after all.

Letter from A.W. Rogers, Brigadier 
Privy Council Office
Charlottetown, Price Edward Island, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Now I know for sure that it was Foss who recommended me for this position.
Please return the letter to me.

Incidentally, I have already written to Brigadier Rogers
thanking him for his recommendation.
Originally I had written him, as soon as I had answered the first letter from Ottawa,
telling him that I had referred everyone to him for references.

It appears however that Foss was well ahead of me,
for he wrote to Rogers before he recommended me at all.
At first I could not figure out where Foss got the name,
but I remember now that I gave these names when I first applied for this job.

Don MacBeath ~ Prince Edward Island Regiment Days 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I really have been painting like mad since I finished the picture of the church.
Each one seems to be better than the one before it.
I gave the one I did of the Island to the Father for his birthday,
and he seemed very glad to get it.

Since then I have done two lovely scenes of the lakes
and the woods around here, beautiful snow scenes.
One I gave to Sara and one to Duncan Sr. for his birthday.

There was someone visiting the Father, and he saw that picture
that I painted for the Father’s birthday and the other two that I did.
He was so impressed with the one of the Island he came over to see my other work.

I don’t remember what his name was,
but he is connected with commercial art in some way.
He told me that my work is way above average
and that I should paint up as many as I can and contact Eaton’s
or some other art gallery in Toronto and try to arrange to sell them.
He said I could get anywhere up to $50.00 for a picture
the size of the church and more for larger ones.

The Anglican Log Church
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Painting by Don MacBeath, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
                                     Lakes and Woods
                                     Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
                                        Painting by Don MacBeath, 1961
                                          © M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
                                                                 All Rights Reserved

Naturally, I have no intention of forsaking the teaching profession
and trying to make my living as Kelsey does, but it is a great
satisfaction to know that strangers think my work is good,
although I really don’t think it is good enough to sell.

Perhaps in another ten years, if I keep it up, I might be good enough to sell a few.
It would be a lovely and relaxing way to earn some extra money.
I have no intentions, though, of pursuing my art to the detriment of my profession.

If I paint another real good one, and if you would like to get another one,
perhaps I would send one to you.
What I am trying to say is that I would most definitely
send one to you if you should want another.
The doubt that I am trying to express is not that I would send one,
but whether you would want another one.

Well, I have to sign off now and get on with some other letters
that I have to get out before break-up.
Any news that I forgot to put in this letter
will be in the circular letter anyway.

Bye now,

Playing with Paint and Perspective
Winter Lakes and Trees
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Painting by Don MacBeath, March 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It's difficult for me to hear the mix of insecurity and hope
in my father's long ago words to his mother.
As he mulled over his prospects and shared
Brigadier Roger's letter with his mother,
I know he was trying to bolster his spirits.

The Canadian press stories about my Junior Red Cross project
(the collection of winter clothing for the Ojibwa of Lansdowne House)
had riled up a number of government officials
from the Indian Agent in Nakina,
to highly placed officials in the Indian Affairs Branch,
to the Minister of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration herself,
The Right Honourable Ellen Louks Fairclough,
and my father could only hope that the project had been buried.

But my project wasn't dead,
and my five large cartons of clothing were on the move.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

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


1.  Brother Raoul Bernier:
     Brother Bernier was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.
     Father Ouimet was a priest in the same congregation.

2.  My Grandmother's House:
     My father's mother, Myrtle Pratt MacBeath, owned a building at the corner of Fitzroy and Edward Streets
     in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.  During the Great Depression my grandparents had a
     small grocery store in the building, and my father grew up in my grandparent's home in the building.
     My grandfather was a Civil Engineer and traveled extensively while my grandmother ran the store.
     At some point the building was divided into apartments, one of which my family and I lived in for several years.
3.  Brigadier A. W. Rogers (1912-1975):
     Brigadier Rogers was a soldier and civil servant.  He attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Canadian
     Army.  He served as an Aide-de-Camp to Governor Generals Michener and Leger and Lieutenant Governor
     Prowse.  He was also the Emergency Measures Officer for Prince Edward Island and Charter President
     of Sport P.E.I.  islandregister

Current Brigadier General
Shoulder Insignia

Headstone for A. W. Rogers and His Wife Joan
The People's Cemetery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Photo by Lynn Ellis

4.  The Prince Edward Island Regiment (RCAC):
     This armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Army has been active from 1875 to the present.  
     My father was a soldier in the regiment in Charlottetown in the early 1950s.

5.  Painting:
     Both of my parents were painters.  My father preferred oils and my mother watercolors.  Unfortunately 
     the responsibilities of working and raising and educating five children made it difficult for my parents to 
     pursue their passions.  I am humbled by the sacrifices they made for my brother, sisters, and me. 

6.  Kelsey:
     My father was referring to my mother's first cousin, Kelsey Raymond.  My "Uncle" Kelsey was a well-known
     Nova Scotian painter.  He was born in New York City in 1926 and died in 2000 in Digby, Nova Scotia.
     I spent many happy hours in his paint shop in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia when I was growing up.  He usually
     painted with oils applied with a palette knife, and his favorite subject were coastal landscapes and old buildings.

Kelsey and I
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia on the Annapolis Basin
off the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House

Aerial Photograph of Lansdowne House
The Mainland and The Father's Island (Couture Island), 1935
You can clearly see the Father's beach where canoes landed.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development / Library and Archives Canada / PA-094992

Location of Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

Canada   Wikimedia


  1. Bet that was a great boost to his ego to hear someone so admiring his artwork. Sounds like he needed it right then.

    1. Hi, Alex! My father needed a boost for sure. I don't know how my parents, any parents, do it! The weight and the worry of being responsible for raising children is huge. My parents did a really great job despite many challenges. I've watched my three siblings who had children raise nine wonderful human beings, and I'm sure my parents' example rubbed off on them.

      As a teacher I met hundreds of parents over the years. Almost without exception and no matter their situation, they loved their children and wanted them to thrive. Not all had been blessed with parents like mine, so some were woefully inadequate when it came to parenting skills. Some faced unbelievable challenges in their lives. But they all floundered along doing the best they could. I am in awe of parents. Have a good one, my friend!

  2. That would be a great ego boost indeed to say they liked it and he could sell it. Having a job all but sowed up, or at least hopeful for it, can be a nice feeling. Then comes the doubt though. Your packages still on the go? My they are slow lol

    1. Happy Friday evening, Pat! Yes, the packages were slow ~ no one really knew what to do with them. Have a great weekend, my friend!

  3. Back to the time you could really be isolated. More good stories and letters. Thanks!

    1. Solitude is good for the soul, and it's getting harder and harder to find. I had a wonderful time in rural areas of northern Ontario, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Utah, but I wouldn't want to live there full time now. Hope all is well with you, Sage!

  4. I think it is wonderful to encourage and/or boost others, and especially when it is unexpected and needed. Another great post, dear Louise, and your photos always touch my heart. Thank you so much for sharing, my cherished friend.

    1. Hi, Linda! I didn't realize that I hadn't replied to this! It is wonderful to encourage and/or boost others, and you are so good at brightening the days of others. Sending you love and hugs, my special Montreal friend!

  5. I hope that I have told you this before but maybe not...your Dad's art is incredibly good.
    Lovely post, Louise. I love the photos AND the maps!

    1. Thanks, Kay! I really appreciate your kind words! Have a great day, my friend!

  6. I admit to being a map lover myself. It's interesting to see how territories change in a relative short period of time.

    1. I've loved maps as long as I can remember, Bijoux. The first one I remember drawing was early in third grade, and I've been collecting, drawing, and enjoying them ever since. Have a good one!

  7. Really enjoyed reading a bit of this history. Love contemplating those bygone times when there were struggles - but different than today. Your pictures and maps were most appreciated as well!

    1. Thanks, Mary! I'm glad that you enjoyed my post! Have a good one!

  8. Isn't it in interesting that we talk(ed) to our mothers differently......for the most part. I could sense your father's trepidation/nervousness in not putting his mother in a position that it would cause her stress about wanting or not wanting another painting he did. Mothers have a very high position, I feel, in our culture. On the surface it may not be too visible but a little deeper and admiration is obvious.

    LOVE the 'Winter Lakes and Trees' painting, Louise. That is a treasure!

    1. Hi, my friend! It's fascinating for me to hear the different tones Dad took with different people he wrote, and the letters that he wrote his mother were the most interesting. My father's mother was very much like yours, so you can read between the lines. Dad adored his mother and longed for her approval more than anything. Have a good week, Jim!

    2. P.S. I watched Dad paint "Winter Lakes and Trees" and a companion piece. Barb's been packing to move, and those and a few others had surfaced. I was right down in her basement in Calgary capturing them with my camera. Now if I could just find the painting of our home in the forestry shack. I'm hoping that Roy discovers it when he moves from Kuwait. I found the church at Bertie's at Christmas.

  9. Yes, your father's paintings might have made him a lot of money and brought him positive notoriety had he spent more time painting than on interacting with his wife and kids. (By the way, his paintings have a wonderful simplicity about them, and illuminate the importance of a humbled life. I would certainly love to own one of them!) But, as a parent who has helped to raise 3 kids, I have to tell you that the sacrifices one makes as a parent is absolutely far more rewarding than anything else on earth! The fact that you are humbled by your parents' sacrifices they made for you and your siblings demonstrates to me that they had their priorities in the best order and, I might add, were content with making those sacrifices. They taught you well, Louise!

    1. Thanks, Susan! You are such an affirming and wonderful friend! XOX!

  10. I still find these posts amazing. I just find myself drifting right into the words. The maps are helpful in visualizing the times. Oh, and the photos are precious. I would love to travel to Nova Scotia some day.

    1. Thank you, Truedessa! Your kind comment made my day!

  11. This is all very fascinating, Fundy. I'm appreciate you dropped by, because now I'm here and I'm hooked. I'm even wondering if our ancestry intersects. My maternal Granpa did a lot of traveling and sold furs throughout Canada. (My Mom's family is Canadian). I still have family (mom's brother, my uncle) who works for the Canadian government. At any rate, your father was a true gentleman, and it's wonderful that you have all this memorabilia. Thank you for sharing it, and again, for taking the time to visit and comment at my blog.

    1. Thank you, RR! Wouldn't it be something if our Canadian ancestors crossed paths! Have a good one!

    2. That would be awesome, Fundy.
      I was looking again at the map, and I'm grateful you posted it. I know so little about Canadian geography. I have some family in Halifax (plus Ottawa), and I now know how (relatively) far East they are.
      I'm very much proud of my Canadian heritage.
      I hope your week's going well.

    3. In Halifax? Geez, nearby the cat, how about that?

  12. I love your posts!! I always find them so interesting!! I also truly love seeing the old photos! Did you ever frame any of your father's art work? Did he ever sell any? Big Hugs!

    1. Thanks, Stacy! I have three framed paintings of my father's. My personal favorite is the snowstorm viewed from our front room in the forestry shack, and it hangs in our living room. I also have a painting from Two Point on Lac Seul and another from Sachigo Lake in our tv/game room. All my siblings have framed paintings of my father's and mother's too. Dad did sell a few, but he mostly gave them away. Our cousin Kelsey always said that he was glad that Dad didn't set up shop next to him. Unfortunately career pressures kept him from painting as he would have liked to. Have a good one, my talented and artistic friend!

  13. It's the long-ago words that resonate with the next generation. We need to be sure they are great ones. Thanks for giving us those of your father. Now you've expanded their reach beyond what the people of the '60s could have imagined.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Lee! You're right, my parents could not have imagined how far their words have traveled. I can only hope that I'm am doing them justice. Have a good one!

  14. As usual this is absolutely precious to read and the photos warm my heart. Love, love, love your posts and writing.

  15. I personally think your father's artwork was very impressive and unique. But like any other artist, there is that initial insecurity!

    Looks like you really shook things up, Louise! LOL

    1. Hi, Martha! Thanks for your kind words about my father's art. I wish he had been able to develop his natural talent more. I'll be by to catch up very soon! My perpetual race. I was supposed to be spending the day with Ron, Jim, and Sophie Doodle in Nova Scotia. :( Soon, very soon, I hope! Take care!

  16. To have letter that your father wrote to his mother is wonderful, a true treasure. You father's painting is lovely.

    1. Thanks, Chrys. I am fortunate to have quite a few family letters, and I do treasure them! Have a good one!

  17. What a treasure your father's letters are. This is such a beautiful family history. I hope all of your family realizes how lucky you are to have such a great record of your father's life!

    1. Thanks, Snowcatcher! One reason I started sharing this northern journey on my blog was to share the letters and photographs with my extended family. And this process has definitely helped me with writing my memoir which is crawling along. Have a great day!

  18. What a dream and time to be alive then, feels magical and these letters take you back to a time and place you wished you could be in. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Blogoratti! It does seem like a dream to remember such a different time and place in life. We moved a lot while I was growing up, and we lived in some other isolated places, on an island off mainland Nova Scotia and in an outport of Newfoundland. I was fortunate to experience ways of life, cultures, that have vanished. For that I am grateful! I hope you are enjoying your week!

  19. I think it must be a truly wonderful feeling to have possession of those old letters. There's something romantic about reading words that were actually penned on paper, an art that is slowly dying day by day. I'm sure you'll treasure those letters forever.

    Thanks for swinging by. It's a pleasure meeting you too :)

    1. Hi, Teresa! Sorry I just found this. The past week has been crazy for me. My family letters are the first things I'd grab in a fire! Have a good one!

  20. This is a good way to preserve history!

    1. Thanks, Sandi! that's exactly what I'm trying to do! Thanks for visiting!

  21. Wow .
    Dear Louise your dear father's brought world of memories to me.
    He wrote straight from his heart because child no matter how old he grows is just a child for his mother and open his heart front of her .

    the depth of his joy that they think of him for job is so vibrant in his writing ,it touches the heart deeply and reminds me my first job joy so far...

    his concerns that he will be chosen or not too phrased gracefully .
    thank you for shring the sweet and lovely memories .
    i loved these adorable cute photos of you and roy ,he seemed tough rival for you lol.

    Thank you for all the photos .
    the last one is hilarious .
    i also liked your grandpa 's house where you lived in 1950 ,so beautiful and serene !

    1. Hi, Baili! It means so much to me that you enjoyed my post and photos! You're right ~ a son is always a son, and his mother always holds a special place in his heart! Have a good one, my friend!


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