Friday, June 1, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: A Fine Friend

The train conductor who molested me was a bad person.
But fortunately for me, most of the people 
that I have encountered in my life have been good.
I have never forgotten the people I met in Lansdowne House, Ojibwa or white.
They were exceptionally caring and generous to my family and me.

It's not so much that they were better than other people;
there are good people everywhere all over the world.
It's more that our tiny village was located in a remote and challenging wilderness,
and everyone had to help one another in order to survive.

I didn't go around thinking that I was in danger or could easily die;
but even as a young girl, I realized that our remoteness
and the challenges of our environment made us more vulnerable,
and a situation that would be difficult on the Outside 
could quickly become life threatening in Lansdowne House.
People needed and relied on each other, and that made them closer.
They all understood the value of a good friend.

Roommates Again
Dad and Uno with Baby Duncan
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter, 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Tuesday, June 20, 1961
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Folks:
First of all, I want to apologize for this week's edition being late.
Our whole life was disrupted over the previous weekend,
and I am now, and have been for exactly one week, a bachelor again.

The Forestry Department needed the house,
and just gave us two days notice to vacate.
I know now what it feels like to be evicted.

I also know now why the Forestry Department was so kind
to allow us to live in the shack rent free.
Since we were not paying any rent, they didn't have to abide by the law
which requires that you give tenants one month's notice.

It was quite a job getting them out by 6 p.m. Monday, June 12.
I didn't know where they could go or anything.
Luckily Mike was going to Sioux Lookout, and he said he would line up
a place for us and wire us if he was successful in finding one.

Well, the first thing Monday morning, I received a wire from Mike
to say he had gotten accommodation for us, so I shipped the family to Sioux Lookout.

The next thing I received was a wire from Sara from Sioux Lookout
saying there was no place in Sioux Lookout and that Mike was taking her to Lac Seul.

A Sight and Sound That Will Forever Mean Lac Seul to Me
The Common Loon
pixabay ~ gholland

Where in the Hell was Lac Seul?
I finally found out that Lac Seul was an Indian Reservation
40 miles in the bush from Sioux Lookout,
but that's all I could find out till Mike came back in today.
I was nearly frantic with worry, not knowing just what Sara and the children were into.

I finally got two letters from Sara today, delivered by Mike,
and I also got the lowdown from Mike himself.
Judging from Mike and the letters, they are as happy as clams.

They are living in a nice cottage which belongs to Anne's parents.
Anne's mother is Indian, and her father is white, and they live on the reservation.
They have a lovely beach to play on,
and all Anne's brothers and sisters' children to play with.

A Picnic with Anne's Family
Lac Seul, Northern Ontario, Canada
Summer, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

All in all, they are well off, although Sara is worried
about bears which are numerous in the area.
Mike says there is nothing worry about though.
He says that the bears are more worried about Sara than she is about the bears.

Besides, I'll be out in another two weeks and will be able to find
a house in Sioux Lookout and will be able to bring them out with me.

On account of all the foregoing excitement and worry,
I didn't feel up to writing you this last weekend.
My letters are liable to be sketchy from now till I get out,
for I will be awfully busy winding up the school for the year.
As in all other schools that I have taught in,
there is a terrific amount of red tape and paperwork.
I think there is even more than usual, since it is a government school.

In case you should be interested in writing to her, here is her address:

Mrs. D. B. MacBeath
Two Point River
c/o The Hudson Bay Company
via Hudson, Ontario.

Mrs. D. B. MacBeath
with Roddy Pratt (Dad's cousin), Don MacBeath, 
and Louise MacDonald (Mom's sister)
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 4, 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

Sara might have already given you another address that will reach her,
but this is the address that Mike gave to me.

Incidentally, talking about Mike, he just became the proud father
of a nine pound baby boy.  He is quite pleased about the whole thing.

Mike is a fine friend.  Not many people would have gone
to the trouble he did to find us a place to live, especially
considering that Anne was due to go to the hospital at any moment.
He is really a wonderful person and so is Anne.

Well now, don't worry.  I'll have them off the reservation
and in civilization as soon as the school year is over.
There is nothing to worry about, and certainly nothing to be gained by worry.
I'll keep you all informed and let you know
all future developments as soon as they develop.
I have to sign off now and get at my school work.

Bye now,
all my love,

Northern Ontario Wilderness
pixabay ~ evitaochel

We take so much for granted today, 
like safety, communication, and the expectation
that life will roll along without undue hardship.

It's hard to imagine that my mother and we five kids vanished into the bush,
and that my anxious father didn't hear anything for a week
and couldn't find out much about where we had gone.
All he could do was count on the reliability of a fine friend.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petit Passage to Tiverton
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House, Nakina, and Sioux Lookout
Northern Ontario, Canada

Lac Seul
Northern Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

To See a Photo of Lac Seul Click Here


  1. He certainly went on faith. Mike was a great friend. Did your father keep in contact with him after you guys moved on?

    1. Hi, Alex! My parents kept in contact with Mike and Anne for a while, but as so often happens in life, they drifted apart. Anne died of lupus by the early 1990s, and Mike retired to Ireland where he raised sheep. Our contact with the family was mainly through Fritz and John, Anne's brothers. Why, oh why didn't I find out more when I could have? Such is life. Wishing you and your wife a lovely weekend!

  2. Who can blame your father for worrying? Thank goodness for good friends being there when we need them most!

    1. Friends a re the best, aren't they, Martha? Here's hoping that you and George are enjoying a lovely Friday evening. It is very warm, but beautiful here. Take care!

  3. I enjoyed seeing your parents' wedding photo. In those days, newlyweds would get one or maybe two black and white professional photos taken at a studio -- these days, many newlyweds have literally hundreds of photos in their (now electronic) wedding books -- it seems like every possible moment of the wedding day is relentlessly photographed, often in multiple and minutely-different versions. I don't think it's an improvement over the old days.

    1. Thanks, Debra. I have only a few photos of my parents wedding, which makes each one precious. I remember when Dad gave me his old Brownie Hawkeye camera. I had to work to buy black and white film (couldn't afford colored) and process it. I had to mail my film to St. John, New Brunswick to process it, and the wait seemed endless, although it was only about two weeks. Now I can take 200 + colored pictures on a walk and not bat an eye. I couldn't have imagined such a possibility. I love the opportunity today presents, but each picture doesn't mean nearly as much. Have a lovely weekend with your Rare One! I'm so glad that the two of you are together ~ I was really sad when you hit that rough patch! Have a good one!

  4. These days we can't imagine being out of contact with someone for so long. I'm sure it was a fretful week for your father.

    1. It was a tough one, Diane, for sure! Have a great weekend!

  5. Letters are so special. Texts and email just don't do the same in communication. Even as a 9-10 year old I looked forward to my weekly letter from my best friend hundreds of miles away.


    1. I agree, Teresa! Letters are special, and emails will never measure up. I spent many, many hours writing letters when I was a kid. Remember penpals? It was so much fun. Part of me misses those days. I have to admit that I love the ability to meet people like you that modern technology allows. But to this day, there is nothing like getting a real letter. Have a good one!

  6. Both your Mum and Dad worrying, the remote areas up there, maybe not even running water in the house? How did your Mum ever cope with laundry in the winter? Even here, in the winter there are often days and weeks with not enough warmth or wind to dry the clothes. I marvel every time I read your Friday posts about the inner strength, the resilience, and the bravery of both of them, and the friendship and generosity of all who lived there.

    1. Hi, Jean! When I remember laundry in the winter, I remember clothes horses. While we were in Lansdowne House, Mom washed some things by hand with a scrub board and dried them on clothes horses. But a lot of the time she loaded up laundry on the toboggan and took it to Maureen's or Anne's to watch. In Lac Seul we washed our clothes by hand in the lake off some rocks and dried them on a line. I was thrilled because I felt like I was in remote India or Southeast Asia in earlier days. My mother was less thrilled. Once we got to Sioux, Mom got a washer and dryer again, and she was definitely thrilled! Have a good one, my friend!

  7. Life rolls on without undue hardship? Hmm missed that memo lol Yeah, indoor plumbing is great too.

    Was sure a fine friend to go out of his way to do all of that indeed. I sure would have been paranoid about the bears. Looks like plenty of kiddos there to play with too.

    1. Sorry you missed that memo, Pat! Life always has something to challenge us. It's just easier and more comfortable physically. I love my indoor plumbing! LOL Have a great weekend, my friend!

  8. How quickly things changed for your family. You were whisked off without a plan and I know your father must have been so concerned. He would be so missed at the school and I’m sure the kids were sad to see him go. How many years were you there altogether? I hope this is not the end of Landsdown house letters.

    1. It's not quite the end of the Lansdowne House letters, Peggy. Dad was in Lansdowne House one year, and we kids were there only four months. But what an impact it had n my life. I have tales to tell about Lac Seul though. I hope you and Don are enjoying the beginning of a great weekend!

  9. I must of missed the train conductor story so I had to find it. That's horrible for that to have happened to you. I learned not terribly long ago that my great-grandfather raped my great-aunt. He escaped justice until he died.

    1. Thanks for your kind response, Adam. It was a horrible thing that happened to me, but telling my story freed me from any hold that event still had on me. I'm sorry for your great aunt. How horrible for her. So much pain in this world! Wishing you and Daisy a happy weekend together. Thank goodness for having someone to love. It makes life easier!

  10. Greetings Louise. Your parents went through so much, and with five children to raise as well! My Mother raised five offspring for years alone after my Father left us for another family. His loss! Your Father was a loving, caring person, and he was right to worry about his family who needed stability. I too wouldn't like to live where big bears roamed - scary. I admire your Father for going through so much, and still remaining strong hearted. It's nice to have reliable friends, and your Father's friend proved to be a good one. Living in a close-knit community with all of its struggles and hardships brings people together, which is nice. You certainly had your struggles Louise. Blessings to you. Enjoy your Sunday. Love love, Andrew.

  11. I'm glad that worked out! We don't have to worry about bears, but recently in a nearby town a woman had a bad accident when she ran over an alligator. Oops!


  12. Hi Louise!!! :) Oh how scary...and two days to move out? That's crazy but I'm so glad your father had a good person to help you and your family out!

  13. Yes, times sure have changed! I can't even imagine, what your father went through! Your parents wedding photo is so beautiful!! Big Hugs!


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