Friday, October 26, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Swan Song

All things come to an end,
a fact that I'm understanding more and more, the older I get. 
In late June 1961, my father was winding things up at Lansdowne House,
and my mother and we five kids had already departed for Lac Seul.

On Sunday, June 25, 1961
My father wrote
to our extended family:

Hi There Everyone:
This is the swan song
of the Lansdowne Letter
~ the last edition.

Back to Typing in the Mission Cabin
Landsdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I hope everyone got as much fun out of reading it, as I did out of writing it.
All in all, it has been quite a winter.

My Father Tramping through the Bush
Landsdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
December 11, 1960
Photo Likely by Mike Flaherty
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

It is with very mixed feelings that I take leave of Lansdowne House.
I enjoyed the winter, and I made a lot of nice friends,
not the least of which were the Brother and the Father.
I will always remember my stay in Lansdowne House with feelings of pleasure.

Father Ouimet, Don MacBeath, and Brother Bernier
Landsdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
Photo Likely by Uno Manilla
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

If it wasn't for the nice promotion and the exciting challenge
of the new job in Sioux Lookout, I would sincerely regret leaving this place.
I will always remember the children as among the nicest that I have ever worked with.
It was always a pleasure to be with them, even if they did exasperate me on occasion.

Halloween Fun
Landsdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
October 1960
Photo by Uno Manilla
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

My Father's Students
Landsdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
September 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

I received official notification of my transfer to Sioux Lookout in the last mail.
It is effective the first of the month (July),
so when you read this I will probably be the new Supervising Principal
of the Sioux Lookout Indian Agency or very close to becoming same.

It was a great load off my mind when I received the notification
and saw that it was effective the first of July.
When I left North Bay after my interview, Mr. Waller,
the departmental representative who interviewed me said that he would TRY
to get me employed as a supervising principal for the summer.

Normally, this position is only filled ten months of the year,
and they rarely have supervising principals for the summer schools.
However, they wanted me to take up my duties as soon as possible,
so I would be familiar with them and my district come September.
Well, anyway, I wasn't 100% sure that I would be employed this summer.

As the first of July came closer and closer
and I was hearing nothing from the department,
I was getting more frantic with every passing day.
I was sure, when I heard nothing from them last week,
that they had not been successful in getting me hired for the summer.
But everything turned out O.K., and I won't be unemployed for the summer. 

The Office Building That Contained
the Sioux Lookout Indian Agency
Flickr  ~  Seán Ó Domhnaill   License

There is one catch to the deal though, but it isn't too serious,
and I can't really complain too much.
I won't be receiving my full salary for the summer months.  

Supervising principals are paid as ordinary teachers for their basic pay,
and in addition, they receive supervisory pay
in accordance to how many classrooms they supervise.
The maximum number they get paid for supervising is fourteen classrooms,
even though they may, like myself, be supervising over twenty classrooms.
Since there are only nine summer schools in the agency,
I can only draw supervisory pay for nine classrooms for this summer.

I will, however, get my full pay come September.
Even without my full pay, I will be making $610.00 a month for July and August.
That is better than a kick on the ass for damned sure.

I don't think that I will be doing too much supervising this summer though.
I think I will be spending the majority of my time getting to know my district
and getting familiar with departmental files, policy, regulations, etc.

I expect to spend at least a week in North Bay and possibly some time in Ottawa.
This, coupled with the extensive traveling I expect to be doing
around the agency will keep me away from home quite a bit this summer;
but by fall, my traveling will have tapered off somewhat,
and I shouldn't be spending more than a third of my time away from home this winter.

Getting to Know His District
Meant Many Flights by Bush Plane
Flying over the Albany River, Northern Ontario, Canada
September 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

One of the main parts of my new job will probably be public relations,
or at least that is what I have been led to understand.
I wouldn't be surprised if it was on account of my ability
to meet and talk with people that I was hired,
as much as for my ability as a teacher.

I don't for a moment think that there aren't other teachers in the department
as skilled as and more skilled than me,
but I imagine that you would have to look around a lot to find anyone
who is better able to meet and talk with strange people.
I really enjoy it while other people,
who no doubt are just as good, if not better teachers,
dread meeting new people and having to talk to them.

Oh, I guess also, that my administrative and supervisory experience
in the Air Force stood me in good standing also.
I also like to think that I was chosen partly for my teaching ability too ~ 
professional pride you know.

My Father with His Friend Duncan McRae
Outside the Roman Catholic Church
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Uno has taken a job as a cook for the survey party for the summer.
He will make $340.00 a month and found.
He hopes that with what he saves this summer, along with what he saved this winter,
he will be able to finance a year at school to finish his grade twelve.
He was only teaching on a permit this winter, and it has run out.
He can't teach any more till he gets a regular license.

It is a shame for he is a wonderful teacher, especially with the beginners.
He has to finish grade twelve and take one or two years
at Teachers College, Toronto to get his license.
His father says that he will help him go to Teachers, if he finishes grade twelve;
but I guess that aside from giving him free board at home, his father
will not give him any assistance till he proves himself by finishing grade twelve.
Apparently, when he was in school he just wasted his time.

Uno with Dad and Baby Duncan McRae
In the Bedroom of the Two-Room Cabin They Shared
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Well, I have done enough bragging about myself and my new job.
If I am not careful, you are liable to get the impression
that I am conceited or something.
I'm not, but I am awfully pleased with myself just the same.

This has been a wonderful promotion that I have received; 
and, apart from the increased remuneration that I will receive
and the added prestige that will be mine,
there remains the intense satisfaction that one gets
from doing a job well enough to impress one's superiors so favorably.

Added to this is the fact that my superiors came to me with the offer.
I did not solicit it in any way at the beginning.
I will admit though, that once the initial offer was made,
I did everything in my power to secure the position.

Maureen McRae, Another Good Friend
In Front of the Roman Catholic Church and Dad and Uno's Cabin
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

There is at least one sphere of activity in which my proficiency
hasn't increased one iota, and that is canoeing.
I am afraid that if anything, it has deteriorated during the long layoff.
I upset the cotton picking' thing last Thursday, and it was dead calm yet!!!

I still don't know just what happened.
One moment I was going along without even
the slightest premonition of disaster,
and the next moment I was swimming.
It is most disconcerting I can assure you.

Oh well, all was not lost.
I had acquired a pair of drip dry pants, and I had never had the opportunity to test
if they were really all they were cracked up to be.
They were.  They dried beautifully. 

You should have heard the roar of laughter
that came from the Indians on the mainland when I went in.
It was the biggest "HAW HAW HAW" that I have ever heard.

Not that I blame them in the least, for it was a rather stupid thing to do.
If I am not careful, I will get a reputation as a damned poor canoe driver.
As it is, whenever I take to the water, the Indians stand around and watch,
hoping no doubt that I will do something stupid and provide them with some amusement.

Crossing to and from the Father's Island
Sometimes Required Snowshoes ...
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

... And Other Times a Canoe
Looking toward the Mainland and the Hudson's Bay Post
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

There are not too many young men left in the community these days.
There are some serious forest fires burning in the Pickle Lake-Thunder Bay region,
and they have been hauling the Indians out by the plane loads to fight these fires.

They love to get out on these firefighting expeditions.
It gives them a chance to see the outside world,
and they earn eight or nine dollars a day and keep.

Some of the poor wrenches are out of pocket after one of these trips though,
for they go to a beverage room and get all sloshed up on beer,
and then they usually start acting like real Indians,
and the next thing they know is that the long arm of the law has snared them.

When this happens they end up in  jail and have to pay a whopping big fine,
said fine usually being more than their total earnings from the firefighting.
You'd think the poor fools would learn, wouldn't you?
But I guess there are many white men who exhibit
the same lack of astuteness when dealing with this problem.

Forest Fire
Location and Date Unknown

I am busy packing and getting ready to leave on the plane Thursday afternoon.
I have most of the necessary paperwork done, and believe me that was some job.
There is always a lot of red tape connected with closing any school,
and this being a Federal school, you can appreciate
just how this usual load of red tape has been compounded.  
Tut, tut, Donald:  you must not criticize the government.
In a week or less you will be expected to enforce
the very rules that you are complaining about now. 

Incidentally, if anyone should ask you just whom I am working for,
you are going to have quite a mouthful to get out when you attempt to tell them.
I work for the Education Division of the Indian Affairs Branch
of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

I am classified as a principal level ten.
Level twelve is the highest that you can reach.
There is only one level twelve in the department.
There are only two or three level elevens and a like number of tens,
so you can see that I have a fairly high rating.

If I can ever get time off to finish my B. Ed.,
I could get my level eleven and possibly my twelve.
The winter after next, I am going to try to take some courses by correspondence.
I won't be taking any next winter though,
for I feel that my time will be fully occupied with my new job.

My Father's School
Typical of Indian Day Schools in Northern Ontario
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I just succeeded in getting Uno off to church,
and believe me that is some accomplishment,
for he doesn't wake up easily on Sunday mornings.
He doesn't wake up easily on any morning for that matter,
but he is particularly difficult on Sundays.

This time next week I will be with my family and the bears in Lac Seul.
I expect to leave here on Thursday afternoon,
spend the night in Nakina, and catch the morning train to Sioux Lookout.
When I arrive in Sioux, I will have to spend some time house hunting.

A Last Flight, A Last Night 
Austin Airways and the Nakina Hotel
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Then a Long Ride on the Morning Train to Sioux
Nakina Train Station
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I will fly in to Lac Seul on Friday evening or Saturday morning
and spend the weekend with them.
I expect to come out again Tuesday
and spend some more time house hunting and starting my new job.

As soon as I find a house, I will bring my family out to Sioux Lookout,
for I can't afford to commute by plane every weekend,
not at $15.00 a flight for sure.
That would be $30.00 a week!!!!

Well, I have to sign off and get back to the packing.
It's been fun writing to you all.

Perhaps when I get to Sioux Lookout and get settled,
I will be able to start writing a Sioux Lookout Letter.

Bye for Now,

It is with very mixed feelings that I share the last 
of my father's letters from Lansdowne House.
It took me a while to ease into typing and publishing his letters,
and I dragged my feet near the end of the process.

When I started I was mired in muskeg
and hiding from painful experiences and memories.
As I worked slowly through my father's letters,
I worked slowly through heartache and mental anguish,
not all of which bled into my posts.
By the end I had found perspective and healing.

During the process I came to a deeper understanding
of my father and mother as people, not just parents;
and I came to a profound appreciation
of how much they loved the five of us 
and of how much they were willing to struggle and to sacrifice
to achieve their dream of getting all of of us through university.
They'd be so pleased to see what we all have become.

Bertie Joins the Family
Donnie, Barbie, Louise (Me) with Bertie, and Roy with Gretchen
Margaretsville, Nova Scotia, Canada
April 1959
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Barb and I, Back in Margaretsville
Fifty-Nine Years Later
Margaretsville, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I relived happy days spent in school and out with my Ojibwa friends,
and I learned more than I wanted to know about the darker side
of Canadian history
and the treatment of its First Nation peoples.

I've never forgotten the time I spent in Lansdowne House,
the amazing, unforgettable people I met,
and the beautiful solitude of the wilderness.
I desperately hope to return in this lifetime.

Meanwhile, I've got a memoir to finish
and more northern stories to share!

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey so far!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

 Bay of Fundy out of Westport
on Chad and Sisters Two
Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours
July 31, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Don and Sara MacBeath
on Their Honeymoon
Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
September 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited


  1. I think it's kind of crazy that only the USA and Canada celebrates Halloween the "normal" way. UK is sort of on the train and Australia is really resistant to it.

    1. I'm really glad that I grew up celebrating Canadian Halloween. because I had so much fun. It's changing slowly, though, because our world is a scarier place. Sadly, our school district began cutting back on the school festivities several years before I retired. They solved the problem of Halloween by scheduling fall break so that Halloween occurred while the kids were off. I was so against that move. Halloween parties were the event that drew more members of the community in than anything else, especially the Hispanics, and the kiddos had so much fun. Time marches on ~ new celebrations are evolving. I don't get any trick-or-treaters here. :( I wish you and Daisy piles of fun, and I'm sure you both will get a big kick out of the little nieces and nephews having Halloween fun!

  2. He sure sounded excited about the job, nothing wrong with tooting one's own horn a bit either. The indians must have had a great time watching him go in the drink haha He must have seen a lot too having to go this place and that for the next job. Talking to random people many don't like, I'd bet you have no problem with it either. Great that you can work through and look back and learn as you write away and get that book done one day.

    1. Thanks, Pat! That book will come! Speaking of books, I started "Detoured" last night. I didn't realize for the first few pages that it's written from Emma's POV rather than Martin's, as in "Delivered" ~ LOL. Discordance!!! But I reread them and got myself squared away! Such a poignant beginning, and such wise and compassionate words coming from Emma as she tried to explain Darby's death to their foundling Harry. I'm looking forward to a lot of fun!!! Have a good one!

    2. lol told you there was a bit of a different take. First one I've written from a woman's point of view, so hopefully I nailed it.

    3. So far, so good, Pat ~ Re: Point of View!

  3. Fundy, glad to see your post this morning. I was just thinking about you yesterday!

    Times sure have changed, haven't they?

    I have enjoyed reading these letters. It's like a window into another world.

    1. Thank's Sandi! Your comment gives me a lot of encouragement! It was another world. The Canadian North has changed so much. I was fortunate to have the incredible experiences I had there. All the best to you, my friend!

  4. I'm glad you found some peace during the process. We have all learned so much.
    Did Uno get his degree?

    1. Hi, Alex! I didn't expect to find some peace, but I did. As a result of what I experienced, I feel my parents' love wrapped around me like a snugly blanket every day. More will come out in my book.

      As for Uno, as of now, I don't know. I still have many papers to search through. When I left Lac Seul, I truly left my girlhood and became a teenager, and Uno was not on my mind. What wouldn't I give to be able to go back and talk to so many key people! I've searched for Uno on line, but I get links to the Philippians, Manila, Uno Pizza, the card game Uno, and my blog!!! LOL

      Now for the fun(?) part, finishing my memoir! I'm feeling a little better and a little more intimidated after finishing Tom Jaggar's biography by John Dvorak. Dvorak spent almost 20 years on the biography and reviewed thousands of documents. (Of course Dvorak was doing other things too.) I will not spend 20 years! LOL! I'll get there! The learning curve remains steep! Have a great weekend!

  5. I do much enjoyed reading about both of your parents. I feel as if I know them! I love all th e background detail you have given us, along with the family letters. I found it all fascinating, needs to be in a museum!

    1. Oh thank you, Kay! I still have northern stories to tell, but I feel a sense of accomplishment at what I have completed. My siblings and I have been discussing what to do with these letters. We all agree that they have to be preserved somewhere. I hope that you and Richard have a great weekend! Take care, and thanks for all your encouragement along the way! Hugs to you!

  6. The letters should be saved, and maybe into a printed or online version if you would share with so many more. A totally different life, and I cannot imagine how your Mum did the laundry and got it dry!!! My Dad wrote a book about his life and it told me so much that I did not know. Enjoy your Fall days with those glorious colours, we are almost on the move to a temporary stay, in a caravan for 5 weeks, then our next home.

    1. Hi, Jean! Thanks for your kind observations. I'm sorry I'm late replying. I had a busy weekend that involved political involvement on my part running up to the midterm election here in the USA ~ not to mention the horrific events of the past week or so. Our fall leaves have been bad this year: dried and shriveled, muddy brown. I took some photos because I've never seen them like this. I suspect it has to do with the weird weather we've had. All the best in your upcoming temporary move. It must be hard to leave your home with all its memories. But then, a new space is good for the mind! Sending you and Hugh best wishes for a smooth move! Take care!

  7. The last Lansdowne Letter! A milestone has been reached on this blog for sure. Thanks for sharing them with us, Louise, and all your memories of this period in your life as well. I look forward to your future posts and whatever direction you take with them!

    1. Hi, Debra! Thanks for your supportive words! It definitely was a milestone for me. I will continue on with the Lac Seul writings in a bit. I have to do some work on the materials before I can post them. Meanwhile, I have more ideas than I know what to do with. At least now I know I'll be near internet through most of the time between now and February 15th. Now, if I can just keep my computer going. My built in mouse doesn't work, and I've been using a wireless mouse. Maybe Santa will get me a new computer! I hope you and your Rare One enjoy the next few days. I've lost enough weight that I can finally wear my Star Trek science officer uniform (female, so it's a short-skirted dress style from before ST "evolved."). So, Halloween means a drink at our local bar which always goes way out for Halloween. Boy, I miss my kiddos at Halloween. We get no trick-or-treaters here! All the best!

  8. It's so long since I last read your Landsdowne letters and I forgot how much I loved them! I am glad you have got to know your parents more through them.xx

    1. Kezzie, it's lovely to see you pop up! Thank you for your kind comment! I have thought of you so many times. Terry and I unexpectedly spent two weeks in Brighton/Hove, England in early September. We had so much fun, making it up to London several times, as well as to Seaford and the Seven Sisters and to Arundel. London phone booths always make me think of you and TARDIS. I miss seeing your blog and all your lovely outfits. I've lost some weight, and I'm excited about getting new clothes, upping my fashion presence a little. I hope that you are having lots of fun with your students. I'll be by. Thank you, thank you for visiting and leaving a comment!

  9. I'm sad. I wanted the letters to continue forever. But I'm glad your dad got a good job. I hope you'll blog about what happened when you moved.


    1. Hi, Janie! I'm happy to see you! Thank you for your encouraging words! I will pick up with more of our northern adventures in Lac Seul and Sioux Lookout, but I need to work on the materials some more before I can post them. In the short term I'll be sharing some other things. I'm sorry I haven't been by. We were unexpectedly in England and Italy, and I had an awful time with the internet. I hope all is well with you, your family human and canine, and your job. See you soon!

    2. I'd like to be unexpectedly in England and Italy.

  10. Dear Louise, I'm sorry for my absence, I'll have to catch up on your earlier posts! I've only just got my internet security on so am now able to see other blogs.

    Your Father was a proud person, and why not express his joy at getting a higher position in authority. He sounds like he would have done them proud. Not so proud were his canoeing skills! Ha. We all have our flaws, and I'm sure your Father did well on most occasions that he took to the water - especially with you five children aboard. Glad to be back reading your enlightening posts of your past. Hope you get to finish your book, it sounds like a good read already. Blessings to you Louise. Love love, Andrew.

    1. Blessings back at you, Andrew! I was delighted to see you visit! I've been absent a lot myself. Terry and I had an unexpected opportunity to visit England and Italy, and off we went! A fabulous trip, but I was in internet connectivity hell! Of course, I thought of you while we were in Brighton/Hove. I hope all is well, and I'll be by shortly ~ playing catch up again! All the best to you!

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  12. I have enjoyed your posts and reading your father's letters. I think you had a very unique childhood. Through your posts, we were given a glimpse of a man that had a remarkable journey. I am glad you have found healing, peace and understanding through this writing process.

    PS - I believe your mother had an inner strength that allowed her to deal with difficult times and 5 kids.

    Thank you for taking us with you!

    Bless you!

    1. Hi, Truedessa! It's awesome to see you! Your supportive comments over the past few years have meant so much to me, and I appreciate your latest. My mother had a core of steel until she lapsed into unconsciousness for the last time. I don't know how she did it. Toward the end, it was her great hope that she would see my father again and be with him. They had a powerful love that withstood many challenges. Thank you for coming with me! All the best to you! I'll be by soon!

  13. Oh my, I love these posts and the pictures. What an amazing journey. Thanks for sharing. I laughed out loud reading about getting sloshed up with beer. Haha.

    Teresa C.

    1. Hi, Teresa! Thank you, thank you for your encouraging comment! I'm glad I'm not replying to you two or three days late. It's been a very busy weekend, and I've been doing some election work. I hope all is well with you. I'll be by to visit shortly! Take care!

  14. I am honoured that you shared this all with us Louise! I'm glad you found some peace and healed, while you shared your dad's letters with us. I can't wait to see what's next!
    (Thank you for coming by my blog and telling me about the art in England and how you thought mine was just as good. Thank you for telling me, that I lift your spirits! I'm happy you still have that art piece and that it gives you strength!)
    Big Hugs and Much Love!

    1. Hi, Stacy! Thank you for your sweet comment! I meant to finish commenting on your posts yesterday, but I was interrupted. I will always have your art piece! I'll be by later. Big hugs and Much Love back at you!

  15. Hi Louise!

    I'm glad I joined the journey you're on, talking about your history. It's very interesting. I liked learning about the job your father had. I know it's hard for you to go through these memories but you write so should be very proud of that. :)

  16. شركة المثالية للتنظيف تسعد بتقديم خدماتها لعملائها بالمنطقة الشرقية خدمات تنظيف خدمات مكافحة حشرات خدمات تسليك مجاري المياه للمطابخ والحمامات جميع الخدمات المنزلية تجدونها مع شركة المثالية للتنظيف بافضل جودة وارخص الاسعار بالاعتماد علي كافة الادوات الحديثة والعمالة الماهرة

    شركة المثالية للتنظيف
    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالدمام
    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالخبر

  17. Being a 'history buff' I so appreciated your 'story', Louise.
    I can imagine the price you paid in even starting this journey. I feel it has given you more than you ever imagined.
    Your parents were incredible people. And they shared this sense of adventure and their intellect with each of their children in a manner that they would probably have never imagined.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us.


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.