Thomas Phillips Thompson (1843-1933) was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in England on 25 November 1843. He emigrated to Canada with his family in 1857. The family spent some time in Lindsay (appear on the 1861 census in Lindsay) before settling in St. Catherines.
Thompson studied law and was admitted to the bar, but instead became a journalist for the St. Catherines Post. He covered the Fenian raids as a correspondent for the Montreal Herald.
In 1867, he became a police reporter for the Toronto Daily Telegraph.
Around 1870, he wrote a weekly political column under the pseudonym “Jimuel Briggs, D.B., graduate of Coboconk University.”
The column was satire, making fun of the law and politics, and giving Thompson a name as a humourist.
In 1873, a collection of the columns was published as The political experiences of Jimuel Briggs, D.B., at Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere. (D.B. stood for “Dead Beat.”)
Other fictitious local references in his columns include the newspapers (the Coboconk Irradiator and the Coboconk Progressionist), the Coboconk Reform League, and the Bummer’s Roost (a “most aristocratic hotel”.) As for real references, Thompson mentions the Toronto and Nipissing Railway as well as Laidlaw.
Note the purchase price on the cover: 5 drinks.
On 2 February 1872, Thompson married Delia Florence Fisher. They had 3 daughters, Clara Florence, Laura Beatrice, Edith Maud and 1 son, William Phillips who died in childhood. Delia died in 1897. Two years later, Thompson married her sister, Edith, who was 13 years younger. In 1901, they had a son, Phillips Whitman.
Laura Beatrice Thompson married Francis George Berton. They had two children: Lucy Woodward and Pierre Berton.
In 1874, Thompson helped found The National, a weekly journal that supported the Canada First movement.
By 1883, his career was flourishing. Thompson accepted an editorial position at the Toronto Evening News. During this time he began writing in the weekly journal of the Knights of Labor.
He died in Oakville on 20 May 1933, well-known as one of Canada’s most influential labour writers of the late 19th century.
The Future Government of Canada: being arguments in favor of a British American independent republic, comprising a refutation of the position taken by the Hon. T. D’Arcy McGee in the British American magazine, for a monarchical form of government. (1864)
Originally from the Ajax area, where she graduated from the Ajax high school, O’Shea moved to Lindsay in 2020 and started her business, Let’s Talk Sex with Sandy.
In October 2022, O’Shea started a Facebook group for anyone to join “that would share activities they enjoyed, events that were happening, ideas for getting together.” (Whitnall. KLTW.) Within a few days the group had more than 200 members. (Visit the group: Kawartha Coffee and Conversation.)
O’Shea, a holistic sexpert, “specializes in supporting women through hormonal changes from perimenopause to menopause and beyond, helping them manage stress and embrace their confidence and sexual power. For men, she offers guidance on stress management and erectile dysfunction. Sandy is also passionate about helping couples reconnect and reignite the passion and intimacy they once shared.”
In February 2023, O’Shea published her first work of fiction, When Friends Become Lovers. The erotic story follows Nancy as she embarks on a new relationship after two failed long-term relationships.
O’Shea is working on her forthcoming memoir, From Invisible to Technicolor.
Viola Leone Whitney (1892-1984) was born in Atherley, Ontario on 23 February 1892. She completed grade eight when she was eleven and graduated Orillia Collegiate at age 15. Too young to attend university, she stayed home and studied music until she tired of it. She turned to teaching and was employed in Zephyr. She entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1909, where she was editor of the student literary journal, graduated in 1913, she attended the Ontario College of Education and then went on to teach in Amherstburg, Renfrew and St. Mary’s.
From 1920 to 1936, the Pratt family kept a cottage in Bobcaygeon on Sturgeon Lake, where the family spent their summers.
Viola was a founding member and editor of World Friends, a magazine for children published by the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada. She retired from her editorial position in 1955.
In the 1930s, Viola was president of the Canadian Authors’ Association.
She read to blind students at the University during and after the Second World War.
She wrote book reviews for the Globe and Mail.
Viola was an essayist and public speaker. These were collected and published in a book edited by her daughter Claire Pratt, Viola Whitney Pratt: Papers and Speeches (1990.)
In 1956, Viola was awarded an Honourary Doctorate of Sacred Letters from Victoria University.
One Family (1937)
Famous Doctors (1956)
Journeying with the Year: a world friends anthology, Women’s Missionary Society of Canada (1957)
Viola Whitney Pratt: papers and speeches (1990), Claire Pratt.
Born Clara Flos Jewell (1889-1970) in Dundalk, Ontario, she completed school in Toronto, where at some point she preferred to use the name Flos as she’s listed in the newspaper honour rolls as Flos Clara Jewell.
At some point, she took a teaching position in Bobcaygeon, where she taught for at least five years.
Dorothe Comber‘s book, “Bobcaygeon History: Amy Ellen Cosh Memorial,” has this note in the section about the Rokeby School:
Miss McGuire taught in the Rokeby School. She was a lovely person and a splendid teacher. She and Mr. Simpson were united. Miss Floss [sic] Jewell was one of the assistants. About 1920, after she had gone away and married, she wrote a fiction story about Bobcaygeon which was published, “The Judgement of Solomon.” Of course the names were changed but some people thought that they recognized some of the characters.”
Bobcaygeon History: Amy Ellen Cosh memorial, Dorothe Comber with committee, 1972, page 72.
The December 3rd, 1908 edition of the Weekly Free Press notes, “Upon severing her connection with Rokeby school, Miss McGuire was presented with some valuable silverware by her pupils and ex-pupils in remembrance of her kindness and interest in their welfare.”
McGuire left in 1908. The 1911 census shows Flos single and living in Toronto.
Flos and David were married on 23 April 1915, therefore Williams must have taught at the Rokeby School between 1911 and 1915. The phrasing “gone away and married” would suggest that just like McGuire, Flos quit teaching to get married, but since she ran into E.J. Pratt, Arthur Phelps and others while she was in Bobcaygeon, and knew them well enough to characterize them into her first novel, she had to have remained living in the area until at least 1920.
The Rokeby School was the Verulam School Section (S.S.) No. 6 built in 1873 to move students out of the tavern lean-to where they’d been studying. (The school in the make-shift room attached to the tavern is thought to be Bobcaygeon’s oldest school.) The Rokeby School was constructed at 35 North Street, which became Pieter van Oudenaren’s Garage, an auto repair shop. Pieter took over the garage from his father, Harry van Oudenaren, a Kawartha Lakes author, until he left auto repair for cheesemaking.
By 1921, according to the 1921 census, Flos and David were living in Calgary.
After settling in Calgary, being separated from her Toronto-area friends and family, and with her salesman husband travelling, Williams took up writing. She was a member of the Canadian Authors Association, in the same Calgary chapter as Nellie McClung. In addition to writing four novels, Williams contributed a number of stories and poems to anthologies and periodicals to qualify for membership to the Canadian Womens’ Press Club.
A young woman and a brilliant one, and editors and critics who know her work prophesy that she will go far in the world of letters. The very fact that this first book of hers was one of the runners up in the recent Hodder & Stoughton Canadian $2,500 contest, that this well established firm accepted it at once and sent it forth to the world, stamped with its approval, is no mean compliment to a young and new writer.
Mrs. Williams didn't write her book as one in search of fame, for commercial purposes, or in the beginning for the publishers. Once the theme was conceived it was written, four thousand words at a time, for the real enjoyment of writing, until it had developed itself into a full-length novel. It is a story that arose first in the heart and was committed to paper because of that prime requisite of any author — the urge to write. It had never been seen by anyone. Then one day Mrs. Williams saw the advertisement of the Hodder & Stoughton contest. She submitted her manuscript, curious to see how it would come out. Immediately there came back a letter of warm commendation accompanied by an offer to publish it. It had been picked as one of the four runners up in the contest.
Mrs. Williams was born in Toronto [Dundalk] and educated in that city, being a graduate of the Jarvis Collegiate Institute, the old grammar school of Upper Canada, and of the Toronto Normal School. Later she taught at Bobcaygeon in the Kawartha Lakes district, which she has woven in, as the beautiful setting of her book. Six years ago she came with her husband, David S. Williams, and her twin sons, to reside in Calgary, in which city her book was written.
“Calgary has four women authors” by Elizabeth Bailey Price; Canadian Bookman, March 1926.
The Globe review for Judgement of Solomon called the book “a well-written novel” with “a real plot, not a particularly pleasant one, handled with skill and delicacy and well sustained to the end.” (The Globe, December 5, 1925.)
The Judgment of Solomon is a work of fiction, following the story of Blake Lamon during his days as a medical student at the University of Toronto. He leaves school to run the family farm, acting on the promise he made to his dying mother. He marries Mary, the girl next door, and then has an affair with his wife’s cousin, Anne Thurston (a girl of 18 who’s living with them as their housekeeper). Anne gets pregnant, and Blake dies before his son, Blake junior, is born.
The setting for the family farm was “a four-mile drive over wretched roads, from Robson” with Robson being the pseudonym for Bobcaygeon, a place the main character, Blake Lamon does not love.
Blake hated the gossip and scandal-mongering of small villages, the almost consistent lack of charity, the eagerness with which the inhabitants put the worst construction on the actions of their neighbours. Robson was particularly disgusting in this respect. The town was situated between two lakes. A river and a canal cut through the town. On every side was unusual beauty, and the little village, with its ugly houses, with their wedding-cake verandahs jammed close to the sidewalks, buzzing from morning until night with scandal, was to Blake like a festering sore on the beautiful landscape.
The Judgment of Solomon, 1925, page 54.
By this description Robson is undoubtedly Bobcaygeon. When Blake marries, he agrees to move into his wife’s neighbouring farm, called Beehive Farm. This must be a nod at ‘The Beehive’ home to James Dunsford, built in 1839 between Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls, now part of Eganridge Resort, Golf and Spa.
Mary’s verandah commanded a gorgeous view of Sturgeon Lake, whose waters washed all the western boundary of the farm, its wooded shores curving around Green Bay, the favourite haunt of black bass for which the lake was famous.
The Judgment of Solomon, 1925, page 36.
Green Bay is on the Pigeon Lake side of Bobcaygeon, just off Riverside Drive, while The Beehive is on Sturgeon Lake at Hawkers Bay. Familiar territory, in any case.
After Blake’s death, Anne stays with Mary to help raise Blake Junior, whom they are raising as Mary’s child. Outside of Anne and Mary, only the doctor knows the truth. Once Junior is old enough to go away to school, Anne moves to a place of her own in Robson.
While she’s living in Robson, Anne meets some familiar characters. For anyone who knows that E.J. Pratt, Arthur Phelps, and Frederick Philip Grove spent every summer at their cottages in Bobcaygeon, they would instantly recognize them in the characters “Ned Andrews,” “Arthur Dawson,” and “George Groves.” Anne suddenly finds that “for the first time in her life this lonely woman felt that she was among her own people.” (p. 245.)
And they seem to respect her:
Ned Andrews marvelled at this women. She confessed to having lived almost entirely to herself, yet she had the appearance, the poise, of a woman of the world. She unhesitatingly acknowledged that she had been a housekeeper on a farm, yet good breeding and refinement were obvious.
The Judgment of Solomon, page 255.
Williams would have been a solitary woman, living on her own, while her salesman husband was away. Williams seems to have made herself the template for Anne.
Ned is a bachelor, whereas, E.J. Pratt was married. Nevertheless, Pratt was the template for Ned. Here’s Ned as described by another character:
“He is a Newfoundlander: a long, thin, good-looking, loose-jointed man, rather shabbily dressed. The cleverest man on the staff, with an almost uncanny ability in using his knowledge. He impresses one as living intensely every instant. He is much interested in questions of the day, and has influence in high quarters that would amaze the majority of his friends. Add to that the fact that he writes the most beautiful poetry in Canada to-day, and that he is a confirmed bachelor at forty, and you have the man.”
The Judgment of Solomon, page 248.
The characters ask to hear Ned’s poem titled, “Charlotte.” Is it coincidence that Pratt had a sister named Charlotte? Or that his first published poem had a woman’s name for the title? (Rachel, published in 1917.)
In the book, Anne and Ned fall in love, but Anne is unwilling to commit because of her history with Blake and because Blake Junior hasn’t fully accepted her as his mother.
During her time in Kawartha Lakes and as a member of the Canadian Authors Association, Williams became known to these “Bobcaygeon Boys.” Phelps, Pratt, and William Arthur Deacon had cottages where they stayed every summer, after completing their professor duties at the universities.
Two of Williams’s books were published by Graphic when Frederick Philip Grove was editor. Grove was friend to the Bobcaygeon Boys, spent time at their cottages, and corresponded with them on a regular basis. Graphic also published the words of Grove, Deacon, and Watson Kirkconnell (another Kawartha Lakes writer and Phelps’s colleague.) Deacon was a well-known book reviewer and critic for Saturday Night and the Globe and Mail, where Williams’ books were reviewed.
In 1926, Deacon asked Pratt to review Williams’s novel, New Furrows, for the Globe and Mail. In his letter to Deacon, Pratt said, “I had this review up to four hundred words but by a second pruning I managed to get it down to 335. I hope it will do though I don’t think it is ‘any great shakes,’ as I can only accomplish anything worth while when I have the impulse to let myself go.” (https://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/letters/texts/260909dea.html)
His review was lukewarm at best. The review appeared in the October 16, 1926 edition and started out well with Pratt calling the book “a refreshing change from the usual run of “Western” novels.” After describing the premise of the book, Pratt says, “Beyond the love affair which develops between Marie and a handsome English “mountie,” the book has little plot. Nor are the obstacles to the courses of true love more than ordinary complexity–the war, absence, misunderstanding and hurt pride account for them.” He then goes on to say the value of her story “lies largely in the simplicity of its telling” and that “Mrs. Williams has not hesitated to make her people her mouthpiece on many vexed questions.” He ends the review not with words for the story itself, but by describing the book as “an attractive piece of book-making, done in the distinctive style of the Graphic Publishers.” Deacon was at the time editor for the Globe and Mail, and their friend Grove was editor at Graphic Publishers. Pratt’s evaluation of the novel would have carried a lot of weight.
Although he must have been flattered to be a character in Williams’s first book, he clearly reverted back to his default belief that women’s fiction wasn’t worthy, and one shudders to think what he might have said had he been able to “let himself go.” Perhaps he wasn’t flattered by Williams portrayal of him at all.
Williams was well-connected to the literary world in another way. Her salesman husband’s travelling partner was Stephen Leacock’s brother. (Butter Side Up, Gray Campbell, 1994.) No doubt she heard plenty of amusing tales.
In 1931, Williams had three books published along with short stories and poems, when her story “The Blue Bowl” was picked up for Chatelaine. The editor contacted her, asking for a photo and a brief write-up of her career to include with the story. Her response shows that imposter syndrome is not a modern construct and that for mothers, writing is a challenging career:
“Your letter fills me with despair for two reasons. First it reminds me of the time I asked an old Indian squaw to let me take her snapshot for a quarter, and she knocked the money out of my hand, saying that she wouldn’t be ugly all over Canada for a quarter! And second, because in the matter of my career- I haven’t had one!”
“I taught school in Toronto, married and have twin sons. My sons are my chief hobby as well as being my greatest creative effort. I have no convictions about anything- or rather I have to have a fresh bunch daily. To such an extent is this true that the only time I ever wrote a letter to a newspaper, I had to write an answer the next day, refuting all my arguments.”
Chatelaine, November 1931.
Her last novel, Fold Home, took second place in Ryerson’s Annual Canadian Book Contest in 1949.
Butter Side Up by Gray Campbell (1994) tells the story of the founding of his publishing company, Gray Publishing, the first publishing company in British Columbia. At the time, Williams was retired and living on her own on the waterfront a few houses down from Campbell. In his book, Campbell describes her as a “wise old owl” and “a witty raconteur, very much in tune with current literature and state affairs.” He began bringing her manuscripts to evaluate. He says “as a retired novelist, she had the ability to size up a writer’s potential by reading a few pages.” And while he acknowledges his company wouldn’t have succeeded if not for Williams, he makes no mention of paying her for her work.
A director, actor, author, and teacher, Rod Carley was born in Brockville, Ontario, on February 19, 1962. He attended York University, graduating with a B.F.A. (Honours) in Acting/Directing (1985) and graduated the Humber School for Writers (2013). (link)
His second book, Kinmount, won the Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction from the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Awards and was one of ten books long-listed for the 2021 Leacock Medal for Humour. (link) The story is about down-and-out director Dave Middleton, who feels Kinmount is the last place he wants to revisit yet there he is directing an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet for an eccentric producer. From cults to karaoke, anything that can go wrong does.
In choosing to use Kinmount as the setting for this book, it would seem Carley took a page from Gord Downie, but where Downie chose Bobcaygeon from a map because it rhymed with ‘constellation’, Carley chose Kinmount because “”the name was naturally funny,” Carley says, noting the word Kinmount contains a noun followed by a verb. “With apologies to the good people of Kinmount,” he adds, noting a similar apology appears in the book itself. Aside from the name and some reference to a history of logging, Carley says the Kinmount in his story is otherwise fictionalized.” (link)
Cameron-area author of When We All Get Together, Bradley is a retired elementary teacher, who has also worked for the Ontario Science Centre. In 1994, she was awarded the William C. McMaster Award from Scholastic Canada for her essay about children’s literature.
When We All Get Together was the 2022 silver medal winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.
“I found out about it [awards] through one of my writer’s groups and decided to submit it with no idea it would even be accepted, never mind win an award … I would have been pleased to get an honourable mention,” said Bradley. “Getting to the podium shows me that it was a worthwhile endeavour.”
Ronald Douglas Lawrence (1921-2003) lived in many places and tried many things. Among his accomplishments he and his second wife, Joan, maintained a wilderness property, “The Place”, near Uphill (page 219, The Place in the Forest) in Kawartha Lakes (then Victoria County) where Lawrence studied the local wolf pack. He wrote about it in The Place in the Forest. Then they bought a 350-acre farm of mostly wilderness, “North Star Farm,” where they cared for orphaned and abandoned animals. He chronicled the humorous account of this time in the book, The Zoo That Never Was. Lawrence sold the property after Joan’s death.
Lawrence was a Canadian naturalist and wildlife author of over 30 books.
Born on a ship off the coast of Spain, Lawrence was raised in Spain and at age 14 lied about his age so he could fight in the Spanish Civil War. He served for two years until he found himself outnumbered in the Pyrenees and fled to France. He made his way back home just in time for the arrival of WWII. He enlisted with the British and went to war again. He participated in D-Day at Normandy where he was seriously injured.
After the war, Lawrence he enrolled at Cambridge University where he studied biology for three years but did not complete his degree. He returned to Spain where he worked as a journalist and novelist.
He moved to Canada in 1954 and became a reporter for the Toronto Star. He also worked for the Winnipeg Press and Toronto Telegram. Among his reporting duties, he went to Africa as a foreign correspondent.
Lawrence and his third wife bought property in Haliburton. Lawrence helped establish the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre.
W. G. Hardy was a writer, professor and hockey administrator. Born and raised on a farm called “The Elms” near Lindsay, Ontario, to parents George and Annie, Hardy was one of seven children. His sister, Winnifred Hardy, served as a nursing sister for WWI. Official records put his place of birth as Peniel, Ontario, but all that remains of the community once located at the intersection of Peniel Road and Kawartha Lakes County Road 46 is a church.
South of this intersection, Hardy attended school where he used to daydream while completing school by age 10. “They let me go at my own pace.” He was writing epic poetry by age 12. For the next few years, he worked the farm and taught himself Greek. He already knew Latin.
Hardy attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto, first attempting a mathematics degree, but then switching to the Classics so he could obtain a scholarship. He paid for his degree in scholarships, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1917.
While at university, Hardy served the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps. In April 1917, Hardy tried to enlist for WWI, signing up for the 109th Battalion in Lindsay, but was rejected for medical reasons. He returned to serve the University of Toronto’s Officers Company, but was discharged due to his heart condition. He never saw active service.
While working towards his Masters in Arts at the University of Toronto, Hardy married Llewella May Sonley and managed a publication called The Rebel.
After obtaining his Masters in 1920, Hardy took a position as a lecturer at the University of Alberta, and by 1922 he earned a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Chicago and a professorship at the University of Alberta. From 1938 to 1964, Hardy served at head of the Department of Classics. He gave talks about the Classics on CBC Radio. In 1979, the CBC published unedited transcripts of this radio programs in the book, CBC television programs on W.G. Hardy and Hazel McCuaig (1979.) Additionally, Hardy criticized fascism and the modern education system. His articles about the Alberta education system were collected and published in the booklet, Education in Alberta (1954.)
After relocating to Alberta, Hardy began coaching the Alberta Golden Bears hockey team. He served as president of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association and was appointed to the Alberta branch of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. Hardy put forth a motion to have the 1936 Summer Olympics taken away from Berlin due to Germany banning Jewish athletes. Hockey in Western Canada flourished with Hardy’s involvement, but was not without problems:
Hardy publicized the CAHA ambitions and published the article “Should We Revise Our Amateur Laws?” in Maclean’s on November 1, 1936. He argued for updating the definition of amateur, when it was commonly accepted to bend the rules in hockey. He felt that the AAU of C was hypocritical for classifying cricket, soccer, and tennis as pastime sports where athletes may compete with or against professionals and still be called amateurs. He sought for these inconsistencies with respect to professionals and amateurs should be “ironed out and a common-sense view be taken of the situation”. He further stated that the old definition of amateur came “from the days when only gentlemen with independent means were supposed to engage in sport”; and that in the era of the Great Depression, it was justified that a hockey player be allowed legitimate employment in sport and be compensated for work lost while away at playoffs or representing his country at international events.
The amateur issue achieved significant press coverage by November 1936. Canadian journalist Scott Young wrote that public perception was against the AAU of C definition, and that Canadians were in favour of amateurs being compensated for travel, which was perceived as a reason for Canada not winning the gold medal in ice hockey at the 1936 Winter Olympics.
(Scott Young was also a writer in Kawartha Lakes.)
Hardy’s legacy in hockey lives on in the Dr. W. G. Hardy Trophy established 1951 and the Hardy Cup established in 1968.
While it may seem strange for a scholar of the Classics to be so involved in ice hockey and writing novels, Hardy didn’t think so. “That was the Greek way of doing things. I didn’t want to become a straight academic. I was too interested in people.”
Hardy wrote his first novel, A Son of Eli, during a two-week period in 1929 when his wife was away from home. McLean’s published the book as a serial. Hardy said, “I write very fast. I never pretended to be a genius, but I have a talent for writing. I know my stuff.” Hardy went on to publish a dozen more books, some fiction and others non-fiction, countless short stories, as well as curate two anthologies.
Hardy was president of the Alberta branch of the Canadian Authors Association in 1972 and president of the national organization at least three times. He gave workshops and was a judge for writing contests, including the 1963 contest for new lyrics for the Maple Leaf Forever.
Hardy said his writing was a hobby, but that writing was hard work. He believed, “Some write for money, some for fame and recognition and some because they have a passion to express themselves. Amateur writers need the passion most.” He did not think writers should be too ‘arty.’ He believed in writing to market while also finding a compromise between what writers want to write and what the public wants to read. “After all,” he said, “the function of words is to put across ideas— and so why not market them’.”
“I believe that everyone has a novel inside them, formed through their own experiences and observations,” Dr. Hardy said tliis was his third reason for believing writers in Alberta could produce novels.
Dr. Hardy, who was president of the 1972 convention of the Canadian Authors Association, said he believes there are many advantages to writing a novel rather than a short story.
He said novels can use more characters, more places and a less – rigid structure, than short stories. Dr. Hardy said “besides these points, writing a novel is more fun.”
How do people go about starting to write a novel? Dr. Hardy said a good way for most to begin is to base the novel on n topic with which they are familiar.
He said to begin any of the three main types of novels — historical, contemporary life, novelists should follow a few basic steps.
To start with they should analyze what special knowledge they have going for them which could be helpful as background for their writing. Then books should be read to see how’ other authors have handled that type of novel.
The next basic step is for the writer to decide if he wants to write in the first or third person. Dr. Hardy said he prefers first person because by use of first person many points of view and many different characters can be presented.
The other suggestions Dr. Hardy gave were to draw up a resume — to help decide what the novel will say; to choose characters carefully and to decide on an approach — realistic or romantic.
He said one of the last things a writer does before actually writing the novel is a story line. By use cf the story line the information that doesn’t fit the general theme is discarded.
Dr. Hardy said when the novelist has had a book published he has completed “an achievement equivalent to any in the world.”
Early settler in Lindsay, Ontario, William McDonnell is perhaps best known locally as the author of Manita, a poem he created about a local legend. The legend tells of young Iroquois chief Ogemah, who fell in love with Manita, a beautiful chief’s daughter of their rivals, the Heron peoples. Since the poem was written without the consent or input of indigenous peoples, it is an example of cultural appropriation.
While the poem spans 26 pages, the book opens with several pages describing the town of Lindsay, and with the last pages of the book consisting of advertising for local steamboats, it appears the book was created to draw tourism.
The controversy around Manita is not new.
Watson Kirkconnell asserts many of the facts from the original legend were changed. “From this era, too, dates the legend of Manita. In the version told me by Johnston Paudash, son of the Mississaga Chief at the Nanahazhoo Reserve, Rice Lake, Manita or Nomena (“light of love”) was the daughter of a great Mississaga chief who lived at Pleasant Point, Sturgeon Lake. Ogemah, an Iroquois chief, paddled alone from his own country to ask for her in marriage, but was murdered by a jealous Mississaga brave. About 1886 a poem on this theme was published in Lindsay by the late Mr. William McDonnell. This poem is a pretty little idyll, but as a portrayal of Indian psychology it is hopelessly sentimental and therefore unbelievable. It also substitutes Huron for Mississaga, Sturgeon Point for Pleasant Point and brings Ogemah on the stage by way of Lindsay, the wrong direction entirely.” (from Victoria County Centennial History, 1921 edition.)
The only known remaining copy of Manita, once belonging to local writer and historian Ford Moynes, is located in the archives of the Kawartha Lakes Public Library. They’ve recently digitized the book and made Manita available to view online.
Although he was known locally as Squire McDonnell and the author of Manita, outside of Kawartha Lakes (then Victoria County), he was the author of several books, which were published in the hundreds of thousands and read around the world, and a play that was performed in Toronto:
From the pen of Mr. George Beall, Albert Street, and from his scrap book comes a second interesting story: “Wm. McDonnell, 1814-1900, born Cork. Ireland. Wm. McDonnell went to Peterborough in 1830 and then studied law at Pennsylvania, U.S.A. He settled in Lindsay in the 1840’s and founded a tannery, and later a store about 1852. He was in the Lindsay Customs Office and also a Lieut. Colonel in the Militia. He was a good musician and composed both libretts and music for the 3-act opera “The Fisherman’s Daughter”, which was put on at the Princess Theatre, Toronto.
He very successfully wrote several books the sales of which ran into hundreds of thousands. He published two narrative poems – “Manita” and “Cleope”. Manita was based on an Indian legend of Sturgeon Point, and later a steamer, owned by Charles Burgoyne of Fenelon Falls, and ran daily trips between Lindsay and Coboconk was named “Manita” after the heroine of this poem.
Wm. McDonnell was always known in Lindsay as “ Squire” McDonnell. He built two houses on the north end of York Street on the river bank. The first was burned in the fire of 1861 and the second is with some additions, the present Canadian Legion Hall.
After his father brought young McDonnell to Canada, business reverses compelled the father to return to Ireland, but he died on the way home and young McDonnell was left alone in Canada to fend for himself at the age of 16 years.
His indomitable energy, intelligence and uprightness won for him the place which he was to hold until the day of his death, a place in the hearts; of all who knew him. His record was an exceptionally good one. He was chosen as clerk of the Division Court and appointed Justice of the Peace. He was a member of the County Council, was Reeve and for many years a member of the Council of the Town of Lindsay. He was a frequent contributor to the Public Press and wrote a series of articles on “ Government” for the Toronto Globe.
It is interesting to note that he supervised the taking of the first census in Victoria County and appointed Census Commissioner by a warrant issued the 2nd of January, 1852, by his Excellency James Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, Governor General of Canada.
Wm. McDonnell was a member of King Hiram Lodge A.F. and A.M. He was interested in education and for many years held the position of chairman of the Grammar School Board. Up to the time of his death he maintained a keen interest in public affairs. He died at the age of 81 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.”
(Note: the above quote from an article by Ford Moynes published in the Lindsay Daily Post, no date known, cites McDonnell’s biography as written by George Beall and taken from the Beall scrapbook. Upon searching the digitized copy of the Beall scrapbook, made available online by the Kawartha Lakes Public Library and courtesy of the Kawartha Lakes Museum & Archives, it appears the McDonnell biography pages are missing. Perhaps they will turn up in the Ford Moynes fonds.)
Although the publication of A Man from Mars was announced in The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, Missouri, USA) of Saturday 5th December 1891, it appears it never made it to print:
A theosophical novel by Mr. W. McDonnell, author of the very successful “Exeter Hall,” and of “Heathen of the Heath,” is announced for early issue by John A. Taylor & Co. of New York. The title selected for the forthcoming book is “A Man from Mars,” and the story is said to run on the lines of Edward Bellamy’s sociological “Looking Backward.” * The work purports to describe a visit to the planet Mars by two adepts in theosophy by occult powers. They find a perfect social system in operation amongst the inhabitants of Mars—society being organized on the same principles as those laid down in Mr. Bellamy’s story.
Lucy E.M. Black is the author of The Marzipan Fruit Basket, a collection of short stories (Inanna Publications, 2017) and Eleanor Courtown, a work of historical fiction (Seraphim Editions, 2017). Her novel, Stella’s Carpet (Now or Never Publishing, 2021) is a study of intergenerational trauma. The Brickworks (Now or Never Publishing) will be released in Fall 2023. Her award-winning short stories have been published in Britain, Ireland, USA and Canada in literary journals and magazines including Cyphers Magazine, the Hawai’i Review, The Antigonish Review and others. She is a dynamic workshop presenter, experienced interviewer and freelance writer. She lives with her partner in the small lakeside town of Port Perry, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, First Nations.
Of her first book of short stories (The Marzipan Fruit Basket), best-selling author Donna Morrissey says Lucy E.M. Black arrives into the world of Can Lit with this compilation of beautifully written short stories that speak to the heartfelt intimacies of both her characters and her readers.
“Stella’s Carpet is a treat – a multinational, multigenerational gem of a novel about family, loss and the ties that bind. Lucy Black writes with heart, verve… and oodles of talent.” —Brad Smith, award-winning author of Copperhead Road, The Return of Kid Cooper, The Goliath Run, CactusJack
Lucy writes and distributes a Monthly Newsletter, whichincludes book reviews, her book news, as well as promotes local arts events
She is a columnist for the Pineridge Arts Council, The Writing Room is the name of her column
She is a freelance writer for Silver Sage Magazine and other publications
Lucy has assumed the position of Creative Non-fiction Editor, The Artisanal Writer, an online journal discussing the craft of writing