Notre Dame Bay ~ Exploits District
"The Boy From Exploits: A Story That Needs to be Told"Peter Holmes has obtained permission from the author to publish the story titled "The Boy From Exploits" with additional sub-title "A Story That Needs To Be Told." The author is Lena Margaret Tansley, nee Lacey. She produced it with the help of Linda Buchanan, nee Lacey. On the inside cover, are acknowledgements to Anne & Neil Windsor.
The information was written by LENA MARGARET (LACEY) TANSLEY and transcribed by PETER HOLMES. While we have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.
ODE TO NEWFOUNDLAND
Why are we standing on this island of Exploits, my brother David and I? Why have we come to this spot on the Eastern coast of Newfoundland? We have come because our roots are here . . .but was that the reason really?
According to Cliff Lilly in his History of Exploits, "this island is breathtaking in itís beauty with wooded hills interspersed with barren rocks and grassy patches". So it was the day we visited it.
Newfoundland was settled in the outports because fishing fleets looked for safe harbours. There were plenty of choices. In those early days the fishermen made a good living from the sea. Catholic Europe was a huge market and the Grand Banks teemed with cod. As a result the outports became the first settled communities.
Exploits is really two islands lying together like two halves of a clam shell. Small boats can pass between them at the outer end. At the inner end they widen out to form a safe harbour opening towards the Bay of Exploits. The water on the Atlantic side of Exploits Island is Notre Dame Bay which can be very rough. Cliff Lilly writes, " fishermen came to this area before 1723. At first the harbour here, like many others, was used only in the summers during the fishing season. Gradually Devonshire fishermen and others, established permanent residences making Exploits one of the oldest communities on the north east coast of Newfoundland".
We knew, my brother and I, that we were under the spell of bits and pieces of our familyís history. We are part of the story of Exploits. Research done by another family member had turned up some tantalizing bits of information. The records show that in the early 1700ís John Manuel of England, owned a fleet of sailing vessels that crossed the Atlantic to and from Newfoundland to harvest the cod. He was one of those who remained in England for the Winter. Did he find the climate too harsh? Maybe! But there was another reason. Buildings with chimneys and windows were destroyed by Government authorities to keep the area a fishing preserve only.
John Manuel had three sons. Joseph, Samuel and William, who came to Newfoundland in 1758. Josephís son also named Joseph, married Elizabeth Milley (1809-1876). By this time permanent homes were allowed. Joseph and Elizabeth must have had a substantial home on Exploits Island because they became the parents of nine sons and seven daughters, one of whom, Jane, died when quite young. It is nothing short of a miracle, given the conditions, that the others grew to adulthood. By the mid 1800ís the Manuel brothers, so Cliff Lilly reports, were well established in Exploits. Fortunately for them, times were prosperous between 1860 and 1910. For several decades the brothers were the leading merchants in the community. Each one owned his own schooner. One of the brothers, Josiah, built a number of sailing vessels.
Some years ago, G.G. Lacey, a relative of ours and a descendant of one of the Manuel sisters (Mary) and her husband William Lacey, did some research into our familyís history. We are grateful to him for the following comment. "Once seven of these nine brothers happened to be in St. Johnís at the same time. Some astute person realized what a great picture it would make if they could be persuaded to gather together to face the ordeal of picture taking at that time. So here they are, sturdy and handsome men all, most with young faces hiding behind bushy beards, dressed in their Sunday best, displaying their success in heavy gold watch chains strung across their vests. They reflect the vigor and strength of character that helped to make succeeding generations of Newfoundlanders a proud and resourceful people. I wonder what business brought them to St. Johnís?
Our reading of "Random Passage" by Bernice Morgan had given us the impression that the early people in Newfoundland had a very hard time to survive. In light of the above account, we learned that, by this time anyway, our familyís situation was far more fortunate. Life could be harsh, yes; but there was a certain level of prosperity and comfort. Rev. Lacey also added a personal note that describes the Manuels more intimately. "As a boy, I well remember three of the brothers, Thomas, Jonathan, and Simon and knew them as the most wonderful personalities I had ever met. They were kind, neighbourly, deeply spiritual-staunch pillars of the church they dearly loved. Mary, a sister and my grandmother lived with us when I was growing up. She was a lady of loveliness and charm. Another woman I knew there, Rev. Lacey goes on to say, grand daughter of Percival, one of the younger Manuel brothers, said he was a kind, generous, considerate, good Christian gentleman-the very salt of the earth. All of us who are descendants of this wonderful family, she continued, should feel very proud of them and their way of life".
That way of life included building first, a school which could be used on Sundays for worship by the Manuels and others of the Methodist "persuasion". By 1842 a permanent church building was in place. In the early 1700ís there had been no effort to supply the peopleís spiritual needs. The state of religion and morality was described as "deplorable" according to the report in " 100 years of the Churchís story in Lewisporte" by W.A. Taylor. Then came a Rev. Laurence Coughlan about 1765. He was in Newfoundland for only a few years but his efforts were to have a far reaching influence. A devoted follower of John Wesley whom he knew personally (apparently) he too, kindled a fire in the land that would not be extinguished. Certainly his influence was felt in Exploits. The Manuels were staunch supporters of the school and the church. Education and religion walked hand in hand.
A number of Laceys were living on the island at this time. A book called "Family names of Newfoundland" gave a number of spellings, Lacey, Lacy or even de Lacie. It also stated that the family had probably originated in Devonshire, England. Some of them before that had come via the Channel Islands. As Hugenots, they had come there to escape the persecution of the Protestants in the early 1700ís. Newfoundland was a favourite fishing area for fishermen from Devonshire and the Channel Islands. They would also have been attracted to Methodism.
We realized we were getting close to our branch of the family when we remembered that Richard Lacey, born November 1, 1824, married Martha Manuel, born January 8, 1812. Would the picture come into focus and give us the answers to our questions? We may be sure Martha would be very much like the other members of the family in character, charm, and grace. I like to think Richard must have been like her brothers for Martha to choose him. Perhaps he too, owned a schooner and was a resourceful, ambitious, kind and devout as they.
We walked in the sunshine that lovely day over rough terrain to the small cemetery at the end of the harbour. There we found a headstone with the name "Richard Lacey" on it - our great grandfather? On the return walk, in imagination I saw the tall masted schooners, docks, bustling warehouses and homes, tucked in here and there in coves and bays. We could tell from buildings still standing that they were well built. I saw the gardens with various vegetables that would be stored in the root houses for winter use. I could imagine women and children finding wild fruits - partridge berries and bake apples (not to be confused with baked apples!), to be made into pies and preserves. Imagination was not required when we came upon Devon House, (even the name is significant), our "Bed and Breakfast" during our visit. The house, now restored, was built around 1850. The brochure even said "Exploits Island, a century ago. Devon House, an adventure in history". Just what we were looking for.
Once this house had three storeys. Affluence indeed! I had seen the house in 1984, 14 years ago, when it had a sad, neglected appearance. It had already been reduced to two storeys. Now restored, it gives off an air of self-confidence, a hint of the gracious living that must have taken place over 100 years ago. The house, facing the harbour, has two large bay windows on either side of the main entrance.
The host conducted us into a spacious hallway from a porch at the side. The living room is on the right; to the left, a staircase wide but not steep with light spindles and handrails. Further down the hall, past the living room is the dining room. The table and chairs used years ago in this very room can accommodate up to eight diners. Another table in the window alcove seats four more. Ceilings are high - at least ten feet. The wall paper is as much like the original as possible. Brackets holding coal oil lamps hang on the walls though electricity is the source of power now. The kitchen, tastefully modernized, harks back to an earlier time. Servantís quarters are located above the kitchen, accessible by back stairs, no doubt. We went up the main stairs to the guest rooms. Halfway up a large window lights the stairs. Now there are only four bedrooms, one having been converted into two bathrooms - a concession to the 20th century. Devon House truly takes one back in time! What stories it could tell!
Would the Manuels and Laceys have had anything comparable to Devon House? The present owner of Devon House told me that there were similar dwellings on the Manuel property across the harbour. Since the Manuel brothers each owned a schooner, we can be sure they had homes adequate to their needs. Even a scaled down version would have provided good accommodation. Behind Devon House is a hill called "Lacey Hill". The present ownerís mother said she was sure some Laceys lived over at Buttís Cove. That is across the harbour and a little to the left. We may find the location yet!
In a home, similar in many ways, Richard and Martha began their married life about 1852. They had seven children. One of these, Abner, born October 24, 1860, was our grandfather. Meanwhile, not far off, James and Jane Hutchings set up a home. In 1864 a daughter , Mary Ann was born. In 1886 these two, Abner and Mary Ann were married - our grandparents. We knew there had been seven other children born after our father, their first born. We knew their names and dates of birth, but nothing else. Then . . . at the United Church of Canada Archives in St. Johnís, I saw the register of burials from early 1880. Suddenly, our summerís venture took on a new and unsuspecting twist. We had been lured by a call - a call we hadnít even been aware of. It was a call that revealed a story crying to be told - a story of a father, a mother, seven young children and their brother - The Boy from Exploits.
When sun rays crown thy pine - clad hills
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
And we love thee, smiling land.
SMILING LAND! 1886-1894
It must have seemed like a smiling land the summer of 1886 when Abner Lacey, now 26, was courting Mary Ann Hutchings, 22. From all we can learn, Abner seemed to be a worthy descendant of the Manuels: a man of integrity, with the practical skill needed to survive. Exactly when he became lay reader for the Methodist congregation is not known. The story is that he was also the postmaster. Mary Ann was a competent, resourceful woman, as devout as he was. What plans, what hopes, what anticipation as they approached their wedding day. They had to wait for an ordained clergyman to come to perform the ceremony.
Did they have a small home ready? Mary Ann would have had quilts made, and hand - hooked rugs, all of her own design. Those were the days when each household had to be self - sufficient. Comfort, and yes, even survival, meant that husbands and wives had to be resourceful, creative, skilled in many areas. Enough is known of her that we can be sure that early the next spring she would plant a garden. We have a picture of her much later taken in the large garden she tended. Whether they had a few sheep that early is a guess. I remember her telling me that she sheared the sheep, carded, spun and dyed the wool which she knitted into garments.
Mary Ann became pregnant in December 1887. Would she have shared her secret with Abner right away? Probably not, for this was the custom. I can see her happily working on the Layette. Would there be a doctor to attend her when her time came? Not likely! Every community though, had a nurse, a midwife, or a woman with experience. One such person was another Manuel descendant. Dulcie Sceviour Garland, born 1892, was trained as a nurse in a New York hospital. After working with Dr. W. T. Grenfell in St. Anthony, she returned to Exploits. She attended to the needs of her home community for years. She lived in Devon House for a while and her medical kit is still there. Hers is a story worth telling - she lived to be 105.
It must have been one like Dulcie who was with Mary Ann when her baby came on September 13, 1888. They called him Alexander. What a relief, what a joy, to have the birthing over and a healthy son. Smiling land indeed! Years later, when this Mary Ann lived with Alec and his family in Toronto, she shared with me something of her and Abnerís feelings about the birth of her first child. She told me that they knelt together beside the cradle and prayed that God would guide them as they tried to bring up this child. They prayed he would develop in all ways; physically, mentally and spiritually. These are not her exact words, but I have never forgotten her earnest sharing of that private experience. These were two, eager, sincere persons.
With Abner as lay reader, we can be sure church attendance was not a duty. It was probably the highlight of the week - nourishment for the mind and soul, and fellowship for others. I learned from the man who was that child, that Abner had copies of John Wesleyís sermons which he used in the worship services. Where did Abner receive the education to do this? More important is the question - what early experiences had led him to choose this path? Music was important in the Methodist Church. Both John and Charles Wesley, especially, contributed greatly to this aspect of church worship. Was there music in Mary Ann and Abner'í home? I like to think so.
Shortly after Alexanderís birth, (as a young child they called him Sandy) Mary Ann became pregnant again. When Sandy was only fourteen months old, a baby girl, Barbara, joined the family. Two so close! These two would be playmates, and later go off to school together. But before they were old enough for school, a baby girl, Lena, was born on July 23, 1892. A busy household - the way it was expected to be! For the next year and a half "Sun rays crowned those pine-clad hills."
When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white
At winterís stern command
Through shortened day and starlight night
We love thee, frozen land
WINTER'S STERN COMMAND! 1894-1899
When the sun was about to return with spring in April, 1894, little Lena became quite ill. Icy fear surely gripped the parentsí hearts as they watched over her. In those days children died of measles, whooping cough or diptheria in dreadful epidemics. How was it with you, little Lena? Just as you were learning to walk and talk, were a joy to your family, your life ended. How bereft that would have felt! Words of the prophet Jeremiah must have sprung to the minds of Abner and Mary Ann, "How can I bear my sorrow?" To them the answer would have come, "I, the Lord, am with thee". That such words would have come to them readily, I am confident. They knew their Bible.
Another sort of comfort came very soon. Mary Ann became pregnant again. She must have known this a very few weeks after Lenaís death. Was it possible that the sun could come out from behind those stern clouds of sorrow? A little brother, Simeon, came for Sandy and Barbara to hold and watch grow. He was born on December 23, 1894. A Christmas baby!
The next year passed pleasantly it would seem. Sandy would have been seven in September. Barbara six in November. Were they both in school then? Very likely. No doubt they were learning to do simple chores at home. The earnest prayer offered beside Sandyís cradle would apply to the other children as well. The parents would find ways to put that prayer into action day by day.
Early in February, 1896, Simeon became ill. He was barely thirteen months old. Was that little ray of sunshine about to be snuffed out too? A wave of sorrow bringing with it the familiar anxiety washed over them all. Abner and Mary Ann watched anxiously as that "winterís stern command" came again. With it went the bright young spirit of the Christmas child, Simeon. He died on St. Valentineís day. 1896. How did this affect Sandy and Barbara, following so closely after the death of Lena?
By August of that year Mary Ann discovered she was again "with child". Would that bring a smile through the tears? Meanwhile the other two children would certainly have been at school; both would have shown a quickness of mind, a readiness to learn. A desire for an education can be caught. Then comes an increasing hunger for more. It says a lot for the family that the children were motivated this way. Many boys in Exploits, like their fathers before them, were fascinated by schooners and the sea. Though Sandy enjoyed fishing for recreation even later in life, he would never have countenanced it as a future for himself. As for Barbara, she I am sure, would also have been an eager student. Who could help it with brother Sandy as an example? She would have been a carbon copy of Mary Ann, learning household skills. Probably she was already sewing and knitting, learning the skills to cope with life where money was not always readily available.
So ends the year 1896. Again there was a new baby to look forward to. The garden had produced well. Life was settling into a routine for Mary Ann and Abner now celebrating their tenth anniversary. Life was good, except when they remembered those two little graves. By then, they werenít the only parents who had felt "winterís stern command".
The new year, 1897 arrived. This was a time to be together with friends and relatives. Mummers (like trick or treaters) came to the door and were welcomed. Mary Ann was beginning to be "great with child" once more. Someone would have to care for the older two. Perhaps they went to stay with a relative. Mary Ann could have had everything ready so that Abner would care for them. No woman would have been left alone when her time came; Exploits was a caring place. Chesley Simeon arrived on April 3, 1897. A happy day! He was a strong, healthy boy. Just imagine Sandy and Barbara coming into the bedroom to be introduced to a little brother tucked in beside their mother.
A few weeks later Mary Ann noticed that Barbara was listless and feverish. Sandy would have to go to school alone. He could not remember a time when he had been separated from his sister. A worry must have gnawed at him as he saw her empty place at school. When he came home he couldnít go to her room. "She has a bad cough", he was told. It was whooping cough. Many in the community had it. There were a number of empty places at school, Sandy noticed. All known remedies were tried but nothing stopped the choking, the coughing. Poor dear Barbara: it was agony to hear her. This could not go on. Yet another "wintery command"? Barbara died on April twenty-fifth. She was seven years and five months old.
Barbaraís passing left a big emptiness in the family. Had she been musical? Did she sing songs around the house? Perhaps her potential was realized years later in her niece and namesake, another Barbara. Were pieces of her handiwork around the house? Maybe she had even helped to hem Chesleyís diapers. She had a more developed personality than either Lena or Simeon, dear though they were. How bewildered Sandy must have been! He couldnít remember a time when she wasnít there. At least there was little Chesley Simeon, hardly a month old, who would need a big brother to show him things.
During 1898 the family seemed to recover. Little Chesley was growing into a delightful child; Sandy was doing well in school. At age ten he was a tall boy and a great help around the house. Again Mary Ann planted a garden. It produced abundantly and the root cellar was filled to capacity. Then Mary Ann discovered that she too would be producing again. There would be lots to think about now. Could grief be turned into gladness again? The couple who set out twelve years ago, full of hope and youthful zeal, had been tempered by the fires of tragedy. They had proven themselves strong enough to overcome those "wintery blasts".
Sandy would soon be eleven years old. Chesley was two years and six months old, rather more steady on his feet over the rocky ground. Once again the garden showed signs of a good harvest, skies were blue, the harbour calm and sparkling.
A new bridge was being built to connect the two islands of Exploits. What excitement for the children! When school was over for the year, they likely perched on the rocks to watch the work in progress. The years between 1860 and 1910, according to historical records, were most prosperous for the island of Newfoundland. Things were booming in both the Labrador and the inshore fishery. The harbour at Exploits would have been a busy one with many tall-masted ships coming and going. By 1899 the population was almost a thousand souls. Sandy would have felt the vitality and prosperity of his home place.
Near the end of July that year the midwife was hurriedly called to attend Mary Ann. There was a flurry among the women as the news spread; twins! But all was not well. One of the babies, a little girl they named Amy, was weak and there were fears for her life. The little boy, called William, seemed stronger, but there was concern for both of them. Again Sandy must have been bewildered. Was he worried about his mother too this time? He couldnít understand that gnawing feeling inside of him. For two weeks there were vain attempts to keep life in the two wee mites. Despite all efforts Amy lived only fifteen days, William for nineteen. Two little coffins! Two more processions to the cemetery. We can sense the anguish.
Once again all little baby things would have to be put away and the family looked to the future. Mary Ann regained her strength. She still had her husband and her two boys. Sandy would have to learn to do many things for his mother. Abner was the postmaster and was often away in his boat picking up the mail. In the fall of 1899, Sandy would have looked forward to going back to school. There he could forget his sorrows and be absorbed in learning new things. With the apparent resilience of children, he would have joined the other boys in games.
The big event of that fall even brought reporters from St. Johnís. The new bridge was almost completed, but that wasnít why they came. The social event of the season was the wedding of the beautiful Mitchie Manuel and her fiancee, John Crosbie of St. Johnís (later Sir John Crosbie). It was such a great occasion that after the wedding they would lead the procession across the new bridge for the official opening. Mitchie was the daughter of Josiah, the ship builder, one of the nine brothers, and his wife Elizabeth Butt. The account in the St. Johnís newspaper read "the bride wore a dress of dove grey silk and matching hat. The groom wore white flannels" (never before seen in Exploits). Did eleven year old Sandy watch the big event? Very likely!
Sometime in his early years, Sandy himself was ill. We canít know how many childhood diseases affected him too, but this time it was typhoid fever - a dreadful affliction. What was it that pulled him through? Was there a Doctor in Exploits at the time? One did live there briefly. Was it because he was older and stronger and thus more able to fight the illness? Slowly he regained his strength much to his parentsí great relief.
Before the end of the year 1899, Mary Ann was pregnant again. Now thirty six, she and Abner had been married thirteen years. I wonder how they felt about this childís coming! Would hopes again be strong or would the icy fear they knew of old make them apprehensive? We can only wonder!
The year 1900 had started pleasantly enough. Once again a garden was planted. Sandy would be there to help his Mother, though he would also join with other boys in games and fishing expeditions close to home. Mary Ann would go through that box of baby things to see if she needed to make anything for the new one to come.
Near the end of that summer, on August 24, the mother again took to her bed. Was Sandy asked to go and bring the midwife? Abner Ebenezer made his appearance that day. He seemed to be a healthy baby, and Mary Annís arms cuddled yet another. Chesley Simeon was three and a half now, and Sandy would soon be twelve.
When his wife was beginning to feel stronger, Abner announced that he had to take the boat to pick up mail from a nearby outport. It must have been September 4. The skies were grey, the waters quite rough even on the landward side of Exploits. Mary Ann must have been apprehensive, but Abner was competent and confident. He had made this trip so often! But he did not return that night. All the next day, fear gripped Mary Annís heart. The weather had indeed worsened. A storm raged so that even the vessels in the usually quite harbour were buffeted about. Surely Abner would have found a safe harbour to wait out the storm!
Looking out of the window the morning of September 6, Mary Ann saw some people approaching. She could tell from their long faces that something was wrong. Surely not Ö! Stinging tears blinded her as she heard the dreadful words: "Abnerís body was found early this morning. We really donít know what happened. That fierce storm must have caught him unawares. Weíre so sorry Ö" !
How fitting are the words of another Newfoundlander, E. J. Pratt, who wrote:
It took the sea a thousand years,
How did Sandy receive this devastating news? Was there anyone to comfort him, to help him put words to his grief? Was this the beginning of a reserve, not of coldness, but of feelings under control? We wonder. Only twelve years old! Must he now try to fill his Fatherís shoes? There was Chesley Simeon, only three and a half, and that new baby, only two weeks old! Abnerís body had been recovered, and he was buried on September 9. Without him the family was bereft. Though there would be the usual food gifts and words of consolation, the funeral, with everyone in black, must have been a fearful time for a lad who had already been part of too many funerals.
How desolate he must have felt to watch that coffin being lowered into the ground! Up till now he had no idea that his father had played an important part in his life. Now that was all emptiness. That storm had robbed him of his mentor, his friend, his supporter, his example. Did he too shed tears that "blinded"? (I know he did, years later, when his friend, Rev. Harold Coish, died in Ontario.)
Life must go on, however, and routine has a comfort of its own. The garden would have to be processed for winter, the house supplied with wood for the fires. "Sandy, youíll have to be the man now." Was that said to him? If not, it would have to be so anyway. School had to continue though. His mother was determined that somehow the prayer of twelve years ago would be realized.
How did they ever manage to survive the winter of 1900 - 1901? ! But survive they did, and presumably Sandy continued to go to school. The new baby, named Abner Ebenezer after his father, was beginning to take notice. Chesley Simeon would soon be four. Before that birthday though, another "blinding storm gust" shook that poor family. The baby became listless, or cried pitifully, and there were many anxious nights. All that could be done was to no avail, and the baby, not quite seven months old, died on March 19, 1901. Another little coffin, another trip to the cemetery. Was the mother too shaken for tears? Did Sandy hold fast to her hand as they stood together by the graveside? There was no Abner now to be her support.
We know Mary Ann well enough to believe she would have said with Job: "Though God slay me, yet will I trust Ö" Hard are the words which in those days were often spoken: "Itís Godís will" or "The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away." Mary Ann knew better though. Such statements donít fit the One who mourns over a sparrow, or the Man who wept over Jerusalem. She needed all the comfort her religious experience could provide. Her inner strength had some firm foundations, fortunately. Though the storms brought tears that blinded, though Abner was sorely missed, Mary Ann would gather her resources and provide for herself and her two remaining sons.
What to do now, though? That was the burning question. Mary Ann was now thirty seven, Sandy would be thirteen in September, and Chesley Simeon just four. They couldnít manage much longer in Exploits. There were lots of people who cared, but nobody could take in three more. Besides, such an idea would not sit well with Mary Annís independent spirit.
She knew of a bustling place, not far away, called Botwood, where there was a sawmill. Would it be possible that they could have work for a young lad, tall for his age? There was constant communication between Botwood and Exploits. The minister from Botwood also conducted services at Exploits, though not every Sunday. Services between times were conducted by lay preachers, like Abner Lacey. The minister who wrote up the record of Abnerís funeral very likely was the one with whom Mary Ann discussed her plans. It is possible he even knew of someone who had a place to rent, even to buy. Mary Ann was a person who planned ahead. At some point, maybe during the summer of 1901, household items were packed, a buyer found for the house. Then the three set out bravely, to face a new life.
Some historical background will help to bring the time into focus. "By the 1800ís the rumble of steam engines announced the development of the Exploits River Lumber and Pulp Companyís largest sawmill in the Dominion of Newfoundland. For more than thirty years the heart of Botwood beat to the rhythm of saw blades. Prosperity and plenty of work drew people from all over the island. Shipping and the railway brought many dockside activities, beginning with the first load of paper which sailed out on May 19, 1910 on the S.S. Kastalia." (From information on a menu of The Dockside Restaurant, Botwood)
As their boat neared the harbour of Botwood, what thoughts would have been in the minds of the three? Sandy, suddenly feeling more grown up, would wonder if he could handle the responsibility of a job. Would he even manage to find one? Did Mary Ann wonder if all hopes she and Abner had for their sonís education were to come to an end? The obvious thing was to do what seemed right and possible at the moment and hope. Chesley Simeon probably wondered little, but wide- eyed, watched the ships and the hustle and bustle of a busy port.
Sandy did find a job in the sawmill. It could not have been easy for a lad of thirteen, still growing. But he knew what he had to do and tackled a manís responsibility. No doubt this is when he began to be called "Alec". On Sundays, we can be sure, they made their way to the Methodist Church and began to make friends.
Once settled in, Alec was able to find school textbooks, perhaps from the local teacher. He was surely almost ready for high school before leaving Exploits. His days were occupied, so he studied at night, after supper. A coal-oil lamp, he would have had, to provide light. Though this was not an ideal educational experience, it would have to do. There is also a chance that correspondence courses from St. Johnís were available. There would have been no thought of giving up the dream!
One day there was an accident at the mill and Alec was injured. It was a head injury that would cause headaches off and on for the rest of his life. What an anxious time that must have been! However, he was soon back at the mill, and back at the books. What a relief for his mother!
Life continued at Botwood for another five years or so, with Chesley Simeon at school, and Alec working and studying. Mary Ann was involved to, in her tasks: gardening, sewing, knitting, rug hooking, as well as being involved in community affairs. Then their situation took an unexpected turn. Perhaps Mary Ann met John Roberts at church. He was, we think, a Widower. We do know he was a carpenter, a building contractor, a solid citizen, well-off for those days. No doubt, as he saw more and more of Mary Ann and her sons, he became aware of the studious Alec.
After the marriage of John and Mary Ann around 1906, eighteen year old Alec was free to pursue his dreams for more education. I like to think John Roberts provided financial assistance. He certainly was the means whereby the prayer uttered eighteen years previously was to be answered!
Around this time Alec began to have some long thoughts. During the last weeks of his life, he shared some of them with me. They reveal a significant facet of his mind and spirit. After our chat (in which there was no comment about his coming death!), I went to my room and wrote down his words. I have that little book yet, so I am able to quote the words almost as if he were speaking them.
"As a boy, at home in Newfoundland, I was surrounded by religious influence and teaching which I took as naturally as the food offered me. It is important that it be taken that way in early years, but not without thought later, for then it becomes mere formalism."
This is what it became to me until I was about 18 (1906). Then, finding myself becoming skeptical, I determined to investigate Christianity for myself. My father had been a lay preacher and organizer of church work, a very devout man who died when I was twelve. I happened to find, among my fatherís books, one by Henry Drummond. He was a scientist as well as a preacher. He pointed out that there was no quarrel between science and religion. The one asks ""how"" the other, ""why". That book so influenced me that I went on to further reading and thinking. I had pledged to myself that I would devote the next five years to this pursuit. If, at the end of that time, I found it was all wishful thinking, or mere superstition as some said, I would then turn my back on it. But if, at the end of that time, I discovered meaning and more, then I would continue in hopes of even greater discoveries. In the process I found that my father had known some very profound truths.
"I would not say I learned this all at once. Religious faith and experience is not something that arrives like a parcel, therefore inflexible. It is something that must grow, little by little. I would not say I know all now. (He often said, "When you realize how much you donít know, then youíve learned something important!) I know I do not believe all my parents believed. These are things I believe they did not comprehend. We should search for the parts we can make real to ourselves, but search. "Seek, and you will find."
"Many people can comprehend God," he continued, "as infinite, remote, eternal, creator of the universe, but unconcerned with human life. How typically mortal is that statement! It is just because God is infinite that God can be concerned with humans - after all, Godís most wonderful creation! True are the words Paul quoted to the Greeks (from their own poets). "For in God we live and move and have our being."
"How can we know what God is - in our own experience? Through Christ! Simple yet profound! A modern scholar once said that the life of Christ is the great fact of history. Religious faith is the most glorious experience of human life. Many search after worldly trifles which are never as lasting, as priceless. This is what makes life really worth living."
This was the 18-year old who was about to embark on a new adventure. He was going to St. Johnís to take part in formal high school at long last. There too, he would have the advantage of hearing, on Sundays, some outstanding and thought-provoking preachers at Gower St. And Wesley Methodist churches. I suspect that before long he would have adopted as his own lifeís theme the prayer in the hymn: "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee."
The only information we have of the year, or years, of schooling in St. Johnís comes from The Collegian, the high school book for 1907 - 1908. In the list of scholarships and prizes is the name: A. Lacey, associate prize $20.00, A. Lacey, Chemistry prize $8.00, A. Lacey, Mathematics $8.00 It doesnít seem much, but the total prize money was $170.00 (As I turn the pages, I wonder, "Did he come for his final year only, or did he spend two years there?) Further we read "A. Lacey - Holloway Science Prize, intermediate $20.00". There is a comment: "Several features of these results are especially pleasing. Out of the maximum 1000 marks for Chemistry, A. Lacey made the remarkable sum of 950, although he had not studied Chemistry before!
On the last page are recorded the marks for every student. So we read: A. Lacey - English 520 Mathematics 780 French 695 Chemistry 950 History 505
Then: Associate individual report - Honours Division:
So it is revealed - the highest mark in Chemistry of all Newfoundland students, but a pass in French! Interesting! There are some subjects, are there not, that need interaction between teacher and other students? He missed all that. Perhaps that explains only passing grades in some subjects.
The terms used in this yearbook are confusing to us now, but what we do glean from it is evidence of some outstanding qualities in this "boy from Exploits".
The year 1908 must have been difficult even so. Sometime in that year, for what reason we do not know, eleven-year-old Chesley Simeon died. Unbelievable! To think that Alec was the only one of Mary Ann and Abnerís children to reach maturity. Alec would have been twenty in that year.
This story has recounted one of Mary Annís yearly activities: preparing, planting and harvesting her garden. It is obvious that within Alec "seeds" had been planted and were continually being planted and cultivated. New growth takes time and patience in a life as well as in a garden. A good policy is: "Wait. Do what is right before you to the best of your ability." Alec would have ascribed to that.
What was before him after he graduated from the school in St. Johnís? Teachers were needed in Newfoundland, so for a number of years he taught elementary school (and no doubt coached some high school students). Until by chance we learn through some early records just where he was teaching, the only thread we have is that he taught in the Grand Falls area. Think of the things teachers themselves must learn as they face their classes year after year. This is especially true of those who teach younger children. Some very significant foundations were being laid, even though he might not have been aware of this at the time.
During the years before 1913, Alec must have been planning ahead. He hadnít reached his goal yet - his dream of going to University. First, some money must be put aside for that purpose. At the time all universities required Latin; he would have to qualify in that subject. By 1913, then, he was ready. The question was: which University? Many Newfoundland students favoured a Methodist college, Victoria, in Toronto.
Victoria College, Toronto Alec applied and was accepted. The next question was : which course? He chose a four-year Honour course with a wide spectrum of subjects in the first year. It is interesting that his choice was for an Arts course, not maths and sciences. Mr. Goodyear, a businessman in Grand Falls, hearing of Alecís plans, gave him a loan to help him on his way. It was later all paid back, that Gentlemanís daughter, Jean, told me.
By ferry and train, he arrived in Toronto, Ontario. What a journey! He must have been in one of the college residences because he was caught up in the ritual hazing of initiation. The second-year students that year must have been exceptionally rambunctious! I remember hearing with horror about some of the escapades. For one thing, the sophomores had prepared makeshift "coffins" and put in them some of the first year "freshmen". The fact that Alec was an older student, then 25, made no difference. But what a thing to do to this person - with his memories! The second verse of the college song sums up the hazing:
"At first they used me rather roughly
"Rather roughly" indeed! College authorities came down hard on the practice that year. They laid down some strict guidelines. However, events in the next year were even more effective in putting a damper on youthful, thoughtless exuberance.
If St. Johnís offered more opportunity for a wider outlook in 1907, Toronto would offer even more in 1913. Outstanding preachers contributed to a satisfying church experience. There would have been plays, concerts, discussion groups as well. There were also many potential leaders in the student body. A member of Alecís year was Lester B. Pearson, who became Minister of External Affairs for Canada, and later was credited with diffusing the volatile Suez Canal crisis. Following that he became a Prime Minister of Canada.
There were times at college for recreation too. Was it there that he learned to play bridge? Very likely (cards were frowned on in his home in Newfoundland). With his memory and mathematical bent he was a natural for that game. Then, during the Winter, there were skating parties held across the street on the college athletic field. Another game he liked to play was volleyball; it helped to be six feet two for that.
The college yearbook ĎActa Victorianaí contains a number of poems with the signature of A. L. for the years 1914 - 1917. For one year at least Alec was editor, so likely before that he held lesser positions. Working on the college paper must have involved many hours. He was not constantly Ďat the booksí.
How Alec spent the summer of 1914, we donít know. There was a story that he worked for one summer on the Trent Canal project as a labourer. Before his second year began, dark clouds had gathered over Europe. War was declared in August, the "war to end all wars". Though young college students were responding to the call to fulfil their patriotic duty, Alec did not join up. Since he was not a robust person, and short-sighted as well, perhaps he did not qualify for medical reasons. Nothing was ever said about that. At the end of the second year, he heard that there was an urgent need in the west for teachers during the summer months. These teachers were also expected to conduct services in the school-house on Sundays. This was an assignment Alec knew he could handle. It was also a way of filling a need, even if he couldnít be a soldier. In an old snapshot album of Alecís, I remember seeing pictures of flat land, a one-room schoolhouse, and the teacherís residence (teacherage) nearby. The rumour is that bed-bugs had also found it!!
By his fourth year, 1916-1917, Alec was specializing in languages. Was some inherent French Huguenot ancestry coming to the fore? His spoken French became flawless. On graduation he received a number of prizes, some monetary. He was the winner of a gold medal, accompanied by a prize of money. The medal has the Victoria College crest on one side; on the other, set inside a circle of leaves, are the words in Latin: "first in German, French, and English - A. Lacey, B.A. 1917". As a result, since there was an opening at Victoria for a Professor of French, he was offered the position. There was one condition: that he would obtain his masterís degree. To achieve this, he reached for the top. He applied and was accepted at Columbia University, New York City.
If St. Johnís offered more to his growing outlook than Newfoundlandís outports, if Toronto offered even more to the process, how much more did New York contribute! Outstanding preachers again of various denominations, he would have heard. Notable among these at that time was Dr. Harry E. Fosdick of Riverside Baptist Church, (located not far from Columbia University).
All through the years there had been growing in Alec a love and appreciation of music. This would have been stirred at first by church music (the Methodists were well aware of itís importance); later there would be college glee clubs and concerts in Toronto. In New York there was the Metropolitan Opera. Could he have afforded once in a while the price of a ticket (student rate)? In later years, he often spent Saturday afternoons listening to the broadcast; that habit likely began with personal experience at the Met! His appreciation of music was wide and deep; music could and did "feed the soul". The radio brought the best symphony concerts from Boston and Philadelphia as well as those in Toronto. Music was an important part of his life till the end. Sunday evening sing-songs became part of our familyís activities from the early days. Until our sister Barbara became a pianist, Mother played, I remember.
Alec returned to New York as Professor at Victoria. This is a good place to mention two more significant additions to his educational development. In the early 1920ís, he began work on a Ph.D. That required a number of years of research and writing. I can just remember him working in an upstairs study, green bankerís shade on his head to try to protect his eyes, working on what seemed to me a pile of books and papers. He did achieve that goal, even though he must have worked to the accompaniment of the sounds of a growing family.
Then in 1933, he went to France to take a summer course at the Sorbonne, Paris. Academically, it was a successful venture, but he missed his wife and family. There! I gave away, the secret of part six!
There were quite a number of Newfoundland students at Victoria, while Alec was an undergraduate. One of them was Edwin J. Pratt, who also became a professor of English there. He became one of Canadaís outstanding poets. A quote from his poem "The Way of Cape Race" is in Part Three of this story. Alec had also met a young man who was preparing to enter the Methodist ministry. This young man was interested in many things: astronomy and biology (later in life he made a study, with illustrations, of the wild flowers of the Bruce Peninsula)., were two favourite areas. His special love was music. He had a good singing voice. What does that say about his home background? He also had something else! He had a family that had come to Toronto from Newfoundland and were living not far from the college. What a haven for lonely Newfoundland boys: Sunday dinners, and music, and reminiscing! That young manís name was Gordon Weir. His familyís story deserves a place in the story of The Boy from Exploits!
Little Bay Islands, Notre Dame Bay Not far from Exploits Island, in the same Notre Dame Bay area, a little to the north and farther west, is the outport called "Little Bay Islands". Like Exploits, it is a lovely spot with a fine harbour. The town extends around the harbour in a ring; behind it are the hills. A young man arrived in Newfoundland from England in the early 1800ís. He was George Bragg Oxford, younger son of a well-to-do, conservative, high church family. He was, horrors! A liberal, and a Methodist! He was also a skilled carpenter , and a musician. His family couldnít know that they were sending a treasure to "the colony"! Eventually he settled in Little Bay Island, where he married. His son. Frank Tizzard Oxford, grew up to follow in his fatherís footsteps. However, he owned a sailing vessel and often went on fishing expeditions to Labrador. He married Emma Locke. They established a home in Little Bay Island on a rise of land near the narrow southern opening from the harbour to the sea. (The northern opening was large enough to admit coastal schooners.) In their spacious home they raised a family of daughters. They did have one son, Alvin, who drowned at three years of age, to his parentís intense grief. Francis took Emma to St. Johnís for some months to help her recover from this. The older daughters capably managed during their absence. The daughters lived into their ninth decade!
One of those daughters, Hannah, was a bright, competent, adventuresome miss. She said she accompanied her dad often on his sailing trips to Labrador. He must have been a Lay Preacher too, because he held services on board ship on Sundays. People in isolated communities where the ship anchored would attend. Hannahís years of schooling were not many, but she learned the essentials; the Bible and the newspapers were her companions as long as her eyes allowed. She had many skills, especially sewing. She didnít even need patterns to make garments. Even in later life, Hannahís eyes would sparkle, her face would light up with some humourous thought, a terse comment would follow! She was a gem! (P.S. She played cards, especially Rummy!!)
In her late teens she married Frank Weir, whom she had probably known all her life. His parents had died when he was quite young, so he was brought up by a kind couple. Hannah and Frank cared for her in her late years after her husband died. Frank became a carpenter; He built small boats on the beach at Little Bay Island. About 1900, he also built for his family a large, substantial, two-storey house, which is still there. Eventually there were six children in the family (two others had died in infancy). From Hannahís own mouth I heard the pain and anguish of losing a beloved child. Their first, Julie, died at three years of age. Thirty or so years later I learned first-hand of a motherís sorrow. What must have been Mary Ann Laceyís heartache?
Of the remaining six children, Francis Gordon, eventually made his way to Victoria College, Toronto, to become a clergyman. Hannah and Frank could see the Ďwriting on the wallí, for the demand foe wooden vessels was disappearing. They decided Frank would follow Gordon to Toronto to look for a job. He did find work as a carpenter in the C.N.R. yards in Toronto. But he was so lonely! He wrote Hannah saying he was going to quit and come home. "Oh no," Hannah wrote back," Iím selling the house. The girls and I will be there as soon as we can. Find us a place in Toronto!" So quickly she acted, so adventuresome was she! Frank waited and found a place. A son, Roland, had already left home to find work; a daughter, Annie, had married.
The year was 1912, according to the youngest girl, Pearl, who said she was ten when they left Newfoundland. She also said she remembered the ferry being under blackout orders while crossing the gulf to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Now that would put the trip in 1914. It would also mean the girls would be two years older, giving the oldest of the three daughters enough years to have taught for a short time at a small community, Sulianís Cove, on the other side of the island.
During the war years, then, the family would have settled in Toronto - not far from the college. Gordon soon was bringing home other Newfoundland students, for a meal, an evening of music and reminiscing. There was always a piano in that house - a significant detail! So Frank was not homesick any more!
By 1917, the girls had become attractive young ladies. Pearl, 15, Elfreda, about 18, and Thyrza (named after one of Hannahís sisters, but always called "Tone" for some reason), was now 21. The food, music and talk were not the only enticements for Alec, a frequent visitor. He was attracted to the oldest of the three. She had taught when scarcely out of school herself; she was competent, that was easy to see; she enjoyed music; especially in sing songs were her enthusiasm and talent evident. She even liked poetry! She was attractive; all the Weir girls were - and she had a natural grace and charm. The Weirs were Methodists too, and Thyrza showed evidence of it in her attitudes and actions. In short, Alec was "smitten". For her part, this young woman recognized the favourable qualities of this tall, earnest student. (He was 29 in 1917.) Letters were constantly between them during the year he was at Columbia, New York. Then came one: "I can come to Toronto for Christmas (1918) or I can send you an engagement ring!" She never had an engagement ring, but what a Christmas!
Did she ever wonder how she would manage as a professorís wife? He had no worries! His Thyrza had a natural warm friendliness that soon endeared her to other staff and their wives and to students as well, later. Alec and Thyrza were married on June 9, 1919. The ceremony was performed by her brother, Gordon, now an ordained minister.
Against the background of university life with lectures, meetings, related responsibilities and social events, Alec and "Tone" established their home. It wasnít long before preparations were needed for a third member. I arrived on May 12, 1920. They named me Lena (after the first of Alecís sisters to die) Margaret. David Gordon (after Toneís brother) arrived on November 26, 1921. He was almost as close in age to Margaret as Alecís sister, Barbara, was to him. The next summer Alec took his family to Botwood, Newfoundland. They spent two months there with his mother, Mary Ann and John Roberts.
On October 22, 1923, another boy joined the family. He was named Howard Francis (after his grandfather Weir) Alexander (after his Dad). On May 12, 1925 a special birthday present for Margaret arrived (thoí I was more interested in a beaded purse I also received). This baby girl was named Barbara Helen (Barbara after the sister so close to Dad). In 1927, on September 9, another baby girl joined us. She was named Patricia Anne (after Mary Ann and Hannah - Anna, Ann - her two grandmothers) . She was a special delight for me - the only one whose birth I can actually remember. Now our family reached the perfect number - seven! A quiver-full indeed !
Early in this story the "boy from Exploits" was called "Sandy"; later, he became "Alec", and remained so, of course, outside the family. But now he and Thyrza - "Tone" - have new names - Mother and Dad. One of my earliest memories is of Dad sitting at the top of the stairs reading to us after we were in bed. He must have read many things, but one piece I well remember is: "Leetle Bateese not mocha you care how busy youíre keepiní your ole granípere".
Some might well ask: "What was it like growing up in this professorís household. Mother and Dad created a home with solid foundations. If he was the captain of the ship, Mother had her hand firmly on the tiller. Now we suspect the one at the tiller directed the "captain", thoí he might not have been aware of it! We never heard any harsh words spoken between them. They both believed in self-discipline, so corporal punishment was rare. Mother never resorted to the tactic, "Wait till your father gets home!" She managed her "brood" without even raising her voice. She treated her children with respect and they respected her in turn. Dad was inclined to be reserved, with a self-control that could be misunderstood. That was softened by Motherís serenity, understanding and tact. That is love, isnít it?
Although Dad had a strong faith, he did not dominate his children. We went to church and/or Sunday School, of course. Our parents were both aware that children too need to have a faith on their own level. So, on the one hand, to them religion was like the action of baking powder in a cake, not an icing to be applied later. On the other hand, Dad knew that his children would have to find truth and faith for themselves and he would not interfere or short-change them. If we asked a question, he would provide a thoughtful answer. One subject they both had difficulty with was sex, like most parents of that time ~ and since?
I have come to see our family life as an example of what a greater community could be. It was not perfect, of course. No parents can keep their children cocooned from having to learn through experience. We have all been given a foundation that has seen us through difficulties. Compared to stories Iíve heard of the home life of many children, we were blessed.
Two events will have to do to shed light on Ďlife with fatherí - and mother. The first involved the only corporal punishment I can remember ( and Iím the oldest and very sensitive to these matters). At the time we were living at 315 Briar Hill Avenue in North Toronto - we soon had to move from that home; it wasnít big enough. Across the street lived an older boy, I forget his name. He persuaded David, then about seven, and Howie, about five, to go with him to Woolworthís on Yonge Street. (quite a walk for them!) There he showed them how to quickly put things in their pockets. When they arrived back at our house, the Ďlootí was discovered. Dad happened to be home! He marched those boys back to the store, right up to the manager and told him the story. "They will not do that again!" he assured the manager. In later years, David said that facing that man was the worst part of the business. Dad marched them back home. How must they have felt under that cloud? In the front door they went, right up the stairs to the bathroom where he administered the Ďspare the rod and spoil the childí theory. Meanwhile the rest of us downstairs, felt as though a terrible calamity had befallen us all. Nothing was ever said of it afterwards, and there was no more need for such dire punishment. A quiet word or a look from either parent was enough discipline.
The second incident took place a few years later at the big house which was better suited our needs - at 30 Belsize Drive. I was in the backyard when I overheard this one. Howard, then ten years old, was sitting on the back steps when Mother came out. She said, "Howard I want you to go to the store for me, please. Hereís a list and some money." His reply was: "I donít want to; let David go." She answered, "I want you to go!", turned and went back into the house, leaving the note and the money beside him. Then I saw him reach down, pick up the note and the money, and leave! No argument, no fuss! That was Mother, and Howie.
In early years during the summers Dad established his family in the country. He himself was chief examiner for the marking of Third Grade French papers during July. I suspect this was to finance the summer vacations; a professorís salary was not great. In August, he would join us.
For a number of years, we rented a cottage near Collingwood, across the street from a fish hatchery and not far from the beach. One day we were all walking along the flat stony area of the beach. Dad reached down, then pointed to a fossil in the rock. We had a story then of how this creature, a trilobite, came to be there. It had been alive millions of years ago. In such ways, was he able to teach us. We took such moments for granted.
In the thirties the college had brought from Switzerland a young woman, Laure Riese. The arrangement was that she would finish her course at Victoria, act as dean for one of the womenís residences, and later join the French staff as professor. She was invited to our home many times. She told me, some years after Dad died, that he suggested to her that she prepare a course on French Canadian Literature. The college had no such course up till that time. It was a very popular one, she said. Later the provincial government of Quebec gave her an award for promoting French Canadian literature in English-speaking Canada. "The award really belongs to your father," she said.
Dad did not limit himself to the university sphere alone. He became president of the Ontario Modern Language Association and at another time president of the Secondary School section of the Toronto Home and School Association (1943-44). He was also an elder, for years, in Timothy Eaton Memorial (United) Church. This meant (among other things) that he regularly visited a number of church members.
In 1939, John Roberts died in Botwood, Newfoundland. Our grandmother, Mary Ann, came to live with us in Toronto. At the time we were somewhat in awe of this seemingly tall, erect lady wearing old-fashioned dresses. She continued till the end of her days to hook rugs, crochet bedspreads and so on - doing some of the things she had done for years. In pictures it is interesting to note that she was the one to reach out and hold Davidís arm. We have other pictures that show her doing the same thing. To me it is a significant gesture, revealing a warmer aspect of this rather austere lady. From her years with us, I gleaned much that has given me insight for this story. We didnít know at the time how fortunate we were in knowing her. To think that she began life in 1864! She died in the fall of 1943, in her seventy-ninth year.
Grannie Robertsí arrival coincided with the beginning of World War Two! Dad had been in Germany for a short time in 1933 (after his summer course at the Sorbonne, Paris). He must have seen ominous signs (Hitler was in power) that filled him with foreboding. I entered university in September, 1939, after war was declared. I remember him being unusually quiet and reflective. I sensed the awful thing that had happened to the world more from him than from the news. Then, when France fell, the gloom was palpable.
At Victoria, the professors each took turn leading the chapel services (about 20 minutes between the first and second lectures of the day). When Dadís turn came, I was always there if at all possible; some of my lectures were at the other end of the campus. I knew this was one place I could hear him talk of what was closest to him.
By some good fortune I found, and have saved through the years, a number of those chapel meditations. The prayers reveal his heart and mind. Here is a part of a prayer that concluded a meditation from the war years:
"We pray for our friends and loved ones, both at home and far off. Especially we pray for those who have gone out from our homes and from these halls to fight our battles in distant places of the earth. May they have a deep sense of thy presence at all times. May they - and we alike - be conscious that "neither death nor life Ö shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord." May we be aware of Thy loving presence all this day. May this give us strength and courage to withstand the evil that is bound to beset us. May it make this day a precious and triumphant one in our lives. Amen."
Not ever one for revealing his deepest emotion, we have to read into his words - "those loved ones who have gone out from our homes Ö. "! His own sons were among those! His anguish was deep, for a world seemingly gone mad that had swept his own boys into the maelstrom!
Both David and Howard survived the war - a fact for which we have all been most thankful. At five years of age, David was prone to Ďfly blindí, cap pulled low over his eyes, to end up tumbling over the handlebars of his trike, or he would go down an icy hill backwards; at 21 he flew ĎMosquitoesí in the Air Force. In 1943, Howard had been married to Yvonne before going to England as navigator. Don and I were married in 1944 by Uncle Gordon Weir. Dad walked me down the aisle of Emmanuel College Chapel. David and Kay were married at her home in Middleton, Nova Scotia in 1946. Things were very unsettled after the war. In those days we didnít move about the country as we do now. As a result the family had to wait till the newlyweds came to Ontario before meeting Kay. Don and I, in Nipigon, northern Ontario, were expecting, within days, our daughter, Judith. News of her arrival reached Toronto on the very day (Feb.2) that Mother and Dad had a reception for friends to meet the couple from Nova Scotia.
In July, the previous year, Linda, Howard, and Yvonneís child, had made her appearance, the first grandchild. In December, 1946, Kay and Daveís daughter, Kim arrived.
In the summer of 1946, the world had settled down enough for Mother and Dad to plan a trip to Newfoundland. It was long overdue! Later, Dad wrote an article for a publication called Echoes. It was entitled "Newfoundland in 1946". He described the scene as the coastal steamer, Ďthe Clydeí worked its way "along the island-studded coastline of Notre Dame Bay" (on the east coast of Newfoundland). He wrote:
"It was a never-to-be-forgotten scene - this last one: on our right the broad Atlantic, stretching 2000 miles to the eastward, a solitary lighthouse blinking 18 miles away, a cloudless sky, with full moon overhead making a silvery path across the water; on our left, the hills and valleys of the shoreline, its outline rapidly changing shape, as we rounded one rocky headland after another, or steamed into some tiny land-locked harbour; to crown it all the sea was as calm as a babe in sleep. The travellers were, for the most part, returning exiles who, like ourselves, were satisfying the longing of their hearts for a sight of their native land, after many years of absence."
The war had brought many changes to Newfoundland as he recounted in this article. One concerned a convention and upcoming plebicite to decide the future of the country and to recommend possible forms of government. Against this background, then, Mother and Dad arrived in the harbour of Exploits Ö Ďthe boy from Exploitsí had come home!
Ah! But what did he find? Great changes had occurred there too! Many people had left to find jobs in larger centers. Exploits was no longer the place he remembered. There were no tall-masted schooners any more, of course. Exploits was not the bustling place it was in his memory. Many homes were abandoned; the one where he and his family lived was gone; churches and schools were boarded up. The bridge built in 1899 was still there (though soon to be removed because it was no longer safe). A few families were still holding on; the big house, the one that became Devon House was still there. Geographical features were, of course, unchanged; Lacey Hill he remembered. He must have been devastated. After they returned to Toronto he had nightmares, he said, in which in anguish of spirit he kept searching for his home and could not find it.
We couldnít know in 1946 that Dad had only two and half more years to live. He had begun a "History of Newfoundland" which had to be abandoned. (Fortunately we have his typed copy of the first few chapters). Like his would-be book, his life was cut short by cancer of the liver. At the time the doctor could find nothing wrong, but Dad did not feel well and he was losing weight. Finally a specialist operated on him for gall bladder, but found a far more serious problem. He was not able to return to his teaching in the fall of 1948; he was only 60 on September 13, and died at the end of February, 1949.
The tribute of his children is in the quality of life they live as responsible citizens. Each of us has inherited some facet of his broad scholarship. David always showed an amazing aptitude for Mathematics, and has always been singing solos and in choirs; he is also an excellent bridge player. Howard specialized in Classics; he became a Latin and Greek teacher. Barbara could have been a concert pianist, but chose teaching music to hundreds of high school students. Pat followed with fluency in French - and music has always been a part of her life! None of us, I think, could imagine life without it.
Even as we are aware of gifts we inherited from Dad, we are equally aware of Motherís deep and abiding influence. Nor are we in any way Ďcarbon copiesí; we have our own Ďwaysí, and are very much individuals.
This story recounts how I, as the oldest child, saw and responded to Ďlife after fatherí. As I look back I can an interesting trend that developed for me. When I was very young he brought me, once in a while, a copy of the Bobbsey Twins series. I devoured them and went on to Nancy Drew; then I received a History of Canada, with illustrations by C.W. Jeffreys. I was happy with that book! Next I remember receiving, for Christmas, Hawthorneís Tanglewood Tales (Greek mythology) and, for another Christmas, Ann Bronteís Shirley; later I found Leonardo da Vinci by Antonio Vallentin. Ha! Now I see it! If you get one child started along a line, others follow. We are all readers today!
There is something else for me to add. Noting some artistic interest in me, Dad took me, a few times - not many - to the Art Gallery of Ontario. When I was ready for college, the only course I thought of taking was Modern Languages (was I unwittingly following in his footsteps?) He brought home a university syllabus one day, and showed me a course I had never heard of - Fine Art and Archaeology. "Would this be more Ďdown your alleyí? Read it over!" So I read: Ancient History (I loved that), Greek archaeology, the history of Art and practical art. I knew immediately that he was right. I enjoyed every single year (though I think I might now make sense of the 4th year course Philosophy of Aesthetics! (How did I pass it?) Fine Art was a fortuitous choice.
A dear friend from college days (also one of Dadís students), Edithe McGeachy Lewis, wrote recently when she heard I was writing his story. She said she enjoyed Dadís lectures; one course was an introduction to French Literature. She said she was impressed by his scholarly teaching, but found him not at all intimidating, like some professors, and always accessible. Good to know!
Two tributes received after his death reveal much about the esteem in which his colleagues held him. The first is from the Senate of Victoria University, April 8, 1949, with a covering letter from its secretary, Prof. Moffat St. A. Woodside. The other tribute was in the Canadian School Journal, the official organ of the Ontario Education Association. It was entitled "In Memoriam - Professor Alexander Lacey", and was written by another fellow professor of German, Prof. J.A. Surerus. These tributes reveal much about our Dad.
It is with deep regret that the Senate learned of the death of Professor Alexander Lacey. His passing brought to a close a career of thirty years in the service of Victoria University, where he was an esteemed member of the Department of French. Professor Lacey was a graduate of Victoria College and was appointed to the faculty in 1917. He received his A.M. degree from Columbia University in 1919 and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1925.
A man of broad interests, Professor Lacey found time to engage in a variety of activities which brought honour to the university and added distinction to himself. He followed closely the political and economic evolution of his native Newfoundland and his information and opinions on the train of events in that island were often a source of enlightenment to his colleagues both in private conversation and public address. The Alliance Francaise and the Ontario Educational Association benefited at various times by his industry and zeal as a member of their executive committees. Both on and off the campus Professor Lacey devoted himself wholeheartedly to the work of the Christian Church; his earnest participation in the religious life of our community will be sadly missed.
As a scholar, Dr. Lacey built on sound foundations. His scholarship was thorough but not narrowly circumscribed and he was at home in several fields outside his original area of investigation - the Romantic drama. He consistently offered courses in the School of Graduate Studies of the University of Toronto. In 1941 he brought out "Basic Written French" - a textbook which testifies to the painstaking character of his work and to his mastery of the subject.
As a colleague Professor Lacey was friendly and cooperative, ready at all times to assume his full share of responsibility for the efficient functioning of his department and of the college as a whole. A saving sense of humour kept him happily free from all unpleasant eccentricities.
But it is undoubtedly as a teacher that he made his fullest impact. His teaching of undergraduates was marked by thoroughness, scholarship and patience. He gave generously of his time in consultations and helpful criticism. Constantly alert to bring his best effort to the classroom, he conscientiously kept abreast of new developments and techniques, appraising their worth judiciously in the light of past experience. His subject was very much a living thing to him and by his gifts as a teacher he was able to make it so to the young people in his care.
Victoria University has lost a loyal alumnus, a faithful servant and a cultured Christian gentleman.
In MemoriamThe Ontario Modern Language Teacherís Association wishes to place on record its deep sense of loss in the untimely passing of one of its most valuable and faithful members, Professor Alexander Lacey. Professor Lacey was a member of this section for thirty years, from the time when he began his teaching career as a lecturer in French at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. Throughout the years he filled every office within the gift of the Association, serving finally as the president of the Association during the academic year 1946-47. Professor Laceyís scholarly work in the field of French Literature, especially in the realm of the Romantic movement, his high intellectual ideals, and particularly his moral integrity, are too well-known by this section to require elaboration. In the University he was constantly concerned with the maintenance of high standards in the course in Modern Languages and Literatures, and the Secondary School teachers of the province are the better for his interest in high achievements. To those of us at the University of Toronto, he was ever a loyal colleague and a self-effacing and generous friend, and we shall miss association with him. Professor Lacey was deeply interested in furthering the work of this association in all its various branches. He was one of the founders of the Canadian Modern Language Review and was a member of the Editorial Board from 1944 to 1946. He was also a valued member of the Editorial Board of the Ontario Educational Association Yearbook, 1945-1946. He realized, as few of us did, the urgent necessity of having the home play its proper part in the education of the child and very early interested himself in the Home and School Movement. He was president of the Secondary School section of the Toronto Home and School association during 1943 and 1944 and during his term of office stimulated the organization of various branches of the Association. True to his early training in Newfoundland, he felt the quick- ening power of religion and its necessity as an impelling motive in human lives. Because of this conviction, he associated himself with the committee on religious education of the Toronto Home and School Association, a committee which has made very considerable contributions to the spiritual welfare of pupils in the schools. In deep appreciation of all that Professor Lacey did in the field of education, the members of this Association extend to Mrs. Lacey and to their children their sincere sympathy in their irreplaceable loss.
J.A. SURERUS Victoria University
At the very beginning of this story, I asked the question: "Why were we standing on this island of Exploits, my brother David and I ? No, It wasnít just its beauty, nor even because our paternal roots are here. After I discovered the story of our fatherís brothers and sisters, and his father, at the United Church Archives in St. Johnís, I knew that their story had to be told. In telling their story, I remember Mary Ann and Abnerís prayer beside the crib of their first-born, our father. It is amazing the way that prayer was answered - probably beyond their highest hopes.
Finally, as I was writing, it dawned on me that I was discovering our father again - on a more mature level. In my mindís eye I see him, wearing his academic robes, at some college function, a tall, distinguished professor. I marvel at the fact that this man, whose field of study was French Romantic Literature (that is, full of emotional expression) had a psyche more in tune with classical understatement ( that is, he rarely displayed his feelings Ďin the front windowí). Other thoughts could be added, and hopefully will bring greater appreciation and understanding as the years pass.
Now we know why we came to this island, my brother and I: we came to find our father - Ďthe boy from Exploitsí . So it is that with deep feeling, we too can sing:
"As loved our fathers, so we love.