This week’s Their Stories posting includes a letter and a short first-person story. Be inspired by one of the unidentified portraits and participate by posting on the wall in the exhibition space or in the comments below!
A lapsed Jesuit
The day that I was asked to sit for this photograph was the same day that I discovered my benefactor and friend Dr. Emile Herbert would no longer be attending communion at St. Ignatious of Loyola church where I had preached for more than twenty years. It was then that I understood why I had been born. My true calling was to become a medical doctor, rather than a priest. Dr. Herbert would no longer be attending services because he had become stricken by the same disease that he had spent his life trying to eradicate. And that disease was Dementia Praecox, or what is often referred to as insanity.
By: Carol Barbour
Unidentified portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection
I hope this letter finds you well. I have thought much of you this day. With tears in my eyes earlier, I said aloud, oh that sons and daughters should take their parents advice to heart.
Through my tears I recalled how you spoke harshly of Helen the day we wed. I am sorry I did not believe you then, but I have come to understand. You looked into my future and saved me with your guidance.
Before we parted, you taught me how to feel joy, to take pleasure in the recalling of a simple word or a shared moment. Marriage has much difficulty, but thanks to you I stop, take in all that is around, and let the joy fill me. The way the girls look following an afternoon of play, the flowers in bloom at the front of the house and smell of the chemicals in my developing trays. I feel strength in my happiness and conviction to overcome my plight.
The gift of one joyous moment to the next carries me through the difficult times. You have taught me well. This day, I feel the greatest appreciation for my mother.
By: Lisette Sanders Coulson
This past fall, I put a call out to the community to submit creative writing entries to accompany unidentified portraits in The Thomas Bouckley Collection. With ten portraits to choose from, submissions included diary entries, letters, short stories, poetry and even a dating profile. I was so pleased with the number we received and the quality! The project resulted in an exhibition that is currently on display at the RMG until May 1st. Due to spatial restrictions, I wasn’t able to include all of the submissions, however, I will be posting two additional stories each week on the blog for all to enjoy. A huge thank you to everyone who participated!
On April 7th, join us for an evening with the Durham Folklore Storytellers. Using the submissions to the Their Stories exhibition as inspiration, the Durham Folklore Storytellers will take listeners on a journey to imagine the lives of these unidentified people.
– Sonya Jones, Associate Curator
My dearest Emma,
If you receive this then my greatest work has failed. At dawn this morning I set out to walk across the Niagara Gorge. I hoped to do it until I break the record for fastest crossing. Even my friends think me crazy. They say “Cliff, why would a man who works off the ground want to spend his free time there”. Tell them I did this because I want to meet the sky on my terms.
I have been preparing for this my whole life. As a boy I there was no tree in all of Simcoe country that I could not climb. Working on chimneys and steeples seemed like the logical career. But over time, that place that I loved became only a place where I worked. I see Toronto now- a city that defies our limitations- and want to feel the freedom that that city must feel.
I do not expect to make money off of this endeavour. But then it would not be a labour of love. I hope that this letter will never be delivered; but if it must, I need you to understand why I stepped out this morning.
By: Mat Calverley