Their Stories: Final Stories

For the last blog posting featuring three Their Stories submissions, it includes 2 of the most popular portrait subjects. In choosing the unidentified portraits that would be the options, I was looking for ones that were intriguing or suggested a narrative. I was at times surprised at the amount of submissions received for some portraits while others weren’t as popular, which just goes to show that the process is very subjective. Everybody is going to relate to a portrait differently depending on their own experiences. Thanks once again to everyone that participated! – Sonya Jones, Associate Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection


Portrait 2:


This 1921 picture of Roderick, shows him recently arrived from England, where he was an avid cricket player.

Here he always chose to wear the post game attire typical of a gentleman; he eschewed clothes that made him look scruffy. Always the gentleman.

Roderick was a triplet in an age when these family birth groupings were a relative oddity in the pre invitrio fertilization age. Rodney and Rupert remained in England.

Roderick first stayed at the Queens Hotel in Oshawa.   No records of just how long he chose to live here are to be found.

Queens Hotel, Oshawa

Queens Hotel, Oshawa

Now in Canada, Roderick chose to try tennis and to continue to wear the post game attire. He was not stodgy per se, but he did have personal standards.

Along with tennis, he decided to give sailing a go, and revive a passion long ago put aside.

The oval picture lends a sense of formality to Roderick and it quietly pleased him.

I wonder who “my Roderick” really was, and what was his real story

By: Donna George
Portrait 2

Daniel Underhill

If you were to ask any resident of Hampton, Ontario, what they thought of Daniel Underhill, you would always hear the same thing: “A nice lad. A bit slow, but he means well”. Raised by his doting mother and stern father, Daniel was the second of three sons, and by all accounts, the least impressive. His older brother, Richard, was an athlete without equal in the small town, breaking school and regional records in most disciplines of track and field. Steven, the youngest, was as brilliant a scholar as Richard was a sportsman. Following in his father’s footsteps, the boy courted the world of academia, becoming a lawyer, and eventually a judge. Daniel, on the other hand, stuck out by not being extraordinary at all. Awkward and uncoordinated in athletics, and more than a little slow in school, the poor boy was often ridiculed for his inability to step from behind the shadows of his far more successful kin. A constant headache to his father and an embarrassment to his brothers, Daniel felt most at home in the company of his loving mother, the only person who truly understood him. A kind boy, Daniel was happiest making others smile.

By: Spencer Baron


Portrait 1

vintage portrait

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.


He was a farm boy, resigned to stay in Columbus for all his days. He was never a wanderer; his younger years were filled with hot summer days in the fields, and cold winters in the kitchen by the fire. A trip to the Falls changed him. At sixteen, in search of a thrill, he set forth to conquer Niagara. The traveller—he boarded a westbound train at Oshawa with a roundtrip ticket in the pocket of his shirt. It was four years before he returned to the farm to console his father, and grieve his mother. Wanderlust, he spent his mornings on Clifton Hill, spinning mystical tales of adventure to wide-eyed people, and his afternoons on the water, amid the shadow of the mist. In 1922 he followed the tourist boom south to the Florida Keys. Land speculator by day—drinker, talker, and dreamer by night. A tycoon by forty, he lost it all in the crash. He made the trek home to Columbus, riding the rails with the rest. A farmer by day, a writer by night. He settled into his life, welcoming the pace of a place set apart from the rapid changes of a new age.

By: Amanda Robinson

Their Stories: Poetry by Freda Jepson

This week’s Their Stories postings are both poems by the same person: Whitby native Freda Jepson. Freda submitted 5 poems, despite the limit of 2 submissions. She dropped them off in person, and her enthusiasm for the project was contagious. It’s always nice to see someone take an idea and run with it!

Freda Jepson received Honourable Mention for her poem Night Train. It, and one other submission, is included in the exhibition. Be sure to see them in person!

Portrait # 8 (above)

Jenny’s Dream


Before the day broke forth

with forty thieving winks to go,

I dreamed a dream.

A happiness dream it was;


Where I, a young girl,

looked up at the skky and

twirled a twirl.


My curls were bobbing

and heart a-throbbing

with happy beat.


For no certain reason

but that the season

caused my joy and

my skipping feet


And I made miniature

crop circles in the grass.


By: Freda Jepson



Portrait # 1

vintage portrait

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

The Writer


I will maintain my defiance

Allowing a runaway mind to

Seek out infinite realities.


No woeful citizen of a

Humdrum world, but

A resident of a wonderland

Rewriting my story.


Each chapter opens with

Creative dreams,

Opportunities occur on

Every page


Possibilities hide behind

Paragraphs, and

Laughter peeks from

Between the words.


By: Freda Jepson



Their Stories post featuring two creative dating profiles!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, this week’s Their Stories post features two dating profiles that end up a perfect match. Love is in the air!

vintage portrait

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Portrait #1

Photo received by Matchmaker Dolly, with completed application as follows:

Name: Donald Bence Arthur

Age: 57

Height: 5’ 5”

Weight: 168 lbs.

Hair: mostly brown

Eyes: depends on shirt colour; sometimes green, sometimes blue

Background: Scottish/Hungarian

Occupation: semi-retired shoemaker with small mobile unit (pulled behind bicycle from town to town)

Hobbies: baking, alpine gardening and painting en plein air, mostly chimneys in winter… but also fences, (any season for the right price)

Favourite Sports: ribbon dancing, competitive whistling and caber toss

Best Attribute: a natty collection of footwear

Worst Attribute: cigar breath has occasionally been mentioned

Views on Children: don’t mind as long as it’s from a great distance

Spiritual Beliefs: I would prefer not to be matched with anyone who owns a ouija board.


vintage photo

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

Dolly matched Donald with Portrait #9.

Name: Eleanor Mondegreen

Age: 65

Height: 4” 1” (seated), 5’ 3” (upright)

Weight: (including boned corset, petticoats, bloomers, woolen dress with brass buttons) 180 lbs. (buck naked, 135)

Hair: yes

Eyes: not bad, getting harder and harder to read in dim lighting

Background: actually, just an old bedspread the photographer hung up

Occupation: proud nurse with the VON for decades until a terrible ruckus, fisticuffs really, with a patient who disputed my insistence that the hymn ‘Keep Thou My Way’ contained the phrase “gladly, the cross-eyed bear”.

Hobbies: tatting

Favourite Sports: darts

Best Attribute: a sense of whimsy

Worst Attribute: cannot keep a secret for love nor money

Views on Children: it’s all a backward glance at this point

Spiritual Beliefs: I would prefer not to be matched with anyone who owns a ouija board.


Follow-up Notes:

Three years after their marriage, Donald became fully retired by which time Eleanor had tatted herself a 20th century wardrobe. They lived long and happily. Dolly’s greatest success story.


By: Carin Makuz

Their Stories – Unidentified Portraits 3 and 9

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!


Portrait #3

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

Unidentified portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

Portrait #9

Dearest Mother,

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.

With love,



By: Lisette Sanders Coulson

Their Stories – Call for entries!

Deadline: 1 December, 2015

Help tell the stories of 10 unidentified portraits in the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Whether it is a fictional diary entry, poem, letter, short story, storyboard, or character sketch, imagining an identity to these unknown portraits brings the characters to life.

Submissions will be reviewed by a jury, and selected entries will accompany the photographs in an exhibition at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery or displayed on our website. Please click here to submit.

Unidentified portraits are not commonly displayed. By bringing these images forward, we hope to engage the creative side of the public of the public, and possibly in the process discover a clue as to their true identity.

For more information contact Sonya Jones, Associate Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection at

To for more information and to submit, please visit