Tom Thomsons Grave

Tom Thomson's grave, Leith, Ontario
Tom Thomson’s grave, Leith, Ontario
The West Wind by Tom Thompson, Oil on Canvas 1917, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
The West Wind by Tom Thomson, Oil on Canvas 1917, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

In September Ray and I went to visit Tom Thomson’s grave in Leith Ontario just outside of Owen Sound, where Thomson grew up.

Thomson of course is Canada’s great painter; one known world wide, who captured the soul of the land and thus the country in his paintings. Contrary to popular belief Thomson was not one of the Group of Seven, having died before it’s formation, but will forever be associated with them because of his subject matter and influence on the painters who did form the Group of Seven. As member painter Lawren Harris wrote “(Tom Thomson was ) a part of the movement before we pinned a label on it.” Thomson is as Canadian as hockey, healthcare or false humility and to some that makes him mundane. Just another symbol to stick in a collage of Canada. But that is Thomson as a symbol not the painter and not the paintings.

Having spent my teen years in Owen Sound the scenery that Thomson painted was all around to see with the naked eye, but being a teen I took it and his paintings somewhat for granted. I appreciated them but I was too busy trying to grow up as fast as I could to really absorb them. It is only returning to the Georgian Bay area as an adult with years of travel and having experienced the rough edges of a life lived, that I see the land around Georgian Bay  for what it is, a rich a combination of shape, form, light and colour that is unique  to this part of the world.

 Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine (1916–17). Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine (1916–17). Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Looking now at with fresh eyes away from the landscape and at Thomson’s iconic paintings they appear all the more remarkable to me; like seeing  the portrait of a familiar face taking on new aspects and truths on the canvas.

It was on July 8, 1917 while on a canoe trip on the perfectly named Canoe Lake  in Nipissing District of Ontario that Thomson would have found himself in the water, then under the water and finally submerged in the void that death brings.  8 days later his body was found washed up on the shore. There was a bruise or hole on temple (depending on the account) and fishing line wrapped around his ankle.

Thomson’s gravestone is small , just one of many in the unassuming graveyard of the humble red brick Leith Church. Across the road is open farmer’s field. It was quiet, calm, even relaxing that morning in that place, as fall ushered in with the wind a little cooler, the sun a little lower and the geese honking overhead breaking the stillness as the made there way to southern lands. Tom Thomson died a relative unknown, writing to a friend that he would be happy if he “could get $10 or $15” for a sketch. A sketch by Thomson these days can sell for $2-million or more.

While stories and legends of murder and intrigue have grown up around his death his legend as a painter has grown even more, enshrining him and his paintings as a piece of Canadian national identity; which may be why some people reject him with such force. After all what is an iconoclast without icons to smash and rage against. But truth and legend need not be contrary. Sometimes they live quite well side by side. As Gordon Downie once said referring to the song Three pistols by his group the Tragically Hip, “Here’s one of many Canadian myths, that like many Canadian myths, just happens to be true.”

Looking out over Georgian Bay anyone who has seen a Tom Thomson painting can see Tom Thomson trees, clouds, rocks, water, but they are real, a fusion of his perception with ours across time. That is the magic.

Leith Church
Leith Church, Leith, Ontario
Tom Thomson’s Grave, Leith, Ontario
Brushes left at Tom Thomson's Grave
Paint brushes left by visitors at Tom Thomson’s Grave



A break in the mysterious case of Tom Thomson, Canada’s Van Gogh, Globe & Mail

Tom Thompson Gallery, Owen Sound

Archive of paintings by Tom Thomson

Three Pistols by the Tragically Hip


Southampton, Ontario
Southampton, Ontario

Southampton is an attractive “seaside” town on the Saugeen shores of Lake Huron. I use the term “seaside” because even though it is not technically on the sea it is as close as you get without salt water to a seaside experience. With lighthouses, ship wrecks, sea-birds, miles of beaches and no land in site when you gaze across the expanse of Lake Huron, one can easily imagine they are on the seashore.

Home to the Ojibway Saugeen First Nation, the area was visited by French fur traders, the Voyageurs, who would make stops along the route south to Detroit and the Mississippi interior. A permanent pioneer settlement wasn’t established until 1848 and in 1904 Southampton was incorporated as a town.

The area is know for it’s perilous waters with over one hundred marine disasters being recorded since 1848. In the 2001 the excavation of the fighting vessel the HMS General Hunter from the war of 1812, began along Saugeen the shoreline.


Southampton is known for it architecture. With over 100 homes from early days still standing it has the air of an outdoor museum or a trip back in time, magnificent sunsets that stretch from end to end of the western lake horizon, monarch butterfly way stations, the Chantry Island Lighthouse and The Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre.

Hundreds of millions of years went into creating the beauty of the Saugeen shoreline
The shoreline at Southampton, Ontario is thick with atmosphere
One of the numerous Monarch Butterflies that stop to visit the butterfly gardens of Southampton, Ontario
Lighthouse at Southampton, Ontario

All photos copyright James MacDougall, 2015,  unless otherwise noted

Tea Time


I personally know more people who enjoy the ritual of coffee on a daily basis than tea, however coffee never sat well with me and had that not been the case I likely would have fallen into the coffee camp and missed out on some wonderful taste experiences that can only be found in tea.

I had given up drinking tea for a while but recently had the good fortune to become reaquainted with it’s pleasures thanks to a friend with a generous spirit and access to a great tea store, Infusion Bouteaque in Fort Langley.

Here are the teas I have added to my collection:

Tiger Hill: An exceptional Nilgiri tea with floral notes. A blend of leaves from three crop periods give it a rich aroma and smooth taste.

Creme Earl Grey: Black tea with cornflower petals and bergamot.

Russian Caravan: A black tea blend with qualities of China and Assam.

Versailles Lavender:  A black tea with lavender and cornflower petals.

Organic Pussimbing: A Darjeeling green tea.

Good Feeling Sencha: A green tea with  papaya, pineapple, strawberry, raspberry, currants and rose blooms.

Passion Fruit Mango: A green tea with mango, mangosteen peel and mullein flowers.

Monk’s Blend: A blend of black and green teas with vanilla.

Prince of Wales: A blend of black and green teas with cornflower and safflower petals.

Vanilla Kipferl: Black tea, amaranth, almonds, macadamia, cactus flower, vanilla.

Georgie’s Tea Party:  A black and green tea blend with jasmine blossoms and cornflower petals.

Yorkshire Harrogate: A luxury black tea.

English Earl Grey with Blue Flower:

Blueberry Bavaria: Pu Erh tea with black currant and cornflower blossoms.

Apricot Chai: Gunpowder tea, cinnamon, cassis, fennel, pepper apricot, cloves and ginger

Arabian Knights: A black tea with pineapple, apple, sweet blackberry, peppermint, pepper, curry powder and pink peppers.

Gobsmacked: This one is a specialty and exclusive of The Fort Langley Tea Co. and is truly exceptional. Also available at the Infusion Bouteaque.

Faux vintage books store my tea stash on the shelf.
Faux vintage books store my tea stash on the shelf.


Habanero Hot Sauce

habanero sauce
Habanero sauce

This week I made two mason jars worth of habanero hot sauce which will get me through the winter and into next summer. It’s a recipe I modified after a couple of years experimentation.

This recipe makes one mason jar of sauce. This is a very heat intensive sauce and very flavourful. The heat sneaks up and dies off  after about 10 seconds. Of course the more you eat the longer the heat. If you find jalapeno peppers too hot then this will be killer hot for you. If you enjoy the heat and flavour and the thought of a tasty habanero sauce gets you drooling then this is for you.

It’s great on fresh baked bread, with chicken,  on veggies, in curries, and a dollop in soup will bring it to life.

  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 cup of diced carrots
  • 5-6 habanero peppers
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 4 fresh squeezed limes (about a 1/4 cup of juice)
  • 1 tomato
  • salt and coarse black pepper to taste
  • Optional  1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • Optional 1/4  cup of vinegar

Dice garlic, onion and carrots and simmer in the oil until soft. Add this with the lime juice, 5-6 habanero peppers and the tomato in a blender, add salt and pepper and vinegar to taste. Blend until  smooth . If it’s too thick add some water. If it’s too watery cook it up in a pot until it thickens to preference. That’s it! Store it in sanitized  mason jars. You can freeze it for later



Rosemary Garlic Bread

Rustic rosemary garlic bread
Rustic rosemary garlic bread

Making bread can be difficult or it can be easy. Finding the right consistency and texture, the right amount of moisture and  a balance between crust and interior can be challenging, not to mention the time involved in preparation and making sure it tastes good. Through the years I’ve tried different recipes and styles, but this rustic rosemary-garlic bread from the Noble Pig has been the most satisfying I have made.

Admittedly there is a lot of preparation time to make this bread, but most of it is waiting for the dough to rise and the bread to bake. And there is no kneading after the first round! I followed the recipe very closely with the exception that I did not freeze the bread overnight. You can also have the recipe if you only want one loaf as this is for two loaves.

What you get for your work is a beautiful looking and smelling savoury flavourful bread with a crunchy thin exterior crust and a fluffy absorbent interior. Served warm it soaks up the butter and is ideal with cheese.

  • 4 medium garlic bulbs
  • olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (active dry yeast)
  • 3 cups warm water (about 105 degrees, so slightly above body temp)
  • 5-1/2 cups (29.30 ounces) bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow cornmeal

For the full recipe visit the link below:

>> Noble Pig: Easy Artisan Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Bread


The Morland Place

By James MacDougall

“Have you been to the Morland Place?” When I ask locals  this question they usually give me a puzzled look and say “The what?”  I will then explain that it is the interesting looking property at the intersection of Grey Road 18 and the Inglis Falls Road. Then they will nod in recognition and say something like “oh that place!” We all know it’s in our backyard, but it’s not a place everyone has visited despite the fact it’s grounds are open to the public daily May through October from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

The Morland Place is a European style manor house with vast gardens, manicured lawns and a hedge-row labyrinth. The main residence is built around an original 1919 stone house which was purchased by Joe and Vera More in 1945. In the 1980s, their son Barry More, built an addition to the original building in Georgian Regency style. It was a project that took 10 years to complete. The house is in many ways a tribute to Barry’s mother Vera and serves as a showcase of her many collections of antique furniture, books and objects d’art.

Moreland Place
Morland Place Georgian Regency architecture.
Moreland Place staircase
Morland Place staircase with its hand crafted banister.
Moreland Place Staircase
Morland Place Staircase. Note the continuous curve of the banister as it descends
Moreland Place Piano
Morland Place Piano
Moreland Place Cherub
Morland Place Cherub
Moreland Cherubs
Morland Cherubs
Barry More
Barry More and his Cocker Spaniel


Owner: Barry More
Phone: (519) 376-4617
Address: 102645 Grey Rd 18, Owen Sound


Bruce Grey Simcoe: Places to Visit

The Rural Route: Morland beauty

A Thing of Beauty: The Story of Morland Place by Barry Joseph More (ISBN: 978-1-897502-27-3)

All photographs copyright James MacDougall 2015.

A New Season (The Legend of the Phoenix)

By James MacDougall

After a summer medley of work, leisure and adventure I am back to report on my travels with new photos and features. July was dedicated to work. August was a month of leisure and a sprinkle of adventure here and there spiced the entire season up; some of which I will share and some I won’t!

As some of you may know my life took a dramatic turn in 2012 and it has been a while since emotionally, mentally and physically I have had a vacation in any meaningful sense. I have to say having the opportunity to take all of August to live like a kid on summer vacation was just what the doctor ordered. Being able to define my own schedule and pursue my passions without any interference or demands is a luxury few of us ever get, but of course one can’t really live that way forever.


Seasons change and with them come different demands. New responsibilities, new goals and plans. Autumn 2015 is here and the leaves are starting to turn. My eldest nephew has started University. In my mind it wasn’t so long ago I was reading him stories and building sand castles on the beach. Strangely he now lives a few blocks from where I lived in Ottawa and I now live a few blocks from where he lived in Owen Sound. I didn’t see that coming.

Life goes on and it takes strange turns. I’ve always been open to change and exploration and when I finally settled down the earth and heavens shook and that life came tumbling down around me. But as the story goes the Phoenix rises from the ashes. If 2012 was the year of Fire (both literally and figuratively), then 2013-2014 were the years of Ashes and Embers. 2015 was the Incubation and  in 2016 the Phoenix rises.

The Phoenix

A creature that first appears in Egyptian mythology as the Bennu and later as the “Phoenix (Crimson)”in Greek mythology, the phoenix was said to have brilliant plumage and would live for hundreds of years. It’s death would come in a burst of flames and from the ashes of the pyre a new phoenix would be born. Accordingly the phoenix is a symbol of renewal.

And so as the turning leaves of autumn, in brilliant yellow, orange and red, evoke the image of the fiery phoenix set to soar into the blue sky again, so to go I.

New World Encyclopedia: 

More Frogs of Bognor Marsh

By James MacDougall

With these photos I have applied a variety of digital treatments to create a more painterly effect. They were taken in the Bognar Marsh near Owen Sound with a Nikon D5000 on an overcast day.

by James MacDougall
Marsh Dweller 01 by James MacDougall
Marsh Dweller 03 by James MacDougall
Marsh Dweller 02 by James MacDougall
Marsh Dweller 01 by James MacDougall
Marsh Dweller 03 by James MacDougall


“We Are All Treaty People” Lee Maracle & John Ralston Saul

We Are All Treaty People Event
We Are All Treaty People Event

By James MacDougall

On Saturday June 6, I had the opportunity of hearing acclaimed authours Lee Maracle and John Ralston Saul speak at the Harmony Centre in Owen Sound. The event, Wasa Nabin 2015: We Are All Treaty People was put on by the M’wikweedong Native Cultural Resource Centre with financial support from the United Church Justice and Reconciliation Fund and the Community Foundation of Grey Bruce. Introductions to the event were made by Seven Star Dancing Woman with an opening prayer by Strong White Buffalo Woman. The Circle of Indian Women Drummers  performed the Bear Song.

Serendipity prevailed as this event occurred immediately following the release of the summary of the final report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s investigation into the Residential School System.  This served as a focal point around which issues of Canadian history and the relationship between native and non-natives were discussed.

Lee Maracle, Owen Sound
Lee Maracle, Owen Sound

Lee Maracle spoke first. She is an award-winning poet, novelist, performance storyteller, script-writer, actor and keeper/mythmaker among the Stó:lō people. She recounted her years growing up as a child and the chaotic famiy structure that she lived within. She explained how her own parents experiences with the Residential Schools contributed to her own upbringing and fractured family dynamics. She also countered many myths and stereotypes that are attributed to First Nations people through a lack of knowledge from many non-natives.

Her central message was that “all of humanity is one great circle” meaning that the walls we put up between us are from a lack of awareness and that what we all need to do is make an effort to “discover each other.” We are all on this planet together and ultimately we should be working together . Lee Maracle’s message was one of unity, respect, love, co-operation and sharing.

She finished by saying that for Canada reconciliation involves two steps. The first is to “face the truth”, of history, of the present and of the relationship between natives and non-natives. The second step is to “respect all 94 recommendations” of the TRC report. Her last words were those of the importance of unconditional love in all our relationships both personal and in broader social circumstances.

John Ralston Saul
John Ralston Saul

John Ralston Saul spoke next. Saul is a celebrated author and essayist, president of PEN International, and co-founder and co-chair of the non-profit Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is a highly regarded philosopher of the relationship between power and identity.

Saul began by pointing out that Canada is unique in the world in the way our society and government function which he said is because of the historical influence of Aboriginal peoples on Canadian government and social structures. He then said “You noticed how generous she (Lee Maracle) was to you?” stating this was the same generous tone that the TRC report took even though it concerned matters of grave consequence. He referred to the report as “an elegant document, not legalistic or obscure.” and without hyperbole.

He went on to define what he saw reconciliation to mean and require: Respect, an awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm done to native peoples, that the residential schools were part and parcel of a project of cultural genocide, atonement through acknowledgement of non-natives role in wrongs done, and finally real change as per the recommendations made in the report.

He spoke of the role that education had to play in all of this; that there is a need to usurp the old mythologies and narratives about “Indians” and replace it with truth and knowledge.

John Ralston Saul sees the TRC as a turning point for Canada. It is an opportunity and a necessity to rebuild our country into an ethically sound nation-state. He said our global reputation was on the line and our ability to speak as a voice of fairness and ethical soundness was at stake.

He concluded by saying that just as we encompass Aboriginal identity into our visual mythology and literature through the contributions of native artists and writers, we need to acknowledge the very substantial Aboriginal contributions to our social and government realities and the origins of this country. he concluded with the observation that Canada has always been shaped by Aboriginal contributions even if we have not acknowledged these openly or properly.

It is not often that speakers such as Lee Maracle and John Ralston Saul make it to this neck of the woods. It was an opportunity that I and the hundreds of others in attendance did not forego.


The Frogs of Bognor Marsh

By James MacDougall