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