Recent local travels took me to the village of Leith, near Owen Sound, Ontario. I was thrilled to visit for two reasons – personal interest of local artists and family connections.
- World-famous Canadian artist Tom Thomson, my particular favourite, connected to Group of Seven had roots in the village of Leith, Ontario, Canada.
- My paternal Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918) who died at the end of WWI is buried in Leith, Scotland.
The visit, however uncovered some interesting facts and local folklore!
The tiny church – Leith Church, erected 1865, closed 1969, Church of Scotland – United Church of Canada. As the memorial plaque states right in the churchyard there is a grave for my favourite Canadian artist… Tom Thompson.
A few years ago, our family took a trip to Canoe Lake, and rowed to various memorial points there….. I had always thought he was buried at Canoe Lake.
However, local Leith village folklore tells us differently. We heard from family members from farms neighbouring the Thompson farm, that when Tom’s coffin was returned to the village, it was opened and several locals confirmed he was inside!
Tom Thomson Art Gallary Biography states…..
“…… Thomson was initially buried in a small cemetery up the hill from Mowat Lodge, overlooking Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. But at the request of his family, the body was re-interred in the family plot beside Leith United Church.”
It’s a mystery and part of a local folklore.
I was thrilled to notice that among the graves in the churchyard were many marked for the McKeen family, including one for Isabella Thompson Ross, (1827-1917) who originally came to Canada from Leith in Scotland.
By chance my Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918), who died in the Leith American Hospital, near Edinburgh, Scotland, while trying to return home at the end of WWI. He is buried in a communal grave, a sad end to his many years serving in the British Royal Navy, and WWI. He joined the Navy in January 1899 as a carpenter’s mate, he was a ships diver until 1906 and went on to become a Chief Shipwright after getting the bends.
Artwork and reference information about Tom Thompson can be found at:
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