Louise Henry, Letter to Blodwen Davies, Mar. 11, 1931

Saskatoon, Sask.

[ Tom Thomson and friends ]

Tom Thomson and friends, Unknown, 1890, Archives of Ontario, S 1927

Dear Miss Davies,

I would just like to tell you first of all how much I enjoyed the booklet on the life of my brother Tom. There is no other writer I know of who could tell his story so beautifully and sympathetically and I appreciate this more than I can tell you.


When a child, Tom was delicate and had several attacks of congestion and inflammation of the lungs. Finally the Dr. told Mother to keep him out of school for a year and let him roam the woods with a shotgun, which he did, wearing an old felt hat which he soaked with water and shaped to a point over a broom handle, decorated with squirrel tails and wild flowers. In this way he became an expert with the shotgun and rifle, to his own delight and Mother’s despair. [...]

Tom, like the other boys around Leith, was an expert swimmer and I remember one summer in the camping season Mr. Merchant, who had a cottage on the shore, had his fine yacht anchored near the dock when a strong breeze sprung up and was dragging the anchor and the yacht was drifting out into the lake. Tom and David saw the situation and swam out, boarded the yacht, and brought it back.

He was a great lad to walk when he was home and I remember one night he faced a blizzard and walked ten miles to a party. On another occasion he walked to Meaford about twenty miles away rather than bother with a horse and buggy, although Father begged him to take them.

He was very fond of sports and was an ardent foot-ball player before he left home, and in one game he had one great toe broken but stayed with the game till the finish, kicking with the left foot. Of all outdoor sports, I believe fishing was hi favorite pastime. He would sit for hours waiting patiently for a bite, and if there were fish to be had he would get them. At one time Tom was proud of hunting and I remember one time he told us of shooting a deer, but that was the last deer he ever shot as the look in its eyes was too human.

In 1912 my husband went East with his Mother’s body to have her laid beside his Father in Leith cemetery. Tom had just come home from the North for a few days, and there was a young artist with him whose name was Broadhead. He told Mr. Henry about some very interesting experiences they had had in the North Country. One story he told was of a very narrow escape he and Mr. Broadhead had while running a rapids with the canoe pretty well loaded with supplies and their season’s sketches. The canoe struck on a submerged rock and they lost most of their best sketches, most of their supplies, and came very nearly losing their lives. Mr. Broadhead said that if Tom had not been such an expert canoesman, they would both have been lost.

My husband asked Tom if he was not afraid to be so much alone in the woods with so many wild animals roaming about. “Why,” he said “the animals are our friends. I’ve picked raspberries on one side of a log, while a big black bear picked berries on the other side. He also told him of one time he was tramping through the woods when he heard some animal coming towards him through the undergrowth and to his surprise it was a large timber wolf, one of the largest he had ever seen, its head, neck and breast were jet black and the body the usual grey color. He said it was the most beautiful animal he had ever seen. The wolf came so close to him he could almost have touched him with his hand […]

We had a good library at home with books for every Easter and Tom usually was busy with a book or strumming on his mandolin or playing the violin when he was home in the evenings. […]

Yours Very sincerely
Louise Henry

P.S. I forgot to tell you that Tom tried to enlist the time of the South African war but was turned down on account of fallen arches and the condition of the toe he had broken playing foot-ball. He was provoked about this as he could walk twenty miles without feeling it. L.H.

Source: Library and Archives Canada/Bibliotheque et Archives Canada, MG30 D38 ‘Blodwen Davies fonds’, Vol. 11, Louise Henry, Letter to Blodwen Davies, March 11, 1931

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