Letters to the Granddaughter

The Story of Dillon Wallace of the Labrador Wild

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Comments by Writers on the North

Bryan Greene, October 14, 2012:

Many any thanks for giving me the opportunity to read your manuscript. I was impressed with the account, and especially with the many maps and photographs, that give the reader a real sense of the country.

I would like to take issue with your discussion of the Innu portage route around Maid Marion Falls, especially your suggestion that it did not turn south at Bibikwasin, but continued to the west and north to avoid Michikamau.  (Editorial Note:  Bryan Greene’s supporting arguments will be documented in the End Notes.  The author is already in the preliminary stages in planning a canoe trip with Bryan the summer of 2013 to see who is right!)

Best regards, and congratulations on a great job! 

Bryan Greene is the former head of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador.  He is one of the authors of The Woman Who Mapped Labrador: The Life and Expedition Diary of Mina Hubbard, together with Anne Hart and Roberta Buchanan (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).  It was short listed for the Winterset Award for excellence in Newfoundland writing.

Gerard Kenney, Aylmer, Quebec, October 21, 2012:

In the late summer of 1999, Philip Schubert and I decided to explore Labrador waters in the North West River area. We left North West River by canoe, paddled up Grand Lake to the mouth of the Naskaupi River, then turned up that river to the mouth of the Red Wine River. At that conjuncture sits Louie Montague’s tilt where we established our camp for a few days and explored the land and waters of the surrounding area. After a few great days, we headed back down to Grand Lake and explored a short distance up the Susan River.  From there we returned to North West River village, and back to Ottawa - mission accomplished.

What we did not realize at the time, though, was that Philip had become infected – badly. For more than a decade now, every year has seen Phil tramping trails, or solo-paddling waters, that Leonidas Hubbard and Dillon Wallace traversed, or wanted to traverse, on their unfortunate 1903 attempt to travel from North West River in Labrador to Ungava Bay in northern Quebec.

Phil’s Letters to the Granddaughter takes us with him as he explores the Hubbard and Wallace saga of 1903 and the further trips that took place in 1905 and 1913. He does this with authority, having himself been physically over the very terrain that he writes of, supported by the authority of Wallace’s granddaughter, Amy McKendry, who collaborated with him in creating the book. 

Gerard Kenney has published four books including three about the Arctic: Arctic Smoke & Mirrors, published in 1994, Ships of Wood and Men of Iron (Natural Heritage, 2005), and Dangerous Passage (Natural Heritage, 2006).  His latest book is the Lake of the Old Uncles (Dundurn Press, 2008).  He is published on a regular basis in the First Air magazine, Above and Beyond, recent articles being Arctic Navigator, Joseph Elizéar Bernier and Henry Larsen's Sailing of the Northwest Passage (1941 - 42).

Dr. Roberta Buchanan, October 26, 2012:

I enjoyed reading Letters to the Granddaughter very much.  I look forward to seeing it in print.  Once your narrative gets going, it is gripping reading and the reader gets caught up in the danger and drama of the multiple canoe trips of Dillon Wallace, yourself and at times Mina Hubbard too. The vividness of your account is enhanced by the wonderful photographs and detailed maps which take us right into the heart of Labrador.  It will be a grand book, and a valuable addition to the Wallace / Hubbard saga.

Dr. Roberta Buchanan was born in South Africa and educated in England before immigrating to Canada in 1964. She taught English and Women’s Studies at Memorial University for 38 years and is now Professor Emerita.

Poet and memoirist, she published a book of poetry, I Moved All My Women Upstairs (part of the Newfoundland Poetry series from Breakwater Books, 1997).  She co-authored with Anne Hart and Bryan Greene, the non-fiction work The Woman Who Mapped Labrador: The Life and Expedition Diary of Mina Hubbard (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).  She co-edited Charm Against the Pain: An Anthology of All New Writing From Newfoundland (Pennywell Books, 2006), together with Georgina Olivere Queller and Geraldine Chafe Rubia.  She is currently editing the 1905 expedition diaries of George Elson and Joseph Iserhoff, two of Mina Hubbard’s guides, which are the basis of her forthcoming biography of their lives.

James Stone, November 13, 2012

Phil Schubert has managed to combine well-worked material of the three classic canoe trips surrounding the Hubbard sagas in Labrador with his refreshing and personal intimacy drawn from his direct experiences along the same routes. 

As I was reading his narrative, he brought out the sweat, the bugs, the bone chilling Labrador drizzle, the foot sucking muskeg and the sense of isolation along lost routes in a way that brought additional life and colour to the original writings of Dillon Wallace, Mina Hubbard and Leonidas Hubbard.  As he wrote of his experiences in the same places along the Susan, Nascaupee and George Rivers as the paddlers of a century ago, I felt that I was there, feeling the cold water oozing into my boots, the swish of wet brush on portages against my clothes.  I saw in my mind’s eye the silhouette of the black spruce against the evening sky, with the whiff of a smoky fire. 

Phil never forgets that they were travelers rather than explorers, trying to follow the faint trails of the Innu, with more or less success.  By his experience on the site, he captures the on-the-spot dilemmas of Wallace and the Hubbards when they had to choose portage routes or directions when trying to find routes. In choosing the letter style of narrative, the author allows himself the advantage of describing and summarizing history and geography that might otherwise be consigned to footnotes. And the style works well, as it led me along in a series of journeys – some on the level of the travel, and others on the level of the interactions of the protagonists. 

Towards the end of this compelling book, I suddenly realized that the dominant character is the Labrador geography/climate.  That this subtlety only arose toward the end of the book is testimony to the author’s skill in story telling.  Kudos for people like Phil Schubert who are not only able to take trips like this, but are also able to write compelling histories of them.

James Stone is the author of Paddling the Boreal Forest:  Rediscovering A.P. Low (Natural Heritage Books, 2004) together with Max Finkelstein.

Anne Hart, December 2, 2012

A good piece of work indeed!

Anne Hart is a member of the Order of Canada for her "lasting contributions to the cultural life of her province" (Newfoundland and Labrador).  She did a CBC Radio Ideas documentary: Into Unknown Labrador: The Mina Hubbard Story, 1998-05-28.  This lecture was also delivered by her to The Newfoundland Historical Society on January 27, 2000.  She is the author of Into Unknown Labrador - an article published in Rediscovering Canada - Image, Place and Text (Nordic Association for Canadian Studies Text Series Vol. 16) edited by Gudrun Bjork Gudsteins, University of Iceland Press,  publication date: 2001/12/01.  She co-authored with Roberta Buchanan and Bryan Greene, the non-fiction work The Woman Who Mapped Labrador: The Life and Expedition Diary of Mina Hubbard (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).

Jerry Kobalenko, December 3, 2012

Curious, educated travelers who re-do historic routes can contribute to our understanding of what went wrong, and right, on those expeditions. Philip Schubert’s Letters to the Granddaughter fits in this genre. 

The famous Hubbard tragedy and its bitter aftermath have intrigued major novelists, urban academics and not a few would-be adventurers. Every school kid in Labrador reads The Lure of the Labrador Wild. To see Schubert’s embedded photos of what these places look like today is a treat for anyone familiar with this story. And for those insane enough to consider retracing Hubbard’s miserable route for themselves, the annotated maps are a valuable reference.  

Jerry Kobalenko and his wife Alexandra, specialize in northern adventure.  Jerry’s writing and photography have appeared in hundreds of publications around the world, including National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, Canadian Geographic and Time. His books Arctic Eden (Greystone Books, D & M Publishers Inc. 2010) and The Horizontal Everest (Penguin Books Canada Limited 2002) recount the author’s lifelong love affair with the Canadian High Arctic.

If you found this web page through a search engine and want to find out how to order this book, click on the following link: "Retracing the Hubbard and Wallace Saga"

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