Photo of William McKenzie and Wreck of the Marco Polo 1883

By June

This image is of a retouched original photo from the 1890s.

William McKenzie was a farmer-fisherman, as were most people with farms right along the coast. His farm was on the Cavendish Bluffs, P.E.I., very close to where the clipper ship Marco Polo was driven ashore in a fierce storm in July 1883.

Why is this important to me? My great-grandfather was Alexander McKenzie, boot and shoe maker in Wheatley River, and it is possible that this man was a relative of mine. Also, I have a country made lamp table which has always been referred to as the Marco Polo table, and it belonged to my great grandmother.

Most of the cargo of the Marco Polo was lumber. She was sailing from Quebec to England when she was caught in the summer storm. William McKenzie was, among others, given an award for bravery in rescuing the crew of the Marco Polo. The local residents also helped unload the cargo, which was lined up along the beach for miles. It is fun to imagine how some of the lumber was made into a table for, perhaps, a wedding gift for my great-grandparents.

The "Marco Polo table"

The “Marco Polo table”

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, was a child of nine when this happened, and she had vivid memories of it all, and wrote an essay describing the whole event for a newspaper when she was sixteen. She was in school at the time when the huge iron mainmast crashed to the beach, and school was immediately dismissed so they could all see what had happened.

The Marco Polo

The Marco Polo

Other questions to ponder. In the 1890s, the camera took the image on a glass plate which had to have been the size of the original photograph which was roughly 16 x 20 inches. What was it about the image of a farmer bringing home his cattle for milking which attracted a person sufficiently to bring a huge camera and tripod to a dusty road along Cavendish beach? This is a universal image seen in many paintings, and which has happened since people first domesticated animals. Also, one notices the telephone lines beside the road. Lucy Maud mentions in her journal for 1895 receiving a phone call. In these days of urban living, where city folk are far removed from country living, it is well to ponder how life was for most people through the millennia.

[Editor’s note: June had the photo digitally retouched, printed at its original size of 16×20″ and drymounted.]

Memories of my Father

Brent Eikhoud

Brent Eikhoud

Shortly after World War 2 started in 1939, Agricultural workers for the P.E.I. government visited farmers and said, “Try this new product, D.D.T. on your crops. It will increase your yield and give you more income, it is not harmful.” The consequences of using D.D.T. on humans would not be known until later. So it sounded good to my father. He would come in from the fields covered with the grey-green dust, and we children walked in our bare feet through the soil. And the crop yield did indeed improve, and so did the profits.

During the war he didn’t hear from his mother, as Holland was over-run by German soldiers. Food grown in Holland was used to feed the German troops. Dad bought a battery-powered radio and we had to be quiet so he could the BBC News from England about the War and especially Holland.

Life must go on. My dad was keen to improve his English. He subscribed to the daily newspaper, The Charlottetown Guardian, and a good weekly paper. “How do you say dat?” Some words were still in Dutch for him. ‘Dat’ is ‘that’ in Dutch. My mother was happy to to help him. We all read some parts of the paper as we sat around the kitchen table in the evenings. That started the habit for all of us.

On Saturday nights my father and I listened for the hockey game broadcast live from Toronto. Since it was always from there the Toronto Maple Leafs has always been my favourite team.

Life was not always smooth. Dad would come in from working in the fields, finding us all reading and complain, “I do all the work around here and you just read!” We learned to find homework or some activity when we knew he was coming in.

My father had been baptized Catholic in Holland but always attended the United Church in our village. My mother’s family were long established Presbyterian and United Church members, and so he was accepted in our local church. Actually, my mother told me “No one knows that he was Catholic. That is a secret”.

Swim fashion in 1949. June at 16, probably at Brackley Beach in PEI.

Swim fashion in 1949. June at 16, probably at Brackley Beach in PEI.

The extra money also allowed Dad to buy a late 1930s used Ford car, which greatly widened the scope of our lives. Beaches were available. On a sunny Sunday Dad would say “I need a swim. Lets go to Brackley Beach” or trips for sight-seeing were possible. Discovering new roads.

It happened that I was the tallest in my class, and when the boys quit school to work during the war, I was the tallest in the school. Also, I must have had a composure, and was a good student, so was chosen for president of school meetings or to lead C.G.I.T. advent services, and sang in the church choir, and community concerts.

My father was very proud that one of his children was doing well, perhaps more so because he experienced prejudice on the Island. Islands of all sizes don’t always take kindly to foreigners. Some of the men would ignore him for an entire evening at the local store where the men gathered some nights. He would say to my mother, “what do I have to do?”

In 1947, when the War was over, Dad went to Holland to see his family, on the Passenger Liner, Nieuw Amsterdam. Meals on the liner were first class or tourist class. Dad looked at the first class menu and dining room, saw how people were dressed in there, and was content to be tourist class, telling us later that “June could meet the Queen, but I am a poor farmer in a cheap suit.”

Years pass. We four children had scattered. My brother and I were married and had children. I was living in northern New Brunswick and usually got home to P.E.I. once a year. I could see my father failing each time I was there. My mother wrote me about him. “Your father is suffering from a skin rash. Doctors can’t seem to help him. They call his condition Contact Dermatitis. He is in and out of the hospital.”

So in February I left my husband and two young daughters and took the train from northern New Brunswick to for P.E.I. I am three months pregnant. I stayed with my mother on the farm for a day or two, then went into Charlottetown where I stayed with my Uncle and Aunt.

In 1963 when their father died, Cecil, Shirley, Helen Rose and June surrounding their mother.

In 1963 when their father died, Cecil, Shirley, Helen Rose and June surrounding their mother.

Aunt Katie came with me to the hospital to see my Dad. I felt shocked at how his head seemed swollen. He was propped up. Nurses were concerned about fluid in the lungs. A nurse explained to me, “He has been given cortisone for a long time to help with the itching.” We sat with him, telling him little stories about my children. I told him I was pregnant, and he said, “That’s nice. It will be a boy.”

The next morning I was on the train leaving the Island, when the Conductor came to my seat. “Madam, we have bad news for you. You must return to Charlottetown. We will stop at the next station. You can get a taxi there. Your father died during the night.”

Shock and grief. And phone calls to be made.

A Family Business

The Charlottetown Guardian was started before 1900 by a Scotsman named Mr. Burnett, and it was now run by his four sons. I had read the newspaper growing up so I was thrilled when my application for employment was accepted.

My job was in the circulation department doing typing and filing, plus, since the general office was near the front door, I also worked at the counter, where people could buy a copy of the paper or put in a classified ad.

About a dozen people worked in the general office, plus the nearby offices of three of the sons, making for much traffic. Lots of people to get to know. Two girls close to my age — late teens or early twenty’s — plus two elderly women, who wore out-of-date clothing, and were treated with respect. I learned that they were still working because they could not afford to quit! There would be no pension from the Guardian when they did; this was 1950, doubtful if government pensions were available, or they would be very small. There was a man with some mental disability who worked there too. He was totally loyal and so trusted by the bosses that he carried the cash deposit to the bank at times, and did other errands.

I worked in the circulation department with two men, father and son, whose nicknames were Bomber and Babs. Bomber had been in the armed forces with one of the bosses, so they got away with lots of breaks, to talk about hockey or whatever was happening. This made it necessary for me to diplomatically break up these sessions when work really called for their presence.

A great thing about working in a small newspaper was that we were always in touch with what was currently happening in the city or the world.

The second floor included the newsroom where news editor and reporters had their space. I was interested in the huge dictionary which had its own stand. One of the reporters became a long-term friend. She was from Winnipeg, had worked in the Arctic, and was a Baha’i, and introduced me to a wider world view. Some of her reporting assignments such as town meetings seemed to be so boring that I realized I would prefer to be a feature writer on selected topics. But she had the steady job!

The Linotype machines, keyboard operated, were also on the second floor. There were five or six men and one woman working these. Everything in the paper had to be written on these machines, in lines, using hot metal which quickly become solid. This was exacting work. We had proof-readers who found any flaw. It was also dangerous as there was some lead in the hot mixture. These matrices were fitted in such a way that they would fit on the huge presses which printed the newspaper.

The press that printed the daily paper was run at night, but there were special editions which had to be printed in the daytime, and we office people were able to see the process. Huge rolls of newsprint were lifted in place, barrels of ink were required. There were many moving parts that had to be kept oiled. It was dangerous but exciting for the men who ran the press.

We had our own cartoonist at the Guardian, an idealistic young man from one of the north-eastern States. When I had some free time I would climb the wooden stairs to his hide-away office on the top floor, and if he was free we talked of many things. He could have some cartoons done in advance, such as something for Christmas, but had to be always ready for a cartoon suitable for a breaking story.

One event we all enjoyed was the visit of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1951. The cavalcade was to pass just in front of our building so all the staff were given flags and took places on the street corner. I felt like a kid again, waving a flag.

I had been at the Guardian for three years and the urge to see other places was getting stronger. The day came to leave. All the goodbyes, etc., had been said, but as I reached the door someone came forth with a beautiful suitcase, a gift from the staff. More goodbyes and thanks. And I walked away with my new suitcase and headed for new horizons.

by June Maginley, 2012

Courage and Cowardice

My brother was three years older than me. I had twin sisters who were two years younger. My mother was a small, gentle woman. She had read widely, travelled, lived in New York, and written poetry. My father received brutal treatment as a child and had lived in a war-torn land before coming to Canada. He had worked for farmers in the West.

We lived on a farm which had a magical feature that charmed and consoled us—a brook which entered our property back in our woods, and gave us fishing holes, swimming and bathing spots, and an ever running spring of pure sweet water. There were flood plains, reedy in summer, but in winter thaws they froze over and gave us sheets of ice where we learned to skate and play hockey.

This was during the Great Depression, when life was very hard for most people but especially for a couple on a new farm. They had lost their first baby, then had four children, with miscarriages in between causing grief and stresses for both. Conflict in my world. I was becoming aware of shouting and arguing. I saw my father strike and kick at my mother. She was my source of love and security. As my brother got older he became the object of my father’s anger as well. He was my protector and friend. A winter day after a storm, our father was going to drive us to school. Farmers took turns breaking the winter road. My brother was late and when he got into the sleigh, my father started kicking him. I screamed at him “Stop that”. “You are not fit to be a father”. He stopped. Later I wondered where did ever get the gall!!!

I learned to always be on my guard around my father. To talk about intellectual things. To lie whenever my brother might be involved. I learned to never innocently flirt. I saw my brother go through a phase of not talking for three weeks as he sat and thought. I know now that during that time he was absorbing the “I’m not okay” image of himself but also accepting that he had to get through this place until he was old enough.

Another War came, D.D.T. for farmers, better crops, more money, paid off mortgage. Life goes on. I left home to study and work. My brother had educated himself via correspondence courses in radio and TV repair. He left home to work. He married a girl who was a fiddler, and their lives were involved in making country music. They moved to Ontario. I married and had children. Occasional visits at different times. The obligatory Christmas cards exchanged with names but no news.

One day my sister phoned me from Ontario to say our brother was in hospital in Oshawa. For me arrangements needed for air flight, and for my family. For my sister, to find someone to drive us to Oshawa Hospital. My brother had complications of different problems, but the most obvious was Psoriasis, visible over his head, face and hands. I get a chair by his bedside and speak of how sorry I am for him. His wife is sitting there also. Our sister also wants to talk with him. it is impossible to establish any meaningful connection with him. After some time his wife says that the doctors and nurses have been asking: “what did someone do to him that would cause such a condition?” I knew the roots of many health problems are due to trauma in childhood.

I knew immediately what I should do. I had seen what happened in our family. There was a brief window of opportunity. I could see white coated doctors and nurses in the corridor. But there were two strong women I had to face down. My alpha-female sister and my ego-driven sister-in-law.

I chose the coward’s way–my sister was concerned about our driver getting annoyed. I accepted that for reason to go. I said goodbye to my brother, and left the room and left the hospital.

June Maginley, 2012

Little House at The Crossroads

The little house at the Crossroads was the home of my great-grandfather, Alexander McKenzie, who was a boot and shoe maker, and employed four men; which was a large business for a country area in P.E.I. The house was on a two acre lot, which allowed for pasturing a horse and a cow, as well as the house itself. No doubt there would be hens as well. There was a line of tall, slender Lombardy Poplars next to the road with a green walk way between them and the house, wide enough for some shrubs and wheelbarrows and children. Another row of the Poplars was at the side next to the field. There were two barns, the small barn and the big barn. The small barn was for the horse and cow and hens, and probably a space for storing the riding wagon and sleigh as well.

The big barn was the shoe factory where my great grandfather and his staff worked. I remember being in the big barn, seeing bits of leather and shoe lasts, and benches where they worked. The house had been abandoned for a few years when I started walking to school and saw it through its stages of aging. We children would take a walk in sometimes and look in through the windows, small in keeping with the small house, with panes broken, and the front door swinging open. The kitchen area went across the narrow end with the door, in the middle was a parlour sort of area, and doors to two small bedrooms on the ground floor. A narrow stairway went upstairs but I don’t remember going up there. There was wallpaper on some of the walls. My great-grandfather died about 1900, and my grandmother moved back in with her mother. My grandfather worked away in New Brunswick lumber industry, and would be home at certain times of the year. My mother was born in that little house, along with four other children. My great-grandmother was referred to by children and, I supposed others, as Grandma McKenzie. She was a very strict Presbyterian. Playing cards were the Devil’s Book. On Sunday reading anything but the Bible or Sunday School papers was not allowed. I expect some of the kids broke this rule whenever possible! Only hymns could be read on Sunday. Grandma McKenzie had the great misfortune to have had her only son leave home and never contact her again. Probably had a quarrel with his father, which was a familiar pattern in those generations. When the children wanted to irritate the grandmother they would sing on Sunday, “Oh, where is my wandering boy tonight”, which caused her to weep, and their mother to get after them.

Being a house near a crossroads meant that there was much socializing, since people would walk to the store or post office, and would drop in to the little house for a “cup of tea” and give the news. The nearby church and school also fostered visiting friends. Before she was married my grandmother had quite a career as a dressmaker or seamstress. She ordered patterns and items like buttons from New York, which was the fashion capital of eastern North America. She probably continued some of this sewing when possible with four children. After Grandma McKenzie died, about 1916, my grandparents bought a larger property, a proper farm, about five miles away. I inherited from knowing this house a fondness for neat houses, Lombardy poplars, and houses beside the road. Sewing, keeping in touch with my children, and clothes that I like, are values that I’ve inherited from the two or three maternal influences in my life.

June Maginley, 2012


Helen Rose

Helen Rose

The phone rings. Sunday.
My sister Shirley.
“June, I have some bad news,
there has been an accident.”
‘An accident, someone hurt?’
“Helen. She and George and Scott
in the car.”
‘Are they all hurt?’
“No, just Helen.”
‘Merciful God. How bad?
Where is she now?’
“In the Kitchener Hospital.
Yes, it is bad.” ‘When?’
“Earlier today. They were on the
Grand Lake Road. Looking for
good places to snowmobile. A
snowstorm came up.”
“June, she is brain dead. At least the brain
surgeon says so. She is all wired up.
George doesn’t accept that.
Wants another opinion.”
‘Oh, God. I’ll come as fast as I can.
It will probably be Tuesday before I
can get there.’
“She always wanted to donate her organs.
She believed in that.”
‘Aren’t you rushing?’
“The surgeon says the brain waves are flat.
There is no chance.”
‘I’ll come. I have to get tickets. Prepare
the kids to be alone. Phone calls. Doug
will look in on them. I’ll be there, Shirley.’
Monday is a busy day, Bought a suit, bank,
tickets to Toronto Airport. Both my ex and
future husbands helped with expenses.

George met me at the Airport. Stressed but
kind. Told me on the drive to their home how it happened.
“Helen had been in front with me. Sunny day when we left.
Scott was in the back. Helen decided to change places
with Scott. She and Scott climbed over the seat,
laughing while they did. So she was in the back.
the snow was blinding. About 15 minutes after they
changed places a snow plow blade came through the
back window and struck her head. I fear the worst.”

We went directly to Kitchener Hospital. I am
faced with what I fear. Nurses are somber.
My dear sister, wires and tubes everywhere.
No sign of life. Three days like this. Where is her
soul? Looking down at us? It is not animating
the body.
We leave for George’s home, and Shirley drives in.
Discussion and decision. To hospital again.
Her face has changed in such a short time. Older.
Doctors are told.

Her remains are taken to a funeral home. Our
brother arrives. George and Scott, of course.
Their only child. She was the first of us four to go.
She was buried in the Waterdown Cemetery,
beside her mother.

Photographs of the three surviving siblings.
Our eyes reveal.

Grief sounds our depths
and leaves us changed forever.

Written by June in 2012, remembering back to approx. 1980 

On Feminism… c. 1979

The feminist movement represents, for the most part, the younger, well-educated woman who chooses to have a career, or decides to stay home for a few years to nurture her children. She feels in control of her life.

But there is a large group of women, mostly over forty, who stayed home all of their married years, caring for husbands and children, who feel powerless and out of control. Color them grey, because that is how they see themselves. They have been so conditioned to self-giving by our male-oriented culture, the exploitation of humanity by the advertising media, and the misinterpretation of Jesus’ teaching by church institutions, that they feel themselves to be zeros, nothings.

When Jesus said “love thy neighbour as thyself,” he meant that we should love and value ourselves as much as we value anyone else. Quite a contrast with many of the hidden and open messages aimed at women through the years. How can we give of ourselves if we haven’t time, energy, space and money and, most of all the belief that we are of value, to find out who we are and to develop our talents? When we insist on time for our self-growth, we aid in the growth of others, our daughters develop attitudes of self-respect, our sons and husbands realize that we are more than household caretakers.

In our culture, many wives are expected to take care of all the household tasks, the emotional well-being of the children, struggle with an ever-rising cost of living, so hubby can play with his snow-mobile, motorcycle, gold clubs, and other toys. And she is expected to be grateful when she gets her payment Saturday night.

What to do about it? First of all, realize that this is your one time around. The Lord loves you as much as anyone else. Start exercising those decision muscles by making some decisions on your own, even if they are only tiny ones. If you feel fat and forty, lose weight. Get a new hairdo. Join a new group that gives you a lift. Take a course in something that’s fun. Get the paperback “I’m OK, You’re OK” at a bookstore or the library and read it. Do something. Then something else. And something else.

I Found a Place Where Angelica Grows

[Pamela put this poem to music and sang it at June’s memorial service. Click here for video.]

I found a place where Angelica grows,
In Sydney Harbour, where marsh birds incline.
I went there one mist-bounded, warm April morning
With three eager children, sea-treasures to find.

They found pretty sea shells, pearl blue in the water;
They splashed through snow rivers and dampened their clothes;
Pieces of driftwood they vowed they would cherish,
And I found a place where Angelica grows.

Angelica, sea-loving gentle white flower,
Was brought here from France, so an old legend goes;
To Louisbourg’s cold rocky land by the sailors,
Who, longing for home, threw its seed on our shores.

Today, ‘gainst the stone of Louisbourg’s ramparts
One sees the white flower lend its grace through the mists;
Its lacy-like bloom has outlasted the generals,
Outlasted the cannons, and maids sailors kissed.

The old legend says that the seeds in the New World
Grow only at Louisbourg, speak France’s woes.
Imagine my joy on that moist April morning
When I found a place where Angelica grows!

The past haunted me as of history borning
As I gathered the children sea-wet from their toes,
Their pockets were crammed to the full with their findings,
But I found a place where Angelica grows.

June Maginley c. 1977


Last Bouquet

Morning sun shines on the worn oak table,
October is passing
But summer is paused, held, by a bouquet of flowers,
In an old glass egg-cup.

Brilliant red, golds, oranges, all variations,
Pale and bright splashes of each colour
On five translucent petals,
Painted by faeries, creative.
Their fragrance gentle, lingers.

But five degrees of frost last night guarantees —
These are the last flowers of summer.

June Maginley, October 25, 2012

Garden, Newly Dug

Rain falls upon my garden, newly dug.
A robin, quite unmindful of the rain
Cocks her pert head and listens for
the worm turning.
Afternoon tea, for robins, in my garden newly dug.

Newly dug gardens, a patch of rich brown in green field.
Only the gardener sees the blues, pinks and yellows,
Smells the sweet scents, sees the patterns that hope and labour
And Mother Earth will yield.

The gentle rain falls softly through the night.
Only the worms that robins didn’t catch
Can see the seedlings and little roots absorb,
Swell, grow and outreach as upwardly they stretch,
Become the incarnation of the dream
The Gardener holds in mind.

The Essence of All Gardens floats above
The life forms in my garden, newly dug.
I know the Romance of Far-off Places
As I attend the jewels of other climes.
Lilies and peonies and morning glories,
Delphiniums, nasturtiums and redbuds.
Roses, whether tea or floribunda–
Monkshood, bee balm, herbs of ancient times.
The sailing ships that brought these gems from China,
Or Africa or Europe never knew,
That they spread hope and beauty to New Gardens,
So each of us could grow our own small Kew.

June Maginley, May 1991