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Bonnycastle, R.H.G.

Edited and compiled by Heather Robertson. Toronto. Lester & Orpen Dennys, c1984. 217pp, cloth. $24.95, ISBN 0-88619-074-6. CIP

Grades 8 and up
Reviewed by Robin Lewis

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

This Oxford-educated grandson of Sir Richard Bonnycastle travelled along the Mackenzie River and the Arctic coast as an inspector for "The Governor and Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson's Bay." The 1920's saw the company lose its former grandeur, due to slow adaptation to a world of oil exploration, air travel, and economic depression.

Bonnycastle's official company journal and his personal diary present different perspectives, each contributing to our understanding of the Hudson's Bay Company and its servants.

Official Journal: "Church parade as usual 7:00 pm. Rev. J.H. Webster rendered rather a good patriotic sermon lauding the great British Empire as she stands so proudly and justly before the world today."

Personal diary: "Went to church at 7:00 pm and heard an empire sermon by the Reverend Webster, who isn't the best preacher, but means well."

Heather Robertson, a prize-winning Canadian author, has edited the diaries. Her perceptive commentary is so unobtrusive that sometimes we forget we have left the diarist's own account. An attractive two-page facsimile of Samuel Hearne's 1771 journal gives a chilling account of an Indian-Eskimo massacre at Bloody Falls. A sensitive selection from Gilbert de Poncin describes both the comfort and the stress of life at isolated Gjoa Haven, another place Bonnycastle visited. Bonnycastle's anguish at his failure to restore the northern district's fortune is shared with us.

This gentleman adapted to the rigours of winter camping and dog-sledge driving. He cared deeply for people and his company. In retirement he shared this latter enthusiasm with, among others, Gerald Malaher, (The North 1 Love, Hyperion Press, 1984), whom he was visiting when stricken with a fatal heart attack in 1968.

Rare photographs; an attractive format, and sensitive editing have made the book interesting as either an historical account or as leisure reading.

Robin Lewis, Riverdale H.S., Pierrefonds, Que.
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