Sunday, 18 June 2017

140th Birthday of W. Lacey Amy

140th Birthday of W. Lacey Amy

 This year Canada celebrates its 150 anniversary. Lacey Amy was born ten years later.

W. Lacey Amy was born in Sydenham, Ontario, Canada, 9 June 1877. He is best remembered as ‘Luke Allan’ the novelist and by the series of 25 Blue Pete novels based on life in the 1910’s featuring Canadian Mountie Westerns.

On this his birthday, it is well to thank the individuals and institutions that have helped to provide up-to-date information on this almost forgotten Canadian. Unfortunately, there was little systematic research in the beginning of my studies of the author.
While indexing The Wide World, a monthly magazine from July 1918, for the ‘fictionmags’ group of periodical experts, an article on The Empire’s Only Eskimo Soldier caught interest. Fully illustrated, featuring a Canadian Eskimo from Labrador, it has been reproduced.
Subsequent research into John Shewak turned up three other journalistic reports about our soldier and his previous life, mostly thanks to the archives of Memorial University (Newfoundland and Labrador).

The journalist, W. Lacey Amy, interested this researcher and thanks to web searches, the travels of Lacey Amy quickly became apparent as did his pseudonym ‘Luke Allan’. Remote Canada 100 Years Ago, currently under revision, with additional stories, is a collection of travelogues by Lacey Amy.
In that research, it was discovered that he had been the owner of The Medicine Hat Times, circ. 1913. Kris Samraj, non-fiction librarian at the Medicine Hat Library was kind enough to forward all of the private research provided by a distant relative of Lacey Amy. This elderly niece from Brandon, Manitoba, provided some key information. (The only contact was a phone call—no web featured communication was possible.) It should be noted that Lacey Amy had no offspring.

As Luke Allan emerged as a ‘popular’ author in England, it also became apparent that fame is fleeting, his 45 novels were most difficult to locate. Often AbeBooks.Com and AddAll.Com had to be resorted to fetch copies of his works.
About 15 novels were delivered as digital files from libraries or as interlibrary loans (ILL). Memorial University provided more stories on John Shiwak and I believe one of Lacey Amy’s travel articles. (There are four stories on Labrador and Newfoundland.)
The University of New Brunswick provided at least one ILL of Detective Muldrew series of murder mystery novels.
Although ‘Luke Allan’ was translated into French, it appears that those books never crossed from France.
In Ontario, the University of Toronto Libraries have contributed much to what we know. Similarly, the Library and Archives, Canada have been most helpful. Back in 1989, Claudio Murri, an Italian exchange student penned The Life and Opinions of William Lacey Amy. Thoughtfully he provided one copy of that paper to the Arts and Letters Society of Toronto. The current archivist, Scott James, was able to provide the paper, a photograph of the author and some details—for instance he was at one time the club librarian, and was made a lifelong member! Mr. Murri was very pleased to be contacted about his paper and remembered it fondly—it provided many details which would otherwise be lost.
Still in Ontario, there were other institutions that provided valuable information.
Alberta seemed to know the connection of ‘Luke Allan’ with that province quite well. Of course all of Blue Pete books, some 25 featured Alberta. But perhaps another 10 non-series novels feature early Alberta. The biggest find here was four dust-jacket images; these are an advertizing time capsule. They represent and art of the period (1930s) that still inspires. (These images will appear in An Illustrated Bibliography of Lacey Amy.)
Finally in Canada, one of the novels was provided from British Columbia.
Not to be forgotten, The Library of Congress and the British Library have provided stories and research on the author. The Library of Congress, in recent personal communication described one missing source as an ‘orphan novel’. The Pace, “this story forms the psychological study of a young man who is both spiritually and morally down and out. He is sick of modern frivolities and seeks refuge in the Canadian Rockies. Here he meets the girl of his heart, who infuses new hope and life into his erstwhile jaded existence.”
The Short Stories of Lacey Amy includes five of his short stories.
Stories from the Great War is a collection of his articles on World War I.

So, Happy Birthday, W. Lacey Amy, I hope you appreciate all the work done by individuals and institutions across Canada and the world.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.