A Name for Himself. A Biography of Thomas Head Raddall by Joyce Barkhouse

By Joyce Barkhouse

"Twelve months in anyplace, my good friend, is kind of a weary whereas And turns out extra like a century whilst lived on Sable Isle ..."

So wrote Thomas Raddall on the age of eighteen, no longer dreaming that a long time later Sable Island -- that "hell in the world" -- would offer a romantic historical past for certainly one of his maximum novels, The Nymph and the Lamp.

Traumatized by means of the horror of the good Halifax Explosion of 1917, in a couple of months via the dying of his father in conflict in another country, Tom was once compelled to depart institution on the age of fourteen.

This short account of his existence tells of his early adventures and of ways he turned certainly one of Canada's most famed storytellers.

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Sample text

For all his childhood delight in tales of the wild West, Tom had never been in the deep forest before. And for all his desire to emulate his father as a crack sharpshooter, he had never shot anything other than wild ducks on Sable Island. 22 rifle and a cheap metal fishing-rod. They proved to be his keys to paradise. I simply took to the woods as I had first taken to the sea. I learned to paddle a canoe and how to throw it up on my shoulders and carry it over portages. I learned to walk all day on snowshoes.

At the top of the post, a height of two fathoms, a short arm of the same timber jutted at a right-angle, and from it hung the naked body of a man, daubed with tar from head to foot. A few links of chain and an iron collar about his neck held him to the beam. His wrists were shackled together, and so were his ankles. The wood was new, with fresh chips lying about, and tar spattered on the stones. The feathery ashes of a driftwood fire showed where the tar pot had been heated. (Public Archives, Nova Scotia.

Was it possible to love and hate somebody at the same time? When Captain Raddall came home in 1915, Tom saw him as a different man: After his experience in the shambles of Flanders there was a change in him. He was a man of middle height, lean and muscular, with keen grey eyes in a face that seemed cast in a stern bronze mould. Now this mask dissolved and revealed to me a new and warm personality. He drew me into talks about my interests and studies and took me on walks about Halifax, pointing out places of historical interest, all in a spirit of comradeship that delighted me.

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