Uxbridge Faces: David Milne and Duncan Macpherson
I am a Cape Bretoner that was accidentally born in Montreal. My father was a displaced newfie and my mother a Louisburg girl. I lived on a lighthouse until I was 5. Mother used to say ”don’t fall off the cliffs!” mostly .
I lived in McMasterville Que. briefly with an aunt while my parents went on to find a new life in Uxbridge Ontario where my mother had a step sister. I arrived in Uxbridge in June of 1948 in time for my sixth birthday.
My father and mother were both artistic. My father was an admirer of David Milne, and at that time probably the only one in Uxbridge. David Milne lived in Uxbridge but was away painting most of the time. I went to school with David Milne Jr. He was a year older than me and in grade 3 at the time. Because of my father’s admiration I couldn’t wait to meet the great Artist.
I was playing with David in his living room when his mother came in and said “David your father is home and your friend will have to leave.” “Hello Mr Milne’” I said on my way out.
A neighbour of the Milne’s often looked after young David after school and David’s mother offered her a Milne painting by way of thanks. “It was handed back with” I wouldn’t hang that in my house!” A local dentist also turned down an offer to trade paintings for dental work.
In 2007 a Milne Painting sold for over a million dollars
Duncan Macpherson and his wife Dorothy moved to town and they soon became good friends with my parents. Duncan was getting work as a clever illustrator back then as he struggled to become a serious Artist. One winter Duncan got the flu and sent Dorothy over to borrow a bottle of rum. There was no liquor store within 20 miles back then. My mother was aghast when Dorothy returned the rum the next week. The unpretentious Dorothy just carried the bottle in her hand (no bag) and marched down to the drug store where mother worked and handed it to her with thanks.
Back then the train was a big part of Uxbridge life and the only way to get to Toronto if you didn’t own a car. My dad told me a story about sitting with Duncan and David Milne on the train to Toronto. Somewhere near Stouffville David pointed out the window and remarked what a beautiful green this haystack was. Duncan said he was crazy that haystack was red.
Dad said he didn’t say anything but that haystack sure looked yellow to him
Duncan was a wild man. He was banned for life from the Uxbridge Legion at least 3 times. He once disappeared for 3 weeks. Dorothy was crazy with worry until he finally returned. He had somehow hitched a ride on a cargo plane to Jamaica on the spur of the moment.
One time he took my mother to the Stouffville Sales Barn auction to buy some garden tools. Duncan bid and got a huge box of garden tools for a dollar. There was an axe, a shovel, a rake, and a hoe even. but that came with a dozen or so old cellar window screens. As they carried them to the car Mother asked Duncan what she was going to do with all the screens. Don’t you know anything? says Duncan as opened the nearest car door and threw them in the back seat and walked away.
When David died in 1953. Duncan rented Milne’s former studio (right across from Coffeetime) Bun Willis raised the rent from eight dollars a month to ten.
Duncan spent many years as the Toronto Star’s premier Editorial Cartoonist.