Books: Letters from Windermere

Preamble: I’m taking a a break on regular posts from January through March, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things to read!

In lieu of regular content, I’m highlighting some of my favorite primary source materials from the last three years. Read a little, read a lot, skip through and look at the photos, it’s up to you! These are all online, so you don’t even have to venture outside.

Regular posts will resume in April.

You may recognize the title page of this book as being copied from one of the booster pamphlets I shared last post.

R. Cole Harris and Elizabeth Phillips, eds., Letters from Windermere, 1912-1914 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984),

If you’re interested in Windermere Valley history and haven’t perused Letters from Windermere, well, you’re missing out.

In 1912, in response to an aggressive advertising campaign, newlyweds John Noel (Jack) and Margaret Ann Dionysia (Daisy) Phillips (née Oxley) travelled to Canada to take up property on the Toby Benches and begin a new life there. This book, after a very helpful introduction from historian R. Cole Harris, consists entirely of letters written by Daisy and Jack back to her mother and sister in England, documenting two years of settling in, building a house, and trying to reconcile their English values and dreams with the difficulties of life as an immigrant in a new country.

Daisy later recalls her time in the Windermere Valley as, “the golden time of her life,” a time cut tragically short with the outbreak of the First World War.1 The couple returned to England in late 1914 where Jack rejoined his regiment. He died in April 1915 from injuries sustained at the first battle of Yprès.

As these are letters written to family, they capture a range of emotions and experiences, including the hopefulness the couple had in their new life, and the culture clash between their “Englishness” and some sort of “Canadianess”. Not all of the letters written are published, and there’s a significant time gap in which no letters survive, but what is there is candid and often poignant, and they are definitely worth a read.

Letters from Windermere is available for free to borrow on the Internet Archive: Because it is a borrow, however, you’ll need to set up an account (again, free and easy), but the book may not always be available, and the borrow is for just an hour at a time. There is also, however, a hard copy of this book at the Invermere Public Library.

Other posts relevant to this book include:
Gerald Houlgrave

1. R. Cole Harris and Elizabeth Phillips, eds., Letters from Windermere, 1912-1914 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), p xxi,

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