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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 12. De-compression in Northamptonshire


From Aberdeen, I flew back to England to spend four days with the Cowley family in Northamptonshire, about 80 miles north of London in the English countryside. Mrs. Mary Cowley was then 78 years old. She and her late husband Bill had served as the first resident nurses in Puvirnituq from 1959 to 1962. Her son Timothy had been one of my playmates in childhood.

My time in Northamptonshire was a blessed interlude of de-compression from the intensity and high drama of my discoveries in Aberdeen. I shared my findings with the Cowley’s, who were among the restricted few familiar with my search. Mary Cowley had known both my mother, and grandmother, and now served as my sounding board for what might be next. She gave me sound counsel about being mentally prepared for whatever consequences, positive or negative, which might result from these discoveries.

I had heard of Qallunaat who had been searched for and located, but who had refused to acknowledge their Inuit relatives. The reasons for such rejections were never the same, but there were three that seemed to surface constantly: The shame of revealing illegitimate offspring to legitimate families; the fear that Inuit offspring would claim money or possessions from Qallunaat fathers; or genuine doubt about people’s claims to be So-and-So’s descendents.

My driving reasons for searching were none of the above. I simply wanted to make human contact.

Mrs. Cowley said that, in earlier eras, people’s attitudes toward children born outside of marriage tended to be very strict. Nowadays, she said, people are much more open-minded about such things. I needed to hear this. My mother had been born to parents who were not married. Not that this was anything unusual at the time. It had, in fact, been quite the norm, and children born from such relationships helped boost the Inuit birthrate.

Northamptonshire was an improbable, but most tranquil place to reflect on these matters.

As we talked about Scotland, Timothy Cowley told me that Arctic char could be found in some of its lakes, and that ptarmigan, of the type we have in the Arctic, can be had in certain areas of the country. I could live there for a while, I thought, eating some familiar food along with the occasional dish of haggis.

In my mind, I developed the hope that, the least this search would get me would be a photograph of William Mackenzie Peter to hang on my wall.


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