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.