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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 14. Mrs. Menzies of Dundee


The note sent to Don Cameron was short, but brimming with substance. Its sender was Mrs. Mina Menzies, a 70 year-old widow from Dundee. By some “coincidence”, Mrs. Menzies had seen the notice Don had put in a Scottish newspaper, soliciting information on William Mackenzie Peter. Here was somebody who had known The Man himself!

6/3/2005

Dear Mr. Cameron,

I saw your piece in the Evening Telegraph, about Mr. Bill Peter, and was most surprised. I knew him and his wife Mary, as I was fostered by Mrs. Peter’s sister Mabel, who stayed next door to her. I was 14 at the time; I am now 70. I stayed with Aunt Mabel, at 107 Church St., Broughty Ferry until I got married at 20. But when my Aunt Mabel went on holiday, I used to stay with Bill and Mary. They were a very nice couple. He used to tell me about working with the Hudson Bay Company and about him knowing Nannook the Eskimo. Even when I got married he used to come and see me now and again. There are no relatives of Mrs. Peter left. But like you said Billy married a Glasgow girl. They stayed in Glasgow, and I’m sure he worked at the Railway; he might still work there, but I haven’t seen him for a lot of years. Me myself have 3 sons and a daughter. My husband died 8 year ago.

Hope this note helps you a bit.

Yours faithfully,

M. Menzies

P.S. I don’t know if there are any of Bill’s relatives left.

I read the note many times, sifting its nuances, and noting some factual pieces that initially didn’t fit in the puzzle which had been coming together nicely. Mr. Peter had worked for Revillon Frčres, not the Hudson’s Bay Company. If he had known Alakkariallak (Nannook the Eskimo), he must have been in Inukjuak as early as 1922-23. Alakkariallak was known to have died in 1923.

This would have Mr. Peter being there for five years, generally an informal “limit” for an apprentice trader to be assigned to one place. One piece of bedrock in the note was the address in Broughty Ferry; it had been a recurring feature of the Aberdeen Papers. Another piece of bedrock was “Billy”, who had “married a Glasgow girl”. This could only be William James Peter, our Uncle Bill! And it pointed to a location where a search for him could be started.

My dear Mrs. Menzies, God bless you!


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