Mrs. Crombie & The
Missing Letter
The two-fold mystery of Tom Thomson revolves around the cause of his drowning
in Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake on July 8, 1917, and the place of his final burial.
Roy MacGregor’s most recent book,
Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom
Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him
, offers new theories regarding both.  
An earlier essay entitled
Antoine Chouinard – An Earlier Mowat Burial?  posted on
this website adds new evidence casting some doubt on MacGregor’s belief that
Thomson’s body remains in the Mowat Cemetery on Canoe Lake.

This essay examines MacGregor’s intriguing new theory that an unconscious
Thomson was dumped into Canoe Lake by Shannon Fraser, at fourteen minutes
past midnight, Monday, July 9, 1917, following a vicious fight in the Mowat Lodge
over Thomson’s betrayal of his promise to marry a pregnant Winnifred Trainor.
MacGregor’s re-construction of events may be persuasive but not without at least
two big weaknesses – the active participation of Fraser’s wife, Annie, and missing
correspondence that may still exist today in the hands of MacGregor’s cousin,
Terence Trainor McCormick, age 88, who lives in Vestal, New York.

MacGregor begins by saying that Fraser, owner of the Mowat Lodge, stood-by at
noon on July 8, 1917, as Thomson loaded his distinctive grey-green canoe for a
Sunday afternoon fishing trip across Canoe Lake to the Tea Lake dam. He re-tells
the sighting three hours later of an overturned canoe by Martin Blecher, Jr., and his
sister, Bessie. They didn’t stop to investigate, believing it to be the canoe that had
been reported missing from the Algonquin Hotel by its new owners, Edwin and
Molly Colson. MacGregor’s accepts their explanation because he says Thomson
had long since reached the Tea Lake dam and spent most of the grey, overcast
day fishing. What they saw was, indeed, the Colson canoe.

In the weeks since Winnifred Trainor, age 32, departed her family’s Canoe Lake
cottage on May 25, 1917, when Algonquin Park’s black flies emerged, MacGregor
believes, she soon realized that she was pregnant and a few days before July 8,
wrote a very personal letter to Thomson, age 39.

“Please, Tom,” she said, “you must get a new suit, because we’ll have to be
married.”

Mrs. Daphne Crombie, then in her nineties, told two interviewers in 1977 that in
November 1917 Annie Fraser told her she read this line from a letter left on
Thomson’s dresser at the Mowat Lodge in July 1917. One of those interviewers
was a much younger Roy MacGregor. He fully believes Mrs. Crombie’s story—
never mentioning its greatest weakness--but  says that Winnie’s plea for marriage
threw Tom into secretly preparing to leave her and their expected child behind
while he took a painting trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Annie Fraser shared what she knew with her husband, MacGregor says.
Encouraged, perhaps, by Winnifred Trainor’s father, Fraser decided to teach
Thomson a lesson in responsible manhood. When Thomson returned to the
Mowat Lodge unnoticed by anyone in darkness that Sunday night, he was
confronted by Shannon Fraser, according to MacGregor’s theory.  Fully accepting
almost everything he was told by Mrs. Crombie, MacGregor says Fraser “struck the
blow that sent Thomson sprawling into the fire grate and caused the grievous
injury to the painter’s left temple. . . . Whether Thomson died instantly or not,
Fraser panicked. To cover up, he had Annie help him dispose of the body. One or
both of them tied a weight to Thomson’s left ankle, using fishing line. . . . With the
weight attached to his ankle, Tom fell fast to the bottom, his watch stopping quickly
once the water got into it. At fourteen minutes past midnight, July 9, 1917.”

MacGregor’s version draws Annie Fraser into guilty knowledge and active
participation in the murder of a person who, during her lifetime, came to be
recognized as Canada’s greatest landscape painter. Consequently, even though
it’s difficult enough to be convinced that Shannon Fraser committed a cold-
blooded murder without having better evidence than the hearsay recollection of
Mrs. Crombie, who first revealed what she knew to an Algonquin Park bird expert
assigned to an oral history project over the winter season of 1976-1977, it’s not at
all possible for me, anyway, to also convict his wife, Annie Fraser, of any
involvement whatsoever.

Pittaway tape recorded his first interview with Mrs. Crombie on January 14, 1977,
and young newspaperman MacGregor was tipped-off few months later. He went to
listen in the park archives and decided to go see Mrs. Crombie himself. Her telling
to Pittaway was not exactly without self-expressed doubt.  

“Shannon Fraser was terrified that he was dead. I believe that Annie helped him
pack the canoe and he went off into the lake with Tom’s body because she always
helped him
pack his canoe quite often,” Mrs. Crombie said to Pittaway. “My
conception is that he took Tom’s body and . . . dropped it in the lake. That’s how he
died.” (Emphasis Added.)  Some people probably cannot read this quotation
without laughing at the image created by the very elderly Mrs. Crombie of a dutiful
wife working alongside her husband “packing” Thomson’s body into a canoe.   

Asked about the Pittaway recording, MacGregor insisted that Mrs. Crombie
seemed to him to have great conviction and a very nicely-kept Toronto apartment.
Notwithstanding, at the time, MacGregor buried what news he had learned in a
book review published on an inside page 7 of the October 15, 1977 issue of the
Canadian  magazine. In retrospect, MacGregor said he would have asked Mrs.
Crombie to explain more fully what she meant when she told Ron Pittaway about
her “conception” of what happened.

In 1969, Ottelyn Addison, daughter of Mark Robinson, published a book,
Tom
Thomson: The Algonquin Years
. Footnote 53 of her book said:

"It was rumoured around Mowat Lodge in 1916-17 (chiefly by Annie Fraser) that
Tom Thomson and Winifred Trainor were to be married. A letter left carelessly
lying on a dresser gave some substance to this rumour."

Neither the text nor the footnote suggests who might have told them about this
rumor. Ms. Addison was assisted in researching and writing her book by Elizabeth
Harwood. One of them spoke to Daphne Crombie.

"Mrs. Crombie recalled that in those days at Mowat Lodge Thomson was not
talkative but appeared confident in his work and not unhappy," they wrote on page
65 of the paperback edition first published in 1975. Otherwise, the book does not
mention Mrs. Crombie's later story to Pittaway and MacGregor in 1977.

Her exciting appearance in a nationally selling book as the "young and newly
married" wife of Lt. Robin Crombie making an extended visit to the Mowat Lodge
where was recuperating from tuberculosis is important to keep in mind for several
reasons. Either she was the source of Ms. Addison's reported rumor or Mrs.
Crombie learned about it from the book.  

 Park Ranger Mark Robinson’s journal, the most reliable written record of daily
events during Thomson's last spring, notes that Lt. Robin Crombie and his wife,
Mrs. Crombie left Mowat Lodge on May 31, 1917. She told Pittaway that she
returned in November 1917. She and her husband probably stayed all winter of
1917-1918. During this visit, Mrs. Shannon Fraser, co-owner of the Mowat Lodge,
told her a story Mrs. Crombie later said she repeated to MacCallum. Keeping Mrs.
Crombie’s story in perspective also requires noting the fact that she and her
husband, therefore, herself never witnessed any part of the drowning, search,
recovery, burial or inquest. She never saw Thomson’s injury described for the
historical record by two eyewitnesses as a four-inch bruise either on his left or
right temple. The man who embalmed Thomson’s body, Michael R. Dixon,
however, said he saw nothing of the sort.         

“I beg to take issue with reports that appeared last week suggesting death by foul
play,” Dixon said, in a letter to the
Toronto Star, in October, 1956. “We brought the
body to the island and proceeded to embalm it. There was certainly no blood on
the face or any indication of foul play, just the usual post-mortem staining that is
on the body of any person that is in the water of a small lake for 10 days in the heat
of summer.”

The first eyewitness was Dr. Goldwin W. Howland, M.D., a Toronto neurologist
vacationing at the park when he found Thomson’s body in Canoe Lake. Dr.
Howland may have had less experience than Dixon in observing the blood-stained
forehead of a person drowned in deep lake water, in which the body always falls to
the bottom head-down and usually remains there before rising to the surface in
five to ten days, buoyed by the hydrogen and methane gases produced by natural
decomposition.  

“I examined the body and . . . was a bruise on the
right temple size of four inches
long, no other signs of external marks visible on the body,” Dr. Howland said in a
written report prepared for the coroner’s inquest. In a subsequent statement given
to Thomson’s older brother, George, Dr. Howland, instead, said the bruising was
on the
left temple.  

Park Ranger Mark Robinson promptly noted his personally observation in the daily
journal he kept on Tuesday, July 17. “We found a bruise on
left temple about four
inches long. Evidently caused by falling on a rock. Otherwise no marks of violence
on body.”

Taken together, Dixon, Dr. Howland and Robinson actually suggest no
unmistakable physical evidence that any act of violence resulted in Thomson’s
death to which Annie Fraser could make a credible confession to Mrs. Crombie. In
Mrs. Crombie's interview with Pittaway she said:

“I don’t know what happened after they picked him out of the water because I
wasn’t there. I do know that we were there shortly before that, and I went down to
[Dr. James MacCallum, M.D., Toronto ophthalmologist, art expert and Thomson’s
long-time patron.] The first thing that MacCallum said was you don’t think he
committed suicide, do you? I said, ‘Utter bosh! Rubbish!’ He was getting all
excited about his paintings because they were being recognized. He told me with
big round eyes that he’d just sold one to the government for $500.”

     “Crombie was upset, and when she returned to Toronto, went to MacCallum.
When she told him her suspicions, he didn’t seem to listen. He spoke of the sale
of a painting to the government for $500 (presumably
The Jack Pine),” Joan
Murray wrote in her book,
Tom Thomson: The Last Spring. The Jack Pine, an
iconic Thomson canvas, was sold to the National Gallery of Canada by the estate
of Tom Thomson with MacCallum’s assistance in 1918.

Mrs. Crombie probably met Dr. MacCallum when he visited Thomson at the Mowat
Lodge on May 24, 1917 and she probably looked him up in Toronto to seek his
help selling a Thomson painting that today’s art dealers would describe as very
valuable. It was a rare, personally signed ten by eight-inch oil on wood painting,
Path Behind Mowat Lodge.  Thomson gave it to her that last spring of his life.
When Pittaway asked about this painting, without explanation, Pittaway suddenly
turned off the tape recorder.  They continued after a lapse but on a different subject.

Some few additional facts might put this into context. A.Y. Jackson wrote to Mrs.
Crombie on November 1, 1965 informing her that if she wished to sell her
Thomson painting, Mr. Robert McMichael of Kleinburg might be interested.
She
suggested to Pittaway that McMichael came to meet with her and offered $1,500
for the painting.
In a letter to Vancouver art collectors, Pearley R. and Clara Norine
Brissenden, dated March 15, 1969, Mrs. Crombie offered to sell
to them.  She
identified the subject as a pathway behind Mowat Lodge and said, “Dr. McCallum,
(sic) who sponsored Tom, told me, it was the best of Tom’s paintings, in 1916.”  
They came to agreement because on May 16, 1969, Mrs. Crombie wrote again to
the Brissendens, saying McMichael was “furious with me, but he should have
made me an offer for it.” They paid her about  $13,000, according to family
members still upset today about the sale. She concluded her letter saying that she
was “so glad it will be in a private home & not at Kleinberg (sic).”  The Brissedens
sold the painting in 1991 for $220,000.   

Dr. MacCallum would not have responded as she said he did in the months
immediately following Thomson's death by cautioning her against spreading
rumors of Thomson's suicide.. In fact, the full tale told in 1977 to Pittaway and
MacGregor rather would have brought an exclamation against  accusations of
murder.

What would Mrs. Crombie remember of her conversation with Dr. MacCallum  60
years later – the tragic drowning of a man whose painting she treasured that
became so valuable she feared keeping it herself or her "conception" of an
exciting murder in which her revelations would give her a place in Canadian art
history lost when she sold her signed Thomson painting?

Neither Mrs. Crombie nor Dr. MacCallum ever informed park rangers or provincial
police of her murder accusation against the Frasers. So, it is unbelievable that
Mrs. Crombie said anything more to Dr. MacCallum than repeat Annie Fraser’s
rumor regarding Winnie Trainor’s possible pregnancy in November 1917 when
two women friends such as they would have engaged in gossipy chat about their
acquaintance who, they suspected, would then be six months pregnant but had
herself never returned to Mowat since Thomson’s burial.

Therefore, I believe that what Mrs. Crombie told Pittaway and MacGregor about a
fight is but one of many scenarios conceived by her splendid imagination and by
many others eager to play a role as first-hand witness or storyteller in one of
Canada's greatest mysteries        

Turning to the missing correspondence which could settle nearly 100 years of
speculation growing out of campfire tales told by Robinson in the 1950s at the
Taylor Statten boys and girls camps, he described his personal search of the
Trainor cottage at Canoe Lake on July 17, 1917, on instructions from Park
Superintendent George W. Bartlett. Robinson said that he found there many of
Thomson’s last spring paintings, as many as 40. He also found letters.

“There was several letters,” Robinson recalled in one tape-recorded 1953
interview. “
Most of them was from Miss Trainor. They were just ordinary boy and
girl letters. There was nothing extraordinary about them and there was nothing in
any way to think there was anything wrong about them. So I read them. There was
one still to be opened. I opened it and handed them back to Mr. Trainor. I said,
‘Your daughter’s letters to Tom.’ I said. Keep them. Give them to her.” (Emphasis
added.)

In his book, Judge William T. Little said he corresponded and spoke on the
telephone with Terence Trainor McCormick several times between December
1968 and February 1969 while conducting the research and writing of
The Tom
Thomson Mystery
. McCormick was Winnifred Trainor nephew, son of her sister,
Marie. To the exclusion of his two brothers and an institutionalized sister, Terence
Trainor McCormick inherited Winnifred Trainor’s entire estate, which included at
least “thirteen [Thomson] paintings, a set of hand-painted cups and saucers, as
well as a number of letters from Tom Thomson to his Aunt.”

Judge Little continued, “He further supplemented his remarks to the effect that ‘. . .
the correspondence gave undisputable evidence that Tom and my aunt were
engaged to be married.’” (Emphasis added.) Judge Little’s use of the phrase “to
the effect” followed by an ellipsis before beginning  a direct quotation is especially
noteworthy because of the many falsehoods Judge Little manufactured in writing
his book.

A careful reader would already have noted something peculiar, considering the
ordinary habits of daily life if looking closely for clues to the whereabouts of the
letter described by Mrs. Crombie.

Robinson said of the letters he found in the Trainor cottage – “most of them was
from Miss Trainor.”

And of the letter he opened, he said – “Your daughter’s letters to Tom.”

How was it that Winnie’s letters to Tom were found in her cottage, rather than in
his room at the Mowat Lodge, where he stayed during the last spring of life in
1917?

And the last letter – so pregnant with possibility – also addressed to Tom, defies
reasonable explanation for how it happened to be there in her cottage, Winnifred
Trainor having departed for Huntsville many weeks before. What was it doing there
and unopened?

Thomson’s older brother, George, never mentioned finding any letters in his
brother’s room or anywhere else during his two visits to Canoe Lake on July 12-14
and again on July 18-19. In fact, later, on November 3, 1917, his brother-in-law,
Thomas J. Harkness, who the family put in charge of administering Thomson’s
estate, wrote to Dr. MacCallum that he was making inquiries of the Crown Attorney
concerning “the letters produced at the inquiry by him."

The immediately preceding sentence in Harkness's letter provides the antecedent
"Shannon Fraser" to whom the pronoun "him" refers. If George had found any
letters he most assuredly would have carried them away when he left following his
first visit.

Therefore, any letters produced at the inquiry conducted late into the evening of
Wednesday, July 18, 1917, referred to by Harkness reasonably could not only be
those found by Robinson and left with Hugh Trainor but rather still others in
Shannon Fraser's possession or one from which, his wife, had read. Whatever
evidence was produced however, did not persuade the coroner from North Bay,
Dr. Arthur E. Ranney, M.D., against his official finding of death by accidental
drowning.

Her father would not have provided for evidence at the inquest into Thomson’s
cause of death letters his daughter wrote especially those suggesting her
pregnancy by the deceased. Who else could have produced any evidence from
letters of any significance to Thomson’s inquest?  The only person could have
been Shannon Fraser but there remains a serious discrepancy I will raise shortly.  

Terence Trainor McCormick has never produced the letters Judge Little  described
as “undisputable evidence that Tom and my aunt were engaged to be married.”  
McCormick never gave them to Judge Little and McCormick has ever since
refused all requests either for copies of the letters or an interview about them.
If he has letters to confirm their wedding plans who is he protecting today?

Thus, the murder theory described by MacGregor in
Northern Lights focuses
attention on the valuable evidence held by his cousin who MacGregor said turned
away from the family years ago following publication of MacGregor’s
Shorelines a
fictionalized account of Thomson’s death in which a pregnant character based on
Winnifred Trainor confronts a character based on Tom Thomson, demanding
marriage.

MacGregor's book, since republished as
Canoe Lake, then follows her over the
next nine months to a Philadelphia home for unwed mothers, where she gives
birth on Easter Day to a daughter, who returns as a young woman to Algonquin
Park in search of her mother and father.

“When the book was first published in the spring of 1980, there were still people
alive who had known Tom Thomson and been at Canoe Lake that fateful summer
of 1917,” MacGregor said. “I personally know nothing of what truly happened. I only
know, for sure, that this book so upset certain members of my family that it cost
our relationship. I understand their response.”

In preparation for
Northern Lights, MacGregor tried to obtain access to birth
records in the State of Pennsylvania. He learned, however, that “such information
would be made available only to a ‘direct’ relative, meaning a sibling, child,
grandchild. A niece or nephew was not sufficiently direct, nor was a relative by
marriage.”

The murder theory of  
Northern Lights chooses carefully what it emphasizes in the
story told by Mrs. Crombie, ascribing a motive to Shannon Fraser quite different
from what she was told by Annie Fraser. MacGregor relies on the secondhand
remembrances of a Huntsville man, Brad McLellan, who died in 2006. He grew up
in a house at 5 Minerva Street next door to Winnie Trainor and, on which, by
remarkable coincidence, Annie Fraser came to live in 1946, following Shannon
Fraser’s death.

“I can’t say why,” McLellan told MacGregor, “but I think it was Mrs. Fraser that I
overheard speaking with my mom and dad. What was related to my folks was that
Winnie’s family were extremely upset by her pregnancy and had put ‘someone’ up
to teaching Tom a lesson. Mrs. Fraser did not say that a murder was the intent,
just a ‘lesson’ . . . .”

In her interview with Pittaway, Daphne Crombie, mentioned no such motive.

“I could start in by Annie and I having a walk, and about the letter she had read and
about Winnifred’s desire to come up the following week. She said, ‘Please Tom,
you must get a new suit because we’ll have to be married.’ This came right from
the mouth of the horse, if you will. She read this letter, you see. Anyway, she did
come up and when she came up, Tom had been drowned in the lake. Previous to
that, Tom and George [Rowe] and another guy had a party. They were all pretty
good drinkers. Tom as well. They went up and had this party. They were all tight.
Tom asked Shannon Fraser for the money that he owed him because he had to
go and get a new suit.
The family doesn’t like all this stuff to come out. Anyway,
they had a fight and Shannon hit Tom, knocked him down by the grate fire, and
Tom had a mark on his forehead. I don’t know where it was. Annie told me all this
and also Dr. MacCallum. Tom was knocked out completely by this fight. Of course
Fraser was terrified because he thought he’d killed him. This is my conception,
and I don’t know about other people’s.” (Emphasis added.)

Questions about money owed by Shannon Fraser and about Winnifred Trainor’s
letters arose among Thomson's family almost immediately following Thomson’s
burial. His sister, Margaret Thomson, wrote to Dr. MacCallum on September 9,
1917. She said:

“I might say I met Miss Trainor of Huntsville in Toronto . . . .I asked her if Mr. Fraser
had paid Tom the two hundred and fifty dollars that Tom spent in buying canoes
for them. She said she had asked Tom this spring if he ever got the money, and
he said he got it all but in very small amounts. . . .She said that he had warned her
not to put anything in her letters that she wouldn’t care to have them read, as they
always seemed to know his business.”

Very little else was ever said by those who attended about the inquest conducted
by Dr. Ranney  between 8:00 p.m., and 1:30 a.m., Tuesday, July 17, 1917. Mark
Robinson’s daily journal noted:

“Miss Winnifred Trainor and Miss terry went out on the evening train. About 8 p.m.,
Dr. Ranney arrived and took evidence of Mr. Edwin Colson at Joe Lake. We then
went to Canoe Lake and met at Martin Blechers home where I had assembled Dr.
Howland, Mr. and Mrs. Blecher, Hugh Trainor, Geo Rowe and self. Evidence was
taken etc.”  

The next day’s journal entry commented: “There is considerable adverse
comment regarding the taking of evidence among the residents.”

In May 1931, Dr. Ranney provided little more than a glimpse into the inquest but
what he said should have raised questions never investigated before both he and
Mark Robinson died. He said:

“This occurred in 1917, fourteen years ago, and naturally you must admit the
circumstances are not fresh in my memory, but upon looking up my notes, I am
able to give you the information you require. . . .Dr. Howland swore that the death
was caused by drowning. In addition, the evidence from the other six witnesses
points that the cause of death was drowning. Those who were present at the
inquest were the following: Dr. G. W. Howland; Miss Bessie Blecher; Mr. J. E.
Colson, Prop. Algonquin Hotel;  Mr. J. S. Fraser, Prop. Mowat Lodge, Canoe Lake;
Mr. Mark Robinson, park ranger, Mr. Martyn Blecher, Tourists, and Mr. G. Rowe,
resident guide.”

Missing from Mark Robinson’s journal was Shannon Fraser and missing from
Dr. Ranney’s notes was Hugh Trainor. The discrepancy between them is
significant in considering who it was that “produced letters” and what evidence
caused “considerable adverse comment.”

The obvious conclusion today from all of the available historical records is that
Shannon Fraser tried to tell Dr. Ranney about the letter his wife had read in
Thomson’s room from Winnifred Trainor telling him that “we’ll have to be married.”
This conclusion is supported by a letter written on Christmas Day, December 25,
1917, by George Thomson to Fraser:

“Dear Sir: I am the brother of Tom Thomson who visited Canoe Lake last July.
Only a few weeks ago I was informed for the first time that the coroner's
conclusion at the inquest was that Tom had taken his own life based on evidence
given solely by you and Mrs. Fraser. . . .You have apparently done your utmost to
fasten this terrible stain upon his memory using as evidence for this purpose
some trivial incidents, innocent enough in themselves, and fashioning them to
suit your theory. . . . Now I want to say in passing that I have from various sources
a pretty accurate account of what happened at the inquest and in common with
other friends and relatives of Tom's am more firmly convinced than ever that his
death was caused either by accident or foul play and not by suicide. He had
altogether too much to live for – many true friends and a remarkable success in
his chosen profession.”

Fraser responded four days later:

“Your letter . . . came as a great shock to both Mrs. Fraser & myself & we are
grieved indeed that you should be labouring under such misapprehensions.
There is not an atom of truth in your accusations & as sincere friends of Tom’s, it
hurt us not a little that you, his brother, should accuse us of desecrating his
memory. We do not know who your informant is, but you might at least do us the
justice of verifying such reports before wantonly accusing us, his friends, of
insincerity. You have been misinformed regarding the coroner’s verdict, for at no
time was there a suggestion of suicide advanced by any of those giving evidence
& the verdict as given was ‘death due to drowning’ & not as stated in your letter.”

Why, then, does Mark Robinson’s daily journal  for July 17 pointedly note Winnifred
Trainor’s departure from the scene immediately after the funeral and before Dr.
Ranney’s arrival?  And why does Mark Robinson include her father, Hugh Trainor,
among those personally attending the inquest but never even mentions Shannon
Fraser, directly contrary to Dr. Ranney’s notes and the person to whom George
Thomson directed his anger?  Finally, what happened at the inquest causing
considerable adverse comment? What was Robinson trying to say for the
historical record?

MacGregor’s book is so wrapped-up in its murder theory that he fails – rather, he
refuses – to offer a convincing answer to these questions. Instead, he says, “Mark
Robinson was troubled both by the verdict and by how superficial the inquiry
was.”         

Instead, I want to suggest that nothing would have generated more upset in the
close-knit rural community of Mowat in 1917 than an attempt by Shannon Fraser to
offer hearsay evidence of a letter he could not produce at the inquest that,
nonetheless, asked the coroner to conclude, if it existed, that an unmarried
woman's handwritten plea for marriage arose because of her pregnancy and that
in doing so she prompted a suicide by drowning in the cold waters of Canoe Lake
on July 8, 1917.  

Furthermore, I believe that their fear of any further talk of the twin-taboo tragedy
aroused both families against Shannon Fraser, who Robinson  had tried to
protect by excluding him from those who attended the inquest,  as they all came to
a tacit agreement of silence which extended over the next few months and to
which they have kept ever since.  

Among those who knew him, only a 1966 letter written by Thomson friend A.Y.
Jackson ever acknowledged what actually happened.  

"MacCallum said they believed it was suicide,” Jackson wrote, “and they brought in
a verdict of accidental drowning to make it easier for the family."   

It ought to be evident, however, that Dr. Ranney’s conclusion was less a refusal to
stigmatize Tom death as suicide than it was to protect Winnifred Trainor as an
unwed mother pregnant with his child, the real tragedy of what happened in
Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake on July 8, 1917.

I believe that Mark Robinson’s daily journal of July 17 came as close to telling the
truth of what actually happened as possible for him under the circumstances of
nineteenth century post-Victorian social and moral conventions about unwed
mothers and suicides.

For the historical record, Mark Robinson’s daily journal intentionally left Shannon
Fraser out and made Hugh Trainor an inquest witness into whose hands
Robinson had delivered a fistful of his daughter’s letters but who, in fact, never
appeared with them at the inquest before Dr. Ranney.

Even more cleverly, Robinson wrote that “Miss Winnifred Trainor and
Miss terry
went out on the evening train.”

The
Mystery is why so few people have ever listened to what Mark Robinson was
saying.
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