Emily Carr Sketched “Uncle Tom”

Scanning the internet before a trip to the BC Sunshine Coast to tidy up a few details before I get down to finishing Emily Carr’s BC: The Mainland & Haida Gwaii,  I came upon Emily’s entry and sketch in the Burnett Family Summer Home guest book (held by the VAG). I wrote to ask if they had any more information since it relates to my trying to track down her time at Sechelt and Buccaneer Bay in 1908.

The perfectly timed reply arrived two days ago, the night I arrived in Gibsons. Attached was a photo of the page and the citation that goes with it. Although I’d already seen this online, I read through again anyway. The description reads: “Entry made by Emily Carr is found on page 13 along with a pencil sketch of herself at work accompanied by a dog and two parrots.”
The sketch shows Emily seated at her easel accompanied by Billie the sheepdog, a parrot on a stand and another bird. But this bird is much larger, standing on the ground. It has a black face and fluffy white feathers. (I won’t violate copyright and post the sketch; click the link to see it.)
I left the email and went on to reread Emily’s story, Uncle Tom, published in The Heart of a Peacock, in which she relates the tale of acquiring a baby vulture in the Native village of Sechelt. She wrote:
“I was on my way to visit at the summer camp of a friend, a friend who had invited me to bring my old English sheep-dog and my Australian cockatoo.” [One bird, not two.]…
“I called my vulture Uncle Tom because of his resemblance to the picture in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His face was bare and black and was sunk into a body of white baby fluff.”
Emily goes on to say that her friend had a kind heart and welcomed the baby vulture along with the rest of the menagerie.
Something clicked for me – I guess because I read these lines right after looking at the sketch. I believe the second bird is Emily’s Uncle Tom.

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