BlogAugust 30, 2018

James Duncan's "St. Mary's Anglican Church, Como, P. Quebec", c. 1875-80

James Duncan, St. Mary's Anglican Church, Como P. Quebec, c. 1875-1880

James Duncan, A.R.C.A. (1806-1881)

St. Mary's Anglican Church, Como, P. Quebec, c. 1875-1880

Watercolour on paper, 12 3/4 x 20 5/8 in (32.4 x 52.4 cm)
Previously sold by Alan Klinkhoff Gallery. 

This painting by James Duncan and signed lower left, once belonged to Emily Cleghorn, a distant relative of the artist. The father of the present owner inherited the home of Ms. Cleghorn. The Cleghorn home, called Blinkbonnie, in Como, Quebec was a neighbour of St. Mary's Anglican Church, pictured central amidst blue skies in the present watercolour. 

St. Mary's Anglican Church was built in 1865 by Louis Rouleau, who had constructed the Cleghorn house some years prior. In the winter months during the construction of St. Mary's, the Cleghorn family housed its new minister.   According to the present private collector, Ms. Cleghorn willed $10,000 to St. Mary's Anglican Church to be set up in a trust for the poor. 

On the back of the frame of the Duncan is a remnant of a label reading “No. 15 Bleury Street” but without identifying the city or the actual name of the business. It does indicate however it a picture framer, carver and gilder, “Mat & Passe Partout Maker”.

In the 1876 through 1880 Lovell Street Directories, we found James K. Pollock picture framer, a carver and gilder was located at #15 Bleury Street in Montreal. Incidentally, the neighbour was Notman & Sandham! Pollock had previously been at #13 and after 1880 relocated a few doors away from #15. The obvious conclusion is that this Duncan watercolour, "St. Mary's Anglican Church, Como, P. Quebec," was framed between 1876 and 1880. 

St. Mary's Church in Como was built in 1867, at the initiative of Phoebe's great-grandfather, Captain R.W Shepherd, President of the Ottawa River Navigation Company, and Isaac Gibb, a close friend and prominent businessman.

According to Phoebe Nobbs Hyde, speaking in a 1981 radio interview, the two men agreed that travelling from Como to St. James twice a day for Sunday services "and harnessing the horses was just too much. They decided they needed a 'chapel at ease,' as it was called," closer to home, in Como.

Together, they launched a successful fund-raising campaign and St. Mary's Church was built. "So now," Phoebe told the interviewer, "they went to church at St. James in Hudson in the morning, and walked to St. Mary's in the evening."

In those days, the selection of a new church name was often intended to honour the initiator of the building project. Messrs. Gibb and Shepherd chose St. Mary's, as both their wives were called Mary. Captain Shepherd's wife was Mary Cecilia Delesderniers. She was born and raised at Greenwood.

Down through the years, the connection linking St. Mary's with Greenwood and the Shepherd family has remained constant.

The first bride was Alice Maud Shepherd, daughter of R. W and Mary Cecilia. She wed Haldane Haswell in 1875, and since that time, countless Shepherd family weddings, as well as christenings and funerals, continue to be held there.

Indeed, the great-grandchild of Phoebe's brother Frank was baptized at St. Mary's Church just a few weeks ago. And even today, the church still features an annual Shepherd Sunday during which memorial flowers are furnished by the Shepherd family.

Phoebe's parents, internationally respected architect Percy Nobbs and the younger Mary Cecilia - always called Cecil - were married at St. Mary's in 1909. Percy later designed the St. Mary's pulpit, still in use, and one of the stained glass windows.

In 1967, when the church celebrated its Centenary, Phoebe hosted the reception that followed at Greenwood.
St. Mary's Church was very important to Phoebe, and she to St. Mary's. An enthusiastic participant in all church activity, she was especially committed to the Chancel Guild. For many years she served as its Mistress of Novices, training new Guild members in carrying out their duties of preparing the church for worship.

Gathered within the sanctuary is an extensive collection of wall plaques and other commemorative furnishings bearing Shepherd family names, from R. W Shepherd and Mary Cecilia through the generations to Phoebe and her parents. Collectively, these memorials provide resounding testimony of the close relationship that has connected this family, so rooted in the Greenwood story, to St. Mary's for more than 125 years."


Written by ELEANOR (SHEPHERD) ABBEY and BILL YOUNG. (As seen in the The Hudson Gazette.) Eleanor is a great-granddaughter of R. W. and Mary Cecilia Shepherd and sister of the Late Marg Peyton.

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