“The Tom Thomson story is one of Canada’s best, one of Canada’s most mysterious, one of Canada’s most beguiling, one of Canada’s most enduring. It is the greatest Canadian story never fully told…. Surely no one—no one alive—has as much familiarity with the landscape, the folklore, the story and even the principals as Roy MacGregor.” The Globe and Mail
Winnie Trainor was an eccentric spinster and a fixture of MacGregor’s childhood in Huntsville, Ontario. She was considered too odd to be a truly romantic figure in the eyes of the town, but the locals knew that Canada’s most famous painter had once been in love with her, and that she had never gotten over his untimely death. Winnie kept some of the paintings Tom Thomson gave her in a six-quart basket she’d leave with the neighbours on her rare trips out of town. And in the summertime she’d make the trip on foot from her family cottage, where he used to stay, to the graveyard up the hill, where fans of the artist occasionally left bouquets. There she would clear away the flowers. After all, as far as anyone knew, he wasn’t there: she had arranged at his family’s request for him to be exhumed and moved to a cemetery near Owen Sound.
As Roy MacGregor’s richly detailed Northern Light reveals, not much is as it seems when it comes to Tom Thomson, the most iconic of Canadian painters and member of the infamous Group of Seven. Philandering deadbeat or visionary artist and gentleman, victim of accidental drowning or deliberate murder, the man’s myth has grown to obscure the real view—and the answers to the mysteries are finally revealed in these pages.