A Seasonal Gift from Fifty Years Ago

We hope you enjoyed the Christmas season and wish you a happy and prosperous new year!

A friend of Sable Island recently gave us this perfectly preserved desk calendar from fifty years ago that we are pleased to share with you. It is a very interesting history nugget. Royal Trust, self-identified as “Canada’s Leading Executor and Trustee”, chose an image by Douglas Lawley entitled “Wild Ponies – Sable Island” for the year 1968. The information they included about the horses is a fascinating glimpse of that point in time.

Douglas Lawley, according to the Royal Trust notes, made two trips to Sable Island to paint the ponies on what is sometimes known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic”. He is a native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and as a boy owned a Sable Island pony. He graduated from both Mount Allison and McGill Universities and was residing in Montreal in 1968 where he was a teacher of Latin at Lower Canada College. Additional information found on the Alan Klinkoff Gallery website at https://www.klinkhoff.ca/artists/52-douglas-lawley/ elaborates:

“While back in his native Nova Scotia, Lawley was told of Sable Island, an island off the coast where, according to legend, there existed some wild ponies, which had been abandoned there in the 16th century* after an attempt to settle the island. Even in Lawley’s day, before oil companies took an interest in the area, Sable Island was still a sanctuary for the ponies, access being controlled by the Federal Department of Fisheries. Lawley visited Sable Island a few times and found there his most important subject matter, these magnificent Sable Island ponies which, over the years, had developed very thick hides to protect them from the fierce wind and storms of the area. Paintings of these ponies were featured in Lawley’s first solo exhibition held at the Dominion Gallery in 1962.”

Additional information about the image (see below) interestingly mentions a population of 200 horses compared to approximately 500 today. It states a similar history of the horses’ arrival on the island as the one we now believe. It uses slightly different language related to the horses, like a “gang of ponies”. And it mentions that most horses were bays and browns, with some black, and that light-coloured horses, like the mare in the illustration, were traditionally named Isabella.

Please consider sharing your history or memories of Sable Island with us at info@sableislandfriends.ca