I was telling McCrae biographer, Dianne Graves (A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae © 1996 – Vanwell Publishing) about some of the extraordinary “coincidences” that have happened to me since I started my research on John McCrae in 2005. She said she was familiar with this phenomenon and referred to it as The McCrae Effect. I have about 5 typewritten pages going back to the beginning, of coincidences and synchronistic events that give everyone, including me, goosebumps. They happen on a regular basis and are part of what makes this whole thing such a thrill.
So…I was invited on short notice this last Saturday by Sheelagh Matthews from my MMWG writers/publishing group, to go and hear Terry Fallis – Stephen Leacock Humour Medal winner, at the Sheep River Library in Turner Valley, Alberta. It was part of Calgary’s festival of books and authors, WordFest. It was great, and he is a very funny writer and speaker. He read from his new book, Up and Down, and also told the humorous and exciting story behind his medal-winning book, Best Laid Plans.
After, I was talking to him and mentioned my new book, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. I gave him a book mark which he studied for a second and then exclaimed, “My grandfather served with John McCrae in WWI.” “You are kidding!” I said. He said he was not, and that his grandfather, Leslie Clinton Fallis, had brought one of John McCrae’s spurs home from the war and his family still had it. Unbelievable. 600,000 soldiers went to war from Canada and this guy’s grandfather served with my subject, John McCrae!
Speaking of the Stephen Leacock Humour Medal, it was fun to tell Terry that John McCrae and Leacock were friends and used to belong to a writers club in Montreal called, The Pen and Pencil Club. They would meet every two weeks and share their poetry, essays, short stories, etc. In the Bonfire book, Colonel Morrison says, “The Pen and Pencil Club was actually code for the Scotch Drinking Club.”
I went straight home and logged onto Library and Archives Canada, and found his grandfather’s attestation papers. Then I looked in the official book/war diary of the hospital where McCrae worked after he was taken out of the artillery and yep, there was Terry’s grandad in a list of reinforcements to the hospital in 1916. Every other day there is something like this. If you are seized by a fascination with a subject; an event or person, and devote time and intense focus on it, stuff starts to happen. I mean powerful, thrilling, sometimes otherworldly stuff. Who said research was boring?
Terry and his family are generously going to loan me the spur and it will be at the book launch! along with other fascinating WWI artefacts. But to have an actual, personal item that belonged to John McCrae when there are so few – all of his personal effects from WWI were sunk and lost with the torpedoed ship, LLandovery Castle – this is special! Stay tuned for more…happenings.