Ever pause to wonder about things that seem to happen serendipitously?

When two different people from different communities and backgrounds emailed with an offer of paintings to donate to the collection, it felt like the stars must be aligning. The paintings were by artists in our community.

The donations were paintings by settlers from our area and both artists have a place on my annual cemetery tour. I knew one was an artist but not the other!

The first offer was from Dave Sabourin, a teacher in North Vancouver with a family connection to Sicamous. The artist was Cyril Thomson, a former business partner at the Lester and Thomson Garage. Thomson also ran a taxi business and was eventually hired as the administrator of the Salmon Arm General Hospital. Cyril had political aims too, successfully making a bid as an alderman for 4 years before being elected as mayor in 1928, a position he held for 14 years.

Not only do we have Thomson’s garage at Haney Village but, until this year, had one reproduction of a family-owned painting on display. This year our donor gave us two originals for the archives!

But that’s the back story.

Our donor, Dave Sabourin, wrote, “My dad, who lived in Sicamous many years ago, just passed away and these paintings were in our house. They were both painted by Cyril Thomson whom I believe was the mayor of Salmon Arm for a time in the 50s. Would the museum be interested in having these paintings?”

“We’d be thrilled,” I wrote back. It is always exciting to receive a new collection with such strong roots to our community.

Dave delivered his gift in August and we chatted. One painting was of Sunnybrae Rd. and the other of Little Lake from a window at Cyril Thomson’s house. He had no idea why his father had the paintings but Thomson was a neighbour to C.W. Sabourin when the family lived on Lein Ave. in 1938. Were they a gift? I have to wonder. Someone must know!

The second donation was the work of Claude Leighton Hart and donated by his granddaughter Christina. The paintings and pastels were a total surprise because, unlike Thomson, I had no idea Leighton was artistic. Both men had been featured on my cemetery tour and were in the same area – a grassy knoll at Mt. Ida. Cyril’s head stone is in the sun in the Masonic section, Leighton’s is under a tree nearby.

When there’s a cemetery tour involved, there is always a back story. That story was about Marie Hart, Leigh’s better half.

The funny thing is that for years I had Leighton connected to Marjorie Haney – as some sort of an admirer who sent gifts from overseas when he was serving during World War 1. Those gifts, books and a post card collection, were on display at Haney House. Marjorie had kept them for 70 years. He must have meant something to her even though she had married another.

Frankly, I’d been a little annoyed with Leighton for giving up on his relationship with Marjorie, presumably when he was injured, sent to England to recover, and met Marie Magdalena (Mary) Koller. Courtship ensued and the couple moved to Tappen, then to the Heaney (not Haney) residence near the highway and farmed off Broadview in 1932. Leighton became an authority on fruit growing and packing, and, while not farming, managed operations for the Salmon Arm Farmers’ Exchange at Canoe and Salmon Arm.

I had to get over my archivist’s annoyance when I learned the details of Marie’s life.

The story I tell on my tours is that Mary spoke five languages, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Italian. She was born in Nice. When her mother died, her father remarried, but her step mother didn’t like her. Mary was sent to a convent in Switzerland. When she graduated, someone found her a job in Odessa as a nanny to a Jewish family.

Then the Russian Revolution erupted.

Somehow Mary got back to England to work as a lady’s companion. That’s where Leighton met her.

There was a romance that led the couple to Tappen, where Mary’s nearest neighbours were First Nations until the couple moved in to town and eventually farmed on Broadview.

But the current story is about our two artists and their connections.

A gem was uncovered in Leighton’s obituary where it detailed that he was injured twice, gassed once during World War I, and was the recipient of the Military Cross and Bar. Back in Salmon Arm, his memberships included the Masons and the Legion. The men knew each other and were members of the fraternity! When they met socially, did they discuss their art? Inquiring minds want to know!


Paintings from top to bottom:

1. Cyril Thomson
    "View from my bedroom window. CT"
    Oil on canvas wrapped board

2.  Cyril Thomson
     "View (of Salmon Arm) from Sunnybrae Road"
     Oil on canvas wrapped board

3.  Leighton Hart
     Oil on canvas wrapped board

4.  Leighton Hart
    "View from camp 1959"