John Nicholson’s debut fiction entitled Reading Between The Pictures is based on the historical photographs taken by Charlottetown’s William Alexander McKee, and fictional “letters home” that weave together the story of the last contingent of Canadians to see active service in the Anglo-Boer War.
One hundred and sixteen years ago last month, twenty-three Islanders became part of the nine hundred men and women involved in what Carman Miller, author of Painting the Map Red, described as “one of Canada’s most costly but spectacular battles of the war.” And twenty-year-old William Alexander McKee (Will as friends and family called him), who before embarking from Halifax purchased a camera so he could share his adventure with his loved ones left at home, would record it.
The Boer War was Canada’s first involvement over-seas on the international stage after becoming a country, and young Will had a front row seat as a sergeant with Canada’s first Field Hospital. Will met such people as Max King, the brother to a future Prime Minister; Bruce Carruthers, whose experiences during the Boer War compelled him to established the first Signal Corps in the Common Wealth; Casey Callaghan, another Canadian hero, considered one of the best scouts of the Boer War, and one of a very few to earn the Distinguished Conduct Medal; Georgina Pope, Canada’s own Florence Nightingale, and first woman to receive the Royal Red Cross; and Margaret MacDonald, who would become the Matron-in-Chief for the Canadian Army Medical Corps during WW1, and the first woman to hold the rank of Major in the British Empire.
This book shines a light on The Boer War’s people and places-in-time as only pictures can do, and blends known facts with imaginary details.
Launch for Reading Between The Pictures takes place December 15 at 7 pm at Beaconsfield Carriage House in Charlottetown.