This past Saturday Raymond and I went to an auction sale at the former home of some old friends of my family, the Melbournes. John and Evelyn Melbourne were quite an elegant couple who had moved to a very nice Victorian home on Hart’s Road (between Madoc and Queensborough, and not far from Hazzards Corners). At the time (I was quite young, remember) I didn’t know – or didn’t pay attention to – who they were and where they had come from, but thanks to the things that were up for sale at the auction I learned (and in some cases remembered) some things about that remarkable couple. More on that, and the auction, and the kinship between my dad and Mr. Melbourne (they were both interested in all manner of things, including machinery) anon; this post is about a very special thing that I was lucky enough to be able to buy at the auction.
It is a painting of a section of the Melbournes’ property by someone I knew and loved: Vera Burnside. Vera was a teacher at Madoc Township Public School, a Sunday School teacher at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough – and I think that if you looked up the phrase “salt of the earth” in the dictionary, Vera’s picture would be there. She was smart, kind, gentle and lovely. And talented at many things, including painting.
On the back of the painting that I bought at the Melbourne auction is written, in Vera’s hand, “View of Melbourne’s Hill from Hazzard’s Road … Vera Burnside, Spring/79.” I think Mr. Melbourne had died by 1979, but perhaps Mrs. Melbourne or their son, who took over as the property’s owner, commissioned it from her – or perhaps she just painted it for fun (the view would be more or less from the back of the home of Vera and her husband, Max) and the Melbournes subsequently acquired it.
Anyway, on Saturday evening after the auction, when Raymond had hung it in the dining room of the Manse, I couldn’t stop looking at it. The shadows on the snow, and the light in general, are beautiful. And it is a place that we know, painted by a person I knew and respected more than anything. It is lovely to have.
And I like to think that Vera Burnside would be happy to know that her painting has found a new home at the Manse. And that her old Sunday School student is thinking of her every time she sees it.