No one feels like smiling a smile of superiority in talking with old Mr. Wyllie. He has taught himself the gentle arts of gunsmithing and blacksmithing. The tools that we see all around us are marvels of mechanical skill and would be the joy of a modern Arts and Crafts Exhibition. His sledges and augurs, planes and chisels have been made by the old man out of pig iron which came as ballast in the holds of those old sailing ships which beat their way into Fort Churchill through Hudson Strait. The hand-made tools are set into convenient handles of moose-horn and bone. Clever indeed is the workmanship that Wyllie has done with them. The last triumph from this unique forge was the welding of the broken shaft of the little tug Primrose. The steamer Grahame was built at Chipewyan of whipsawn lumber, and much of her steel and ironwork was wrought on Wyllie’s forge.
Wyllie left the Scottish Isles when a mere lad, but they are still “Home” to him and he tells us that this autumn he is going back on a visit. It was a prototype of Wyllie’s
“From the lone sheiling and the misty island,
Mountains divide us and a waste of seas,
But still the heart, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides,”
who prayed “O, Lord, we beseech Thee, send down Thy covenanted blessin’ on the Muckle Hebrides, the Lesser Hebrides, and the adjacent islands of Great Britain and Ireland.” Talking with the old gentleman, you are conscious of the innate moral strength rather than the mechanical skill of the craftsman. Instinctively you feel the splendid power of his presence and come out from his forge murmuring, “Thank God I have seen a man this day.” Wyllie belongs to the age of the old journals, to the days that bred Joe Gargerys and old Adams in whom appeared “the constant service of the antique world.”
[Illustration: Samples of Woman’s Work of the Far North.
A and C—Muski-moots, or bags used by the duck-hunter for his game. Made by Dog-Rib women, of babiche, or rawhide of the moose or caribou.
B—Velvet leggings richly embroidered in violet-coloured bead-work, made by Mrs. (Archdeacon) Macdonald, a full-blooded Loucheaux woman.
D—Wall-pocket of white deerskin embroidered in silk. Made by a Rabbit-Skin woman at Fort Good Hope under the Arctic Circle.
E—Wall-pocket ornamented with porcupine-quill work, made by a Yellow-Knife Indian woman at Fort Resolution on Great Slave Lake.
F—Fire-bag, or tobacco-pouch, made of two claws of the black bear. The work of a Beaver Indian woman at Vermilion-on-the-Peace.
G—Fire-bag of velvet ornamented with silk-work, made by Chipewyan woman at Fond du Lac, Lake Athabasca.
H—Velvet watch-bag embroidered in silk, made by Slavi Indian woman at Fort Providence, at the head of Mackenzie River.