"A Distinguished Lady"

Dr. Louise Manny will not soon be forgotten by the residents of the Miramichi. She was a well-educated and highly intelligent woman whose achievements in the field of local history earned her much renown and recognition.

She received honorary degrees from both the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.

The National Council of Jewish Women named her New Brunswick's Woman Of the Year for her work in collecting and preserving local history; she received a bronze medal.

In 1966 she was honoured by the American Association for State and Local History.

In 1967 she was given a civic reception by the Town of Newcastle on the occasion of her retirement as librarian at the Old Manse library where she served for fourteen years. After her death a commemorative plaque was installed at the Old Manse Library.

In 1969 a New Brunswick mountain was named after her.

Louise Manny is shown relaxing on the bank of the Miramichi River at Wilson's Point, now The Enclosure. The name of her dog was "Olaf." (Photo courtesy of Jack Ullock)

If you ask people today what they know about Dr. Manny, the answer is usually, "She was the originator of the Miramichi Folk Song Festival" or "She founded the Miramichi Historical Society" or "She wrote historical books." These things are true and there is much more. She was the driving force in the development of the old burial ground at Wilson's Point, where the early settlers (including the first English speaking settler William Davidson) are buried.

Mrs. Jared MacLean, her housekeeper and companion of many years, who still resides in the Manny home on the bank of the river, recalls how dedicated Dr. Manny was to this project. "It was her interest and enthusiasm that was responsible for Lord Beaverbrook purchasing the land that is now The Enclosure. He gave her a free rein in its restoration. She worked hard on that project; she would go up there every day in the summer in Sandy Gremley's taxi. Sometimes I went with her and we would stand the tombstones and benches up that had been knocked down and pick up litter that had been scattered about the night before.

"Another of her great interests was collecting folk songs for Lord Beaverbrook. He supplied her with a tape recorder and she travelled all over the country searching out the songs of the lumber camps.

"Later on she established the Folksong Festival and she took a great interest in it. There was lots of entertaining in connection with it which she enjoyed; she had a great love of people."

Her Early Life

Born in Maine, she moved to Newcastle with her parents at a very early age. She attended St. Mary's Academy, Harkins Academy, Halifax Ladies College, the Ursuline Convent in Quebec City (where she learned French) and McGill University, from which she graduated in 1913.

While teaching at Halifax Ladies College after graduation, her father who managed the spoolwood business of R. Corry Clark, became ill. She returned to Newcastle, took a secretarial course and joined the spoolwood firm. At this time the Mannys lived on Prince William Street.

In 1930 she kept a journal which she called "Trivial Aspects." Her entries during this five-year period show a keen intelligence, a wide knowledge of many subjects and a deep sense of humour.

There are many references to badminton and tennis. She won several tennis championships over the years; she and Jean Jardine were a formidable pair. She also excelled in swimming and bridge.

In 1930 she wrote "My mother scandalized Mrs. H. who spoke disapprovingly of so much badminton-playing by saying, "Well, I really prefer badminton to house-cleaning." Which is probably the most revolutionary idea ever promulgated by a Newcastle housewife, not excepting the time the Mannys sent to Montreal and bought their Christmas cake."

Her sense of humour is evident in the following excerpts:

"Our minister, who disapproves of dancing, card playing and women smoking, the time wasted in sports, has his own pet vice. He borrows books and never returns them."

"The local livery stable man took two people to Marjorie's bridge and then having forgotten the third, drove around to several likely houses, inquiring if anyone there was going to the party. Unfortunately, all the ones he selected were people who had not been invited!"

There are many items of interest, some on current events. "Newcastle will soon elect a mayor and aldermen. Excitement over this civic duty will not run high, for only 30 per cent of our 842 voters on the voters' list are entitled to vote, the others not having paid their taxes."

"Once I saw a light, like a glowing ball, move from south to north on the other side of the river. It was not far above the horizon and lasted about half a minute. I had time to call two other people who also saw it."

Louise Manny learned to read at the age of three and her knowledge and love of books continued throughout her entire life. In her journal there are many references to supplying the people of the area with reading material and decrying the fact that Newcastle had no library.

"Beaumont insisted on overpaying me 3 cents on "Look Homeward, Angel!" because he said he and his wife feel very grateful to me for supplying them with all the latest literature."

"Among the books I am to buy in New York are 'The Story of San Michelle' for Cannie; books by P. C. Wren or about the Foreign Legion for Jirnmy Sullivan and some good books with pictures for Jimmy's three children; some books to the value of $5 for Andrew Flett's children, which they will like now at the ages of 5 and under and also in later life; Balzac's Droll Stories for Jack McKenn and some modern library bargains for Johnny Gough."

"The public library project is being received with pessimism-- 'People won't climb the hill to the school for books, if we have it there. The old Ledden house, if it had been feasible, was not central enough (being 300 or 400 yards from the Post Office.) Young people won't read, they prefer the movies. People won't use it anyway. The Town can't afford to spend the money; thousands of dollars for a cement road is different."

"When I told people in New York that I lived in a town of 3,000 people, which had no public library, they were dumbfounded."

The establishment of the Old Manse Library by Lord Beaverbrook must have been for Dr. Manny the culmination of a dream.

"A Distinguished Lady"

What was Louise Manny's image with the local people? Rev. T. J. McKendy described it well in the citation which he wrote when St. Thomas University conferred on her an honorary doctor's degree on May 17, 1961. The citation read, in part: "Rarely indeed have the traditions, the spirit, the lore of a locality found so dedicated a collector and so competent a historian as has the Miramichi in the person of this distinguished lady.

"Her outstanding work with the Miramichi Folksong Festival, her enlightened direction of the Old Manse Library, her collaboration with Lord Beaverbrook in the development of the historic Enclosure have marked her as one who deserves well of her fellow citizens."

(Acknowledgements: Mrs. Jared MacLean, Mrs. E. F. MacAllister and Richard Howe).

(Northumberland News, March 31, 1982)

Copyright © Lois F. Martin, 1985. All rights reserved.