The MacIvers

Angus And Bernice MacIver

Angus and Bernice McIvor were true Churchillians. They were pioneers, with a sense of pride in the north and layer upon layer of character.

Angus McIvor arrived in Churchill on June 16, 1930. This, in itself, was no small feat as the rail line was still under construction! No one was allowed to ride it without a special permit. Determined, Angus continued as far north as he could, which happened to be Gillam. While there, some of his belongings were stolen…and the rest set alight! Despite this, Angus persevered and convinced the agent to issue him a pass.

‘I was the only man not working for the government to get this privelege. The courtesy was extended by the official after he was persuaded I was neither going to open a store nor bootleg. I had business of my own, or at least had plans for one. My occupation was to be trapping.’

When Angus stepped off the train that spring morning, Churchill captivated him. He recalled, ‘I walked from the train to the shore on a carpet of flowers. It was simply beautiful. I could see the spray of white whales right up Mosquito Bay. Then I took a whiff of that fresh, crisp air and I knew I was home at last.’

Soon, he would write to his fiancée, Bernice Redpath, beckoning her to Churchill. ‘I hope you like this place as much as I do. I know I have come home.’

Angus claimed a trap line at Herriot Creek, about thirty kilometers up the Churchill River. Eventually, he was joined by Bernice, a strong, independent woman, who was also now his wife. ‘To my great joy, I found her as enthusiastic as I about our home in the north. We began to write stories of wildlife and personal experiences of life on Herriot Creek. We found a ready sale for them mostly in sports magazines.’

Their writings are some of the most eloquent, honest and simple descriptions of the sub-arctic and life on the land.

Arriving in Churchill… ‘There was a serenity in the beauty of the surroundings to an extent I had seldom experienced. I knew from reading that this place had an issued future as a great seaport…that in time the world would touch this part of Canada.’

Life at Herriot Creek… ‘There was good fishing near our cabin. A deep, still pool at the mouth of the creek between the current of the two streams was ideal for setting nets. We get northern pike, some whitefish, grayling and suckers. Frequently, pike ran 30 pounds. Yes, this place on the Churchill River has everything to make a home.’

Stranded for 79 days…’Still and all, we wouldn’t give up our ‘east window’ from which we see caribou, geese, swans and ducks and around which field mice and shrews, white-crowned sparrow, brown-capped chickadees, ptarmigan and spruce hens. Well, at least not for most of the wealth of the Indies.’

The pull of the north… ‘In the north, each day is etched separately on a man’s memory. No two days bring the same combination of weather and circumstances. Always there is something new to see, experience and conquer.

Life on the trapline… ‘In this occupation, more than any other, a man is his own master. He plans and works out his own destiny.
Over their many years at Herriot Creek, Angus and Bernice trapped, wrote and enjoyed nature as few have.

Together, they had many articles published ranging in title from ‘Bitter Trek’ to ‘Mystery at Mack Lake’ to ‘Beware the Rabid Timber Wolf’. A selection of their writings can be found in Churchill On Hudson Bay, compiled by Loraine Brandson and available at giftshops throughout Churchill.

In later years, Angus and Bernice moved into the community of Churchill. They continued to be vital and outspoken supporters of this northern outpost for the rest of their lives.

This article was based on material from Churchill On Hudson Bay and North of 58: Churchill Through the Years. Both are produced by the Churchill Ladies Club and available throughout the community. Angus and Bernice Ivor’s portrait can be found in the pioneer’s gallery on the second level of the Town Complex.

Churchill on Hudson Bay is available at giftshops throughout Churchill.

2 Responses to The MacIvers

  1. Allan Meadows says:

    At age 18, in 1968, my friend and I boarded the train in Winnipeg bound for seeing the sights in Churchill. We spent two evenings in the MacIver’s home, listening to Angus’ tales of life on the trapline. This was certainly one of the highlights of our trip and is remembered fondly.

  2. Margot Algie says:

    Bernice and Angus were my great aunt and uncle, respectively. So proud I am to have known them, although did not meet very often. The stories they told on their rare visits to Toronto were captivating, to say the least. I look forward to visiting Churchill someday and walking in their massive footsteps! Thank you for sharing their stories!
    Margot Algie, Thornbury, ON

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