By trudy chiswell

It was a bright sunny day at the end of June that I headed over to the corner of Government and Bellview Street. On a lazy Friday afternoon at 2 pm, puffy white clouds skittering across the sky as I waited. The cruise tourists were out in profuse abundance with their camera cords strung around their necks snapping pictures. I sat on one of the two benches behind the statue of Emily Carr and waited. Pink hydrangeas overflowing with head sized blossoms hugged the back of the benches. People struck poses in front of the beautiful display of nature lovingly cared for by our local gardeners. Eye candy!

Still waiting, I enjoyed people watching when out of the corner of my eye I saw her coming towards me down the Empress sidewalk. Molly Newman, all dressed in the character of our James Bay celebrity, Miss Emily Carr. Molly has been portraying Emily Carr for 18 years now and I was finally going to be able to do the Emily Carr, James Bay history walk. Molly has done extensive research into the life of Emily Carr and James Bay and stays in character as we start our guided walking tour heading east on Bellville Street. We head down towards the Spaghetti Factory restaurant and the old Crystal Pool. An ambulance with sirens blaring races past us, but we don’t miss anything being said because of the modern ear pieces John Adams now has for all his walking tour guests. Heading across Bellville, we walk over to Thunderbird Park and gaze up at the majestic totems that are examples of the heritage Emily was trying to preserve in many of her paintings.

I have been enthralled with Emily Carr since first coming to BC in 1996. Reading most of her books, I loved her gentle way of story telling and the mystic movement of her paintings. They give you room to think of the beauty of creation and imagine shadows of another time. Some of them are almost ‘other world’ to me. I think Emily lived a hard life, not appreciated by the peers of her time for her talent or creative mind, and yet she held true to her passion. She was a free spirit. Emily did what she needed to do to make a living, but it wasn’t until she started writing her books that she became acknowledged and then her paintings became famous when she was in her 50’s. As with many artists, many people have made money from her work after she died, but British Colombians have been left with an amazing legacy of her work to enjoy.

Our little walking group sat on a bench in Thunderbird Park surrounded by the ancient totems as Molly told us more about Emily, read a little of one of her stories and then played us a little song on her ukulele. Molly has a lovely voice and her tune about the beauty of our land was very appropriate. Remaining in Emily’s character, Molly lead us up the walk to the Helmcken Pioneer house where we sat again as Molly told us another story about Emily. The stories continued as we wandered our way through the back of the museum and up Government Street to what was Bird Cage walk. We heard more stories as we meandered through some of the old streets on our way to “The House of Small” where we heard the story of how Emily built the house to give her an income so that she could paint in her studio. But that never happened and “The House of Small” and its tenants consumed all her time. Being a landlady left no time for the excursions and painting that she loved.

We ended the tour at the Emily Carr house on Government and enjoyed tea on the back porch before Molly took us on a tour of the house and the final story in the dining room of Carr house. It was a marvellous two hour tour that I would encourage more people from James Bay to take. Molly will certainly keep you entertained and you will learn a little about the community we live in along the way. The Emily Carr walks with our Molly will be finished soon, but John Adams has more discovery walks all year for you to discover more about our town. Check out his web site: