“If you want to know about a man, getting to his brother is half the battle won,” or words to that effect are spoken by Yevgraf Zhivago.
That this truth perhaps can be applied in the case of different relatives is something my colleague Ken McIntosh and I have learned a few times in our pursuit of the truths of the lives of Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his third wife Margaret Ann (nee Herring). Sometimes it even applies to the results of hearing from step-relatives, as has happened recently to us, in relation to one of Dr MacLauchlan’s siblings.
About a month ago, out of the blue (as the saying goes), we received an email from a man whose mother had once been married to the son of Lieutenant Colonel Donald George MacLauchlan, a former World War II commander of the Calgary Highlanders and the younger (and only) brother of Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan. Although we were well aware that Lieutenant Colonel MacLauchlan had married a member of the minor British aristocracy, Elizabeth Loder Johnson, during the war, we had always wondered if that coupling had resulted in any offspring. Our searches on that score had always been without results.
Then arrived the letter and it was from a man whose stepfather, Michael MacLauchlan, had been the son of the Lieutenant Colonel. According to this informant, whose name we will not reveal at the present time, Michael MacLauchlan had a previous wife who, during the middle 1980s at least, had lived in Victoria and his name was Brett MacLauchlan.
What was very interesting about this man’s (our source) information is that it provided us with some fascinating details about how Michael MacLauchlan’s professional and personal character differed quite substantially from those of his father and those of his father’s siblings. Educationally, at least, the accomplishments of the MacLauchlan siblings were quite impressive for their time. The brothers held high qualifications in medicine and in the military, respectively ; the several sisters were nurses and even nursing supervisors in some cases.
Michael MacLauchlan, on the other hand, seemed a bit of an under-achiever. According to his step-son, Michael was a mostly itinerate truck driver who seemed to have a hard time holding a good job. Among other failings, he appeared unable to provide his new wife and two step-sons with proper furniture or, on some occasions, a properly sympathetic parental ear. As he wrote in an email to us:
“He was impatient with children and he was verbally, and at times, physically abusive with my younger brother and I. He was very frank in telling us that he didn't like children.”
In the early middle 1980s, the small family moved westward, eventually ending up, of all places, in New Westminster – on Salter Street in Queensboro, where our informant attended Queen Elizabeth School for a brief time before moving to East Vancouver.
Of importance to Ken McIntosh and me is our source’s memory of Lieutenant Colonel MacLauchlan. We had always read, in the accounts of his WW II service as a leader of men, that he was somewhat remote and distant to his underlings in the officer and enlisted ranks. Simply put, he seemed to have been somewhat of a martinet. Contrary to these images, our source (his step grandson) remembers him this way:
“Donald was an absolute joy to be around. He was always welcoming; always smiling and joking; and was quite fond of my mother, brother and I. Every time we visited him at his … apartment in Ottawa, he had "Sesame Snaps" that he would share with my brother and I. Donald taught me how to play cribbage and how to properly tie a neck tie, all before I was through grade 4. Donald was one of the most wonderful and likable people I have ever met and I regret not having spent more time with him while he was alive, despite the fact that my mother and Michael split up after (I think) 5 years of marriage.”
What is of immediate interest to Ken and me is the fact that Michael MacLauchlan had a former wife, and a son named Brett, who lived in Victoria during the middle 1980s. We are very interested in hearing from anyone who may have known of a Brett MacLauchlan who, during the early 1980s, would have been between the ages of 10 and 14. His mother, whose name our informant does not recall ever having heard from his stepfather, would have perhaps been in her middle to late 30s. Please feel free to contact us via the information on the home page of this website.