Miss Marguerite Lindsay, working as a summer volunteer teacher, went missing from the Grenfell Mission in Cartwright, Labrador, in August 1922. Her body was finally discovered four months later, in December 1922.
The nearby authorities in Battle Harbour were notified immediately, as was her family in Montreal. When her body was gently pried loose from its frozen grave, they were stunned to discover a bullet wound in Miss Lindsay’s chest.
John Martin, the young trapper who found her body, was unable to provide any more information upon further questioning. When interviewed over 50 years later, he recalled his sad discovery that day by remarking: “Twas a remarkable place where she was found. There was a pool (Salt Water Pond) with two big junipers beside it. It was only about 15 minutes walk from the (Muddy Bay) boarding school.”1
Journalists suddenly had ample new fodder for their newspapers, and the story of Miss Lindsay dramatically bounced back into the headlines. Murder? Suicide? Accidental death?
In no time at all, a bullet wound in her chest evolved into riveting stories of “foul play,” a “love affair gone wrong,” or “shot through the heart” and other sensational headlines that sell newspapers. However, the possibility of a tragic and fatal accident was barely mentioned, as that version wouldn’t satisfy scandal hungry readers.
After three inconclusive investigations, Detective Head Constable Byrne was dispatched to Cartwright nine months later, in September 1923. Twenty-two local Cartwright people were interviewed in an effort to gather more information and rule out the rumours of foul play and murder.
Fifty years later, in 1976, Ida Sheppard recalled that time in another interview “I was workin’ at the Muddy Bay School when Miss Lindsay got lost. We were all cryin’ for her ‘cause we fair loved her, she was such a nice person.” This poignant statement seems to echo the sentiment of the people of Cartwright even to this day.2
Eventually Detective Byrne concluded the following in his statements to the press:
“The presumption is that Miss Lindsay on her way to take a bath in Salt Water Pond into which the brook flows, stopped to shoot some muskrat which abound in the river, and that she fell on the firearm which she was known to have carried.”3
“The postmortem examination held at Cartwright showed that a bullet had entered the left side, passed through the heart and out on the other side of the body. From this it is concluded that Miss Lindsay must have fallen on the weapon as it was almost impossible to turn it on herself in the direction.”4
In her coat pocket were a dozen bullets that would fit her Browning pistol, also supporting the accidental death theory.5
Detective Byrne terminated his investigation with the statement: “The postmortem disclosed nothing which would tend to indicate deliberate suicide.”6
Once the sea ice had melted in June 1923, permitting navigaton once again, Miss Lindsay’s body (preserved in salt) was transported to St. John’s, Newfoundland. There a funeral was held for Miss Lindsay before her body was taken by train back to her family in Montreal.
“As the cortege wound its way to the railway station, citizens stood with uncovered heads evidencing their respect for the departed heroine and sympathy for the sorrowing relatives at home. Marguerite Lindsay will rank with the great women of the world who have given their lives for others”. 7
She was finally laid to rest in the family plot in the Mount Royal cemetery in Montreal where, as it happens, I went to visit her recently.
So whether someone today strolls by “Miss Lindsay’s Marsh,” fingers her name on the local church’s plaque8, listens to a song written in her honour9 or reads a poem written by school children… the Cartwright community continues to honour Marguerite’s memory almost 100 years after her death.
Now that’s a legacy!
1“I found Miss Lindsay,” John Martin, 1976, Cartwright, Labrador. Researcher Doris Saunders.
2“We Fair Loved Her,” Ida Sheppard, 1976, Happy Valley, Labrador. Researcher Doris Saunders.
3Evening Telegram, “Miss Lindsay’s Death Accidental,” September 24,1923.
4Evening Telegram, “Miss Lindsay’s Death Accidental,” September 24,1923.
5Evening Telegram, “Miss Lindsay’s Death Accidental,” September 24,1923.
6Evening Telegram, “Miss Lindsay’s Death Accidental,” September 24,1923.
7Evening Telegram, “Miss Lindsay’s Death Accidental,” September 24,1923.
8St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Cartwright, Labrador
9“Somewhere Beyond the Hills,” words and music by Harry Martin
Miss Marguerite Lindsay
By: Adam Dyson and Brandon Cabot (Grade 4 – Henry Gordon Academy, Cartwright, Labrador)
Once on a summer day in 1922,
A fine young lady died and only a few know.
What happened to her is a mystery,
And will every be part of Cartwright’s history.
Harry Martin wrote a song, we really thank him.
They know that the chance she was alive was very slim.
The newspaper says a mystery was found,
The dogs found her body in a snowy mound.
She went for a walk 15 minutes away,
From a land she loved called Muddy Bay.
She never came back, not even the next day,
She was supposed to catch a boat heading far far away.
She was found by the edge of a big marsh,
The winters were violent an her death was harsh.
Miss Lindsay and her life at Muddy Bay,
Is a mystery that is unsolved today.
Somewhere Beyond the Hills
Words and Music – Harry Martin of Cartwright, Labrador
Have you ever wondered, as you listened to the wind,
What secrets does she carry, what sad things had she seen?
Well, I’ve listened to her stories a thousand times before,
But still, I have to question her once more.
What happened on that summer’s day in 1922?
Has been talked about by many but the truth is known by few;
And those who knew the answer have been silenced by the years,
But suspicion on the wind have reached my ears.
Someone said somebody knew but when he spoke he lied,
Others said they saw them talking on the day she died;
When the darkness found her she was silent, cold and still,
And her body lay somewhere beyond the hill.
Somewhere in some city a grey-haired mother prays,
Please, God, protect my angel in that land so far away;
But tonight her youngest daughter lies asleep beneath the snow,
In a winter land so far away from home.
Then one cold December day a mystery was unveiled;
They found the poor young maiden there beside a trapper’s trail;
Her body, cold and lifeless, had a bullet through the breast,
Now, the reason why won’t let this poor soul rest.
I have often wondered, as I listened to the wind,
What secrets did she carry, what sad things had she seen?
But those who knew the answers are no silent, cold and still,
And the secret lies somewhere beyond the hill.