- Born: Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, Sept.18, 1888, in
Hastings, Sussex, the first child of George Furmage Belaney, (a
spendthrift, alcoholic and ne'er-do-well), and Kittie Scott-Brown,
the sister of one of George's wives. "Archie" may have seen his
father only once or twice. George died around 1910 after moving
to North America. From the age of 2, Archie was raised in Hastings
by two aunts, Ada and Carry Belaney. His mother Kittie occasionally
visited the household with Archie's brother, Hugh, who was permanently
institutionalized after the war.
- Education: Extensive home education by his stern, disciplinarian
Aunt Ada; small Anglican school from age 8 to 11; middle-class
Hastings Grammar School, from 11 to 15. Archie earned a school
prize for French and topped his class in English. Left school
to work as a clerk in a lumber yard.
- Childhood: Emotionally damaged by his father's rejection
and stifled by the rigid upbringing by his aunts, Archie collected
unusual animals and played "Red Indian" with his few friends,
one of whom accompanied him on frequent adventures into the countryside.
He was mischievous and bucked authority at school, leaving him
at odds with his schoolmasters.
Belaney, a.k.a Grey Owl.
- Immigrated: Departed on a ship to Canada, with Aunt Ada's
approval, on March 29, 1906. He wanted to live in the wilderness,
near the Indians.
- Work: Toronto department store for several months, then
to northern Ontario (and briefly Quebec), where he learned to
trap, canoe and survive in the wilderness. Also worked as a forest
ranger and guide. Canadian Army, 1915 to 1917. Canadian Parks
Branch, briefly at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, and
then at Prince Albert National Park, 1931-38.
- Marriages: Angele Egwuna, an Ojibwa Indian, in 1910,
daughters Agnes and Flora; Marie Girard, common law partner, 1913-14,
son Johnny; Ivy Holmes, a childhood sweetheart in England who
later divorced him on the grounds of bigamy, in 1917; Anahareo
(born Gertrude Bernard); common law partner, off and on until
1934, daughter Shirley Dawn; Yvonne Perrier, Ottawa medical assistant,
1936 (while still legally married to Angele).
- Died: In 1938, at age 50.
- Books: The Men of the Last Frontier, published in London
by Country Life, 1931;Pilgrims of the Wild, published in Toronto
by Macmillan, 1934; The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People,
published in London by Lovat, Dickson &Thompson Limited, and
in the United States by Scribner's, under the title Sajo and the
Beaver People, 1935; Tales of an Empty Cabin, published in London
by Lovat, 1936;
The Tree, published in London by Lovat, originally
one of the short stories in Tales of an Empty Cabin, 1937. Numerous
magazine articles and several documentary films (see below). Some
of Grey Owl's books, and books written about him, are available at Amazon.com. Sir Richard Attenborough's 1999 Grey Owl movie, starring Pierce Brosnan, is available on VHS and DVD.
- Biographies: From the Land of the Shadows: The Making of Grey Owl, by Donald
B. Smith, first published in Saskatoon by Western Producer Prairie Books,
1990 (the definitive biography of Grey Owl, includes an extensive
bibliography of articles, films, interviews, archival material
and other resources); Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl,
by Anahareo, published in Toronto by New Press, 1972;
Grey Owl: The Many Faces of Archie Belaney, by Jane O. Billinghurst,
published by Greystone, 1999; Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney, by Armand G. Ruffo, 1997; Wilderness Man: The Amazing
True Story of Grey Owl, by Lovat Dickson, MacMillan Canada, 1999.
We invite you to read our popular feature article
for a more in-depth story about this most compelling man. The tale
begins in the present, on the trail to Grey
Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.
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