Going camping? Don’t forget the book. Candles optional.

“Reading by candlelight is an experience of strange reverence and an equally strange uncertainty. It is how I would like to read in every kind of light.”
~Stuart Kelly, Scottish writer, critic, reviewer

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Anna Brown and Rosemary Gilliat writing and reading by candlelight at a camp near Fraser River, British Columbia. 1954. Source: Library and Archives Canada

Here in Canada, people are packing up their gear and heading to the woods for the long-weekend.

No respectable camper (or in my case – cottager) heads out without a good book. Mine: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, published 1889.

No longer do campers read by candlelight, but these beautiful photos by Rosemary Gilliat are a lovely reminder of a simpler time. Have we lost something with the advent of sophisticated camping gear and gadgets available today?

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Rosemary Gilliat reading in a tent. 1954. Source: Library and Archives Canada

Anna Brown writing in her diary by candlelight at a camp near Fraser River, British Columbia Credit: Rosemary Gilliat Source: Library and Archives Canada
Anna Brown writing in her diary by candlelight at a camp near Fraser River, British Columbia. 1954. Credit: Rosemary Gilliat, Source: Library and Archives Canada

After immigrating from Britain in 1952, Rosemary Gilliat (1919-2004) documented life in Canada (and particularly the North) in the 1950’s and 1960’s. As a freelance photographer, she was widely published in magazines like The Beaver and Macleans, as well as working for the Department of Northern Affairs and the National Film Board. She favored Rolleiflex, Exakta and Pentax cameras. Self-taught, she did her own processing and enlarging of b&w photographs.

These photographs are snippets of Gilliat’s two-month cross-Canada trip with a group of friends in the summer of 1954. Not many amenities along the way in those days — but I love how comfortable they seem, no matter where they rest their head.

Sadly, it looks like rain in my part of the world this weekend. So even more important to bring along some reading material. And rain boots.

What are you reading this summer?

5 comments

  1. Lovely post – and what wonderful photos by Rosemary Gilliat. I’d never come across them before. Thank you for introducing them to me. Like you, we tend to hire cottages for holidays now, but I’ve got wonderful memories of a camping holiday back in 1990, when I sat in the doorway of our tent, reading Gavin Maxwell’s ‘Ring of Bright Water,’ with the mountains of Glencoe looming above me. It was such a magical merging of the landscapes of page and place… Hope you had a lovely weekend reading ‘Three Men in a Boat’. It’s raining here in England too! (My summer reading right now is ‘Adam Bede’ – which I’m absolutely loving…)

    • Your camping experiences sound much more pleasant than mine! But then, Scotland is one of the prettiest places in the world (I studied in Edinburgh for an year…and got to see some of the countryside.) But I do love getting away to our cabin in the woods. It is truly peaceful. Your reads sound interesting, I will take a look for them! Hope it stops raining there soon.

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