Thomas Widd's Lost Story

The Lost Stories project collects little known stories about the Canadian past from across the country. For the initial episode, a call was put out to Montrealers using a wide array of media. We received roughly forty story proposals, but the clear winner was that of Thomas Widd, a deaf man who was the founder in the late-nineteenth century of Montreal's Mackay School for the Deaf. We received the story from Janet McConnell, a retired teacher at the school, both of whose parents were deaf (although she is not). When Montreal businessman, Joseph Mackay, provided the land and the money for the school, Widd's name -- and his story -- were literally "lost."

With the involvement of the Montreal deaf community, a number of whom view Widd as a hero, a deaf man who created something significant, Widd's lost story has now been found, thanks to the mural created by the artist Lalie Douglas which was installed on the site of the Mackay School in September 2013. Lalie's creative process has been documented in a 22 minute film produced by Ronald Rudin and directed by Bernar Hébert, which tells Widd's story and documents how Janet and Lalie negotiated the translation of his story into art. The film was selected for and screened at Montreal's Festival International du Film sur l’Art in March 2015.

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The Lost Stories project collects little known stories about the Canadian past from across the country. For the initial episode, a call was put out to Montrealers using a wide array of media. We received roughly forty story proposals, but the clear winner was that of Thomas Widd, a deaf man who was the founder in the late-nineteenth century of Montreal's Mackay School for the Deaf. We received the story from Janet McConnell, a retired teacher at the school, both of whose parents were deaf (although she is not). When Montreal businessman, Joseph Mackay, provided the land and the money for the school, Widd's name -- and his story -- were literally "lost."