The House That Mack Built

Paul Lappin

As much as I aspire to have an ever simpler lifestyle I will probably never live below a certain level of comfort. But the story behind the owner of this old wooden house, which I stumbled across while hiking in the Comox Valley recently, is pretty inspirational.

Hamilton Mack Laing was born in Ontario, Canada in 1883. By his late teens he was a teacher at a local school and soon became a keen observer of nature. He gained an art diploma in New York and after graduating he bought one of the first ever motorcycles. He then spent the next few years exploring America, studying wildlife, drawing and writing as he travelled. He arrived to Vancouver Island in 1922, and after coming across a forest clearing overlooking the Comox Harbour he built the very house I was looking at. He lived out the remainder of his 99 years here with his wife Ethel, living off the land, studying the nature around him, and recording his findings in detailed paintings, drawings and photographs which are still used by museums around the world to this today.

On a nearby plaque there is a quote by Henry Thoreau which reads, “Simplify. Don’t waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don’t burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don’t fritter away your life on non-essentials. Don’t enslave yourself for luxuries. A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can do without. Beware of all the enterprises that require new clothes. Live in the present, enjoy the present. Simplify your life. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

What a wonderful legacy. I think Mack Laing and I would have got along very well indeed.

BaybrookCampLaing in front of first f fire at new home - Baybrook, Oct 11 1923-2Laing with spring salmon April 26, 1929Riding motorbike in desert 1915 - climbing bank (Laing)IMG_3723

2 thoughts on “The House That Mack Built”

  1. Zofia Cartlidge
     ·  Reply

    Paul, I clicked through to your website from Bristol Creatives. Your sketches are brilliant. Such a lovely record of life!

    • Paul Lappin
       ·  Reply

      Thanks Zofia!

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