I was recently a guest at the MacGillvray Industrial Centre Lofts in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. As my hostess and some friends chatted I repeatedly noticed out of the corner of my eye, a brown haired man walking up and down the length of her apartment. Since my hostess had two grown sons at home I assumed it was one of them. It wasn’t. As the conversation progressed, she turned to me and said, “Is there anyone behind me? I honestly replied, “Not at the moment, no.”
Then the penny dropped. “Oh, you mean the guy who keeps walking up and down the hallway?” I asked. ” Yes, ” she replied, “I have sensed someone, a male walking back and forth since I moved in here. ” A chat with that gentleman in spirit ensued.
Thomas was a warehouse worker for over thirty years. He was among the many laborers who unloaded freight that came in from the port, from all over the world. He showed me the warehouse as it was in the 1830’s with rough scarred dark wood floors and red brick walls. (My hostess confirmed the loft units at the ends of the building boast original red brick walls. Another friend who was there noted we were in the oldest part of New Glasgow.) I saw wooden crates nailed shut and huge bundles of cloth sewn into sail canvas to protect it during shipping. Apparently the warehouse did some trade in spices as well but the textiles were big business. Thomas’s era was a bit later in the 19th Century as he said warehouse workers would “make a bit on the side” prior to The Great War, a common reference to World War I (1914-1918), but the authorities “cracked down” after the war. I think the side business was bootleg booze.
Thomas worked both the warehouse and the docks loading and unloading the ships that came up the river. Sometimes he worked the docks, other times the warehouse. He simply followed the work as it was available. That remains a well established work ethic in Nova Scotia and the rest of the Maritimes along Canada’s eastern coast.
Thomas was a bit coy about his name. He said he was Thomas Timothy, then held back on his last name. He winked at me and asked, “Now would you believe me if I said I was related to the M family who owned the place?” He said the owners in his time has a last name that also started with M but wasn’t the modern MacGillvray name . Subsequent online research showed the warehouse was owned by a McGregor family at one time. I told Thomas he wouldn’t have spent his life lugging cargo if he had been a part of the owner’s family. He laughed in agreement but didn’t tell me his last name.
I asked Thomas why did he still roam the warehouse? He told me as he got older he had been in a retirement home in nearby Stellarton, but didn’t like it there. So after he died he returned to the warehouse. Where he walks in the modern apartment of today was part of his common path taken during decades of warehouse work. My hostess confirmed there had in fact been a mental hospital in Stellarton that was converted to an elder care home about the time Thomas would have ended his working life.
Another friend who was part of the conversation asked if Thomas was cute? The ghost didn’t particularly like that question as he felt it was disrespectful to his late wife. It was the only time he referenced a wife. I think she died many years before Thomas did, probably in early middle age. I didn’t get any sense of children from the marriage. Thomas told my friend she “wasn’t his type.” I had to laugh at such a familiar rejection I might hear today. My friend was none too pleased, but I warned her the dead tend to tell the truth with little varnish. She was lucky he turned her down because if he had decided she was cute in return she would have had a whole different set of problems than a polite refusal from the shade of a man who pre-dated her grandfather.
Lynne Sutherland Olson
(C) 2019. Lynne Sutherland Olson. All rights reserved.