"No stretch of the imagination could credit (this) view to Canada."
- Elizabeth Collard - Canada's pre-eminent expert on 19th century china and earthenware.
"J. Heath (possibly Joseph Heath) was responsible for a fanciful scene entitled on the back of the pieces 'Ontario Lake Scenery.' Presumably he had Lake Ontario in mind when he fixed on the name, for the province was, at that time, known officially as Canada West (and unofficially still called Upper Canada).
"In Heath's completely imaginary version of a Canadian scene, printed generally in light blue, a large, castle-like building stands on one side of the water, and on the other are what some have seen as Indian tepees. Mountains and a waterfall are in the background, figures in the foreground.
"This scene on Heath's earthenware... (are) pseudo-North American pictures. No stretch of the imagination could credit (this) view to Canada... These are... artistic fantasies."
Outrageous really, isn't it?
Why it looks like there are even two waterfalls, a broad one, and behind, a tall stringy one... And look at that house! That Heath certainly had nerve...
Actually Elizabeth is quite - totally, in fact - wrong on all this. And Heath, in far off England, really got it right!
It can happen when scholars spend too much time with books and research, and don't go hike the terrain, or explore the geography, of the areas they are reporting on. It can lead to wrongful - make that fanciful - conclusions.
Great Canadian Insight - Not linking or testing their scholarship to actual sites is a common failing among scholars, who are bookworms in covens by persuasion, not men and women of action in the great outdoors. Canada's two foremost writers on the Boer War wrote major books about the Canadian campaigns of the war in South Africa without ever having been to any of the sites... When I talked to Ron Stagg, Canada's foremost historian on the Rebellions of 1837 in Canada, and tried to draw him out on the actual sites of the Rebellion, some 40 of which I had explored, he confessed, sheepishly, that he had not been to any of them... though he wrote a detailed book - indeed the Bible - on the event.
Who hasn't heard of journalists, who, while drinking whiskey in bars, far from the eyes of the boss, waxing authoritative, and making up stories of remote places they haven't been to, based on second hand - and often wrong - information. Of course we'd never say that about Elizabeth. She only drank tea...
Clearly Elizabeth had never climbed Hamilton Mountain or visited Dundurn Castle.
Actually, in spite of Elizabeth and her fellow naysayers, the tepees shown below are not a bad copy of similar Indian dwelling of the time, featuring cone - not square, or rounded - shaped huts, supported on sticks, which jut out on top.
In fact, George Heriot depicted such Indian tepees, painted from real life below in his rare Travels Through the Canadas of 1807.
Alfred Worsley Holdstock's tepee of c 1880 below also shows another variation.
The entrance way was always a problem with the bark tepee. How to you keep out the wind and bugs and cold when you need a hole to go in and out of constantly?
The solution was often to drape a huge blanket over the hole, supported by long poles, which in the summer, held the blankets high to let cool air in, like Heath's picture above correctly shows.
That can also be seen below in Frederick Verner's c 1880 painting, on the tepee in the foreground.
The tepee in the back already has a large blanket, or canvas covering, in place of much of its bark. Canvas or sheet coverings were far easier to set up, especially when no big bark was locally available.
In time bark tepees were gone completely, replaced entirely by cone-shaped canvas tents on poles, especially on the plains.
Clearly the artist was told of all these variables, and tried to represent the best composite that he could, without seeing pictures himself/herself.
If you are still not convinced, below is a lithograph Matthews published in Montreal in 1849, from a drawing made by James Duncan, a noted artist of the era.
It shows Indians making a birch bark canoe on the Montreal waterfront.
"Artistic fancies" Elizabeth? - The tent in the foreground is a dead ringer for the type of summer shelters favoured by Indians that J Heath included in his plate produced in the same time period.
Excusing the usual artistic license, we believe the Heath artist below mostly got it right, Elizabeth.
And the cone shaped tent of bark or animal skins, on supporting sticks, inside and out, and a flap door, also happens to be the classical definition of a tepee...
Finally Dundurn Castle was built literally only a stone's throw from where Iroquois Chief Joseph Brant had his house built years before.
No doubt Indian tepees had established this as a good place to settle.
Which is why MacNab presumably chose to build here.