Thursday 20 November 2014

The Life of an Early Seminarian: Work Hard and Play Hard

In the mail we recently received an amazing gift: a collection of photographs belonging to longtime Toronto priest Monsignor James McCulley Clair. They had been in possession of his niece.

Monsignor Clair was born in Cayuga, Ontario. He attended St. Augustine's Seminary from 1915-1921. After he was ordained, he served as a diocesan priest. From 1925 - 1938 he served as Chancellor and Secretary to the Archbishop. From 1938 until his retirement he served as Dean of Barrie.

Included in Monsignor Clair's collection were albums containing photos of life as a seminarian. The photos reveal a heartwarming sense of camaraderie among the young priests-to-be. It is apparent that they are great friends during times of study, times of labour and during times of recreation. 

At the time, St. Augustine's was practically in the middle of nowhere. They farmed the land, and used the space for a variety of other activities. They also had access to Lake Ontario and the Scarborough Bluffs. They were able to spend a lot of time outdoors year round.  

Below are just a few of the photos in the collection. They capture the essence of the era, and elicit a certain nostalgia for a time when instead of being distracted by television, smartphones, computers, and video games, people interacted with each other. 

Presqu'isle - Preparing Breakfast
Playing cards.... I wonder what game? Is that allowed for seminarians?
Lunchtime in the Sugar Camp

The Rival Company & their camp

Hockey was as popular a pastime in the early part of the century as it is today.

Can you imagine a plane landing at the seminary now?

Ready to weigh anchor for Montreal.

Orchestra - St. Augustine's Seminary

Fancy a game of tennis?


  1. Do your records state where Monsignor Clair worked in the years prior to coming to Barrie?

    Mariane Cancilla

    1. Hi Mariane,

      Monsignor Clair served in St. Columbkille's Parish, Orillia, St. Cecilia's Parish, Toronto, St. Leo's Parish, Etobicoke, and St. Joseph's Parish, Toronto, all as Associate Pastor. He also served as Chancellor and Secretary to the Archbishop. He was Pastor at St. Mary's Barrie from 1938-1969. He was also the Dean of Barrie, and later the Dean of Simcoe.

      Thanks for reading!