Alison Leamy (Snape)’s 1940s era book, The Story of the Lassie an Irish Setter. Jana O’Connor photo

85-year-old author reunited with childhood book penned in Saanich

Renovations at Saanich home turn up 70-year-old handmade book

A Saanich author and grandmother has been reunited with a booklet from her childhood about 72 years after she wrote it.

Alison Leamy isn’t quite sure when exactly she typed The Story of Lassie – an Irish Setter, but believes it was likely around 1945-46.

The 85-year-old was reunited with her book – dedicated to her dog Lassie – on Monday, about a week after contractor Myles Nagasaki discovered the artifact behind some old cabinets in a room of Jana and Seamus O’Connor’s house on Tattersall Drive.

Found this "book" in my 1929-built Saanich house. Anyone know how to find the family of the girl who wrote it?

“We figure it fell from a drawer into the crevice where it was,” Jana said. “It was obviously written by a child [Alison Snape] and we thought maybe she’s still around.”

Jana posted images of the notebook to Reddit (the Victoria section) and within 13 minutes there was a response from Leamy’s granddaughter, Robin Connelly.

“[Turns out] I’m still around,” Leamy joked. The grandmother visited the O’Connors in their home on Monday and explained how she’s been a Leamy most of her life, having married and raised a family. She brought her daughter Sheila Connelly and granddaughter Robin Connelly.

As a youngster, Leamy grew up in the historic 1912 Duke mansion which was later converted into apartments and neighbours the O’Connors’ house (which she also lived in, but later). It’s at the Duke mansion – built by Dr. Valentine Duke – she helped raise Irish setters that had such a great reputation, the assistant of the King of Siam (Thailand) once called to purchase one (but none were available).

One of those setters was Lassie, her own dog and the subject of The Story of Lassie – an Irish Setter. The book, typed on her grandfather’s Corona typewriter, paints a detailed picture of Leamy’s and Lassie’s life in the mid 1940s. Poor Lassie was very beautiful with her red hair but failed to win first prize in a dog show at Crystal Gardens, sometime in the mid 1940s.

“I don’t know if I wrote the book because I was upset that Lassie didn’t win first or if it was to make Lassie feel better,” Leamy said. “I loved her very much. I recognize the book but I don’t recall writing it.”

At one point there were 16 setter puppies in the Duke mansion, as Lassie and her mom (who was the family’s original setter shipped in from England) had litters at the same time.

Leamy’s grandparents built a smaller house in 1929 that neighbours the Duke mansion. The smaller home was built for Leamy’s aunt and remained in the family until 1977. The O’Connors, a family of five, purchased the home in 2015.

Leamy’s parents later moved into the O’Connor home and stored belongings there, which explains how the book came to be in the O’Connors’ possession. It’s now been returned to its rightful owner.

“It was great to have [Leamy] here,” Jana said. “We toured the house and she showed us what things used to be different.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

Alison Leamy (Snape)’s 1940s era book, The Story of the Lassie an Irish Setter. Jana O’Connor photo Alison Leamy (Snape)’s 1940s era book, The Story of the Lassie an Irish Setter. Jana O’Connor photo

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