Martine Chartrand / Photo : Caroline Hayeur
Martine Chartrand
Artiste visuelle - cinéaste / Visual Artist - FilmMaker
Filmographie / Filmography : MacPherson  |  Âme noire/Black Soul  |  T.V. Tango
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Frank Randolph Macpherson was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 18, 1897. He graduated from Wolmer’s School, Jamaica’s most prestigious school (founded in 1729). On March 20, 1917, he arrived in New York City and from there travelled on to his ultimate destination: Montreal. In 1919, he was admitted to McGill University, graduating in 1924. He immediately began working for the Wayagamack Pulp and Paper Company as a chemical engineer. From 1924 to 1932 he lived in Trois-Rivières, and then moved to Sainte-Marthe-du-Cap. Félix Leclerc was born in La Tuque, Quebec, on August 2, 1914, into a family that would eventually grow to include 11 children. After abandoning his studies in Ottawa due to the Depression, he returned to live with his family in Sainte-Marthe-du-Cap in 1932, the year he met and befriended Frank Randolph Macpherson. The engineer went on to become a friend of the entire family, and through his habit of reading and telling Leclerc stories of his trips, he encouraged the young poet to leave his land and travel to know the world. Félix composed the song “MacPherson” in 1948. The singer/songwriter/poet left Quebec for France in November 1950. He gave his first show at the ABC on December 22 of the same year. The French public recognized his great talent, and he went on to earn the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles-Cros in 1951. Félix then toured France, parts of Europe and the Middle East. Macpherson died suddenly, possibly due to a heart attack, during a winter storm in early February 1951.

Le calepin d’un flâneur
Éditions FIDES 1961
Bibliothèque québécoise

In Le calepin d’un flâneur, published in 1961 by Éditions Fides, Félix wrote these words about Frank Randolph Macpherson:

MacPhersen, ONF-NFBMy First Friend :
He would come on Sunday night with a book of Schubert’s music. Shyly he would ask my sister to sit at the piano. He sat behind her, keeping time as if to chase away the sad hours of the week. Afterwards, refreshed, he would pick up his music and depart, bowing deeply to my sister while keeping as great a distance as possible between them, since he was a black man. He baked his own bread, kept a small lemon tree from his native country in a pot near the stove and sometimes ate rose petals in warm honey. He was also a learned man. The chemical plant where he worked was indebted to him for his many discoveries. He strove for no greater glory than permission to live. He foretold the fall of all those who are fanatically calling men to arms under any flag. No violence was to be found in his home—no weapons, no locks, no fences, no whips. My mother loved him like a son. – She have always a smiling chair for me, he said of her. On Sundays, he would bring his home-baked bread in exchange for a few hours of music. He had sown some soybeans from his country in one of his fields. One night they were destroyed by errant livestock. I visited him after mass on Sundays. Once, my mother came along to see his small lemon tree. – She is a queen, your mother. How is the queen today? One day, the queen was no more. His grief was as great and deep as our own—something that greatly affected my father. Later, as I became a man, I left for faraway places. A letter from home told me of his death. He froze to death in a February storm, sitting at the table. His meal sat frozen on the plate, a white towel around his neck. It was my brother who found him after the storm. Not having seen him come along the path for three days, he went to see: no footprints on the porch, lights blazing in the middle of the day. He pushed the door open and saw him sitting at the table. A small goat was still alive on his lap. His dog lay dead at his feet, as hard as rock. From the big city a small truck came and took him away in a box. There were no church bells, no flowers; only tears from the one who played Schubert. We gathered up and shared his belongings, as those of Christ had once been gathered. Oh, faraway brilliant stars!

Félix Leclerc
Paris, December 1959

Filmographie / Filmography : MacPherson  |  Âme noire/Black Soul  |  T.V. Tango