By Kes Murray, Registrar
As we continue our journey into Black History Month, we here at the Oshawa Museum are celebrating the incredible legacy of many Black Canadians in our community. One such notable Black Canadian on our radar is Dr. George Blake.
Dr. Blake was born in 1922 on Green Island, Jamaica. At age 18, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in England and was stationed as a meteorologist in Northern Scotland. After the war, Dr. Blake worked as a government clerk in London, England. During this time, he read a book on Buddhism and decided to change his life’s path. He studied and became a samanera (novice monk) at the Sinhalese Centre in London. He received his full ordination as a Theravadan Buddhist Monk at the Wat Paknam Temple in Bangkok, Thailand in 1956.
From here, he attended the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a degree in psychology, and eventually becoming a clinical psychologist. Moving to Whitby in 1966, Dr. Blake worked at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital (today’s Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences) and later founded the Pinewood Centre for Addiction.
Along with Dr. Blake’s work in psychology, he was also an incredible storyteller. Dr. Blake founded the Durham Folklore Society in September 1990. As well, he was an original founder of the Storytellers of Canada. I believe his love of storytelling came from his incredible life journey, originating in the Caribbean, to Thailand, to his clinical work.
Dr. Blake not only told stories, he collected them too. From the Caribbean, to West Africa, to India, to Germany, no story was outside his grasp.
Beginning in mid-January and ending some weeks ago, I digitized the incredible stories Dr. Blake told. Dr. Blake recorded himself telling stories over fifty-six cassette tapes. As I’m sure you are well aware of by now, the range of stories is immense, from stories of the mischievous Anancy, a character in Caribbean folklore, to Jataka tales, or stories of the Buddha. All these stories reflect the incredible life Dr. Blake lived and, foremost, his knowledge and passion for storytelling.
While Dr. Blake is no longer with us, his stories and his achievements continue to reflect the incredible person he was. As with many of his stories, I would like to end this post with a phrase Dr. Blake uses to end many of his stories.
“Step on a pin, the pin will bend, and that’s the way the story ends.”
Information gathered from:
Oshawa Museum Archival collection, accession number: A022.1.1-3