McCallum, William (1875-1947)

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McCallum, William (1875-1947)

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William (Bill) McCallum was born the 8 of December 1875 on Brion Island in the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Only two houses were on the island. The first one was the house of William Dingwell, grandfather of Bill McCallum. The second one was owned by Bill’s father, Singleton McCallum. The father and grandfather were lighthouse keepers.
When he was young, Bill was in an accident and injured his right leg. The injury became infected and his father called a horse doctor to treat him. To fight the infection the doctor scraped the femur without anesthetic. After this event his leg bone stopped growing resulting in his right leg being seven inches shorter. He grew to be over six feet tall anyway.
Bill McCallum learned to read, write and play violin by himself. He entertained his family by playing melodic Scottish reels on his violin. Another ability he had, and that gave him his surname of ‘’Glass Man’’: he was able to nail glass. He apparently realized his ability while doing repairs at a fish cannery on the island.
He arrived in the Eastern Townships in 1921 and he went to live with his brother Charles near Randboro. He opened a cabinetmaker shop in Sawyerville in which he repaired and made furniture. He was rapidly recognized for his talent as a woodworker and carpenter. He was also known for his ability to nail glass in various ways. He would sign his furniture by nailing a small piece of glass on it and nailing beer bottles to telephone poles. However, he wasn’t a showman, only using his ability to impress when he wanted. He refused all kinds of payment because he thought it would make his ability disappear. He used to say that his ability was given by devil’s elves or God’s elves, depending on the day. His niece Wilma McCallum Knopp was impressed with her uncle. She said that sometimes, if he was holding her arm or shoulder, she was able to nail glass, too.
Bill McCallum was a fan of Jack Dempsey, world heavyweight boxing champion from 1919 to 1926. He met Dempsey once in New York. Overall, he lived a lowkey life and was never married. He died the 1 of January 1947 and was buried at the Maple Leaf Cemetery in Randboro.


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