Lindsay Mattick is the author of Finding Winnie, a new picture book which explores her family’s unique connection to the world’s most famous bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. Born in Winnipeg, Lindsay spent her summer days collecting lucky stones on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, finding adventures in her red wagon. As the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn, Lindsay grew up thinking of Winnie as her own ‘great-grandbear’. She has shared her family’s story as a radio documentary, spearheaded an original exhibition, and participated in Canada’s National Arts Council UK tour to commemorate WWI. After working in public relations for over a decade crafting other peoples stories, Lindsay is very excited to share one of her own. Today, she is likely still found with sand between her toes on the beaches of Toronto, her son Cole in tow, in his own Radio Flyer. Finding Winnie is Lindsay’s latest adventure and proof that dreams come true.
A Personal Essay by Lindsay Mattick as Featured in the Remembering the Real Winnie Exhibition Brochure: Harry Colebourn and My “Great-Grand-Bear” Winnie
I was twelve years old when, along with my brother and six cousins, I unveiled a ten-foot-tall bronze statue of my great-grandfather, Harry Colebourn, and his now famous pet bear, Winnie. I never met Harry—he died decades before I was born— but on that beautiful August day in Winnipeg, I felt the significance of seeing him honoured in such a way.
My family’s connection to the real black bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the- Pooh stories has always fascinated me, but the reasons it captivates my attention continue to grow and shift.
As a child, I was fond of referring to Winnie as my “great-grand-bear.” When word spread that I was “related to Winnie,” the requests for explanation inevitably flowed. Whether I share the story with a room full of children, or a cocktail party full of adults, one thing remains true: it captures imaginations.
As a teenager interested in history, I was intrigued that Harry would be so boldand optimistic as to buy a bear on his way to war. That simple act said something significant about his character, but also about the war—and how those leaving to fight in it knew so little of its eventual realities.
As a journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, I reflected on my grandfather Fred, Harry’s son, and his tireless efforts to uncover and document the facts of his father’s story. I thought about the explosion of Winnie-the-Pooh’s popularity among children and within international media circles, and how charming it was for the world to learn that the inspiration for one of the most beloved tales of all time was an equally heartwarming, authentic Canadian story.
And finally, as a professional with a love of storytelling, I knew that one day I would need to convey this magical history to my own child in a way that captured its full meaning and relevance. A new children’s book, to be published in Fall 2015, will bring Winnie’s origin story to a whole new generation.
My hope for this jewel-like exhibition, and the interactive websites offering access to our original archive, is that people will feel as inspired by the heart of this story as I have. These resources serve as profound reminders that one can never truly know the impact that a small, loving gesture can have in this world.