Much thanks to Michael for directing us to Looking for a Place to Happen, a site that explains the Canadian stories behind Tragically Hip songs. If you ever need more proof that this group is Canada’s House Band™, this is it. Here’s a sample.
Though the enigmatic title is believed to refer to Trois-Pistoles, Québec, the song “Three Pistols” tells the legend of Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s most influential and popular artists. Thomson’s work served as the template for the Group of Seven. The circumstances surrounding his death in Algonquin Park in 1917 have been shrouded in myth and mystery for a century.
The song prominently references Thomson’s fiancée, Winnie Trainor — his “bride of the northern woods” — who lived in a cottage on Canoe Lake, not far from the site that was purported to be Thomson’s grave. She would visit the spot regularly and whenever she found flowers left by mournful campers or respectful pilgrims she would sweep them aside to keep the ground clear.
“Little girls come on Remembrance Day
Placing flowers on his grave
She waits in the shadows ’til after dark
Just to sweep ’em all away”
Thomson came from a family of devoted naturalists (an older cousin was director of the Biological Department of what is now the Royal Ontario Museum). He was so dedicated to capturing his interpretation of the natural elements that he is said to have stood outside painting in the midst of a snowstorm, and to have kept his hands warm enough to paint, even though the rest of his body would shake.