Arctic Twilight


Leonard Budgell saw the Canadian North like nobody else. He put his observations into words as few others ever could.

As a "Servant of the Bay" Budgell ran Hudson’s Bay Company trading posts for decades in isolated communities up the Labrador coast and across the Arctic. Living among aboriginal Canadians he witnessed episodes and heard stories that would never again be repeated - except he wrote them down. His pen memorably portrays everything from dancing northern lights and hunting practices of birds to astonishing human adventures and predicaments.

Northern ways intact for centuries changed with rifles and motorboats, radios and electric generators, new foods and different medicines. Most often, it was Budgell who bridged the aboriginal and southern cultures, building and operating remote radio stations at places like Hebron, taking an RCMP officer into a settlement where a choice had to be made between two different codes of law and behaviour in a murder case. In Arctic Twilight, Budgell chronicles, in an outpouring of letters to a much younger female friend, a traditional way of life that was changing forever.

Claudia Coutu Radmore, a teacher, writer, and artist, first met Len Budgell in Winnipeg when she was a fine arts student and he had retired from the Company. Their friendship grew stronger when he began writing remarkable letters after she returned to Queen’s University. Now edited and organized by her, this unique memoir is available to the public for the first time.


"Len Budgell's letters are one of the greatest legacies anyone could have left Canada and its people. With incredible insight and sensitivity he painted a remarkable picture, particularly of the aboriginal peoples of the Canadian north and their humanity."

"Over the years I've become so jaded by manuscripts that have come my way, even by those on the verge of being published. In Arctic Twilight I surely wasn't expecting to find (a) excellent writing, (b) subjects that touched me directly, or (c) glimpses of simple, unaffected, literary genius. But all three are here, in abundance."

author of The Molsons: Their Lives and Times

"Leonard Budgell - Arctic adventurer, radio and naval expert, fur trader, raconteur, life-long "Servant of the Bay," and a whole lot more - provides an illuminating portrait of life in the changing Canadian North during much of the twentieth century."

About the Authors

Leonard Budgell

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Leonard Budgell

Leonard Budgell was born in 1917 in the remote Labrador settlement of North West River and grew up 80 miles to the east in Rigolet, where his father managed the Hudson's Bay Company trading post. Officially joining the Company himself in 1935, Len remained a "Servant of the Bay" until his retirement in 1982. He and his wife, Muriel, whom he met when she went to Labrador as a nurse, raised a family of four. Len Budgell died in 2000.

Claudia Coutu Radmore

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Claudia Coutu Radmore

Claudia Coutu Radmore is a Montrealer who writes and paints in Carleton Place, Ontario. A former teacher who has taught in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and China, Claudia trained teachers in the South Pacific for three years. Her first publication was a pre-school manual in Bislama, one of the national languages of Vanuatu.