Molly Critchley (1925-2019)

  • An artist’s eye: teacher, artist and author Molly Trapnell Simmons Critchley, was originally from Nova Scotia (Photograph supplied)

An artist and author who lived in Bermuda for decades and whose chronicles of her childhood became bestsellers in her homeland of Canada has died.

Molly Critchley was 93. Ms Critchley, born and raised in Nova Scotia, lived for three decades in Bermuda, teaching art at the former Robert Crawford School for boys as well as Warwick Academy.

Ms Critchley was also a prolific artist and produced hundreds of canvasses in oils, water colours and acrylics.

Her work was exhibited in galleries in Bermuda, North America, the UK and Europe. She was a founding member of the Bermuda Society of the Arts.

Wendy Davis Johnson, her daughter, said her mother had “a joy for living that never abated, she was a joyous human being”.

Ms Critchley studied fine arts at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, where she met Bermudian student David Critchley.

Ms Davis Johnson said the two, who married in December 1948, were “a study in contrasts”.

She added: “My father had a sense of social justice and a commitment to righting wrongs.

“My mother was not political — she experienced the world through an artist’s eyes.”

Mr Critchley, a former health and social services permanent secretary, died in 1993.

He returned to Bermuda with his wife in 1951 after he completed a master’s degree in social work at the University of Toronto.

Wendy was born in 1952 in Bermuda and Beth, Spencer and Owen were born after the family returned to Canada in 1953.

Mr Critchley contributed to Bermuda’s desegregation and Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. He wrote a treatise, An Analysis of Bermuda’s Social Ills, that was circulated in the build-up to the Theatre Boycott of 1959.

Ms Davis Johnson said: “My mother supported my father all his life in his fight for social justice.”

The family returned to Bermuda in 1972.

Ms Critchley wrote and illustrated two books inspired by her memories of childhood.

A Victorian Nova Scotia Christmas, published in 1994, was a bestseller in Canada.

She told the Mid-Ocean News in 1995: “What appeals to people are the watercolour illustrations which capture that era in the 1930s when life was at a slower pace and people had the time for everything and everybody.”

Her memoir was followed by Childhood Then in 2001.

Ms Critchley died on August 8 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Her family said a private service would be held and that she would be buried beside her husband in Northport Cemetery, Northport, Nova Scotia.

Donations in her memory can be made to the Children’s Art Education programme at Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick.