Brendan Collins is an antique lover from Placentia, NL. He was looking through classified ads when he came across an ad for a circular portrait photo.
It instantly struck him as odd that something so personal would have ever been sold in the first place.
“I couldn’t understand why this was even for sale. Why would anybody sell an antique photo to an antique dealer?” he said.
A Digby connection
He saw the picture in person and was transfixed by the round, bubble glass portrait of a First World War soldier and bought it for $150.
When he inspected the photo further, he saw a number on the portrait: 8359. He thought it was perhaps the soldier’s service number but soon found it led nowhere.
Collins also asked about the photos origins, but the antique dealer couldn’t recall where he’d found it.
The only concrete information Collins found was an address the portrait had: a Mrs. M.J. Nichols in Digby, Nova Scotia.
Searching for clues
He began his search for the soldier’s family by submitting a letter to the editor at the Telegram, asking if anyone recognized the soldier in the photo.
He also contacted the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, who believe the soldier was a member of the Windsor regiment in Nova Scotia.
The Archives confirmed there were a total of 201 men named Nichols in service during the war – a large number to sort through.
“The one concrete piece of information is that this soldier seems to be from Nova Scotia. I searched the last name and found a few people in the Acaciaville, which felt promising,” said Collins.
A close call
He found records confirmed a William Nichols from Acaciaville who’d served and contacted his daughter, who felt certain the soldier was her father.
Upon seeing the photo, she confirmed he wasn’t. She sent a photo of her father to Collins, who drew the same conclusion.
“For a second it felt like the mystery was solved, but now we’re almost back to square one. I’d like to find his family and return him to them,” he said.
“Why it ended up here in Newfoundland? I have no idea.”
Sending the soldier home
Collins is still searching for the family of his unknown soldier and hopes getting the word out in Digby County, where the portrait was originally addressed to, may solve his mystery.
“I want to give this man back his name and also to give him back to his family.”
“The money doesn’t matter to me. I just want to send him home.”