The Honourable William John West (1892-1985) is better known as a provincial Minister of Justice and provincial court judge, but he is also an author and artist. His West Brothers Sawmill at Coles Island quickly became one of the highlights of Art Under the Influence. Some were surprised that such a professionally accomplished gentleman had an artistic side while others were intrigued by the painting itself, but perhaps most importantly, the work stimulated so many memories of those who remembered the mill or had heard about it.
William John West was the son of Wesley West and Amelia Small and was born on the West farm at Coles Island. In his youth, West worked on the farm, in the family sawmill, and even clerked at the local country store. During World War I he served with the Canadian Army reaching the rank of Lieutenant. Following the war, West returned to university, graduating from Mount Allison University and Harvard Law before settling into a law career in Fredericton. He married Katherine McMurray, a stenographer from Fredericton, 22 November 1933. Katherine was a gifted musician and artist and they had two daughters, Mary and Barbara. In the 1950s William West entered the political realm, rising to the office of New Brunswick Attorney General from 1952-1958. From there he was appointed a judge of the province and had a distinguished career in New Brunswick courts from behind the bench.
In retirement, the Hon. West wrote, The Wests of Coles Island, a family and community history along with his own autobiography in 1982. William West died in 1985 but his artistic legacy, along with that of his wife, carried into the next generation with his daughter, Mary West becoming one of the leading Canadian artists of the late 20th century. Mary will feature in our next article and is more familiar to audiences as Mary Pratt.