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William R. Bird was born in East Mapleton, N.S. on May 11, 1891. Born into poverty, he moved to the Canadian Prairies to help harvest crops as a teenager. In 1914, he enlisted in the Canadian Army and served in the trenches with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (42nd Battalion, Black Watch of Canada) in France and Belgium until 1918. Upon demobilization in 1919, he returned to Cumberland County, N.S, where he married Ethel Sutton with whom he had two children, Stephen and Betty. After a failed general store venture in Southampton, he moved to Amherst with his family and worked at the Post Office. Winning a story-writing contest in the early 1920s and a love of writing prompted him by 1928 to try making his living by writing. Bird's stories were widely accepted by magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Maritime Advocate, Toronto Star Weekly, Family Herald and Weekly Star and his first monograph, A Century at Chignecto, was published in 1928. During the 1930s, Bird lectured widely across Canada, and in 1933 he joined the staff of the recently established Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau. For the next thirty-three years, he worked in various capacities for the Nova Scotia government. In 1938, he and his family moved to Halifax where he served as Chairman of the Historic Sites and Monuments Advisory Council until his retirement in 1966. Bird died on January 28, 1984.
In 1949 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Mount Allison University. He published roughly 25 books and 600 short stories, for which he garnered acclaim for his historical fiction and war stories. Although Bird wrote on many subjects, he was continually fascinated by the early settlers of Nova Scotia and wrote many stories and novels on the topic. His experience during the First World War also became inspiration for much of his work. He twice won the Ryerson All Canada Award for Fiction and served as president of the Canadian Author's Association.