February, 2023

Och – Looks like it’s working! Guid.

Hellllooo … It’s me. Aggie.

Since last time, my heid’s been fair muddled for what t’ say next but I woke this morning gey excited t’ be back talking in t’ this microphone. Whoever would’ve thought?

I think I left off at being stowed with three weans an’ nae even considering a move … but I’ll ne’er rid my brain of that New Year’s Day, 1910.

I’ll just say things as they come t’ mynd.

After a long nicht toasting Hogmanay an’ singing Auld Lang Syne ’til my heid was fair t’ burst, by mid-day next, John an’ his pal were deep in t’ their cups again. Both talking muckle about nothing ever changing. Too many people an’ not enough opportunity. Pete raving mad trying t’ sway John on adventure ‘n’ free land shored in Canada.

There I was, cooking up a nice steak bridie for tea n’ having t’ hear ’em go on ‘n’ on. Getting louder ‘n’ louder. Drunken fools! Guid thing th’ weans weren’t in the room. I was fair steaming an’ cuid nae take it.

“John Campbell, yer a stationer’s assistant. Nae a farmer.” I shook my spurtle at ’em both. “You’d nae ken what to do with free land if it bit you in th’ behind. And over th’ Atlantic Ocean no less!”

Aye, dosh was tight. Work scarce for lots o’ folks. But me objecting only fed their enthusiasm, so I took the picture of golden wheat fields, 160 Acres Free it said, tossed it in t’ the stove an’ left them t’ their drunken devices.

Heaven ken what they all got up to every Friday night at auld Christie’s Pub, but’ if John an’ all those mukkers o’ his weren’t in cahoots! First Pete with his pamphlets, pictures, an’ blather o’ immigration agents. Then Robbie, John’s best mate from school who was handy with a hammer an’ had gone ahead to check things oot. He’d got wind o’ a printing business, Douglas Company Ltd., an’ sent word t’ John. Said it was a sure thing. Nae Halifax or another city on the Atlantic coast. Or even a wee distance inland like Montreal or Toronto. But Edmonton, o’ all places. Three-quarters of the way o’er th’ country!

By then, my atlas opened automatically t’ Canada. I knew it by heart but still held my breath. All that land, an’ so far from home, in the cold snowy prairies. But John was determined for something better.

“It’s an opportunity, Aggie. An adventure. Think of th’ space, th’ fresh air for the weans. I’ll find us our own crakin’ house, with trees an’ a garden.” He took photies o’ me ‘n’ th’ bairns t’ carry with him, an’ by April, he was gone, carving us a fresh life.

L to R: Jean, Lily, Colin

1910, Perth, Scotland

I knew passage would be dear so packed up our things an’ moved with the bairns to Mother ‘n’ Da’s. The house was already full with Stuart an’ her guidman living there so th’ girls an’ I crowded into the back room an’ Colin took the chesterfield. They loved being with their Nana ‘n’ Papa, especially Colin who missed his da terribly. Cried himself t’ sleep every night for a week. I missed John something fierce m’self, but my own tears got saved ’til nicht when the weans were asleep an’ the house wheesht.

If I was t’ pay our way an’ still put by any dosh I needed t’ keep taking in laundry. There wasn’t much space t’ work an’ I tried solid t’ keep out of Mum’s way. Except, with all those starched collars ‘n’ cuffs needing space t’ dry, I cuidnae help try her patience. But somehow, we managed to dance around each other an’ keep our swords in their scabbards.

It felt like forever, but John’s first letter came in June with a bit o’ dosh tucked inside. Canadian bills he said I’d need for the trip an’ he’d send more when he cuid. He said he’d found a clean room for himself with a hot meal every night an’ that Edmonton was booming mad. Roads going in and buildings going up faster than he cuid ever imagine. “Pack our things,” he said, an’ book yer passage for next spring. Yer aff t’ love it here but ye don’t want t’ be arriving in th’ winter.”

Next spring?  A stowed oot year’s separation. My heart felt lost ‘n’ heavy for a minute but I spied Jean ‘n’ Lily playing with Rex, Da’s spaniel, in the neuk of the cramped bedroom and gave it a thought. Maybe it would work.

An’ give John time enough t’ find the bonny cottage he promised me.


Agnes Rankin Campbell, 1910

I’ve loads t’ mind ‘n’ mull before goin’ on, so I’ll stop for now.

Look at me workin’ a computer all by m’self. Whit else kin this thing do?

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