“Hellooo … Aggie here again.

I dinnae ken why I get so anxious every time I caber in t’ this thing. It’s nae pernicketie if I follow th’ steps.

Och – what’s this? A crakin’ pot o’ tea an’ hot scones – with clotted cream ‘n’ strawberry jeely?  That lass knows me well. I’ll just get m’self settled here…

… A’richt, now. Where did I leave off?

Aye. That lang year planning an’ waiting for our shift t’ Canada…

Every night before bed I’d look at th’ photie of John, dapper an’ braw in his suit. Most times I’d tell him I missed him an’ cuidnae wait t’ be with him again. T’ have our wee family reunited. But on days I struggled with th’ bairns, had a row with Mother, or worked m’self t’ exhaustion, he’d get a solid piece o’ my mynd t’ be sure.

Ye’d better ken what you’re about way out there in Edmonton, John Campbell. Nothin’ less than a braw warm cottage waitin’ for us ’ll do. I didnae marry ye just for your looks, ye ken. Ye ‘n’ your smooth blether, all your plans and schemes. This is th’ last o’ it, I promise ye that.”

There was so much t’ do, my heid ne’er stopped buzzin’. I spent a guid month or more packing up th’ most household goods I cuid fit in th’ 10 cubic foot crate included in our passage. ‘Tis a braw line between what’s ‘necessary’ an’ ‘too much’. At 4 pence for every cubic foot over, I had t’ be canny.

Things I knew we’d need like clothes, pots, dishes, linens ‘n’ blankets seemed easy enough ’til I saw how much space they took. An’ some things I knew I cuidnae leave behind. Wedding treasures like my silver teapot, fine china cups ‘n’ saucers, brass candle holders, an’ ceramic fireplace dugs. An’ of course, photies o’ my family. What if I forgot what they looked like? But I thought about th’ freezing winters an’ with no idea what I’d find when we got t’ Edmonton, I decided spending an extra 80p was worth puttin’ my mynd at ease.

Finally, thirteen months after John left, ’twas time t’ get Colin home from Lossimouth. With over two weeks o’ travel ahead, I was nae keen on takin’ th’ train t’ get him but I knew a trip t’ Perth wuid be pernicketie for John’s folks, Catherine ‘n’ Colin. Nae just that runnin’ a fishing boat kept John’s da stowed. They’d only travelled there but once since th’ tragedy.

Their own sweet Lily, John’s favourite sister, workin’ as a nursemaid in our very own county just t’ be near us, dyin’ of appendicitis when she was 16. Only five months before Jean was born. An’ John havin’ t’ sign th’ papers arranging t’ send her home near broke him. ’Twas only after our Lily, her namesake, came along that his mum an’ da rode th’ train out t’ Perth.

I feared my in-laws wuid refuse t’ make th’ trip with my wee laddie but t’ my relief, they were happy t’ do it, saying their visit wuid make for a proper family goodbye.

Och – I’d missed my wee Colin. My heart was duin t’ burst when he came runnin’ in so proud t’ show me th’ newspaper clippin’ from almost a year earlier, with th’ listing of passengers arrivin’ in Lossiemouth. Like th’ one I saved from our trip out when he was a baby.
“This time they put my name in, Mummy.” Maybe he thought havin’ our names printed like that made us famous.

How I laughed when he reminded me o’ th’ day he’d overheard John an’ his mukkers talking in th’ front room back when that’s all it was. Blather. Colin askin’ me what we’d do with free land. An’ how much free land was there?
He said he didnae want t’ live on a farm with cows, sheep, ‘n’ chickens. That he didnae want t’ feed animals or wash up after ’em. Or wash dead chickens like he’s seen me do with th’ kill from his da’s huntin’ trips – grabbin’ the bird by its feet an’ plunging it in t’ boiling water, plucking out all the feathers an’ slicing it open t’ remove th’ insides.  I didnae think he took me seriously when I’d teased him about giving him th’ hackit task. I ken as well as anybody, th’ laddie wuid rather be paintin’ pictures.

The day before we were t’ begin our journey, John’s folks left for home. Everything was packed an’ duin. The bairns ‘n’ me, all four bathed ‘n’ clean, our guid clothes set out. While Jean ‘n’ Lily napped, I eased my nerves by darnin’ holes in Da’s work socks an’ turned my heid t’ Colin runnin’ the bonnie blue boat his papa carved for him along the front-room rug. He’d named his toy S.S. Numidian, identical t’ th’ ship we’d be sailing’ on. Th’ laddie hadn’t stopped talking about the trip an’ seein’ his da again since he arrived back from Lossiemouth.

But right then I needed t’ be certain he knew what t’ do once we left for Canada.
“Come ’ere, lad.” I set my mending in th’ basket. “You’re a smart yin but let’s go through it again.”
“I ken Mummy. I ken.” He clutched his boat t’ his chest and stood beside my chair. “If a’body asks how old I am, I’m nae seven. I’m six. An’ th’ identicle for Jean. She’s three, nae four. An’ Lily is two, nae three.”
“Well done laddie, an’ don’t ye forget it. All in all, ’tis best t’ keep wheesht and nae say anythin’.” I gave him a hug. “It’s a guid thing you and your sisters are all wee like your da. Now go fetch Jean from her nap so I can test her again.” 

T’ be sure, Lily was my biggest concern for th’ long trip ahead with no way of explainin’ it t’ her outside a few photies of trains ‘n’ ships. She was just Lily. Sweet ‘n’ funny, with a fiery-hot temper when she wanted somethin’ I cuidnae ken. Maybe ’twas being so close in age, but Jean had a knack – as if she cuid read Lily’s thoughts – an’ made it natural t’ be takin’ care o’ her.

I was nae concerned about Jean. She ‘n’ her brother both understood that claiming Lily was only two would explain her lack o’ speech. We cuidnae risk being turned away from Canada because the lassie was deaf. They’d nae find anythin’ physically defective about my wee girl. She just cuidnae hear.   

Earlier in th’ week, when we all four had watched the wagon drive off with our crates, I felt like I’d signed away my life. In the morning it’d be me ‘n’ the weans getting ready for the train t’ Glasgow. My tummy sat heavy, like I’d swallowed a kist of leid weights. Sailing o’er the Atlantic on my own with three bairns was nae something I’d ever pictured for m’self.

I hope I’m nae havering on an’ boring ye with my story, but th’ more I think, the more comes t’ mynd.

 Now, I’ve given as guid an answer as anyone’ll get from me for the question “Why did I move t’ Canada?” I see th’ next thing that great granddaughter o’ mine is askin’ is “What was the trip like?” If she wants more than ‘bloody hell’ for an answer, I’ll be givin’ it some thought.

That cuid take some time.

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