Granny’s Blog VIII

Hello again. It’s Aggie …

            After all these times tuning in ‘n’ talking to ye I will admit to having a guid bit o’ fun pulling up some of my stories to share but am ever so grateful the lass leaves me a list of instructions to get this contraption running each time or I’d likely nae be bothered.

Since I cannae see a single one o’ you, I kin only imagine who ‘you’ are as I keek at this wee screen printing up th’ words right out o’ my mouth. I picture folks on th’ other side sittin’ in their front rooms looking at me on their tellybox. Or since I’m deid an’ no longer anything to keek at, maybe you’re listening to me on th’ radio like we did every nicht back in the old days. ’Tis all a modern-day mystery to me.

Let’s see then. Where was I ….

Och – all that business – gettin’ on t’ boats – getting’ off o’ boats! Enough t’ drive a body mad.

Pier 2 they called it, an’ herded us from th’ ship like cattle straight into a grand, half-empty building. An immigration shed I heard someone say. And nae much more than a shed ’twas. Rough wood floors an’ a few benches where you cuid stop t’ collect yourself between inspection queues.

Th’ medical inspection was first. I didnae ken why my medical card for boarding in Glasgow was nae good enough. If a’ folks were braw getting on t’ th’ ship, what did they think we’d pick up on th’ way over? But th’ doctor in Halifax was thorough, I’ll give him that. He stepped close an’ studied right in t’ our eyes, made us open our mouths an’ cough, checked our pulse an’ even our hands an’ fingernails before stampin’ th’ new card.

In th’ next queue, an overpowering need to ease some worry caused my words to pour out before th’ civil examiner looked up from his papers.

“Is this where I pick up my train voucher?”

“Your name, Ma’m?” He went on with his inspection as if I’d said nothing. Th’ exam was mostly talking an’ reviewing the answers I’d already given before we left Glasgow. I cuid see my very answers right there, ticked off on th’ manifest list in front o’ him. Where was I going? What did I do? What did my husband do? What was my religion? When he asked me to confirm th’ ages of all four of us, I cuid barely draw a breath. From the corner o’ my eye I saw th’ bairns hold hands an’ nae move as I told th’ agent 26, 6, 3, and 2. But th’ man made a simple check on his paper an’ continued his questions.

My stomach tightened at the final queue where I was to declare an’ show my $10.00 Canadian. I pulled some extra coins from my pocket an’ set ’em beside th’ required dosh to show I had it. All along, I knew th’ dosh was to prove I cuid support myself an’ th’ weans until we reached Edmonton an’ got reunited with their da, but ’twas a laing trip an’ I didnae ken who t’ trust.

Everything was unfamiliar, th’ way folks spoke, th’ way they behaved, even th’ way the air smelled. If they planned to search my clothes ‘n’ my bags an’ found my stash o’ British dosh mixed with my extra Canadian bills sewn in t’ seams an’ tucked in t’ corners for fear o’ thieves on th’ ship, what wuid I do? I didnae think they’d take it all away but feared I cuid well be wrong.
“This is your official immigration card. You’ll need to keep it safe for three years and show it any time a government official asks, or you could be sent back to Scotland. Present it to the ticket agent downstairs for your train voucher.” Th’ inspector checked off my name, signed his document an’ stamped my card. I studied th’ wee piece o’ paper expecting to be relieved finally holding it in my hand but instead I felt an extra knot form in my tummy.
It read: Steerage Inspection Card for Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival in Canada. There was my full name, th’ name of th’ ship I sailed on, where I came from, th’ date I left an’ a signature proving I was vaccination protected. For
passing my medical an’ civil exams in Halifax, two enormous stamps dated 19 May, 1911 an’ initialed by th’ examiners took up more than half th’ space. I didnae imagine such a wee scrap t’ be so precious.

The officer smiled. “Welcome to Canada, Mrs. Campbell.”

With th’ ship being but half-full an’ a guid number of passengers still headed to Boston, the queues we nae laing and by th’ time th’ bairns ‘n’ I found our way downstairs an’ stepped up to th’ ticket agent, th’ clock had just struck 8:00 pm. At th’ time I supposed ’twas quite reasonable since we’d docked at 6:40 an’ steerage was last to leave th’ boat. The train was scheduled to depart at 10:15 pm so time was nae an issue but it wasn’t ‘til I had that voucher tight in my hand that I cuid begin to breathe. And finally stop to look around.

To get my bearings, I settled us on one of th’ benches filling th’ main room in long rows. ’Twas a but a train station with walls filled with pictures of trains goin’ through trees, over mountains an’ past grand hotels, th’ CPR symbol stamped on nearly every one o’ them.

In one corner of the room I saw a grand booth, its shelves stacked full with blankets, mattresses, pillows ‘n’ berth curtains. My curiosity pulled me to learn they were all available to rent for $1.00 each except the pillows. They wuid cost $.35 each. Mr. Ian Brown, the agaent back in Perth did warn me that frills ‘n’ comforts on th’ train wuid nae exist so I planned ahead with as many shawls, coats, an’ jumpers I cuid fit. As far as anyone knew, I had but $10.00 to my name. Did they think for one moment that I wuid spend a single penny of it to borrow pillows, blankets ‘n’ such for seven days? An outside the main door th’ food being hawked along with pot, pans utensils ‘n’ such were far too dear. The station’s ticket agent had informed me there was a wee stove on the train for preparing meals an’ there wuid be food available from th’ dining car or at stops along th’ way if I cared to pay th’ extra. We’d nae touched our own provisions I’d packed from home aside from th’ bit o’ fudge I’d nibbled to calm my nerves. I calculated how to stretch my tins of dried mutton, oatcakes, cheese ‘n’ shortbread o’er th’ next week. Th’ thought of packing more food, storing it in our berth, an’ standing in laing queues to heat a bit of supper in a pan I had no mind to purchase didnae sit well in my heid. Och – th’ weans an’ I wuid make do just fine.

’Twas th’ telegram wicket in th’ far corner that teased me most. Having th’ weans with me didnae stop me from missing my family but sending John a note was out o’ th’ question just yet. Maybe when we got to a station closer to Edmonton, th’ cost of a message wuidnae be too dear. An’ Perth felt more than a lifetime away. While I cuidnae justify sending a wire to let my folks know we’d arrived safe in Halifax, th’ idea felt too important not to spend a couple o’ pennies on a postcard an’ drop it in the mail.

My mynd was so busy figuring things out, I near forgot about th’ weans until Colin tugged at my arm.

“Mummy, when can we eat?” Th’ poor lad’s peely-walley face ‘n’ heavy eyelids near broke my heart. When I saw Jean ‘n’ Lily leaning on each other, trying to stay awake, I reached into my pocket an’ sifted the coins through my fingers.  

“Och –  luv. There’s a wee dining room richt  through that door. You’ve been a guid lad an’ I think we can manage to find somethin’ nice to eat before we get on th’ train. I know I cuid use a nice hot cuppa tea.”

Och – an’ there ’tis, richt in front of me. A steaming cuppa – with hot crumpets, butter soaking into them ‘n’ a crakin’ dish o’ strawberry jeely. Th’ lass’s timing is pure magic.

I’ll just be off then and soothe my grumbly tummy.

‘Til next time …


Awright – Aggie here again.

I cannae help wonderin’ about th’ lights I keep seein’. Everywhere I turn. In th’ gey middle of th’ nicht, paukit lights keekin’ out from corners, like wee faeries spying on ye. Green ones. Red ones. Och – even th’ light switch has a light.

The lass says it means things are workin’. I suppose with everything runnin’ on electricity th’ logic has some sense, but do they need to keep flickering ‘n’ changing colours?  And why folks need to know th’ tellybox is workin’ while they’re sound asleep is beyond my ken. Maybe modern folk have just grown feart o’ complete darkness.

But I will say that crossing th’ ocean to Halifax, I did appreciate th’ soft light outside our berth at night …

Steerage or not, sailing o’er th’ Atlantic was nae th’ most tricky leg of our journey t’ Edmonton, for certain. Once we found our way around an’ set a rhythm, nae much happened. Th’ days stretched lang, as if th’ ship was being dragged by one o’ th’ wee tugboats I’d seen hauling timber on th’ Clyde back in Glasgow.

Rough waters for a day ‘n’ a half near th’ start did cause a brief seasickness for Jean ‘n’ Lily, an’ they made guid use o’ the bucket hanging inside our berth for a time, but we were lucky. ’Twas over in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Some folks didnae recover from th’ motion sickness for half th’ trip. At least th’ stewards ‘n’ matrons kept a regular clean-up schedule an’ in that stuffy space, I came to appreciate th’ reek of disinfectant.

Being a few years older an’ with such charm, his magic tricks ‘n’ knowin’ so much about th’ ship, Ion was a good distraction for Colin. Once th’ lassies’ tummies settled to th’ rolling motion, they’d sometimes venture to play with other weans in th’ common area but mostly kept close, entertaining themselves with their toy animals an’ Jean’s wee stack o’ books while I knitted. Lily favoured Peter Rabbit an’ wanted to read it over ‘n’ over. So muckle, even Jean wuid lose patience an’ object. But they both well knew that any fussin’ wuid get ‘em sent straight to kip so for th’ most part kept wheesht.

Och – when I think back, I can see Jean was already perfecting that stern-eyed, tongue-rolled-under th’ teeth, crabbit face of hers.


The boat was but half full an’ most passengers stayed outside on th’ top deck th’ entire day for fresh air. But th’ cold wind took away my breath an’ sent a chill through my bones. Every time th’ stewards sent us there to be out of th’ way for clean-up an’ inspection, I’d tuck myself into a protected corner if I cuid find one an’ let th’ weans run ‘n’ stretch their legs, but was aye happy to get back inside.

Folks tended to be pleasant enough but stowed with their own business. Most socializing happened at mealtimes or outside where ’twas crowded. In th’ two or three days of rainy weather most women lounged in a designated sitting area but th’ men mainly kept to their own room where they were permitted to smoke their pipes. Aside from th’ handful o’ blokes gettin’ into their cups ‘n’ a little disruptive every nicht after supper, ’twas gey civil.


Some passengers were to stop in Halifax. Others movin’ on to Boston with th’ ship. Most wuid be getting th’ train at th’ docks like us but getting off in any number o’ places along th’ route. Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg … all th’ way to Vancouver.  One woman, Martha if I recall, said her family was headin’ to Edmonton, same as us, but only to catch a wagon goin’ up north. The gey thought of somewhere further north than Edmonton sent a shiver bolting through my body an’ clouded my ears so I ne’er did hear their exact destination.

Except for a couple of overcooked and dried out suppers, th’ food was bland but edible ‘n’ plentiful enough. If it weren’t for th’ dishes o’ pickles served at dinner ‘n’ supper, I’d have come to fear my taste-buds had stopped workin’. Afternoon tea ‘n’ cake was one thing I came to appreciate for settlin’ my mynd an’ givin’ me a sense of home.
Counting th’ days calmed me for a time but once we reached Day 6, my insides began to churn, I had so many questions swimmin’ in my heid.

What if they discovered Lily was deaf?
Would they just put us back on th’ boat?
What if I lost my passport or our medical cards?
Would my train voucher be there, waiting?
What if th’ train leaves without us?

How many times I checked, sorted, and re-sorted my papers in th’ middle of th’ day or nicht, I cannae count but ’twas nae near enough to soothe my worries. Th’ only thing I cuid do was make certain we were organized, an’ keep on knitting.

With a full-on week o’ train-travel waitin’ for us, I knew th’ weans ‘n’ I needed a solid washup, hair ‘n’ all, before we got off th’ boat. Somethin’ told me th’ CPR wuid nae be offerin’ us a proper space to wash in. At least on th’ boat ’twas always possible to find a basin available on th’ long wall in th’ women’s lavatory, an’ I had my own soap ‘n’ two crakin’ towels so didnae worry if th’ ship’s were all used up. Takin’ a soakin’ bath was out of th’ question, though. For some reason, th’ three bathtubs on board were kept secret. I didnae learn of them ’til over halfway across th’ ocean an’ by then I’d adjusted to duin’ without.

An’ when I did learn of ’em, that steward peddlin’ appointments was nae gettin’ a cent from me to use one of his precious tubs! Och – Th’ same crook who cleaned th’ floors around th’ berths at night sellin’ fruit ‘n’ biscuits from a leather sac hangin’ over his shoulder. All of it, nae better than third-rate an’ aye a luxury too dear for th’ likes of us.

But I knew most everyone else on th’ ship had th’ identical plan to mine so th’ day next to docking, I woke th’ bairns well before th’ morning bell to be first in th’ lavatory. Colin balked at having to wash with his sisters so I gave ’em my button bag ‘n’ some lengths of wool for stringing an’ sat ’em facing a neuk while I teuk care of him first. Once he was spic ‘n’ span shiny, I sent him off to claim a spot for our breakfast while I bathed th’ lassies. My own washing would have to wait until nicht when everyone was sleeping.

The day we were to finally reach the Port of Halifax, th’ sound of th’ 6:30 wakeup bell set th’ ship into a high-spirited flurry of crew cleanin’ ‘n’ passengers packin’.  Th’ excitement was contagious but with everyone so occupied, I cuidnae but picture us bein’ fed anything besides bread ‘n’ jam for th’ day. Imagine my astonishment when th’ stewards announced th’ cooks had prepared a goodbye dinner for us. An’ a magic meal ’twas. Th’ curry flavour added to th’ mutton ‘n’ rice was a crakin surprise, but th’ plumb pudding drizzled with hot brandy sauce tickled my tastebuds. ’Twas a braw cheerio, indeed.

Th’ ship was supposed to dock around 6:00pm, or so. Th’ gey thought had Colin too worked up to rest so to keep him from getting on my nerves, after th’ table was cleared I cast off th’ last row of my knittin’ an’ ran my hands over the crakin’ ‘n’ cozy wool muffler before rolling it tight ‘n’ handin’ it to th’ lad.

“Take this straight to Ion an’ give him my thanks. Help him an’ his mam with their packin’ but make sure to be back by 4:30 so ye can get changed into your guid clothes.”

I cuidnae believe it. After eight days crossin’ th’ Atlantic Ocean, we were about to arrive in Canada. I’d been up since th’ wee hours bathin’ ‘n’ washin’ my hair, shakin’ out an’ brushin’ off my fine woollen suit ‘n’ silk shirtwaist waitin’ all week to be worn again, an’ getting our packing done well before th’ day started.

Exhausted as I was, I didnae ken what to do with myself while Jean n’ Lily napped. Nibbling at my stash of fudge while I paced th’ dining area to slow th’ somersaults of disbelief in my own tummy as I waited for tea-time was a boggin’ effort.

If I was to be right ready when we landed, watchin’ time was critical. At 4:00pm I drained my cuppa’ an’ returned to th’ berth. Wheesht as a mouse, I tightened my corset, slipped on my braw skirt ‘n’ creamy blouse before plaiting up my hair. Och – fine as ’twas it felt guid t’ be out of that striped day-dress an’ have my cameo chain around my neck again. With no mirror to check th’ fitted lines of my jacket, I had to trust th’ braw fabric an’ my own sewing skills.

After fluffing th’ plume ‘n’ smoothing th’ velvet of my guid hat, I pinned it on solid an’ woke my wee lassies. I’d barely got ’em dressed, a crakin’ bow tied in each’s hair, when Colin returned.
“Mummy, we’re nearly there.” He charged in to the berth his face flushed pink ‘n’ smiling.

         “Och – I ken, luv.” I took a deep breath. “Get your knickers ‘n’ shirt changed an’ close-up th’ poke when you’re done. We may be th’ last to get off th’ boat, but we can gang up to th’ top deck ‘n’ watch th’ ship arrive in Canada.”

            I was nae about to waste an afternoon’s work of dressing, so after tying down Jean ‘n’ Lily’s curls under th’ mohair bonnets Mother had knitted for them, I shoved an extra pin into my own hat an’ wrapped a fine shawl o’ertop to keep everything in place. But up on deck, bitter winds from every direction set th’ heavy clouds to churnin’. I swear they were trying to strip th’ clothes off our gey backs an’ cuidnae fault Ion ‘n’ his mam for stayin’ below. The gales were tough enough to carry th’ wee woman all th’ way back to Ireland.  I ne’er did spy th’ young leprechaun again.

As th’ weans ‘n’ I stood clutching our coats tight, watching th’ land come closer ‘n’ closer, I didnae ken if ’twas from excitement or terror, but in that windy welcome to Canada my heart felt duin to burst.


’Twas nasty weather indeed when we arrived in Halifax an’ late as ’twas, our day was far from over. Th’ gey thought still sends a chill richt through my bones.

Hmm – a wee dram of whiskey would warm me up nicely richt about now. I ken th’ lass has a braw bottle or two stored in th’ cabinet an’ with any luck, she’s left it unlocked today.

Ta-ta for now…


Aggie here, again.

Flabbergasted is what I am. Last time I heard bagpipes I was haverin’ in my droon, stone cold deid. Wally did a braw job piping out Amazing Grace ‘n’ Auld Lang Syne at my funeral but My Bonnie Lassie was just new on th’ radio an’ he didnae ken th’ notes.

There I was minding my business, lamentin’ out loud th’ braw send-off I’d wanted an’ next I ken, th’ very tune I’d wished for was blarin’ in t’ the room. I near fainted. Adjusting t’ all this modern pish can take a toll, that’s for certain.

But I can get this computer runnin’ fine now I’ve told ye’ th’ story of boarding th’ S.S. Numidian:

We near missed our first breakfast on th’ ship. I heard th’ wake-up bell ring at 6:30 but cuidnae open my eyes. It took voices cawin an’ dishes clanging outside our room t’ wake me. Even the bairns didnae want t’ stir. Every table was filled before we started th’ long trek down th’ hall an’ up th’ stairs t’ th’ lavatory; by th’ time we got back, there was but bread an’ prune jam on th’ last two tables remainin’ set. My own tummy was nae settled from the stress of it all so I was content with my hot tea, weak as it was, but th’ weans filled their bellies with bread, washing it down with cups o’ milk the matron brought t’ them. I was grateful I’d thought t’ tuck a few tins filled with cured mutton, oat cakes, some cheese ‘n’ a few blocks o’ mum’s shortbread in t’ my bags. An’ o’ coorse, a crackin’ package o’ tablet fudge.

The ship had stopped in Moville while we were sleepin’ and th’ stewards told us t’ leave th’ community space so they cuid clean up an’ let th’ Irish passengers board. I didnae want t’ spend th’ entire day in our berth so bundled th’ bairns warm an’ followed th’ others t’ th’ deck outdoors.

’Twas a braw day for sunshine, th’ fresh air uplifting after th’ stuffy deck below, but a fierce wind cut through my wrap. In th’ space we were sent, machinery, metal pipes, an’ shafts, cluttered everywhere an’ left few places t’ sit but th’ floor.

Steerage Outside Deck 1911

Photo courtesy of

Most folk crowded near th’ entry, th’ only wind-sheltered spot, but th’ bairns seemed glad t’ be outside. ’Twas nae long before Jean an Lily joined a game o’ scouk ‘n’ seek with a few other weans. For some reason, Colin wuidnae step further than an arm’s length from me, as though he feared I’d disappear.

T’ this day I dinnae ken th’ reason, but every day women were allotted a cup o’ broth at 11:00 o’clock in th’ morning. A whole hour before th’ dinner bell but I didnae want t’ miss tryin’ something that might settle my roily tummy. When th’ bairns an’ I came inside, a steward stood at the end of one table doling out th’ hot liquid. Poor man was surrounded by throngs o’ folk worrying an’ buzzing over th’ business of settling in t’ their berths. He’d no sooner finished when other workers arrived t’ set th’ tables for dinner. ’Twas so crowded, I cuid nae see how anythin’ got done.

By the time th’ ship set off t’ open waters (an’ I thanked th’ lord they were calm) ’twas nearin’ suppertime. I knew the bairns were hungry. The weak, tepid barley soup with bits of salt pork ‘n’ chopped carrot tossed in had been barely edible at dinner. The bread was fresh ‘n’ guid, but nae plentiful enough t’ fill them up. My own stomach had finally settled an’ my mid-afternoon tea ‘n’ cake was barely enough t’ tide me over.

With so many friesh passengers taken on that morning, the supper bell created a chaos near impossible t’ navigate. No queuing up, just mad dashes t’ th’ tables. ’Twas a contest t’ find enough space for all four o’ us. Thank goodness for wee Colin, squeezin’ in t’ the front an’ claiming a stretch o’ chairs.


Photo courtesy of G. G. Archives

But th’ frenzy put Lily beside herself. I cannae say with what – anger, frustration, or simple hunger, but neither Jean nor I cuid calm her sobs. Most times, shushing warm air into her ear an’ smoothin’ her hair cuid settle her tantrums but I knew she was too crabbit for it t’ work. I closed my eyes an’ tried anyway while we waited for the stewards t’ set out th’ food. My body relaxed in t’ the motion of her cries when of a sudden, they stopped an’ I felt a wee chuckle come from her chest. I opened my eyes ‘n’ sprang bolt upright.

Across th’ table sat th’ most sprightly creature I ever laid eyes on. A mere lad for certain, with wide sapphire eyes, coal-black locks curlin’ an’ tumblin’ over his forehead. His milky face, his rosy cheeks ‘n’ mouth fare glowed, an’ a single freckle winked from aside his left eye.

“Mummy.” Colin pulled on my sleeve. “It was in his hand an’ it disappeared. A shilling.”

“Och – A whole shilling disappeared?” I cuidnae take my eyes from the wee stranger. “And what might your name be, laddie?”

“My name is Ion. Spelled th’ right way. I-O-N. Not I-A-N like the eejit Scots. Ion Murphy. That’s me.” He held out his open palm, twisted it about, closed it tight, an’ opened it t’ show a shiny shilling. A dimple formed in th’ left cheek of his smile as th’ entire table laughed an’ clapped. My bairns kept their eyes glued t’ th’ stranger through th’ whole meal an’ o’ course with my own curiosities, I had t’ ask …

“Are you travellin’ alone?” I noted his lean frame an’ th’ worn cuffs ‘n’ elbows of his thin jumper.

“My mam’s lying abed with a headache. She told me to eat without her. My da’s building ships in Nova Scotia, Canada. He’s finally arranged for us to come join him. Before he left he taught me all about building ships and how they work. Now I finally get to be on a real one. Mam isn’t happy about leaving Ireland, but I’ve been waiting two whole years to see Da again. Since I was nine.”

Ion Murphy spoke like he was composing a piece of music. I cuild hae listened t’ th’ wee leprechaun for hours.

Och – an’ th’ lad was wily, too. Meals were nae permitted t’ be taken into the berths an’ as th’ supper clearing began, Colin, Jean ‘n’ Lily left th’ table while I finished th’ last o’ my tea. Ion still had two braw pieces of breid on his plate, a slice o’ beef stashed between them, an’ I saw him eyin’ th’ stewards’ moves. When their backs turned, quick as a whip, he stuffed th’ food under his jumper. He knew I’d spied him an’ read th’ question in my eyes.

“It’s for Mam.” The rosy colour of his cheeks spread t’ his entire face.

“Never mind. I’ll keep wheesht. You’re a guid laddie.” I patted his hand. “Mind ye nae leave any crumbs or droppins’ in yer berth. Yer mam’ll nae thank ye for inviting th’ vermin t’ dinner. An’ make no mistake. They’ll be about.”

Th’ second afternoon, while Jean ‘n’ Lily napped, I sat in th’ community area outside our berth with my cuppa ‘n’ knittin’ a bonny muffler I knew we’d need in Edmonton. Colin wuid nae stop yammerin’ for me ’t take him up on deck. I was guid ‘n’ warm where I was an’ my conscience wuid nae let me leave my post. Th’ bism had me as cross as I’ve ever been, but if Ion didnae show up, his smiling face its own kind o’ freshness.

“Mam is resting and I’m on my way up to check out the ship. As far as they’ll allow me that is. Why don’t you come with me, Colin?” Well, that was it. Colin switched from bism t’ wee puppy an’ followed Ion t’ th’ deck every afternoon after, each time coming back by suppertime with endless stories o’ masts, funnels, beams ‘n’ such.


Image Courtesy of G. G. Archives

A few evenings th’ leprechaun was even guid enough t’ distract all three weans with his magic tricks while I took some skivvies ‘n’ things t’ th’ washing room t’ gave them ‘n’ myself, a guid scrub.

Young Ion Murphy bein’ on th’ ship was a godsend, indeed. He’d won Lily over th’ very first day ‘n’ made a point o’ lifting her for a wee spin ’til she laughed every time he saw her. I seldom saw his mam come out o’ their berth except having him guide her on th’ lang walk t’ th’ lavatory. She was a wisp of a thing who ne’er joined him at th’ dining table, though he insisted she was nae seasick. An’ he did often smuggle bites of food t’ her. Th’ laddie was friendly with most everyone on board an had a way of steppin’ up, makin’ himself useful. I cannae say when ’twas decided but sometime mid-sailing, I knew the bonnie green muffler I was knitting wuid be his.

The young Ion was by far the most interesting part of crossing th’ Atlantic so I’ll leave ye there for the time being. Th’ lass is wanting a strong picture of what the trip was like so I’ll be takin’ my time t’ see what I can come up with.

Cheerio th’ noo …


Here I am, again. Aggie, gettin’ ready t’ talk.

Seems I’m nae th’ only one confused by this blogging business. My great-granddaughter had t’ start and restart this page three or four times before ’twas guid enough t’ get going. An here I was thinkin’ “Th’ lass kens what she’s doin’.”

I suppose like with anything, th’ more she does it, th’ better she’ll get.

Anyway, back t’ my story o’ movin’ t’ Canada …

May 10th, 1911 was a day I ne’er did forget. My body ached wi’ exhaustion an’ I cuid nae decide if I was happy or sad everyone came t’ Perth General Station seein’ us off. Except my eldest brother George havin’ t’ work, Mother, Da, James, both sisters – Louisa ‘n’ Stuart were there. All dressed in our Sunday best ‘n’ weeping as we hugged good-bye. Even Da had t’ pull out his handkerchief an’ dab his eye. After more than a stowed-out year of planning, waiting, and missing my John, all I wanted was t’ get on with it.

Some roof repair happenin’ made the train-shed busier than I expected an’ th’ bairns clustered t’gether, keeping mostly wheesht. No matter the fine weather, I had all three bundled in winter clothes t’ keep warm on th’ ship and t’ lighten our bags. Colin holding tight t’ his toy boat, Jean hugging th’ stuffed terrier Stuart sewed for her, an’ Lily, her faceless ragdoll dragging t’ th’ ground, clutched on t’ her big sister’s hand. Next t’ the crowd an’ masses o’ luggage on th’ platform, they looked like wee hedgehogs hidin’ in the bushes, but their eyes were saucers an’ took in everything.

Perth Railway Station History Scotland

YouTube The Railway 007

All Colin an’ Jean knew beyond, was that we’d be sailing on a grand ship before takin’ another train ride t’ Edmonton where their da was waitin’. Even though I showed them th’ route in my atlas, what they didnae ken was th’ time it’d take – stowed-out eight days crossin’ th’ Atlantic Ocean, an’ a full week travellin’ across a strange country. I wondered if their insides were as fidgety as my own. I cannae begin t’ picture what was goin’ through Lily’s heid.

Perth t’ Glasgow was th’ shortest leg o’ the journey. Nobody loves a crakin’ train ride more than me, but I was grateful my brother James was between house paintin’ jobs an’ offered t’ ride with us that first stretch t’ see we made it t’ the docks.

T’ my relief, all three bairns fell asleep before we were twenty-minutes out an’ I cuid close my eyes for a stretch. Our train was scheduled to arrive in Glasgow minutes before 5:00pm an’ steerage passengers were expected t’ board ship between 8:00 and 10:00 that nicht with th’ boat t’ set sail in the wee hours. Despite the ague creepin’ in t’ my muscles takin’ away my appetite, I was glad t’ settle an’ collect m’self over tea in th’ small restaurant on Oswald Street close by th’ docks. James was gey patient answerin’ Colin’s endless questions; I didnae ken what I’d have done without him

Outside th’ passenger station, the press of my brother’s goodbye-hug warmed my aches an’ I didnae want t’ let go. An’ when I stepped on t’ the bus takin’ passengers t’ th’ dock, I prayed all I needed was a good night’s rest.

Och – that Glasgow dock took away my breath. ’Twas one thing t’ see what appeared t’ be hundreds of ships moored along both banks o’ th’ Clyde but t’ find m’self right down on th’ very platform with crowds of people queuing up, I felt like a tiny herring next t’ a whale waiting t’ swallow us up.

S.S. Numidian

photo courtesy of Norway Heritage

Gettin’ on t’ the boat was a lengthy business. All th’ steerage passengers had t’ queue up in a big room an’ walk like a giant family of ducks past th’ doctor who did nothin’ more than glance o’er us with a quick peek in t’ our own eyes before a steward standing by sent us t’ a space on th’ open deck t’ wait. Full on crowded, with no place t’ rest, an’ th’ chill working its way in t’ my bones, I cuidnae stop checking my documents o’er an o’er t’ be sure I had everything. My stomach was nae goin’ to calm ’til I had my bairns t’ bed ‘n’ asleep.

It felt like hours before they finally directed us t’ a bigger space on deck where we queued again. At th’ front, a steward inspected my documents, tore my ticket, an’ gave me medical cards t’ prove th’ doctor had examined us. “What about my train voucher? My agent, Mr. Ian Brown, said it’d be here.” Fresh knots tied in my tummy t’ think they cuid deny us passage once we arrived in Halifax. “I’m sorry, Madam. Mr. Ian Brown has misinformed you. You will receive your train voucher once you pass inspection in Halifax. Now head over to that table for your berth assignment.”

I felt th’ blood rush t’ my heid as he pointed across th’ room t’ another lang queue where a lanky man, handsome in his fresh uniform, stood behind a small table. By th’ time we reached th’ front, Lily was a deid weight sleepin’ over my shoulder an’ I felt duin t’ drop. The officer told me we’d be in the family section and t’ wait with a group of families in one neuk of the room. A matron wuid be along t’ show us th’ way.’

’Twas a scurry of people eager t’ settle but after finding our berth and searching for th’ water-closet ‘n’ washin’ room t’ clean up th’ weans an’ settle ’em for th’ nicht, I stood in th’ middle of our cramped quarters, my back achin’ ‘n’ my mynd numb. Th’ walls reached neither th’ ceiling nor th’ floor an’ in th’ dull light I tried t’ figure what t’ do next. Th’ ship was still in dock, so my feet were firm t’ th’ floor, my handbags mounded in a neuk. Th’ space was nae much more crowded than we we’d been at home in Perth, but if this was an upgraded version of steerage, I nae wanted t’ see th’ original.

Two narrow metal bunks lined either side of th’ room, each double stacked. Right off I saw that but for th’ four hooks on either side of a fold-down stool an’ tiny mirror attached to th’ back wall between th’ beds where we’d hung our good clothes for th’ rest o’ th’ trip, there was no place t’ put our things.

Jean ‘n’ Lily were fine sharing th’ bottom bed of one bunk. Already they were sleeping, each with their heid at an end and their feet nae meetin’ in th’ middle.

Colin was tryin’ t’ settle on th’ bed above his sisters an’ I cuid nae see stuffin’ myself on t’ th’ low level of the other side. ’T wuid do for storage. Colin sat up rubbin’ his eyes. “I’m cold, Mummy.” “Hold on, luv.” I pulled a woolen shawl from th’ largest bag, cooried it around him an’ kissed his curls. “There ye gang my brave laddie. Crakin’ ’n warm.” I heard Jean cough an’ looked down t’ see she’d shifted t’ curl herself ’round Lily so unpacked two more shawls. As I laid one o’er th’ girls a quiverin’ of the ship come up through th’ soles o’ my shoes. It climbed up my legs into my body an’ I knew we were on our way. With the damp chill workin’ its way into my bones getting’ some sleep seemed best if I wanted t’ have strength by mornin’.

“New Steerage” – post 1908

Photo courtesy of Norway Heritage

Och – Climbing into a top bunk is nae easy, especially when th’ entire room is movin’. But after banging my elbow an’ both my knees on th’ iron rail I felt th’ straw mattress crackle under my weight. A life preserver is a poor excuse for a pillow, even with a wee cushion covered in cotton ticking to soften it, but it had t’ do. With th’ ship movin’ in a kind of rolling rhythm, I pulled my third shawl over-top th’ malinky blanket and stretched out my legs, willing my aching body t’ relax.

Och – ’twas a memorable trip. Just thinkin’ back that far has me richt out o’ breath. I think I’ll just have myself a crakin’ cup o’ tea and close my eyes for a bit so I can pull together a solid story for ye next time.

Now, where is that off button … ?


“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.

March Break 2023

Spring’s slow arrival this year made March more difficult than usual to navigate. But navigate I must, and with the help of Nadine Nembhard of Restore Physiotherapy, and Dr. Sandra Lohman of InterUrban Chiropractic Clinic, in managing the crippling pain in my legs and hips, I am currently walking 3k and more in relative comfort. The ‘Turbo-inhaler’ Doctor P. Manhas prescribed did the trick, controlling my six-week-long gagging bronchial issues in time for my cataract/lens replacement surgery this month. Things are looking up – pun intended.

Because she has so much to say, Granny’s Blog has gotten most of my writing attention lately and in fairness, escaping into her world has helped keep me sane. Stay tuned for her next post.

That said, I am wiped and have decided to take a spring break, however I will post a few photos that make me happy.


With the pending removal of the ancient oil tank submerged in our front yard, we’ve cleared out several shrubs but spring bulbs offer sprinkles of colour:

Shy Hyacinth

Sparkling Crocus

Definitely Daffodils


Ivory Prince

Because of their hardiness, off-season bloom-time, and handsome foliage, Hellebores rate high on my list of favourites and probably 8 or 9 of them grace my garden.

The single yellow variety I have.


Last weekend in March 2023
Last weekend in March 2017

For year’s we’ve used our Magnolia to measure spring’s progress. 2023 is definitely slow.


March 2023

AGNES RANKIN WATSON (Campbell, Corbett, Fraser) April 28, 1885, Perth, Scotland – February 11, 1953, Edmonton Alberta, Canada

Awright – Agnes here.  

An’ look, there’s my words again. I keep expectin’ t’ see th’ faces I’m talkin’ to on this wee screen instead o’ th’ words I’m sayin’. How am I t’ ken if there’s anyone hearin’ me? 

Anyway, I think I left off at passin’ the time an’ getting’ duin t’ move. 

Och – this auld rockin’ chair of mine does stir up memories … 

Growing up, once I understood th’ concept o’ currency, setting dosh aside was my instinct. I’d saved for my own dowry since before I left school an’ was an expert at putting by every possible penny. How else cuid I have th’ means t’ buy a bonnie dress, a pair o’ gloves or a pretty hat from time t’ time? So, getting ready t’ move countries, I kept most of my pay from doin’ wash. And in those long months of waitin’, John sent dosh when he was able. 

I suppose since they’re my folks, I kept thinking Mother ‘n’ Da ran th’ flat, #6 Main Street, but in fact ’twas Stuart’s husband, Hugh, named as head. At least when th’ census folk came by. Nine rooms sounds lairge enough, but with Mr. Millar th’ boarder, Louisa an’ her two bairns moving in after her Edward was taken by pneumonia, an’ now me ‘n’ the weans makin’ it twelve, there was nae a single square foot t’ spare.  

Colin sleeping on th’ chesterfield was braw for a week or two, but a stowed-out year was awfully much. I cuidnae picture bein’ separated from my wee man but he was th’ eldest, an’ I made up my mynd ’twas best t’ do as John asked and take him t’ his own folks, th’ Campbell side of th’ family, up t’ Lossiemouth in Drainie.

Back: Stuart Swan, Hugh Swan, Louisa Mitchell Front” James Watson, James Mitchell, Jane Watson, Matilda Mitchell

Stuart ‘n’ Hugh would nae take a cent from me, so I did my best to pay ’em in chores. With both my sisters off t’ work every day, ’twas up t’ Mother ‘n’ me t’ keep th’ house runnin’. Cooking was easy enough, wash ‘n’ mending I was doing for me an’ th’ weans anyway so just took on more, an’ I didnae care for cleanin’ but did what was needed. Gardening out back I didnae take to at all.  

On the other hand, wee as she was, Jean was eager t’ spend time working the soil ‘n’ cleaning up plants with her papa when he was home. It helped t’ have Rex out there, followin’ her every step. She’d come inside fair glowing every time.   

Sometimes, Da brought home lengths of fabrics from work when there was a flaw in the dye or the weave an’ I’d sew up clothes for m’self an’ th’ weans. Running my hands o’er lengths of brand-new wool ‘n’ crisp linen, breathing in their scent of freshness, filled my heart an’ I cuid see exactly what I’d fashion from ’em. But the stoatin’ silks Da dyed were rare an’ when a length or two o’ that came my way I knew they needed special consideration, so I’d tuck ’em away for later.  


Aye, I had lots t’ keep me busy while waiting for th’ time to pass an’ worrying about money in the long stretches between meetin’ th’ immigration agent.

Och, he was a pleasure to my eye, that man, Mr. Ian Brown. With his copper curls ‘n’ hazel eyes, I had t’ keep reminding m’self I wasn’t his only customer. Even his name was music t’ my ear. And he knew exactly what he was about, filling me in on what t’ expect an’ making arrangements t’ secure our passage. I could have sat across his desk for days watching him run his pen in an’ out of his long fingers as he helped me get my heid around the cost in Canadian dosh.

“Since your husband is already settled in Edmonton, $15.00 for steamship passage in steerage is a half-price reuniting rate you and the children are entitled to by the Canadian Government. The ship, being on the older side, has been downgraded to carry only second and third, or steerage-class passengers which helps with the cost as well. It works out to £12.30 for all four of you. The same program, allows you to gain entry with only $10.00 Canadian cash instead of the standard $25.00.”


Image Courtesy of


Hands Across The Sea

I’d heard enough tales t’ make th’ idea of steerage class nae appealing an’ I had doubts what ‘bedding and all necessary utensils provided free’ meant. Half price or not, the trip was still dear but th’ man’s smile sent a warm flutter through my heart. An’ when I asked him if eliminating first class meant that th’ down passengers got t’ come up he chuckled an’ tossed me a wink.

“The rules changed last year to improve conditions, so you’ll have more space and more comfort than before. And your train fare from Perth to Glasgow is 48d for each of you so you’ll need £1.92 for that. The train to Edmonton you’ll get right there in Halifax at the dock. That cost is $7.00 total. Your voucher will come with your Allan Line contract once your passage is paid in full.”

There ’t was. As real as anything in front of me. I swallowed th’ lump pulling my throat closed, an’ tried t’ calm my heart.

“Thank ye, Mr. Brown. I cuidnae have done this without yer help.”

“You’re a brave woman Mrs. Campbell, travelling to a new country with your wee ones. Brings to mind my Emma, storming off to London last year with her sister to support women wanting the vote. Came home with a black eye and a splint on her hand after all that Black Friday nonsense, but that doesn’t stop her from pounding the streets, carrying signs every chance she gets.”

Running off t’ cause a scene an’ have police beat you up ‘n’ break your bones didnae sound brave t’ me at th’ time, but I took his words an’ cooried ’em in a neuk of my brain. I had awfully much else t’ worry over.


Aye, moving was a costly business so I cooried away every cent possible. How else cuid I be prepared – for anythin’.  

Och – I see my cheeky girl’s left me a braw bottle o’ gin in the cabinet ‘n’ I cannae ignore the craving now it’s wakened my tastebuds. Forby, I’ve prattled too lang already an’ a wee dram will help me collect my thoughts for next time.  

I wonder were she’s put th’ lime.  Now – I’ll just press this button …


Last month I commented on not knowing how long Flint would be with us. His time was shorter than I could guess and we lost him on February 3rd to kidney disease and old age. Seventeen is a long life, even for a little dog and I want to celebrate him and the joy he brought into our lives. This month’s post is Flint forward.


Flint at approximately 1.5 years old. Right after he leapt into our lives. Who could resist?



Every year, he delved right into the spirit and was awesome at gift opening. Not so much at cleaning up though.


It took me a little while to understand that Flint used yawning as a tension release – he yawned less and less every year.


A snow-diver all the way – the deeper the better and the snow brushed right off his luxurious coat.


Thankfully it only happened one more time before he learned to be a bit leery of movement in the night.

A great traveller, near or far, Flint’s favourite escapes were to Long Beach in Tofino where he loved to run like the wind, free as a bird. We’d hoped to make one more trip with him, but it was not to be.



I MISS OUR FIERY LITTLE BUNDLE OF FUR. AND NOTICE HIS ABSENCE IN THE PLACES HE ISN’T: curled on his mat in the kitchen, sleeping beside the bed at night, demanding his supper and his nightly treat, or bouncing with happiness at the door when we arrive home, but am forever grateful to have had him in my life.



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?


31 January, 2023

I came close to skipping a post for this crazy month of January, but moving forward is key this year and I can’t let a bit of chaos (eye surgery, physiotherapy, and the horrible cold virus (not COVID) running through our household) hold me back after already taking strong steps in the right direction.

At the beginning of the month, I joined the Forever Writers Club, founded by rock star Chelene Knight. My goal is to maximize my writing time and productivity while focussing on self-care to reduce my self-inflicted stress. I’m off to a good start.

And what a thrill it was when Granny’s Blog went live on the 20th. Her first post was well received and rest assured, she has a lot more to say. I love the way she keeps me busy.

Another project that will take me into April is SFU’s Continuing Studies course ‘Fiction for the Weekend Student’, instructed by Caroline Adderson.  I am excited that we are using Alice Munro’s book Runaway to explore her style. I’ve been a fan of Alice’s  work for longer than I care to say. The purpose of taking the course is to look at my novel from a different perspective and fine tune it to publishing quality.

Flint will be a main focus of my posts for the next while. He turns 17 on the 12th of February and every day I wonder how long he will be around. He stole my heart long before  springing into our lives when he was 1½ years old and making himself (and us) at home from the get-go.

Young Flint’s early days – Spunky doesn’t come close to describing his personality.

Flint January 2023 – pushing 17. Still a handsome force with a mind of his own.

Pushing 17

I managed a rough sketch of Flint this month. Hopefully I’ll do better in February. No promises though.

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