Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tonsillectomy on the Kitchen Table?

This year's third annual tour of local family landmarks (first year blog post here) included a stop at the former farm home pictured above of my great uncle and aunt, Bill and Mary Milne near Virden in the Boss Hill district.  During the drive, my Aunt Marjorie added a memory of hers about this house that I just had to look into further!

She said her older brother Keith Kinnaird and cousin Jeff Milne had their tonsils removed on the kitchen table of this house by Dr. George Clingan (1868-1944) in the mid 30's!  Clingan had many experiences over his life including M.L.A., mayor of Virden, commander in WW1, and president of the Manitoba Medical Association.  I suppose I shouldn't doubt his methods.   His wife Ida wrote The Virden Story in 1957.

Tonsil and adenoid removal is so rarely done now, but was very routine at one time as were housecalls for medical matters.  The availability of antibiotics and change in medical opinions on the usefulness of tonsils and adenoids has resulted in fewer removals.

A similar memory is retold on this 2009 blog written by Robert Keith Smith who lived near Oak Lake.  At this link  almost at the bottom of the page, you can read about his experience with his tonsillectomy at home.

Just to prove anything that you want to learn about is on Youtube, the brave among you can watch this silent film of the procedure developed by Mr. George Waugh from London in the 1930's.  I have not it watched it myself, by the way.  Some things you just can't unsee after all!

Thinking about that day, it's one of those moments that makes me think of this phrase:

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Sinclair House

The recent photo above, taken by Richard Turenne and posted on the Abandoned Manitoba site on Facebook, brought back many fond memories for the Sinclair nieces and nephews including me!  What a mansion I thought it was and by any standards, it was a magnificent home for the James and Elizabeth Sinclair family.  It was built in 1912 and the picture below may have been from the 20's.

One tall brick chimney let smoke rise from the cookstove and the other from the fireplace in the parlour. A verandah wrapped around the south and east side of the two and a half story home for the family of 8 children.

The east side of the verndah was made into an enclosed porch by Harry Clyne after the above photo was taken and I remember John Paul (Scotty) and Harry sitting in here smoking their pipes when I would come for a visit.  Inside the kitchen to the right was a washstand with a hand pump for cistern water and straight ahead was the "back stairs" to the second floor.  A huge kitchen table, cupboards, counter, an electric and a wood stove, fridge and the cellar door filled the kitchen.  There was no running water in the house but drinking water was brought from a well near the barn at the outhouse to the north served them for all those years.

A doorway led into the dining room and that followed into the parlor, with the fireplace.  Beyond that was one bedroom on the main floor and the wide main stairs led up to six more bedrooms. A small balcony was outside the door at the south end of the second floor but it's now gone.

Another narrower staircase with an oak banister went up to the half story attic on the top floor with two dormer windows for light.  The attic level was likely used for sleeping quarters at one time, perhaps for hired men at harvest time. My dad recalls a hatch from the attic to get to the widow's walk on the top the house and Uncle Bill would go up there to put up Christmas lights.  The view of the Oak River to the south must have been spectacular!

The picture of little great great niece Kim standing in front of the huge vegetable garden was taken about 1977 and the one of Aunt Nellie and Aunt  Jessie in front of their flowers and the woodpile was in 1981.  Notice the 106 foot long barn (built in 1900) propped up on the north side as Dad recalls it was for many years.  It seems the wall may have weakened from the chaff pile being blown against it from the threshing over the years. 

Left above:  Elizabeth Sinclair on the verandah with twin grandchildren Dorothy & Donald (my dad) Simms 1933, 
Photo on the right:  Jean Fortune, Bill Sinclair, Mary Simms, Nellie Sinclair and Lizzie and Jack Morcom - about 1955 in the doorway between the dining room and the parlour.  Note the wide woodwork.

Left:  Lizzie and Jack Morcom in front of the fireplace in the parlour early 50's,
Right:  Aunt Nannie on the verandah - 1940's

Jean Fortune (with black tie) and her children - Kenneth, Arnold and Irene. Nellie holding Irene and Lizzie (with glasses) and Jessie in matching dresses on the south verandah steps - about 1927
Left:  Jessie and Nellie Sinclair in the kitchen in front of the cookstove and cellar door - 1967
Right:  Bill and Jessie Sinclair on the south steps - 1940's

The Sinclair house and grounds were lovingly maintained by the ladies well into their 80's. New Year's Day was a special event in the Sinclair house for many years with the family all gathering to visit and eat!  I remember playing on all the coats (especially the furs!) on Aunt Nannie's bed. Another fun memory shared by a cousin was of running up one staircase and down the other in a never ending circle!  The last the house was lived in was 1988 but the memories remain.  Richard Turenne's picture on the post on Facebook received 250 "likes" and 54 "shares" and has made me proud to be connected to this piece of history.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

John "Scotty" Paul (1899-1988)

This blog is called 52 Ancestors because I started in January 2014 with the goal of writing about one ancestor each week for a year.  It has turned into so much more than I ever thought and have made wonderful contacts with people all over the world who have found my blog.  Today my subject is John Paul, not my ancestor but he is someone's who may stumble onto this post with his story someday.

John Paul was always known as Scotty and I remember being surprised when I found out he had two real names and neither was Scott!  He lived at least 50 years with Nellie, Jessie and Bill Sinclair at 16-14-22 W1- four miles north of Oak River.

John Paul was born on February 28, 1899 in Rathen, Aberdeenshire in Scotland.  I was able to find the record of his baptism in the Espisopal Church at Lonmay on June 25th of 1899.    The church was built in 1788 and is still in use today.   His parents were James and Maria Paul and they lived at Mosside of Rathen Cottages in the 1901 census.  James would have been a farm worker.

Baptismal records show he had an older brother James (1897) and at least six younger siblings:  Mary Bell (1901), Maria (1905), Alexander (1907), William (1910) and twins Forbes and George born in 1915.

Scotty's name can be found on the ship manifest of "The Melita" as a 22 year old who was heading to Winnipeg with intentions of being a farm laborer for his uncle.  He landed in St. John, New Brunswick on April 19, 1921 - 96 years ago this week!

The 1970 Blanshard history book tells that Scotty worked for his Uncles Forbes and William Ironsides south of  Sidney, MB in the community of Arizona. These two men were his mother's younger brothers and their family was found at Boat of Bridge, Boharm, Banffshire on the 1891 Scotland census where their father James Ironsides was a gardener and their mother's name was Jane.

The online history of the community of Arizona (Manitoba) says Forbes arrived in Canada in 1904 and his brother Billy a few years later.  Both worked for prominent farmer A.C. Sharpley before farming on their own until the early 30's.  Billy went on the run a garage in Sidney as well as the general store. He died in 1958 but I don't know the end of Forbes' story following being on the 1945 Voter's list as a bartender in Rivers.  They were Scotty's only family in Canada that I know of and they died without marrying or having children either.

Scotty found work at Kemnay and Rounthwaite and then came to work at the Sinclair farm in 1936, shortly after the deaths of James and Elizabeth.  I assume it was Aunt Nannie that wrote the in the Blanshard 1970 History book that when they rented the farm to nephews in 1968, they kept the herd of Hereford cattle and were fortunate in having the help of a good stockman in John Paul.

That same history book says he spent the winter of 1953 in Scotland with his family and that in 1967, his parents celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.  Yes, you read that right - 72 years of marriage and at least 8 children.  Scotty is pictured on the far right in the picture below of a wood sawing bee at the Sinclair farm in the early 70's.  The other men are Don Simms (my Dad), Stan Henry, Harry Clyne, and Gerry Sparling.

With the Sinclair ladies - Jessie (on the left) and Nellie


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Henry "Harry" Clyne (1901-1989)

In a recent blog posts about the Rae brothers from Scotland,it got me thinking about the bachelor immigrants who spent their working lives in Canada but their entire blood relations remained in "The Old County".
Henry "Harry" Clyne lived with my Sinclair Aunts Nellie and Jessie across the road from us as long as I can remember (the 1970's) and he was one of these men who died in Canada without family.  His possessions ended up with my dad as trustee of his estate and I have them now and although I've considered it, I could not bring myself to toss them out. Perhaps his family will see this blog post and his things can go home. At the least, his life story will be remembered (as best I can tell it) in this post.

The little purple notebook with the pencil is inscribed:
Presented to H. Clyne late Crook Bilbster on the occasion his leaving the country for Canada.  By his friends of Bilbster and Stirkoke  21/3/22
The photo beside it appears to be Harry's passport picture, taken just before the adventure began in March of 1922. Bilbster  is a rural area near Wick in the highlands of Northern Scotland and Crook is the name of a cottage there.  Not yet 21 years old, Harry set sail on the Tunisian for Canada to seek his fortune.  He had at least 2 sisters, Ina and Chrissie and two brothers, Adam and Alexander.  

There is a little book indicating Harry paid union dues while living in Paris, Ontario in 1924 and 1925 as a section-man for the CN railway.  As with many young men of the time, the west was a land of opportunity and Harry heard the call.

Harry had many many pictures of Clydesdale horses and his address on letter from the late 20's was 356 10th Street in Brandon where J. S. Taylor horse promoter did business according to the card above. I am guessing he worked for Taylor and kept a lifelong interest in livestock.  My cousin Lyn recalls that Harry used to work with the Clydesdales that belonged to Jack and Lizzie Morcom and that he trimmed the horses hooves, including hers.

In this era of instant communication, it is easy to forget that months would go by without hearing from family within the country let alone overseas.  I can't find a date on the telegram but the black border envelope and letters told Harry about the deaths of his father in 1927 and his sister Ina in 1928. The first letter from his sister Ina has the sentence, " Mother thanks you very kindly for the money received today".  The second from another sister Chrissie is below.  

 A sample of the many family and friend photos Harry kept.  The only one with a name is the wedding photo taken at a studio in Wick and addressed to Uncle Harry from Bunty and Arthur.

** Bunty has contacted me and tells me the man in the air force uniform at the bottom is her father - and Harry's brother - Alexander (Sanny).  There certainly is a family resemblance there!

Starting in 1957, Harry has certificates showing him to be certified as a steam engineer and the 1903 book Practical Treatise of the Steam Engine Indicator by N.E. Hawkins was among his possessions.   Evidence can be found of trips back to Scotland in 1931 and 1954, when I assume the picture below was taken.  He was Aunt Nannie's chauffeur, driving her anywhere she wanted to go, Lyn remembers. Harry was laid to rest in 1989 at the White Bank Lea Cemetery, a few miles from the Sinclair farm where he called home for many years.

The well worn clipping titled "In Praise of Caithness" was found in his wallet showing he never forget where he came from.  I can still smell his pipe tobacco and see his flat plaid cap as he sat in Aunt Nannie's porch when I was there for tea.

**Follow Up**  April 16, 2017
 I'm so glad to have heard from his niece Bunty Pottinger from Kirkwall, Orkney through a contact on the Caithness Family History Society on Facebook.   Harry's things are now on their way home across the pond, where they belong.   

Friday, 31 March 2017

Pete Rae's Story Continued

The most exciting part in writing this family history blog is hearing from someone with "The Rest of the Story" .  Only a few hours after posting the piece about Peter Deans Rae, I was contacted by Pat, the Google user Pamaga who started my quest from Gateshead in the UK.  She tells me that Pete was a cousin to her grandfather and she knew him to be a lovely, quiet, unassuming man who had quite a resemblance to her grandfather.

Her family photos taken overseas show her grandfather on the left in the front row and Pete beside him.  The four standing left-right are Pete, her Aunt Maisie, her Dad, and Pat in about 1961.

The other picture Pat sent me below is of Pete in the back of his truck box in Canada with Doyle Baily standing behind.  Doyle bought Pete's farm in 1961 and continues to own it today and live on the next quarter to it where he and his wife Lynda raised a family of 2 girls.  The sign on the truck box with the words "Oak River, Man" were what led Pat to my blog post in the first place!

At the tender age of 17 in 1910, Pete left Galashiels, Scotland and came to Canada.  He worked for Eaton's in Winnipeg and then went farther west to Blanshard Municipality to work for various farmers until beginning to farm for himself.  He returned for a visit to Scotland in 1921 and must have then convinced his mother Elizabeth to join him and keep house for him. She stayed in Canada for the rest of her days and died on May 11, 1952 and is buried in Oak River Cemetery.

 In 1946 Pete bought the north half of section 31 range 14 township 22, pictured in the previous post. My mom found his name on a list of annual yearly canvas donors for the Oak River United Church in 1957.  In the late 50's they were also raising money for a new church organ and he likely contributed to that cause along with much of the community.  The organ was purchased and later moved to the new church when it opened in 1964 and still sees occasional use.

Pete retired to Scotland in 1961 but was no doubt fondly remembered across the pond by the people and the community where he spent his working life.  Thank you, Pat for introducing him to me as well.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Canadian Story of Peter Deans Rae

Although not a relative, the story of Peter Rae has emerged from a comment on this blog.  On the post from 3 years ago for my grandfather Alexander Simms, I recently received the following comment from Google user Pamaga:
My great uncle Peter Deans Rae had a wheat farm at Oak River, Manitoba. He emigrated from Scotland aged 19 in 1910 and ended up with the farm. He came back to Scotland in the 1960s and lived with my grandparents until his death. Thank you for sharing your photographs. I have only one of Pete in his time there. He is in a farm truck with one of his neighbours. I wonder if he knew your family?
The name rung a bell with me and I went searching through the old pictures that had belonged to my Great Aunt Lizzie Sinclair Morcom and her husband Jack.  My Aunt Dodie had gone through the pictures years ago and wrote names on the back for the people she knew and on this postcard, she had written Pete Rae (r).  The man on the left is unknown.  It appears to be a studio photo in front of a backdrop and this blog says using cars as props was popular in the 1910's - 20's.

In talking to my Dad, he recalled that Pete had a half section farm 1 mile west of Oak River and a half mile north off 24 highway.  He also remembers combining for him a couple of years in the 1950's.  I took a picture of this farm today from the highway (below), the grain bins being put there by subsequent owners, Doyle and Lynda Baily. The view of the old Rae farm from Google Street View from the highway is here at this link. 

Another look through my pictures turned up another neat old postcard of Pete Rae and I am assuming Jim was his brother.  The strange attire they are wearing was answered on Google by researching "vintage wooly chaps". They became popular with cowboys in the late 1800's especially during cold and wet weather. They were made in a wide variety of furs and wool including bear, sheep, cow and buffalo but the most prized was Angora goat fur. These chaps were worn by not only cowboys but Wild West performers who loved how "showy" they were.


A similar log cabin background can be seen online in this postcard that is listed for sale for $20! These would have been souvenir postcards that may have been sent back to family and friends in Scotland and the Morcoms were neighbours and must have been Oak River friends to receive them as well. I imagine that photo studios in cities like Winnipeg and Calgary would have been the setting for these postcards.
Pete's story is continued here:

Saturday, 11 March 2017

A Blizzard Like the Old Days

A recent three day blizzard here in Western Manitoba reminded me of pictures I had copied from old Kinnaird pictures.  I recall the hen house above that was on my Grandpa and Grandma Kinnaird's farm north of Hargrave at W1-11-27.   The middle picture of the three shows after a tunnel was dug to get to the door and the last picture looks to be before.  Helpfully written on the picture is the year 1947 - 70 years ago!  Thousands of pictures were taken of the storm of 2017 but to take three in a row of the hen house shows it must have been outstanding to them! 
The photo above was also captioned 1947 - Snowplow on Cecil Carruthers' road.  Further research online turns up that January 30 - February 8, 1947 goes down as one of the worst blizzards in prairie history. Stories remain about farmers who had to throw feed down holes that they chopped in the roof for animals trapped in barns and coops. Some roads remained blocked for months until the Spring melt. Other pictures of the aftermath of the Blizzard of '47 that were taken in Saskatchewan and found online are below:


What a huge challenge that must have been with limited communication,  no prior warning and only the most basic in machinery to clean it up!  I have a feeling the people of the post war time, including my grandparents, looked after themselves and their neighbours without expecting any outside help and without complaint.  It was just a reason to take pictures for their granddaughter to see 70 years in the future!