31 October 1997

From Scotland to prairies

CANADA in the 50s was still pioneer country – a big land needing new people to fill it. To Ronald and Margaret Gillies, it looked a land of opportunity. With their young children they travelled to work on farms in the prairie land of Alberta.

After a long and tiring journey the couple were met by their first employer and were taken to a very isolated building that was to be their new home. "At first my husband thought it was an outside loo. It was just a shack," recalls Margaret, who has written a book* about their experiences. There was no water or drainage and despite being promised furniture it had nothing apart from a huge stove. Margaret, had no option but to make the best of it.

If her domestic situation was poor, her husbands working conditions were worse, with long hours and heavy work which triggered worrying chest pains. "The farmer was almost keeping us prisoner and we had no transport to the outside world. But he forgot Scotsmen can walk," she says. And walk Ronald did. What happens next and over the following three years is detailed in Margarets very personal account of life for a young couple looking to settle in Canada. You cant help but warm to this growing family but are left wanting to know more as the book ends with them heading home to farm in Scotland, pressured by a visit from Ronalds father who wanted to retire. TG

*Far from the Rowan Tree Margaret Gillies Brown, Argyll Publishing (£9.99).

Margaret Gillies Brown today, at home in Errol, Scotland.