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Canada's Scottish Immigrants - A family's story.

Updated on April 15, 2013

Canadian Pioneers

This is the story of one family's journey through the 1800's to present time. It is the story of my own grandfather and father's paternal ancestors who, thanks to their pioneering spirit and love of adventure have their descendants sprinkled all over the globe. It starts in Elgin, Scotland and through many twists and turns of the fates this particular tale ends in New South Wales. Through a series of hubs I share with you here the names, places and events as recorded by my Aunt Jean in her written account entitled 'The Road To Wagga, Wagga - A Tale Of Loss And Re-Discovery'.

Although one might consider this to be a family tale, it is a tale so rich in history, hardship, adventure and the indomitable human spirit that it would be a crime to keep it thus. The reader cannot help but come away with a deep appreciation for those who paved the way for the life we often take for granted today. I continue below with my Aunt's words.

My Paternal Grandparents

My paternal grandfather was Harold Platt Christie, born in Elgin, Scotland, on February 28, 1865. His father was William Christie, a prominent engineer, who married Gertrude Monroe. They had four surviving children - William (Uncle Willie), Edward (Uncle Bunks - so called because as a boy he could never get out of bed in the morning), my grandfather and Mary. Great-grandfather Christie had a second family in gay Paree, much to the glee and fascination of us children when we found out about it - far away and safe as we were from what must have been much grief and pain for great-grandmother Gertrude.

Notes From My Father

My father writes:

"My grandfather Christie was also an engineer and I understand became wealthy contracting for the building of sewers, city mains, etc., in the City of London. At one time he had a very fine country estate, and this mansion and grounds were pointed out to me and my brother while traveling on a train in England with our grandmother Christie. However, when he died my grandfather Christie could not have been too well off because I know my father used to send my grandmother small monthly cheques to help support her. My grandfather died in Boulogne, France and when my mother took my brother and me to Boulogne with the idea we should have a year's schooling there, my father asked my mother to try to find where his father was buried. We found the location of the cemetery but were told all those buried there had been moved to another location. When we found the other location we were told it would be impossible to locate any of the tomb stones because so many changes had taken place."

Huge Dreams And Broken Promises
Huge Dreams And Broken Promises

Gentleman Immigrant

In 1882 my grandfather, age seventeen, was employed by a stockbroker's firm in London. He was attracted by a large poster in the window of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, just off Trafalgar Square. The CPR was just being completed from coast to coast in Canada at that time and large tracts of land in the form of free homesteads (160 acres) were being offered to immigrants. The poster showed scenes of a bountiful land of streams, wild animals and birds.

So my grandfather became on of the "Gentleman Immigrants" - sons of upper middle class English families who settled in Canada. He joined his brother Bunks at Wapella near Moosomin, Qu'Appelle Valley, Northwest Territories (now the Province of Saskatchewan) to farm a hostile prairie. Their sister Mary came out to keep house for them.

Born In India
Born In India

A Narrow Escape

My grandmother, Emily Willam Robinson, was born in Calcutta, India on June 18, 1865. Great-grandfather, James Hamilton Robinson, was of the Robertson Scottish marmalade family of Edinburgh but this side of the family changed their name to Robinson. Somehow, they, or at least great-grandfather Robinson, ended up in India where he married great-grandmother Frances Jane Moffat, daughter of Colonel Boland Moffat and Marie Jane Garard.

Great-great-grandfather Colonel Boland Moffat, distinguished himself at the time of the Indian Mutiny (1857). He and his troops were sailing to India aboard the 'SS Sarah Sands', a trim sailing ship regularly connecting England with the Raj in India, transporting army families and army personnel back and forth.

On November 11, 1857, she was taking a great part of the 54th Regiment of Foot to India when her cargo caught fire. Great-great-grandfather Moffat was the hero of the day in saving passengers and crew so that no lives were lost. The beautiful 'Sarah Sands' became a burning hulk that did not make it to port.

When my grandmother was quite small the family returned to England. It was a large, patriarchal family of seven surviving children. Of importance to us are Aunt Frances (b.1860), Uncle Tooney (Hamilton Moffat b.1862), Uncle George Eustace (b.1864), my grandmother, Emily (b.1865) and much younger, Aunt Ethel (b.1880 - just 8 year before my father). It is thanks to Aunt Ethel that much of this material is available.

(Personal Note:  The family's version of the tale of the SS Sarah Sands differs quite dramatically from the written reports of the actual event which took place on November 11, 1857.  After much research I have managed to find some factual accounts which are not coloured by the romantic notions and false perceptions of succeeding generations.  As it turns out I owe my life today to the 54th  Regiment of Foot (West Norfolk, Great Britain).  The reason for this is recounted in

'Some Damn Fool Englishman'
'Some Damn Fool Englishman'

On To The Canadian Prairies - The Qu'Appelle Valley

Like my grandfather, my grandmother's two brothers, Uncle Tooney and Uncle George, came out to the Qu'Appelle Valley and like Aunt Mary, my grandmother came out to keep house. She was at first terribly homesick and wrote as much to her father in England. He promised to take her back to England with him if she still felt that way when he visited "the colonies" next year, but in the meantime she met my grandfather------!

My grandparents were married on June 19, 1886. My grandparents were tough, impulsive, intense, well meaning - and on occasion very kind, and on occasion very dictatorial and thoughtless. Like most of us, they were their own worst enemies - as their history will show! With the wisdom of hindsight, we now know that we English settlers, be we Canucks, Kiwis or Aussies, were nothing if not pig-headed, when it came to understanding the new lands and their inhabitants. The thought that the North American Indians, probably the Maoris and certainly the Australian Aborigines, might have some ore to offer did not often, if ever, occur to us. English ways could be transported anywhere.

Well, my grandfather, often aided and abetted by my grandmother, was the most pig-headed of the lot! At one point, and probably against local advice, he built a stone house in the middle of the prairies which, of course, was unheatable. My father, visiting many years later, found it still standing. He was told it had been built by "some damn fool Englishman!"

There appears to have been some visiting back and forth. To quote my father:

"My grandmother Christie visited my father shortly after he came to Canada, but I do not think she could have stayed very long. The story my father used to tell was that he met his mother when she arrived by railway at a small town about forty miles from where he lived. He was driving a team of oxen and started out for his homestead with my grandmother perched on top of the luggage, supplies, etc. The oxen apparently ran away and my grandmother landed in a snowbank. Quite an experience for an English lady not accustomed to the hardships of frontier life."

A markerQu'Appelle Valley -
Qu'Appelle River, Rocanville No. 151, SK, Canada
get directions


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    • profile image

      Carlton Hobbs 3 years ago

      Ha! I'm trying - but nothing seems to happen!

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 3 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Carlton, I believe I do, you can private message me.

    • profile image

      Carlton Hobbs 3 years ago

      Many thanks for a fascinating record - I shall draw heavily on it for my talk on the Magnificent Mabel to Studland's local history group next year. I don't suppose you have a picture of Phyllis and Lionel's wedding...? Thanks again.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      We certainly do. I am having a blast doing this series of hubs - and when I think that the only thing that kept me awake in History class was the sound of my forehead smacking into my desk!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Fascinating family history - from Scotland no less. My grandmother came over from Denmark in the early 1900s. It is amazing how they left everything behind and started over wherever they landed. I'm not sure folks could do that nowadays. My grandfather came over from Germany a few years before my grandmother had landed and it has always amazed me hearing of the stories from their homelands. I think we come from hearty stock at any rate!