Once Upon a Time: Memories of Home – Part 1

In January of 1980, Margaret MacDougall shared with Jessie MacKinnon her fascinating story of growing up in Kincardine Township around the beginning of the twentieth century. Mrs. MacKinnon subsequently wrote this account for the Bruce County Historical Society’s 1985 Yearbook.

The MacDougall tartan
  Waving goodbye to a ship bound                        for Canada

Near the Scottish town of Rothsay, overlooking the Clyde River, is an elevation called Canada Hill. The story is told that relatives and friends stood to wave farewell to their loved ones who were leaving for Canada. Embarking on one of the sailing vessels were Grandfather and Grandmother MacDougall and their family of six sons and one daughter. They settled in Bruce County on what is now Concession 10 of Kincardine Township.


A stone mason by trade, Donald MacDougall’s experience was invaluable in erecting his own log cabin. As the sons married and left the patriarchal roof, one of them, “Big Charlie,” stayed on the homestead to care for their parents. He married Mary MacLean and they raised a family of seven boys and seven girls of whom Margaret was the youngest.

In 1873, a brick farm house was erected, one of the finest to be built in the area. It stands today as solidly as on the day it was completed. Margaret’s vague earliest memories were of her mother’s illness. She died in early middle age of pernicious anemia. Margaret was reared in the lap of a close-knit family, cherished and well-provided for by Charlie, cared for by older sisters and teased and protected by her seven big brothers.

       Image by Walter Frederick                                 Osborne

“We had a sing-song every day after noon-time dinner while the horses were resting,” Margaret recalled. “My father has a fine voice and led in old Scottish ballads, often in Gaelic.” There was an organ in the parlour and all the girls took music lessons. Margaret was often enticed by her brothers to slip away from the practices to join them outside — if she could evade the watchful eyes of her big sisters.


And what fun awaited her outside! Baseball with the homemade ball made of layers of string wound around a large cork centre and covered in darned grey yarn. But the best fun of all was playing hide and seek among the sweet-smelling coils of hay on a soft June evening.


More of Margaret’s stories next month.
Original article was abridged and adapted by Bob Johnston