Ornaments or Decorations or Neither?

A few days ago a writing friend of mine blogged about Christmas Ornaments. She said she had been asked to bring a Christmas ornament to a party and tell the story of the ornament and why it was special to her. It wasn’t really her thing, she said, and she hadn’t planned to take part. Then a box arrived from her sister and inside were “five small prettily wrapped gifts—Christmas ornaments for [her] first tree and [her] first Christmas in [her] first house.” Each ornament was special.

(Click photo twice to enlarge detail)

It was a loving and meaningful gesture by her sister and as she displayed and explained the significance of each ornament, I was reminded of the ones our family has accumulated through the years … only I’m not sure what they should be called.

Ornament: a thing used to make something look more attractive but usually having no practical purpose, especially a small object such as a figurine.

Decoration: the process or art of decorating or adorning something.

Memento: an object kept as a reminder or souvenir of a person or event.

Just below the centre of this photo, nestled among the branches, you can see a small cross. (It looks like it’s comprised of little jingle bells strung together, but they don’t make noise.) My parents passed it along to me the year my first child was born, with the reminder that it had been on every tree since my first Christmas. Not shown is another small circle of well worn nylon bristles with the picture of an angel affixed to the centre.  It has also been on every tree since my birth.

Yes, it makes the tree more attractive but has no practical purpose. Yes, it helps adorn the tree. Yes, it’s a special reminder of my first Christmas. It’s all of the above and yet it’s more.

My parents weren’t religious. I’m sure they believed there was a god, but he played no role in their lives. We didn’t attend church or say grace before meals. Christmas wasn’t thought of as a holy holiday but was traditionally a celebration of friends and family…of visiting, eating, singing and gift giving. So I’m not sure what prompted them to choose a cross and an angel to commemorate the first Christmas of their only child.

I’m glad they did, because it’s meaningful to me, but I wish I’d asked them about their motivation when I had the opportunity. At this point in my life it waits out the months between Decembers well padded in a box labelled as ‘Heritage Ornaments’, along with others given to me from my grandmother’s tree–a fragile red teapot, two glass birds and a tiny brass bell. I treasure them for the memories they evoke of the people we celebrated with…my parents and grandparents.

The cross wasn’t a thing of beauty. At some point many years ago the wire holding the ‘bells’ together broke and the silvering began peeling off. My hubby thoughtfully restrung them and bought a can of silver paint so we could refurbish it. I sprinkled silver glitter on the wet paint, and, while it was an amateur job, to this day it continues to shimmer in the lights on my eightieth Christmas tree.

This same tree marks our sixtieth year together. That makes it pretty special, too, although earlier this year while on a cruise to Alaska I bought a little ornament to specifically mark that occasion. Looking at it, I’m inclined to say that these are neither ornaments nor decorations, but are mementos. What do you say?

Do you have holiday decorations / ornaments / mementos that are especially meaningful to you? I’d love to hear about them.

~  ~  ~

Compartmentalizing the Process of Aging

This Facebook meme made me giggle:

It seemed particularly appropriate because I marked a milestone birthday this month. Years ago upon reaching 65 I declared myself ‘officially old’ because it was society’s perceived age of retirement and  I finally qualified for Canada’s OAP. Now, having reached ‘Lvl 80’, I’m not sure what I am. Maybe ‘officially ancient’? 

There are lots of clichés about aging… about only being as old as you feel, or about age being an issue of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. An elderly woman in our church was once asked how she was feeling and cheerfully replied, “Oh, I’m feeling just fine, thanks, but my body is wearing out.” Another elderly woman of a similar age, while receiving some physical assistance, complained bitterly about her limitations and said, “I wish you could just shoot me.” Granted, their home situations differed, but their attitudes affected both how they viewed their conditions and how their friends related to them.

A writing friend recently reviewed a story about a woman with total amnesia who looked in the mirror and was distraught when she didn’t recognize the woman she saw. She considered herself much younger than the wrinkled, grey-haired reflection. When I look in the mirror, I’m not upset, but sometimes I’m surprised by who is looking back at me. Surely that’s my grandmother! But no, she died back in 1967 when she was 70. Yikes! I’m already ten years older than she was. Definitely ancient!

Aging is a fascinating process. Looking back, I view my life as a series of videos, each covering a block of approximately twenty years…

  • Block  I — Childhood, School
  • Block 2 — Marriage, Family
  • Block 3 — Empty Nest, Second Career
  • Block 4 — Retirement

In retrospect, each block was a fulfilling, growing experience as it built on the previous one. I have no idea what this fifth block is going to look like; it’s a video still in the recording process. I know I’m more accepting/forgiving of my shortcomings now, and I have different goals from those of twenty, forty or sixty years ago. But I do still have goals, and I look at them now with a greater sense of urgency since the years ahead don’t stretch out with the same sense of indefiniteness that they once did.

When I think of the two women mentioned above (who were in their late-90s at the time), I hope my attitudes will more often resemble those of the first one when it comes to accepting the challenges my latter years may bring. Then with a continuation of some of the blessings God has granted me in the past plus a bit of good ol’ Irish luck as the future unfolds, perhaps at the end I’ll be able to entitle the final video Block 5 — Goals Reached.

Whatever the case, I’m content to be celebrating the achievement of ‘Lvl 80‘ in this game of Life!

~  ~  ~

Killing our dogs with misdirected good intentions

 

I’m passionate about my canine companions. I’ve owned, bred, trained, exhibited and adored Shelties (and now also Labradors) for over forty years. I try to keep a sane perspective — after all, “they’re just dogs” — but it doesn’t work. They’re an integral part of our family and, just as is the case with the rest of the family, I’m committed to doing my best for them. That’s especially true when it comes to meal planning.

Given that dogs get much less variety in their daily diets, choosing the one food that meets all their nutritional needs is particularly important. Years ago the options weren’t as abundant as they are now. The only decision was between a premium formula to support higher physical performance and an everyday, adequate formula at a lower price.

Now? It’s almost like perusing the cereal aisle in a grocery store. Walk down the aisles of any pet food store and you’ll find shelf upon shelf displaying a confusing choice of dog foods.

There are extensive marketing campaigns trying to appeal to our emotions and convince us that dogs evolved from wolves and therefore need the same kind of food wolves eat. It says wolves don’t eat grains and dogs shouldn’t either. It promotes tasty-sounding, meaty options with an emotional appeal to those of us who want the very best for our furry friends.

The problem is, the advertising isn’t based on valid research. Wolves do indirectly eat grains; today’s dogs do not have the same dietary needs that wolves do; in fact, our dogs are omnivores.

Over the past couple years, the increased trend towards those mouth-watering (to us, anyway) grain-free, meat-vegetable-fruit-based foods has paralleled a radical increase in a particular heart disease that’s killing dogs — Nutritionally-mediated Dilated Cardiomyopathy (N-DCM). Symptoms don’t show up until the disease has advanced to the critical stage and diagnosis is only achieved by expensive echocardiograms. Without symptoms, many veterinarians have been reluctant to recommend the echos until it’s too late.

However, as suspicions have risen, some veterinarians and dog owners have been reporting their cases of DCM to the Food and Drug Administration. Between 2014-2017 there were a total of seven reported cases of DCM. In 2018 alone the number rose dramatically to 320. To date in 2019 there have been 586 reported cases, including 121 deaths. The FDA has studied the cases in detail and determined that the majority of affected dogs were eating grain-free dry dog foods that contained legumes, potatoes and/or sweet potatoes, ‘exotic’ ingredients, and/or were foods produced by small ’boutique’ companies that didn’t have veterinarians or qualified nutritionists on staff and didn’t do long-term testing of their foods. In an unprecedented move, the studies went as far as naming the brands of food most often reported as being eaten by the affected dogs.

While there isn’t proven scientific data available yet, concerns have risen to the extent that the FDA is recommending dog owners take the precautionary move of immediately switching away from any of the grain-free, exotic ingredients, boutique company foods. In many identified cases of N-DCM, switching foods initiated a measurable reversal of the damage done to the heart.

So what foods are being recommended? Surprising to many, it’s food manufactured by the large, well-established companies whose practices follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines. Right now the only ones are: grain-inclusive formulas produced by Royal Canin, Purina, Hill’s (Science Diet), Eukanuba, and IAMs.

I apologize if your eyes are beginning to glaze over, but people who are losing their beloved companions to this dreadful disease are trying desperately to get the word out to other owners. Hopefully the FDA’s investigation into diet-related DCM will soon result in irrefutable scientific data. But in the meantime, don’t be suckered into the desperate marketing campaigns designed to appeal to your emotions rather than meet your dog’s dietary requirements, because you could be killing your canines with well-meaning albeit deadly choices.

~

RESOURCES:

Facebook group of 95,600+ concerned veterinarians, canine nutritionalists and dog owners (this is a closed group but if you would like an invitation to join, let me know):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TaurineDCM/

It’s Not Just Grain-Free: An Update on Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy

~  ~  ~

 

Home is Where?

You’ve heard the cliches: “Home is where your heart is” and “Home is where you hang your hat.” How many homes have you had? Were any of them memorable? This morning the authors of the Jungle Red Writers blog were reminiscing about their first apartments and that got me to thinking back to ours.

We were married in the Fall of 1959 (yes, I know, that makes us ancient). Our first home was a basement suite in Vancouver that was so damp my nylon stockings hung on a towel rack overnight wouldn’t dry. After the first couple months we moved into a third floor apartment of an old converted house. It wasn’t fancy, but at least it was dry. Its most memorable aspect was that one of the tenants was rebuilding a huge pipe organ in the basement.

Once my hubby had finished his last year at UBC, we moved to Toronto so he could pursue his theological studies at Knox College. Arrangements had been made for us to live in one of two apartments on the top level of the College’s western tower.

(Look up; waaaay up! Our apartment is at the top.)

Knox College has existed since the mid-1800s but the current building was dedicated in 1915. “Its perpendicular Gothic style modelled on the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, England is considered one of the finest examples of this architecture in Canada.” Living there was definitely memorable.

(The inner courtyard)

(Corridor through courtyard)

For starters, seventy-six stairs led to our apartment. At the end of our three years there my hubby was fit enough to run up them. I never could. I was pregnant when we moved in and pregnant again when we moved out. I lumbered up, counting off every one as I climbed. There was one additional flight of thirteen stairs that accessed the flat roof where our rudimentary clothesline was hidden from public view by the turrets. We were given permission to use the staff washing machines in the basement but seldom did because it meant hauling the laundry basket the extra distance.

Instead, we hand washed our clothes in our bathtub. I wish I had a photo of that tub. At one time the apartment had formed part of an infirmary and this bathtub-on-wheels would be filled from the wall-mounted spout, rolled out to the patient’s bedside, then returned to the bathroom to be emptied via a valve drain into the floor. I washed a lot of diapers in that tub!

During those three years, we spent one summer in a student mission charge in Coleville, SK. Our accommodation there was a three-room apartment in the back of the little rural church. We had an outhouse in the backyard and hauled our water from the town’s well. After a windstorm there was silty dust in every nook and cranny until I learned to put folded towels along all the windowsills to block the draft.

After graduation, we went to our first pastoral charge in Creston, BC. When we arrived, the congregation was in the midst of tearing apart the manse, so we had to live temporarily in a small rented house. It had an ornery sawdust-burning stove and a leaky roof. Whenever it rained, water would drip from inside door frames and assorted ceiling locations. We placed buckets and bowls in about a dozen strategic places and hoped the shower would soon be over. We were relieved to move into the rebuilt manse a few months later!

We’ve moved several more times through the years, and have always been blessed with homes that have been more than adequate and very comfortable. None of them can compete with the earliest ones for unique and memorable experiences, but each in its time was special because it was ‘home’.

 

To Declutter or Not to Declutter

If you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo you can’t possibly have been paying attention. The Japanese guru of organization is turning up everywhere. Her motto of ‘Tidy your space; transform your life’ by following six basic rules of tidying, is pushing even the most skeptical of us into evaluating our clutter.

(Ideally the fan and television should disappear, but there’s a closet nearby that’s in much greater need of attention.)

We’re told to sort through our belongings (in a specific order, I must add), scrutinize each item, decide if it brings us joy and, if it doesn’t, thank it for its service before tossing it.

Does that make you nod your head in enlightened agreement, hurl ridicule, or laugh uneasily?

The loudest response I’ve heard is from the reading and writing community. Latching onto Kondo’s suggestion that she keeps her collection of books pared down to thirty, sparked disbelief and rebellion at the idea of parting with any of our precious volumes.

“You can never have too many books” says a mime that circulates on social media. And Melissa Breyer, in an article for Treehugger entitled In case of rapturous decluttering, don’t throw away your books, says, “Should you get bitten by the Kondo bug, go gently with your book collection.”

“…a book collection in its entirety, nurtured over a lifetime of reading, can in itself be considered a thing of joy … and once it’s gone, it can not be replaced. Go ahead and alphabetize by author, dust the covers, and straighten the spines – but if you keep just one thing in your decluttering frenzy, consider keeping the books.”

Even Tsundoku – the practice of buying more books than we can read, thus creating our infamous TBR piles – has a positive spinoff in Breyer’s article. “That a book is unread should not be an indication of its uselessness, rather, a promise of its potential. It’s like having a gift to open or a vacation to look forward to.” Believe me, I have a lot of gifts waiting to be opened!

(This is just one of our bookcases — the one reserved for my writing craft books and my TBR ones.)

The phenomenon of de-cluttering isn’t new. I don’t think anyone admits to liking clutter. Certainly, I don’t. Author Sherri Shackelford said in a Facebook post yesterday, “I understand organizing isn’t for everyone. Some people work better in chaos.” I don’t. I get stalled amid clutter because it spills over into my mind and my creativity grinds to a halt.

For me, the challenge was to identify what constituted clutter and then figure out how to deal with it. Marie Kondo says it’s necessary to first visualize your ideal lifestyle. That’s always been a problem, too. What’s ideal and what’s realistic and how can the two be made compatible, especially in a household with four children, several dogs, and no budget for decorating?

To start with, I didn’t know one style from another. I knew I wanted our home to be a sanctuary, a place of serenity in which to retreat when the pressures of trying to survive as an introvert in an extrovert’s world got to be a bit much. Minimalism was the only thing I thought could achieve that goal, and the starkness of its décor didn’t appeal to me. I like my creature comforts.

It took me almost fifty years of marriage before I began to understand that regardless of style, what made our homes comfortable for me was being surrounded by things I love, just not too many of them at any one time – essentially what Marie Kondo advocates.

Next to being surrounded by my family and dogs, the things I love involve clear countertops, serene colours of the beach and woodland, specific pieces of art and pottery…and books. Lots of books. I’ve rationalized that doesn’t conflict with Marie’s idea, because all those books bring me joy. So, beyond a bit of reorganizing and dusting, I won’t be tidying my bookshelves. I’ll take my decluttering in other areas.

In fact, our bedroom closet is next in line for some attention. I can think of several items in it that don’t bring me joy at all. It’s hard to love pieces that need repair or no longer fit.

After that? Hmmm, not sure yet…just don’t ask about our basement!

~  ~  ~

 

Repeating An Irish Recipe and Blessing

I was perusing my Irish Soda Bread recipe while I ought to have been thinking about a blog post, but then realized I can kill two birds with one stone by sharing the recipe. (Where does that dreadful saying come from? I couldn’t kill one bird with anything!) This is a post from 2012. I hope you won’t mind the repetition.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

This is the day to be celebrating all things Irish, sharing shenanigans and wearing green. At least that’s how North Americans seem to celebrate, along with perhaps raising a pint of ale or Guinness. We make more of St. Patrick’s Day here than they do in Ireland.

Since I can’t ignore my Irish roots (I’m a McGuire — from the 13th century Irish MagUidhir in County Fermanagh), I always have to do something special to mark the occasion. Most often it’s just the wearing of a bit o’ green, but my family will vouch for my tendency to doctor normally un-green foods until they turn a shamrock shade – for instance, green porridge for breakfast, or perhaps cereal with green milk, maybe a lunchtime sandwich with green cream cheese filling, or green Jello for dessert.

However, now that our children have moved on and I can no longer embarrass them with such things in their school lunch boxes, I’m more restrained. I’m thinking of making my favourite Irish Soda Bread recipe today. (It’s tame, I know, but then you never can tell if I’ll give in to a leprechaun’s temptation and add a little green colouring to the buttermilk.)

I’m told there are two kinds of soda bread… a cake type that is normally kneaded and baked in an oven, and a farl type that is rolled out into a circle and cut crosswise into four equal quarters to bake on a griddle. While the farl type is apparently preferred more in the north of Ireland where my family originated, and the cake type in the south, my recipe happens to be the cake kind. It’s a little sweeter than the traditional loaf, too, but very tasty. I’ll share it as my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you.

~

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 c. flour
¼ c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. butter (I’ve used margarine, too)
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients together and cut in butter.
Blend in buttermilk, egg and soda to make a dough that can be kneaded.
Turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Shape into ball, and place in greased 2-qt. casserole.
(You can also bake it on a cookie sheet if you prefer.)
Brush top with egg yolk or cream and slash a deep “+” on it.
Bake @ 350oF oven until done (about 45-60 minutes, or until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped).
Wrap loaf in tea towel and cool 1 hour before cutting.

~

 Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

~  ~  ~

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Research? What kind of research?

It doesn’t seem to matter what the task is, unless it’s something I’ve done before, research has to come first.

  • Changing the needle on the sewing machine? Check the manual.
  • Removing a stain from delicate fabric? Google my options.
  • Bake a special dessert? Get out the cookbook.
  • Refinish deck furniture? Find a YouTube video and follow the steps.

My current project — creating a family tree — has been a major research project. Once I made a start, I found lots of formerly unknown sources of information.

An old family bible provided pages of family births, deaths and marriages from the mid-1800s.

Other distant relatives had information to share, such as their discovery of an abandoned cemetery and lost family gravestones.

I’m accumulating details from birth, marriage and death registration certificates that, in addition to cause of death — a surprise to me — often included names and birthplaces of parents, residence at time of death, religious denomination, and occupation.

I mentioned in an earlier post my excitement over locating forty pages of my father-in-law’s WWI military service records. I’ve gleaned all sorts of interesting albeit irrelevant tidbits, like the name of the ships he sailed on between Canada and Europe.

It’s such seemingly irrelevant information that can make the research fascinating and bring an ancestor to life again.

~

For writers, it’s those details that can make our stories appealing to readers. The little bits of personal trivia that help readers ‘see’ the setting and get to ‘know’ the characters. They make the story more intimate, more meaningful.

I know this. I just have to remember to implement it in my writing!

What kind of research do you undertake in preparation for (or during) the writing of your stories?

~  ~  ~

 

Making Vimy Ridge Personal

War has always seemed a very distant reality to me. As I was growing up, it existed mostly in sepia photos and scratchy news reels that preceded our Saturday afternoon matinées.

For a time, WWII separated our family when my enlisted father was sent from Vancouver to Toronto in 1945 to be a masonry contractor during the building of Sunnybrook Military Hospital for veterans (now the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre). But even that ‘inconvenience’ was short-lived when he located an apartment for us a few months later, and my mother and I travelled by train to join him.

WWI was ancient history. It wasn’t until I’d been married for several years that I heard a fleeting reference to my father-in-law having served in France. He never talked about it other than to show us a unique ‘souvenir’ — a rosary of roughly carved wooden beads and a cross that had an extra set (decade) of beads — which he’d found in a muddy ditch.

All these years later, as preparations are being made for tomorrow’s 100th anniversary commemoration in Vimy, France, we are reminded that he was a part of that battle. There is a memorial there to the 3,598 Canadian soldiers that lost their lives, but Edison Lloyd Garvin came home uninjured. He put the horror behind him (or at least kept it well hidden), married and got on with his life.

Several years ago I took a notion to google for information on his military service. All I found at that time was his regimental number and a copy of his attestation papers showing he had enlisted on September 15, 1915 at age nineteen.

Since then, the Government of Canada has been digitizing the records and, to my amazement, my search earlier this week brought up a PDF file containing forty pages — including an itemized record of my father-in-law’s entire military history.

Upon enlisting he was assigned to the 45th Canadian Battalion and on March 13, 1916 embarked on the SS Lapland for England. There, on June 6, 1916 he was transferred to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was sent to the field in France.

His Active Service Record indicates he remained in France until February 8, 1919, at which time he returned to England. Due to the demobilization of his troop, he left Liverpool on March 12, 1919 aboard the RMS Baltic. His Discharge Certificate was issued on March 24, 1919.

Those are the bare facts. Seeing them and all the in-between actions noted in handwriting, the cheque number of every monthly $15 payment that was sent to his mother, and in particular, seeing my father-in-law’s own very recognizable signature on the various forms, brings the distant reality much closer. Now the battle at Vimy Ridge is personal!

~  ~  ~

Another Generation

My St. Patrick’s Day post shared bits of my family background, including photos of my two sets of grandparents. They were a big part of my life all the way through childhood. Once I was married, however, life took my hubby and me away to live in assorted provinces throughout Canada — places where the rest of my family didn’t live — but fortunately I had great memories of many gatherings and experiences that involved all my grandparents.

Robert & Ella Garvin

My hubby, on the other hand, was four years old when he remembers seeing his Grandma Ella Garvin for the last time. She was the only one of his four grandparents who was still alive when he was born.

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There are many reasons why his parents had him and his brother later in their marriage. Before his father, Edison, finished high school, World War I took him to France for three and a half years of military service. Following his discharge he worked for a year before embarking on a series of Bible College courses in preparation for ministry. After supplying pastoral care as a student in Stratton, ON, he went to a small, rural congregation in Ridgedale, SK while continuing his studies extramurally. He married Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Haines in 1924.

Grandmother Sarah Ann (Lewis) Haines

The manse in Ridgedale was little more than a drafty shack — I’m told they could lay in bed and line the stars up through a crack in the roof. Edison’s ministry there was abruptly ended by two years spent battling tuberculosis in a sanitarium in Saskatoon, followed by a long recuperation period. During his recovery, he undertook some part-time ministry and continued more extramural studies, this time from Knox College, before finally being accepted for ordination.

It wasn’t until he was called to full-time ministry in a church in Selkirk, MB that their children were finally born. Edison and Beth were both 42 years old when my hubby arrived. We’ve often quipped about my husband’s parents being old enough to be the parents of my parents who were 20 and 21 when I was born.

When writing our church’s history in 2015 I added this comment:

“Who we are as a church today is
a direct result of the journey of faith
begun by those who travelled before us.”

I believe it’s equally true for a family. Our roots have contributed to the people we are today. We exist because of those who came before us. If there’s truth in the cliche that we can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been, then it’s important to be aware of our ancestors and what led to where we are today.

So I shall muddle on in my genealogy project. I haven’t yet unearthed a photo of the fourth grandfather, William Haines, but am hoping I’ll find it in one of the many boxes still stacked in the corner of my office. Don’t hold your breath! 🙂

~  ~  ~

I’m Irish! (but what’s in a name?

Truthfully, there’s only a part of me that’s Irish, but I’ve embraced it for as long as I can remember. My maiden name was McGuire, and I always thought my Grandfather Henry McGuire was born in Ireland. One of the things I remember best about him is all the Irish stories, true and otherwise, he would tell us grandchildren. Our official family tree, however, places his birth in West Arthurlie, Barrhead, Neilston, RFW Scotland.

Henry & Winnifred McGuire

Henry and a brother came to Canada and settled in an area just north and west of Edmonton, Alberta where a group of farmers set up the Paddle River and District Coop. A central point in the area was chosen for a store, and when an application was made to have a post office in it, a name had to be submitted. The McGuire brothers suggested Barrhead in recognition of their home in Scotland, and this was adopted.*

However, the McGuires (or Maguires) really did originate in Ireland.

“The Irish family of Maguire, the chiefs of Fermanagh since the year 1302, derive their name and descent from Odhar, the eleventh in descent from Colla-da-chrich, great-grandson of Cormac Mac Art, monarch of Ireland about the middle of the third century.”**

Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh (Gaelic: Droichead Mhig Uidhir), takes its name from the family.

How did these Irish end up in Scotland?

John & Edith Aconit

“Irish immigration to Scotland was part of a well- established feature of early 19th century life in Ireland: the annual harvest migration. Scotland was Ireland’s closest neighbour (only 13 miles separate the two countries at one point)…

In the 1820s, up to 8,000 economic migrants crossed back and forth across the Irish Sea every year, bound for seasonal agricultural work or other temporary contractual work in northern England, Wales and Scotland….

While most of the temporary migrants and probably a small proportion of the skilled workers eventually returned home to Ireland, some chose to settle permanently….

In Girvan, Ayrshire, for instance, some three-quarters of the 6,000 population was Irish-born in 1831. By 1841, when the earliest Scottish census was taken, some 125,321 (4.8%) of the 2.6 million population was Ireland-born.

For my purposes today, it’s adequate to know they did, and some subsequently came to Canada.

~

I married a Garvin, Scottish in name, but with an Irish connection I didn’t know about at the time. In a family history compiled by my brother-in-law, Murray Garvin, I learned…

“According to my father’s account, three Girvans migrated from the town of Girvan, Scotland [to Ireland]. One located in Carrickfergus, one in Stoneyford, County Down, and one at Glencoe, County Antrim, and it was from the Glencoe settler that we have our origin.”

Girvan was the original spelling of our name. That Glencoe settler was one David Girvan who had been born in Scotland in 1586. Traced through his lineage, two brothers, Robert and another David, emigrated from Ireland to the United States and then came to Canada in 1831.

“Robert Girvan, on reaching Canada, settled on the 4th line of Golburne (sic) Township, Richmond County, Ontario, taking up land and also opening a blacksmith shop.”

Robert married in 1836/38 and he and his wife Sarah Vaughan had fourteen children. Yes, fourteen! Seven of the girls were baptized, but apparently none of the boys. In baptismal records, spelling of the family name takes various forms, possibly because they were written phonetically, and, as the account suggests, “perhaps the Irish accent added to the confusion.” Two of the girls’ names were recorded as Girvin, one was Girvan, and four were Garvin, as were the parents. However, on his gravestone the father’s name is inscribed as Girvin. Our line carried on as Garvin, although we have relatives in Ontario who use Girvan. Ackk! What confusion!

Enough about names! It’s time to celebrate all things Irish. I’m ready to indulge in a little wearing’ o’ the green, and maybe have a slice of the chocolate brownies I’ve topped with green peppermint icing. It would go down nicely with a mug of Irish coffee … but I’m not sure I have the makings on hand. I suppose I shouldn’t admit to that, being Irish and all. 😉

Oh, and the photos here? They’re of my paternal and maternal grandparents. I was fortunate to know all four of them for many years, unlike my hubby who had only one of his grandparents and was very young when that one died. There are fewer photos of them but perhaps I’ll hunt them up for a future post.

~  ~  ~

*TRAILS NORTHWEST
Barrhead and District Historical Society

**THE MAGUIRES OF FERMANAGH
By John O’Donovan