A Novel of an Ontario Pioneer
By Robert Laidlaw
novel of the three generations of the McGregor family and their life in
Southwestern Ontario from the 1840s to the 1920s is a classic tale of
"Black Jim" McGregor was only a
small boy when he arrived with his father, the reprobate Rory, his mother,
and his brothers and sisters, on the Huron Tract (that area of
Southwestern Ontario where towns like Guelph, Stratford, Clinton, and
Goderich are today). But he was to spend the next seventy years there and
witness first-hand the struggle to turn some of the wildest land in the
country into pleasant farms, villages, and towns. As a young man he roamed
the country with a framing gang, raising barns and homes, and then, with
his lively wife Janet, he created his own farm out of the Ontario bushland.
Through Jims eyes these indomitable people, who faced the wilderness with
such wry humour and matter-of-factness, come to life.
As well as telling a cornpelling
story about the people who settled the Huron Tract, The McGregors
is full of accurate, fascinating details about pioneering: about how the
first crops were harvested, the huge barns raised. and the homes built;
about how quilts, furniture, and fences were made; and about the strong
sense of community that held everyone together.
McGregors is also about how a community is created,
about how people start to take root in a placeto take from the land a
sense of character as well as a livelihood. It cuts across the
generalities which abound about pioneer life in this country and gives us
an accurate picture of a time in our history when, farm by farm, street by
street, a nation was being built.
Laidlaw was himself a descendant of the pioneers that he writes about in
this book. In fact, this story is based on the memories of his
grandparents, as well as on his own recollections. And while The McGregors
is bound to be of special interest to people living in the towns, cities,
and farms of Southwestern Ontario, it is also a must for people who love
old-fashioned novels that celebrate the timeless virtues of family, home,
Jacket illustration by
Jefferys Courtesy, The Public Archives of Canada.
This book is dedicated to the
courteous, friendly people who lived in the area described herein during
the 1930s and the 1940s.
My purpose in writing the book was
to give a partial history of this part of South Bruce and North Huron
counties through an imaginary account of a mans life from the 1850s to
the 1920s. The names of the characters were chosen at random and have no
connection with any real persons, living or dead; the village is a
combination of Lucknow and of Blyth where I grew up.
I have tried to give an account of
what it must have been like for the first settlers, of how they lived and
worked and what they worked with. As the book progressed I was able to
rely on my own memories and impressions, but the early pages are largely
based on memories of conversations with parents and grandparents. Nothing
much has been written of the history of this area as yet and I think it is
important to make a record before the lives of these people have been
forgotten. If reading The McGregors gives pleasure to a few, that is all
the recompense I ask.
Thanks are due to my wife, Mary
Etta, who corrected my spelling, and to my daughter, Alice Munro, without
whose encouragement this book would not have been written.
All rights reserved.
The use of any part of this
publication reproduced in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior
consent of the publisher is an infringement of the copyright law.
CANADIAN CATALOGUING IN
Laidlaw. Robert. 1901-1976.
2005 I asked Douglas Gibson if he could suggest a book that told the
life of the Scots Pioneers in Canada. He then suggested "The
McGregors" as being the very best account he could remember.
I subsequently found
a copy of this book in a second hand book shop and purchased it for
$40.00 which I believe was the best $40.00 I'd ever spent while
trying to tell the story of the Scots who emigrated to Canada.
I noted however that
the book was still in copyright and so I asked Douglas if he thought
I might get permission to put this up on my web site. As Douglas
knew the daughter of the author he thought this might be possible
and told me to write him a letter detailing what I wanted to do and
why and he would pass this on to the daughter, Alice Munro.
Some months later at
the AGM of the Scottish Studies Foundation in Toronto (Feb. 2006) I
met up with Douglas and asked if he had managed to make any progress
on getting me permission to post up the book. He said "yes,
you have permission... didn't I tell you?" :-)
And so at long last
here is the book for you to read and I am confident you will enjoy
it. Not only does it tell a marvelous story but in many ways
it is a tribute to Scots pioneers where ever they settled in the
My thanks to Douglas
and Alice for letting me post this book onto the site and of course
as a great tribute to Robert Laidlaw, the author.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.