As much as possible, avoid placing Highland Scotch as settlers

Colonel Thomas Talbot much preferred English immigrant farmers but they were scarce.

And since he hated all other races more, Talbot settled the Highlanders in dense communities where they could communicate with each other in Gaelic, and hoped for the best.

Excerpt: In the month of May of the year 1803, Thomas Talbot, lately of His Majesty’s forces in Canada and Holland, arrived on the north shore of Lake Erie to take title to a magnificent tract of forest land on which he hoped to establish a feudal fief. He did not care for Scotchmen, as settlers but Englishmen were unavailable, and he liked other races even less. So he took the highly available clansmen, and to this day concentration of Scotch names in the area is rivaled only by that in the Western Isles.

John Kenneth Galbraith was born in this community a hundred-odd years after the arrival of Colonel Talbot. This book tell of the clansmen and their countryside as it was in the author’s youth. It was an earthy and practical Eden and the humor which he brings to the account is dry, laconic and Caledonian. Even spring came with a slightly satiric smile. It was a time of life revival and retuning warmth, of pastel green in the woods, and “jack-in-the-pulpits and forget-me-nots and wild leeks which were delicious and left everyone with a hideous breath.”

The Scotch – they were never called Scots – had a more durable aroma which in some cases was based on a conservative attitude toward personal sanitation and in others an extremely forthright approach to whiskey. “The Scotch were divided into two groups, those who drank and those who didn’t. If a man drank like a gentlemen, it would not hurt his position in the community. Unfortunately it was not on record than anyone every had.”

Mr. Galbraith tells of the McIntyre House, the scene of some of the most uproarious violence ever produced by ardent spirits and of Hannah, the wife of the village storekeeper, whose specialty was personal misfortune and disaster and who told of other people’s tragedies “with all the joy she really felt.” There was also Old Tommy who would have been counted a man of remarkable ignorance in any profession but who, as an educator, excelled. Old Tommy was permanently the high school principal. It was one of the McKillops who learned by putting dead moths and mouse-droppings into the maple syrup how much flavor we owe to soundly conceived contamination.

But the author tells also of hardworking men and women following he cycle of planting and harvesting, selecting their leaders, nurturing the loyalties of clan and community an winning the favor of God by according Him respect while refusing to make a nuisance of themselves with pointless ritual and purely ceremonial petitions. Many of them also believed “that a preacher was inspired by his Maker. Accordingly, it was impious and also very poor economics to pay him for gifts he received gratis from God.”

The story of the Scotch in Canada is, with variation, the story of English, Irish, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and numerous other ethnic settlements from which rural American was made. As such, it is the story of nearly everyone’s childhood or that of a parent or grandparent. Along with the expert description and the deft and penetrating humor, this, we think, explains its interest and appeal.

The Scotch, John Kenneth Galbraith, 1964. book cover.


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