Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner December 31, 2020
About a year ago, I sent off my sample of saliva and $80 to Ancestry.ca for an analysis of my ethnic heritage. The company then tried to upsell me. For more money, I could find out names and places of my ancestors.
I declined this kind offer, since I was afraid of finding out more about sheep thieves, or worse.
The report about who I really am came back promptly. I am 80% Celtic, that is, Scots and Irish, though no breakdown between them was given. I am also 15% Nordic. One son laughed: “That’ll never get you a Norwegian passport, Mom.”
In my growing up years, the Irish part was pretty well present. I knew about poetry, holy wells, St Brigid’s cloak, little people, the Great Famine of the 1840’s, those English oppressors, religious wars, the Easter Uprising of 1916, Kilmainham Jail and so on.
But the Scottish part not so much.
So this year, the Year of the Pandemic, I set out to remedy that situation. I started with Google, and then, providentially, went to Miriam McFadyen of Aylmer Street, a true Scottish lass. Miriam, a nurse, came to Canada in 1990, recruited by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and has made a full and generously-lived life since.
I decided to order a Hogmanay meal (“with or without haggis?” they asked), which I saw mentioned in the Examiner, cooked at Hutchison House, our Brock Street treasure which recreates the early days of Scottish settlers in Peterborough.
I ordered the take-away meal for December 31. Who could resist tatties and neeps, oatcakes, Scotch eggs and potted salmon? And clootie dumpling? Not I.
One supplies one’s own whisky.
In 1836, Peterborough’s first doctor, John Hutchison, needed a home for his family of five children. Community members rallied with materials and labour to build it. The cost was $244. Dr Hutchison went on to host his 18 year-old cousin, Sandford Fleming for two years. The latter went on to great fame.
Hutchison House is tenderly kept as a living museum by the Peterborough Historical Society. It is busy with tours, teas, and educational programs even in this stripped-down pandemic year.
Hogmanay, (stress on the third syllable) puts New Year’s well ahead of Christmas in importance. Christmas was for a time viewed as the domain of Roman Catholics.
There are traditions such as the "first foot," meaning that your first visitor of the new year brings good luck. There is the greeting “Lang may yer lum reek” (long may your chimney smoke). Poet Robert Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne.”
And some people take a dip in the Firth of Forth.
I am ready to read “A History of Scotland for Dummies.” It is a turbulent and complex story, beginning in 843, full of battles and intrigues and a thirst for independence, continuing until 1703 when the Scots, Irish and English signed the Act of Union and put their flags together to make the Union Jack.
The Scots, or Caledonians, had turned back the Romans 2000 years before and although they voted “Yes” to staying in the UK in 2014, they voted to stay in the European Union in 2016, against England’s wishes.
It is a harsh, beautiful, mostly mountainous terrain. Many Canadian viewers have been enjoying the television drama series “Outlander” now entering its sixth season. It is a kind of time-traveler story of an English nurse in 1945 who is transported back to the Highlands in 1745.
Today modern Scotland, with 6 million people, thrives. Its First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party. North Sea Oil has helped Scottish prosperity.
It has always had many significant thinkers: Thomas Hobbes, James Watt, Adam Smith, David Hume, Sir Walter Scott to name a few. Even J.K.Rowling. It has a famous university, St Andrew’s.
Glasgow will host the United Nations conference on the climate emergency in late 2021. This will be the most crucial meeting since the world signed the Paris Accord in 2015.
Aye to Scotland.
You can purchase Positive Community directly from Rosemary Ganley at email@example.com or from >Amazon.com<