I am taking a break from Copithorne history to share a story told by my Grandpa Ramsay about his childhood in New Liskeard, Ontario. My aunt sent me a cassette recording he made years ago (over 30 years) of a story he wrote about the gardens at Braeside.
The story my dad told me (and any Ramsay relatives who know the story better please correct me or add what I’ve missed) was that my Grandpa Ramsay was raised as an only child by a single mom in a big house called Braeside in New Liskeard, along with his grandparents who owned the house. So, Grandpa grew up as an only child surrounded by adults, and without a father (my understanding is that the father opted out of family life, not that he died). Dad used to say that Grandpa had told him that as a child he decided that what he wanted more than anything was to have a family of his own, and I have to say he more than accomplished his goal. Although we grew up on the other side of the country in a time when distance meant more than it does now, I have always felt loved by my “eastern family”. The few times we went out there when I was a kid, I remember Grandpa being very engaged with everyone. Us Ramsay cousins even have a “cousin chat” on messenger where we share information and have little catch-up visits.
My Grandpa’s mom (my great grandmother) was named Claire Taylor before she was married. The aunt who sent me Grandpa’s story of the gardens at Braeside has the middle name Claire, as do I. My niece is a Clare (or a Clair I can’t remember) which is close enough to make her part of this “Claire club” as well. My dad’s middle name was Taylor, as is the middle name of my son. We have a photo of Braeside hanging in our kitchen here at the ranch, and I’ve often looked at it and thought of Grandpa and his childhood.
Once upon a time, many many years ago, there was a little boy named Ralph and at the time this story took place he was about 10 years of age. when Ralph was three years old, he lost his father and so his mother Claire left the town where she and his father had been living and returned with Ralph with the home of her father George Taylor and his wife Mary Taylor. Claire’s parents lived in the small town of New Liskeard in Northern Ontario. It was in New Liskeard that Claire lived with her parents before she was married and where she taught school in a little wooden schoolhouse. The little town of New Liskeard lay in a huge wilderness area, only several years before this time had a certain group of people called pioneers com to settle in this new land. They built sawmills and cut down trees to clear off the land for farms. They also came later on to search for minerals because they had heard this land was rich in silver and gold.
New Liskeard was built on the shore of a large lake called Lake Temiskaming. Temiskaming is an Indian word meaning deep waters. Not only was it a deep lake, but also a very long lake, being 90 miles long from end to end. The area around New Liskeard had excellent soil for farming. George Taylor had left his home in Western Canada where he had been given a grant of land as a soldier who had gone to fight some Indians and half Indians and half whites called Metis in the NW territories years and years before. There he married a lady named Mary McGuire who was a daughter of a British soldier. He had to leave the area where he had lived and had his farm, which was near Fort Gary. A Fort which was established in the city which is now Winnipeg. So he returned to London, Ontario to live in order to educate his children. He was able to sell his farm for a good price and he was able to buy a nice home in London, Ontario and to open some businesses there. After he had been in London for quite a number of years and his children were growing up, particularly his boys, he had five boys and five girls, he had decided that he would have to find a place where his boys would have a chance to make a success in a business way. So he left his home in London, Ontario and journeyed up to the area which was later to be called New Liskeard, for he had a grant from the government in an area which was later to be called Ardour Lake. And he wanted to check it out to see if it would be good enough for farming.
After he had been there a short time, he bought a hardware store in the town of New Liskeard, and there he opened up what was called the George Taylor Hardware which was used to supply farmers and pioneers and woodsmen with the materials they needed to carry on their work. George Taylor was a very big, tall man with a black and white beard. He had big shoulders and was very handsome. His parents were born in Scotland and his ancestors had lived there for many, many years. He loved the Scottish words, and so he named the new home which he built in New Liskeard “Braeside” which means “hillside” in Scottish.
The house was very large to accommodate his family of 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. it was built of red brick with a slate tile roof and contained many bedrooms on the second and third floors. The site of his home was chosen for the rich soil in that area, which would be perfect for gardening.
In front of his home, Braeside, there was a beautiful terraced lawn. Birch trees and Manitoba Maples were planted all around the boundaries of the land. On the south side of the house was a large area for the garden. That’s where the soil was the very best, consisting of sandy loam. His soil was perfect for growing apple trees, cranberry trees, and flowers and vegetables of many kinds. It was in this garden that one would find gooseberries, red currants, black currants, white currants, raspberries, and strawberries, potatoes, and rhubarb, peas, squash, carrots, onions, beets, cabbages, tomatoes, and pumpkins, and swiss chard also grew there.
Not long after Ralph was born, his mother Claire took ill and when she returned to her parent’s home in New Liskeard, she had to go into the hospital for a stay of about 2 years. Ralph was cared for by his Grandpa and Grandma Taylor who were quite old even then.