happiness

The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 2

I meant to add to yesterday’s story, that when Grandpa mentioned that he and his mom (Claire) travelled back home to Ontario after his dad left, that the home that they travelled from was in North Battleford SK- not a short distance.

I turned over the framed photo of Braeside and found Grandpa had written a little blurb about it. I am so grateful for those people who know enough to write the significance of an item for those of us who won’t remember all the details. Reading “lawyer scrawl” is a challenge. Often as a child when my parents would send in notes to the teacher I would be called up to the front to read them the note because they “couldn’t quite make out the handwriting”. So, if anyone sees where I’ve misread something in Grandpa’s note please tell me!

“This is a coloured photograph of the George Taylor family residence, built about 1903-04 by John Clarke and probably Len Hill. I have a picture of it under construction. It was named “Braeside” after Grandpa’s beloved Scotland (“hillside”). Grandpa had his own letterhead = Braeside, New Liskeard, Ontario on the best linen paper. I was here with my mother until I was 18 and left for college and again until I married. Grandpa Taylor died on the 19 August 1919. Grandma was the life tenant and mother the housekeeper. This picture was owned by mum.”

As soon as little Ralph was old enough, about 4 or 5 years of age, his grandparents would take him with them when they worked in their garden. They showed him how they planted the vegetables and the many beautiful flowers that were throughout the garden. So Ralph spent much time in the garden and became interested in all the life he found there. Birds were always to be found in the garden. There were many English Sparrows, Robins, Chickadees, Wrens and Blue Jays in the summer. Grossbeaks came in the winter to eat the cranberries. When Ralph was about 7 years of age, he was given a little plot of land all his own and he was shown how to get it ready for planting in the spring. He learned to spade it and rake it to get the ground all even. He learned the various ways of planting seeds like carrots, beets, and pumpkin. Potatoes were cut up and planted with their eyes still on. He also planted flowers in his garden. Snapdragons, pansies, asters, daisies, lupen and dalphiniums.

Ralph worked in his garden with his own little rake and his own little hoe. His grandparents showed him how to stretch a string across the length of his little garden and attach it to two cedar sticks, one on each end. Ralph took a third stick to draw a straight line in the soil, the depth required for the seeds. Usually about an inch or so deep. The seeds would all be dropped in at the right distances apart so they would grow up without being too crowded together. Many such lines were drawn for the different kinds of seeds to be planted.

Later he was taught how to remove all the weeds from around his plants and to water them very carefully. He diligently watched the potato plants. When potato bugs were spotted eating the new green leaves, he was taught to pick the bugs off the leaves and dispose of them in a can.

Ralph’s mother, Claire was out of the hospital and completely well by now. She worked as a housekeeper at Braeside for her father and her mother. Working in the garden was one of her favioute pass times. It was also under her supervision that the many beautiful flowers were planted around Braeside. At one time there would be as many as 500 gladioli blooming on the front lawn in every shade of red, peach, choral, yellow, and white. Cars would line up in front of the house to see the sight. The work of the large garden was getting to much for Grandpa Taylor and Claire to handle all by themselves. Grandpa Taylor was getting old and was often sick, and there was so much work to do. So he hired a man named Mr. Scott who lived just across the street from him. Mr. Scott was an Englishman who was about 60 years of age, and his job was to come and act as gardener. Mr. Scott would come over regularly to do work in the big garden and Ralph was frequently with him.

Mr. Scott had difficulty walking because his joints were very stiff. His work was very hard, digging up the soil in the spring, getting it ready for planting, and then helping with the harvest in the fall. So there were times when Mr. Scott was not smiling. He was very grouchy and not very pleasant to a little boy who was full of questions. Mr. Scott was probably suffering from a lot of pain, and it was only in much later years that Ralph understood the stiffness in his knees and hands as being what older people called arthritis, or rheumatism. Arthritis could be very painful at times, particularly when the weather was cold and damp.

But Ralph got used to Mr Scott and followed him around, and particularly watched when he was digging up the garden soil. The robins would be busy coming around looking for earthworms exposed by the digging. Ralph would often laugh when the worms resisted very hard at being pulled out of the ground. The robin with one end of the worm tight between its beak would start to pull the worm out of its hole and would have to lean way back. The worm in turn pulled back the other way to try and return to the safety of the ground. The result was a tug of war with the robin and the earthworm teetering back and forth in the struggle. Sometimes the robin would fall over backwards, almost backwards, after winning it’s prized catch. And sometimes the earthworm would escape right back into its hole again. The robin would cock it’s head and look at Ralph as if to say “the rascal got away on me”.

There were many birds nests around the garden and Ralph was interested to watch the robins gather up the worms to take to their babies in the nest. He would watch the little baby robins stretch their necks and open up their beaks as they were being fed. And Mr Scott would often stop a moment or two to watch the robins too. And occasionally he would laugh at the robins as they were fooled by the earthworms.

Everywhere that Ralph went, his dog “Doc” would follow him. Doc was a water spaniel with long, floppy ears, and he was the same age as Ralph. Sometimes Doc would get in Mr. Scott’s way, and Mr. Scott would be cross at him. But both Ralph and Doc accepted Mr. Scott and were anxious to be friends with him. They would follow him about when he was hauling different things in his wheelbarrow, and they would run little errands for him when he asked them to.

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happiness

The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 1

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.

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