John Fisher born 1853
John was one of 10 children born to Alexander Fisher and Mary Maclean. He came in the middle of the family and was just one year older than my great grandfather James. Another John had been born seven years before but died before the age of five. He was born in Culdaremore and spent his entire life on the farm.
Alexander and Mary in their joint will, written on 19 December 1883, bequeathed £100 to each of Jessie, James, Mary, and Elizabeth who had all married and left home. Peter had received various payments and allowances during his lifetime so they did not consider him entitled to participate in the residue of their estate. The remainder was left to Robert and John and this included the lease of the farm. After Alexander's death in 1890 an inventory was taken of his estate showing that his net worth was £720. Much of this value was in farm stock and farm implements so the distribution of legacies to other members of the family must of caused financial difficulty to Robert and John who continued to jointly manage the farm.
Robert, the older of the two brothers so deemed to be head of the family, was also an 'Inspector of the Poor'. Robert died in 1922, 23 years before John, leaving his entire estate to his brother. An inventory taken after Robert's death valued his estate at £661 after deduction of funeral expenses.
In 1894 John married Catherine Ford who had been working as a domestic servant in Portobello, Midlothian. Her Father was a gamekeeper who had moved from Hampshire in southern England, married a local girl and had five children. The family lived in Garth Lodge half a mile to the east of Fortingall.
John and Catherine had nine children. Moraig died at three days old. There are eight in this photograph presumably taken in 1909 when Donald was a baby.
Catherine, died of breast cancer aged 46 in 1914.
John was well dressed disciplined and purposeful. His word was law and the family was required to obey. He was religious with a demonstrable fear of God and in his later years when he was nearly deaf, those who resided in the house could easily overhear him at his daily prayers, uttered aloud in the privacy of his own room.
He encouraged his children's education and give them an appreciation for the social graces. There was a piano in the home so music had its place although there is a suggestion it was there for the benefit of summer guests.
Culdaremore was a mixed farm raising some oats turnips and hay. Livestock consisted of about 200 head of sheep and a small herd of cattle built around 10 brood cows. He had been encouraged to grow some wheat experimentally but that wasn't successful because it grew such a heavy head and the wet weather prevented maturing and harvest of the crop.
He was a man of moral scruples avoiding excesses and upholding the laws of proper behaviour. Jock Fisher (no relative) recounted 'John Fisher was a wonderful man. He smoked very little but always had a dram in the house, – not like us – if we have a bottle we wouldn't have a drop left'.
Other members of the family remembered John in less glowing terms 'Well if you want the truth, I thought he was an old tyrant.' 'He was so severe with a pointed beard like a billy goat'.
In 1943 John and his son Jack received a letter offering them the first opportunity to purchase the farm land and the buildings thereon, but not the salmon fishing right, for £2,500. My father was approached by Jack to help with the purchase but did not feel able to. John's son, Jack, subsequently bought the farm in 1944.
For the last five years of Johns life he suffered from 'senile decay' which would now be called dementia.
John survived to the ripe old age of 92 and died in 1945 shortly after the end of the second world war.
The children of John and Catherine
- Mary born 1895. After Catherine died in 1914, Mary took on the role of mother to the family. She never married and spent the majority of her life in Culdaremoremore where, with my grandmother, I used to visit her and her brother Jack. I have fond memories of a delightful lady. After Culdaremore was sold she moved to Croftgarrow next door and finally to Dalweem care home in Aberfeldy where she died in 1986 aged 91.
- Charlie born 1896 went to agriculture college and eventually became manager of a coal board farm in Dalkeith. His wife Powrie came from Blairgowrie. They had no children. Died in Dalkeith in 1976
- Bella born 1898 married Charlie Stewart from Shettleston in Glasgow and died in Aberfeldy in 1970. Their son Donald has been very helpful in puting together this information.
- Bob born 1900 emigrated to Canada age 19 and died there in 1976 (see below).
- Jack born 1901 stayed on and farmed Culdaremore with his father. He never married but was a keen curler. Fond of his whisky, he too could be severe with his younger relations. Died in Kenmore in 1979.
- Peter James born 1904 emigrated to Canada in 1923 when he was 19 and died there in 1996. His son Don Fisher's account of his life is given below.
- Kate born 1905. In 1927 she married a game-keeper from Perth.
- Donald born 1909. The youngest child to survive infancy, Donald at some stage moved south to London where he married and had one son. After Donald was killed in action (shot down over Holland) in 1942, Charlie and Powrie looked after his son Ian for a lot of the time. His wife remarried.
- Moraig born 1911 died at 3 days old.
The Life Story of Peter James Fisher
In 1865 John's sister Jessie was married at Culdaremore, by Rev. John McLean her mother's cousin, to James John Robertson. James, a 'farmer and grazier', was resident at Culdaremore but had come to Fortingall when his father John, who was also a farmer and grazier, rented a farm there. The 1851 census placed the family at 'Glenlyon House' but I guess they were actually at its farm next door.
Jessie and James moved to Kirkmichael and then to Morvern in Argyll. They had ten children. Alexander, their second child, proved to be very successful and, in addition to farms in Argyll, had ranches in British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. He based himself in Argyll but apparently went back and forward to Canada.
Alexander died in Edinburgh after an operation for carcinoma of the colon. On the death certificate, Charles Fisher was recorded as the informant. Alexander Robertson and the Culdaremore Fishers must have been quite close.
It is against this background that this account of Peter's life, as compiled in 1986 by his son Donald Henry Fisher , should be read:
The following is what little I have gleaned of Dad's years in Scotland up to the time he was 19 when he departed for Canada in 1923.
He went to school in the Fortingall School located just across the road and east of the village and thus about 2 miles east of Culdaremore. It seems families were large in those days. One of Dad’s old acquaintances, Jock Fisher, spoke of the numbers in families. He recounted that the Fishers had 8 children, the MacLarens had 10, and the MacLeods had 20 (yes, twenty, and one had died and Mrs. MacLeod“ was just a wee woman too). Together these families constituted a large portion of the school population. Dad's comments about school are few but definite. He hated school, was not prone to great marks but was not a trouble maker. For at least-some of the time, his Uncle James Simpson was the schoolmaster. He was a described by Dad as being "severe".
Sheila contributes the following regarding Dad's feelings for school:
Dad, through the years, has often related how homesick he was during this time because he had to "board" with the Simpsons for two week periods and his Uncle was very strict with him in and out of school. When the fortnight ended, he was anxious to get home for the weekend. Uncle James would say;
'Peter, you shouldn't go home today in the rain.'
Dad would reply emphatically;
'I'm going home supposing it to be slashin.'
I’ve heard this story many times before and Dad related to me again this morning, Aug 8, 1986.
Dad says he was very happy to quit school and go to work on the farm when Charlie was going to fight in world war 1.
As diversion and sport Dad best remembers playing soccer, though a playing field was hard to find because flat areas were all occupied with crops, etc. He only had access to a soccer ball through the local "club" and did not own one himself.
(I can remember, as a boy, receiving a gift of a soccer ball from Dad. It was made of leather, contained a rubber bladder, and was laced up on one side. He showed me how to apply "dubbin“ to weatherproof it, helped me inflate it and lace it, and I enjoyed many hours of good play with that ball out on the farm and elsewhere. This is as I look back on it, was probably a considerable sacrifice to buy and should have been received with even greater thankfulness than I likely expressed.)
His love of soccer was evident as this was where I remember Dad in physical sport, playing soccer at picnics and such. He also enjoyed dancing. This, I gather, he learned mostly from attending social gatherings, but also from teachers who came to give formal training. Again, by my own observation, Dad simply loved music and dance. Of course, the Scottish music, played mostly on accordion, bagpipe and drums, was his first love, but he appreciated most anything outside of opera and modern rock. Some of our favourite times with Dad, in my years at home, have been spent next to the record player, surrounded by a houseful or handful of guests listening to and singing with, and even dancing to his collection of Scottish music.
Apparently there was little diversion from everyday work and toil at Culdaremore, though there were many good times had at the local hall with fairly frequent dances. Occasional picnics with relatives or friends and Sunday visits were remembered by Dad as pleasant experiences also. The River Lyon was the source of good salmon fishing, though I think certain individuals held fishing rights to certain waters.
Vacations were nearly unheard of. He recalls once travelling to West Kilbride in Ayrshire south of Glasgow with the Russells (folks who regularly rented Culdaremore) for a holiday. That was his furthest trip from home until he departed for Canada.
Church services were held in at least two places. There was one church in the school yard where the family usually attended, and another little building Just near the Lyon bridge which was used occasionally. I think this same building was the one in which the Fisher family lived" in the summer while the main house at Culdaremore was rented or let to the more moneyed vacationers. The church right in Fortingall was also in existence but must have served another congregation. The church in neighbouring Kenmore is quite significant since that is where most of our ancestors are interred. The Fisher family must have had roots in that district since most family genealogical records are derived from the Kenmore parish rather than the Fortingall parish.
Dad says he frequently wore a kilt to school. He had, at one time, a velvet jacket which he wore with the kilt. His footwear consisted of "good tackety boots for climbing the hills". These were leather boots with good sole, studded with "tacks" for traction, I understand.
Dad followed Uncle Bob to Canada. Opportunities for young men in Scotland in the early 1920's must have been few. On the other hand, word was out that Canada was a place of opportunity. Uncle Bob left Scotland when he was 19 in 1919 to work on the Robertson ranch which belonged to Alec Robertson who was a cousin to Dad as was "Uncle" Jack who lived with us on the Farm at Fincastle.
Dad came to Canada to work for Alec Robertson in April, 1923 when he was 19. I get the impression from Dad that there had been communication with his family from those in Canada encouraging his emigration. It seems to have been more of a family decision to send him to Canada than it was a strong desire on his own part to come.
While he indicates he was not averse to the idea, he had no great goals or ambitions nor did he really think he would settle here and spend his lifetime here. Rather, it appeared an opportunity to travel, to work, earn some money, and return to Scotland.
Of course, he was to eventually marry, and settle down right here in southern Alberta: we of the second and third generation have great appreciation for his struggles to establish a basis for our pleasant present circumstances and the opportunities afforded us. Even today he does not feel he did that much and modestly refuses any credit for our security and happiness. Contrarily, we sons and daughters can see very clearly his contribution to our well-being.
Photos of Dad with his family as he was preparing to leave for Canada from his beloved homeland show him at his handsome best. Aunt Kate expressed how happy they were for him in his new venture but how sad they were to see him go. They had some concept of the distance that would separate them but were really unaware of the great space of time it would be before he returned thirty-eight years later.
Dad travelled from Culdaremore to Killin. From there he boarded a train to Crianlarich then on to Glasgow where he took passage on the Montrose, one of three sister Canadian Pacific Railroad ships, the others being the Montcalm and the Montclaire. It was a steamship that skirted Ireland and traversed the Qtlantic ocean in about 8 days, to dock at Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Here Dad first set foot on Canadian soil. He remembers little about his ocean voyage except that he was profoundly seasick from the moment he boarded that ship. He cannot remember leaving port nor much of the journey but did improve some as the end of the trip approached. Again he remembers little of his first impressions of that port city. He boarded a passenger train almost immediately to traverse 3000 miles to the west. (Dad was in the company of Bob Scott, an acquaintance of the family who was involved in some way with the ranching operations in Canada.)
That long four or five day train trip must have been rather unpleasant. Though scenic, our provinces ares broad and can be monotonous with the endless rocks and trees of the east and the wide expanse of the unbroken prairies. Dad expresses that, during the travelling, he was unhappy, fed up with the rocks and rather discouraged. I suspect he was somewhat homesick. They slept on the benches of the train and ate at the whistle stops along the way usually Just having a cup of coffee and a piece of pie for fare. In his pocket was a meager amount of money, Just sufficient to get him to his destination (he thinks about the equivalent of 10 or 20 pounds).
When they arrived at Taber, Alberta, they were soon to be loaded into Mr. Scott’s car and headed for the ranch about 15 miles south. Graded roads were few and most of that trip was over the little prairie trails, skirting around the frequent sloughs or water-filled low spots and finding their way through the occasional barbed-wire fence. Dad recalls telling Mr Scott to be careful not to puncture his tires on those barbs!
Being April, I suspect things hadn't really started to green up yet and the prairie could have been quite dull.
Apparently it wasn’t long before Dad was put to work, tending the sheep, and haying. He was soon given a camp house, a rifle to shoot coyotes, and a herd of sheep to tend out upon the prairie. These would become lonesome days and nights quite distant from any other people: There were no soccer games for fun in the evening as he had enjoyed at home.
Sheila contributes the following:
In the past, Dad mentioned howe homesick he was at this time herding sheep and seeing no one for up to two weeks at a time - after being used to the frequentsocials/dancing at home in Scotland.
There would be little diversion from simply looking after the sheep. The days would be very hot and likely the prairie was quite dry. There would be no rippling brooks or green hills. On a clear day one might see some of the stately Rocky Mountains to the west and the two or three Sweet Grass hills to the south just across the border in the United States but little else as one turned to view the horizon in all directions. The Robertson ranch was headquartered in the Chin Coulee through which a small amount of water would flow seasonally with run off from melting winter snow or the infrequent rains. Water was preciously stored by man-made dams or dugouts. There were a few springs.
Peter James Fisher married Ruth Lillian Schmidt on August 1, 1929 (photo). He was then 25 years old. Ruth was 20 years old. They brought 3 children into the world in rapid succession in 1930, 1931, and 1932. These were Catherine, Bruce, and Marion respectively. Donald Henry followed in 1941 and Sheila Ruth came along in 1946. They were maried at the Church Manse in Taber, then drove to Lethbridge for pictures and back to Mom's home for a reception dinner.
Shiela contributes the following:
Mom tells me dad had been very sick just prior to their marriage with a severe throat infection , high fever and discomfort and finally going to the doctor to lance or relieve this. Therefore, he looks somewhat gaunt-faced in their wedding picture.
Don died in Alberta in 2008. I am grateful to Jim Robertson for making his notes available to me and to Don's sister Sheila and wife Rose for allowing me to reproduce them here.
On 10 February, 1926 the following article appeared in the Perthshire advertiser:
Fortingall Canadians. Mr Robert Fisher, second son of Mr John Fisher, Culdaremore, Fortingall, who after an absence of six years, has been at home on a two months' visit from Canada, sails on his return journey on Saturday, the 13th inst. Mr Fisher is engaged in sheep farming near Taber, S. Alberta, and is doing well. On his return he acquires additional 36 square miles of pasture land leased from the Dominion government. His youngest brother, Peter, who went out three years ago, is in company with him.
Another from the Fortingall district is Mr Robert T. Simpson, of Alderson, S. Alberta. He likewise is engaged in sheep farming, and having revisited the home country during last summer, after an absence of 11 years, returned to Canada in October. His brother, Mr James Ian Simpson MC MA, emigrated five years ago, shortly after the conclusion of the great War. At first he was interested in arable farming in Alberta, but now, for the third session, holds an appointment in University School, Victoria, BC, in which teachers are all graduates of English and Scottish universities. The latter two are sons of Mr J Simpson, retired teacher.
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