This photograph was taken when Jeremiah and Millicent Buckleyy were about to embark on the Montrose, to sail to Canada in 1926, destined for St. John, in New Brunswick. They bought a dairy farm at Okotoks, in Alberta but returned to England in 1945, and Jeremiah and Millicent are buried in St Helen's Churchyard, Grindleford
Letting go of the past, working hard on the present and hoping for a better future. Often we try to achieve that in our personal lives but it’s really ingrained in us since the time of cavemen. Nomads, moving from place to place, populating new lands, leaving the past behind, working and creating our future.
Many of us have relatives who were immigrants, I come from three generations of immigrants to Canada, my grandmother, my mother and I all emigrated to Canada from England. My mother emigrated with her family in 1927, then returned to England with her new husband (my future father). She returned to Canada when she was 58 and I emigrated when I was 20. However, the story I will tell you is of my family coming to Canada in 1927, stepping off the boat and finding a new life.
My grandfather had served in the First World War and when he was discharged he could either take a payment or he could accept 40 acres of farmland to the south of Calgary - in a little known area called Okotoks.
Now, some people may be thinking:
“40 acres of land, just given to you on a plate, I wish I was that lucky!”
Well, imagine packing all your worldly possessions into trunks and taking your five children on a mighty steamship, to sail across the stormy seas of the Atlantic and to go to a strange uninhabited area in the west of Canada... in the middle of March!
The seven of them arrived in a freezing, damp Halifax harbour, then wearily waited while boatloads of people were processed through Canadian Immigration. With papers stamped, they gathered on a platform to board a train which would carry them for days across Canada, to start their new lives in an even colder, snow-covered Calgary.
In an early letter back to England, my grandmother told of being impressed by the generosity of Canadians and of how, upon arrival, neighbours came to visit with milk, bread and cheese. Of course, there were no fridges to keep things cold, they had to put items in a hole dug in ground - not the easiest of things to do when the ground is still frozen.
They were all hard workers. Life didn’t come easy and in those days, when you made your bed, you lay in it... there were no relatives to help you out.
My grandfather had spent his working life up to that point as a quarry labourer and had not farmed at all but on a whim and a prayer he started “Buckley’s Dairy”. He and the children rose before sun-up to milk the cows. Once the milk was squirted from the cows’ udders into waiting pails, it was poured straight into glass bottles and two strong horses then pulled the loaded wagon with my grandfather, my mother and her brother wrapped in thick coats and blankets, perched on the front bench. Each house on the delivery run woke up to fresh milk placed on the doorstep.
My mother said at first it was an adventure but soon became extremely tiring and on top of that each of them had chores to do after school too but there was no time for complaints and there was no point either because the work had to get done.
The farm produced their own food and Grandma Buckley was constantly baking. The warm, wafting aromas of freshly baked loaves, pies bursting with apples and jam-filled sponge cakes filled the nostrils of visitors who happened to drop by - and it seemed more and more people were “dropping by”.
My mother told me that on a gorgeous summer’s day, the wide, blue sky stretched for miles. Later, as the sun set and the night drew in, she would lie in bed, listening to coyotes howl in the distance. Occasionally, she sat at the window and saw fireflies flitting like tiny miners’ lamps, being carried across the moonlit prairie fields of hay.
My grandparents lead a seemingly simple life but I view them as incredibly brave... putting down new roots, working hard to make a living and going to bed each night worn out but proud of what they achieved. They knew they were part of a new frontier... Western Canada, next to the majestic Rocky Mountains, where the air was clear, free from crammed-in houses and the industrialized smog of northern England.
It was that way for millions of migrants all over the world. They had drive and dedication.
They let go of the past, worked hard on the present and hoped they were building a better future.