Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

Occasionally you will meet someone who have recently celebrated their silver or golden wedding anniversary and wonder: How did they ever possibly make it work?

You may wonder what they have that you or others do not have that has kept them together for these many years.

These next pages reflect the thinking of one man as he thinks back over the more than 60 years of married life.

Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

What made it work?

What can you do to keep the lady in your life happy?

Can you be a better husband?

Five problems to avoid for a Longer Marriage

When does Like become Love?

Stresses and strains must be overcome.

Keep in mind this title Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award while you read.

THE CARETAKERS

By the time you reach your 50th birthday you will have gained a great deal of knowledge in this life. You can pretty well figure that you have used up half of the days the guy upstairs has you down for in the book of life. Your name and time are in there, you just have no idea on what page your name is listed.

By now you have a great many answers of what this world is made of and what makes things tick. You know how to interact and get along with others as well as stay out of trouble. Experience has taught you this while attending the “School of Hard Knocks”.

This then is how I feel as my wife, Irma and I have just this day reached not our 60th birthday, but our 60th Wedding Anniversary!

My name is Joe Macmillan and I write this book not only to tell you about the finest, most beautiful, warm, friendly, loving human being I have ever met and luckily married but to also tell you about some of the pitfalls I have encountered.

I want to tell you what I have learned about marriage, and suggest things you, as a man, must do to keep your wife happy and loving you for the rest of your life.

You may be recently married or you have a few years under your belt. Hopefully your marriage is working for you both. Perhaps I will mention something that will help put a little spark in there for you.

So here we go. A man-to-man look at what it meant when you and all the rest of the men stood before the Minister, Priest, or Justice of the Peace as well as family, friends and your chosen life mate and swore to all who would listen these words …

“I, ___ take you, ___ for my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

How it was in those days way back then.

Back in 1957, the institution of marriage was very different than it is today. Social life in general was very different also. For instance, two people would meet. They would agree to a few dates. A date would mean going out to a dance or a movie or skating or just simply shooting the drag. Most of us didn’t own a car so we would date as a group. A lot of us walked.

A date never meant going to bed with a girl. That was almost rare. Well, you might have heard of it but probably 99 times out of 100 it was bravado you were hearing. We were left with a choice. Do without or get married. This pertained to both sexes by the way. We lived in a different world, that was for sure.

In those days, a girl did not want to be known as “loose” because she would certainly not be the type you would take home and introduce to your parents.

During those dates, the guys and girls took care to size their partners up as a life partner. The sexual part had to be the great unknown until you bought into the lifetime contract of marriage. The good part of the deal was that you both learned all about it yourselves. It was like buying a brand new car. You were the first to drive it. This is the only way I can compare it. It’s beautiful, drives like a dream, and doesn’t have a scratch on it. You love it. I’m sure the both partners thought the same way.  I strongly believe that people today are missing this feeling. Plenty do not even marry. Why marry when you can enter into an arrangement that allows you to walk free if you so desire without commitment?

How it all began for Irma and Me.

Someone was shaking me. I heard a voice call, “Mac, Mac, wake up.” I opened my eyes to see my friend, Benny. He was in uniform. He still wore his hat. He must have just come aboard the ship.

“What do you want? What time is it?” I asked as I tried to get my brain working.

“Mac, you really have to come on a double date with me and my girlfriend and her sister. You must come. Her sister is really beautiful.”

“Benny, for God’s sake, it’s after midnight!  I worked all day and am dead tired. What is going on?”

“Remember the other day when I told you about my girlfriend, Anna and that she has a sister, Irma?  Well, I talked with them tonight and they agreed to a double date. Will you come?”

“I can’t believe you woke me up to tell me this you nutcase. It’s after midnight. Couldn’t you have waited until morning to ask me?”

“No, I want an answer now. I have to know.”

My thoughts flashed back over the last week. Benny had found a girlfriend and had asked me on numerous occasions to double date. I kept putting him off as I didn’t want any more dates with weird girls. We were in the Royal Canadian Navy, serving in HMCS Fundy, a minesweeper based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As young sailors we met a few loose girls. My last date was a real dingbat and I wasn’t really looking forward to another one. Benny was not exactly the discriminating type. Taking him up on his offer didn’t really appeal to me.

“If it is that important to you, then okay, set it up now and let me get back to sleep,” I told him and rolled over and tried to get some Z’s.

That was January 2, 1957. As I tried to get back to sleep, I certainly never gave it a thought that 51 years later Irma and I would be celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary. Life is so strange; there is no way to predict what will happen.

The next evening Benny and I left the ship and walked the two miles to Queen St.  After we knocked on the door I had a strange feeling come over me. I can’t explain what it was to this day. Something was telling me this date would be different than the others. The door opened and there standing before us were two of the prettiest girls I had ever seen. Benny introduced us. Irma was incredible!  The first thing I noticed was her beautiful smile.  She had naturally curly hair. It was like a halo framing the prettiest face on earth.

She and Anna were so clean. Everything about them was neat including their clothing and hair and they wore minimal makeup. Even their one-room flat was clean, neat and tidy. They had worked at their jobs all day, came home, ate dinner, changed clothes for the evening and nothing was out of place.

We went out for a walk for a while. We stopped for a cup of tea at a restaurant and after talking until after 11 pm, I dared to kiss her before we left. I was hooked! Walking back to our ship, Benny asked me what I thought of her. I told him that this was the girl I was going to marry someday. I meant it. We arrived back on our ship after midnight. The mess was alive with all our mates watching the late movie. Steaks and fries were being fried up in the galley. I don’t remember the movie but I certainly went to bed that night with my belly full and my mind racing with thoughts of the future. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

 Do you believe in Fate?

I have always believed in fate. What we may think of as a chance happening probably takes place for a reason.

Two years earlier I was serving on the destroyer, HMCS Haida. We sailed all over the Atlantic with visits to the Caribbean each winter. The rest of the year we sailed to Europe visiting England, Norway, Holland, France, Italy, Spain and Gibraltar.

While at sea, the crew members practiced their skills as team members and worked in what are called 1 in 3 watches. The 24-hour day is divided into four-hour shifts. The 4 pm to 8 pm watch was divided into two separate parts. This arrangement resulted in a rotation so that you didn’t work the same time on that watch every day. I belonged to a group classed as seamen. We spent our time as lifeguards, lookouts, and boat crews.

There were more than enough men than were needed so we rotated every hour or so. The rest of the time we worked either painting the ship or chipping the rust off. It was a never-ending task.

At night, those extra hands sat around and listened to the old salts tell tales of ports they visited, storms they experienced and any other subject that came to mind.

One night, the subject was “who would make the best wife.” Naturally a lot of speculation took place. A petty officer by the name of Byrne suggested the best wife should have three qualities:

  1. She must be French. French girls were raised properly learning domestic skills such as cooking and cleaning from their mothers.

The French are noted for these skills.

  1. She must be from a large family as she will know all about caring for others, getting along with them and training them.
  2. She must have been brought up on a farm. She will have the work ethic instilled in her from a young age, will have taken part in the farm chores and will know how to work hard.

The next evening we met up again with the girls. Irma and I talked until midnight. Coincidentally, she was brought up on a farm in New Brunswick. It was a French community and Irma had only learned to speak English a short time ago. She had 11 brothers and sisters in her family.

My thoughts quickly returned to that night on the Haida. Was this fate at work? I believe it was.

Our ship was leaving the next morning for three months of exercises in the Caribbean. I hated to go as I feared not seeing Irma again. With only two dates under our belts we still had to prove to each other that we had something going. We promised to write.

We did write. In my last letter to her I told her I would call and get together with her the Wednesday evening we arrived back in Halifax. Then I received her last letter just before we departed Miami in which she stated they had moved to 58 Queen Street. She didn’t give me the phone number. Now Benny and I had no way to contact them!

To make matters worse, we left Miami early Sunday morning expecting to arrive in Halifax Wednesday evening. The minute we entered the ocean we ran into a huge storm. Our ship was subjected to gales and high seas. The storm blew hard for 3 days. On Wednesday, we had to pull into port for more supplies. We were in Norfolk, Virginia, a long way from home.

My heart was broken. Surely Irma would think that since I didn’t call on Wednesday, and since I didn’t have her number to call on Saturday (our new expected arrival date) she would give up on me.

Back at sea, Benny and I decided to scan the Halifax phone book for the address. That’s all we had. We tossed a coin to decide where to start. I won and beginning at the first name, Aarron, I searched for 58 Queen Street. The phone book was almost three inches thick. Fortunately, it took less than one hour to find. The building owner’s name was Beaton.

We arrived Saturday evening, made contact and the rest is history. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

Benny was soon out of the picture. Anna met a very nice fellow named Harold Babin. Over the course of the next year the four of us became inseparable. Harold and Anna stood for us at our wedding a year later. They married a little more than a year after we did. We lived a two-hour drive from each other for many years and visited often. We still remain best friends although the traveling distance is much greater now.

So what does it take to make a marriage last a lifetime?

When we were young and preparing for our marriage I don’t believe there was ever any doubt that our marriage would last forever. Neither Irma nor I ever gave it a thought. During the marriage ceremony, we were being joined together by the words of the priest. It wouldn’t have made any difference what religious denomination we were practicing. We simply stood before our family, friends, and others and swore before all who would hear that we would stay together through sickness and in health, for better or worse, until death would part us. There was a little more to it but that in a nutshell was basically it. There wasn’t an opting out clause. No second chance paragraph. I don’t remember the priest saying anything regarding calling it off if we found someone we liked better, or who drank less, or who wasn’t sick or crippled. We took a solemn oath to hang in there no matter what would happen. That is what we did that day, April 7, 1958 in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Looking back, I would have to say that the most important attribute a man must have is integrity.

The dictionary describes integrity this way, “the steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.” That’s pretty potent stuff. The keyword here is steadfast. Stick to it. Do not waver from the straight line. If you decide to take the responsibility for your actions, don’t go halfway. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

When I decided to go straight.

We often hear the convicts deciding to go straight. But you too must decide to go straight. We all have a choice to make in that regard.

I remember when I made the decision. I was in the middle of our 20 week boot camp training in the navy. Our barracks had hardwood floors. Every Friday evening we had to wash and wax those floors to perfection. I didn’t realize it at the time but I, like most of the other recruits, would only do what was necessary to get by. It was the natural thing to do. This particular evening I was to polish the floor under the bunks by hand with a woolen rag. The floor was already shining so I lay under the bunk, cloth in hand, almost asleep. Suddenly, from my hidden vantage point, I could see a pair of shoes enter our dormitory area. Shoes were only allowed to be worn by officers. I immediately began to work the cloth like there was no tomorrow. The shoes approached my bunk. The officer in the shoes bent down to discover the identity of the person doing such a great job with the cloth. He then ordered the rest of the recruits to come and see the great job Macmillan was doing. I was embarrassed. I had been almost in dreamland a moment before. I decided then and there that from then on I would give 110% to whatever job was assigned to me. No more goofing off for me. I decided to enjoy everything about the navy. That attitude created a dilemma as you will read later on.

It doesn’t matter what task you undertake, give it your best shot, and then some. This is especially true of your marriage. Dr. Phil McGraw states, “Marriage isn’t a 50%/50% deal. It’s 100%/100%.” You must put everything possible into it to make it work.

Five problems to avoid for a Longer Marriage

  1. Alcoholism. Though classed as a sickness, a pattern of excessive drinking over a long time can result in an addiction to alcohol. This can lead to marriage breakdown. We all have a choice when it comes to drinking. My father was a wonderful man and husband while sober. After one drink he became extremely nasty and not a nice person to know. He verbally abused my mother and we children hated him for that. One positive result was that all five of us had a great respect for it. I personally became a teetotaler because I didn’t want to act in a similar way to anyone, least of all my wife and our children.
  2. Drugs. Similar to alcohol, drugs of any kind can lead to addiction. Taking drugs and/or alcohol are drugs of choice. You choose to take them. According to users, taking them make you feel good. If you feel bad, see a doctor. What do you really gain by ingesting drugs? A few moments of a high and then you come down. Nothing will kill a marriage quicker than a drug problem.
  3. Pornography. This must be the dumbest addiction of all. We hear it every day; so-and-so was arrested for pornography violations. My advice to anyone, married or single is to seek psychiatric help. There must be something drastically wrong with you. Think of how degrading this habit is to your wife. She married the man of her dreams and he gets his kicks out of watching freaky pornography on the television or internet.
  4. Smoking. If you smoke, even a few a day, you have an addiction. It is an unhealthy addiction affecting both you and your family. It is a habit that will cut years off your life and you will have a 50% greater chance of contracting heart and lung disease and many other medical problems. With stricter measures being introduced for smoking restrictions in public areas, fewer people are smoking. Laser treatments do work and everyone is familiar with the patch. It’s tough to quit, but the alternative is deadly. The only products you are able to purchase over the counter with a written guarantee that you may develop cancer and die are cigarettes.
  5. Cheating. Flirting. Infidelity. They are all the same. You had your chances before you married. Live up to your promise to love her you made at the altar before your peers. Certainly there are plenty of females “on the prowl,” so to speak. Leave them to the bachelors. If you are in the habit of hitting the bars before going home after work, you are asking for trouble. Reread the chapter on integrity. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

When does Like become Love?

If there is any subject men are reluctant to discuss it is the subject of love. Love is hard to define. I believe we men start out in a relationship and suddenly think we are in love. Actually I believe we are in like. The hormones take over. Lust is described as an intense sexual desire or appetite. Other descriptions state it differently. We get into the relationship and we start to believe we are in love. My personal belief is that until we get at least the first ten years out of the way, we don’t have enough time to appreciate what love is really about.

I compare that time of a marriage to building the skills to perfect something you are extremely interested in. It could be a sport like golf, skiing or tennis, or a hobby such as painting or ballroom dancing. It takes a lot of time to do these things expertly. Take golf for instance. The first time on the driving range you realize how hard it is to hit the ball. You may spend hours and hours practicing and finally you think you are ready to play a game. Then you find out your shots are all over the place.

Tiger Woods got his first club when he was two years old. Today he is still learning and tweaking his swing. When he first came on the golf scene I liked to watch him. After watching him master the game and how he dominates the PGA today, I believe that fans everywhere love the way he plays and the way he interacted with his mother and father as well as his new wife and daughter. Now we are seeing the complete package. We have gone from like to love.

This is how it is with marriage. The first years are busy with setting up a home, from furnishing to decorating, then creating and raising a child or children. There are transportation problems, career aspirations, college bills to pay and learning how to interact with each other. These things take time to work out and are stressful to any marriage. You are not alone. All married couples go through this period. Sex takes place but often the fast pace and stresses of life keep the shine from showing through.

Stresses and strains must be overcome.

It is during this critical period in the marriage when cracks occur. Stress can be the killer. Just the same as stress can harm you physically, it can harm your marriage. If you can hold your marriage together for the first 10 years you are on your way to 50 and love will soon take over your life.

Over time, one by one, the stresses you face will be conquered. It is during the first 10 years that the power and intestinal fortitude of your wife will show her true colors. Women are really tough – strong as steel, much stronger than men. My wife and I have been keen observers over the years. We have watched single and married moms walking one or two children to the daycare centre before 8 am to allow them to get to their work on time. Rain or snow doesn’t stop them. We’ve watched them get off the public transit, holding the kids as they head home after work in time to make supper for the family. This is after leaving work and picking the kids up again at daycare! Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

She is one tough lady.

I recently conversed with a lady. She was born in India, married there and immigrated to Canada in 1969. A daughter was born shortly after arrival. Her husband died suddenly three years later. She worked at two jobs to survive. She left home at 5 am and it took two hours to get to the daycare and then to work. At the end of the day she picked up the child, arriving home at 7.30 pm. She worked stacking shelves in a supermarket nearby from 8 until midnight. She also worked on Saturday. Instead of heading home at 5 with her child she had to pick her up and take her back to work with her as she had to cover in the office until 11.00 pm on that night. Her daughter would play and fall asleep on a chair in the office during the evening. She finally saved $10,000 to purchase the home she rented so that her mortgage payment would be less than the rent. She is now about 60 years of age and doing fine. That is what I mean by tough.

Love – you’ll know when it happens.

How do you know when you are in love with your wife? This is a very deep question. Philosophers could make a lifelong study of this and possibly still not have the answer. I am going to suggest that you will know it when it happens. One day you will find yourself looking at your wife in a different way than you may have been doing. You see a beauty glowing from the inside, not the outside. You begin to realize how lucky you are to have a woman who truly loves you and loves what you are about. You begin to spend some time reflecting upon the little things she does for you and the family that you haven’t noticed before. You will tell by the ways she gets close to you, and likes to do so. For the first time you may notice little wrinkles at the corner of her eyes and realize they are made from a million smiles.  

Five problems to avoid for a Longer Marriage

1.     Alcoholism. Though classed as a sickness, a pattern of excessive drinking over a long time can result in an addiction to alcohol. This can lead to marriage breakdown. We all have a choice when it comes to drinking. My father was a wonderful man and husband while sober. After one drink he became extremely nasty and not a nice person to know. He verbally abused my mother and we children hated him for that. One positive result was that all five of us had a great respect for it. I personally became a teetotaler because I didn’t want to act in a similar way to anyone, least of all my wife and our children.

2.     Drugs. Similar to alcohol, drugs of any kind can lead to addiction. Taking drugs and/or alcohol are drugs of choice. You choose to take them. According to users, taking them make you feel good. If you feel bad, see a doctor. What do you really gain by ingesting drugs? A few moments of a high and then you come down. Nothing will kill a marriage quicker than a drug problem.

3.     Pornography. This must be the dumbest addiction of all. We hear it every day; so-and-so was arrested for pornography violations. My advice to anyone, married or single is to seek psychiatric help. There must be something drastically wrong with you. Think of how degrading this habit is to your wife. She married the man of her dreams and he gets his kicks out of watching freaky pornography on the television or internet.

4.     Smoking. If you smoke, even a few a day, you have an addiction. It is an unhealthy addiction affecting both you and your family. It is a habit that will cut years off your life and you will have a 50% greater chance of contracting heart and lung disease and many other medical problems. With stricter measures being introduced for smoking restrictions in public areas, fewer people are smoking. Laser treatments do work and everyone is familiar with the patch. It’s tough to quit, but the alternative is deadly. The only products you are able to purchase over the counter with a written guarantee that you may develop cancer and die are cigarettes.

5.     Cheating. Flirting. Infidelity. They are all the same. You had your chances before you married. Live up to your promise to love her you made at the altar before your peers. Certainly there are plenty of females “on the prowl,” so to speak. Leave them to the bachelors. If you are in the habit of hitting the bars before going home after work, you are asking for trouble. Reread the chapter on integrity. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

When does Like become Love?

If there is any subject men are reluctant to discuss it is the subject of love. Love is hard to define. I believe we men start out in a relationship and suddenly think we are in love. Actually I believe we are in like. The hormones take over. Lust is described as an intense sexual desire or appetite. Other descriptions state it differently. We get into the relationship and we start to believe we are in love. My personal belief is that until we get at least the first ten years out of the way, we don’t have enough time to appreciate what love is really about.

I compare that time of a marriage to building the skills to perfect something you are extremely interested in. It could be a sport like golf, skiing or tennis, or a hobby such as painting or ballroom dancing. It takes a lot of time to do these things expertly. Take golf for instance. The first time on the driving range you realize how hard it is to hit the ball. You may spend hours and hours practicing and finally you think you are ready to play a game. Then you find out your shots are all over the place.

Tiger Woods got his first club when he was two years old. Today he is still learning and tweaking his swing. When he first came on the golf scene I liked to watch him. After watching him master the game and how he dominates the PGA today, I believe that fans everywhere love the way he plays and the way he interacted with his mother and father as well as his new wife and daughter. Now we are seeing the complete package. We have gone from like to love.

This is how it is with marriage. The first years are busy with setting up a home, from furnishing to decorating, then creating and raising a child or children. There are transportation problems, career aspirations, college bills to pay and learning how to interact with each other. These things take time to work out and are stressful to any marriage. You are not alone. All married couples go through this period. Sex takes place but often the fast pace and stresses of life keep the shine from showing through.

Stresses and strains must be overcome.

It is during this critical period in the marriage when cracks occur. Stress can be the killer. Just the same as stress can harm you physically, it can harm your marriage. If you can hold your marriage together for the first 10 years you are on your way to 50 and love will soon take over your life.

Over time, one by one, the stresses you face will be conquered. It is during the first 10 years that the power and intestinal fortitude of your wife will show her true colors. Women are really tough – strong as steel, much stronger than men. My wife and I have been keen observers over the years. We have watched single and married moms walking one or two children to the daycare centre before 8 am to allow them to get to their work on time. Rain or snow doesn’t stop them. We’ve watched them get off the public transit, holding the kids as they head home after work in time to make supper for the family. This is after leaving work and picking the kids up again at daycare! Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

She is one tough lady.

I recently conversed with a lady. She was born in India, married there and immigrated to Canada in 1969. A daughter was born shortly after arrival. Her husband died suddenly three years later. She worked at two jobs to survive. She left home at 5 am and it took two hours to get to the daycare and then to work. At the end of the day she picked up the child, arriving home at 7.30 pm. She worked stacking shelves in a supermarket nearby from 8 until midnight. She also worked on Saturday. Instead of heading home at 5 with her child she had to pick her up and take her back to work with her as she had to cover in the office until 11.00 pm on that night. Her daughter would play and fall asleep on a chair in the office during the evening. She finally saved $10,000 to purchase the home she rented so that her mortgage payment would be less than the rent. She is now about 60 years of age and doing fine. That is what I mean by tough.

Love – you’ll know when it happens.

How do you know when you are in love with your wife? This is a very deep question. Philosophers could make a lifelong study of this and possibly still not have the answer. I am going to suggest that you will know it when it happens. One day you will find yourself looking at your wife in a different way than you may have been doing. You see a beauty glowing from the inside, not the outside. You begin to realize how lucky you are to have a woman who truly loves you and loves what you are about. You begin to spend some time reflecting upon the little things she does for you and the family that you haven’t noticed before. You will tell by the ways she gets close to you, and likes to do so. For the first time you may notice little wrinkles at the corner of her eyes and realize they are made from a million smiles.  

Irma has a Cornea Transplant

Irma also has glaucoma as well as macular degeneration. A little over a year ago she underwent a cornea transplant in one eye due to the glaucoma. You would expect a person with these problems to have a multitude of complaints. Not my Irma. She has taken each of these problems without a whimper. She now reads with the use of eyeglasses as thick as Coke bottle bottoms. Everything beyond a few feet is blurred. That does not stop her.

Before her Cornea transplant we would be playing golf. Even from 10 yards from the pin I would need to aim her. She really had zero depth or distance control but you would never know. I know I have perfect eyesight and I get frustrated, but not Irma. She is an amazing human being.

Over the years we have both had our sick or injured trials and tribulations. Once I crushed a few of my vertebrae and some ribs. Another time I had a ruptured appendix. Of course we all get the flu and colds. Irma has had four children and a couple of operations. Through it all you learn to cope with these things. You must copy your wife and treat her as she has treated you. It’s the time for the extra loving care that makes a happy marriage a long-lasting one.

Walking. The couple who walks together … stays together.

Does walking together sound boring to you?  It did to me before we started. Up until 1968 I was a very heavy smoker. After a few attempts I managed to quit. I calculated I had smoked 17 miles of cigarettes in my short life. At the rate I had been smoking it would have been a very short life indeed if I hadn’t succeeded. I had decided to quit at the end of the following week. I decided where I would have my last cigarette and where I would dispose of the remainder of the pack and my lighter. I would do this on a remote part of the highway on my way home. I would then arrive, claim I felt I was coming down with a bad cold and go directly to bed. I figured that if I could get three days under my belt without smoking, I would be cured on the fourth day. If so, I would never smoke again.

All went according to plan. I refused all food and only drank a few cups of coffee for three days. On the fourth day I declared to my family I would never smoke again. Forty years have passed and I have kept my word. I was one of the lucky ones.

The first evening at home without cigarettes was going to be a trying one. I suggested we all go for a walk. Irma and I and the four girls walked a mile. We were so excited I had to get in the car and drive down to where we had turned around and measure the distance. We carried our baby who was only two years old at the time. Because it was a dark area to walk, we all held hands. Irma and I have held hands for the forty years since that very first walk. It gives such a wonderful feeling of togetherness. We will hold hands as we go to sleep. In the early part of the morning as we struggle to become fully awake we often will hold hands. Irma is profoundly deaf without her hearing aids in her ears. It is through the touch of our hands that we communicate to say good morning and to wish each other a great day.

Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health. I can prove it to you. Here’s what to do. Get up in the morning and do your usual thing. After breakfast go for a brisk 30-minute walk. When you come home notice how good you feel, how warm you feel and how easy it is for you to go to the bathroom. When you walk, everything works. Every organ in your body does what it is made to do. Your heart pumps blood faster and your kidneys, lungs, liver and brain all work better because of the increase in the well-oxygenated blood supply. The great news is that you have burned off a good amount of calories. Do that daily and you will reap huge benefits. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

Walking together with your wife is one of the best things you can do for your minds and your marriage. Take a look at these benefits you can derive from a daily walk with the woman you love:

  1. You spend quality time together. Time to talk, listen, and smell the roses. You communicate with the woman you love.
  2. Since you are holding hands you are able to feel connected as never before. You begin to think as one. The pace you set will allow more oxygenated blood to flow to your brain and other organs and this allows you to think better and more calmly.
  3. Now that everything is working and you are communicating on all eight cylinders you give yourselves the level table for discussing problems you may have or directions you may be considering in your marriage path. These are important items to clarify. Planning should result in unanimous decisions every time.
  4. Of course, deep discussions needn’t be the sole purpose of your walk. Enjoy the fresh air, the neighborhood, and your surroundings. We rarely pick the same area to walk day after day. One day we will go to a park west of the city. The next we may walk in our community. If it rains we go to the mall. We go early before they open for business. Other mall walkers will be out in force on those days. Once in a while we will walk on the treadmill in our community centre; however, we prefer outside. We look for variety.

You should see from these highlights that I am suggesting that the path to a long-lasting marriage is full of potholes. Just like the streets in the spring of the year. By filling these potholes with things like walks, breakfasts out, holding hands and intimate moments the path will even out and your marriage will be all the better.

And we think we have problems.

Let’s back up a little here. I enjoyed the navy. It was a great life for a single guy. Sailing to different ports around the world and experiencing the various cultures, religions and people and makes you realize just how fortunate we who live in North America really are. There are countless poor people around the world. I saw people who would come aboard asking for our garbage we scraped from our dinner plates. There were parents who sold their daughters as prostitutes to make a few dollars on which to live.

In Haiti, a father and his eight-year-old son rowed their flimsy, leaky little eight-foot excuse for a boat out to our ship every day for a solid week to paint the black tar along our ship’s waterline. Their pay? A carton of cigarettes and all of the garbage they wanted.

On their last day, they had an unfortunate accident. While the garbage container was being lowered to them in their little boat, the rope broke from the weight and it crashed down on them, narrowly missing the boy and smashing the boat in two. They were left swimming but as we watched, the young fellow grabbed onto a piece of moldy bread and placed it in his mouth. This made me count my blessings.  I believe the countries of North America are still some of the best countries of the world in which to live.

Because I enjoyed the navy and kept my nose clean (didn’t get into trouble) I was quickly promoted. I must have impressed the higher ups because just after passing my three-year mark, I was called to the captain’s cabin and offered what was an amazing career change. If I was interested, the navy would send me to England for four years of university education whereby upon completion, I would be commissioned as a lieutenant. I would first spend a year in school at our base in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The only catch was that I couldn’t marry until I returned.

I was totally head-over-heels in love with Irma. We had just become engaged. What if someone else stole her from me while I was away? I talked it over with her. She insisted on me making the decision. I thought it over very hard. I thought of all of the benefits that we would have if I chose the navy. The financial side including a great pension later certainly looked rosy. Marriage: How to Win The Lifetime Achievement Award

You must make tough decisions in life.

I then looked at Irma and I asked myself a question, ‘What would I give to have her next to me for one moment, one week, one month or four years?’  You know the answer to the question of whether I went for it or not don’t you?  There was no contest, my love for her won.

Now 50 years have passed us by. I now look back and wonder what would have happened to us and our family. Financially, life would have been better, of that there is no question. Would we have been happier? No! You see, living with Irma, even for one moment, is like living with an absolute angel. She simply is the finest, most beautiful lady on earth. Every waking moment with her by my side is the most wonderful experience ever. I would not trade one moment with her for anything mankind could dream up in the form of a reward or treasure.

Equally important is the reality of what our four beautiful daughters have meant to us. Our friendship is, and always has been, as solid as gold. They are unique in their own way. Each so very special to us, let alone what they contribute to the world at large. We think of the love they have given to us.  They are certainly a credit to their chosen professions and are loved equally well by their partners in life. What a terrible loss it would have been to us and to their friends to not have known them.

As it turned out, we have had an amazing, loving friendship with our girls. They not only are our daughters but our friends and have brought three wonderful grandchildren into our world as well. What more could we have asked for?

In life we reach the gate of many decisions, where you are completely on your own. A point where you alone must use whatever good judgment your parents and life have taught you. I was so very lucky to have made the right decision.

We never had it easy once I returned to civilian life. Through it all Irma has been by my side helping out in every way possible.

Blind Date to Marriage: The Luck of The Draw

Have you been holding off saying yes to marriage? Have you considered simply saying yes and doing so? There are no guarantees so use common sense and go ahead.  

It is hard to believe that after sixty years we are writing a page about us and our family.

What can we say? How do we put sixty years into a perspective that you may understand something about us? Here it is, blind date to marriage: the luck of the draw.

This is how they met.

Joe was serving in a minesweeper in the Royal Canadian Navy. One of his buddies was seeing a young lady in Halifax, NS. Problem was, she had a sister sharing a one room flat.

Joe’s buddy began a campaign to get me involved to even things up. After a week or two of coaxing he agreed to a date. He  was no more interested in getting involved than the man in the moon.

The reason being, the kind of girls the sailors meet were not the type you want to take home to meet the folks. He didn’t need problems.

Here is how Joe tells about their first date.  

The very moment I met Irma I was hooked. She was beautiful. She had been raised in the French part of New Brunswick on a farm. She had eleven brothers and sisters.

Strangely, I thought back to a night on HMCS Haida, a destroyer I was serving in the previous year. We were at sea somewhere in the North Atlantic. Every naval ship is manned 24 hours per day. A pool of sailors are allotted certain jobs such as lookouts at various points aboard the ship and standby lifeboat crews. The extra hands must be out on deck but can sit around and talk while awaiting their turn of duty.

This particular night one of the old salts was holding the floor. The subject was “what kind of girl would make the best wife.”

The consensus ended with three stipulations. She must be French. She must come from a farm. She must be from a large family. So began our journey, Blind date to marriage: the luck of the draw.  

I didn’t remember this at our first date. I was totally taken with Irma. We talked until midnight. On the way back to our ship my buddy was anxious to hear what I thought. I told him, “Irma is the girl I am going to marry.”

The next night we dated again and then our ship sailed for three months duty in the Caribbean. I prayed that we would meet again and we did. A year later we were married and after almost sixty years, I believe we are more in love with each other now, than we ever were.

Like the universe, love has a way of expanding. It starts with a big bang, things get in the way but love carries on growing exponentially. The amazing fact about love is, the more you give, the more you get back.

We have been blessed with four beautiful daughters. What a delight they were then and our now. Each has their own unique personality. What really is amazing to see is how early we develop our own traits of character at so young an age. Traits that stay with us and fine tune as we age.

Life is not about us then. It is about family.

Our family has grown over the years. Son  in laws. Grandchildren, our pride and joy. The girls have grown with the same love for life, and their fellow human beings, that is apparent within Irma. What a wonderful asset to have.

April 2018 will be our sixtieth anniversary together. It hasn’t been easy, but it has always been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to have spent it together. And to think that we went from blind date to marriage.

We have traveled through the years. Every province and one territory of Canada, twenty five states in the USA. Whistler has been a fantastic experience. Sheep mountain in the Yukon territory was WOW. The Grand Canyon. Boulder Dam, Las Vegas, The Villages in Florida, Maui. Mind blowing. We’ve had a ball.

Irma has never complained. Glaucoma led to a Cornea transplant. Poor hearing led to hearing aids and finally profound deafness. A traumatic operation gave her the ability to once again hear our families voices. A lung operation to remove a cancerous lobe. She has handled these afflictions with a toughness I will never understand.

Through it all she has, cooked, cleaned, walked, hiked, skied, golfed, kayaked and swam with a pace most mortals would love to do, but cannot.

Everything we have done over the years, we have done together. This website is about US. Our family. Our love for one another. Our adventures together on our blind date to marriage.

Winter Camping on Cape Breton Island

Did you ever wonder what winter camping is like? I reluctantly agreed to do it and wow did I ever get to love it. Be it a camp or tent, give it a try and enjoy.

My friends and I were avid cross-country skiers living in the Margaree Valley on beautiful Cape Breton Island on the north end of Nova Scotia. Winter camping on Cape Breton island was fantastic. Being situated on the western shore of the Northumberland Strait we were dumped on by plenty of snow throughout the winter. Winds would pick up moisture from the Strait, cooling it as it climbed over the mountains and releasing it into our valley.

We had fantastic ski conditions most of the time. Our enthusiasm for the outdoors grew to a passion as groups of us would ski along the river and the hills surrounding our little paradise.

An exhausting climb up the east side of the valley (1,500 feet up) brought you to the area called the Cape Breton Highlands. 800 square miles of forest with a few access roads used by the pulp company who logged it in summer. There is nothing but trees, lakes and wildlife to see. In summer a few folks would travel the area to fish the lakes, but in winter it became a heaven for snowmobilers.

Three of us decided to travel to our small camp in the highlands for some skiing. Bill and Obie would take snowmobiles with all of our gear and I would ski the 9 miles to the camp. They went on ahead while I climbed slowly up the trail leaving our beautiful valley behind.

Reaching the summit, I discovered the beautiful fluffy snow that had fallen previously had blown away into the woods by strong winds leaving the deep snow cover with an icy crust behind. Winter camping on Cape Breton Island can be challenging as cross country skis don’t work on ice. Mine had to. The wind was howling and the temperature was steady at -35C. I had no choice but to press on. After a couple of miles it began to snow. I soon hit the main road, turned north and another couple of miles now in blinding snow arrived at a tiny hut. It stored fire gear in summer but was empty now. Inside it was pitch black. No windows. I wanted to eat my sardine sandwich but it was frozen solid. No water.

With 3 miles to go I set out. A small creek lie ahead, frozen of course. A few feet to the side stood a mysterious Canadian Lynx. I wondered what it was thinking. Hardly anyone ever visits the highlands except on snowmobiles so the Lynx has little fear of man. They have huge paws to get about easily on snow. They feed almost exclusively on snowshoe hares. In winter their fur coat turns almost white with only a very light sprinkling of gray hairs.  

The route to our hut was downhill and covered with ice. I fell as I tried to control my icy descent splitting my pants wide open. Pushing on I arrived at the hut. My buddies had a fire going. 80 square feet of living space. For three guys. We slept on the floor. Everything was frozen at that level.

I took this photo. Just prior to the shutter going off I realized my split open pants were just that and quickly moved to cover them with the camera bag. The photo above is the result.

 

We had this little stove set up in the corner. With a few pieces of dry wood burning inside it, the sides would turn red hot. As hot as we could get the fire going it still wasn’t enough to heat the area near the floor. The bottom two feet of the walls and floor remained frozen.

In the morning we ate breakfast. Obie, noticing how the sides of the stove were red, placed a slice of bread on it and it stuck to the side as if it were glued. He turned down the draft control and in a few moments the redness turned to a slight glow. By doing this he was able to control the toaster and proceeded to create more toasted masterpieces for each of us. Winter camping on Cape Breton island is great fun.

After our breakfast, we snapped on our skis and spent the day exploring the headwaters of Ste. Anne’s River. The temperature stayed at -35 Celsius for most of the day with not much wind. We found a way that we could go down the 300 feet or so to the base of the falls on the river. Everything was frozen with only a huge hole where the river flowed. It was beautiful and we enjoyed a lunch at the base area before retracing our trail to the top.

We found an area covered with lynx tracks and plenty of rabbit fur showing the end of another bunny. It was on a hilly area and we enjoyed skiing through the trees for a distance.

After a steak supper (Bill sure knew what food to take along) we turned in at around 7 pm. Not only were we tired but three guys in a tiny hut in the pitch dark sure cuts the gossip session.

I had the urge to use the toilet at around midnight and since we didn’t have the luxury of one, I got dressed and stepped outside. The word UNBELIEVABLE comes to mind. Imagine now, I arose from a deep sleep in the pitch dark and didn’t use the flashlight while dressing. Once outside there wasn’t a light in any direction as we were probably 30 to 40 miles from any town so the only thing one could see were stars. Big, bright, amazing sky totally full of them. They were brighter than I ever saw in my lifetime. Everything was cracking as the -40 Celsius temperature froze the moisture inside the trees and caused the wood to crack and split. It was so incredible I just had to wake up my buddies so that they could experience the beautiful night. Winter camping on Cape Breton Island is the perfect way to go.  

Next day we loaded our gear onto the snowmobiles and headed home. That was one mother of a trip I will never forget.  

World War 2 Brought Hardships For All

While hundreds of thousands of Canadians fought overseas during the Second World War, we who lived in New Waterford had it pretty easy.

The war took place between 1939 and 1945 in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Two of Mom’s brothers joined the service. Her brother Sinclair had lived in the USA and joined the Air force but really, we hardly ever heard a word about him. I saw a photo of him and his wife many years ago but I do not know if anyone ever saved it.

Mom’s brother, Charlie, joined the army in Sydney and served in Europe. Wounded in Belgium he came home a broken man. The horrors of that war played on his mind and he lived a life from then on tortured by his memories.

We were kids at the time.

Living in New Waterford was peaceful enough. One street over from our house at the top of St. Joseph St. there was a Canadian Army base. It was part of the coastal defense system. The system was set up to protect the towns and city of Sydney from attack from the sea.

An underground tunnel ran from the base about 2 or 3 miles out to Lingan where there were batteries of huge guns set up and aimed seaward.

This was Fort Petrie along the Sydney/New Waterford Highway. There were big guns here to protect the harbor from attack.

Every once in awhile the army would carry out gunnery practice either by firing their guns at huge targets that were towed behind tug boats, or small planes would tow a target a long distance behind the plane. The guns would make one huge bang when fired and it would make the dishes rattle and sometimes fall out of the kitchen cabinets. Mom would be wild when this happened. All of her neighbors would be equally ticked off and a few times they walked as a group up to the base on the hill to state their complaints.

The one thing we did experience during this time was rationing. The government had to ration the amount of food that was out there to make certain that there was enough for the war effort. Every family was given ration books. All of the different types of food were represented by slips in the book. For instance. There were clips for tea, flour, meat, sugar, salt, etc.

Were these the first trading stamps?

The women would get together in one of the houses as a group and each would have a shopping list of food items they would require in the next month or so. Then the trading began. Someone may not need tea so they would trade with someone who needed tea. For that coupon they may receive a coupon for butter or meat in exchange.

Quite often a lady would come by the house and want to trade for something she had forgotten to add to her list.

The first item to be put into the restricted category was sugar. Beginning late January 1942, each person was allowed 12 ounces per week. By May it was down to 8 ounces and tea and coffee were also on the shortage list. Consumers were asked to cut tea consumption by ½ and coffee by ¼. Shortly thereafter coupon rationing for the above foods was introduced. Not only households were obliged to comply – restaurants and other places serving food also had to abide by the new limits.

Apart from food rationing, anything made of steel was put on the sidelines. Cars and trucks were given the red light. Household appliances such as fridges and stoves were not manufactured as the steel was redirected to the manufacture of ships and guns.

Victory Gardens

Due to the high demand for food for the war effort, many kinds of foods were not available from the local grocers. So every household was asked to plant a Victory Garden. In a patch of ground in your backyard, you were expected to grow vegetables for your own table. Potatoes, lettuce, carrots, pumpkins etc. were planted. Some people also planted in the front of their houses where lawns would normally grow.

Dress making material was available in the stores and knitting yarn and wool as well because sweaters, socks and clothing of all types was needed overseas.

In many instances, shoes purchased from a shoe store would have soles made of pressed paper as leather was needed by the armed forces. This type of shoe didn’t last very long, especially when they would get wet.

Where Did The MacMillan Family Come From?

MacMullin – MacMillan

In his book, “The MacMillans and Their Septs”, the late Rev. Somerled MacMillan, former bard and Historian of Clan MacMillan, states:

“The name MacMillan is of ecclesiastical origin, the progenitor of the clan being one of the clergy belonging to the Culdee order of the Celtic Church. The Culdee clergy, unlike those of the Roman Church, did not practice celibacy. Their abbots differed from the Augustinians in this respect, that their office was a hereditary one and, unlike their powerful usurpers, had no lay order.

The above is directly quoted from the book, “To The Hill of Boisdale” by Father A. J. MacMillan who was born in Boisdale, Cape Breton.

The MacMillans were settled in Loch Arkaig Scotland around the year 1160 and then they moved and settled in Lawers, by Loch Tay until they were driven out around the year 1360  settling in Knapdale.

Eventually they found their way to the Western Isles through their connection with Clanranald, where tradition has it that it was a MacMillan who carried the wounded Clanranald from the Bluefield, and thus saved his life.

Another tradition according to Fr. Mcmillan’s book is that the MacMillans were cattlemen on the Clanranald lands and one of the MacMillans saw a boatload of raiders come ashore. He hid while the raiders passed by and then untied the boat and towed it out offshore. Upon the raiders return they couldn’t get their boat and were subsequently done in.

Is it MacMillan or MacMullin?

In Scotland MacMillan is widely used and it is considered the “English” version. However in the early records that go back hundreds of years, MacMullin was the common form.

All of the clan who came to Cape Breton in the nineteenth century were Gaelic speaking and went by the name MacGhillemhaoil. While they were speaking Gaelic there was no problem, but later attempts to put this name into English a complication arose.  There is no English equivalent for the sound represented by the Gaelic diphthong “ao” (two vowels together in the same word) witch occurs in the name. The sound is somewhere between the English “short i “ and “u” and a choice had to be made. In some areas some chose “i” and in the other areas they chose “u”.

On the mainland and in the Inverness and Victoria counties of Cape Breton “MacMillan” was almost always used. In Cape Breton and Richmond counties “MacMullin” was almost always used. The Mc or Mac means “son of” and this grew out of the old way of spelling which once was simply “M’” and the “c” evolved from that apostrophe.

MacMillan family tradition seems to indicate that there were either 4 or 6 brothers living in Scotland in 1798. Neither of these had ever emigrated to Cape Breton but their offspring did.

Iain (John) was the son of Eoghann who was married but his wife is unknown. Iain was born in Creagantillidh, Barra in 1822. He married Sarah MacNeil of Boisdale and settled in Rear Beaver Cove. They had six children. Michael, Annag, Rory, John, Jonathan and Jane.

Rory was my grandfather. He married Agnes MacIntyre of Boisdale and settled in Sydney.

He worked in a wood factory in Sydney and lived at 495 Charlotte St. He was caught in a machine belt and his leg was broken badly. He was taken home on a stretcher and the doctor set his leg while he was laid out on the table in the living room. He was given doses of whisky and a piece of rope was put in his teeth to keep him from harming his mouth while enduring pain. He then became a cobbler and had a little shop on George St. in Sydney.

Rory and Agnes had seven children. Sadie, Pauline, Mary, Mike, Joe T, Teresa and John.

Joseph Thomas MacMillan

At the age of 15, Joe T was hired as an apprentice at Bezanson Jewelers in Sydney for $5.00 per week. He was to learn the watch-making trade with his mentor Hector MacMillan who was from Prince Edward Island and not related. Hec and his wife Winnie became lifelong friends.

After learning his trade, Joe T and all of the family moved to Boston where they all found employment. Mike had TB and was in the Kentville sanitarium in the Annapolis Valley for a few years. He died there as a young man.

Joe T (dad) moved back to Sydney around 1925 having left a good job in Boston. His best friend was Dave Bagnall who worked with the electrical department in Sydney as a linesman.

Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacGillivray was my mother. She was the daughter of Frank MacGillivray of Northside East Bay and Elizabeth MacDonald of Blackstone, Inverness County. The family lived in a small house next to the Assyrian church on the Esplanade in Sydney. Margaret was taught to play the piano by a professor MacKinnon and learned the instrument very well. She played the organ in the Assyrian church every week beginning when she was the ripe old age of thirteen.

She learned typing and was hired as a secretary at Burchell Agencies in Sydney.

She and Joe T found each other and a courtship evolved. They were married in September, 16th  1929 in Sacred Heart Church on George St. Sydney, NS

Best man was Ginger MacGrath and the bridesmaid was his wife Bessie. The McGraths eventually settled in Halifax. One of their sons, Doug was an actor and co-starred in the movie “Goin Down The Road” and other films. He also played in three Clint Eastwood films in the USA.

Joe and Margaret had five children. Isabel, Michael, Joseph, Raymond and Teresa.

The Great Depression

The first five years of their marriage were very taxing as the depression was in full swing. Times were tough in Sydney and dad told me he made as low as $15.00 a week repairing watches and jewelry.

He had been working with Ernie Brown who had a store of the same name and who detested paying his help as he loved the dollar. He would hold onto the dollar almost with a death grip.

One afternoon a friend of dad’s asked him to witness a signature on an insurance policy after work. He agreed. After work dad went to the office in another building and the man had a sheath of papers and showed dad the front page which was an insurance policy of some sort. Dad signed the page and another page below it without reading the lower page. After signing it the man gave dad a set of keys and told him he now owned a store  jewelry store across the street that was virtually bankrupt. There was nothing he could do as he had signed the paper.

It was impossible to do business under those conditions, however he tried his best. As the ending of the first year anniversary of the debacle approached, dad discussed the situation with a lawyer friend by the name of Caldwell. Caldwell informed him that the crooked paper he had signed had to be renewed each year or it would lapse.  A careful check at the courthouse the day after the anniversary date found that it had not been renewed. Dad went to the house of the crooked owner and threw the keys into the face of the woman who was the original owner and there went the obligation.

Dad had a good friend, Norman Matheson, who worked for De Young’s Wholesale Foods in Sydney. Norman was a fine gent who eventually retired and settled in a nice home at St. Ann’s Bay in the North River area.

Norman traveled to New Waterford often and told dad about a small store property available there. Dad took a look and rented it for $15.00 per month. The owner was Jack Beaton and the store was on Plummer Ave. a few doors up the hill from Eaton’s store.

Mom and dad rented an apartment in a building across the street from No. 12 Mine Office. Actually the building was formerly the town jail but had proved inadequate as such and so was turned into four apartments.

Mom and dad no sooner moved in to the new apartment when I was born on Aug. 15th 1935.

In 1940 dad bought a house on George St. I remember walking up to the new house as I was carrying our cat. We no sooner crossed the railroad tracks when a dog began to bark in someone’s yard. The cat went nuts, scratched me and took off never to be seen again. Russell MacNeil and Isabel bought that house many years later.

The William Davis Miners Memorial Monument stood across the street from our home on Baker Street. Our house stood to the next left of the house seen here. Dad’s store on Plummer Ave. stood just across the street behind the photographer.

Obituary Roderick MacMillan

FINAL RESPECTS PAID TO LATE ROD MCMILLAN Assembling in large numbers from all sections of Cape Breton County, friends, acquaintances and older residents paid their final respects this morning to the memory of Roderick D MacMillan, well known and highly esteemed Sydney resident, whose funeral was held from the residence of his son in law and daughter, Mr and Mrs W T Lynch, Byng Avenue. Mass of Requiem at the Church of the Sacred Heart was celebrated by Rev Dr F J Nicholson of St. F.X. University in the presence of a large congregation and prayers at the graveside were conducted by Rev Dr Malcolm MacEachern, also of the University staff. Burial was made in the family plot in Holy Cross cemetery, alongside of his wife who predeceased him 18 years ago and son Mike who died in 1929. A large procession of cars followed the hearse to the final resting place of the deceased and the countless Mass cards, floral pieces, cards, letters and telegrams of deep sympathy received testified in a tangible manner to the high respect in which the late Mr MacMillan was held by all who knew him during his 50 years residence in Sydney. The pall bearers were Bob Campbell, Remi LeBlanc, Joe McMullin, Thomas Cozzolino, Dan MacGillivray and C MacMillan.

MacMillan Forefathers and Connection With Beaver Cove

MacMillan Forefathers and Connection With Beaver Cove

Our connection with Beaver Cove goes back to 1836 when our forefathers arrived from Scotland and the Island of Barra, a small island of 60 Sq. KM with only 1,200 inhabitants in 2011. The Island is the closest European land to Nova Scotia.

The island is very remote and the weather is whatever the North Atlantic offers up. It has been inhabited for thousands of years. Today there is only one other business enterprise other than fishing and that is a small company that creates handmade caramel candy.

For many hundreds of years our forefathers worked as sharecroppers. They lived in dark, cold and damp stone houses and tended the land, sharing their skimpy earnings with the Laird who owned the entire island. It was an extremely poor existence.

A tough way to make a living.

One of the crops they gathered was seaweed. The not only gathered it but they would burn it and once it dried they would gather up the ash and put it in bags for shipment. The ash was very light and as the water supply was poor they would stay dirty for weeks at a time.

As the market prices for the ash fell the Lairds soon realized that there was more money in raising sheep so they forced the people out of their hovels and put them on ships for America.

The people also decided to go voluntarily since they were not making ends meet.

The new land offered a much better chance to make a living and they were also offered free land once they arrived.

What more could they ask for?

Iain Mac Eoghainn (John MacMillan) was born in Scotland around the year 1792. He was married, in Barra, to Seonaid MacKinnon, a sister of Iain Mac Eoghainn Ruaidh, the famous

Barra strong-man. All of their children were born in Barra and they emigrated in either 1832 or 1836. They came to

Cape Breton and settled in Rear Beaver Cove. Their 8 children were Caitriona, Eoghann, Willeam, Anna, Calum, Iain, Ruairidh, and Uilleam.

At this time Gaelic was the language spoken, thus the names are Gaelic. It was only when people had to purchase goods in the populated areas that they ran into those who spoke English. Then they had to learn the language.

The first connection we have with Beaver Cove was when Caitriona married Alasdair Nicholson in Barra and settled in the Rear Beaver Cove around 1836. They had 8 children.

A son, Eachann, married Bridget Johnston of Beaver Cove. The had 6 children but 4 died of diptheria at an early age. Rod Francis never married. Roddie, as we knew him was a blacksmith, carpenter, fiddler, singer and a treasure trove of Gaelic songs and a welcome visitor to every ceilidh.

He owned the property in Beaver Cove.

For some years he had a living arrangement with George and Vonnie MacLean. After they moved he sold the property to Joe T. MacMillan and Margaret and he lived there until stricken with a severe stroke. He then lived in an extended care facility in North Sydney until his passing.

Roddies sister, Katie, was married to Mick (MB) MacLean who owned the property next door.

The second connection we have to Beaver Cove is with the 6th. child whose name is Iain.

Iain was born in Creagantillidh, Barra, in the year 1822. He married Sarah MacNeil of Boisdale and settled in Rear Beaver Cove. They had 6 children. Michael, Annie, Rory (Rod) , John, Jonathan and Jane.

Michael married Ann Crowdis and settled in North Sydney. They had a son John C. who owned and ran a very successful lumber business John C. MacMillan Lumber Lt. His daughter Lynn married Rube Chislett and settled in North Sydney.

Annie and John never married. They eventually settled in Beaver Cove next to Rod Nicholson.

After their deaths, Joe T. and Margaret owned the farm but when they needed money for the purchase of their new home on George St. New Waterford, they sold the farm to Adam and Hilda Boyd and Hector MacMillan (no relation) of Sydney.  

Rory (Rod) married Agnes MacIntyre of Boisdale and settled in Sydney at 495 Charlotte St. They had 7 children. Sadie, Lizzie Pauline, Mary (May), Mike, Joe T., Teresa and John.

Sadie married William Lynch of Sydney and they had 6 children. Jim, Donald, Mary, Joseph, Terrence and Vaughan.  

Jim married Lexie MacDougall of Glace Bay and had 9 children. William T. Glennon, Mary Belle, Sadie, Jane, Elizabeth, Joseph, Stephen, Terrence. After Jim died suddenly during a dance at Monastery Nova Scotia The whole family moved to Prince George, BC.

Mary taught at the St. F. X. Junior College, Terrence became a priest, Joseph became a priest, Vaughan never married.

Donald married Phyllis Sullivan and settled in Sydney where he owned Pan Dandy Bread Co. They had Mike, Pat, Tim and Casey.

Donald and Phyllis had a beautiful summer home in Beaver Cove. Patrick married Paula MacCormick of Sydney and retired to a new home on the front part of his father’s property in Beaver Cove.

Lizzie Pauline married Big Alex MacDonald of Port Hastings and settled in Sydney. They had 2 children.

Derrick married Margaret MacMullin of Sydney and had, I believe, 6 children. Shauna, Terry and Anselm.

Shauna married Ed Doolan of Sydney.

Stanley married Jeanette and settled in Toronto and retired in Dartmouth NS. They had 1 child, Claire.

May married Bill Tripp of Boston and they had 3 children. Bill, Bob and Joe.

Mike never married and died in his twenties.

Joe Thomas. married Margaret MacGillivray and settled in Sydney before moving to New Waterford in 1935. They had 5 children. Isabel, Mike, Joe, Ray and Teresa.

Isabel married Russell MacNeil of New Waterford and settled in Joe T’s former home on George St. They had 4 children. Bruce, Gordon, Pamela and Darrell.

Bruce married Chrissie Horchuk and they had 1 child, Marley.

Gordon married Sheila and they had 2 boys.  

Pamela married David Howell of new Waterford and they had 2 children. Jenna and Dominic.

Daryl married Tracy and they had 2 boys.

Mike married Helen MacInnis of Sydney Mines and they had 4 children. Dianna, Danena, Douglas and Darcy and settled in Dartmouth. After they divorced Mike married Cindy Bishara of Yarmouth.

Dianna married Joe MacDonald of New Waterford and they had 2 children. Kaylee and Cameron.

Danena married Scott wells and they had 3 children. Cassie, Thomas and Lauren.

Doug married Lorie and they had 3 children.

D’arcy married Judy and they had 2 children . Jamie and Michael. He then married Tammy and they had 1 son, Lukas.

Joe married Irma Cormier and settled in the Vancouver area. They had 4 children. Linda, Sandra, Colette and Nancy.

Linda married Kirk MacDonald of Halifax and settled there. They had no children.

Sandra married John Ferguson of Sydney and settled I Toronto. They had 2 children. Leslie and Leisha. After they divorced Sandra married John Ewles of Ajax. John had 2 children. Robby and Johnnie.

Colette married Ed. Cameron of Margaree and settled in Whitehorse. The had no children. After they divorced Colette married Roy Slade of Whitehorse. Roy had one daughter, Rhea. Colette had one son, Andre.  

Nancy married Jeff Sheldon of Whitehorse and settled in Langley BC. They have no children.

Ray married Beverly Kendell of New Waterford. They settled in Trenton Ontario and had two children. Judy and Brenda.

Judy married Paul Couture of Cornwall, ON, and they have 2 children. Beth and Maddi. They settled in Kingston Ontario.

Brenda married Darrell Foulkes and settled in Belleville and they have 2 children, Kyle and Jake.

Teresa married Ozzie Wolk of Montreal and settled in Kelowna, BC. They had 2 children. Robbie and Jerry. After their divorce Teresa married Bob Jobe of glace Bay and settled in Salmon Arm, BC.

Robbie married Natalie Noz and settled in Salmon arm.  

Jerry married Caroline Jackson of Kelowna. They have 2 children. Jackson and Nicholas.

The Connection is complete.

Well almost complete, that is. These connections were only for 2 of the 8 children born to Iain and Seonaid MacMillan. To outline the family connections of the other 6 children would not only take up a great volume of space, but to do so would give you a good understanding of how the planet becomes occupied.

It was not uncommon for families to settle near to each other. In the beginning of the great migration to our shores a grant system was introduced. A single person could apply for a grant of 100 acres and a married man 200 acres.

Why Was it Named Rear Beaver Cove?

With the first wave of immigrants, the land fronting along the shore of St, Andrews Channel was quickly taken up. As more immigrants arrived, the only land available was to the Rear of the lakefront properties. The lakefront properties extended 1 ¼ miles deep. The Rear Beaver Cove properties began at this intersection. Other properties bounded upon the intersections of the Rear properties as well.

Many of those were easier to visit by accessing the Bourinot Road beginning behind St. Andrews church at Boisdale, and heading for Loon Lake, Lost Lake and MacMullin Lake and the land lying within the boundaries of Eskazoni and the rear of the Lakefront Properties.

The land herein was substandard for farming, and only good for raising livestock. There was a large area where all the families would gather each summer to gather and feast on blueberries. It was called the Blueberry Barrens. It was a tough existence. To purchase supplies meant a full day of driving with a horse and wagon to North Sydney. At least a return trip of 18 to 20 hours over rough trails. The barter system was used extensively at that time.

People needing basic goods would trade their butter, cream and baked goods for clothing, hardware and flour etc.

I remember reading about one old bachelor who lived at The Rear of Beaver Cove. He loved his booze. He would travel to North Sydney for his supplies and of course would load up with plenty of spirits and dig right into them for the trip home. Regularly he would pass out in the wagon, and even though it was pitch black at night, his horse would take him home. He would wake up at daylight none the worse for wear.  

As soon as possible the residents would leap at the chance to gain some kind of employment.

Once the rail line was built from Sydney to Halifax, the people who were living along the lakeshore were able to gain employment as part of the deal for allowing the tracks to cross their property. This allowed these folks to be able to hire those who lived at The Rear to do their farming and chores for very low wages. But every penny counted in those hard times. Many of the people found work in the coal mines in Sydney Mines, New Waterford and Glace Bay.

For the people at The Rear a day of  labor on a lakefront farm was a hard one to bear. They would need to be up and ready to head out to work very early as they perhaps lived 5 or 6 miles away. Once the days work was completed, that long walk home was awaiting them. The elevation between the Lakefront and The Rear was over 700 feet, to add to the misery.

Most of them built rough boats and would fish the lake for cod. They would salt the fish, laying their catch out on flakes to dry in the summer sun and wind. This catch would be added to their larder for the winter consumption.  

MacMillan and the 1911 Census

Some interesting things are included in the 1911 Nova Scotia census so I will include them here.

Agnes MacMillan, I don’t have a photo of Rod.

Roderick and Agnes Macmillan (the name was spelled McMillin) was/were the head of the family of 7 children. Sadie, Pauline, John, May, Michael, Thomas (Joseph), and Teresa.

Rod was a carpenter and worked a 60 hour week in a factory where he earned $1,000.00 per year. There were no vacations to be had. He earned 31.2 cents per hour.

Sadie was a stenographer and worked in an office 48 hours per week and was paid $450.00 per year. She worked 52 weeks per year. That’s .18 cents per hour.

Pauline worked as a tailor in a tailor shop 48 hours per week 52 weeks per year and earned $200.00 for her efforts. That is .08 cents per hour. Vacations were non existent at that time.

The rest of the children were not working at that time (1911).

Rod was born in 1859 and Agnes was born in 1869 with 10 years between the two. Both spoke English and Gaelic fluently but the children didn’t speak Gaelic.

Rod paid $24.00 per year for a life insurance policy. The census form has a column for Accident or Sickness and that column has a figure 50 or 51. It is possible that his accident at work where his leg was severely broken was covered by that policy. It is not clear on the form.

In 1911, the time of the census, the family were living on Hugh Street in Sydney Nova Scotia.