Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Ryley Nevills

Ms. Kurtz


May 29, 2016                       

                                                                   Life without a kilt:
                                       How immigration changed my attire

If my ancestors hadn’t immigrated to Canada, I might be writing this blog in a kilt, with the haunting sounds of the bagpipe playing in the background…well, not actually, but my life would definitely have been different from what I know.
As you can probably guess, my ancestors immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1953. Specifically, my mom’s grandparents immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Hamilton, Ontario, bringing with them 3 of their 6 children; the other 3 were grown and married by 1953. The 3 children they brought with them included my maternal grandmother Sheena Brown. The older siblings eventually followed their parents and also immigrated to Canada a few years later. My maternal great-grandma, Mary Brown, was actually born in Ireland but was raised in Scotland and always considered Scotland to be home. My maternal great grandpa, Robert Brown was born in Glasgow. My mom’s paternal grandparents were both born on the east coast of Canada and their families had been settled there since the late 1800’s. My dad’s paternal and maternal grandparents all have Scottish roots, so the common denominator here appears to be Scotland which is why I will focus on my Scottish roots for the purpose of this blog.

My maternal great grandfather, Robert Brown, owned his own business, a limo service, in Glasgow, in the early 1950s. However, unemployment was high in Glasgow in 1953, ranging from 28-30% (Scottish Affairs, Hasard , 1953). This factor and a weak economy led to poor business for Robert Brown and he had heard from friends who had immigrated to Canada that there were better financial opportunities to be had across the pond. He heard about a steel company in Hamilton, Ontario who were looking to hire and who offered good wages and benefits. Since things were looking bleak in Scotland, Robert decided to make the move in the hopes of providing a better life for his family. Meanwhile in Canada things were booming. The following excerpt from a magazine article describes the atmosphere of that time period:  “After a decade of depression and 6 years of war, Canadians are bursting with optimism in the 1950s. It is a time of prosperity and mass consumerism for most. Products Canadians want are readily available, and Canadians have the money to buy them, and they do” (Vincent, 2001). No wonder immigrants were attracted to Canada during that time period, and my ancestors were no exception. So Robert Brown set off for Canada, solo and by ship, in search of a job and a home in the new, promised land. A few months later he had secured a job at Stelco, where he continued to work for 25 years, before his eventual retirement. He purchased a home, and sent for his family.
Although it took some time, the family settled in to their new home and became accustomed to the Canadian way of life. My great grandma found employment at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton and the kids were enrolled in school and within no time had lost their Scottish accents. The major push/pull factors in the decision to come to Canada included 1) the ability to provide a better life financially for the family (push); 2) the 3 children and numerous extended family left behind in Scotland (pull); 3) the excitement of the prosperity and future job opportunities for the children (push); 4) the business that my great grandfather had to leave behind (pull). However, the decision was ultimately made to immigrate to Canada and the move was a successful one for my ancestors, but what would my life now look like had they remained in Scotland?

One difference would be the ability to get a part time job. As the charts above show, the unemployment rate for young people in Glasgow is substantially higher than it is here in Canada. In addition, the cost of living in Glasgow is for the most part higher than it is here in Toronto, but wages are not higher, therefore one would assume that the overall quality of life would be somewhat less.

Indices Difference
Consumer Prices in Glasgow are 12.32% higher than in Toronto
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Glasgow are 0.36% higher than in Toronto
Rent Prices in Glasgow are 23.18% lower than in Toronto
Restaurant Prices in Glasgow are 35.04% higher than in Toronto
Groceries Prices in Glasgow are 2.91% lower than in Toronto
Local Purchasing Power in Glasgow is 5.54% lower than in Toronto

Also, had my ancestors remained in Glasgow, I would now be living in a city of over 600,000 people (UK population, 2016)  instead of a town of about 40,000. That would mean a different lifestyle entirely, faster paced and more hectic. No four wheelers, no dirt bikes, no fields. The most popular sport in Scotland is football (aka soccer) and ice hockey and box lacrosse are not popular, so the sports I’ve played for my entire life I would never have been exposed to. Finally there’s the kilt issue…2 of my great uncles who were married in Scotland were married in kilts, piped down the aisle in bagpipes. If I lived there, that might have been my fate one day, so I can honestly say I’m very grateful to my great grandpa, Robert Brown, for taking the chance and coming to Canada, where men don’t wear kilts, even on their wedding day!

Works Cited: 


Vincent, Mary, Canadians At Work, Home & Play, 2001

Sheena Brown , personal interview, May 2016

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