Teaching Experience at Earltown Village School


By Murray Baillie

Teacher, 1961–1962

Acknowledgement: To Glen Matheson who urged me to write my story and was co-operative in sharing his knowledge of the history and documents of the area. Because of physical pain, I was reluctant but am now glad that I did.

Village School


The school was a one room building in the village of Earltown situated between Tatamagouche and Truro. Painted white, it had windows on both sides. The sign “Earltown School” was painted on the front above the door. After entering by the front door, one was in an entry where coats could be hung. There was a door on the left opening into the main part of the school. There may have been a door on the right but I am not sure. Inside was a large blackboard at the front. In front of it was the teacher’s desk. (My knowledge of this comes from a picture taken of myself in the school at some point during that school year.) Further down was the stove. Student desks were facing the front; their design was such that they were only suitable for children who wrote with their right hand. For a toilet, students used an outhouse at the rear of the school. There may have been a back door into the school but I am doubtful of that.  Today, this former school is used as the community hall for Earltown and area. The sign is still painted on the front.

Originally, the one teacher taught all grades from Primer to Eleven. When the Tatamagouche Rural High School opened about 1952, students from Grades 7 to 11 took the school bus daily to Tatamagouche for their education. Grades Primer to 6 continued to be taught in the village school.

I graduated from Tatamagouche Rural High School in 1959 with a good academic record. Without any success, I looked for employment. Even though I tried, I had to stay at home on the home farm in Tatamagouche Mountain and work for nothing.

Since no employment happened and I had wanted to be a teacher, I applied to study at the Nova Scotia Normal College in Truro, a teacher training college for Grades Primary to 9. I had no money so I applied and obtained a bursary of $300 and an interest free loan of $300 from the Department of Education of the province. I paid for the rest from my meager savings. After graduation and employment, repayment was due at the rate of $25 per quarter until paid.

I found a boarding house from an approved list approved by the Normal College. Registration at the College on Prince Street was at 2 p.m. on September 14, 1960. Graduation was on June 15, 1961 in the movie theatre, also on Prince Street.

Rural practice teaching for Normal College students began throughout Nova Scotia on March 13, 1961 for a three week period. I lived at home in Tatamagouche Mountain and took the bus daily to the Tatamagouche Elementary School.

I was treated well by Annie Leslie, the Principal and Grade 6 teacher and encouraged by the other teachers in the school in my search for employment. I had a good relationship with all the teachers, learned something and contributed something to the School.

It was probably by word of mouth that I learned that the teacher in Earltown was leaving so a teaching position would  become  available.

I did apply but I do not recall how. The administrative control of the School was in the hands of three elected school trustees who reported at an annual community meeting. The only one I remember is Peter McNutt. There was an unelected secretary who probably had the most power; in Earltown, that was A. Howard Murray. I don’t recall any interview but I probably mailed my application to Mr. Murray. (Howard also happened to be on the Colchester County School Board.) In any case, I was given the job to begin in August officially and open the school in early September of 1961. I was 20 years old.

Since I was a one of the top students in my grade at the Tatamagouche Rural High School every year, my reputation may have influenced my choice in Earltown. Two residents from the area (Mary Murray and Helen Sutherland) were teachers in Tatamagouche. They would be able to tell Earltown residents about me.

In June of 1961, I graduated and was granted an interim Teacher’s License, Class 2 as well as a bursary to attend Mount Allison University. To make it permanent, I needed to attend the Nova Scotia Summer School for Teachers for two summers. (I also found that I needed to borrow for summer school, again from the government.) I thought that my chances of employment would be good. That did not happen.

I had been looking for a teaching job during 1961. I graduated from the Normal College in June of that year with an interim Teacher’s License Class 2, allowing me to teach in the public schools of the province. One instructor at the College described me as a very conscientious student. On graduation, I was one of only five students who received a university bursary to an Atlantic provinces’ university. Mine was for $150 to Mount Allison University but it would be some time before I was able to use it. My picture was in the Truro Daily News and Truro Weekly News. To my disappointment, this recognition did not help me find employment.

This was my first job. Howard Murray told me that some people had pointed to my lack of experience. He said to them, “If he doesn’t have a teaching position, how is he to get experience?” This is an attitude that young people today face.

Where was I to live? I would have preferred to stay in Earltown all week since my main goal in life was to distance myself from my father. However, I expected that it would be difficult to find a place which could easily feed me during the whole week. Without complaint, my father took me back and forth in his car on Fridays and Sunday.

 I found that George (Geordie) and Eva Murray would provide board five days a week. I don’t recall the charge for rent. It was a long walk to the school from there but I was young and could handle it without any problem.

At some point in the fall, George had heart problems, probably a heart attack, and Eva decided that they could not continue to rent a room. I had to look for other accommodation. Bill Ripley and his wife (I think that Joyce was her name.) rented me a room for five days a week; again, I don’t recall the price.

In the winter, Joyce came down with cancer and eventually died. I had to look for accommodation again.

Peter and Jennie MacNutt came through; they lived across the road from the school which was most convenient for me.

Both the Ripleys and MacNutts had children going to the School.

How much was I paid for the year? I don’t recall exactly but the Nova Scotia Normal College Calendar for 1960-1961 says, “Hence, for all practical purposes, the basic beginning salary for a teacher holding Grade XII and one year of training at the Normal College is $1980 with eight annual increments of $120 each to a maximum of $2940.” There would be some variation between counties in the province but my salary would likely have been in that range. What was I paid for that year? There were six levels of teacher’s licenses and I was second from the bottom. It was an interim license only good for two years until I went to two summer schools to make my license permanent. My guess it would be about $1980 for my first year of teaching.  The cheques would have been mailed from the Colchester School Board office in Truro. If you looked at how hard I worked, I deserved every cent I made.

This would be my first paid income during my lifetime even though I was in debt. From June, 1959 to August, 1960, I worked on the family farm for which I was paid nothing. To go to the Normal College, the government of Nova Scotia gave me a $300 scholarship and a $300 bursary as I mentioned above.

During the summer of 1962, I stayed on the family farm for part of the time and worked some time without pay: I also attended Mount Allison University where I took 1 ½ courses, Political Science and a French course which would give me a high school equivalent. Someone had given me a small bursary for that one summer school.

As 1962 began, I realized that I was gaining weight, a common weakness of mine throughout my life. I decided that I would try to control my appetite. I tried to control what I ate and, at some point, someone noticed that and said that Murray was losing weight. In those early days, I could do that successfully.

In the fall of 1961, the Earltown Farm Forum began weekly meetings. I was invited to join and was elected secretary. A full account can be found in material which I wrote and can be found in the North Shore Archives in Tatamagouche and in the Agricultural College Library in Bible Hill.

Across the road from the School was Doug MacKay’s store which also had the community post office. His wife Elizabeth also worked there. I think that the mail was delivered there from Denmark.

Not far from that store was Earl MacKay’s store. Both of these were country stores which sold most things. Each also had a gas tank where they sold gas for cars in the area or travelling between Tatamagouche and Truro. I had a great relationship with both store keepers.

I felt educated enough to teach in that school. It was in the area of discipline that I had my doubts. There were no problems in the school, probably because of my personality and the type of students. I can’t remember a single student who caused me problems. It has taken me fifty years to appreciate that. They must have appreciated my skills and attitude. I was always worried about discipline but, in fact, I had no problems at all in that area in Earltown. My anxiety was within myself.

In the school, there were students in each of Grades Primer to Six. Certainly, they would develop opinions of their new teacher and tell their parents. Certainly, the parents would be interested too.  Reta MacRae of Tatamagouche Mountain told me that, at first, the students thought that I was going to be pretty strict.

The school was wired with electricity. The school had a radio for school broadcasts which I used whenever they were available. There was a hand held bell which I rang to indicate that school was to begin.

There was heating from a wood stove near the front; a student, Esther Redmond, was paid to start the fire early every morning before school. The wood was split and ready to be used to start the fire. I don’t know who sold the wood to the School but I assume that the trustees would have looked after that. Esther did a good job every morning. She would have more skills than I did.

The teacher’s desk was further near the front against the black board. I think that there were boards on two sides, at least. I have a picture that my father wanted taken of me behind the desk. I give him credit for that because it is now a valuable historical reminder.

When I attended TRHS from 1952 to 1959, there were morning devotions held in each classroom every morning with the exception of Friday morning when all went to the gym/auditorium for devotions. I resented this forced Christianity so I did not want to do that at Earltown. Because  I was afraid of public criticism if I cancelled all religion, I started each morning with my repeating the Lord’s Prayer. This I did each weekday morning until the end of the school year. This was the only religion in the classroom.

Since there were seven grades in that school, I had to make up a time table giving me time to teach and also giving seat work for the students to do. The Inspector of Schools forced all the teachers to do this. Some teachers objected and said that they could not come up with a time table. I agreed with the Inspector that this was good management. It was difficult for me to get enough seat work so I usually worked in the school until after dark.

There was a large school register in which attendance had to be filled in each day. The black binder which held the paper booklet must have been 14” X 8 ½” or more in size. A page had to be balanced each month and at the end of the year. This was a standard school register, always black, used in every classroom in the province.

My first big mistake was with Irene Redmond; she was in one grade such as Grade 2. For whatever reason, perhaps to make it easier for me, I combined her with another grade. She apparently did not like this, for good reason. I had a letter from her mother carefully criticizing me for this move. The mother was right so I quickly moved Irene into the proper grade. With the wisdom of time, I realized now that I should have written to the mother. However, I remember that Irene told a fellow student that she was in the correct grade.

There were two or three students in the Primary Grade. Billy Bailey was left handed. I knew that he needed a left-handed desk if he were to learn to write without his left hand twisted around as most young students did. I went to see Howard Murray, the secretary of the Trustees, to ask for such a desk. Howard was always slow in doing anything as people in the community told me. Eventually, I got the desk. I hope that Billy learned to write correctly; at least, he had a chance. I am very proud of my decision in this regard.

Jimmie McNutt seemed to have problems with his eyes. I asked the school nurse for the area to check him out. She did and it became obvious that he needed glasses. His parents got glasses for him; I suspect that they appreciated what I did for him.

Years later, in 1980, my father died. Visitation was held at our home in Tatamagouche Mountain. Wilfred McNutt and his wife attended on that evening in August. I had not seen them since I left Earltown in June of 1962. I suspect that they came to offer sympathy because of their regard for me and my teaching.

As I said, it was a problem for me to get enough seat work. Towards the end of the year, I used the same material. On one occasion, Marilyn McNutt said to me, “We did this before, didn’t we?” I didn’t answer but I knew that she was right. This was my greatest weakness in the job. I never saw myself as capable in that aspect of teaching.

On one occasion, I received a package in the mail giving ways in which each student could do art work in a contest in some organization. It was easier for someone to win since there were so few in each grade. They did participate and I mailed the results. At some point, the prizes arrived in the mail; I was pleased to hand them out but I don’t remember what they were. The winners were thrilled to receive them.

For most weekends, I went home to my parents. I did not like that but I felt that I had no choice. No one would want to board me for seven days. As I said, my father came to pick me up. I was always tired so I did not answer him very well when he asked me about my week. He complained to my mother privately. He had no idea about how draining academic work was.

There was a monthly afternoon meeting of the rural teachers held in Tatamagouche. This was run by the Inspector of Schools for Colchester County, Dr. Nelson MacLeod, and Mrs. Eva Dunning, the Supervisor of Schools. I did not drive nor own a car so I had to get transportation with another teacher or, in one case, with Mrs. Dunning.

The Supervisor of Schools visited me once during the year but did not stay long. The Inspector never visited the School.

There were students in each of Grade Primer to Six. The names of most, if not, all of them are listed below:

Carolyn Langille                                    Sterling Langille

Marilyn McNutt                                    Esther Redmond

Irene Redmond                                     Gwen Murphy

Roxanne Murphy                                 Billy Bailey

Rollie  Murphy                                       Linda Ripley

Jimmie McNutt                                     Evertje Van Veld

John Redmond?

It is probably fair to say that the students liked me; they gave me presents at Christmas and when I left the job in June of 1962. Unfortunately, I did not have the social skills nor the energy at that time to thank them.

My problem was with seat work. If I had shown initiative, I could have sought advice from an experienced teacher in the area who could have helped me. I could have asked the inspector of supervisor of schools. I did not have the skills to reach out in that area. As a result of this one deficiency, I felt inadequate and felt that I must resign and look for another job less demanding than with seven grades. I really liked the Earltown community and its students; I just did not feel competent.

At some point during the spring, Peter MacNutt asked me to return to teach the next year. That was flattering. I intended to leave at that point so I did not answer.

I had decided that I must resign. With the help and references of Howard Murray and others, I obtained a job as a roving teacher in the Dartmouth Public Schools teaching Social Studies from Grade 6 in three schools: Greenvale, Notting Park and Creighton Park.

As the school year ended in Earltown, I had to make decisions on promoting the students into the next grade. In most cases, it was easy based on their academic records.

Sterling Langille had failed for the second year. I could see no advantage to him to keep him in Grade 6 for a third year so I did promote him to Grade 7 which meant that he would go to the North Colchester High School in Tatamagouche for the following year, 1962-1963. (At some point in the following years, Sterling became a capable carpenter in the area, being self employed.)

On the last day of school, I treated the students to lots of ice cream from Earl MacKay’s general store.

My first year of teaching was over. I did not consider it to be a  success story but there are likely still some in the North Colchester area who think differently. I heard that Bertha Johnson, my successor, said that the students knew their work.

Several years later, I was applying to be a full time teacher at North Colchester High School in Tatamagouche, previously called Tatamagouche Rural High School. I knew that at the Colchester School Board meeting, Dr. Nelson MacLeod said that I was a weak teacher. Howard Murray was a member of the Board so that is why I knew of this. Howard told me that he had strenuously defended me and said how conscientious I was.

 I decided that I should meet with Dr. MacLeod. I arranged this at the High School where I was a part time teacher at the time. I told Kline Langille, my fellow teacher, who said, “Sometimes you have to do things like that.” I started by saying that I heard that he considered me to be a weak teacher. His response was quick, “Do you think that you did a good job in Earltown? I immediately said, “No.”That was my opinion at the time but not now. That is all I remember but I think that we ended on good terms. We both agreed that I should have a university degree. Later, the School Board was appointed me as full time teacher at NSHS to begin in August of 1965.

From my point of view, neither he nor his Supervisor of Schools came to supervise me, to sit in the classroom and watch me teach. I had heard of this happening to other teachers in the rural schools in the area so I am still confused that it did not happen to me. If he felt that I was weak, didn’t he have a responsibility to the children involved to check out the classroom in person?

Of all the people in Earltown, I was closest to Howard and Mary Murray. Some years later when Howard died, I lived in Halifax. On a holiday, I drove to Earltown to visit his grave. When I saw his name there, I burst into tears. I knew then for sure what he meant to me.

In the years to come after Howard’s death, I sometimes visited Mary. She said that she remembered Howard and me having discussions about my life in her home. She asked me about my education. I said that I had a Master of Library Service degree from Dalhousie University. She looked very proud. Once she had told Jennie Mingo of Tatamagouche that she wished that she could adopt me.

Mary lived into her nineties. She had her weaknesses but when I heard of her death, I cried too.

Earltown will always be a part of my life; my heart will always be there. I never felt more at home. I wished that I could have remained living there. However, to get the education I needed for my personal development, I would have been limited in Earltown. I don’t think that I would have had the opportunity to grow and develop as I did in other places that I had lived. Because of Glen Hancock at King’s College in Halifax, I had a mentor in journalism and would likely not have had as much published if I had not taken courses from him.

On the way from Truro to Earltown, one comes to Nuttby Mountain outside of Earltown. As I look down on the village from there, the view is like a piece of Scotland from which many of Earltown’s residents originally came. Nothing can take away the influence of Earltown on my life.


Editor’s Note:   Murray Baillie currently lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick.  In addition to teaching, he was also librarian in Halifax and Saint John before working with Corrections Canada in Renous, New Brunswick.  He has also published various articles over the years.

The Editor’s grandmother, Grace (Murray) Matheson, taught for at least one year at this school in the early 1900’s.  A single woman in her twenties, she walked every Sunday evening from College Grant through the Berrichan to her boarding house and returned home to College Grant following the same route on Friday evening.  She often spoke of the kind people on the remote farms offering hospitality while she passed through. Howard Murray, referenced in this article, was one of her students.

Remembrances of John S

Editor’s Note:  Murray Baillie, currently of Miramichi, NB., has kindly given permission to share this memorial to his grandfather the Late John S. Baillie of Corktown.  I include this story to illustrate the everyday life of the typical family back when people were content to scratch a living from a somewhat unforgiving terrain.  The subject was the editor’s great, granduncle who he never had the pleasure of knowing but heard about countless times while growing up. Corktown is a now vacant settlement on the boundary of Earltown and New Annan, this family being the last to leave.

John S. of Corktown

A Personal Recollection of My Grandfather

By Murray Baillie with the editorial assistance of Glen Matheson

Revised edition – December 2, 2018


John S Baillie 2


John S. Baillie was born in 1873 on a farm in West Earltown into a family of eight. His parents were Isabella Sutherland and William Baillie. His siblings were Bessie, Alex, Georgia, Catherine (Cassie), Willie, Annie, Christy and Maggie. The children went to the “Brown Schoolhouse” in West Earltown. It was called the Brown Schoolhouse regardless of the colour of the building. People to this day refer to it as the Brown Schoolhouse although it is now a private home.

Why John S? There were so many John Baillies in the area that ways had to be found to identify them. He was named for his grandfather, John Sutherland “Macian”, a naming tradition that was strictly followed by the Highland Scots. At some point, the S was added to his name. I know that the S. stood for Sutherland since that was his mother’s maiden name. The S. was not on his birth certificate but is on John and Bella’s marriage certificate.

How should I treat the S? This has been a problem at times for writers and publishers. The Truman Library explains how Truman came to have only an initial where his middle name should be. His parents could not agree on a middle name so they used S to honour his paternal grandfather (Shippe) and maternal grandmother (Solomon).

When Truman became President, he had no middle name. How do publishers and editors deal with this? The Chicago Manual of Style recommends that a period be used for the benefit of the reader who is used following the rule for middle names. If he did not have a middle name, it is appropriate to us an S with a period?  After much procrastination, I have decided to follow the policy of the Chicago Manual of Style and use S. with the period because it is the customary way to write a middle initial. For the general reader, the initial will stand out because it almost always stands for something. It will likely be easier for the reader if a period is always used in these circumstances. It is easier for a writer too since the use of periods no longer is a confusing problem.

He married his first cousin, Isabella (Bella) Sutherland, in 1905, the same year that Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt were married in the U.S. They lived in Bella’s home (included house, two barns, outhouse and some other buildings) in Corktown. Under the pantry in the house was the well so getting water was convenient. They had basic farm tools and machinery such as mowers, rakes, ploughs and harrows. There were a good number of trees on the property as well as cleared fields.

Bella was the only child of William Sutherland “Macian” and Marion MacKay “Macgomish”. Her mother died when Bella was five months old. We do not know the details of her upbringing; however, they lived in close proximity to a multitude of near relatives who no doubt shared in her upbringing. For a young father to be left as the only caregiver of a baby girl was a great responsibility. Men were not expected to be competent in that area. The 1881 census shows William Sutherland, age 38, and his daughter Isabella, living in Corktown with no evidence of any housekeeper or child care provided. In 1891, when still only seventeen, Bella was dealt a second blow with the death of her father.

Before marriage, Bella was employed in Fall River, Massachusetts. Some of the correspondence with her employer is in the North Shore Archives. She also had been employed in Truro.

I have two very large framed pictures of William and Marion Sutherland. Family tradition says that Bella brought back the frames from Boston. I don’t know where the formal pictures were taken.

At some point, Bella had bought the farm from her father. The deed is in the North Shore Archives. She took possession of the property at a young age when women were not expected to do that. At the time of the 1901 Census, Bella was still in her childhood home The household entry shows John S. Baillie, Head, age 27, Bella Sutherland, Cousin, age 27, Cassie Baillie, Sister, age 29. Considering that Bella owned the house, it is amazing that John S. was listed as the Head but that was likely the prejudice of the times. It also implies that the Baillie family became proactive in watching over Bella; they must have realized that she needed support. William and Isabella Baillie were trying to support a number of unwed adult children on their home farm and it would appear that they assigned John S. and Cassie to look after the Sutherland homestead along with Bella. Shortly after the 1901 Census, Cassie married William (Bill) Sutherland at East Earltown, leaving John S. and Bella to continue alone. What started as a farming partnership appears to have evolved into a happy marriage.

Where is Corktown? Glen Matheson described it like this: “Corktown has always been described as the stretch of road from the top of MacKay Hill through to the junction with another rough road leading down to the Silica Pond on the old Mountain Road to Truro.” Glen points out an important distinction with other places; it was never a school district. This meant that “it was more a social community than a civic community.”

With such a name, one can assume that community was Irish. In my youth, I don’t remember any Irish names in that area. Among the names of people who lived there in the past were Ryan, Whyte, Fitzpatrick, Canary, and Burke but they did not live there in my youth. The Irish did not stay in the area.

In later years, John S. and Bella obtained an additional farm of about 200 acres. The MacKay family was made up of a number of adult children who were not married and had no children. In the days before nursing homes and other support for old people, they negotiated a deal with John S and Bella. They would be left all the property including buildings if they cared for the family in old age. It was convenient because the MacKay place, as I always heard it called, was a short distance through the woods from the Sutherland place where John S. and Bella lived. I never did hear about the amount of care that had to be given to the MacKay family in their old age.

Evelyn MacNutt remembers that in Corktown, John S. always sat by the stove.

On July 7, 1909, they had their first and only child, William Sutherland (Suddie).

Changes in the Family 1937-1951

  • On Nov. 22, 1937, Suddie married Emma Catherine Murray of Balmoral. Years later, Elva Shearer said that John S. really liked Emma.
  • A grandson, Murray Sutherland, was born at home in Corktown on July 5, 1941. Today, he is the last surviving native of Corktown.
  • A granddaughter, Isabelle Elaine, was born on June 20, 1946 in Tatamagouche at the home of Mrs. Elaine Norman, a registered nurse. By this time, the family had moved to Balfron. June 20 was the date of her grandfather’s birthday; it must have pleased him greatly; I heard that mentioned from time to time in the years to come.
  • In 1941, when I was a small baby, Bella died. I never had a chance to know her. On November 1, she was not feeling well and went upstairs to lie down. She did not come down for supper so John S went upstairs to check. He found her dead. Emma ran down the hill to find Suddie at the MacRaes where he was working at the thresher. John S. wondered if she had suffered. He asked Dr. Dan Murray who assured him that she would not have done so.


Since Corktown was pretty isolated with no close neighbours, it was decided to move. Suddie wanted a place where it would be easier for his son to go to school because Suddie had never learned to read or write because of his lack of education opportunities. At one time, there had been a school in nearby Kavanaugh’s Mills. However, it was closed and the few remaining pupils had to walk to Tatamagouche Mountain, a further three miles to the north or five miles from the Baillie Home.

The move left the house and two barns standing. Suddie, from time to time removed boards from the house and the barns and took them to Balfron for future use . He suspected that some were stolen. Today, all that remains of that Baillie home is the cellar with the well which can be found in the midst of trees and bushes. Corktown is now a ghost town with no buildings.

Lawrence and Willie Miller were downsizing to a smaller home and put their property up for sale. It included the house, barn, a garage and two shops. The deed indicates that there were 115 acres.

The deed from J. Lawrence Miller was made out to Sutherland Baillie on November 27, 1943. It is signed by J. Lawrence Miller and Winnie Miller. John S. Baillie signed as a witness. This took place in the office of William M. Nelson, the lawyer in Tatamagouche, “A Barrister of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia” as described on the deed.

In most ways, the property had the same qualities as Corktown: no electricity, no running water, an outhouse. I remember that I carried the drinking water from the well.

On a mixed farm there was always work. This was true in Corktown, Balfron and Tatamagouche Mountain where the Baillies farmed. In the morning and evening, cows had to be milked. All animals had to be fed. Pa did some of the duties. Certainly, that would make a contribution to the farm operation even though he was in his seventies.

After milking, the milk had to be put through the cream separator and put in cream cans to be stored in a cool place. Each can had the same number for that farm: 442. That is a number I never forgot. The cream was picked up about twice a week by the cream truck from Tatamagouche Creamery. One of those cans with the number 442 on it is in the Creamery Square Museum.

Weather is always important to farmers. John S. sometimes referred to the old proverb: If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. I guess the reverse could also be true. I am not sure that John S. believed in this proverb but he mentioned it at some point every March.

We got a radio in the late 1940s, powered by a battery since we did not have any electricity. We listened to the weather forecasts but Pa often complained that the people doing the forecasts couldn’t be relied on. This was just like many people today but the difference is that a lot of scientific research has been done over the last fifty years to make the forecasts more accurate although, obviously, mistakes still occur.

We also got a telephone which had a crank to ring into homes. It was a party line to which it was possible to listen to the conversations of others. This was the famous or infamous party line. When talking, a click on the line would indicate that someone had picked up a receiver. Listening was frowned upon. My mother criticized those who did although she did listen herself from time to time. Telephone poles were placed from the house down to the main road to join the other wires. All of the homes made up the local telephone company which held a meeting about once a year. When there was a vote, only the man of the house participated. Long distance calls were made through MT&T, Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company so payment must have been paid to them.

The phone number for the Baillies was 26-7, (I think). To ring into homes on the line, one rang a combination of short and long rings. The person in a home hearing this would know whether it was meant for their home and whether they should answer it. To make a long distance call, one phoned “Central” in Tatamagouche which was staffed twenty-four hours per day. Every long distance call did cost money so they were monitored very carefully in the homes.

John S. as Grandfather

It was when I was an adult that I learned how proud my grandparents were to have a grandson. It was Andrew MacKay of Tatamagouche Mountain who told me. John S and Bella drove into the MacKay yard in their horse and buggy. One of them said, “We have a new grandson at our place.” Andrew invited them to come in (for a cup of tea, I imagine) but they were too excited to do so; they turned around and drove out. It is likely that John S., the man, was driving the horse.

To outsiders, he was always called John S. Within the family, Isabelle and I called him “Pa”. I am not sure where this came from but I remember it as a good choice. We said it with affection.

After moving to Balfron in 1943 or 1944, I developed a loving relationship with Pa in the following years.

He did smoke a pipe. I asked him why he smoked. He said that he had quit once but after the death of his wife, my grandmother, he started again for comfort. I told him that I was never going to smoke and I kept my promise except for trying a few smokes once.

Once in Balfron, my parents were going away for part of the day so they asked me if I would stay with Pa. Perhaps, he just wanted his father to have company. In any case, I was delighted to do so. It was totally pleasant.

There were enough maple trees down near the brook to tap to collect maple sap and make maple syrup. A big iron pot was set up with a wood fire underneath. During one season, John S worked in keeping the fire going. My mother made us lunches so we could stay there all day. It was likely my mother who took a picture of us. I remember the tasty maple sap and maple syrup at meals.

Once at about age 4, Isabelle was moving on the swing attached to a tree and singing. As Pa, I and a visitor came from the barn towards the house, he said, “She is going to be a singer.” I would call that pride. Years later, she learned how to play the guitar and sang along with the music. Now, she does not remember anything about him. I think that it is a shame that he did not live longer so that they would have a relationship that she would remember.

In all the years that I knew him, I never saw him get visibly angry with Isabelle or me, or in fact, with anyone. That was a great model for a young boy.

Once we were walking on the road at Balfron when we needed to pee. We pulled out our individual penises and I competed to see how far I could drive my urine and compared it to him. I felt very much like a man.

There was one event in Corktown which pleased me. We did not live there but the men were working at something. Some beer was stored in the spring. The men took it out and I pointedly said that I wanted some beer too. I am not sure who made the decision but I was allowed a taste of beer. My curiosity was satisfied even if it were illegal.


In Corktown, there was no mail delivery except to the local post office in the home of the Murrays near Kavanaugh’s Mills. Either or John S. or Emma walked down the hill or drove a horse and wagon to pick up the mail which was delivered there several days a week.

In Balfron, there was mail delivery five or six days a week to rural mail boxes along Route 311 to Truro. This was some distance away so someone had to walk or drive to pick it up.

My Bilingual Grandfather

When my ancestors came to Nova Scotia as a result of the Highland Clearances in Scotland, their first and only language was Gaelic.

As the years went by, they were assimilated into the majority language and used English. However, this took several generations.

When John S was a boy, he learned Gaelic at home but not as fluently as his parents. He said that when his parents did not want the children to hear something, they switched to Gaelic.

John S. went to the Brown Schoolhouse at West Earltown where English was the language. As a result of this and his home, he and his brothers and sisters were bilingual—in English and Gaelic. I suspect that Bella was as well.

John S offered to teach his nephews and nieces to swear in Gaelic but I am not sure if anyone ever took him up on the offer other than his grandniece, Marie Langille MacKay. She recalled being taught the Gaelic phrase, “Pog mo thoine”, which can be translated as “Kiss my arse.”

He told of two young Scots who went to a fair and swore in Gaelic thinking that no one would understand them. There was one woman there who did but Pa did not say how she and they handled it. Was it embarrassing?

As a boy, I remember John S. talking on the phone in Gaelic with Findlay Ross, a neighbour. He said once that they had to quit because they had some difficulty; they must have been getting rusty. I am proud to have had a grandfather who spoke Gaelic and English.

When the house at Tatamagouche Mountain was cleaned out a few years ago, there were a number of used books of which a Gaelic Bible was one. There is a possibility that this was a Baillie Bible. However, it was probably a Bible in English that he usually read from. I don’t recall that he read Gaelic.

*Leabhraichean; an Tseann Tiomnaidh. Air an Tarruing. O”n cheud chanain. Chum Gaelic Albannaich. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Bible Society, 1854.

A Son with an Anger Problem

Suddie, my father had a vicious temper, a real anger problem. One never knew when he would throw a temper tantrum; probably, he didn’t either. When it took over, his face got red, his angry voice was loud as he attacked whomever he felt needed to be chastised. This could be his wife, his children, farm animals and his parents. His wife,  children and animals were subject to his anger at any time. When shoeing a horse, he would get angry and start yelling. It surprises me that the horse never kicked him.

Once when the three of us were working outdoors in Balfron, he verbally attacked John S., his father, as he did with everyone else in the family from time to time. His face got red as it filled with rage but I can’t remember what he said to him. John S’s response in exasperation was “Gracious”. This was all very helpful to me because I realized that my grandfather was not free from verbal attacks from my father, his son.

When an incident was mentioned, my father seemed sheepish afterwards. He may not have liked being that way but there was no counselling help available in those days. There was no way to predict his anger.

However, his anger was only expressed at home; outsiders had no idea of what the home life was like. If a visitor showed up, my father’s  mood could change instantly.


John S. was a Christian, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

At some point in his life, likely in early middle age, he was elected an elder, a lifetime appointment. The elders, all men in those days, were the governing body of the church. Sitting at the front, they served the bread and wine (grape juice) at Holy Communion, a sacrament held a few times a year. To do so, they moved down the church aisles.

Every morning, he and my father would go to the barn early to milk the cows, run the milk through the separator to obtain cream. This was put in cream cans to be picked up by truck from Tatamagouche Creamery twice a week.

Then, everyone had breakfast, John S, my father and mother, myself and Isabelle.

It was before or after breakfast that there were morning devotions. John S. read a portion of scripture from the Bible. Then we all knelt facing our individual chairs while Pa led us in prayer. This happened every day.

On the day that he had his fatal stroke in August, he went to the barn to help milk the cows. Later, we had morning devotions as usual.

The nearest church was Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at The Falls. However, Presbyterian worship was held every two weeks in the Balfron Hall so that is where the family usually attended. However, since John S.’s membership was at Saint Andrew’s beside the grave site already purchased in the Cemetery, that Church was the obvious place for the funeral.

This is a good point to refer to the long struggle in the Presbyterian Church regarding Church Union. This went on from 1903 to 1925 when the Methodist Church, Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church joined to form the United Church of Canada. However, many Presbyterians remained outside. The United Church of Canada Act allowed for a vote in each congregation. The Baillies split over the new denomination but John S and Bella remained Presbyterian.

Church Union was very controversial throughout Canada. That is why the United Church is the only church in Canada created by an Act of Parliament.

Presbyterians stood when they sang hymns in church. John S always remained sitting. This would likely be for health reasons; he had had heart problems for a number of years.

At one time, there was publicity given to a man, likely a clergyperson or professor who was Presbyterian, who wrote that Jesus did not rise physically from the dead. His remains might still be buried in the Holy Land and could be found. The idea that Jesus could have been resurrected in his spirit but left his body behind was something that did not occur to them. John S. and the other elders were upset about this. They arranged a meeting with the minister, Rev. W. J. O. Isaac. When John S returned home, he said that the minister did not say much; he probably knew that advanced theology for these men would not work.

At some point, the minister, W.J. O. Isaac, talked about having a chalice for the wine and passing it around to everyone as the Catholics do now. John S was clear that he wanted the small individual cups to continue in use; he thought that that was more sanitary.

When I was a boy, the family in Balfron did not go to church often; regular service was every two weeks in Balfron as well as at The Falls. Church attendance was not an important thing in that family in spite of their belief. He could have taken a horse and buggy but my father would not likely permit that.

The days when both grandparents lived in Corktown were different. John S. and Bella would drive a horse and buggy or sled to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at The Falls fairly regularly. Wherever they stopped, they would look for a hitching post or space in a nearby barn for the horse. Both were more independent before they got old. Evelyn MacNutt remembers that John S. talked a lot about being to church; in those days, it would be a social experience as well as a spiritual experience. In those days, that would be an assured social contact other than visiting in homes. I still hear old people bemoaning the fact that “people do not visit as they used to do”.

My parents were farmers who were exhausted after working all week and had naps on Sunday afternoons which they likely required; years later, I came to appreciate that. At home, on Sunday afternoon, we listed to “The People`s Gospel Hour,” a radio broadcast from CFCY Charlottetown in which Rev. Perry F. Rockwood, a former Presbyterian minister who had an evangelical ministry, preached. He condemned dancing, something that my John S and my parents did not agree with since Suddie and Emma very much loved to dance. In years to come, I developed contempt for Rockwood and his fundamentalist belief.

John S. did tell the story of when organs were introduced into churches to accompany the singing. One man at a Presbyterian church in North Colchester was not impressed. John S said that this man said that the organ sounded like a bullfrog and did not attend church again.

Organs for church music had a long and controversial history in the reformation churches. The introduction of an organ in St. Andrew’s Kirk in Halifax in 1852 was the first in a Presbyterian church. John Webster Grant described this as a “considerable departure from long-established practice”.

John Webster Grant; the Presbyterian Contribution to the United Church of Canada. Yorkton, Saskatchewan: GravelBooks, 2007, p. 104.

There was a great controversy in Canada over the union of three Protestant churches in 1925. The Congregational and Methodist Churches united to form the United Church of Canada. The Presbyterian Church in Canada was badly split. About one-third continued as Presbyterians or as their opponents called them “the continuing Presbyterian church”. Families were split. Friendships ended over this. After church union, the family attended the Presbyterian Church at The Falls. At some point, John S. and Bella bought a plot in the cemetery next to the Church so the family had burial space for some years to come (1980 and 2001). I don’t recall hearing their opinion on Church Union but I know that their son did not have much positive good to say about the new church.

Sometime after his funeral, my mother, Isabelle and I cleaned out Pa’s room. There was not much that I remember. There was a pocket watch with chain which I claimed. The book of interest in the house was on church union.*

Ephraim Scott. “Church Union” and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Montreal: John Lovell & Sons, Limited, 1928. 173 pp. Cloth bound $1.00.  Paper 60 cents.

Death of John S.

The final indication of his faith occurred after his death in Balfron in August of 1951. The whole family went to church on this particular Sunday except for him; I have no idea why he didn’t go. When we returned, he was sitting on a chair in the kitchen with his Bible open on his lap to where he had been reading. He stared straight ahead, had saliva dropping from his mouth and was speechless.

I knew that something was terribly wrong. I started to cry and ran outside and dropped beside my tent which was not far from the kitchen door. The man whom I loved, the first person I had known who made me feel that way and feel very relaxed was in trouble. Even at ten years of age, I understood that. My mother came outside and said not to cry. She meant well but that is not what crying children need to hear.

I prayed very hard for his recovery but that did not happen. That taught me that prayer may not work.

At some time in the late 1940s, my parents got a telephone. They were able to use it to call Dr. Dan Murray, usually called Dr. Dan, the one and only medical practitioner in the area. He became the grandfather of the singer, Anne Murray. He made house calls as doctors had to do in those days; he had a car and could easily make a house call that afternoon since it was August.

Dr. Dan arrived at the house in Balfron wearing a suit as doctors always did in those days. I can’t remember what he said about Pa’s condition but he left the impression that there was no hope. It must have been a stroke for which there was no treatment available at that time. He went on to talk lovingly about incidents throughout his life and the many years of their doctor-patient relationship. There was an obvious respect there. I didn’t want Pa’s life to end and tried not to believe that it would happen.

His double bed was moved into the parlour (now called a living room in homes). He was placed in it. My mother looked after him and was helped by my father and neighbours, Baxter and Elva Shearer.

John S. died on August 16, 1951. Dr. Murray was called but did not come; he would know enough to make out the death certificate.

The next step would be to call Harry Bonnyman, the funeral director in Tatamagouche, but he was away. For that reason, it was necessary to call Forbes Brothers in Denmark and River John. Elwood MacLeod came from Denmark and took charge of what needed to be done.  Pa did own a suit so he was buried in it.

The parlour was cleaned up and turned into a room for visiting. John S was now back in the room, this time in a coffin. It was open but my father closed it at night. My father held Isabelle up to look down into the open coffin; a smile came across her face as she said, “Pa.” Coming from a little girl, I consider that a great tribute to Pa.

Visitation was held at home; I don’t think funeral homes were used often for that purpose in those days. I don’t remember how many people came.

On one afternoon, Daniel Sutherland, a nephew, came. He sat in the kitchen. The talk was about John S. He made a comment about John S which I considered funny and laughed because I believed that it was. My father criticized me for this. Daniel came to my defence and said something like, “It is pretty bad if you can’t laugh at something funny, Murray.” I was grateful. My father had the idea that one should not show any levity at a funeral or observance of death, even a smile.

I remember John S.’s sister, his only living sibling, sitting in the parlour during that period.  My father said afterwards, “Bessie is feeling pretty bad”. I have no doubt that she did.

A general custom in those days was to hold a short service at home before the funeral in the Church. There would likely be some scripture readings and prayer but I don’t recall anything in particular from that ceremony.

The hearse arrived from Denmark driven by the co-owner, Elwood MacLeod. Bert Cock, a former resident of Tatamagouche Mountain, who now lived in Denmark, came with him.  Bert said to my father after he got out of the vehicle, “We all have to go sometime, Suddie.” He must have noticed the grief in my father’s face.

After the brief service in the house officiated by Rev. W. J. O. Isaac, the minister, the coffin was closed and the pall bearers carried it to the hearse outside the house. The procession of cars began: the pallbearers in first car followed by the hearse, mourners in my father’s car (Suddie, Emma, Murray and Bessie Murray, Emma’s mother) and, then followed by the other cars of people who attended. I don’t know how many people attended or how many vehicles travelled from Balfron to The Falls.

The coffin was carried into the church at The Falls. In those days, it was kept open during the whole service. It was probably for this reason that my father cried a lot during the service. At the end, all the mourners walked by the coffin for a last look at my grandfather. Fortunately, this custom at funerals has ceased; it is too difficult for grieving families.

The pallbearers carried the coffin to the gravesite where Pa was buried beside his late wife, Bella, who had died ten years before. At some point they had bought the plot; there remained space for their son and his wife for burial in years to come (Suddie in 1980 and Emma in 2001).

A large crowd had attended; my mother said that she heard that it was the second largest funeral ever held there. John S must have been respected; he never made much money but that proved to be not important. He would have been known for his sociability and his humour.

His obituary was published in The Truro Weekly News. A paragraph described Pa very well:

“Mr. Baillie was a man of sterling character, of genial and kindly disposition, a respectable ca. (was respected what was meant?) citizen and will be greatly missed in the community.” Obituaries seemed to have been different in those days; they paid tribute to the dead person in addition to describing the place and time of the funeral.

After the funeral, I don’t remember much talking about Pa at home. Now, this did not seem to be a good way to handle grief.

The morning devotions did not continue; no mention was made of them that I remember. We did talk about Pa a bit as we cleaned out his room. Most of what was there were small items such as a gold plated pocket watch. He really owned few material goods except land.

At some point, my mother told me that my father missed John S. I felt like saying, “Why didn’t he treat him better when he was living?” However, I did not have the courage.


His sister, Annie Murray, received a government pension so I think it is reasonable to assume that he might have as well. It was only in January, 1952 that the requirement for a means test for old age pensions in Canada was removed. Since he died in 1951, he would not have had the opportunity to receive the old age pension available to everyone without a means test.

The family income came from cream and logs. At some point, the name on the cheques from Tatamagouche Creamery must have been changed from John S. to that of his son. John S. did have a heart condition and so, could not work hard. However, he went to the barn twice a day and helped to milk the cows as well as doing some other work. From 1937 on, he would get his meals at home prepared by Emma. What were his expenses? Pipe tobacco could have been the only regular one and occasional train trips. At this date, it is impossible to know the financial relationship between Suddie and his parents and how it changed through the years. One thing I do know is that Suddie sometimes borrowed money from the Bank of Nova Scotia in Tatamagouche. John S. acted as co-signer so that he could get the loan. I do know that after the funeral, my mother told me that my father had to pay for Pa’s funeral. Pa must not have given any consideration to this final expense.

Friendships and the Social Life of John S.

Around the time of the visiting before the funeral, Mary Hynds, my mother’s cousin, said that Dr. Dan Murray had once said that John S was the funniest man he had ever known.

I think that humour is a family trait; the whole family has a great sense of humour.

As a married couple, John S and Bella were sociable. Bella’s obituary stated, “Her home was a lovely place to visit for a visitor was welcomed with genuine friendliness.”

Carrie Matheson, his niece, describes him as “a big man and very outgoing, easy going” who enjoyed telling jokes. He was overweight as I am.

Glen Matheson describes him as “quite a conversationalist, taking time to visit everyone he encountered on his trips to The Falls and Tatamagouche.”

Glen told me a story about John S. as told him by Mabel Beck. “Coming back from Tatamagouche, he came across Kennie Sutherland netting smelts in the river near the Urquhart’s Bridge. John waded out into the river to have a visit with Kennie. With the added commotion, the smelts were keeping their distance. After awhile, Kennie told John that he couldn’t catch any smelts with him standing there talking. John’s reply was that he guessed the smelts didn’t recognize him and then waded back to shore.”

Among the trips he took were ones to Lyons Brook where Willie Sutherland and his wife lived. Willie was a half brother to Jamie and Daniel Sutherland but he was not directly related to John S. He also visited with two Baillie brothers in Lyons Brook, John and William. He referred to them as his cousins through a connection that extended back into the Old Country (Scotland). They were known as the Quilly Baillies.

Danella (Blaikie) Grice of Lyons Brook had always been friends of the family. Once, Danella came to visit in Balffon. Pa did not know her. I guess he had problems with his memory at times as I do.

For visits to both homes, he was dropped off at the train station by Suddie. Then, he took the train to Lyons Brook. When it was over, he got back to Tatamagouche the same way.

While he was a widower, he visited Harry and Jean Langille in New Annan for a few days from time to time. He put his horse in their barn. He slept in their guest room where they stored a lot of clothes. Next day, after he woke up, he said that he thought he was in a dress shop.

After he died, John S. was still remembered by the older generation and friends who had enjoyed his personality and jokes. He had not been successful financially but was in a personal sense. He was loved.

Some time about 2016, I purchased a chair in the Grace Jollymore Joyce auditorium at Creamery Square in Tatamagouche in his memory. A plaque was installed which read, “John S. Baillie  1873—1951”.

On one occasion, as I wrote these remembrances in 2018, I really felt the difference that he had made in my life, how fortunate I was and how much I owed him. I began to cry. It took me almost seventy years to realize that he showed me what family life can be like.

I thought of my years of university education and hoped that he would be proud of what his grandson/farm boy did with his life. I am proud of the work I did as a boy such as driving the Allis Chalmers tractor, shoveling manure, cutting and raking hay and yarding logs from the woods. I do not believe that this was beneath my dignity at all; it helped to support the family. It was a great experience. I always claimed in years to come that all the manure I shovelled in those years helped me prepare for future employment. As I grew up, I appreciated the chance to get an academic education to make full use of my abilities. I was the first Baillie to ever go to university. It was Jean McDonald in Truro who introduced me proudly to her brother as someone who had put himself through college. It was not easy but I did it, graduating from Mount Allison University when I was 25.



  • Glen Matheson has spent over forty years studying the history of the North Shore as a hobby. His knowledge of the subject is unexcelled. He was most helpful. He had knowledge of Bella’s parents, their lives and deaths that I did not have. He wrote much of the material on Bella.
  • Evelyn MacNutt, Elmon Langille and Carrie Matheson, nieces and nephews of John S., graciously agreed to be interviewed by me.