Searching For My Scottish Past

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I have a tattoo on my ankle, it’s a fleur de lys and maple leaf to prove I am a proud French-Canadian.

Internationally, I will always cheer for Les Bleus of France, if Canada isn’t in competition. However, if you were to draw my family tree, the first country you get to after Canada, is Scotland.

I’m mostly Canadian, and more Scottish than any bit of the rest. While here with Team Diabetes in Edinburgh, I have made a few trips to celebrate my ancestors and the places they called home.

SCOTTISH WAR MEMORIAL

My great grandmother’s father and brothers died in the first world war. In Edinburgh, they have changed part of Edinburgh Castle to honor the more than 150 000 Scots who died in the first World War, and others who fought around the world.

William Todd and his sons died in that great war. My great grandfather fought in it, he was a valet. Had my great grand suffered the fate of his brothers-in-law, I wouldn’t be here, generations would have been wiped. I was that close.

At the Scottish War Memorial, there are books around the room with every name of the soldiers who died. I don’t know William Todd’s exact mission, and it’s a popular name, so why it was easy to find a William Todd in a book, I didn’t know if that was him.

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But in the center chamber, on the highest point of natural rock in Edinburgh Castle, lies a casket. Inside are the names of every soldier that has ever died fighting for Scotland in those wars. I knew my relatives were there. A tear welled up. I don’t know why, but just thinking about being that close to a memorial for my great great grandfather was moving. I left a Canadian flag lapel pin on the altar to show that I was there.

LAMBHILL CEMETERY

Today, I tried to visit Jane Colquhoun and John Lamont Keelty, my great great grands. It was a rollicking adventure through the Scottish countryside north of Glasgow. After some great research by my sister, I had the cemetery where they were buried.

I arrived at Lambhill Cemetery to find that you need to go to an office in Glasgow to find the plot map of the property. I phoned, she phoned me back and told me I could find John Keelty at plot 838-D.

I walked up and down the aisles of the D section of the cemetery. Countless stones had toppled over from the ground giving way beneath. Others had been overgrown by trees loving relatives had planted at the site. Still others had weathered away until the names were barely readable unless you felt the stone to see the letters.

lambhill cemetery

Alas, I couldn’t find John and Jean’s final resting place. But I knew they were there. This couple that had married in Ireland and moved to Scotland were buried within my field of vision. A tear swelled in my eye. Just as with my visit to the war memorial to find William Todd, I wept for a family I had never met.

Mostly I was moved to have found a piece of my personal puzzle. I was moved by the choices they made that gave me life, and eventually led me to this place. I was moved to be in a place where my family had called home.

I stopped at one of the unrecognizable stones, laid a maple leaf at it’s side, and said thanks.

DRYMEN, SCOTLAND

Just north of Glasgow, in the beautiful Loch Lomond region is Drymen, Scotland. According to the family tree, my great grandmother was born above a stable here. Her father, William Todd, was a coach driver and would drive the stable owner, Mr Brown, around. My Nan would walk a mile or more to school as her father passed by with his boss.

I wandered the street of this cute, kitschy town today. Stopped and had lunch, and dreamt of the little girl who would eventually spend her 90th birthday at my high school graduation. On the way out of town we found the old school house where my great grandmother first went to school.

drymen scotland

3RD GENERATION CANADIAN

On my mother’s side, I’m only a third generation Canadian. I was born here, my parents were, my grandmother was too, barely. She was born in June 1924, my great grandmother landed in Canada on July 1, 1923.

We are a land of immigrants, and while I feel as Canadian as they come, my roots are pretty fresh in this country’s soil. It was so wonderful to experience the pieces of my past this weekend.

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