Long version JSB
Elspeth MacDonald would remember her mother’s dying words. Take care of wee Rob. You mustn’t let them take him away. You are to stay together. . . .Do you understand. . . ? Elspeth hadn’t understood at the time—who would want to take her brother away? But the meaning of her mother’s plea became frightening clear when Elspeth learned what their lives as orphans in Scotland would be. A place would be found for her to work as a maid; her little brother would be put in an orphanage.
“We are to stay together,” Elspeth told the unhearing social worker. And they would stay together as she had promised her mother. They would run away. . . .
And so on the last day of March in the year 1903, thirteen-year-old Elspeth and four-year-old Robbie MacDonald joined the Barr Colonists on a ship leaving Liverpool, England. Hidden in the overcrowded ship heading for Canada, they became children of the shadows—the Shadow Bairns.
In a pamphlet promoting the venture, Isaac Moses Barr, warned the would-be settlers: There are difficulties and drawbacks to be encountered; but for the brave man obstacles are something to be overcome and steppingstones to victory and success. . . . Hard work and plenty of it lies before you, more or less of hardship, and not seldom privations. . . . If you are afraid, stay at home—don’t come to Canada. Elspeth and Robbie would face their share of difficulties and drawback as they journeyed alone across the ocean and the vast frontier wilderness to find their own place in a new world. But these children of the shadows were determined and resilient.