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Book details
  • SubGenre:Historical / Canada / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:177
  • eBook ISBN:9781483544373

The Journey of the Shadow Bairns

by Margaret J. Anderson

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Short description JSB Elspeth MacDonald didn’t understand 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. . . ? Who would want to take her brother away? But the meaning of her mother’s plea became clear when the social worker said that Robbie would have to go to an orphanage and she knew of a place where Elspeth could work as a maid. Determined to keep her promise to her mother, Elspeth decided that before the social worker returned, they would run away. . . . They would go to Canada and find their Uncle Donald and Aunt Maud. . . .
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.
About the author
About the Author Margaret Anderson was born and educated in Scotland. She has a B.Sc. in genetics from Edinburgh University. After working as a statistician and biologist in England, Canada, and the United States, she took up writing science and nature articles for children’s magazines. This led to her first book, Exploring the Insect World. Then she turned to writing historical and time-slip fiction. The fiction titles, published by Knopf, include To Nowhere and Back, In the Keep of Time, In the Circle of Time and Searching for Shona, all available as e-books. The nonfiction books include biographies of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton (Enslow, 1994 and 1996), Chaco Canyon (Oxford, 2002) and Bugged-Out Insects (Enslow, 2011). They have also been re-issued as e-books. The Journey of the Shadow Bairns (Knopf, 1980) was inspired by a letter written by Arthur Black, who emigrated to Canada with the Barr Colonists. Black is Anderson’s husband’s grandfather. The letter conveyed both the hardships and the opportunities of those early days in Saskatchewan. Elspeth and Robbie, the orphaned Shadow Bairns, are the author’s own invention. However, Elspeth’s optimism and determination are characteristic of the Barr colonists who sailed on the Lake Manitoba and settled the Saskatchewan Territory in 1903. Visit Margaret J. Anderson’s web page at
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