A Cossar Farm boy

Scotty Bell was one of hundreds of Scottish lads
who were brought to Canada to work

Sixty-eight years ago, Scotty  came to Canada from Scotland. At 15, he became a Cossar Farm boy, working from daylight to dark at New Brunswick farms. 
Photo by David Nickerson 

Curtains on the line, windows wide open and the strong smell of wallpaper paste meant Mum had started her spring housecleaning.

Gram would sit at the table with a large brush carefully covering every inch of the back of the wallpaper with the flour and water paste. Mum and Sadie then manoeuvred the strip of paper onto the wall. They had lots of problems with crooked corners and crumbling plaster.

Well, I decided to houseclean the computer room last week! A major decision was to figure out where to begin. After much procrastinating, I started sorting, culling the scrap paper from the good stuff. At the end of 30 minutes, I had nearly filled the garbage bag. This task would get done in no time! As I dug into the next box to be sorted, I spotted my old school geography book.

I opened the book and leafed through the pages. Suddenly, I was a kid at school again, sitting in my little wooden seat. The first country that caught my eye was Scotland. Oh, I remembered my lessons of days gone by. The men wore skirts called kilts and played bagpipes. The Royal Family spent their summers in Balmoral Castle and Loch Ness had a monster.

History and geography books make no mention of the hundreds of Scottish lads who sailed from Scotland to Canada under the guidance of Dr. George C. Cossar who had purchased 800 acres of land at Gagetown, New Brunswick in 1910 to establish a training farm and home known as the Cossar Farm.

Scotty Bell was born in Dumfries, Scotland. He was the eighth child of a family of 11. He completed 12 grades in 10 years. In 1929, he tried to get a job but there wasn't much available because of the Depression. His mother died the next year and the family started to break up. He tried to join the Royal Navy but they were not taking very many in peace time.

Fifteen-year-old Scotty made a decision - he wrote to Dr. Cossar about coming to Canada. In March of 1931, he was sent a bus ticket to go to Craigilyn Farm near Paisley to be prepared for his life in Canada. On May 24, 1931, he boarded the Athenia for Quebec City. From here he went by train to Saint John and then on to the Cossar Farm at Lower Gagetown.

Scotty spent a couple of weeks at Gagetown and then was sent to a farm at Rosedale near Hartland. He says this was a poor time in his life. He was desperately homesick. The customs were entirely different, as well as his accent. This family did not seem to understand or care what he was going through. He worked on this farm for 13 months, from before daylight until after dark seven days a week. On the day he left, the farmer handed him a $2 bill.

He returned to the Cossar Farm, but within two days he was sent to a farm near Woodlake. In 1934, he went to work for Lewis Reid in his stationary grist and sawmill. Here he learned to survey lumber and operate the steam power plant, with the result that he was able to obtain a stationary engineer's licence.

Scotty enlisted in the Air Force in the summer of 1940 and received his release from active service in 1945. Upon his return to civilian life, he owned and operated a sawmill, was a diesel mechanic for the Department of Public Works, a diesel engine instructor at the New Brunswick Technical Institute, Moncton, and so on, and so on.

He retired as supervisor of the mechanical department at the Community College - a position he had held since its opening in 1963.

Dr. Cossar's project was to send to Canada those boys who would make good citizens. He certainly made an excellent choice in 1931 when he chose 15-year-old Scotty of Dumfries, Scotland.

You can contact Scotty by E-mail at abell@nbnet.nb.ca.

Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at rmcusack@nbnet.nb.ca. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.

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