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TITLE
Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego
EXTERNAL ID
PC_CHALMERS_02
PLACENAME
Patagonia (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina)
CREATOR
Bill and Barbara Chalmers
SOURCE
Bill and Barbara Chalmers
ASSET ID
22122
KEYWORDS
emigration
Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego

"My Grandfather's Story" by Bill Chalmers

In 1893 my grandfather, Alexander McAskill, left his home in Bridge of Brown, on the road between Grantown on Spey and Tomintoul. He was a shepherd and was following in the family pattern of care for livestock as his father was a cattle drover. He knew how hard and lonely a life this was and also how little chance there was for saving enough money to eventually become a farmer in his own right. So seeking to improve his lot, he signed a contract for five years employment with the company who had extensive lands in Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego at the very south of South America.

The contract was simple and had been promoted in the press and by certain Ministers in the western Isles, as an opportunity for fit young men. It offered his passage out and home, all his food and accommodation, and a wage at the end of his contract. All he had to supply was his clothing and two sheep dogs!

I understand that when he arrived there, he was taken from Punta Arenas where he landed after 6 weeks at sea travelling from Liverpool down the coast of Europe across the Atlantic and then from Brazil southwards, to the Estancia where he was to work and given instruction on what was expected of him. Thereafter, equipped with a horse, his food supplies, a rifle and ammunition he was taken up to 15 miles to his caravan similar to the worker caravans in pre-war Britain, on the "campo" [literally the countryside]. The rifle was necessary as the indigenous tribes were still hostile and there were South American mountain lions which preyed on the sheep. Here he was left to shepherd around 1000 sheep - probably 10 times as many as he had previously looked after.

He might not meet other shepherds for over a week or even sometimes a month. Living conditions were harsh as there were frequent snow storms in winter and the winds blew almost incessantly. This Estancia was made up of 300,000 hectares of rough grazing and sustained around a quarter of a million sheep.

He seemed to have been fairly happy despite these conditions and renewed his contract in 1898, again in 1903 and for a third time 1908. His ambition was to raise enough money to take the tenancy of his own farm in his native Speyside.

During the breaks between his contracts on leave in Nethybridge he fell in love with the local blacksmith's youngest daughter Annie MacAndrew. They became engaged to be married and when a settlement for workers with a wife and family was opened at the estuary of the Shetland River called, at that time, Rio McLellan after the general manager of the company the opportunity arose for them to be married. Accordingly with trappings of a household she travelled out to Punta Arenas in January 1908 on the "SS Orissa" where she was married to him in St James Episcopal Church on 15th March 1908.

They soon settled into what was a comfortable small estate house and despite the remoteness of the settlement some 80 miles from nearest town my grandmother gave birth to three children in their first three years of marriage, my mother being the youngest.

When his contract ended in 1913 he and his wife along with the three children, two girls and a boy, returned to Nethybridge expecting that the money he had deposited in the bank in South America had been transferred to Grantown on Spey.

However, family legend tells us that when he enquired he found that a lot of the money had been embezzled and there was far less than expected remained in his account. He was faced with no option but to return to Patagonia to take up another contract. With him went my grandmother and my uncle leaving behind my mother and her older sister with family members.

In 1914 the First Word War broke out and when his contract finished in 1918 regular passenger steamship services were not resumed so he had to remain in South America. At some date he moved to Argentina.

Eventually in 1922, some eight years, later he managed to return with my grandmother and my uncle and another new aunt to take up the tenancy of the farm of Sleibhmhor near Nethybridge to achieve the ambition he had for over 20 years.

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Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego

emigration

Bill and Barbara Chalmers

"My Grandfather's Story" by Bill Chalmers<br /> <br /> In 1893 my grandfather, Alexander McAskill, left his home in Bridge of Brown, on the road between Grantown on Spey and Tomintoul. He was a shepherd and was following in the family pattern of care for livestock as his father was a cattle drover. He knew how hard and lonely a life this was and also how little chance there was for saving enough money to eventually become a farmer in his own right. So seeking to improve his lot, he signed a contract for five years employment with the company who had extensive lands in Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego at the very south of South America. <br /> <br /> The contract was simple and had been promoted in the press and by certain Ministers in the western Isles, as an opportunity for fit young men. It offered his passage out and home, all his food and accommodation, and a wage at the end of his contract. All he had to supply was his clothing and two sheep dogs!<br /> <br /> I understand that when he arrived there, he was taken from Punta Arenas where he landed after 6 weeks at sea travelling from Liverpool down the coast of Europe across the Atlantic and then from Brazil southwards, to the Estancia where he was to work and given instruction on what was expected of him. Thereafter, equipped with a horse, his food supplies, a rifle and ammunition he was taken up to 15 miles to his caravan similar to the worker caravans in pre-war Britain, on the "campo" [literally the countryside]. The rifle was necessary as the indigenous tribes were still hostile and there were South American mountain lions which preyed on the sheep. Here he was left to shepherd around 1000 sheep - probably 10 times as many as he had previously looked after.<br /> <br /> He might not meet other shepherds for over a week or even sometimes a month. Living conditions were harsh as there were frequent snow storms in winter and the winds blew almost incessantly. This Estancia was made up of 300,000 hectares of rough grazing and sustained around a quarter of a million sheep.<br /> <br /> He seemed to have been fairly happy despite these conditions and renewed his contract in 1898, again in 1903 and for a third time 1908. His ambition was to raise enough money to take the tenancy of his own farm in his native Speyside.<br /> <br /> During the breaks between his contracts on leave in Nethybridge he fell in love with the local blacksmith's youngest daughter Annie MacAndrew. They became engaged to be married and when a settlement for workers with a wife and family was opened at the estuary of the Shetland River called, at that time, Rio McLellan after the general manager of the company the opportunity arose for them to be married. Accordingly with trappings of a household she travelled out to Punta Arenas in January 1908 on the "SS Orissa" where she was married to him in St James Episcopal Church on 15th March 1908.<br /> <br /> They soon settled into what was a comfortable small estate house and despite the remoteness of the settlement some 80 miles from nearest town my grandmother gave birth to three children in their first three years of marriage, my mother being the youngest.<br /> <br /> When his contract ended in 1913 he and his wife along with the three children, two girls and a boy, returned to Nethybridge expecting that the money he had deposited in the bank in South America had been transferred to Grantown on Spey. <br /> <br /> However, family legend tells us that when he enquired he found that a lot of the money had been embezzled and there was far less than expected remained in his account. He was faced with no option but to return to Patagonia to take up another contract. With him went my grandmother and my uncle leaving behind my mother and her older sister with family members. <br /> <br /> In 1914 the First Word War broke out and when his contract finished in 1918 regular passenger steamship services were not resumed so he had to remain in South America. At some date he moved to Argentina. <br /> <br /> Eventually in 1922, some eight years, later he managed to return with my grandmother and my uncle and another new aunt to take up the tenancy of the farm of Sleibhmhor near Nethybridge to achieve the ambition he had for over 20 years.