W. Eugene Goodrich, foreground, and Eldon Hay are shown with the book Maggie’s Memories, A Covenanter Childhood in 19th Century Botsford Parish, a new book featuring a number of letters written by Margaret Duncan Borden (1864-1935) to her grandchildren during the latter years of the 19th century. Hay compiled the letters and Goodrich edited the book that was recently published by the Westmorland Historical Society and which will be officially launched at the Monro Heritage Museum in Port Elgin this Sunday, Aug. 18. LEBLANC PHOTO
By Joan LeBlanc
PORT ELGIN, NB – The long ago life of a Port Elgin area woman will be the focus this weekend at the launch of the book “Maggie’s Memories, A Covenanter Childhood in 19th Century Botsford Parish”.
The Westmorland Historical Society, publishers of the soft-cover book, will partner with the Westford Historical Society for the official launch of the book at the Monro Heritage Museum, 1 Spring Street in Port Elgin on Sunday, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m.
Compiled by Eldon Hay and edited by W. Eugene Goodrich, ‘Maggie’s Memories’ is a collection of letters from Margaret Duncan Borden (1864-1935), written to her grandchildren. The two men, who have also worked together over the past few years on a number of articles published by the Westmorland Historical Society, talked about their collaborative effort last week at the Monro Heritage Museum.
In 1990 Hay was doing research for his first book ‘The Chignecto Covenanters, A Regional History of Reformed Presbyterianism in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 1827 – 1905’, published in 1996 when he discovered the long-forgotten letters in a derelict house on the Murray Road in Little Shemogue.
“I’d known the Duncan’s had been Reformed Presbyterians for a long time and I was told that house would likely contain information….the (long uninhabited) house at the time was owned by Doreen Lane of Moncton. We were at the house for half a day and I found a lot of papers that I just packed in boxes and took home. I didn’t have any idea that the letters were there…when I eventually sorted through the papers I found them…” he said.
The letters, some written in long-hand and others typed, had been written by Margaret Duncan Borden – known as Maggie – and copies had been sent to her grandchildren with some originals and copies stored at the Duncan house. It was these letters which Hay discovered.
Goodrich said when he first read the letters about two years ago he was very interested in them and the decision to proceed with their publication just went from there. In editing the letters, he also wrote footnotes of explanation about some of their contents; these footnotes provide both clarity and add to the descriptions of life in that area more than a century ago.
“A number of our (historical society) members read them and said ‘yes, we can go somewhere with this’. Then Eldon gave me some thoughts on an introduction so my role was simply the humble one of being the scribe, the editor and the word butcher, I guess,” he said with a laugh.
Goodrich said first off he read each of Maggie’s letters, along with Eldon’s preliminary notes, carefully to ascertain the full scope of their contents.
“That’s what took a lot of time; I had to sort of feel my way into Maggie’s world and I really did try in some ways to make it my own. I hope I didn’t usurp Eldon in any way; you see, Eldon is really an editor’s dream…through the whole process he’s been extremely cooperative, the collaboration has worked beautifully,” he said.
The editing process was comprised mainly of revisions of the original written works with the addition of proper punctuation, which serves to make it much easier to read.
“……Maggie had a tendency to write in long sentences with semi-colons. So the sentences (in the book) have been shortened and the punctuation is what I thought would work…but those are Maggie’s words; I simply modernized the punctuation so it would be easier reading,” Goodrich added.
The book contains a number of delightful stories describing such events as Maggie’s first day at school, some of life’s darker moments, descriptions of life at home when her mother was sick and some lighter events including getting her first pair of store-bought shoes and going to her first party. So although not all aspects of her childhood were joyous ones, Maggie’s early life spent in the family home on Murray Road was apparently, at least for the most part, a happy one.
“…to have a happy childhood is to have always a happy memory in looking back to the bright beginning—a blessing beyond all accounting,” – Margaret Duncan Borden.
The public is invited to the launch of ‘Maggie’s Memories’, Sunday, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Monro Heritage Museum, 1 Spring Street in Port Elgin. Refreshments will be served.