A Victoria County walker
In Those Days in Victoria County
For many people, now is the season when the hiking on woodland and seashore trails will come as joys. Maps and walking shoes, lotions of one sort or another will be packed in a knapsack as well as water and a snack. But for Ann Macdonald, a twenty-year old woman from Ross Ferry, no such amenities were available as she prepared to set out one June day on a long walk to Big Intervale one hundred miles away, at the other end of Victoria County. In the year 1857, many roads were just wide paths without gravel and often without bridges over brooks. ANN MACDONALD Born in 1837 on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, Ann arrived as a three-month-old infant with her parents and older siblings at Boularderie after a sea journey of less than three weeks. The family stayed for a time with relatives near Big Bras d’or.
Living first for several years on a farm at Big Baddeck, Ann spent most of her childhood at Ross Ferry and probably attended the nearby Munro School. Two of her older sisters married to residents of Cape North. A WALK NORTH As her sisters longed “for the companionship of their own family,” according to Ann’s words, “being young and strong and fond of walking, I persuaded my parents to let me go and visit my sisters.”
“It was early summer when the days were long that I started on my great adventure...i left my home on a Monday afternoon and was ferried across the water to Slios a Brochain (now New Harris). I followed along the shore until I reached the foot of Kelly’s Mountain where I spent the night with some friends.”
The second day of Ann’s walk began early as she recalled to her nieces and nephews.
“It was only six o’clock when I left... following the narrow path across the mountain in a swinging stride, with the birds singing in my ears and the wild flowers perfuming my way, the wild squirrels scampering under my feet.”
She arrived at Englishtown about nine o’clock and had a second breakfast with friends. Going by boat to North River with her acquaintances, she again set out on foot.
“I reached the last house on the North Shore. Here I stayed all night. The next day, I found myself at the foot of ‘Smoky’ where I drank from a little stream.”
The third day’s walk brought a steep ascent.
Ann recalled, “I started early as it was a steep climb, with the thickly wooded hillside on my left and the steep cliff on my right...i almost held my breath at the majesty of the Ocean... with the lofty mountain above me...i felt that I was alone on the top of the world.”
In the afternoon, she arrived in Ingonish where she met another traveller by foot, the postman, who was taking the mail bag to Cape North. So, she joined him and in her own words “I was glad of his
company. We kept on until I reached the Macpherson home, where I spent the night with my sister Mary.”
The fourth day’s walk brought her to “Big Intervale where I made my visit with my sister who would not hear of my walking back but waited until we heard of a packet sailing from Cape North which took me back to my father’s house at Ross Ferry.”
In her later years, Ann recounted for her family members the walk with the expressive language which they wrote down so that we have her own phrases today.
“I remember very little of the trip back, but the memory of my four days’ walk over the mountains and through the woods, with only the birds and wild things for company, I shall remember to my dying days.”
And so, we are told, she did until she died at age ninety-two. Such was the adventure of a young Victoria County woman in those days.