Getting the extended family together is becoming more cumbersome with each passing holiday or event. With children and grandchildren being chauffeured around and dropped off at different sporting or social events, it is difficult to find time to all meet up. That coupled with the fact that our family is scattered around the province. Our time together is very valuable.
Having the family sit around one large table has always been part of our family festive dinner traditions. While celebrating Easter this year, the grandkids piled up rows of card tables and attached them to the end of the dining room table stretching the tables across Grandma’s living room. Mismatched chairs were scattered around the tables and family members pounced toward their usual spots.
Making the most of our time together, we shared memories, stories and relished on our history. Some how we ended up on the topic of my favourite family story.
Hidden in a drawer upstairs was a copy of A Horse Called Farmer by Peter Cunnings. While Grandma was dismissive and uninterested, my Dad was eager to read. His eagerness deriving from his need to maintain a connection to his father (who passed away nearly 10 years ago). The story which immortalized our Great, Great, Great Grandpa McLean.
Welcome to the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine) where the scenery is breathtaking, the camaraderie is abundant and the history is rich. Within the archipelago sits an island known as Entry Island (Île d’Entrée). This will become important later on!
On a farm in Entry Island lived a family and their horse. They named the Horse Farmer. In 1923, Richard McLean (Great, Great, Great Grandpa) sold this horse to Curtis Quinn after a night of cards. Curtis Quinn resided on Grosse Île. Grosse Île happened to be on the other end of the archipelago.
Every winter an ice bridge formed between Entry Island and Grosse Île. After Farmer was sold, he was taken across this bridge and rode to his new home.
Farmer was extremely unhappy about his new master and living conditions. So one day, he kicked and kicked at his gate until he broke it down, freeing himself. Sprinting through the fields, he fled, never looking back. Travelling along the Magdalen can be extremely dangerous and complicated, as travel typically includes a mix of land and water.
Farmer, determined to return home, began wandering in the direction of the McLean farm. As the seasons changed, he made it to the location where the ice bridge once was, however it was gone. Farmer swam nearly three kilometers from the end of Sandy Hook beach to the southern part of Entry Island (the low place). Persevering through the tumultuous conditions, he made it ashore and followed the scent and sounds of the McLean farm.
Farmer lived the remainder of his life on the McLean farm.
Farmer’s journey was nearly 70 km in length and included 3 km of ocean. This story shows the importance of preserving, family and the strength of love.