A Granddaughter Remembers Her Grandfather – William Henry MacNish
by Margaret MacNish
“My grandfather William Henry MacNish, was over 6 feet tall and carried a full head of snow-white hair. Heavy shouldered, he walked with a slow and dignified shuffle about the farm and up the oval driveway to the stone house. In spring, summer and fall his main preoccupation was an extensive garden: vegetables set in long straight rows, strawberry beds, raspberries- all kinds of other foods.
He could be seen kneeling between the rows weeding, thinning, harvesting. We children were strictly forbidden to take a shortcut through this garden but often we were engaged in searches for tomato worms and potato bugs. Grandfather too was the only adult who took time to teach us to sow carrot seed, plant beans, corn and later thin and water the plants. ‘Water them to the roots’, he’d exclaim, as I held the watering can.
He also had time in winter to play endless games of domino’s, almost always ending with an ‘apple party’. ‘Let’s go to the cellar!’ he’d exclaim, and down we’d go tot he storage bin to choose an especially fine apple. Later upstairs, he’d use his pocket knife to carefully peel the apple and cut it into beautiful slices which were put on a plate and ceremoniously passed around.
Grandfather was a well known breeder of Ayrshire’s (brown and white dairy cattle). Our education was not complete until he took us one by one to the barn and taught us how to judge cattle.
That he was devoted to us was proven again and again, especially to me, for I was the recipient, on various Christmases, of a doll’s house, a large doll’s cradle and finally my own sled, ponderous and too heavy to lift. The family sneered at is efforts, but I knew and my thank you’s were heartfelt.
Grandfather was well known in the community; elected reeve of the township, and serving on various boards to take care of destitute families and the like. I recall as a child sitting in the balcony of the town theatre, looking down at the stage where Grandfather sat in the front row beside Canada’s Prime Minister Will Lyon McKenzie King.
Part of his political skill lay in his oratory. He read widely and knew how to hold an audience with wit and an extensive vocabulary. Obviously he had read all the classics housed in the glass front bookcase in the corner of the sitting room. And his favourite spot in the family kitches was in a chair near the south window under his Seth Thomas clock, where a large magazine rack held the Globe and Mail, and farm publications.”
Note: The spelling of MacNish was intentional and this is the way it was written, today’s common spelling is McNish.
William Henry McNish – August 31, 1858 to August 22, 1937