Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Celebrating the Irish

My hometown was to a large extent settled by Irish immigrants in the 1830s - by that I mean that they had to hack a clearing out of the primeval forests, and struggle to survive in the primitive “backwoods” of Upper Canada. The trees that they cut down were squared into logs and used to build their first homes. House-raising “bees” were common, involving all the neighbours, who could literally erect a cabin in one day - fueled by free food and whiskey. But even the best of these dwellings were bitterly cold in winter. One “gentlewoman” wrote in a letter home that the temperature in her bedroom was 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 C)! Water froze in jugs set in front of fireplaces - which had to be kept burning for cooking throughout the blistering hot and humid summers as well.

Bears could be troublesome, and there were hordes of vicious blackflies and clouds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes to fend off, the latter carrying a type of malarial fever called ague (although that fact was not known at the time). An epidemic raged through the area in 1838, killing nearly a third of the population.

But there were also plentiful fish in the lakes and rivers that belonged to no one. Migrating birds were sometimes so thick in the skies that they could be picked off from the settlers’ front steps (and indeed, the passenger pigeon, which once travelled in flocks of up to 2 billion birds, became extinct by 1914). Deer and moose and other wild game were there for the taking, and land was often free for those willing to clear it.

My first novel, A Place To Call Home, celebrates these intrepid pioneers who carved thriving communities out of an inhospitable wilderness. It is currently out of print, but I’m excited to announce that it is now available for the Kindle from Amazon! Click here to find out more.


  1. Gabriele, I am a writer too, living north of you in Grey Highlands, and my daughter is Guelph's Catherine Robertson of the "Catcancook Book". I laughed at your description of the naked poet picking blueberries, because where I grew up,you did not find blueberries without knowing bears were near by. So here's to bare poets and bears!

  2. Mother and daughter authors -how lovely!

    I would think that naked blueberry picking would tend to be rather scratchy as well!

    Those who want to read more about naked poets should look at my Mar. 26 blog.



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Gabriele Wills's books on Goodreads
The Summer Before The StormThe Summer Before The Storm
reviews: 2
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.50)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 5.00)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.50)

A Place to Call HomeA Place to Call Home
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.00)