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BOOK - Beckwith: Irish and Scottish Identities in a Canadian Community 1816-1991
by Glenn J. Lockwood
This is a story of a rural community that in many ways was like others in Ontario, Beckwith was comparable to most townships in southern Ontario both in size and in the agricultural occupation of most inhabitants up until the last generation, But Beckwith was unique in other ways. Not only was it one of the earliest settlements in the Ottawa vallev, and the earliest earliest Irish group settlement in Ontario, but it had an unusually concentrated population within six years of being opened. As part of the military settlement guarding the much-anticipated Rideau Canal, the immigrants located in Beckwith during the late 1810s were among the most reactionary and ultra-conservitive to be found in all British North America.
Glen Lockwood considers the relative adjustment of the two major cultural groups in Beckwith -- Anglicans and Methodists from the Wexford/Carlow region of Ireland, Presbyterians and Baptists from the Loch Tayside vicinity of the Perthshire highlands in Scotland as they built homesteads and pursued frontier agnculture. He contrasts and compares the two evenly matched groups of immigrants from their specific locales in Ireland and Scotland down through subsequent generations in Beckwith. Within a generation of settlement the ambitions of both groups were frustrated. Their desire to establish landed families came up short against the concentrated pattern of settlement and the poor quality of most land. So strong was the tradition and rhetoric of uncomplaining loyalty among both groups that they sent out chains of families and neIghbours to found new settlements throughout the Ottawa Valley and at increasingly distant westward locations rather than complain of any demographic or agricultural crisis.
Lockwood argues that the block settlements and cultural identities of Irish and Scottish origin families were transformed into localised religious and neighbourhood rivalries. The existence of powerful cultural relics and symbols in the two communities nurtured enduring stereotypes and myths even as inhabitants of Irish and Scottish origin increasingly intermarried over the years. The changing role of women within a profoundly conservative and patriarchial society is explored to show the gap between the day-to-day reality of women's lives and the new role prescribed for them by urban sources.
This is the story of how two transplanted imigrant groups adjusted to frontier agriculture, and of how their descendants responded to industrialisation and redefined their ethnic identities within a changing social framework. By deliberately comparing two distinct groups, Lockwood responds to the weakness of earlier studies in which ethnic groups are studied in isolation, with a specific group such asIrish immigrants compared with an undefined and hence meaningless group such as the non-Irish.
This is a history of the men and women in an Ontario municipality as much as it is a study of how Irish and Scottish immigrants responded to their enviroment and to one another. The rapid industrial development of Carleton Place and the emergence of nearby Ottawa as the capitol of canada contributed to the complexity of the cutural baggage handed down in the late lineteenth and early twentieth century Beckwith, at the same time rural Eastern Ontario endured a seeminly endless out-migration of inhabitants.
This is superb local history,... a richly detailed, well written, sympathetic but sophisticated tratment of the community history. The author has an admirable empathy for the lives of past generations and paticularly for the subtleties of rural life, including the lives of rural women, a subject scarcely raised in many regional studies.
Hardcover (with dustcover)
Published 1991 by Township of Beckwith
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