A common question from our overseas family history researchers is 'why did my ancestors leave Orkney?' The question is answered in part by this letter written in 1863 by William Cromarty, inhabitant of Langly, British Columbia, Canada to his brother in Stromness, Magnus Cromarty.
At first reading, one's initial reaction is, why did William stay in Canada, as he seems to be having such a terrible time.
He goes on to complain about how very expensive provisions are and says that his 16 year old daughter is his company now but, as there are few women in Langly, she will soon be snapped up as a wife.
The amazing thing is that William does not seem at all sorry for himself and indeed confesses himself to be 'surprised' that Magnus is to afraid to come to Canada. he tells his brother about his two claims of land; one is under his name, the other is being kept aside for his son.
'I have got plenty to eat and drink and I am always in my owen bed at night and can save a little tou', he says. It seems that owning your own land and lying down under a roof that belonged to you was worth a great deal to men like William who would undoubtedly have rented a tiny piece in Orkney along with the vast majority of the population.
Life was tough in Canada, but it was tough in Orkney too. The hardiness that living in an Orcadian climate brought is the reason that so many Orcadians were engaged to work in Canada by the Hudson bay Company. See? Everyone who lives here is hard as nails! Grrrrrrrrrrrr! We'll cut ya!
(We won't at all, we'll probably shower you with tea and scones and say 'fine' a lot.)