George Oliver's story – Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration

George and Jane Oliver's story

George Oliver (1900-1973) and Jane Oliver (1895-1977)

George emigrated from Hawick to Canada, in 1926, and Jane joined him there in 1931.

Adventure in the New World

George Currie Stenhouse Oliver was born in Glasgow to a Borders family on 30 June 1900. His family was originally from the Borders, and moved back there later to settle in Hawick. In the 1920s he decided to emigrate from Scotland to Canada.

He had a relation from the north east of Scotland who either worked on or owned a farm in Ontario, near the town of New Liskeard. George took up the opportunity of a job offer as a herdsman in 1926. Already proficient on horseback in Scotland he took easily to his new role.

The Calgary Stampede

It seems George worked both in Canada and the USA on various jobs, including quarry labouring. He was involved in droving cattle for the 'Calgary Stampede'.

Altogether he seems to have had a restless nature that led him to seek adventure in the New World.

Chicago and John Dillinger

He was briefly in Chicago in 1928 during the prohibition era, and served John Dillinger, the notorious gangster, whilst working in a restaurant in the city.

Shortly afterwards, he returned to his former job as a farm worker in New Liskeard, Ontario.

On a visit back in Hawick he met Jane Anne Murray (born May 1895) at a Temperance Dance. George had definitely not 'taken the pledge' and there seems to have been some resistance regarding their relationship. A friend of Jane’s even threatened to never speak to her again if she married him.

Life on a farm

Jane Anne ignored the threat and followed George out to Canada in 1931. On the ship Jane befriended a Presbyterian minister who promised to help her if her future husband didn't turn up to meet her as arranged. However, George was waiting with horse and cart on the quay side.

He and Jane married on 16 June 1931 in New Liskeard. They worked in the farmhouse, Jane as a domestic servant and George on the farm.

One incident of note was a serious fire in 1932 that destroyed many of the buildings on the farm. As a result, the workers had to sleep in a chicken coup.

Jane Anne was pregnant at the time with her first child. The wife of the farmer on the neighbouring farm intervened, not wishing to see a pregnant woman living in such conditions, let her sleep in her house. When the baby was born, she was subsequently named Sarah after the farmer's wife, in recognition of her kindness.

The Great Depression

George and Jane's second child, Murray, was also born in Canada in 1934.

With the Wall Street crash and 1930s depression, things must have been very hard financially. Work was scarce, and the Olivers decided to return to Hawick in 1936, where they settled.

They came back on the liner SS Athenia, which was the first ship to be bombed at the start of the Second World War.