Culture

Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture (Part 4)

By Kim Twatt

Magnus Twatt

In 1800 Magnus agreed a further two year contract at £40 per year…


On 26th September 1801 Magnus was sent by William Tomison from Cumberland House to Carrot River with John Brough and a party of natives with the object of intercepting the trade established by the Canadian traders in that neighbourhood. From William Tomison’s Journal;

I fitted out Magnus Twatt and John Brough and sent them away with a few Indians that are to hunt about the Ubasqua Hill… knowing that our neighbours was to put their house up the Carrot River obliged me to send Mr Twatt and the other man away so early. Then on October 21st, at eleven p.m. by the arrival of Magnus Twatt’s two sons and their mother I received the melancholy news of that worthy servant being in a delirious state having lost the power of all the lower part of his body and what is to be more lamented I cannot get him to this place the distance being too great, and was almost gone two days ago. I propose sending off James Sandison and three men this day to do what they can.

It appears that not long after his arrival at Carrot River Magnus became paralysed below the waist and was seized with delirium. His wife and two sons, who had accompanied him, immediately returned to Cumberland House where they arrived on October 23rd to report his state of health.

Two boys and their mother arrived at 11p.m. which gave me their father’s Watch and told me I would never see him again as he was almost gone before they left him two days ago,

wrote Tomison who instructed James Sandison and three other men, including George Stanger and William Dunnet, to proceed with haste to Carrot River and bring Magnus back to Cumberland House. The party reached Carrot River on October 27th but on their arrival found that Magnus Twatt had died four days previously and that he had already been buried on the spot by the natives who had accompanied him. From William Tomison’s Journal, December 9th:

George Stainger and William Dunnet came from Carrot River and brought the unwelcome news of Magnus Twatt having departed this life on October 23rd, 1801. A sad end.

Hudson Bay pocket watch R Foden

Photo R Foden


The Legacy

I was surprised by the mention of the two boys in the company journal. Mr Hulme, whom I met during the Canadian Homecoming, had records of a daughter born to Magnus and his Cree wife, Margaret. Elizabeth (Betsy) was born around 1787. She married Alexander Bremner, a tall red haired man with a fair complexion from Caithness. They had 12 children. When Alexander died in 1842 he was described as a farmer at Métis Red River Settlement. Betsy died there also in 1885.

I thought I had very little chance of finding the descendants of the boys. They would have been Cree. Although the boys’ father was Orcadian, they were brought up in the Cree culture and they were simply Cree. Today all their descendants are First Nations Cree people. Not part Scottish or anything else.

Would I ever find them two hundred years after their father’s death?

To be continued……


Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture (Part 3)

Full Circle:An Orkney family reunited after 200 years Separated by distance and culture (Part 2)

Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years Separated by distance and culture (Part 1)

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