People’s Archive of Rural Nova Scotia

Stories of Everyday Life, Everyday People

Mary Ellen MacDonald

Oct 11, 2017 | People & Culture

PARNS: Mary Ellen MacDonald

Mary Ellen MacDonald

The following story is part of a volume of stories collected from the residents of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. For more information on this project, click here.

Mary Ellen was born in 1927, and was raised in Beauly, Antigonish County.  She and her husband settled on the farm in Springfield. Mary Ellen and Bud enjoyed their many years on the farm tending the animals and crops, making the cheese and pickles. Mary Ellen always found time for sewing and hand work. She especially loved making clothes and doll clothes for her girls.

Stories Told by Mary Ellen MacDonald

Christmas memories…

We had a big dinner at Christmas. Grandma lived nearby with her son, and they would come to our house for dinner. We would cook a turkey that we had raised. Santa Claus would come, and I would always get a doll when I was small, and oranges and apples. We had stockings. Mama always made porridge for the morning. She would always make it at night and heat it up in the morning. One Christmas, I remember my brother trying to get his stocking. We had them hanging up for Santa, and there was the pot of porridge, right there. Well, he pulled something down, and the orange went right into the porridge pot! It splattered porridge all over the place. It was funny.

The farm…

We made butter and cheese – homemade cheese. You make the curds first, then you put them in the big pot with the holes all around. You put a press on it to take out the liquid. When it is fully pressed, the liquid is all out and it has formed into a cake of cheese. It probably takes about a week; maybe not quite a week. It would be round because we made it in a pot. It was white in color – white cheese, homemade cheese. If the cheese was made in the summer, it had to be kept cold. We had a cellar. There was no power then, so you needed a good cellar for storage. We had a good cellar. Then we gave up making the cheese. There was another woman making it in the area, so if we wanted homemade cheese we could buy it. It took a lot of time to make it, and the kids, Juanita and Shawna, didn’t like the cheese the way that my husband and I did.

We raised chickens and turkeys as well as beef and dairy cattle. We also grew potatoes. We would keep them to give to people who didn’t have any of their own.


I met my husband at a friend’s house when I was in my twenties. I knew him for quite a while before I got married. I used to see him at the dances and stuff. We used to go down to the dances in Guysborough and he would be there – he was visiting the same places that I was. We were married quite a long time. We had two children—Juanita and Shawna. Juanita was in her first year of college when he passed away. He had leukemia.

The girls come home every year on my birthday. It’s good to see them.

Now wasn’t he bad…

After my husband passed away, I moved from the country into town. I got an apartment on St. Ninian Street. Dr. Chaisson was a neighbour. When I landed in hospital, St.Martha’s, I was in a room with another woman. Dr.Chaisson was her doctor. So he came in. Of course, he knew me because I was his neighbour, so he comes in and he said to the other woman, “Oh my God, don’t tell me you’re in here with that awful wild woman! I have lived near her for a long time.” Well, that other woman was so scared that she wouldn’t come near me. And he left and never said the right thing – he never corrected her. Isn’t that bad?

PARNS: Mary Ellen MacDonald

Mary Ellen MacDonald

Collected by Kathryn Collicott, Fall of 2011. All photos by Kathryn Collicott.

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