The Path to Love is Tread Barefoot. John Anderson and
By Mary White
This is the story of a love in the early days of the
Westmeath area. It is one that involves a lonely young farmer, a girl from near
Beachburg, and a great deal of walking!
The year was 1866. The place, the farm of John O.
Anderson on the Bromley Line. It had been four years since John O. (the O is
for O'Brien) and his brother William made their way from their home in
Allumette Island, Quebec to adjoining farms between Westmeath and Lapasse. For
the boys the last few years were probably spent clearing land, building two
houses, and just getting their feet back under them.
Anyone alone in a new land would of course be eager for some
company other than his brother and work horses, and John O. was no different.
Hed set his sights on a certain Miss Margaret McLellan from out on the
Sandbar Road (now Beachburg Road). It is suggested that the Andersons and the
McLellans had lived near each other a generation or two before. Otherwise, John
O. may not have even known she existed! Margaret was the second youngest child
of Mr. and Mrs. John and Anne McLellan, and John O. was quite determined to
Now, in those days, courting a girl any further away than
next door could become a daring feat. The McLellan farm was nearly 17 miles
away from John O.s homestead.
a well known family legend, we know that John O. walked all that distance at
least oncein his bare feet! This was to save what were likely his only
shoes. They would have been ruined and unfit to be seen by the time he reached
the McLellans! It is said that he carried his shoes to the end of the
Sandbar Road, then put them on just before he met his sweetheart and her
Obviously, that meeting was a success. A marriage was
quickly arranged between John O. and Margaret. In fact, some of the
couples descendants say that the two met only four times before their
wedding. Perhaps that was lucky for Johns poor feet!
John O. and Margaret were married in 1867, and spent the
rest of their days in their Bromley Line home (later named Mapleridge Farm)
where they raised nine children. Their youngest son, Peter, went on to inherit
the farm which his own son, John William, later took over. The late John
Williams wife, Dawn Anderson, still lives in the house John O. built
almost one hundred and fifty years ago.
Its strange to
think what would have happened if John had shown up at his fair ladys
home in his stocking feet with mud covered footwear in hand. What if hed
just been too lazy to walk all that way at all? But thats the beautiful
thing about history. We can what if? all we like, but there is
always one thing that did happen and usually, you have to admit, it turned out
for the best!