April 2006

As told by: Hugh Miller

The first of the family to emigrate to Canada was George Miller, who left Scotland in 1832, settling on Lot 16, Concession 9, Markham Township in York County. He called his property Riggfoot farm, after one of the local estates in the old country. His neighbours called him “Laird o’ Riggfoot”; he was known in the family as “Uncle Geordie”.

Like the rest of the Millers to follow, he was a pioneer in Canadian agriculture. His 1880 obituary [writer and newspaper unknown] notes that he was “the first of our agriculturalists who introduced the sowing of turnips in drills, and … among the first to import live stock from Great Britain.” His first known importation was a dozen Leicester sheep [a dual purpose breed, known particularly for its fine wool], and a pair of Yorkshire pigs [a brand new breed that debuted at the 1831 Royal Windsor Show]. It is said that Uncle Geordie was the first importer of Yorkshire pigs to Canada. His nephew, John Miller, accompanied the animals, sailing from Scotland on April 12th, arriving at Riggfoot farm on June 1st, 1835.

Neighbours held George Miller in high esteem for his hospitality and kindness, but he was also known as a blunt Scot who would not tolerate nonsense. His obituary describes him as “one of those men who are wont to call things by their true names, yet withal kind and affable, hospitable and generous”.

One of the few stories about Uncle Geordie to survive was about the time he was showing sheep at the New York State Fair. A bold stranger was caught yanking a tuft of wool from the back of one of the Miller prize-winning Cotswold sheep. The man was immediately shocked by the pain of having a handful of whiskers jerked from his beard by an angry Uncle Geordie, who scolded the man that wool, like hair, had roots deep in the skin; and sheep, like men, had feelings.

Another Thistle Ha’ favourite, these scones (rhymes with lawns) were usually served as a dessert biscuit. Extra special when made with chopped dates.

Elsie Miller’s Scotch Scones

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup of butter and/or lard
  • 1 cup raisins or chopped dates
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 heaping tsps. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • milk

Sift the dry ingredients and rub in the lard. Mix in the raisins. Beat an egg lightly in a cup and fill it with milk. Mix this into the dry ingredients to forma soft dough. Roll to 1 inch thick and cut in triangles. Brush these with milk. Bake in a hot oven.