Grandpa McConachie - age 17 WW1I don’t know as much about James “Emerson” McConachie’s career in WWI as I wish I did but there are a few things he told me.

Grandpa Mac didn’t much like to talk about the war but when I was in grade ten he spoke of it a little so I could do a history assignment.

He had lied at age 17 to get in to the service and was shipped to France where he was the mule boy for his regiment.  He told me about driving the mules up a hill and a shell whizzed right over his head and landed in the side of the hill beside him.  It did not go off and he figured it wasn’t his day to go.  

That story explained something that happened when I was about six when he and I were out in the field on the old tractor.  In those days planes were allowed to break the sound barrier and it made a huge booming noise when they did.  Grandpa was driving across the field and I was perched in my favourite spot, next to him on the fender.  Suddenly a jet went over and the huge bang jolted us.  It was an even bigger jolt when I saw Grandpa leap to his feet, grab me with his right arm and throw both of us on the dirt beside the tractor.  We were fine, though a little dusty.  The tractor had stopped when he released the clutch so no danger of being run over.  It was quite a shock. At the time he wouldn’t talk about it but now I understand his quick response.

The other story I loved was one about Ypres.  I’m not an expert in Canadian war history but he told me it was the Canadians who marched in the liberate the French town.  They came from many directions and while the troops entered the town square Grandpa said he heard a piano.  He told his buddies that he didn’t know anyone in the world who could play the piano like that except his friend and neighbour Earl Reid.  Sure enough, when they got to the centre of town, there sitting at a grand piano which had been lowered into the street, was Earl Reid playing his heart out.   Grandpa was the last person from home to see Earl.  He died at Battle of Passchendaele a few weeks later.

But that is not the end of the story.  After some time in England Grandpa came home in 1919.  Soon after he married Earl’s sister, Lillian.  The oldest of their four children is Earl.

As I read the poem, “In Flanders Fields” the other day that Flanders is very close to Ypres and John McCrea may well have crossed paths with my Grandfather.

Lest We Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (, I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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