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Reminiscing with Helen Finucane on nearly a century of farming

Carlyle-area operation has a long history of farming
Reminiscing with Carlyle Observer
The Brown family being presented with the Saskatchewan Angus Heritage Award. Back row, from left, Michelle Potapinski, president of the Saskatchewan Angus Association, Katie Finucane and Marilyn Brown. Seated is Helen Finucane.

CARLYLE - The John Brown family of Carlyle received the prestigious Saskatchewan Angus Heritage Award for raising Angus cattle for almost 100 years.  

Few families have been the honoured recipients of this award. Recently the Observer had the opportunity to reminiscence with daughter Helen Finucane and this is her story.  

“It all started with Andrew and Margaret Brown Sr. in 1925. Their children and grandchildren carried on this tradition of raising black Angus and today their great grandchildren are becoming part of this wonderful history. Though one cannot tell the full story of 100 years of raising cattle and how the family coped, there are a few stories that need to be told.” 

 Andrew and Margaret Brown Sr. and their young boys John, Andrew, and David left Balfron, Scotland on April 4, 1925, and arrived at Pier 2 in Halifax on April 12. They made their way across Canada, changed trains at Maryfield and arrived in Carlyle late morning. The drayman, Mr. Sedgewick, took them for groceries and they had dinner at the hotel before taking a buggy ride to their new homestead at SW 6-7-2 W2nd. 

Mrs. Bill Richardson and her son Jack were at the house and had tea and biscuits waiting for them. The house was described in the Carlyle History Book as having two rooms and was quite comfortable. The quarter had been homesteaded in 1906 and had a small house, barn and a granary.  

Andrew and Margaret Brown were just getting established when the Dirty Thirties began. Those years were devastating for farmers as the dust flew, crops died and grasshoppers were plentiful. Margaret told Helen of taking a nice tablecloth from Scotland out of the trunk and hanging it on the clothesline to air it out. When she went to retrieve it, the cloth was severely damaged as the grasshoppers had chewed holes in it.  

Margaret told Helen that story in the 1970s and after all that time, that memory still brought tears to her eyes. John told Helen of a time when Andrew Sr. left the farm and walked through the night to a horse sale in Wordsworth. He bought a horse and spent some time getting him to lead and then walked the horse home to the farm.  

John had said the horse became Margaret’s and the boys transportation pulling the buggy to Carlyle with cream and safely returning them home. Twice a day in the winter, the boys and their dog herded the cows to the Moose Mountain Creek for water. John said they did it even on cold days in the winter and they wore “gum” rubber boots and three pairs of handmade wool socks.  

Christmases were spent at homes of families in the community. The Browns would go to the Mills family or the Tom Forsyth family and then those families came to the Brown household taking turns every Christmas. John said they took their own plates and silverware because families did not have enough dinner sets or cutlery to host dinner parties. 

Pat Cann, Jean’s daughter, said that her mother told two stories about growing up on the farm. One job Jean had was to lead two horses to the dugout for water. One of the horses was a heavy horse. Soon her parents, Andrew and Margaret, grew concerned that it was dangerous. They put a stop to leading the horses to water and asked Jean to carry pails of water to the horses.  

Pat also stated that Jean talked about taking food to the field that is known as N1/2 23-5-2 W2nd. She would leave the farm in a truck and meet her father, Andrew, by the Moose Mountain Creek. He would rig up a pulley system so he could use the pulleys and the pails to get the food across the creek without anyone being in danger or losing food.  

Driving food 65 kilometres away would be more relaxing than hauling pails of water to horses.  

The family grew with the addition of Jean and Walter. All the children went to the school at Moose Creek but most of their time at home was occupied with farm work. The Browns raised heavy horses and Glen McConnell, who helped the family, said they were very good Percherons.  

Glen remembered a time when 40 Percherons got loose and he and John went on horseback to round them up and bring them back to the pasture from Manor. Helen remembers one morning in the late 1950s her father, Glen McConnell and Dr. Dunnigan were having breakfast at John and Fran’s home.  

Glen explained that he had been helping the Browns and Dr. Dunnigan vaccinate 50 heifers for brucellosis or “bangs.” Glen stated that there wasn’t a cattle chute available so he, John, and David roped and held the 500-pound heifers while Dr. Dunnigan administered the vaccination.  

The 1960s and 1980s were the decades that Helen remembers the farm undergoing the most changes and growth. In the 1960s there were no longer pigs on the farm, just cattle, a team of horses, chickens, and turkeys. Helen remembered being lulled to sleep by the newly weaned calves. The 1980s was the decade where most of the growth and expansion in land base and Black Angus cattle numbers occurred.  

John and David kept cattle on their land and also used community pastures at Alonsa, Man., Ordell Johsons’s at Oxbow, and Earl Silcox’s. William Brown indicated the most cattle they had at one time was 1,500 head.   

John and Fran were not holiday people, but they loved going to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Conventions every June. John had a membership since the late 1960s and in the 1970s they went on Stock Growers’ trips to Mexico and Hawaii. They also attended every annual general meeting of SSGA Zone One. 

As John aged, he became very concerned about the future of the family farm and asked Tim Young and his daughter Helen to manage his and their affairs. John spent time, separately with each of them, showing them his cattle and giving them instructions on whom he wanted to buy feeder cattle, bulls and replacement heifers.  

A conversation Helen had with her father before he passed about the farm was that he “Had fun, I loved it, it is a wonderful experience.” In the January 2011 edition of Canadian Cattlemen’s Magazine, Helen shared a similar sentiment.  

“I’m having fun. I am just astounded, I have met the most wonderful people in the beef industry.”   

John and Fran’s son Bryon has spent all his life working on the home quarter and owning his own land. Bryon helped with the feed lot, summer fallowing and driving the grain truck. As John and Fran aged, he spent a greater amount of his time assisting them. Linda lived on the farm and helped care for her parents. John passed away on Dec. 21, 2002, and his wife Fran, the love of his life and teammate in everything, passed away on June 3, 2019.  

Their daughter Linda Brown died on Dec. 27, 2017. 

All of Margaret and Andrew Brown’s children farmed in the south Carlyle area. John and Fran were on the home quarter, Andrew and Violet Brown farmed south of the home quarter and have children and grandchildren raising Angus cattle. David and Lilias had their farm just a couple of miles south. Their son William raises Angus cattle and has grain land. Jean and Doug Hewitt had a mixed farm a few miles south of where Jean grew up and their son Scott resides there and continues to grain farm and has commercial cattle.  

Walter and Margaret Brown still farm east of the home quarter and Walter continues to raise purebred Black Angus cattle. Their daughter Charlene and husband Jamie raise purebred Angus cattle and commercial cattle. 



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