“From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada,” Memoir, Volume 1

Synopsis: Raised by a single mother on welfare during the 1930’s depression and World War II in the Scottish Highlands, Ian spends his childhood trying to get enough to eat and stay warm. During an adolescence apprenticed to a drunken blacksmith, he also begins a lifelong love affair with music-making while wavering between the strictures of the Salvation Army and the “worldly pleasures” of the outside world.
Life begins to improve when Ian enters the Royal Air Force, serving five years as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in the United Kingdom and then Egypt. In the latter, he experiences the consequences of the Arab “walkouts” that eventually led to the Suez Canal crisis. Most hilarious is his tale “Jig-a-Jig in the Desert” when the small military water treatment plant he supervises is invaded by Arab prostitutes.
Returning to Britain, he marries his pen-pal, Mary, completes his military career and enters into civilian life, finally settling on his lifetime career as a machinist. Two daughters are born, one of whose life is saved at birth by a bottle of Scotch whisky.
Despite getting established in Scotland, Ian gets “itchy feet” and thinks of emigrating. Misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Government of Ontario official to choose Canada over Australia, Ian, Mary and the girls endure a winter sailing over the Atlantic in 1965, including a collision in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Ian and Mary struggle to adjust and to learn and speak “Canadian.” Their daughters, however, are sounding like Canadian children within a few weeks! Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and a suitable place to live in Canada lead Ian to conclude that he has only moved “from poverty to poverty.” Will he be able to survive and eventually thrive in this new land?

About the Cover: The photo was taken of me when I visited my hometown, Campbeltown on the Kintyre Peninsula, Argyllshire, Scotland in 1957. It shows a lots-younger-and-leaner me with Campbeltown Harbour in the background. The tartan border features the McKinnon tartan since the Morrans family is a sept of the Clan McKinnon.

Why did I decide to write this book? To explain, I’ll quote from the book’s preface:“My principle reason for writing my autobiography is that I have met so many people on the Canadian side of the Atlantic Ocean whose backgrounds are Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish or whatever, who have no idea who their grandparents or great-grandparents were, what they did or how they lived. Thus I decided that my descendants, friends and even strangers should get to know me, if they so desire.

“Several times I’ve found myself checking out through a grocery counter and spoken a few words to the clerk. Upon hearing my Scottish “burr” (folks over here think that Scots speak with a “brogue”—no, that’s Irish!) she would invariably ask me if I were Scottish and then tell me that her grandfather (or grandmother) was Scottish. When I asked her where he or she was, she would then tell me the relative was dead. When I inquired where in Scotland they came from, she didn’t know. She didn’t know anything about him or her—and that happened more than once. On arriving home one day from a little bit of grocery shopping, I told my wife, ‘I’m going to write my life story for my descendants to read—they should know who and what their grandfather did while he was alive.’ “

“This book may not always be chronologically correct. As I searched my memory, I wasn’t always sure what things happened in the same time frame or exactly what age I was when something happened. However, nothing has been embellished or intentionally made brief. What I have written is exactly as I remember it, albeit sometimes a trifle fuzzy. I have occasionally changed a person’s name to maintain their privacy. The only incorrect information might be a street name spelling or a slight error in a date; but be assured that all that is included really did happen. It is my life, written with the express intention of filling in information that will not be accessible after I am no longer living. I’ve tried to remember the good times, the bad times, the funny times and the sad times, from 1935 until 1970. The second volume (“Came to Canada, eh?”, as yet unpublished) will cover the years 1970-2004, maybe even later than that if I continue living and writing. My present wife and editor is urging me on to book three!

“Most of this story was written when my name was still ‘Ian Morrans.’ (The name on my birth certificate is ‘John Morrans’ but I was always called ‘Ian,’ the Scottish Gaelic equivalent of ‘John.’ Sometime after I immigrated to Canada, I legally changed my first name to ‘Ian.’) My name change to ‘Moore-Morrans’ happened in 2003 when I remarried after I lost Mary, my first wife (who was living when I wrote most of the first two volumes of this autobiography). The maiden name of Gayle, my new wife, is “Moore” and she wanted me to add it to my family name, which I gladly did. This was a bit of a coincidence as my stepfather’s name was similar—’Moorhead.’ I suspect all three names (Morrans, Moore and Moorhead) have an ancient common root in the Celtic languages.”

Reviews and Comments regarding this book:

*****”Enlightening and Entertaining. Ian’s book was entertaining, informative and awakening. He tells of the life he has led, always looking for ways to improve his circumstances, never complaining, always positive and with humor. Ian brings to light the struggles immigrants had and continue to have leaving their home in the hope of creating a better life for themselves and their family in Canada. Ian tells that the promised land wasn’t all it promised to be. I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it.” Natalie, on Amazon, July 2012.

****An eye opener for sure. I thought I had it tough as a boy refugee during, and as a displaced person after World War II. Peanuts on that! Just read Moore-Morrans memoir of his growing up years in Campbeltown, on the Kintyre peninsula, Argyllshire on the west coast of Scotland during the Great Depression. Ian adds or better said, subtracts from my concept of poverty to give it horrifying dimensions. “Yes, we were destitute!” he writes. “…we were, without doubt, the poorest family in that little town. – “…we were the poorest, by far, for no one else in our town lived in such pathetic conditions as we did.” Home, was a 10 foot square room in an attic of a run down house, practically unfurnished and most of the time unheated. Clothes? Best described as rags. It was not until Ian enlisted in the Royal Air Force at age 18 that he discovered “what it was like to have a full belly of half-decent food”. Get away from it all. Australia? Best to go to Ontario? Canada? Yeah, sure. Be brave and read on. My immigration to North America was like a Cinderella experience but Ian’s more like a nightmare. Starting with misunderstanding and misrepresentations of what to expect in Canada from certain Ontario government agents to watching their belongings get dropped to the ground by a malfunctioning crane, smashed at their port of entry, all in all made Morrans immigration a “…Poverty to Poverty” ordeal. The Morrans, a family of four now, Mom, (Mary) Dad and two daughters (Audrey and Shirley) finally did manage to purchase a new home at Hillsburg, Ontario in 1970. “We’ve come a long way,” he writes.
Indeed they had come a long way in many and varied ways on a road resembling an obstacle course. I was fortunate, but many an immigrant will identify with the Morrans experience. I dearly recommend Ian’s book. An eye opener for sure.“ Harry G. Kapeikis, author of Exile from Latvia, My World War II Childhood from Survival to Opportunity and others; on amazon.com, October 2013.

A worthwhile read. “(My husband) and I found From Poverty to Poverty to be a worthwhile read, describing the similar story of many immigrants venturing from their countries of birth. Of special interest is experiencing the colloquial Scottish language… Ian possesses a spirit of positivity despite many obstacles —especially in overcoming the old world cast system where his mother as well as he were penalized by the narrow minded. Ian’s story is an especially valuable documentation for his descendants.” Leah D. St. Paul MN, comment on ianmooremorrans.com, 2015.

“Really enjoying this book–Great writing and a wonderful read. Good work, Ian and Gayle! We both read the book and thoroughly enjoyed every page.” Edna K., Vernon, BC, on Facebook,  July 2012.

Wish I could write books like you,  Ian.” Aileen C., Penticton BC, on Facebook, March 2012.

Thank you for writing this splendid narrative. I have ventured to make a few notes as I read it, each prefaced by the relevant page number. They form a reminder of times gone by in our memories and a few corrections either based on my living in the Highlands or my admittedly somewhat unreliable memory or something or other.” Peter K., Vernon BC, on email, September 2012.

Most interesting and also quite a sad and horrific childhood.  I don’t think the depression in U.S. was quite that bad but also quite terrible for many.  I was born in December of 1933 so my memories of poverty are from stories told.  I certainly remember WW II.”  Marilyn T., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, July 2012

The Editor’s Review on Goodreads: I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in biography; life in Scotland during the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war years; a teenager’s life in the Salvation Army in the late ’40s; music making, especially Scottish folk music, brass band music and tunes of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; life of a common airman in the RAF of the early ’50s; British military life in Egypt during the pre-Suez crisis days; emigration from Scotland and immigration to Canada in the mid-’60s. The writing style is folksy, humorous and honest. Ian tells it like it was!  Gayle Moore-Morrans, September 2012

Ordering information is on the “How to Order” page.

View a slide show of Book Launches, Readings, Signings and Sales for this book: 

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300 thoughts on ““From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada,” Memoir, Volume 1

  1. Chuck and I found _From Poverty to Poverty_ to be a worthwhile read, describing the similar story of many immigrants venturing from their countries of birth. Of special interest is experiencing the colloquial Scottish language. While having known Gayle for over 50 years, we only recently had the opportunity to meet Ian. Such an interesting and unique experience to already know so many details of another’s life at first meeting. Ian possesses a spirit of positivity despite many obstacles —especially in overcoming the old world cast system where his mother as well as he were penalized by the narrow minded. Ian’s story is an especially valuable documentation for his descendants.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for the review, Leah and Chuck. We are so glad you found Ian’s memoir a worthwhile read. Yes, it was interesting to have you finally meet him and to have conversations with him when you already knew so much of his background. We hope you will also enjoy the second memoir once I get through the editing. I sure hope to have enough time to get it out this year! Love to you both. Gayle


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    • Thanks for writing. Ian has written in great detail about the poverty he experienced as a child and young man in his book, From Poveety to Poverty| A Scotsman Encounters Canada. The book is available through Amazon. We’d love to have you order and read it and then give us any comments you would like to communicate.


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    • Thanks. Yes, a part 2 is already written but just needs to have its editing completed. It is next on Gayle’s list of “to-be-edited” works by Ian. We hope it will be out in 2015. The title is: “Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Emigrant’s Story.”


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    • We hope you will order the book “Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” where you will find a complete elaboration on the topic. See our blog’s section “How to Order.” Best wishes.


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