Salt Spring Island Archives
Alexander Aitken's Diary
1891 - 1892
Alexander Aitken, a young man from Scotland, worked on the Musgrave ranch as a shepherd between April 14, 1891 and May 25, 1892. Much of what we know about farming and ranching on Salt Spring Island during this time comes from this journal (although dated 1889 on the cover, the entry on page two starts with his arrival on Salt Spring in 1891). In it he speaks about the life and isolation of the ranch at Musgrave Landing, where his closest companions were two Chinese workers, "Young" and "Sam." He describes the constant labour of clearing and plowing the land as well of the tending to the approximately 1,100 sheep. Musgrave Landing, while quite isolated from the rest of Salt Spring settlement was serviced by the steamer, Isabel, on a twice weekly basis; Alexander also speaks about travelling by private launch between Musgrave Landing and Cowichan Bay.
In addition to the insights into farm and ranch work, Aitken’s diary also provides a glimpse into the social interaction between the Edward Musgrave family and workers on the ranch, as well as visitors and passersby such as the First Nations canoeing by the Landing.
The last page includes a note by his niece Nellie Aitkin Georgeson who says, “I never met him but I wish I had as he must have been a fine man.”
Alex Aitken eventually became a farm-owner in the Somenos Lake area and a major figure in local politics. He served as a councillor and Reeve in North Cowichan for six terms and was the vice-president of the BC Wool Growers Association. He died suddenly in 1923 at the age of 54, leaving a wife and son. By that time his parents and siblings had also moved to Vancouver Island. The Alex Aitken Elementary School in North Cowichan is named in his memory.