How Guisachan got its name

by Art Gray, Kelowna Courier 1963

The name "Guisachan" is familiar to most residents of this district, as that given to a road in the Benvoulin district, and also a farm that fronts on that road, and now owned by "Paddy" Cameron.

Few, however, may know the origin and meaning of the name, or the historic associations, which involve members of the Scottish nobility, and a one-time governor-general of Canada.

In the year 1900, Lord Aberdeen, who was visiting Canada with Lady ;Aberdeen and ;the family, for the sake of the health of the good Lady, purchased some 480 acres of farm land in the Okanagan Mission valley on the recommendation of G.G.MacKay, who was at that time engaged in a land promotion scheme here, and at Vernon. MacKay was well known to the Aberdeens from associations back in Scotland.


One of the objects in view was to establish Lady Aberdeen's brother, Coutts Marjoribanks, in a new location. He had been ranching, with very indiffernent success. In Dakota, and was brought to the Okanagan to manage the new Aberdeen property.

The name, Majoribanks, like many longish Old Country names, was not pronounced as it was spelt, but was contracted to "Marshbanks". The name Coutts was given him because of a family connection with the old established "Coutt's Bank," the grandfather having been the junior partner in his day.

The Aberdeens did not come out to their new ranch untill the following year. The name of "Guisachan" had been chosen because of happy associations with Lady Aberdeen's former home in the Highlands, in Glen Affric, Inverness, and she gives the meaning as "the place of the fir." Seedling Scottish firs were brought out to make the long shady driveway in to the farm hourse, that still is a distintive feature of the farm, now comprising fewer acres. Lady Aberdeen gives an Interesting description of their visit to the Okanagan Valley in the two volume autobiographies compilled by the Aberdeens under the distinctly Scottish name of "We Twa."


Leaving the Old Country a second time, they come across Canada in a priveaat car, provided by the CPR, after first renewing their acquaintance with Sir John Abbott, then Canada's new Prime Minister, and meeting Sir John Thompson and "Mr."Laurier, and stopping at Regina(Regina got its name because it sounded much like the Native name and was Queen Victoria's name) where Lord Aberdeen inspected the NWMP at their headquarters.

They stopped at Banff for a 12-day holiday, swam in the "sulfur lake", and again met Rev. Charles Gordon (Ralph Conner) whose books were then becoming well known. They welcomed him as a member of the "clan," the Aberdeen Family name being Gordon too. Arriving at Sicamous Juction they found that the new branch line to Vernon had just reached the point where it was possible to take some sort of pioneer train over the rails. An engine was chartered, and as other passengers were anxious to get to Vernon, an improntu train was made up by the superintendent.

"We must have looked a curious crowd," she writes, "an engine and tender the private car and a caboose" (which she explains as being a sort of guard's van) "On the sides and top of which travelled a medley of men, dogs, packages, agricultural machinery and all sorts of oddments."


The progress was so slow that the were often able to get out and walk, and ;during one of these occasions they met and talked to a Scottish farmer and his wife who had hailed fram the Aberdeen's Haddo House estate, and had 75 acres cleared and were doing well, selling produce to railwaymen and miners.

Just by chance they had received word from Coutts Majoribanks, though Lady Aberdeen's mother in Scotland, that there was a "Fair" at Vernon that same day, which he hoped Lord Aberdeen would officially open. So inadequate were the means of communication in the Valley, then, that they had no way of contacting Coutts, or Vernon, and would never have known about it but for the letter from Scotland.


By good luck they arrived in time, the Agricultural Show was openned, and ;his Lordship purchased a team and two mares and a foal for the Guisachan Ranch. Lady Aberdeen marvelled at the size of the pumpkins and melons, some weighing 20 to 30 pounds, and "looking like they ought to contain Cinderalla's coach too."

They found, however, that the day (October 14) was a general holiday and the steamer on Okanagan Lake was not running.(the Fintry still runs today)

In the emergency, a neighbor from Okanagan Mission, Mr. Lequime, took them to their new home in his small steamboat. "We had a merry voyage," she writes, "stowed away in a queer little cabin, father and daughter beguiling themselves and their companions by singing improvised Canadian songs", one of which, to the tune of "The Keel Row" rather unkindly (considering the private car) extolled travelling on the "Grand Trunk," as against the "CPR".

Unfortunately the tale ends here, and no details of the visit to Okanagan Mission are given.

They paid other visits later from time to time, for the Aberdeen's acquired additional holdings in the Valley, purchasing the Coldstream Ranch from Forbes George Vernon in 1892, and both ranches were under the management of her brother for a time. George Grant MacKay was also the one who arranged the sale of the Coldstream property. In 1893 Lord Aberdeen was appointed governor-general of Canada, and affairs of state kept the family in Ottawa most of the time.


Lady Aberdeen will be remembered as being the founder of the "Victorian Order of Nurses" in Canada, and for many other good works.

The city of Kelowna has been steadily encroaching on the original "Guisachan," and the part held by W. Allister Cameron is already largely subdivided, and absorbed into the city. The name of "Aberdeen" is perpetuated by the lake of Aberdeen, which is the main water source for the Vernon Irrigation District, and was the name given to one of the first CPR boats to ply the water of the Okanagan.