Home away from home

Gavin Simms
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Colin Ploughman returns with his medal

On Ploughman's Lane in George's Brook, in the back of Effie Hodder's house, there's a refurbished picnic table with freshly-picked apples on top.

Sitting easy in the midday sun beside it is her brother, Colin Ploughman.

He's back on one of his regular visits from his home in Scotland. During his three-week stay he's had a wee bit of free time to tend to what needs fixing around the house. The table's something he made for his sister while on a stay in 1997. It had since found its way onto the edge of the property, belly up and falling apart.

Top photo, Colin Ploughman stands before the blue house he was born and raised in. Bottom photo, a bridge Colin Ploughman helped build in the Big Burn bears his name. Top photo by Gavin Simms/The Packet, Submitted photo

Clarenville -

On Ploughman's Lane in George's Brook, in the back of Effie Hodder's house, there's a refurbished picnic table with freshly-picked apples on top.

Sitting easy in the midday sun beside it is her brother, Colin Ploughman.

He's back on one of his regular visits from his home in Scotland. During his three-week stay he's had a wee bit of free time to tend to what needs fixing around the house. The table's something he made for his sister while on a stay in 1997. It had since found its way onto the edge of the property, belly up and falling apart.

Now that it's up on its legs again and sturdy like brand new, he can leave knowing he's done his job - he's put his 89-year-old hands to good use.

Colin left home 69 years ago. Back when the world was black and white he was born in the blue house next door, along with his five brothers and seven sisters.

"Big difference now. A lot of houses gone up since I left here. When I lived here, there was only one car, maybe two," Colin recalls, with a touch of a Scottish accent on his tongue.

As a young man he used to walk all the way from George's Brook to Clarenville to see a girl. Half the time she wouldn't turn up.

During his visit to George's Brook in 1997, he was walking along the road (on the wrong side), when the Mounties stopped and told him about it. He replied, "When I left here I could lie on the centre of the road and nothing would touch me."

At the age of 19 he volunteered for the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, to travel to Britain to help manage the forests during the Second World War.

He had a long and dangerous crossing of the Atlantic ahead of him, at a time when U-boats were inflicting heavy losses on shipping. His boat arrived in Liverpool in June, 1940.

Three years later he made his way to Golspie - the place he's called home ever since - although work has taken him far and wide and back and forth across the ocean.

"It's a nice place. I love it, I know all the people. They look after me. I haven't an enemy in the whole town," he says of his home away from home.

It's been a big year for Ploughman.

Ploughman was honoured recently being made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year Honours list for community service to the village of Golspie.

He's the Big Burn Walk maintenance man having worked tirelessly since 1985 maintaining paths and keeping the trails clean and safe for walking as one of the Golspie in Bloom volunteers.

Ploughman had three options for receiving his medal. He could travel to London or Edinburgh and the Queen would make the presentation or he could choose to have it done in his hometown, without the Queen.

He chose the latter option, because he wanted his friends to be there.

His family also held a party for him at the George's Brook community hall. He's not too fussy about all the attention, but he won't turn down a good time.

He cradles his medal like he's holding the meaning of life in his hands. It embodies everything he's done out of the goodness of his heart.

Ploughman is a regular in the Christmas lights squad. He cuts grass for people and plants flowers where he sees fit. He's the chief fire lighter and volunteers to clean up around his adopted hometown.

At 89, he still greets visitors to the Big Burn and provides them with information on its history.

In the spring, while frost was still on the ground, he took a tumble on the bridge named after him, right beside his plaque. While most people would have hobbled off home for a rest, Ploughman rushed home and came straight back with sand, to make sure no one else fell.

He believes Scotland and Newfoundland are much the same in regards to the people and the land.

"The people are great. They say that Scottish people are mean, but they're anything but."

While he was home this month, he did a fair bit of motoring about, taking in sights of the countryside. He's sure he'll see it all again someday.

Meanwhile, there's another party awaiting him when he returns to Golspie. His friends can rest assured he's in good hands no matter what side of the pond he's on.

Coming home is something Ploughman knew he had to do. He'll never lose sight of when and where he's needed.

"My family is getting very small, so I had to come. And I'm very glad I did."

Organizations: Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, British Empire, MBE

Geographic location: Clarenville, Scotland, Golspie Britain Atlantic Liverpool London Edinburgh Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Sandy Macleod
    November 15, 2014 - 15:35

    Hi Colin, I remember filling your trailer with black ground from the site of the Gospie medical centr with Freddie Mellvilles digger, your a great embassador for Golspie, I mind Freddie wanted to charge for the ground!!! !!

  • Ingrid Jamieson
    November 14, 2014 - 09:57

    I had the great pleasure of living 3 doors away from this great man for my formative years in Golspie. Always such a kind, generous, fun loving, and amazing man. Golspie owe Mr Ploughman so much for his tireless work over the years.

  • Misty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Beautiful story indeed, what a lovely person .... we need more like him on this side of the pond. Happy travels Mr. Ploughman.

  • wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    i doubt if i'll ever meet you mr. ploughman but i think your a very fine gentleman.

  • Sandra
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Lovely story. Note the error in the caption - the bridge does not bare his name, it bears his name.

  • Another Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Indeed a lovely story. I don't understand why so many news items and stories such as this are always in the Telegram, but never make ti Corner Brook's paper, The Western Star. Kudos Telgram, you do good work!

  • Wifie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Even! Colin Ploughman was born and raised in NL but moved to Scotland. My husband was born and raised in Scotland but moved to NL. My husband can't resist visiting his old homestead regularly either. Maybe these gentleman have shared a flight or two. Even!

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I see Mr ploughman was in the foresters.Does anyone know how to contact him as I had an Uncle go over with the Foresters. I understand he is still alive but we have lost contact and I was wonder if Mr ploughman could help...Thanks

    • Kevin Macnicol
      November 15, 2014 - 08:04

      Hiya George, if you could pass on some details, I will let colin know.

  • Misty
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Beautiful story indeed, what a lovely person .... we need more like him on this side of the pond. Happy travels Mr. Ploughman.

  • wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    i doubt if i'll ever meet you mr. ploughman but i think your a very fine gentleman.

  • Sandra
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Lovely story. Note the error in the caption - the bridge does not bare his name, it bears his name.

  • Another Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Indeed a lovely story. I don't understand why so many news items and stories such as this are always in the Telegram, but never make ti Corner Brook's paper, The Western Star. Kudos Telgram, you do good work!

  • Wifie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Even! Colin Ploughman was born and raised in NL but moved to Scotland. My husband was born and raised in Scotland but moved to NL. My husband can't resist visiting his old homestead regularly either. Maybe these gentleman have shared a flight or two. Even!

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I see Mr ploughman was in the foresters.Does anyone know how to contact him as I had an Uncle go over with the Foresters. I understand he is still alive but we have lost contact and I was wonder if Mr ploughman could help...Thanks