Margaret Growcott, a Port Alberni resident, is about to release her book entitled Bales & Spires.
“It took five years to write this novel and three years to get it published,” she says.
(The title refers to bales of raw cotton, and to a fanciful imagination which makes a factory chimney in the distance look like a cathedral spire.)
Margaret’s interest in writing started while she was at school, where she kept a detailed diary and wrote essays in English Grammar classes. She once won a prize for an essay, which kept her interest going, but unfortunately she did not do much more writing until she came to Canada in 1976 with her husband and two small children.
“I found that an English magazine was interested to read my articles about the culture change and life in Canada,”she explained.
Born in war-time England, Margaret remembers her growing up years in the county of Cheshire on the Welsh border. Fondly, she recalls its nice sandy beaches—an ideal location for her lifetime love for swimming.
“Which is something I still do every day at Canal Beach here in Port Alberni,” she added.
Her other lifetime interest is music, which began at an early age in a supportive family environment that encouraged the passion for this art. Her mother was an excellent pianist. Her oldest brother played the violin and the next brother played the piano. Margaret and her twin sister played the violin, something they did all their lives.
“We sang in choirs and played in various orchestras over the years,” she said.
It was in that musical milieu that she met Robert Growcott, as she was seated next to him in an amateur orchestra. While he was with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at that time, he had been hired to play at the concert while their leader was sick.
“The event was indeed a huge success, but more importantly, I had met my future husband and the love of my life!” Margaret recalled.
They were married a year later.
In 1976, while in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Robert was invited to come to Canada to join the Purcell String Quartet, which was quite famous in North America. The quartet was affiliated with Simon Fraser University—their home base—but they played all over Canada and the U.S. More than once they played for Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and on another occasion played for Jules Legere, the Governor General at the time.
After a while, Robert left the quartet and joined the Vancouver Symphony as Principal Second Violin, where he played for 25 years.
Robert and Margaret came to Port Alberni because they had both retired and had been planning on moving to Vancouver Island. Their oldest son moved here in 2003, so they followed in 2004.
“We have enjoyed living here very much for 17 years, playing in Phil’s Harmonics String Orchestra, the great community, and the wonderful scenery and wildlife,” said Margaret.
Robert died in Port Alberni last November at the age of 90.
Over the years, Margaret has written articles for various magazines, but it was not until she moved to Port Alberni that she really picked up an interest in writing again.
She says that she was lucky enough to meet several people here that shared her interest and together they produced two anthologies of short stories, to which she contributed.
“I had made several attempts to start a novel, but had always given up after a few chapters,” said Margaret. “Then in 2014, I somehow had the impetus to continue one novel which was based on my grandmother who, aged ten, worked in a cotton mill in Lancashire in the mornings and went to school in the afternoons. Because my knowledge of her was scant, and I only had snippets of what her life was like from 1872 to 1890, it is, essentially, a work of fiction—although based on true facts.”
Bales & Spires is expected to be released mid-August. The book will be available at the new book store in town, Mobius Books, on Argyle Street.
It will also be available through Amazon and Indigo.