Bob Carswell shares reflections about the passage of the years

I’m pleased to share the following text from Bob Carswell.

Bob Carswell writes:

My philosophy on life is quite simple. I was born and therefore, I will die. The End. What remains after the system stops working has been donated to medical science so that perhaps I can also be of some use after death.

The many from MCHS who died along the way, some during school or shortly after graduation is a good indication on how short life can be for some. I have vivid memories of a good friend Harry Boshouwers who died in a train/taxi collision and of Steven Suter who in a Rovers car rally in the Eastern Townships was the driver while I was his navigator.

Harry Boshouwers (MCHS ’63)

Jeff Habberfield did well for himself but his hard life took him at age 61 the same age as his brother Brian. These are people I connected with in my life at different times as I did with a lot of others who I remember like it was yesterday.

For all of those who have a religious belief, for all of those who follow a different philosophy as adults, all of these beliefs mean nothing when you die. The DNA of mankind is very close to the DNA of a worm that lives in the bottom of the sea. What does that say about life? Maybe we originally did come from the sea.

I believe in the existence of other more advanced societies living out in space who have regularly visited earth and yet I do not fear them. Accept it or not, the Big Bang theory is still just a theory and the more I come to understand my own genetics the more I come to believe in the theory of evolution.

Steven Suter (MCHS ’62)

You and I and everyone else who is still alive is a miracle in itself. We all have ancestors who did not grow old and yet we seem to have survived through the evolution of successive generations. The male’s yDNA almost never changes over the generations. You and your brother have the same yDNA as all males in your ancestry going back forever. Then again, if you go back 80+ generations, you can have the same name but a slightly different yDNA. That’s because surnames have not been around forever.

Kerr Clan

My great great grandmother who arrived in Montreal in 1822 with her father’s entire family were of the Kerr Clan, mighty warriors of the middle ages.

At the same time, I have attempted to work out the origins of my family name and with knowledge of the 77 Border Reiver family names, I was able finally come up was a satisfactory explanation of the Carswell name.

James Carswell, Wright & Builder circa 1855

James Carswell, Wright & Builder circa 1855

Carswell name

In the days of the Border Reivers, before the King of Scotland inherited the English Throne some 400 years ago and brought the two countries together as Great Britain, The Borders area was self governed. In specific areas identified as the six MARCHES, the people in those marches took turns governing themselves but because of the distances and no unique spelling to a surname, they all evolved over time.

Among the Kerr branches of the family, there were the following known spellings in the various areas, KERR, KER, CARR & CAR. It all came down to who wrote it and how they spelt it from what they heard phonetically.

To this day, those names still exist around the world. A few years back, a young lady living in my building spelt her name KER while my Montreal family was the KERR family.

Car branch of family

The name CARSWELL is a place name. The “well” we know today is a pipe in the ground with a motor on the top of it extracting water.

It was once a stone lined well dug by hand and water was withdrawn using a rope and bucket. The word WELL originates from the earliest place where water was drawn, that point in a stream at which everyone living in an area went to draw water. Our genetic ancestors, the yDNA roots I carry, lived closest to the well where the CAR branch of the family drew their water.

Since we lived closest to the CAR family’s well we became referred to as the CAR’s WELL family. At the same time, genetic testing has shown that genetically connected family members carry names like Carson, McCarty, and others with similar references. Mc or Mac in front of a name means “son of”.

Technically, the yDNA tells us that Carson is a son of CAR and since we carry identical yDNA, we are actually true Kerr family even though the spelling is different. The reference to the well has to do with identifying our branch of the CAR family to distinguish it from other KERR/CAR family lines that result from having regular generations of ten kids. This was quite normal before modern birth control.

Parish of Mearns

Bob Carswell at Birds & Beans Cafe in Mimico, close to Lake Ontario, where he met with Peter Mearns and Jaan pill in February 2015. In the photo, Bob is listening to the MCHS school song on Jaan's iPhone. Jaan Pill photo

Bob Carswell at Birds & Beans Cafe in Mimico in South Etobicoke close to Lake Ontario where he met with Peter Mearns and Jaan Pill in February 2015. Bob is listening to the MCHS school song on Jaan’s iPhone. Jaan Pill photo

The Carswell lines were among the first recorded landowners in the Parish of Mearns in Scotland to be recognized. In the first Statistical Account for Scotland, published in 1791, the Carswell name appears as Landowners.

Historical information has passed down a letter written in 1933 that confirms the family history as original tenant farmers in the Parish of Mearns around 1650 who eventually bought the property outright around 1700. It remained a family property until 1900 when the last of the Carswell family to farm it, sold it outright and took over another property close by.

A study of the 80 farms in the Parish of Mearns from the earliest census showed that no other property was ever run by Carswells in the Parish of Mearns until 1900. Those who continued to farm found land further afield. My own direct ancestor, Allen Carswell, married a girl from the next parish and found land down the road in Ayrshire where local history records his two sons as successful builders in Glasgow.

They apprenticed to their much older brother-in-law Alexander Gulliland who was a wright and builder in Scotland. By 1790 the two brothers set up a business simply named Carswell Company in Glasgow and initially worked as Jobbers. At the height of their construction work in Glasgow they employed 75 men. My ancestors left the farm with the death of Allen Carswell prior to 1800.

[End of text from Bob Carswell]


It’s a delight to read this overview, Bob. In my next post I’ll share an overview that Graeme Decarie has shared about his earliest years. I think earlier today I send an email to Graeme saying I would post the item today. That’s what prompted me to first post the text from Bob Carswell, as he had sent it to me even earlier than the text that recently arrived from Graeme.


2 replies
  1. Myrth GAIL Howell de Vries
    Myrth GAIL Howell de Vries says:

    I went to school with Bob. Don’t know if I agree with his philosophy of life, but he sounds like an interesting person to talk with.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob lives close to where I live in Toronto. We get together for coffee about once a month. It’s one of the benefits of being involved with a reunion – we renew old acquaintances and have the opportunity to meet and chat from time to time. I enjoy meeting with Bob. He has some great stories to share!


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