Neil Aitken’s ancestors came to Egremont and Normanby townships, Grey County, Ontario, in the 1840s and 50s. The Orchard, Pinder, Ferguson, Ellis, Holliday, Clark, and Aitken names can still be found on farms in that area where the first generation cleared land and built homesteads.
Helping his father, Harry, in the bush or the barn, Neil heard many stories handed down from these settlers. Now, while Neil works land the Aitken family cleared, he often thinks about how different life was for young people at the time of Confederation. He recreates that life through Ernest Wood, a fictional boy who does the work of a man, yet has fun, too.
“As I wrote Fiddle and Fly, Ernest became a real person to me,” Neil says. Ernest’s best friend, Robert Aitken, takes the name of Neil’s great-great-uncle, who left no descendants.
Neil has written short stories and poetry since high school days. Listeners to “Richardson’s Roundup” on CBC Radio heard one of his stories. He takes an active part in the Holstein Drama Group. His play, Murder on the Blueline has been performed twice and he also created Canada’s Confederation, an operetta for elementary-school students.