Antics of Remittance Men

From a Peep into the Past Vol. II Gordon and Belle Hall

Oldtimers in Alberta are fond of telling stories about remittance men. To the westerner, these were sons of good English families who received money or remittance from home. They came to different points in Alberta to engage in ranching and their strange ways, their misfortunes and their sins of omission and commission were discussed around many a kitchen table. Most of these men did not fit into the social life of their British homes and were sent to Canada so their relations would not be embarrassed by their conduct.

They came with their leggings, monocles, caps, accents and habits and proved at times to be a good source of enjoyment and at times, profit to the cowboys and settlers. These boys had money and instead of working, they seemed to crave leisure and excitement. They tried to paint the town red as it were. They would drink with anybody and tear up the interior of hotels and waste their money in sinful pursuit. The hotelkeepers would give them sleeping rooms, food and credit at the bar because they could count on the quarterly dividend from England. Many were scions of good families and they made pitiful exhibitions. 

 The settlers who laughed at them and ridiculed them were often not above taking advantage of them by selling them supplies and farms at ridiculously high prices. A remittance man in High River went through $100,000 in a few years and came down to driving a scavenger wagon. As the years went by, the money from home ceased to come and some became beggars, hotel hangers-on or worse.

 There is one story, told to me by an oldtimer at Fish Creek south of Calgary. It seems the remittance man had heard that in pig butchering you had to have a big tub of scalding water to scald the hair off after of course the pig was killed This fellow got the pig into his house where there was a bathtub full of hot water. Shooting at the pig, he missed it and blew a big hole in the bathtub. A local farmer coming by heard the ruckus and rushed in and saved the pig. Needless to say the place was a shambles. One thing the remittance men all did, when World War I started and danger threatened the Isle of Britain, they dropped everything and regardless of costs, rushed to the defence of the beloved land of their birth. Many of them never returned.

Reprinted with permission of the Hall Family

This article has been edited for language. Photo courtesy of

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