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The Letters of Dorothea (Scott-Coward) Allison

Dorothea Scott-Coward Allison
Dorothea Scott-Coward in 1898

This collection of letters was written by Dorothea (Scott-Coward) Allison, a pioneer woman who lived in Oyama, British Columbia, Canada. She was British and came to Canada in 1912, to visit a cousin, John Stokes . While visiting, she met Robert Allison, and the couple married in December, 1913. A number of her letters written between 1913 and 1922 have survived. One of the letters in the collection was written to her sister, Emily McDonnell, who lived in Rangoon, Burma. The majority of the letters, however, were written to another sister, Milborough Mackay, who lived in India at the time.

Mackay apparently kept her sister’s letters, storing them in a desk, where they were found decades after Mackay’s death. Eventually, the letters reached Emily McDonnell’s grandson, Nathaniel Pearce, the son of Ursula (McDonnell) Pearce. He lent the letters to his uncle, Peter McDonnell, of Okanagan Centre and in the late 1980s, the McDonnells offered copies of the letters to Dr. Duane Thomson, a history professor at Okanagan University College, in Kelowna, British Columbia. Typescripts of the letters were made, and the McDonnells provided a great deal of explanatory information and family background.

Nathaniel Pearce, who holds the original letters, kindly gave his permission for the letters to be published electronically. Under the direction and editorship of Dr. Duane Thomson, student Carolyn Webb added the collection of Dorothea Allison’s letters to the Royal British Columbia Museum’s Living Landscapes website during the summer of 1999. Biographical information and explanatory footnotes were based on information previously provided by Peter and Nancy McDonnell.

When she wrote the letters, Dorothea Allison rarely indicated the year in which her letters were written. Based on their knowledge of family history, Peter and Nancy McDonnell offered likely dates for the letters. In order to confirm these dates, other elements of the letters, such as the postmarks on the envelopes, can be scrutinized. There are also a few references to world events, such as the First World War, which confirm the dates of these letters. In one case, Allison neglected to refer even to the month in which she wrote the letter. This letter was likely written in the fall of 1920 because it appears to sequentially follow the letter dated 8 August 1920, in which she mentioned both her upcoming trip to England, and that the apple crop would soon be ready. In the undated letter, she expressed disappointment that the frozen apple crop could possibly prevent the trip home to England. Another of the letters, written by Bob Allison, also undated, was likely written in March, 1920. Like the letter written by Dorothea Allison, 21 March 1920, it discusses the possibility of Dorothea travelling home to England for a visit. The fold lines on the original copies of the two letters match, so it is likely the two letters were mailed together in one envelope.

Dorothea Allison
Dorothea (Scott-Coward) Allison in 1924
Robert Allison
Bob Allison






Biographical sketches of the people mentioned in Dorothea’s letters.



1913 June 27:

Dorothea Scott-Coward to Emily McDonnell 27 June [1913]

1914 March 9:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 9 March [1914]

1915 August 24:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 24 August [1915]

1915 September 25:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 25 September 1915

1916 October 7:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 7 October [1916]

1917 December 2:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay
 2 December [1917]

1917 February 4:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 4 February [1917]

1919 January 5:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 5 January 1919

1920 March:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 
21 March [1920]

Robert Allison to Milborough Mackay
 Undated [March 1920]

1920 August 8:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 
8 August [1920]

1920 Fall:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay
 Undated [Fall, 1920]

1921 September:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay 
9 September [1921]

1922 December 11:

Dorothea Allison to Milborough Mackay
 11 December 1922