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Agnes Higginson Skrine, 1864-1955

Moira O’Neill, Irish poet, 1864-1955. 1934. Moira O’Neill was the pen name of Mrs. Walter Skrine, neé Higginson who lived on the Skrine ranch near High River, 1896-1902. Agnes Skrine was also 'Moira O'Neill,' a famous Irish poet and writer, who wrote beautifully about life in Alberta.

Born Agnes Higginson in County Antrim, Ireland, Agnes married Walter Skrine in 1895 and settled with him on the Bar S Ranch, 24 miles southwest of High River. Walter had 16,900 acres under lease and believed homesteaders and ranchers could be mutually helpful, an unusual idea for the time. Walter built a new, two-storey home for his bride, the lumber freighted from Calgary by teams of horses. The Skrines lived there for six years, before returning to Ireland, where Agnes, under the pseudonym 'Moira O'Neill,' wrote two books of poetry on the Glens of Antrim. Her poetry was so successful that John Mansfield, poet laureate, wrote a tribute to her when she died.

But Agnes had also written about Alberta, poetically describing the countryside. "I like the endless riding over the endless prairie, the winds sweeping the grass, the great silent sunshine, the vast skies and the splendid line of the Rockies, guarding the west," she wrote in an essay, A Lady's Life on a Ranche, in Blackwoods Magazine, January, 1898.

Excerpted from 200 Remarkable Alberta Women by Kay Sanderson with permission from the Famous Five Foundation

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