Headingley Heritage: Ruby McGuckin
by Amber McGuckin
A lot has changed in Headingley since Ruby McGuckin was raising mink, flowers and children in the area.
McGuckin (my nana) and her husband, Malcolm, came to Headingley in 1950.
“(It was) very dismal and it was all bush down the road,” she said.
They bought a lot on Empire Street for $3,500 from a couple they met while sailing from Ireland.
The lot featured four old streetcars made into mink pens, so the couple decided to start a mink farm. There were other mink farms and wild mink in the area from escaping nearby ranches. The couple set up traps to catch the mink and initially caught a squirrel, thinking it was a mink.
“My husband took it down to the neighbour and he laughed his head off at us,” she said. “We had never seen or heard of mink… we knew all about livestock and could take care of livestock but (mink) were different.”
Fur became unfashionable in the 1980s as people became concerned about animal cruelty and the fur industry.
“The mink business went bad and then there was no sale for mink. We didn’t know what to do but both of us knew how to grow things,” McGuckin said.
McGuckin wanted to start a market garden, but her husband didn’t want her to. She did it anyway.
“We had the three children, what else were we going to do?” she said.
The garden centre, RBM Gardens became a successful business until Malcolm—and then their daughter, my Aunt Belle—died in 1999, just three months apart.
Weeds now grow in place of the flowers and vegetable. The greenhouses have been torn down but the two main buildings still stand.
They’re still used in the winter, when Ruby’s son (my father, Roy) sells Christmas trees.
McGuckin, who refuses to reveal her age to anyone, even family, moved out of Headingley in the early 2000s. She says the area is unrecognizable from when she first arrived, 64 years ago.
“I can’t really believe it. It’s very difficult for me to get it through my head that it’s the same place. Even down Roblin Boulevard looks altogether different, too.”
Page revised: 1 March 2015