William Alexander Blain was born c.1852 at Blate’s Hill near Laurieston in Galloway, south west Scotland and grew up in Ferguslie, then a thatched cottage, Dalry, Galloway. When he was thirteen he went to work as a shepherd for a Mr. Johnston, Barndennoch, near Carsphairn. For thirteen years he followed shepherding in the Galloway Hills. However, “Saw little prospect of saving enough to shield me from poverty in my old age.” “my object in going to the colonys was to get hold of that glorious privilege of being independent.”. In 1878 he met Mr.John McCall in Dumfries who engaged shepherds for the Falkland Islands Company and agreed £65 per annum, free passage and return after five years. He sailed from London on the “Vicar of Bray” and worked for Bellion Bros. on the West Falklands for six years. In 1884 he was invited by Thomas Greenshields to start up a sheep ranch at Monte Dinero in Patagonia. Following Mr. Greenshields death, in 1889 Blain sold his own flock of sheep and accepted a job as sub-manager to a Mr. Wales who was establishing a sheep ranch in Indian territory in northern Tierra del Fuego. (A letter among Blain’s papers is headed “Mont. E. Wales, Tierra del Fuego Sheep Farming Company). Apart from an intervening period on Navarino Island, Blain worked for Wales until 1898. He then returned to Dalry – “and here I have remained” and settled in Main Street, next to his boyhood home. Blain died in 1924 aged seventy two years. He stayed a bachelor in Patagonia – “Neither heathen squaw or Chilean maid will be Mrs. Blain.” – but later married in Scotland and had a son, W.J.Blain.
William Blain’s papers were gifted by the family to the National Archives of Scotland The most important items are: narrative notebooks written in ink describing his times in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego; a daily diary for an early period, which begins at Useful Hill, Patagonia, and gives a detailed description of shepherding on the camp and the people he met, including Scots; a substantial list of the names of Indians and of the English equivalents of Indian words for a whole number of everyday terms; and an article based on his father’s records and submitted by his son on his father’s life in the Falklands, published in the Falkland Islands Journal, 1981.
For content of his diary visit the Scots in Argentina website.
Apart from some minor changes the original text has been retained. A few translations of Spanish words have been noted and question marks indicate obscure spellings, e.g. of ships and names.