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Manchester Life as the Second World War
March 25, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Manchester Life as the Second World War Comes Calling

Written by: Charles Morton

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 1, 2019.

This concludes the excerpts from Charles’ memoirs published over the last two years; they have described his youth in Manchester, England, leading up to the 1940 Manchester Blitz of WW II, which drastically changed his family’s future.

Home Again

Passing the scholarship exam to Manchester Central High School for Boys (MCHSB), which was the reason for my return home, did not mean that my education would be entirely cost free; tuition fees and textbooks were chargeable at a rate commensurate with family income, with the children of men serving in the armed forces being not only exempt of fees, but also entitled to free meals in the school dining room.

Readying for School

Dad at this time was steadily employed at Manchester Garages, but not very well paid, and the prospect of high fees was cause for concern. Shortly after my return to Manchester, while the Whitworth Street building stood empty during the school summer holidays, he took me to the school and met with Mr. Armstrong, the school registrar. Mr. Armstrong gently informed Dad that only school-authorized textbooks could be used, and that none of the small library that Dad had used in his own schooldays were of any current use.

(I was told by my mother that as a boy from a deprived family in which his own father, killed in an industrial accident when Dad was only a few months old, Dad had attended one of the famous “Bluecoat” schools in the area, although I have not been able to confirm this. Perhaps because of this, his educational standard was much higher than that of his contemporaries.)

It was finally agreed that in my circumstances, books would cost 9 shillings a term, while tuition fees would be 14 shillings. The school uniform consisted of a green blazer with the City of Manchester coat of arms crest on the breast pocket, grey flannel shorts, grey shirts (quantity two), a striped tie in school colours, grey socks with green bands around the top turndown (quantity two pair) and a black school cap, with green rings around it and a city coat of arms cloth badge at the front. Sportswear, consisting of black shorts with a green stripe, socks, a soccer shirt and rugby shirt as well as studded football boots and gym shoes, was also needed.

School uniforms and accessories were supplied from one of two official tailors: Hugh Marzland (on Whitworth Street itself) or Anderson’s (on Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, opposite the Rusholme Repertory Theatre). The school tailors were generally more expensive than the usual type of clothing store, but at this stage, before the imposition of clothing rationing created an easing of the requirements, the uniform was mandatory. With the books, tuition and uniform organized, all that remained now was to enjoy the balance of the holidays and await the opening of school at the beginning of September.

A Traumatic Start

The first day of high school was somewhat traumatic. In addition to the returning regular students, there was the fresh intake of new boys to be absorbed into “forms,” the British secondary school word for “grade.” In elementary schools, classes were referred to as “Standard” 1, 2, 3, etc.; but in secondary schools, in addition to changing the name to form, classes were renumbered from first form to sixth form (the final year) and subdivided into alphabetic classifications A to F, each class consisting of between 30 and 35 boys.

Initially, each first-year form was graded according to age, the oldest going into Form 1A and the youngest into Form 1F, while in subsequent years, alphabetical designation was established by progress, A being the brightest, B being a little less bright, down to E, the least academically bright.

It was something of a shock to arrive at school and be ushered into the assembly hall where the headmaster, Doctor E. F. Chaney, led the entire school in morning prayers. (Catholic and Jewish students had the option to attend their own prayer areas elsewhere in the school.) Following prayers, second form and higher students departed to their home classrooms, while the new intake of close to 200 boys waited to be called to the various parts of the room where their particular class was being assembled. It was here that I experienced the first of the odd occurrences that seemed to follow me for years.

After all the names had been called and the crowd dispersed to its assigned places, one boy remained in the centre of the hall: me. It seems that my name had been omitted from the list, and long after the rest had been conducted to their home class rooms, I had to wait until the record of my admittance was located and I was despatched to join the rest of Form 1E. This was a very unnerving experience at age 11!

Settling In

To a former student of a small church school like me, MCHSB was a revelation. A tour of the entire school introduced the new intake to a host of facilities: a fully mechanized and equipped woodworking room; art, geography and history rooms specifically furnished for their purposes; physics and chemistry rooms with tiered seats, full of Bunsen burners and glass retorts; a fully equipped gymnasium with showers; and individual desks with tops that served as lockers in each classroom.

The school covered five stories of classrooms, and a basement with a gym, massive cloakrooms (out of bounds during class hours), a huge dining room and even a school tuck shop, where in more peaceful times chocolate bars and other sweets could be bought. Even in wartime, with such items being rationed, the shop opened occasionally to dispense some scarce items.

Teaching began in subjects I had only vaguely heard of, including algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Languages were also included in the curriculum; two of them, Latin and German, were optional, while French was compulsory.

Each student was given a timetable listing the time and location of each subject, and when the end-of-period bell sounded, the corridors were crowded with all those changing classrooms. The back of the timetable listed the more than 40 teaching staff, together with their academic qualifications: mostly masters’ degrees, with the odd doctorate thrown in.

Attending school in the centre of town was a unique experience. At lunchtime, it was possible to get to the shops in Piccadilly and Market Street such as Woolworths, Wiles Toy Shop, Lewis’ Department Store and Bassett and Lowke’s, producers of wonderful train and ship models. For a small sum, thruppence a portion, an appetizing meal, much better than those at school, could be had in the Woolworths Cafeteria.

A short walk from the school, London Road (now Piccadilly) Station, the main terminus for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), provided the opportunity to view the locomotives and, if funds permitted, work a coinoperated machine, the object of which was to try and pick up a toy with a grab crane.

At that time, many of the goods arriving on trains were transported to their final destinations by LMS flatbed horse-drawn carts, which had four iron-rimmed wheels. Because most of the streets around the school were cobbled, these carts created a terrific noise as they rattled by, resulting in the school windows having to be kept shut so that lessons could be heard, even on very warm days.

Ever cost-conscious, I took the number 40 tram to school each day but got off at the corner of Grovesnor Street and Upper Brook Street where the tram turned left towards Oxford Road. By doing this I could save a halfpenny in fare by walking the rest of the way down Brook Street.

After a time, however, I was allowed to use my bike to Nin’s [my grandmother’s] on Sydney Street, leave the bike in her hall, and walk from there. This way cost nothing in tram fare, and there was the added daily advantage on my way home of being able to visit my grandmother’s, where there was always a welcoming treat of a biscuit and cup of tea.

Our Teachers

In the manner of English schoolboys, most teachers had nicknames bestowed on them that often fitted some particular characteristic of theirs or that might be their first names. Our Headmaster, Dr. F. Chaney, was known as “Fred”; his much-feared second-in-command, because of his narrow eyes and mean disposition, was “Piggy” Ogden. For unknown reasons, Mr. Lever, a sallow complexioned man, was known as “Fud,” while a physical training teacher who had himself been a pupil a few years before was “Nipper.”

One notable teacher was what was known as a “retread,” an elderly Anglican minister and former mathematics teacher brought in to help fill the gap in the teacher ranks. This was Dr. F. G. Chevassut (promptly named “Chevass” by the pupils). The doctor—very naïve in his knowledge of Manchester schoolboys—had, I heard, attended Eton as a boy and spoke in the accent of that establishment.

One of his favourite habits was to call a pupil who was misbehaving or failing to grasp a particular point a “silly ass,” which unlike today referred to a donkey, rather than part of the boy’s anatomy. Unfortunately, ass in an Eton accent comes out as “aaaarse,” which was immediately seized upon by the class. It became common for a boy to raise his hand and say things like “I’ve been a complete arse, Sir,” when called to account for any reason. This generated much silent mirth.

After I left school, I heard that Dr. Chevassut performed wonderful service in his parish in Hulme, one of the poorer districts of Manchester, taking a barrel organ to the streets to raise money. (It was the same cumbersome instrument that the veterans used to earn their keep when I was a small boy.) I understand that the city named a street in his parish after him.

Early War Experiences

Up to October 1940, the war had had little impact on our lives in Manchester, apart from becoming accustomed to the blackout and food shortages, which at that point only had a noticeable effect on the finer food products. In fact, now that food rationing was with us, all families made sure to obtain their food entitlement each week. The war had brought a great deal of employment, which provided families that had previously been unable to afford adequate food with the opportunity to feed their children properly. Illnesses such as rickets disappeared; indeed, it has since been established that the adequate and well-balanced diet, in limited amounts, created the healthiest generation that the country had ever known.

At school, apart from the occasional air raid drill, when the pupils had to hurry to designated “safe” areas of the building (my place was on the steps of the lower staircase, which did not seem to me to be particularly safe, especially since there were large windows at the top), things proceeded as though there were no war.

One factor that did have some impact was the departure of some of the younger teachers into the armed forces. Mr. Sinclair, a particularly good and well-liked geography teacher, left for the meteorological branch of the Royal Air Force, where he no doubt played a role in forecasting weather for operations.

Luckily, many teachers were veterans of the First World War and, being past military service age, remained with us. Professor O. C. de C. Ellis, for example, had served as a navigator with the French Navy.

To the boys, the other more important feature of the war was the closing of the school tuck shop, almost for the duration. At this stage, sweets were rationed, although even with sufficient ration points to be entitled to buy a limited amount, no candy was to be found anywhere. Rationing meant that a person could not buy more than his allotted share but did not guarantee that his share would necessarily be available to buy.

From the point of view of air attack, the distance of Manchester from the Continent made it unlikely, at least in the opinion of most Mancunians, that enemy aircraft would ever reach the city during daylight, especially having learned the lessons of such forays during the Battle of Britain from June to September 1940. The lack of proper shelter at school, therefore, did not bother anyone unduly.

There was also one misguided school of thought that enemy aircraft could not reach Manchester even at night, being unable to “cross the Pennines,” although in fact the route to Manchester did not include any need for this. There had been one or two alerts as early as July and August, when our sleep had been disturbed by the wail of the warning sirens, but nothing exceptional occurred apart from the odd bomb and propaganda leaflets dropped by one or two aircraft, mostly over residential suburbs.

German aircraft could be easily identified by the deep-throated throb of their engines, much different from our own planes. I later heard that the Luftwaffe deliberately de-synchronized their engines to thwart ground sound detection equipment, although this may have just been another of the amateur theories that abounded at the time.

Occasionally, the distant explosions of bombs in these nights might be heard, but it was the anti-aircraft guns which provided the most noise. Jagged metal splinters from the anti-aircraft shells, incorrectly known as “shrapnel,” fell in the streets, generally burning hot. To those not under direct attack by the enemy, the danger of being hit by jagged pieces of hot metal, often several inches long, was far greater than being hit by a bomb. Shell splinters were greatly prized by schoolboys, and there was a brisk trade in barter of the “two of mine for that big piece of yours” kind.

War Comes Closer

The raids got closer to Chorlton-onMedlock when, in a minor raid at the end of August, Paulden’s department store on Cavendish Street, close to All Saints Church, was hit. Bomb damage in these early days excited sufficient curiosity for many people to journey the following day to the site of what the authorities called the “incident,” marvelling at the power of a bomb. Although casualties were light, everyone seemed to have heard of someone who had been killed or injured.

Rumours were rife, and in the absence of any official detailed information (presumably for security reasons), many stories that were not factual were common gossip. It was wrongly rumoured at one time, for example, that the Palace Theatre had been hit when a bomb fell on a building close by, giving rise to a story that many people watching a show had been killed. I had my own experiences involving rumours later.

In early October one of a stick of bombs fell on Wilmslow Road, across the street from the Rusholme Repertory Theatre, destroying Anderson’s Tailor Shop, one of the official suppliers of our school uniform. A direct hit was made on the nurse’s residence of Manchester Royal Infirmary, the beautiful building behind the wall in York Place where we had played so often, making a fine mess of the large recreation hall. This bomb, though of light calibre, was close enough to shake our house on Livingstone Street, rattling all the windows and shaking books from shelves.

In November, the great raid on Coventry took place. In this raid, which claimed worldwide attention as an example of wanton destruction, Nin’s cousin, Andrew Jackson, lost his home to a bomb, barely escaping with his life. Uncle Andrew, as we called him, a jovial 74-year-old who played a concertina, was great fun. He was immediately invited by my grandmother to stay at her house on Sydney Street, and he proved a great companion who accompanied her everywhere, including her evening visits to the Medlock pub.


When war first broke out, the government issued steel shelters. The Anderson was made of corrugated steel and dug a few feet into a garden and then covered with a heavy layer of soil. These could protect a family from all but a direct hit from a bomb. However, since the Anderson required a garden to be dug into, and the houses on Livingstone Street had only small paved backyards, we did not qualify for one. There was also an indoor shelter, the Morrison, which, like the Anderson, was named after a government minister. A large heavy steel box, it was usually placed in the kitchen and often used as a table. In this, a family would be expected to lie like a row of sardines until rescue arrived. While these were apparently in use from the outset of war, we had heard nothing about them and therefore never received one. Safe or not, they reminded me of big steel coffins, and I had no desire to shelter in one.

As part of our own precautions, which included criss-crossing strips of gummed paper tape over our windows to prevent flying glass, my father obtained several stout lengths of wood, rather like pit props, and shored up the top and bottom of the cellar steps. The steps to the cellar were stone and ran parallel to and under the stairs leading to the upper bedrooms. Dad told us that in the Great War, when houses were demolished by shellfire, he noticed that the two most likely places to survive the building were the chimney and the staircase. The placement of strong props between the upper staircase and the cellar steps should make a shelter that could stand all but a direct hit.

As the days progressed, the shortages caused by the war were no more than irritants, as were the need to cover our windows nightly to meet the blackout requirements and the officiousness of our local air raid warden, Mr. Tipping, and his calls to “Put that light out!” even if anyone lit a cigarette outdoors after dark. He ignored the fact that in the improbable event such a light might be spotted by an enemy aircraft, it would be impossible to use it to identify a target!

One problem was that night raids disturbed sleep and made school attendance and attention difficult. Later in the war, I remember yawning during a physics class after sitting up half the night in a shelter, something that irritated Mr. Bowcott, the teacher, and earned me three of the best across the seat of my trousers.

Our Lives Would Change Soon

This situation changed drastically on the night of December 20, 1940: the night of the Manchester Blitz, which I described in a story previously published in the Spring 2017 issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots—Volume 23, Number 1.


Postcards from Around the World: Part II
March 25, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Barbara Tose

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 2, 2019.

In the Summer and Fall 2018 issues of ACR Barbara wrote about the postcards her grandfather, Tom Tose, sent his sweetheart, Olive Burdick Trott (later his wife), while travelling worldwide on a merchant ship. Part 3 continues with his journeys on the Gloriana and the postcards he sent.

At the end of my last article in the Fall 2018 issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots, Tom’s ship, the Gloriana had returned from Archangel to Portishead, near Bristol, where Tom and the rest of the crew were discharged. Tom had eight days off before his next voyage. Although I have no proof, I presume he would have taken that time to visit his sisters and other family members in Whitby and Stocktonon-Tees, in northeast England.

Tom signed on to his next agreement in Portishead on 16 August 1912 (1) and was expected on board the Gloriana at 8 a.m. on 17 August. In addition to the master and first mate Tom, also signing on the same day and time were the second mate, steward, cook, mess steward, carpenter, boatswain, first and second engineers and the donkeyman. The remainder of the crew, consisting of the third engineer, able seamen and firemen/trimmers, arrived the next day, making a total crew of 23, plus two apprentices aged 20 and 18.

This agreement was very similar to the last one: not to exceed more than one year with travel to ports between 75°N and 60°S, commencing at Portishead and headed for Portland (whether Dorset, Maine or Oregon, the agreement does not say, though Dorset is the most likely) via the Bristol Channel and Fowey, Cornwall.

There is a lot of fine print on a crew agreement, most of it standard wording to the seamen who worked the ships regularly, no doubt much like our “terms and conditions” on computer programs and apps. These agreements outlined many things, from where the ship would go, to which Board of Trade Regulations would apply, regulations for maintaining discipline and penalties for offences. It stated: “The crew agree to conduct themselves in an orderly, faithful, honest, and sober manner”―which may be why all the letters of recommendation I have for my grandfather mention his sobriety.

Throughout this period it is difficult to tell exactly when Tom sent his postcards, as most were sent in envelopes which are long gone, and are without postal cancellation stamps. So, the crew agreement becomes more useful in determining when the postcards were likely sent.

The first postcard in this series pictures a romantic couple sitting having tea. On the back Tom writes, “do you care for tea, Ollie. People at home, I think, would far sooner be minus food than that delicacy. Coffee & Cocoa is not much in demand.”

Another card in this series shows houses in the village of Portbury, Somerset, which leads me to believe that he sent this group of cards from Portishead before he left port.

The crew agreement papers show that their first stop was Bristol on 20 August, followed by Newport on the 21st. They reached Fowey on 3 September. From there they headed across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, arriving on 23 September. They left Philadelphia on 3 October leaving behind sailor Thomas Charning [my best guess at his surname] in hospital with a fractured elbow. In his place, Julian Marian was signed on before leaving the port. There are no identifiable postcards for these ports and no mention in the agreement as to what cargo they were carrying.

Their next stop was Pensacola, Florida and from here Tom sends at least one postcard showing lumber in the harbour. Tom writes,

This is a sample of some of our cargo. 2ft square some of these logs & 60 ft long All of it is pitch pine lumber Regret I forgot to enclose Sarahs cards [Tom’s older sister Sarah] as mentioned in my letter. You see Ollie that is the worst part of being in love. One gets kind of Wandering some times. Be good & drop a word at Kirk on our behalf. Fondest, you know. Tom

They were in Pensacola for eight days, arriving on 14 October and departing on the 22nd. It is noted in the agreement papers that J. Marian, the sailor who signed on in Philadelphia, has been left behind “on the ground of desertion.” I suppose the loss of wages and any items left on board might be worth a “free” trip from Philadelphia to Pensacola, though there could be any number of reasons why Marian didn’t show up for duty. James Clark was signed on in Marian’s place but failed to join the ship when expected. So Tom Henderson was signed on at the last minute.

The next port of call was Genoa, Italy. According to the crew agreement, the Gloriana’s registered tonnage was 3,050 (gross) with a nominal engine horsepower of 275. I don’t know how to calculate how long it would have taken to make the journey but the agreement states they arrived in Genoa on 26 November―just a little longer than the 15½ hour trip it would be today by plane. Six men were discharged here by mutual consent and six men were engaged to replace them.

The agreement doesn’t give the exact date they left Genoa but they arrived in Alicante, Spain on 8 December. Tom sent quite a number of postcards from here. One is a “bird’s eye view of A—” . Tom explains that

“The circular building in the centre is where all the Bull fights are held. So when you visit Alicante don’t fail to visit. July, August & September are the months.”

The Plaza de Toros looks very similar today, though the surrounding area is more built-up.

Tom also sent three postcards about the bullfights themselves—rather graphic ones, too. On these he writes about how the bullfight proceeds. Tom explains on the first one, titled Caida del Picador or Fall of the Picador,

“at the beginning of the fight, the picador enters the ring on horseback. His goal is to plunge spears into the bull to make him wild. Often the horses do not fare well. Once the picadors have raised the bull’s ire, the Matador enters the ring with sword and red cloth.”

The second postcard shows the matador facing the bloodied bull. Tom notes

“The Matador entices the bull with red flag or cloth & keeps jumping out of the way when he plunges for him until the opportunity arises when he can kill it outright Cruel Sport (eh).”

The final bullfighting card shows the “Arrastre”, the dragging from the ring of the dead bull. Cruel sport indeed! Tom tells Ollie that “quite the elite & bon ton visit such places.” I had never heard the phrase “bon ton” used before but apparently it means “fashionable manner or style.” (2) Tom tells Olive that the minimum charge to get into the ring is $4, no doubt a tidy sum in 1912. He teases “Come along Ollie will you come & see one” but also seems to have known that she would refuse, “Guess not (eh). Love, Tom.”

The fourth card from Alicante shows the harbour, where the Gloriana is “laid”, within its breakwater. Tom jokes that the steamer is “bound out for Adelaide, Ontario” and explains “Most steamers calling here is [sic] in the wine trade.”

The final card from Alicante is labelled Los Balnearios and shows Mount Benacantil on which sits the Castle of Santa Bárbara (3) . This fortification dates from the ninth century at a time of Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula and was a point of conflict throughout the years. Its military importance declined during the 18th century and by 1912 the castle had been abandoned for some time. It was opened as a tourist attraction in 1963. Tom says little about the photograph but instead writes: “Regret was unable to purchase Xmas cards. First time I missed for years. Every-one sends such like at home.” But adds “Something Similar to Rock Gibralter.”[sic]

Although I have several cards that say Buon Natale or Buon capo d’anno, which would indicate they were sent from a Spanish location in December, I presume they were sent another year because Tom stated on his card from Alicante that he had missed sending Christmas cards that year. Since they do not have any postage stamps on them and my grandmother did not make clear to anyone when she received the cards, I will never know but I have chosen not to include them here.

The Gloriana was in port at Alicante for only six days and on 14 December they headed out for Huelva, arriving there on 18 December. My father told me that, as a child, he would sit on his father’s knee with an atlas and his father would take him on trips around the world telling him of all the places he had been. I must say, I feel a little like that with these postcards―I had never heard of many of these places until I looked at the cards. Huelva is one such place. It is located in the southwest of Spain near the Portuguese border, west of Seville and north of Cadiz.

Tom sent two postcards from Huelva. One shows the town’s main thoroughfare, Calle de Joaquin Costa. Tom notes, “Lovely summer day for Xmas. fit for a pull down the river in a boat.” The second shows the steamship Don Hugo of London at the wharf being loaded with copper, according to the postcard title. The Don Hugo was a ship of 2,244 tons (gross), (3) so was just slightly smaller than the Gloriana. If you zoom in on the image of the ship’s back end, you can see the set up of the deck around the ship’s wheel and get an idea of what the Gloriana’s deck might have looked like.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos of the two ships from the same angle to compare. On the back of this card Tom tells Olive, “This steamer belongs [to] the iron ore company & is at present laid alongside wharf alongside the G—."

The Gloriana left Huelva port on 24 December and spent both Christmas and New Year at sea. One wonders if they had any kind of celebration on board for the two holidays or if they were just like any other days aboard ship. They returned to Philadelphia on 20 January 1913 for a short four-day stay. They must have been very busy unloading and loading before leaving on 24 January. It would appear Tom did not have time to send a card, let alone get to Canada to visit his sweetheart. In another card that gives no indication of where it was sent from or when, Tom says, “Hope you have forgiven me for not been [sic] able to come up. Never mind alls well. June will see T.W.T. at A—.”

Another unusual card has an old-fashioned clock on the front under the heading “Appointment Calendar”. On the clock itself is written “MEET ME AT 1:00 ON WHITBY VILLA STEPS THE 29½ DAY OF JUNE 1913 AT ADELAIDE”―the italicized words having been inserted by Tom. This seems to tie in with Tom’s reference on the previous card to being in Adelaide in June. Although Tom and Olive married on 6 May 1913, I suspect that they were planning on a June wedding until he was freed from his ship earlier than anticipated.

However, this voyage still had several stops to go before Tom would be free to head to Canada to marry his sweetheart. And I’m afraid you will have to wait for the next edition of ACR for the final details of his voyage and the postcards he sent along the way.

© Barbara Tose

Reference Notes:

1 BT 99 Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Agreements and Crew Lists, Series II, Gloriana, Ship No. 119869, 1911–1913, Maritime History Archives, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

2 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, dictionary/bon% 20ton, accessed 2 May 2019.

3 Wikipedia: Santa Bárbara Castle, Santa_Bárbara_Castle. 4 Scottish Built Ships, http://www. 87.


Finding 21 Children: Not So Simple!
March 25, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Finding 21 Children: Simple—Not So Simple!©

Written by: Jane L. Down

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 2, 2019.


Have you ever attacked a genealogy problem and thought “Oh, this is going to be simple!” only to find out that the problem is much more difficult than you thought? That is what happened to me when I tried to find the siblings of my maternal grandmother’s adoptive mother.

My maternal grandmother, Emily Jane Bignell, née Hosken, known to us as Nanny, was born in April 1893 in Dover, Kent. She was taken by the midwife, Harriet Ann Austen, raised by her and never told about her biological family.(1) My grandmother didn’t find out that she had been adopted until 1952 when she sent away for her birth certificate so that she could visit the USA. Up until that point, she had never had a birth certificate. The birth certificate came back with names of parents that she did not recognize, Frederick George and Elizabeth Hosken. (2) Elizabeth’s maiden name was Baldock.

Harriet Ann had died in 1907, so in 1952 Nanny wrote to Harriet Ann’s only living sister, Annie Rowland, to find out if she could shed some light on her parentage. I have the letter that Aunt Annie wrote back(3) In it, she told Nanny that Harriet Ann had attended her biological mother at her confinement. The mother was not well (her death was implied by the letter) so Harriet Ann took my grandmother and raised her as her own. When Harriet Ann died in 1907, my grandmother went to live with Harriet Ann’s other sister, Emily Jane Smith, née Austen.

Nanny never seemed to have questioned having a different surname from Harriet Ann—I think Nanny thought she was a child from a former marriage. But when Nanny read Aunt Annie’s letter, she told my mother that things started to make a bit more sense. Curiously, she never felt compelled to find her biological family. She felt the Austen family had treated her “like their own” and she was happy with that.

But when I heard this tale in 1971, I could not rest until I found out everything I could about Nanny’s biological family and her adoptive one, too. It is this birth story that launched me into my obsession with genealogy.

In Aunt Annie’s letter, she also wrote, “No there is [sic] not many of us left now. I am the last of our family out of 21 children.”

Over the years, I discovered that Nanny’s biological mother did not die in childbirth but went on to have more children after Nanny was born. (4) I kept wondering why the Hosken family would give a child to Harriet Ann. Did they know her? Was she related to them? In 1992, in a quest to find out if they might be related, I decided to find all of the 21 Austen children and see if any of them had married a Hosken or were related in some way. In the “old days,” childless relatives sometimes took younger cousins, nieces or nephews and raised them to unburden the biological family who had more children than they could care for or support. At the time of Nanny’s birth, Harriet Ann was childless and a widow. (5)

So, I thought, how difficult could this be? Just find the 21 children, find who they married and see if there was a connection. It was just another step in my long investigation of this family. Of course, 25 years ago, when I started this search, online records or even indexed records were not as plentiful as nowadays, so the search progressed slowly. As more and more databases of records came online, it made the search easier. When I started, I knew only that there were three Austen sisters: Harriet Ann, Emily Jane and Annie.

Information from Lucy Finch

One of the first things I did was write to Lucy Finch, née Smith. She and her sister, Lillian, were the only Smith children still living in 1992. Lucy was 90 and Lil was in a nursing home. I asked Lucy if she knew the names of her aunts and uncles on her mother’s side. She wrote back and said she knew only her mother, Emily Jane Smith, “Aunt Annie [Rowland] and Charlotte and Uncle Ted who lived in Dover.” (6) So that gave me two more children to look for in my searches—Charlotte and Ted.

Birth Records for Harriett Ann and Annie

Next, I wanted to find the names of Harriett Ann’s parents, so I needed her birth certificate or baptismal record. I did not know when she was born or where, but I did know that Harriett Ann died in 1907 and that she had married a Robert West when Nanny was young.(7) So I knew her name to be Harriett Ann West when she died. I was able to find her death registration in the English death indexes at the Family History Centre (FHC), and I sent away for her death certificate. (8) When it arrived, it said she was 53 years old at death, so she was born about 1854. Way back in 1992, I did search the FHC English indexes manually for Harriett Ann’s birth registration from 1853 to 1855 but did not find it. Many years later, when the indexes came online, I did find it in 1858 (9)—I just had not searched far enough.

In 1995, the 1881 census for England was indexed and made available at the FHC, and I was able to find Harriett Ann with her brother, James, and sister, Annie E. (Aunt Annie), in Minster, Kent. (10) I knew the family had lived in the Minster area, so I thought this family was likely the right one. The parents were Edward and Charlotte Austen. The census indicated that Annie was one month old and born in Minster. I thought finding her birth certificate would be easier than finding Harriett Ann’s. So, I found Annie’s birth registration in the indexes at the FHC and sent away for her birth certificate. When it came back, it gave her parents as Edward Austen and Charlotte Sidders.(11)

Adding Children Using Census Records

Knowing the parents’ names and as more census records became available online, over the years I was able to add to the list of children for this family. I found John (born about 1853), William (1855), George (1857/1858), Harriet A. (1859/1860), Mary A. (1861), Charlotte A. (1862), Edward W. (1855), Emily J. (1867), James H. (1869) and Annie Elizabeth(1881).(12) That totalled 10 children. I was still missing 11.

Adding Children Using Parish Records

The census records indicated that Edward, Charlotte and some of the children were born in Westbere, Fordwich and Minster, Kent. So, I ordered those church records at the FHC and confirmed baptisms for John, William Thomas, George Henry, Harriett Ann, Edwin Walter, Emily Jane, James Henry, Philip Isaac and Annie Elizabeth.(13) This added one more child, Philip Isaac, for a total of 11 children. I also confirmed baptisms for parents Edward in 1818 (son of William and Elizabeth) (14) and Charlotte in 1835 (daughter of Aaron and Mary Scissors, Scissors being considered a variant of Sidders).(15)

FreeBMD Searches

When FreeBMD came online, I searched it for hours trying to figure out whether I could identify more children, but there were just too many Austen entries, especially if you considered all the surname variants (Austin, Ashdown, Aston, etc.). There were too many possibilities to order birth certificates—it would have been too expensive. I also used FreeBMD to try to figure out whether there might be deaths at the same time as some of the births of the known children. This might account for multiple births, in that one child survived to be baptized while the others did not. I could not identify any strong possibilities—that is, strong enough to order a certificate.

Kent Parish Records on FindMyPast

Then FindMyPast (FMP) added the Kent church records and I was busy for hours and hours confirming baptisms of known children (16) and trying to see whether I could identify more children who might have been missed in the census because they were born and died in the intervening years between censuses. I have searched and searched that database but can find no other children of Edward and Charlotte. I also searched for burial records for Austen children on FMP. There were many, but the parents’ names were not given so it was very difficult to know whether they belonged to Edward and Charlotte.

Two Marriages for Edward or Charlotte?

Then one day, while at the FHC, I discussed my problem of finding/ not finding my 21 children with the fellow on duty. He asked whether I had considered a second marriage for either Edward or Charlotte. I had not considered that. So, I ordered Edward and Charlotte’s marriage certificate to see what their marital status was when they married.(17) Edward was a bachelor and Charlotte Sidders was a spinster— so neither was a widow or widower.

Charlotte would have been 17 when she married and Edward 34. The likely candidate for a former marriage would have been Edward, but he was supposedly a bachelor, as mentioned above. Further, I found Charlotte Austen in the 1891(12), 1901(18) and 1911(19) censuses, and she was always a widow. So, she did not remarry after Edward died.

Adding Children Using GRO Birth Database

So, try as I might, I was never able to find more than 11 of their children, a far cry from 21. Then, in July 2017, I had the brilliant idea to check the new General Registry Office (GRO) birth database. This database allows one to search for births and gives the mother’s maiden name, so you can be more certain whether the person is the one you seek. I searched this database from 1852 to 1890 and, not only was I able to find birth registrations for 10 of the 11 children, but I found four more.20 The children were registered with the mother’s maiden name of Sidders (there were none for Scissors or other variants). I could not find a birth registration for William Thomas, but I do have his baptismal record, so I am fairly certain that he is a child of Edward and Charlotte.

The four new children that I found—Frederick (1872), female (1875), female (1876), and Thomas (1877)—seemed to have died as infants.(21) The two females were not even named. I could find no church burial (except for Frederick(22)) or baptismal records for these four. So, without the GRO birth database, I would never have identified these children.

But this brought the number of children to only 15. I was still missing six children.

Back to Considering Two Marriages for Edward

I then spent a considerable amount of time playing with the idea that Edward did have a second family before he married Charlotte, even though he said he was a bachelor when he married her. The first wife would have died before 1852 when Edward married Charlotte, and all the children would have either died or been old enough to be on their own, as they did not appear in any census with Edward and Charlotte.

I surmised that, if Edward was born in 1818, then perhaps this first marriage occurred around 1838 to 1843. I looked for marriages for any Edward Austen on FMP in Kent around that time frame and found several, along with children for each marriage. As I worked through each of the Edwards, I knew that if the Edward I was working on continued to have children beyond 1852 then he could not be my Edward, as my Edward had married Charlotte in 1852. I also checked the 1861 census to see if the various Edwards were with their families. If they were, then I knew it was not my Edward—he was with Charlotte in 1861.

I worked through several families and then came upon one possibility. This Edward Austen married a Maria Henniker in 1842 and proceeded to have five children (not six!) from 1843 to 1851 I could find no more children for them after that and I could not find them in the 1861 census for England, Canada or the US. There were two problems with this family: I could not find a death for a Maria Austen, and many of the children from this family had the same names as the children of Edward and Charlotte. Wouldn’t Charlotte have given her children different names? Because of these peculiarities, I am not sure whether this is a first family for my Edward or not. And even if it belonged to my Edward, there were only five children not six. I eventually gave up on this avenue of investigation.

Why Only 15 Children, Not 21?

So, I had found only 15 children and was missing six. Why did Aunt Annie say she was the last of 21 children if there were not 21 children? I surmised the following seven possible scenarios to explain this:

  1. Aunt Annie lied—there were not 21 children, there were only 15.

  2. Aunt Annie counted her brothers and sisters as well as their spouses. This number would actually be 24 if Aunt Annie had counted everyone, or less if she did not know about some of the infant deaths. So, I am not sure whether this scenario explains Aunt Annie’s statement of 21 children or not.

  3. Edward lied on his marriage certificate to Charlotte. He really was a widower and Maria—or some other woman whom I cannot identify—was his first wife who died. Their younger children also died and so are not seen on any later census records with Edward and Charlotte.

  4. Charlotte and Edward took in foster children, and Aunt Annie counted these in the 21. I am not sure how likely this scenario is, as no foster child was found in any of their census returns. If they took in six foster children over the years, surely some of them would have shown up on their census returns.

  5. Aunt Annie counted miscarriages that her mother had, which would not have been recorded in any database of births, baptisms or burials. Did Charlotte have six miscarriages or fewer miscarriages of twins or triplets?

  6. Edward and Charlotte did not register some of the children who died shortly after birth or were stillborn. We know William Thomas was not registered, so maybe others were not registered as well.

  7. And finally, another scenario that I have yet to discover.


I think the most likely scenarios to explain the discrepancy are numbers 5 and 6. Even though I am not sure I will ever know the true answer, I will never stop looking for all 21.

Summary of Known Children of Edward and Charlotte Austen

  • Child’s Name Birth Year / Place Marriage / Year / Place Death Year / Place
  • John 1853 Westbere Did not marry – joined Army 1869 (24) 1874 Jamaica
  • William Thomas 1855 Westbere Margaret Kehoe about 1879 Canada (25) 1916 Canada (26)
  • George Henry 1857 Westbere Jane Elizabeth Knight 1883 Canterbury (27) ?
  • Harriett Ann 1858 Westbere 1. William Thomas 1888 Colchester, Essex 2. Robert West 1903 Canterbury 1907 Herne Bay
  • Mary Ann 1861 Canterbury - 1865 Bridge District (28)
  • Charlotte Anna 1863 Sturry Harry Hearn 1882 Minster? (29) ?
  • Edward/Edwin Walter 1864 Fordwich Mary Jane Hammond 1884 Buckland (30) ?
  • Emily Jane 1866 Fordwich William Charles Smith 1887 Minster (31) ?
  • James Henry 1869 Fordwich Annie Fields 1889 Minster (32) 1935 Canada (33)
  • Philip Isaac 1871 Fordwich - 1871 Bridge District (34)
  • Frederick 1872 Barham - 1873 Thanet District
  • Female 1875 Sturry - 1875 Thanet District
  • Female 1876 Ramsgate - 1876 Thanet District
  • Thomas 1877 Minster - 1877 Thanet District
  • Anne Elizabeth 1881 Minster Fred Rowland (35) ?

Checking for Connections Between the Families

I was not able to identify all of the 21 children, but I decided to check the nine who survived to adulthood to see whether there was any relationship between them or their spouses to the Hosken/Baldock families (which included all of Nanny’s biological parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles).

Unfortunately, I could not identify any relationship between the biological families and the Austen family through marriage.

I then decided to investigate a geographical connection. From the census, baptismal, birth and burial records that I collected, I examined all the parishes where the Austen/ Hosken/Baldock families lived to see whether any overlapped. Three parishes overlapped. First, Nanny’s biological maternal grandmother (Mary Baldock Groombridge Keeler, née Vant) lived in Barham from 1881 to 1891, (36) as did Edward and Charlotte Austen in 1872. However, the timeframe was off by nine years, so the families likely did not cross paths in Barham. Second, Nanny’s same biological maternal grandmother, (37) and Edward and Charlotte both lived in Canterbury Northgate in 1861 on streets not too far apart. Could the families have known each other?

Third, I looked at Dover, Nanny’s birthplace. I remembered Lucy’s letter said her Uncle Ted lived in Dover. Uncle Ted had to be Edward/ Edwin Walter Austen. I could not find him in the 1891 census for Dover (or anywhere), but I did find him in the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Dover.(38) All his children were born in Dover from 1887 to 1901, so he was likely there in 1893 when Nanny was born. In 1901, his occupation was “iron foundry furnace maker,” and in 1911 it was “Admiralty labourer, government dockyard.” In the 1891 census (39) and on Nanny’s birth certificate, Nanny’s biological father, Frederick George Hosken, was living in Dover and listed as a “mariner.” So, maybe Edward/Edwin and Frederick both had a connection to the dockyards. Were they friends? Did Harriett Ann come to Dover to visit her brother in 1893 and agree to help at the birth of his friend’s daughter (i.e., my grandmother)?

I returned to Aunt Annie’s letter and reread the part about my grandmother’s parentage. She wrote, “Now dear about your parentage. The name that the Registrar sent to you was correct. For my sister who you always knew as your mother, adopted you from birth. My sister attended your mother at the confinement and she was so ill, not expected to live. I do not know if she did die. So my sister took you and brought you up as her own. My mother and I went to Dover to see my sister and I sat on a chair and something moved and cried and that was you 4 days old. I sat on you. I was 12 years old.” Was Harriett Ann living on her own in Dover? Was she living with her brother? Or was she just visiting? I am not sure. I cannot find her in the 1891 or 1901 censuses, which would have helped to shed light on these questions.

So, was Harriett Ann just the local Dover midwife, or was she a friend who helped at the confinement? “Midwife” was not listed as her occupation in the 1881 census, and she was a “tailoress” on her first marriage certificate in 1888.(40) Perhaps she offered to take Nanny for a short period of time because the mother was sick, and things were so bad in the Hosken family that they were never able to take Nanny back. Certainly, it seems from later census and burial records that other Hosken children died, were sent to live with grandparents or were admitted to an industrial school. (41) The 1898 admission records for the industrial school indicate that the mother had abandoned the family.(42)

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, my perceived simple problem of finding 21 children turned out not to be so simple after all. I found only 15, and I found only geographical, not marital, connections between the adoptive and biological families. I still have many questions—but isn’t that just like genealogy?!

© Jane Down 2019

Reference Notes

1 For consistency, I have spelled the surnames “Austen” and “Hosken” throughout. In the records examined, I have encountered variants such as Austin, Hoskin and Hoskins.

2 Birth Certificate of Emily Jane Maud Hosken, 7 April 1893, St Mary, Dover, parents Frederick George Hosken and Elizabeth Baldock. General Registry Office reference: BB033545, 1893, J Qtr, Dover, Vol. 02A, p. 978.

3 Letter to Emily Jane Bignell, née Hosken, from Annie Rowland, née Austen, 27 August 1952; in possession of Jane Down.

4 Birth Certificate of Henry Albert Hosken, 14 July 1894, St Mary, Dover. General Registry Office reference: BXBZ 271577, 1894, S Qtr, Dover, Vol. 02A, p. 950. Birth Certificate of Mary Agnes Violet Hosken, 27 March 1896, St Mary, Dover. General Registry Office reference: BXBZ 271587, 1896, J Qtr, Dover, Vol. 02A, p. 1005.

5 Marriage Certificate of Harriett Ann Thomas (widow, father Edward Austin, deceased) and Robert West, 3 November 1903, Holy Cross, Canterbury. General Registry Office reference: MXD 504390, 1903, D Qtr, Canterbury, Vol. 2A, p. 1900. I am not sure when Harriett Ann was widowed, as I cannot find the death information for her first husband. I think she was widowed before my grandmother was born because her first husband was never mentioned in any of my grandmother’s family stories.

6 Letter to Jane Down from Lucy Finch, née Smith, 24 March 1992; in possession of Jane Down.

7 Information from Emily Jane Bignell, née Hosken.

8 Death Certificate of Harriett Ann West, 15 July 1907, Herne Bay. General Registry Office reference: DXZ 077405, 1907, S Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 467.

9 Birth Registration of Harriett Ann Austin, 1858, D Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 526; from General Registry Office, /certificates/Login.asp, accessed 9 August 2017. 10Edward Austin household, 1881 census of England, Minster in Thanet, piece 0983, folio 14, p. 21; Family History Library Film 1341233, Public Records Office reference RG11.

11 Birth Certificate of Anne Elizabeth Austen, 3 March 1881, Minster in Thanet. General Registry Office reference: BXBY 131511, 1881, M Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 917.

12 Edward Austen household, 1861 census of England, Canterbury, piece 519, folio 118, p. 14, household 89; from Ancestry,, accessed 9 August 2017. Edward Austin household, 1871 census of England, Fordwich, Bridge, piece 966, folio 86, p. 8; from FindMyPast,, accessed 23 July 2013. Charlotte Austin household, 1891 census for England, Minster in Thanet, piece 725, folio 10, p. 14; from FindMyPast, www.findmy, accessed 24 February 2014.

13 Baptisms for Austen children: John (30 April 1853 Westbere), William Thomas (22 March 1854 Westbere), George Henry (7 February 1857 Westbere), Harriett Ann (3 December 1858 Westbere), Edwin Walter (17 November 1864 Fordwich), Emily Jane (baptized Mary Ann Jane, 3 November 1866 Fordwich), James Henry (3 April 1869 Fordwich), Philip Isaac (10 July 1870 Fordwich) and Annie Elizabeth (16 March 1881 Minster); from Westbere, Fordwich and Minster Parish Church Baptism Records, Fiche 6342086, 6342074 and 6341514 at the Family History Library, 8 February 2002. 14 Baptism of Edward Austen, 19 July 1818, Westbere; from Westbere, Kent Parish Church Records, Fiche 6342086, at the Family History Library, 8 February 2002.

15 Baptism of Charlotte Scissors, 25 June 1835, Westbere; from Westbere, Kent Parish Church Records, Fiche 6342086, at the Family History Library, 8 February 2002.

16 Baptisms for Mary Ann Austen (7 February 1861 Canterbury, Northgate) and Charlotte Anne Austen (4 February 1863 Sturry) were added; from FindMyPast, www.findmypast., accessed 20 February 2014.

17 Marriage Certificate for Edmund Austen and Charlotte Sidders, 25 July 1852, Sturry, Kent. General Registry Office reference: 1852, S Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 805.

18 Charlotte Austen household, 1901 census for England, Folkestone, Kent, piece 846, folio 118, p. 32; from FindMyPast,, accessed 9 August 2017.

19 Charlotte Austin in Susanah Hook household, 1911 census for England, Folkestone, Kent, piece 4645; from FindMyPast,, accessed 23 February 2014.

20 Birth Registrations for Austen Children: John (1853, J Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 475), George Henry (1857, M Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 551), Harriett Ann (1858, D Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 526), Mary Ann (1861, M Qtr, Canterbury, Vol. 02A, p. 578), Charlotte Anna (1863, M Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 633), Edward Walter (1864, D Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 595), Emily Jane (1866, D Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 654), James Henry (1869, M Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 728), Philip Isaac (1871, S Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 669), Frederick (28 July 1872, Barham, BXCH 289910, GRO: 1872, S Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 697), female (3 July 1875, Sturry, BXCH 289888, GRO: 1875, S Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 733), female (15 May 1876, Ramsgate, BXCH 289953, GRO: 1876, J Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 870), Thomas (26 April 1877, Minister, BXCH 289887, GRO: 1877, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 816), and Anne Elizabeth (3 March 1881, Minster, BXBY 141511, GRO: 1881, M Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 917); from General Registry Office, https://www. gro. /Login.asp, accessed July 2017.

21 Death Registrations for: Charles Frederick Austen (1873, S Qtr, Blean, Vol. 02A, p. 375, age 1), female Austin (1875, D Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 503, age 0), female Austin (1876, M Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p. 487, age 0), and Thomas Austin (1877, J Qtr, Thanet, Vol. 02A, p.486, age 0); from General Registry Office, uk/gro/content/certificates/ p, accessed 9 August 2017. 22 Burial for Charles Frederick Austen, 29 July 1873, Sturry, 1 year old; from FindMyPast,, accessed 9 August 2017.

23 Marriage of Edward Austen and Maria Henniker, 17 April 1842, Westwell, Kent and Baptisms for Children of Edward and Maria Austen: William (17 February 1843, Westwell), John (8 June 1845, Westwell), Edward (3 January 1847, Westwell), Thomas (31 December 1848, Westwell) and George (29 June 1851, Westwell); from FindMyPast,, accessed 19 July 2017.

24 I could not find a marriage for John Austen or a burial record in Kent that seemed right. Fellow Austen researcher, Jim Feetham, kindly directed me to the following military records for John and his brother, William Thomas. John Austin, Military Service, 97th Foot Soldiers (joined 29 July 1869 at Dover, born Westbere, Kent, Church of England, age 18, height 5’ 6¾”, Labourer, Died 5 July 1874 Jamaica, Remittent Fever) and William Austin, Military Service, 97th Foot Soldiers (joined 21 May 1871 at Dover, born Canterbury, Kent, Church of England, age 17, 5’ 5½”:, Farm Servant, Discharged 6 July 1878); from The National Archives, WO25, 97 Foot, piece 542C; on Ancestry,, Canadian, British Regimental Registers of Service, 1756–1900, accessed 22 August 2017.

25 Estimate from Jim Feetham, fellow Austen researcher, 26 February 2014. To date, a record of this marriage has not been found.

26 Death Registration for William T. Austin, 24 February 1916, Halifax, Halifax County, Book 21, p. 66, number 391; from Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, https://www. spx?ImageFile=21-66&Event= death& ID=94257, accessed 22 August 2017.

27 Marriage Banns for George Austin and Jane Elizabeth Knight, 13, 20, 27 April 1883, Sturry; from FindMyPast,, accessed 31 July 2017.

28 Death Registration for Mary Ann Austen, 1865, J Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 364, age 4; from General Registry Office, content/certificates/Login.asp, accesssed 11 August 2017. 29 Marriage Banns for Charlotte Austin and Harry Hearn, 5, 13, 19 February 1882, Minster in Thanet; from FindMyPast,, accessed 11 August 2017. No actual marriage record, other than these Banns, could be found for this couple, so I am not sure whether Charlotte married Harry. There were a few other possible marriages for Charlotte Austen in Kent from 1882 to 1884, but when I located the families in the 1891 or 1901 census (or failed to locate them, sometimes), the birthplace for Charlotte was wrong (i.e., not Sturry).

30 Marriage of Edward Walter Austin, 20, and Mary Jane Hammond, 20, 13 April 1884, Buckland (near Dover), father of groom, Edward; from FindMyPast,, accessed 13 August 2017.

31 Marriage of Emily Jane Austin, 22, and William Charles Smith, 23, 21 November 1887, Minster in Thanet, father of bride, Edward; from FindMyPast,, accessed 12 August 2017. 32 Marriage of James Henry Austin, 20, and Annie Fields, 23, 21 September 1889, Minster in Thanet, father of groom, Edward; from FindMyPast,, accessed 3 January 2014.

33 Death Registration of James Henry Austin, 15 November 1935, Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada. Birth date 12 March 1870, England. Father Edward Austin. Mother Charlotte Anna Scissors; from Family Search, https://familysearch. org/pal: MM9.1.1/FL2N-84W, accessed 26 February 2014. 34 Death Registration of Philip Isaac Austen, 1871, S Qtr, Bridge, Vol. 02A, p. 395, age 0; from FindMyPast,, accessed 28 February 2014.

35 Information from my mother, Gladys Down, née Bignell, 1971. Also, Aunt Annie’s name was “Mrs Rowland” on the envelope sent to my grandmother in 1952 (see source 3). I cannot find the marriage record for Annie Austen and Fred Rowland.

36 Mary Keeler, in Stephen Keeler household, 1881 census of England, Barham, piece 955, folio 75, p. 21; from Ancestry,, accessed 27 November 2016. Mary Keeler, in Stephen Keeler household, 1891 census of England, Barham, piece 705, folio 61, p. 15; from Ancestry,, accessed 27 November 2016.

37 Mary Baldock household, 1861 census of England, Canterbury St Mary’s Northgate, piece 519, folio 104, p. 26; from Ancestry, www.ances, accessed 27 November 2016. Mary Groombridge in Edward Barnes household, 1871 census of England, Canterbury St Paul Northgate, piece 967, folio 11, p. 16; from Ancestry,, accessed 27 November 2016.

38 Edward W. Austin household, 1901 census of England, Dover, piece 838, folio 75, p. 34; from FindMyPast,, accessed 13 August 2017. Edward Austin household, 1911 census of England, Dover, piece 4612, household 103; from Ancestry,, accessed 13 August 2017.

39 Frederick Hosken household, 1891 census of England, Dover, piece 743, folio 81, p. 19; from FindMyPast,, accessed 21 August 2017.

40 Marriage Certificate of Harriett Ann Austin and William Thomas, 27 March 1888, Colchester, Essex. General Registry Office reference: 1888, M Qtr, Colchester, Vol. 04A, p. 492.

41 Florence Hosken (sister to Emily Jane Hosken), in Frederick Hosken (grandfather) household, age 11, 1901 census of England, Dover, St Mary, piece 841, folio 132, p. 8, household 51; from Ancestry,, accessed 8 August 2017. Burial Henry Albert Hosken (brother to Emily Jane Hosken), 12 April 1898, Dover, St Mary the Virgin, age 3; from FindMyPast,, accessed 8 August 2017. John Hosken (brother to Emily Jane Hosken), in Kent County Industrial School, age 10, 1901 census of England, Kingsnorth, St Michael, piece 784, folio 74, p. 3, household 1; from Ancestry,, accessed 8 August 2017.

42 Admission Record for John Hoskin (906/112) and Frederick George Hoskin (905/183) to the Kent County Industrial School (Standhope), C/ST/1/4. 1898–1902, indicated that: John was 7, Frederick was 10, they were both admitted 26 February 1898, they were in non-compliance with school attendance and the mother had left the home. Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone. Records kindly supplied, with thanks, by Valerie Ellmore, née Hosken, granddaughter of John Hosken


Postcards from Around the World: Part IV
March 25, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Barbara Tose

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 3, 2019.

Barbara has written about the postcards her grandfather, Tom Tose, sent his sweetheart, Olive Burdick Trott, while travelling worldwide on a merchant ship, in the Summer 2018, Fall 2018 and Summer 2019 issues of ACR. Part IV concludes his journeys on the Gloriana and the postcards he sent prior to his marriage to Olive.

In the last issue, we left the Gloriana in Philadelphia. It was a quick turnaround, not long enough for Tom to get to Canada and visit his sweetheart.

Before returning the crew agreement papers to the ship’s master, the Vice Consul, Hugh Alex Ford, notes that the “average rate of exchange during this Vessel’s stay at this port for bills on England at three days sight was $4.86 to the ₤ Sterling.”(1)

Just where they went next was a mystery which I needed to solve. Above the next clear entry for Aarhus, Denmark is another consular stamp. Unfortunately, the stamp’s place name, unlike the others, is not at all visible. However, the date the stamps were applied is quite clear, written by hand over the image which I presume represents King George V: 31/1/13. A clue was given in what remains of the Vice Consul’s written words. Starting in mid-sentence it stated, “he has signed the same in my presence”. Puzzling over this problem, it suddenly hit me that someone had signed on to the agreement at this port!

I quickly shuffled my papers to look at the particulars of engagement, in which each man signs on and off the agreement as he joins and leaves the ship. There, at the very bottom of page six, was James W. Coffman, age 22, from Harrisburg, Pa., formerly of the Holland, who signed onto the Gloriana 31/1/13 in Baltimore!

For some unknown reason, the top half of the last page of this agreement is missing. What would have appeared in that half are the details of the stop in Baltimore and, on the other side of the page, possibly another port after Kolding, Denmark and some of the details of their final stop in Antwerp. However, thanks to James Coffman, I know that they stopped in Baltimore before they headed back to Europe. Before realizing the above, I attempted to find the 1913 Vice Consul, H.G. Bowle online. Unfortunately, I didn’t locate him, but I did find a useful resource for anyone looking for British Consulate personnel. A Directory of British Diplomats, (2) compiled by Colin Machie, is available for free, online. Part 1 is arranged alphabetically by the surnames of the diplomats.

The journey back to Europe took slightly longer than their fall 1912 voyage west from Fowey to Philadelphia. The Gloriana departed Baltimore on the 31 January and arrived in Aarhus, Denmark on the 27 February 1913. Aarhus is located on the east coast of the Jutland Peninsula and boasts a natural harbour which has made it a centre for seaborne trade for centuries.(3)

The Gloriana was only in port for a few days but Tom took the opportunity to send a couple of postcards to Olive. One of two with “Hilsen fra Danmark” (Greetings from Denmark) on the front, shows the flag and coat of arms of Denmark. On the back, Tom jokes “This is the Adelaide coat of Arms. [Adelaide, Ontario is where Olive was living at the time.] Don’t suppose there is any (eh). Whitby is three headless snakes on shield.”

On the reverse of a fine view of the interior of Marcus Beck’s farm, now a Danish cultural heritage site, Tom again jokes, “Olives [sic] bungalow, Whitby, quite a nice place on balcony to sling your hammock. forget [sic] now if there are any houses in A—[Adelaide] similar. Oh, that tease.”

After just two days they moved down the coast to Kolding, arriving on 27 February. Tom must have had more time on his hands for he sent quite a few cards to Olive from this city. Teasing Olive is a common occurrence in Tom’s cards. There are two overviews of the city from the Tivoli amusement park. On the back of one he writes “View of Kolding. Something like Strathroy in the distance. Be good I mean you not me Miss Trott.” On the back of the second view, he comments on the weather― “Should say, quite nice around here in the Summer, but now its [sic] too cold to get around even if my girlie was here Sweet Repose.”

He also chose a couple of different postcards to send to his fiancée. One is titled “Spillekortssprog” and sports a couple kissing within a heart in the centre surrounded by playing cards.

On the back Tom has written “Spillekortssprog means language of cards” and gives the meanings of each, noting along one side that “Our super cargo a dane [sic] of course just translated the lot. Gee Whiz.” (I don’t know if I’ve noted this before, but Tom was not big on proper punctuation!)

A second card has a photograph of some castle ruins surrounded by an array of colourful Danish stamps. On the back Tom has written “All the Danish stamps quite an assortment (eh) There is 100 ores in 1 shilling and 3 half pennys [sic] or 24 cents.”

The final one from Kolding shows a train with a painting of what I believe is a train station on the front of the engine with the words “Rejsehilsen fra Kolding” (Greetings from Kolding) underneath it. There are three bands (red, white and red) around the smokestack, a brass “plate” in front of that and what looks like brass trim around the windows and parts of the engine. Tom explains “All the trains are owned by the government & they carry the red band round Smokestack.”

None of the cards Tom sent Olive seem overly romantic, nor is what Tom wrote anything but lighthearted teasing or interesting tidbits of information about the places he visited. Perhaps he saved the more serious things for longer letters which did not survive. Still, these cards must have meant a great deal to Olive for her to keep them all those years.

From Kolding the Gloriana may have stopped at Nakskov, another Danish port nearby. I have postcards from there, but with no indication of dates on the cards and no crew agreement entries to prove it, I cannot say with any certainty that they stopped at Nakskov.

What I do know is that the Gloriana left Kolding on 3 March and ended up in Antwerp, Belgium sometime before the 15th of that month. It was in Antwerp on 15 March that the whole crew was discharged.

The Crew Agreement Index (4) at the Maritime History Archives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador indicates no further crew agreements for the Gloriana (ship number 119869) until 1923. The WRECKSITE, (5) a website providing information on ships’ histories, states that the Gloriana was sold in 1913 to a Belgian company and that she worked out of Antwerp after the sale. Since she would have been foreignowned at that point, there might not have been crew agreements filed under the British system. She may have been used during the war as a transport vessel for either men or munitions. Or the records for those years might simply reside elsewhere, such as at The National Archives (Kew) or the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), but I have yet to find records for voyages during that ten-year gap.

What happened to the crew? They were paid off, receiving the balance of their wages due, their discharge papers and possibly letters of recommendation. It was obvious that Tom was saving for something big. He was being paid £10 per month; the second mate received £8. 10s per month. Yet Tom received £52 5s 6½d in accumulated pay, while his fellow officer received only £15 14s 1d for the same period worked.

Once discharged, the crew would have to find work on another vessel or pay their own way home, as per the agreement they had signed the year before. British sailors could sometimes find a cheap ride home on another ship, but most just found another ship requiring crew and signed on until they reached home or until the termination of the crew agreement.

Tom must have made his way home to England one way or the other, then traveled onward to Canada. According to information my grandmother passed on to my mother,(6) Tom arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the Rappahannock, another ship owned by the Furness Withy & Co. Ltd. for whom Tom had been working. He may have worked his way to Canada, which would explain why I haven’t found him on any passenger lists. He must have arrived earlier than the June he spoke of in his earlier postcards, for Tom and Olive were married from her uncle’s home in Adelaide village on 6 May 1913.(7) Following their marriage, they visited friends and relatives and did some travelling. At the end of June, they left Halifax, landing in London 10 days later. They visited Tom’s sisters in Stockton-on-Tees and Whitby, North Yorkshire, and cousins in Newcastle. They rented a house for 1 September in his hometown of Whitby. Tom later dubbed this house “Adelaide Villa,” just as he had referred to Olive’s Adelaide home as “Whitby Villa.”

On 30 December 1913, Tom was in Leith, Scotland, where he signed on board the Pennine Range for a voyage of three year’s duration.(8) He gave his home address as 20 Esk Terrace in Whitby. For the first time in his career, Tom had his own home to list as his address, rather than his mother’s or sister’s.

If the First World War hadn’t come along, my life might have been very different. On 15 and 16 December 1914 the Germans shelled Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby, all on the northeast coast of Britain. Fifty shells were fired at Whitby’s signal station and the town.(9) The raid started just after 9 a.m. on the 16th and lasted 10 minutes. Only three people in Whitby were killed but the two-day raid killed 137 people in total and injured another 592. Houses along Esk Terrace sustained damage though Olive was lucky—only the windows were shaken out of number 20.

Tom was concerned for Olive’s safety. He had been put on a regular munitions run between London and Philadelphia and Olive had a halfbrother in Ontario who was dying from tuberculosis. And so it was decided that Olive would return to Canada. She left on the Grampian in April 1915. She lived with relatives and friends in Adelaide and traveled to Philadelphia every six weeks to see Tom. On 8 March 1917, Tom’s ship, the East Point(10) was torpedoed and sunk about nine miles from the Eddystone Lighthouse, while carrying a general cargo from London to Philadelphia. The crew took to the lifeboats; no East Point casualties were reported.

At this point, Tom decided to wait for another ship from Canada. In October 1917, he and Olive moved to the farm she had inherited from her half-brother near Camlachie in Plympton Township. There Tom tried his hand at farming but apparently wasn’t much of a farmer, although he was an active member of the community for around 10 years. My father was born in 1926 and a brother, Kenneth William, was stillborn in 1927.

According to Olive, Tom eventually returned to work on lakers, then he piloted on the St. Lawrence. Finally, he returned to ocean-going vessels but this time only as an able-bodied seaman, not as first mate. I discovered him on his last working voyage when his ship, the Tremorvah, stopped in New York City on its way to Buenos Aires. (11) By the time he got to Buenos Aires, he was too ill to carry on working and was left in hospital there.

A month or more later, he returned to England on board the Arlanza (12) as a “Disabled British Seaman” (D.B.S.). Upon his return, he was admitted to the Greenwich Seaman’s Hospital, where he died 10 March 1936. (13) Olive was informed of his death by the local minister but could not go to England nor afford to bring his body to Canada. He was buried in the plot his brother-in-law had purchased for his wife, Tom’s sister Adelaide, and himself. Neither Olive nor my father ever saw Tom’s grave, but at my Dad’s request, we scattered some of his ashes on his father’s grave.

Whether Tom continued to send postcards to Olive as he traveled the globe and Olive just didn’t preserve them, or whether he stopped writing to her once he had won and married her, I will never know. But I’m thankful to my grandmother and mother for preserving these glimpses into Tom’s and Olive’s lives and the views of the past they provide.

Reference Notes:

1 BT 99 Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Agreements and Crew Lists, Series II, Gloriana, Ship No. 119869, 16 August 1912–15 March 1913. Maritime History Archives, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. All references to movements of the ship and crew come from this Agreement and Crew List.

2 Colin Mackie (compiler), Directory of British Diplomats (London, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 2013, updated 3 February 2014), available online at bdd_part_1_with_covers/84 accessed 6 August 2019.

3 Wikipedia, Aarhus; pedia .org/ wiki/Aarhus, accessed 12 August 2019.

4 Crew List Index (ship number 119869), Maritime History Archives, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland. holdings/viewcombinedcrews.php?Offi cial_No=119869; accessed 16 August 2019.

5 WRECKSITE, https://www.wrecksite. eu/wreck.aspx?141390, accessed 10 August 2019; Gloriana, Ship number 119869: 1913 Antwerpsche Zeevaart Mij. - D' Haene J. & Co., based in Antwerp, purchased the Gloriana from Furness Withy & Co., West Hartlepool and renamed her Remier. This may explain why there are no crew agreements listed in the Crew List Index for ship number 119869 (although her name changed, her official number did not) from 1913 to 1923 and why Tom had to find another way home. However, the Maritime Crew List Index does not include all agreements and crew lists held by many institutions elsewhere, including The National Archives or The National Maritime Museum. I have not yet been able to check these locations for possible agreements for the Gloriana. Read more about the Gloriana’s history and fate at WRECKSITE at https://www. 3372.

6 Notes in the author’s possession taken by Norma Tose of conversations with Olive (Burdick) Tose 1950–1961. What is known of Tom and Olive’s movements following their marriage comes from these notes.

7 Ontario marriage certificate in the author’s possession.

8 BT 99 Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Agreements and Crew Lists, Series II, Pennine Range, Ship No. 114656, commencing 30 December 1913. Maritime History Archives, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

9 History of War website, “Whitby Raid,” 16 December 1914; http://www. 914.html; accessed 16 August 2019.

10 Great War Forum, reply to Falloden query by Lancashire Fusilier, 17 May 2014. /topic/211646-sinking-of-ss-eastpoint-and-death-of-u-48-captain/; accessed 16 August 2019.

11 Ancestry, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820–1957, Tremorvah, arrival 22 September 1935; accessed 5 September 2010.

12 Ancestry, U.K. Incoming Passenger Lists 1878–1960, Arlanza, arrival 14 January 1936, Southampton; accessed 5 September 2010.

13 Death certificate in the author’s possession, issued by the General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales. TOSE, Thomas William, GRO ref.: 1936 Mar qtr, Greenwich, Vol. 01D, Pg. 1112.

© 2019 Barbara Tose


The Story on the Stone: Part II
March 25, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

The Story on the Stone: Part II—Secrets of the Grave©

Written by: Carol Annett

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 3, 2019.

This story, a sequel to a 2010 ACR article, resulted from the discovery of new information found by stepping away from the computer and connecting with people in Glengarry County, Ontario, where her McKinnon ancestors lived.

Angus ‘Bridge End’ McKinnon

The nickname was unfamiliar, but I knew that “Angus ‘Bridge End’ McKinnon” was my relative. Angus, who was my great-great-great-halfuncle, had been dubbed ‘Bridge End’ by the authors of a book I came across by chance at the Glengarry County Archives in Alexandria, Ontario.(1) The MacKINNONS/McKINNONS of Glengarry & Prescott is a self-published compilation of MacKinnon genealogies. The authors devoted separate chapters to numerous well-documented families. However, families such as Angus’s, for whom they found no research done, warranted less space. On Angus’s sparse page, there is no mention of his father, Archibald McKinnon, who was my great-great-great-grandfather, or of Angus’s seven surviving siblings— one of whom was my great-great-grandfather, Alex McKinnon— although they were also Glengarry McKinnons. When the book was published in 2012, Angus was the only member of his family listed.

Angus’s page includes a map, a photo, a few lines of text and a family tree. The map shows the location of his farm near the village of Bridge End, hence the nickname.(2) The photo shows St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church in Glen Nevis, where the authors knew Angus’s widow, Margaret, was buried in 1931. From her death notice, their sole source for the text, the authors had gleaned that her son, D. A., was living on the family farm; another son, Archie, lived in Hogansburg, New York; and Archie’s son, Kenneth, lived in Syracuse, N.Y. (3) A family tree on Angus’s page is made up of these five people—Angus, Margaret, D. A., Archie and Kenneth. “This represents not only the beginning but also the end of this family line,” concluded the authors, relegating Angus to a chapter with other MacKinnons who had “faded into obscurity.”(4) Angus might have had his own chapter if the authors had read my article in the Fall 2010 issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots: “The Story on the Stone: Remembering Angus McKinnon.” (5) Now, there is even more to add to the story.

The Story on the Stone: Part II

The ‘stone’ in the title of my 2010 article refers to a headstone in the cemetery of the Church of St. Margaret of Scotland in Glen Nevis, Ontario (see front cover). Except for an infant son buried at nearby St. Raphael’s Church in 1879 and an adult son, Archie, who was buried in Hogansburg, NY, in 1945, all the members of Angus McKinnon‘s immediate family were buried at Glen Nevis.(6-12) Six names are recorded on three sides of the tall column: Angus McKinnon; his wife, Margaret McDonald; three of their sons—engraved as A. J., A. A. and DONALD Al—and Donald Alex’s wife, Jane Frances MacGillis. As far as I knew, the people named on the stone were the only ones buried in the ground. I found out that I was mistaken.

Who was buried in Angus McKinnon’s plot? Three years after writing “The Story on the Stone,” I learned, thanks to some helpful Glengarry County residents, that a whopping total of eleven people were buried in the same grave site. The story on the stone does not match the secrets of the grave. This called for a sequel. In “The Story on the Stone, Part 2: Secrets of the Grave,” the eleven people who share this plot are rescued from obscurity.

A visit to Angus’s farmhouse

In August 2013, my husband and I planned a two-day stay in Glengarry County. The purpose of the trip was to visit the former McKinnon farmhouse, a few miles down the road from the church where Angus McKinnon was buried. Of seven brothers, Angus was the only one who owned a farm in Glengarry County. Men from three generations of my McKinnon family—my great-great-great-grandfather, Archibald, his son, Angus, and grandson, Donald Alex— had lived in the house on the east half of Lot 12, Concession 6, Lancaster Township not far from the village of Bridge End.

Though Angus’s father first purchased the property in 1873, Angus bought the farm from him in 1874 and so it is Angus McKinnon’s name that appears on the map in the Belden Historical Atlas of 1879. (13,14) The farm remained in the same McKinnon family for over 90 years, until the death of Donald Alex’s widow in 1965.

I had been in touch with the present owners of the farmhouse and had sent them a copy of “The Story on the Stone.” Inez Franklin and her husband Mallory invited me and my husband to come by the house one evening during our stay. Inez warned me that there wasn’t much to see. The logs of the original house are hidden under siding. She said she knew little about the history of the house or its former residents. That was fine with me. I knew the history. I just wanted to see the place, which is the closest my family has to an old homestead.

We arrived at the farm after supper. Inez and Mallory welcomed us warmly. They showed us the exterior of the house and took us inside the lofty square-timber barn, which dates from the early 20th century, when Donald Alex McKinnon owned the farm. They knew that the 19th century log house had initially been situated north of the present location, where the Rivière Beaudette cuts through the north end of the narrow lot. Presumably the river served as a transportation route at that time. Later, when Concession Road 6 was serviceable, the house was moved close to the new thoroughfare. Mallory said that the logs were likely dismantled and reassembled in the new location.

By the time the McKinnons bought the property in 1873, the little log house was in the same place where the present house stands. Nowadays, however, the log structure is covered with siding and sandwiched between two modern additions that more than double the interior living space.

We talked outside until it was dark and then continued our visit inside, around the kitchen table.

Over a glass of lemonade, I told Inez and Mallory that six people who had lived in their house were buried in the cemetery of St. Margaret’s Church up the road. I casually mentioned that two other relatives, who had not lived at the farm, were also buried in the cemetery at St. Margaret’s. The burials of Angus McKinnon’s brother, Alexander McKinnon, and his wife Catherine McDonald are recorded in St. Margaret’s parish record.(15) But I couldn’t find their gravestone in the cemetery.

On hearing of my missing headstone, Inez picked up the telephone and called her brother, who happens to be the cemetery custodian at St. Margaret’s. Minutes later, Leighton McDonell was sitting beside me chatting about the many stones lost from the cemetery over the years. He described how dowsing rods are sometimes used to locate graves with no headstones. “Is there an actual record of who was buried in which plot?” I asked. “Yes,” said Leighton, and he invited me to meet him the next day at the rectory. Soon, we thanked our gracious hosts and said goodnight. We retired to our room at the B&B beside St. Margaret of Scotland Church totally unaware of the surprises in store for us the following day.

Secrets of Plot 70

The next morning, I strolled next door to meet Leighton. He led the way into the rectory office. There, he unlocked a large, antique-looking fire safe, pulled out some books and placed them on the desk. Within seconds, he located the only McKinnon in the alphabetical index of the cemetery record: Angus McKinnon, 12-6, Plot 70. Leighton opened the book to page 24 where the names of those interred in Plot 70 were listed. Both of us stared at the page, dumbfounded. There were so many names in Plot 70 that the entry overflowed into the margin. Were all these people buried in the same plot? “

Angus McKinnon 12-6” was the designated owner of plot 70. Leighton found a ledger in which it was noted that “perpetual care” was paid for plot 70, belonging to Angus McKinnon of 12-6 Lancaster. The name of the person who paid the bill and the amount paid were not listed. Leighton wasn’t sure how much it would have cost. “About $5.00 at that time,” he guessed. For eleven people, that works out to less than $0.50 per person.

After I took photos of the list of people in Plot 70, Leighton and I walked out to the cemetery to look at the stone marking this crowded plot. There is ample space around the McKinnon stone to accommodate an extra-large plot. We discussed the engraving on the stone at some length. The wording of the inscriptions suggests that this is a grave marker, not merely a memorial stone. We concluded that the eleven people named in the ledger are interred in the same plot. I thanked Leighton for his help. Then I went home to research the people sharing this oversized grave. I discovered that Plot 70 was not only crowded with people—it was chockfull of history.

Analysing Plot 70

To understand the entries in Plot 70, I created a table listing the eleven people in the order of their year of death. The first column lists the names engraved on the stone; the second column lists the corresponding names recorded in the plot book. The last three columns include details about each person as well as where they were living when they died, the year of death and their age at death. As I added data to the table, I observed the following: one child’s name was unfamiliar; one person had no death date; the names of six people were engraved on the stone; and the names of five others were not. Of the five ‘extra’ people, two were known to me and three of them were a mystery.

A misnamed child

The names engraved on the stone have a matching entry in the ledger—except for one. The child named “AA” on the stone is missing in the book. Instead, a child called James Allan is recorded with exactly the same death date as “AA” on the stone. I am sure that James Allan is Alexander Allan, who is correctly named in his baptismal record and in his father’s will.(16, 17) When I wrote my 2010 ACR article, I had not found the cause of his death. Now I know, from closer reading of the civil registration, that Alexander Allan was one of nine local children who died during a diphtheria outbreak in 1885.(18) Perhaps someone other than his parents reported his death and recorded the child’s name incorrectly. There was another notable error in the plot book.

A missing death date

Angus McKinnon’s date of death is missing from the plot book. A copy of his probated will states that he was dead by 21 June 1883, but an entry for his death was not found in parish or civil records.(19) Luckily, the date that Angus died was engraved in metal and in stone. Inez Franklin, current owner of the former McKinnon farmhouse, found the death date engraved on a metal object stored in the attic. The artefact is a cross-shaped plaque etched with the words “Angus McKinnon, Died June 9th, 1883, Aged 34 Years”.(20) I was thrilled when she offered to let me keep this heirloom, though neither one of us knew what it was. Allan J. MacDonald, the archivist at the Glengarry County Archives, identified the item immediately. “It’s a coffin plate,” he told me.

An article about this uncommon genealogy resource states that coffin plates were popular for a while in the 19th century in North America. The family of the deceased would hire a blacksmith to create a name plate which was attached to the coffin. Sometimes the plate remained in place when the coffin was buried; in other cases, it was removed before burial and given to the family as a memento.(21)

Angus’s coffin plate appears to have been hand-engraved on tin or possibly pewter. Angus’s brothers from Crookston, Minnesota, were trained blacksmiths—did one of them make the plate? The date of death on Angus’s coffin plate matches the date on his cemetery stone. The wording on the grave-stone does not say “In memory of”—which might suggest that he was buried elsewhere. Surely Angus McKinnon was buried in his own plot.

Two relatives found

Of the five people buried in the plot whose names are not engraved on the stone, two were my relatives— Alexander McKinnon and Catherine McDonald—whose headstone I had been unable to find in the cemetery. Leighton did not have to resort to using a dowsing rod to locate their burial site. Angus’s brother and his wife were buried in the family plot.

Alexander, who was born in Glengarry County in 1854, six months after his family arrived in Canada from Scotland, had left home at the age of fourteen.(22) He and four brothers became successful businessmen in Crookston, Minnesota.(23) Alexander went back to Glengarry County and married Catherine on 22 April 1883.(24) One month after the wedding, his brother, Angus, died on the farm near Bridge End. Alexander and Catherine spent the next 20 years in Minnesota, returning to Canada around 1905.(25)

Though they both died in Ottawa, they were buried in the cemetery of St. Margaret of Scotland in Glen Nevis, the church where they were wed. Their nephew, Angus’s son Donald Alex, would have arranged for his uncle and aunt to be buried in the family plot. Who gave permission for three unfamiliar McKinnons to be buried in Angus McKinnon’s plot?

The story of three mystery McKinnons

The three mystery McKinnons were identified as a second Angus McKinnon; his wife, Jane Cuthbert McKinnon; and their youngest son, James Kenneth McKinnon. The lineage of Angus #2 was found in MacKinnons/McKinnons of Glengarry & Prescott. He was one of many descendants of Lachlan MacKinnon.(26)

Although Angus #2 was born in Glengarry County, his father and grandfather came from Eigg, Scotland. The Isle of Eigg, one of the small isles off the coast of the Western Highlands, measures 5 miles long by 3 miles wide (8 km by 5 km).(27) In 1790, Lachlan McKinnon and his family, including a son named John, were among 30 residents who voluntarily left their farms at Cleadale on Eigg. (28,29) When the Eigg emigrants reached Arisaig on the mainland, they boarded the British Queen with 57 other Roman Catholic Highlanders from adjacent districts. (30)

Details of this migration, including a passenger list, are well-documented.(31) Emigration leader Miles McDonell, who was the son of a legendary Highlander named Spanish John, organized the crossing. The passengers were poor, but they paid their own passage to Quebec and arrived in mid-October. Miles McDonell petitioned the colonial government and Montreal merchants to provide assistance for the journey further upriver to Glengarry County where their clansmen helped them settle in before winter. There is still a road in Glengarry called the Eigg Road after these 1790 emigrants.(32)

In 1805, Lachlan McKinnon’s son, John, married Catherine Ann McLauchlin at St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church.(33) Their son, who would be the second Angus buried in Plot 70 over 80 years later, was born in 1811.(34,35) In 1842, Angus #2 married Jane Cuthbert, and they had seven children including James Kenneth.(36,37,38,39) Angus #2 would have been in his early 40s when my Angus McKinnon, who was then five-years-old, arrived from Scotland in 1853. Angus #2 was the same age as Archibald, young Angus’s father. Were their families related? A Gaelic speaker, like the newcomers, perhaps Angus #2 was one of those who assisted Archibald and his family to settle into life in Glengarry County when they arrived in September.

The story of Angus McKinnon of Bridge End

Archibald McKinnon’s son, Angus, the future owner of the farm at Lot 12 Concession 6 Lancaster Township near Bridge End, was born in Knoydart, Scotland, which was the last landholding of the estate of the McDonells of Glengarry.(40) Archibald was a crofter, or tenant farmer, who tilled a small plot of land. Archibald’s first wife, Ann, died and he remarried in 1848. (41) The first child born to Archibald and his second wife, Janet MacGillis, was Angus.

Like Eigg, Knoydart was a Roman Catholic enclave in predominantly Protestant Scotland.(42) The Knoydart peninsula lies on the mainland of the Western Highlands about 15 miles (24 km) by boat from the Isle of Eigg. When he was older, Angus would have learned to identify the distinctive silhouette of Eigg from the shore of Knoydart. From a distance, the island appears flat except where its highest peak, An Sgurr, rises sharply from one end.(43) However, Angus did not stay long enough on Knoydart to learn the local geography. When he was still a young child, his family was evicted from their home by the landlord who replaced several hundred poor tenants with a few sheep farmers.

The Knoydart evictions are recorded in history books as one of the last of the Highland Clearances.(44,45)

Though no passenger list survived, my research supports the conclusion that in August 1853, Angus and his family boarded the Sillery and sailed to Quebec with over 325 relatives and neighbours, all Roman Catholics.(46) Their voyage to Canada was subsidized by a government grant obtained by the owner of the Glengarry Estate. Many Sillery passengers settled in Glengarry County, Canada West, which had been founded by Roman Catholic Highlanders.(47)

Author Marianne McLean writes “Between 1773 and 1853, close to 3,500 people emigrated to Glengarry County from a few districts in the [western] Scottish Highlands” including Knoydart. An area in Glengarry County, Canada West, came to be called ‘Little Knoydart’ for some of the immigrants who settled there in 1853. (48)

There were no land grants left when Angus McKinnon’s family arrived in Glengarry County in 1853. It wasn’t until twenty years after arriving in Canada, that Angus’s father, Archibald, was able to buy the farm at 12- 6 Lancaster.(49) The following year, Angus returned from Michigan, where he had been earning money lumbering, and purchased his father’s farm. In 1876, Angus married Margaret McDonald.(50)

Three years later, their infant son, Alexander Allan, was buried in the cemetery at St. Raphael’s Church.(51) Their next baby was also given the name Alexander Allan. No gravestone marks the burial site of the first Alexander Allan, but there is a memorial stone in that burial ground engraved with the names of Angus’s parents, Archibald McKinnon and Janet MacGillis, and his older half-brother Alex McKinnon, my great-great-grandfather.(52)

In 1882, the Church of St. Margaret of Scotland at Glen Nevis was opened.(53) Angus and his family left St. Raphael’s Church and joined the new parish closer to their farm near Bridge End.

Who was buried in Angus McKinnon’s plot?

In April 1883, Angus and Margaret lost a second infant son, Angus Joseph, who was the first to be buried in Plot 70.(54) By June, the baby’s 34-year-old father, Angus McKinnon, had died and was buried in his own plot. In 1885, his widow, Margaret, buried a third child, the second Alexander Allan, who died from diphtheria at 5-years of age. (55) Margaret’s two surviving sons, Donald Alex and Archie, were teenagers when the next burial took place.

In 1894, Angus McKinnon #2 was buried in Plot 70.(56) What was his connection to Angus of Bridge End? Were their forebears from Eigg and Knoydart related? DNA testing has matched me with a granddaughter of Angus and Margaret’s son Archie, from Hogansburg, but not yet with descendants of Angus #2.(57) In 1903, Angus #2’s unmarried son, James, aged 43, was buried in Plot 70.(58) In 1907, the widow of Angus #2, Jane Cuthbert, was the first woman interred in the plot, having survived her husband by 13 years.(59) The names of Angus #2, James and Jane Cuthbert were not inscribed on the headstone.

Alexander McKinnon and his wife, Catherine, were not named on the stone either. Alexander and four other younger brothers of Angus of Bridge End became successful businessmen in Crookston, Minnesota. They are noted in Royce MacGillivray’s Dictionary of Glengarry Biography. (60) Perhaps Alexander and his prosperous brothers paid for the stained glass window at St. Margaret’s Church that is dedicated to Angus McKinnon.(61) I suspect they also honoured their family back in Glengarry by funding the cemetery stone at St. Raphael’s and the stone and perpetual care of Plot 70 at St. Margaret’s. Alexander returned to Canada permanently around 1904. He died in Ottawa in 1922 but was buried in the family plot in Glen Nevis. His widow, Catherine McDonald, died in 1930.(62)

The following year, their sister-in-law, Margaret, also died.(63)Mrs. Margaret McKinnon,” her obituary stated, “was married to Angus McKinnon of Bridge End, who predeceased her 47 years ago.”(64) . Her name, Margaret McDonald, was engraved under his on the headstone.

In 1938, their eldest son, Donald Alex McKinnon, was the last of the five McKinnon men to be buried in Plot 70.(65) His obituary described him as “very fond of his friends and much interested in public welfare, especially in his home community where he will be greatly missed.” (66) His only brother, Archie, came from Hogansburg, New York, for the funeral. Donald Alex left no children to inherit the family property near Bridge End. His widow, Jane Frances MacGillis, lived there for the next 27 years. In 1965, hers was the final name added to the stone in the cemetery of St. Margaret of Scotland Church.(67)

This stone stands in memory of eleven members of two McKinnon families buried in the same grave in Glen Nevis, Ontario, over a span of eight decades. Both families are linked to historic emigrations from adjacent small regions in the Highlands of Scotland to Glengarry, Ontario. Each individual has a poignant personal story. To save them from obscurity, I have posted photos of Angus’s cemetery stone and coffin plate on the Find A Grave website, linked to my public family tree on Ancestry. (68)

I will continue to visit Glengarry County, a welcoming place where folks take family history seriously. If more secrets are revealed about Angus McKinnon’s gravesite, another sequel could follow.


Reference Notes:

1 Alan Douglas MacKinnon and James A. MacKinnon, The MacKINNONS/ McKINNONS of Glengarry & Prescott 1st Ed (Kamphaengphet, Thailand: Alan D. Mackinnon, 2012), 370.

2 Map of Glengarry County and Lancaster Township, from Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Ont. (Toronto: H. Belden & Co.: 1879), CD and posters purchased April 2004 from Digital Collection Program, McGill University Libraries

3 “Obituary: Mrs. Margaret McKinnon,” The Glengarry News, 30 January 1931, online archives http://www. y_pdf/The-Glengarry-News/1931- 1940/1931/Jan/01-30-1931.pdf: accessed 19 March 2019, page eight, col 3.

4 MacKinnon, The MacKINNONS/ McKINNONS of Glengarry & Prescott 1st Ed, 369.

5 Carol Annett, “The Story on the Stone: Remembering Angus McKinnon.” Anglo-Celtic Roots Vol 16 No 3 (Fall 2010): 50-56.

6 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances accessed 19 March 2019), citing St. Raphael's parish records [1869–1890], p. 236, Alexander Allan McKinnon, burial (d. 4 January 1879, age 4 days).

7 Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 19 March 2019), memorial page for Archibald “Archie” McKinnon (1 Sep 1881–21 Nov 1945), Find A Grave Memorial no. 111600128, citing Saint Patrick Cemetery, Hogansburg, Franklin County, New York, USA; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8).

8 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances, citing Glend Nevis [sic] parish records [1881–1899], p. 43, Angus Joseph McKinnon burial 6 April 1883.

9 Glen Nevis, Ontario, St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Headstone inscription, “Angus McKinnon, Died 9 June 1883.” No civil or parish record found.

10 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances, citing Glend Nevis [sic] parish records [1881–1899], p. 102, James [sic] Allan McKinnon burial 1 May 1885, age five years and four months. The child is not James Allan but Alexander Allan McKinnon (the second child of that name).

11 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances, citing Glend Nevis [sic] parish records [1899–1944], p. 176, Mrs. Margaret McKinnon burial (d. 15 January 1931); p. 230, Donald Alexander McKinnon burial (d. 3 September 1938).

12 Glen Nevis, Ontario, cemetery of St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Angus McKinnon stone inscription, “Jane Frances MacGillis, 1878–1965.”

13 Glengarry County, Ontario, Abstract Index of land records for the township of Lancaster Lot 12, Concession 6, page 27; Registration Number 1888, Instrument type, Deed: McDonald, R & wife, east half of 12-6 Lancaster to McKinnon, Archibald, 20 November 1873; Registration number 1993, Deed: McKinnon, Archibald, east half of 12- 6 Lancaster to McKinnon, Angus, 19 September 1874; Repository: Glengarry Archives at the Manor House, Williamstown, Ontario. Accessed June 2008.

14 Map of Lancaster Township, Glengarry County, from Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Ont. (Toronto: H. Belden & Co.: 1879).

15 “Ontario, Canada Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection),” Ancestry ( accessed 26 Feb 2019), citing Glend Nevis [sic], 1899–1944, entry for Alexander McKinnon husband of Catherine McDonald, died 12 May 1922 in Ottawa; and entry for Catherine McKinnon née McDonald (Capt.), relict of Alexander McKinnon, died 6 May 1930 in Ottawa.

16 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances, citing St. Raphael's parish records [1869–1890], p.259, Alexander Allan McKinnon, baptism (b. 16 December 1879.) This was the second child named Alexander Allan.

17 Glengarry County, Ontario, Abstract Index of land records for the Township of Lancaster Lot 12, Concession 6, page 27; Registration Number 3744, Instrument type, will; Angus McKinnon, a witnessed copy was registered on 22 June 1883 after the death of Angus McKinnon; Repository: Glengarry Archives at the Manor House, Williamstown, Ontario. Accessed June 2008. When the will was recorded on 9 January 1883, Angus named his four sons as Donald Alex, Alexander Allan, Archibald and Angus [Joseph].

18 “Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas. 1869–1946,” Ancestry, citing Archives of Ontario, Series MS935, Reel 42, Glengarry County, Lancaster, April 1885 to July 1885, p. 432: James Allan [sic] McKinnon, age 4 years; Robert Johnston, age 12 years; p. 433: William Gagne, age 2 years; John P Gagne age 6 years; Hortense Gagne, age six months; Martin Oliver Gagne, age 4 years; Ursula Valade, age 6 years; Oseline Valade, age 3 years; p. 434: Rosena Valade, age one year. Cause of death for all children was diphtheria. On p. 433, the registrar wrote comments about diphtheria. All the children were buried at St. Margaret of Scotland Church cemetery, Glen Nevis.

19 Glengarry County, Ontario, Abstract Index of land records for the township of Lancaster Lot 12, Concession 6, page 27; Registration Number 3744, Instrument type, will; Angus McKinnon.

20 Coffin plate for Angus McKinnon who died 9 June 1883. Privately held by Carol Annett, courtesy of Inez Franklin.

21 Lorine McGinnis Schulze, “Coffin Plates: An Overlooked Genealogy Resource,” Legacy News, Legacy Family Tree (https://news.legacy 0/coffin-plates-genealogy-resource. html: accessed 03 April 2019).

22 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1802– 1967,” Ancestry (, citing St. Raphels [sic] parish records, entry for Alexander McKinnon, son of Archibald McKinnon and Janet McGillis, born 5 March 1854.

23 “History of the great Northwest and its men of progress,” Ancestry ( accessed 29 April 2019), citing History of the great Northwest and its men of progress: a select list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Journal, 1901, entry for Alexander McKinnon, p. 441-2. Left home in his fourteenth year. 24 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (, citing Glend Nevis [sic] parish records [1881–1899], p. 46, marriage of Alex McKinnon and Catherine McDonald, 22 April 1883.

25 “Angus Donald McKinnon,” History of North Dakota Volume II, Lewis F. Crawford (Chicago and New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), p. 315. Mentions that Alexander McKinnon, father of Angus Donald McKinnon, returned to Canada in 1904.

26 MacKinnon, The MacKINNONS/ McKINNONS of Glengarry & Prescott 1st Ed, 57–59, Lachlan McKinnon; 37–3 Lochiel Township, Glengarry County.

27 Alan Murphy, Footprint Scotland 3rd Edition (Bath, UK: Footprint, 2003), p. 451. “The Small Isles, Eigg.”

28 “U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s– 1900s”, Ancestry (www.ancestry. com: accessed 9 December 2018), citing WHYTE, DONALD. A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada before Confederation, (Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society: 1986), Volume 1, p. 443. Family of Lachlan McKinnon, wife Catherine, children: John, Janet, Neil, Mary, Sarah, William, Donald, Charles, Flora and Christina, arrival year, 1790.

29 “Canadian Immigrant Records, Part Two,” Ancestry ( accessed 9 December 2018), National Archives of Canada (Ottawa): RGA1, vol. 48; reel C-3006, page 15874. List of passengers onboard the British Queen to Quebec; sailed from Arisaig August 16, 1790. Entry for Lachlan McKinnon, tenant from Cleadale; passage amount £15.9s.

30 Marianne McLean, The People of Glengarry: Highlanders in Transition, 1745–1820 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), Emigration from Eigg 1790, p. 116-121; p. 182, “Eigg Road.”

31 J.M. Bumstead, The People’s Clearance: Highland Emigration to British North America 1770–1815 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press and The University of Manitoba Press, 1882), p. 74, p. 242, Appendix B. Passenger List VII, The British Queen, 1790.

32 McLean, The People of Glengarry, p. 182, “Eigg Road.”

33 “St. Raphael’s Baptisms/Marriages/ Deaths 1804–1835,” (Courtenay, B.C.: Alex W. Fraser and Rhoda P. Ross; ISBN 978092130778), John Macinin [sic] son of Lachlin McKinnon and Anne MacLachlan, daughter of Angus MacLachlan, were married at St. Raphael’s, Glengarry County on February 18, 1805.

34 Duncan Darby MacDonald, St. Raphael’s 1804–1854 (Milton, Ontario, MacDonald Research/ Inc.: 2010), Birth of Angus McKinnon 26 Feb 1811.

35 Duncan Darby MacDonald Diary of Deaths (Milton, Ontario, MacDonald Research/ Inc.: 2010), MacKinnon, John son of Laclin [sic], 12 May 1845.

36 “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1802– 1967,” Ancestry ( accessed 18 February 2019), entry for Angus McKinnon, son of John McKinnon and deceased McLauchlin and Jane Cuthbert, daughter of James Cuthbert and deceased McDonald, who were married 6 September 1842 at Alexandria, Ontario.

37 “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), Ancestry ( accessed 25 August 2013), Alexandria, Ontario, entry for Kenneth James McKinnon, born 7 June 1860 to Angus McKinnon and Jane Cuthbert, 4–4 Kenyon (refers to Lot 4 Concession 4 Kenyon Township). 38 Sue Daniel McKinnon, Our McKinnons, The Isle of Eigg and Canada, 1987 (Glengarry County Archives, Alexandria, Ontario; Alex W. Fraser fonds, Reference code F 174-0-0-52, “McKinnon Family of Lochiel”: accessed 06 March 2019). Angus McKinnon, born 1811 to John McKinnon (son of Lachlan McKinnon and Catherine MacDonald) and Catherine Anne MacLachlan.

39 Paul Luscombe, McKinnon Family History, descendant list Lachlan/ Lauchlan McKinnon (McInnis), sent to Carol Annett by email 04 May 2004. Angus McKinnon, born 1811 to John McKinnon (son of Lachlan McKinnon and Catherine MacDonald) and Catherine Anne MacLauchlan. 40 Scotland, “1851 Census Returns,” ScotlandsPeople (www.scotlands accessed 04 February 2018), County Inverness, Parish of Glenelg, citing MCKENNON, ANGUS (Census 097/ 6/ 15), age 2.

41 “Church Registers: Catholic Banns and Marriages,” ScotlandsPeople (www. accessed 29 April 2019), (1848 MCKINNON, ARCHD - GILLIES, JANNET DONALD (Catholic Registers Banns and Marriages MP 93 1 1 1 24, Morar, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour). Jannet (known as Janet) was Archibald’s second wife.

42 Dom Odo Blundell, The Catholic Highlands of Scotland: Volume 1: The Central Highlands, and Volume 2: The Western Highlands and Islands (Edinburgh: Sands & Co., v.1, 1909; v.2, 1917), v.1, map insert of Catholic Highlands of Scotland; and v.2, Knoydart, pages 62-85. Accessed on Internet Archive ( blunuoft0).

43 Alan Murphy, Footprint Scotland 3rd Edition (Bath, UK: Footprint, 2003), p. 451, “Eigg.”

44 Eric Richards, The Highland Clearances (Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2002), 259. The Knoydart clearances, 1853.

45 Denis Rixson, Knoydart: A History (Edinburgh: Birlinn Books, 1999), p. 133. The 1853 Clearance, Knoydart.

46 Carol Annett, “Picturing Knoydart Then and Now.” Anglo-Celtic Roots Vol 20 No 3 (Fall 2014): 25-34. The story of the family of Archibald McKinnon.

47 Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Ontario (1972 Offset Edition), Introduction mentions “Roman Catholic Highlanders were allotted to Glengarry, adjacent to their French co-religionists in Quebec.”

48 Marianne McLean, The People of Glengarry, p. 165, 250. Crofters from Knoydart to Glengarry in 1850s; “Area called ‘Little Knoydart’”.

49 Glengarry County, Ontario, Abstract Index of land records for the Township of Lancaster Lot 12, Concession 6, page 27: see note 13.

50 “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1802– 1967,” Ancestry ( accessed 11 June 2019), citing St. Colomban Catholic Church, Cornwall, Ontario; entry for marriage of Angus McKinnon and Margaret McDonald, married 25 July 1876.

51 Burial of Alexander Allan #1 in 1979: see note 6.

52 Carol Annett, “The Luck of the Scots,” Anglo-Celtic Roots, Vol 15 No 1 Spring 2009, 1-5. Discovering the McKinnon cemetery stone at St. Raphael’s cemetery.

53 “Excerpts from a booklet prepared for the 100th anniversary of our parish,” St. Margaret of Scotland, Glen Nevis, Ontario, webpage ( garet/history/glennevis-centen nial.htm: accessed 21 March 2019), the parish was founded 13 June 1882.

54 Burial of Angus Joseph McKinnon 1883: see note 8.

55 Burial of Alexander Allan #2 in 1885: see notes 10 and 18.

56 “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection),” Ancestry ( accessed 18 August 2013), citing Glend Nevis [sic], entry for Angus McKinnon, buried 24 May 1894 at St. Margaret’s cemetery, Glen Nevis.

57 “AncestryDNA results for cannett59 (Carol Annett),” database report, AncestryDNA ( accessed 07 May 2018, predicting 4th cousin genetic match with user C.M. at very high confidence level sharing 47 cM across 2 segments. According to her family tree, C.M. is a daughter of Kenneth McKinnon, the son of Archibald McKinnon, the son of Angus McKinnon. C.M.’s nearest common ancestor with Carol Annett is Carol’s great-great-great-grandfather, also named Archibald McKinnon, who was the father of Angus ‘Bridge End’ McKinnon. The proven relationship between Carol Annett and C.M. is 3rd half-cousin once removed.

58 “Browse The Glengarry News,” database, Glengarry County Archives ( accessed 27 February 2019), citing The News, Alexandria, Ontario, Vol XII, no 43, Friday, November 20, 1903, page 1; Obituary for James K. McKinnon.

59 “Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1747– 1967,” Ancestry (http://www.ances accessed 25 August 2013), citing Glend Nevis [sic] parish records [1899–1944], p. 34, entry for Mrs. Angus McKinnon née Cuthbert, relict of the late Angus McKinnon, who died 9 February 1907, Lot No 26, 4th Con. of Lancaster aged about 88 years.

60 Royce MacGillivray, Dictionary of Glengarry Biography (Alexandria, Ontario: Glengarry Historical Society: 2010), p. 472-473. Five brothers named McKinnon active in Crookston, Minnesota.

61 Telephone conversation in February 2019 between Leighton McDonell and Carol Annett. Leighton mentioned that there is an anonymously donated stained glass window in St. Margaret of Scotland Church dedicateed to Angus McKinnon.

62 Burials of Alexander McKinnon and Catherine McKinnon: see note 15.

63 Burial of Margaret McDonald: see note 11.

64 Obituary of Margaret Mcdonald: see note 3.

65 Burial of Donald A. McKinnon: see note 11.

66 “Browse The Glengarry News,” database, Glengarry County Archives, online archives ( http://www.glen df/The-Glengarry-News/1931– 1940/1938/Sep/09-16-1938.pdf: accessed 12 June 2019), “Mr. Donald A. McKinnon Paid Final Tribute,” 16 September 1938, page 5, col 4.

67 Death of Jane Frances MacGillis: see note 12.

68 Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 24 March 2019), memorial page for Angus McKinnon (1848–9 Jun 1883), Find A Grave Memorial no. 197500408, citing Glen Nevis Cemetery, Glen Nevis, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry United Counties, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Carol Annett (contributor 49469655).


The author acknowledges the generous assistance of Glengarry County residents Inez Franklin, Mallory Franklin and Leighton McDonell. Thanks are also due to Allan J. MacDonald, archivist at the Glengarry County Archives, who provided research material at the Archives and identified the coffin plate. All names appear with permission.

© 2019 Carol Annett



A Tale of Two Names
March 24, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Irene Kellow IP

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 4, 2019.

Although it was already spring, the weather had turned wintry and a cold northerly wind had brought sleet to southeast London on Thursday, 5 March 1936, as the motor hearse carrying the body of Dean Kellow made its way to Ladywell Cemetery in Lewisham.(1) My Dad, Tom Kellow, had arranged his father’s funeral to fit in with his shift at the General Post Office in north London. Taking a day off was out of the question. As he sat in the hired limousine, following the hearse, what was going though Tom’s mind? Dean had been a hard-drinking and abusive father. Among his personal effects, Tom had found a letter that Dean’s mother had written to him in 1904, upbraiding him for the ill-treatment of his wife and children.

That letter must have reawakened some unhappy memories for Tom, who had become estranged from his Dad after the death of his mother and brother Bill in 1920. Tom had not even invited him to his wedding or to meet his young daughters. The final contact had been unplanned. Shortly before he died, Dean had called at Tom’s home to “sell” his pocket watch and prayer book, all he had left of any value. Soft-hearted Tom must have done what he was asked, for I remember the silver watch being part of our family archive.

Dean had died in a “workhouse” in Catford on May 2. When Tom was notified by the home’s administrator, the first thing that went through his mind was how the funeral would be paid for. Nevertheless, through the services of Francis Chappell & Sons, funeral directors in Catford (a district of Lewisham) his father went to his grave in greater comfort than he had known in the last years of his life. The “French polished elm coffin” was “fitted with mattress and pillow, side-sheets, ruffle and face-cloth.” The fees for all these services came to £10 4s 6d, which was more than Tom earned in a month. None of his siblings contributed to the cost and, as Tom and May were in the process of arranging to buy their first house, it was a particularly bad time to have to shoulder this unexpected financial burden alone.

Tom’s father was identified as Dean Kellow on his memorial card and death registration, although the whole family knew that his real surname was O’Callaghan. My sisters and I had been told that our great-grandmother had come to England from Cork, Ireland, with our grandfather Dean and his sister, after being widowed. Aware of the prejudice against the Irish in England, she decided to change their surname as soon as possible. Combing a Post Office directory for ideas, she found Kellow, which had similarities to their Irish name. She probably did not know that it was a Cornish name. No one said anything about changes in given names.

We children were fascinated by this other name of our family, which our Uncle Len had tried to reclaim by deed poll. He had, however, forgotten the “g”, becoming Leonard O’Callahan, much to my Dad’s amusement. However, apart from a few skimpy details, we knew little about our grandfather’s life in Ireland or the O’Callaghan family.

The search begins

In 1981, when I first began to track down my grandfather, I searched for the marriage in London of Dean Kellow and Annie Mackin, a year or two before1889, when their oldest child Leonard was born. I found the likely entry and when I received the certificate, I learned that:

≻The marriage had taken place in London, on 12 November 1887, at St Edward’s RC Church, near Piccadilly, by licence.

≻Dean’s age had been 25, which suggested that he had been born between 13 November 1861 and 12 November 1862.

≻Dean’s occupation was “baker and confectioner.”

≻Dean and Annie’s residence at the time of the marriage was near Oxford Street, London.

≻The two witnesses were Edwin H. Butcher and Katie Kellow.

≻Dean’s father was “Cornelius Kellow (deceased)”. At least Dean had been consistent in renaming his late father.

≻Cornelius had been an army pensioner.

My parents had told us that our great-grandmother had remarried an Englishman named Butcher soon after her arrival in England. So, I assumed that the witness Edwin H. Butcher must have been Dean’s stepfather, while Katie Kellow was likely his sister. The information about Dean’s father was new.

My search, therefore, would be for Dean Kellow in London, England, and Dean O’Callaghan in Cork, Ireland. I had no idea when the family had settled in England but it had to be before 1887. Dean’s occupation of baker and confectioner at the time of his marriage suggested that he had undergone an apprenticeship, likely in England. That put his arrival a few years before 1887. Furthermore, as my Dad had told me that his father had played football in Ireland, I guessed that he had at least been a teenager when they left. My estimate was 1875 to 1885.

He was not Dean

In 1985, my daughter and I took a hastily planned vacation in Ireland. We thought it would be fun to try to do some digging into the O’Callaghan history while we were there. As my father had said that his father’s football team was Black Rock, I assumed that they had lived in Black Rock parish, Cork City. Only later did I find out that there is more than one Black Rock in Ireland.

It was Holy Thursday when we found St Michael’s Parish Church, Black Rock, and we were surprised to see a large crowd in the street outside. We easily spotted the parish priest, a tall jovial fellow, who was intrigued by our request. It was too bad that we hadn’t come a week ago, he remarked, before the death of the Sister for whose funeral the parish was now gathering. She had known the history of all the families of the parish and would surely have been able to tell us some stories about our ancestors. However, he invited us to return later to search the baptismal records, “as long as there are no more funerals. People are dying like flies,” he added. Luck was with us, as no one died in our absence, and he ushered us into his office where there was a stack of enormous record books. I recited the necessary details about my grandfather: born in 1861 or 1862; father’s name Cornelius O’Callaghan; given name Dean. Hearing this final item, he said in a shocked tone, that it was impossible because “no self-respecting Irish woman would have named her son Dean. It is a surname!” That bombshell destroyed all my hope of ever finding my grandfather in Ireland. The name O’Callaghan is as common in Cork as Smith is in England and, with no idea of his real given name, I saw no chance of finding his baptismal record.

The O’Callaghan Castle and the Blackwater Valley

After the disappointment of our search for O’Callaghans in the 19th century, we turned our attention to O’Callaghans in the 17th century. At the start of our holiday, we had found a tourist guide containing a reference to a fortified house near Mallow, in northeast Cork, that was said to have been built by the O’Callaghans in 1600. Dromaneen Castle was located on the south side of the Blackwater River, about two miles west of Mallow. As we approached Mallow, we spotted an impressive ruin in the middle of a field, with no obvious access. So we reached it by trespassing on a muddy field. Although it was without a roof, many of the walls were in good shape and there were window and door openings that gave a rough idea of the layout. We fantasized about our ancestral O’Callaghans living there.

The History of the O’Callaghans

Years later I tried to find a link between my grandfather and the O’Callaghans of Dromaneen Castle. I learned that the O’Callaghan name dates back to the 11th century, although many historians trace the pedigree to at least the 3rd century to Eogan Mor, King of Munster, Chief of the Eoganacht Tribe. The Eoghanacht controlled the kingship of Munster in southern Ireland before the rise of Brian Boru in the late 10th century.(2)

Munster was one of five historical provinces, known as the Fifths. Each was composed of some 150 túatha, or kingdoms, which… had originally been tribal in nature and structure. Up to the eighth century each of these túatha had had its own king.(3)

The so-called Eugenean families of Ireland are descended from the Eoganacht, of which a branch was Eoganacht Caisil (Cashel). The Sullivan, MacCarthy and O’Callaghan clans are said to be descended from this branch. Ceallachan was the personal name of many of its members and, in the 11th century, it was established as a hereditary surname.(4) There are several anglicized versions, including Callaghan, O’Callaghan and O’Kallaghan.

The MacCarthys and the O’Callaghans feuded for many years, with the result that the O’Callaghan kings were reduced to tiger “lord” or tuísech “leader” in the 12th century and the family’s land confined to the area along the banks of the Blackwater River:

The territory of the O'Callaghans was called Pobul O'Callaghan, signifying O'Callaghan's people, and extended from Mallow westward, on both sides of the Blackwater, in the Barony of Duhallow, County of Cork, and comprised…the present parishes of Clonmeen and Kilshannick, an extensive territory containing about fifty thousand acres.(5)

The principal residence of the O’Callaghans was Clonmeen Castle, which was built by Connogher [Cahir] O’Callaghan around 1594 and was destroyed in the 1641 Confederate Wars.

Before then, the clan had occupied Dromaneen castle,(6) which my daughter and I had visited. There was a record of Cahir O’Callaghan residing in Dromaneen in 1543, at which time the title to the castle and lands had been given up to King Henry VIII in return for the right to occupy the property as a fiefdom.(7) Fifty years later, during the reign of Elizabeth I, Conagher [Cornelius] O’Callaghan surrendered the castle and lands but in 1610 King James I granted the castle, town and lands of Dromaneen to Caghir O’Callaghan and about this time the family “erected a very stately house on the foundations of the [ruined] castle…”(8)

The O’Callaghans had to forfeit their estate in 1641 due to their role in the Irish rebellion, and in 1642 several O’Callaghan “gentlemen” were declared outlaws. Under Cromwell’s 1652 Act for the Settlement of Ireland, the O’Callaghan nobility were transplanted to County Clare, where they were given land that was only a fraction of their Cork holdings and of a much poorer quality. Many of their descendants live there today. The forfeited land was given to various supporters of the English rulers over the following 30 to 40 years. In 1667, King Charles II granted the estate to Sir Richard Kyrle (who had been a Cromwellian). The fortified house at Dromaneen was used as a garrison by the English army during King William III’s wars in 1690 to 1691 and was in ruins by 1750.(9)

By the end of the 17th century, almost 90 per cent of Ireland was owned by British non-Catholics. Most of these landlords were not interested in working the land, preferring to rent it to the native Irish. Thus, most of the O’Callaghans remained in their ancestral homeland as tenants.(10) Landless and subject to the penal laws passes in the 16th and 17th centuries, the surviving members of the Catholic O’Callaghans of the Blackwater Valley had little chance of achieving a respectable standard of living.

It is highly likely that my grandfather’s ancestors were among the O’Callaghans who remained in the Blackwater Valley. Dean’s father was a Cornelius O’Callaghan, a name that is ubiquitous in the O’Callaghan clan, and the family was from Cork. Although my grandfather was born after the penal laws were repealed, at a time when most children received some form of education, the Famine years had led to a reform of land, which deprived the cottiers of their small plots of land, leaving many of the residents of northwest Cork few options for survival. It is no wonder that my O’Callaghan family looked for greener pastures in England.

My grandfather’s true identity

My first breakthrough in the search for my grandfather in England was finding my father, aged one, in the 1891 British census. Much to my surprise his father was listed as “Daniel J. Kellow.” So the priest in Cork had been right about Dean not being his baptismal name. Daniel gave his place of birth as County Cork, Ireland, and his age as 28. Tom’s older brother Leonard and his mother Annie Kellow completed the household.

The second discovery was that, in my small collection of family papers, there was a miniature calendar for 1920 that had belonged to Tom’s brother Len. In it he had circled the anniversaries of his family members. However, his father’s birthday seemed to be absent and I assumed it was evidence of the estrangement between them, until it dawned on me that “OM” against September 2nd stood for “the Old Man,” which was how my Dad and his brothers had referred to their Dad in their letters. Now I had a birth date: 2 September 1862.

As Daniel was born before RC births, marriages and deaths registrations began, in 1864, I needed to find a baptism record for Daniel Callaghan/O’Callaghan, which would have taken place a few days after the birth, according to RC practice. There was only one entry at the FamilySearch site that fit: a “Dan Callaghan,” had been baptized at Dromtarriffe, northwest Cork, on 7 September 1862. The parents were “Cors [Cornelius] Callaghan” and “Hanora [sic] Sheehan.”

Now that I had the names of Daniel’s parents, I was able to find their marriage record: Cornelius O’Callaghan married Honora Sheehan, of Coolclough, on 21 February 1860, in the RC parish of Dromtarriffe, County Cork. The witnesses were Daniel Sheehan and Thadeus McCarthy. Although Dromtarriffe was in County Cork, it was part of the RC Diocese of Kerry.

Diocese of Kerry reveals Daniel’s siblings

As the boundaries of Catholic dioceses were not contiguous with counties of the same name, the Diocese of Kerry included some parishes that were in west and southwest County Cork, one of which was Dromtarriffe. The discovery of the website, which includes records of the Diocese of Kerry, enabled me to find a great deal of information about Daniel’s family.

His sister Kate had been baptized as Catherine O Callaghan in 1864. (I was also able to find her birth record, two days earlier, in Boherboy, a subdistrict of the union of Kanturk, Cork.) According to Irish naming patterns, Catherine should have been named for her maternal grandmother, that is, Honora’s mother. The baptism record in the RC parish of Dromtarriffe for Honora Sheehan of Dysart, (a townland near Coolclough) on 23 May 1838 shows that Honora’s mother was Catherine Connor. Her father was Daniel Sheehan.

The same naming pattern meant that, as Daniel O’Callaghan had been named after his maternal grandfather, he was likely the second son. So, he had to have an older brother. A Thomas Callahan was baptized in 1860 to the same parents as Daniel. A third son should have been named Cornelius after his father. Sure enough, a Cornelius Callaghan had been baptized 12 August 1866. (His birth was registered two days earlier at Boherboy.) His death was registered at Kanturk two years later.

The records show the ambivalence about the anglicized spelling of Irish names. The family name is sometimes just Callaghan and other times it is preceded by an O or O’. (Later in the 19th century, the addition of the O’ was seen as a status symbol.) One record is spelt “Callahan.” The records showed that all four children lived in the Townland of Coolclough and that the RC parish for all events had been Dromtarriffe, while the relevant registration district or poor law union after 1864 was Kanturk. All these places are in the Blackwater Valley, north Cork, the former homeland of the O’Callaghan clan, and are a few miles west of Dromaneen Castle. I have, thus, concluded that my O’Callaghans were descended from the O’Callaghans who had been left behind in the Blackwater Valley after the expulsion of the clan nobility in the 17th century.

I had now identified what was likely my grandfather’s entire immediate family and had some clues to the previous generation through the various sponsors at the children’s baptisms, who were likely close relatives.

A new country and a new name

As Ireland was part of the United Kingdom in the 19th century, there are no records of movements between the two islands. If the family had moved permanently before 1881, there should have been a record of one of them in the census of 1881 but there is none. The marriage registration in 1887 for Dean Kellow (Daniel O’Callaghan) is the first official recognition of the family’s presence in England, by which time not only had Kellow become their new surname but Daniel had become Dean. Daniel’s mother seems to have already remarried by that time, to become Honora Butcher, but I have found no marriage record. Curiously, Honora is a common Irish name, in sharp contrast to the very English surname of Butcher.

There had been substantial movements of people from Ireland to mainland Britain since 1827, when legal restrictions on movement had been lifted. The largest outflow occurred during the Great Famine and, by 1845, 300,000 had left for mainland Britain.

Although the economy recovered in the following two or three decades, between 1879 and 1888 more Irish left because of “terrible weather and crop failures.”(11) Many of this second wave of emigrants joined relatives or neighbours who had already settled in Britain, comprising a support network on arrival. This was very likely the case for Cork families, where the Famine had been particularly severe. The window, therefore, for my O’Callaghan family’s emigration from Ireland appears to be about 1881 to 1885.

Before and after the Famine, it had been common for Irish labourers to go to Britain at harvest time.(12) Residents of Cork took the ferry from Cork Harbour or Wexford to South Wales. British census records reveal many people from Cork living in South Wales and England, some of whom would have been temporary residents. Irish labourers travelled as far as Kent to work in the hop fields.(13) Honora and Cornelius O’Callaghan might have spent time in Britain doing such seasonal work, which would have made it easier for Honora and her children to settle in England after Cornelius died.

There is some evidence that the family may even have spent some time in Kent before relocating to London. Daniel gave Maidstone, Kent as his place of birth in two censuses and his sister Catherine gave it in one. (It was quite common for the Irish to tell census takers that they were born in the place where they found themselves.) Furthermore, Edwin Butcher, Honora’s second husband, had lived in Maidstone and surrounding area for many years.

Honora may have first faced prejudice during temporary stays, prompting her to change their surname from O’Callaghan to Kellow. As Daniel is a common Irish name, he may have used Dean to sound more English, but he seems to have used Daniel much of the time. He gave his name variously as Daniel J, Daniel James and Daniel on censuses and on birth registrations. His son Tom gave his father’s name as Daniel when he joined the Royal Field Artillery, while another son, Bill, gave it as James when he joined the army. Although my grandfather was married and buried as Dean, the name does not appear on any other records, which suggests that he was not comfortable with this new name. However, my parents consistently referred to him as Dean within our family.

Dean/Daniel goes to the dogs

Daniel’s marriage to Annie was turbulent and unhappy, marked by bouts of heavy drinking and increasing abuse of his wife and children. This behaviour led to frequent relocations of the family. Annie would escape with the children to another neighbourhood while Daniel was working. Eventually Daniel would track them down and the cycle would begin again.

Mostly they lived in southeast London in Nunhead, Lewisham and East Dulwich. However, my father Tom was born in North London in Hackney. The house that they occupied most frequently was 45 Derwent Grove, East Dulwich. The last address that the family occupied together was in Lewisham from 1908 to 1914, when Annie left Daniel for the last time and moved back to Derwent Grove with her three daughters and youngest son.

This house welcomed the three oldest boys home on leave during World War I. It was here that Annie died in 1920 and where Bill’s coffin was brought for his military funeral a few weeks later. It was Tom’s and May’s first home, where my oldest sister and I were born and where we were all living when Daniel died. Although he was a skilled baker and confectioner, Daniel’s drinking jeopardized steady employment and periodically he had to turn to unskilled labour to survive, which made it harder and harder to pay rent. He sometimes lived with his oldest daughter Nell in Norwood, but, once she and her husband could get no money out of him, they threw him out.

It was in this way that he ended his days in the Lewisham “workhouse.” His sister Catherine and her family had also lived in Lewisham for many years but, by 1933, she had moved, leaving Daniel without any family nearby. When he died in 1936, he had defied his children’s expectations by outliving his wife by 16 years, but he had not lived a life to be proud of. In spite of having qualified as a journeyman baker, he allowed himself to sink into abject poverty and to become alienated from his six surviving children. In death he was to be denied all connection with his Irish origins, being recorded under the foreign name of Dean Kellow, instead of Daniel James O’Callaghan.

Reference Notes

1 https:// uk/IO_3214eb64-d3f3-434c-995e1cb33bcaf00f/

2 O’Laughlin, Michael C, The Families of County Cork, Ireland, (Kansas City: Irish Genealogical Foundation, 1996) pp. 7-10.

3 Editors of Time-Life Books, What Life Was Like Among Druids and High Kings, Celtic Ireland AD 400–1200, (Alexandria, Virginia; Time-Life Books, c1998), p.96

4 Ibid p.87;

5 White, Colonel James Grove, Historical and Topographical Notes etc. on Buttevant, Castletownroche,Doneraile, Mallow and places in their vicinity, Cork, Guy and Company, 1906-1915. places/northcorkcounty/grovewhite notes/: (Accessed 5 Sep. 2018) Book 2, p. 228.

6 White, Book 2 pp. 219, 236

7 White, Book 3 pp. 64-65, 230

8 White, Book 3 pp 62, 64

9 White, Book 3 pp. 62, 64, 68, 71

10 Neill, Kenneth, An Illustrated History of the Irish People (New York: Mayflower Books, 1979), p. 66

11 Adolph, Anthony, Tracing Your Irish Family History (Richmond Hill: HarperCollins, 2009), p. 17

12 Neill, p. 129

13 Adolph, p. 32 © Irene Kellow Ip


The Travels and Trials of Adam Logan
March 24, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

The Travels and Trials of Adam Logan, Dairyman

Written by: Claire Callender

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 25, Number 4, 2019.

By the time she married in 1930 at the age of 24, my granny, Anna Logan, had lived in more than 24 places. Not neighbouring places in the same parish, or different streets in the same town, but places all over Britain from Caithness in the very north of Scotland to Essex in southeast England.

I first learned about the travelling life of Anna and her family from my mother, not long after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We talked a lot about the past in those days; she seemed to gather comfort from re-examining the lives and challenges of her mother and grandmother before her. She talked often of her mother Anna and the two sisters closest to her, Marjorie and Georgina, fondly referred to as Auntie Madge and Auntie Georgie. The three were best friends, supporting each other through all the moves the family made. Their mother, my great-grandmother Annie Strachan, had died when they were young and their father, Adam Logan, frequently moved the family to places all over Scotland, England and Wales, finding work and temporary accommodation on farms. “I think Adam had a wanderlust. He used to come home and tell them, ‘pack yer bags lassies, we’re moving again.’ They thought it was an adventure,” my mother told me.

Around this time I found a birthday book (1) that had belonged to my granny. In it she had recorded lots of family birthdays and at the back was a list of place names—everywhere she remembered living. It was common for farm workers to move every six months,(2) but the range of these places was definitely unusual.

My interest in this part of my family was further piqued by my mother’s cryptic suggestions that Adam Logan was not approved of by his wife Annie’s family. Oddly, she always referred to him as simply “Adam” and implied fondly that he was rather a rogue, a kind of likeable black sheep. She didn’t offer any specific evidence for the Strachan family disapproval, except to note that Adam was “a bit of a heathen.” Her suspicions were confirmed in the will of John Strachan,(3) brother of Annie, made in 1923, several years after her death, which stated:

I bequeath a legacy of Fifty pounds to each of my nephews and nieces who shall survive me, children of my brothers and sisters with the exception of the children of Adam Logan, who was married to my sister Ann, who are not to benefit from my Estate.

I also found the will of Annie’s eldest sister.(4) Margaret Strachan was not quite as specific in her exclusion, but she left a legacy of £50 each to four of her nine nieces, with no mention of Annie and Adam’s daughters.

And so the travels of Adam Logan and his status as family black sheep became a fascination. This is his story.

Two Farming Families

In 1897 Adam married my great-grandmother Annie Kerr Strachan.(5) He was 20 years her senior, a widower with six children. Annie was born in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, in 1868,(6) the seventh of ten children of John Strachan and Christian Donald. The Strachans were tenant farmers at Cardenwell in Fyvie for four generations (7) from 1786 until 1923.

Several of John and Christian Strachan’s children distinguished themselves in ways that were a little unusual for farming families of the time. The eldest, John, took over the tenancy of Cardenwell after the death of his father in 1892 (8) and farmed there until he retired in 1923.(9) His obituary in 1929 (10) describes him as a member of a “distinguished family.“ Like many of the Strachans he was a deeply religious man, “a devoted elder of Fyvie U.F. Church [United Free Church] for almost thirty-five years.”

James (11) and Robert(12) were both distinguished scholars who went on to become Free Church ministers and professors. Elizabeth Strachan was one of the first four women to graduate from Aberdeen University in 1898.(13) She and two other sisters, Margaret and Christina, became teachers.

The Logans were also a farming family, deeply rooted in Ayrshire. Adam Logan (b. 1848)(14) was the ninth of ten children born to Andrew Logan and Margaret Campbell. His father was a tenant farmer at Farden William in Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, from before 1841 until his death in 1889.(15)

At the time of Andrew Logan’s death only three of his six sons were living—William (b. 1837), Adam and Robert (b. 1856). William was co-tenant of Farden William with his father in 1875,(16) but by 1881 he had his own farm(17) in nearby Straiton, Ayr. Youngest son Robert was co-tenant with his father by 1885(18) and took over Farden William after Andrew died.(19) Adam had no association with Farden William after he married his first wife, Agnes Gerrand, in 1867.(20) In 1871 he was farming ten acres at nearby High Mossend farm, (21) and by 1881 (22) he was farming 30 acres and living in Anvil Cottage in Kirkmichael with Agnes and six children.

The Travels Begin

Adam’s travelling life started sometime between 1881 and 1891, most likely due to the difficulties of making a living on small Ayrshire farms. I didn’t find any mention of him in newspapers or valuation rolls in that decade; however, I thought that his daughter Jessie (b. 1876),(23) probably died sometime in that period. She didn’t appear in any later census, and Adam later had another daughter named Jessie with Annie Strachan.

The only possible death I found was in 1885 in the Gorbals. At first glance this seemed unlikely as the Gorbals was a densely populated suburb of Glasgow, notorious for overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, a far cry from life on an Ayrshire farm. But the death certificate(24) was clear: Jessie Logan, daughter of Adam Logan and Agnes Gerrand, died aged eight, of measles and congestion of lungs, at 376 Crown Street, Gorbals. I did not find any family connection in the Gorbals and concluded that Adam, like many other sons from farming families, had moved to the city to find a better paid job in the industries, factories or docks of Glasgow. In any case, he didn’t last long there, and by 1891 (25) he was in Stock, Essex, about 400 miles away, working at Crondon Hall farm as a dairy manager.

The migration of Scots farmers to Essex in the late 19th century was an oft-discussed topic in the newspapers of that time. The farmer at Crondon Hall was John Hodge, an Ayrshire man who had arrived in Essex in 1886. In an interview with the Essex Herald in 1888 (26) he explained: “Times were so bad in Scotland—prices were low and rents high—that I came to see what I could do in Essex.” By 1890 the Derby Daily Telegraph was reporting a “Scots Invasion of Essex”(27) noting that “they all come from Ayrshire, and are skilled dairy farmers, they will no doubt make their new holdings pay.” And so the beginning of Adam Logan’s travelling life is explained. There were advertisements for farms to let and for experienced farm labourers in Scottish newspapers at the time. A nearby railway station was often mentioned; by the 1880s the rail system was well-established and travel to most places across Britain was possible.(28)

And Ayrshire farmers already in Essex were doubtless well connected with the farming community back home, so it’s not difficult to imagine how Adam came by an opportunity to move his family and seek a better living. However, unlike many of the Ayrshire farmers who made the move then stayed in Essex, Adam was soon on the move again. In 1893 he was living at Chilton Farm in Hungerford, Berkshire, about 100 miles away,(29) and by 1896 he was back in Scotland, working as a farm overseer at Fyvie Castle Mains (Home Farm) in Aberdeenshire.

In January 1897 his wife Agnes died.(30) In November of that year he married Annie Strachan, who was living in nearby Parkburn Cottage. By early 1898 Adam and Annie had moved to Ardoch, Perthshire. Their daughter Christina was born there on 6 March that year,(31) and a second daughter Elizabeth in March 1899.(32) I wondered if the Strachan disapproval may have begun with the marriage of pregnant Annie to a recently widowed man 20 years her senior, who must have seemed to be just passing through.

The GloucestershireMonmouth Years

By 1901, Adam, Annie and their two daughters were back in England, at Holms Farm, Lydney, Gloucestershire.(33) The family stayed at Holms Farm until sometime in 1903; children Jessie and Ian were born there in 1901(34) and 1902(35) respectively. By 1904 Adam was working at nearby Chase Farm in Tidenham near Chepstow. Daughter Marjorie was born there in 1904.(36)

1905 was a challenging year for Adam and his family. In May he was fined five shillings for “offending against the Education Act,” most likely for not sending his children to school.(37) Anathema to the well-educated Strachans! In August Annie’s brother, Alexander, who had been living with them and working on the farm, died of sunstroke, aged 38.(38)There were several reports of his death in the Aberdeenshire newspapers,(39) noting that he was “a very well-known man in the Fyvie neighbourhood,” and extending “much sympathy . . . to his widowed mother, who still resides at Cardenwell.”

The inventory of Alexander’s estate (40) states that he was owed £80 by Adam Logan for his work at Chase Farm, but that Adam Logan was “insolvent.” In September a notice appeared in the Chepstow Weekly Advertiser advertising an auction at Chase Farm.(41) Mr. Fred Jolliffe, “Trustee to the Estate of Mr. Adam Logan,” had instructed auctioneers to sell “the whole of the live and dead farming stock . . . together with a nearly-new collection of Agricultural Implements, Dairy Utensils and Household furniture.” All Adam’s worldly goods were being sold, probably without his consent.

In October 1905 Adam sued Fred Jolliffe for 18 shillings, a week’s wages, and for an additional 18 shillings for being dismissed without notice.(42) He was awarded the week’s wages, but not the additional 18 shillings, as Mr. Jolliffe argued that he had dismissed Adam Logan “on account of his conduct.”

Adam must have left Chase Farm by late 1905. Anna Logan was born on 1 January 1906 (43) at 2 Agincourt Street, Monmouth (about 12 miles from Chase Farm). I was not able to confirm precisely when they left the Monmouth area but it’s very likely that the series of unfortunate events of 1905 drove them north not long after Anna was born.

Anna’s List

The next stop for the family was Watten, Caithness, 600 miles away and the first place on Anna Logan’s list. Who or what enticed Adam to the top of Scotland remains a mystery, but more family lore from my mother assisted me with what happened next. In 1909 the Logans were in Watten and Annie was pregnant. She was not doing well and was sent to Logie Buchan in Aberdeenshire “for the good air,” likely to be looked after by someone they knew. Research yielded only a “perhaps”: George Strachan, the railway stationmaster in Logie Buchan and his wife Mary may have been Annie’s carers. She gave birth to Georgina Mary on 2 June (44) and died five days later of peritonitis.(45) Adam was now a widower for the second time, with seven young children, including a newborn baby.

In March 1911 tragedy struck again when Adam’s eldest daughter, Christina died of pneumonia aged 13. (46)

My mother often talked about how difficult it was for Adam. “It was terrible when Chrissie died— she was like a mother to the younger kids. How did he cope—a man on his own with no woman?” she would say. The family was living in Aberdeen that year, but in the 1911 census (47) Georgina was not listed. I searched for her separately and found her, aged two, a “boarder” living with a McKay family in Watten.(48) My mother had never mentioned this so I prodded her again and showed her the census. She suddenly lit up and exclaimed, “Oh yes! That was before Georgie came back.”

When the family left Watten for Aberdeen, Georgie was left behind with the McKays, rejoining the family again when she was about five. I am still looking for a connection.

The next few moves the family made took them through the World War I years. I expected to find that they moved around less; Adam was in his 60s and the recruitment of young men into the armed forces depleted the labour supply and may have made it easier for an older man to find work.(49) But a “home base” just never seemed to be part of the plan. Between 1914 and 1916 the family spent time in Kilmarnock, North Berwick (50) and Maud (51) in Scotland, then by late 1916 they had moved to North Wales and then to Stocking Farm, near Leicester in 1917.(52) I was not able to confirm definitely every place on Anna Logan’s list, but I am confident that they did move to all the places on her list in the order that she wrote them.

In 1918 Adam made a return to Essex and then moved to Weybridge in Surrey. By 1919 they were back in Scotland with stops in Elgin, Kirkliston and Stow. (53) In 1920 the family were in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Jessie Logan became the first of the family to find a “home base” of her own, marrying James Jack there.(54)

In July of 1921, living at Haggerston, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Adam courted controversy again. He sued the farmer at Oudenarde, his previous employer, for £50,(55) claiming that he had been underpaid for his services. The farmer contended that Adam was unfit for the work undertaken, and that his daughter (Anna) was only 15 years of age and not a trained dairy woman. Adam likely had to contend with such problems often in his travels; ads for farm workers often specified either a single man, or a married man with a wife who could also work in the dairy. As a widower with young children, he may have had to tell some white lies about his situation to get work.

The family spent the years between 1921 and 1923 in the Scottish Borders, with spells in Dumfries, Hawick and Kelso. By 1924 they lived in Strathpeffer, confirmed by a photo, inscribed on the back in her own handwriting: “Miss Anna Logan, Kinnahaird, Strathpeffer, Rossshire. Taken May 1924.”

From Strathpeffer the family moved to Torbreck, Inverness. Ian and Elizabeth (Bessie) both married there in 1926 (56) and 1932 (57) respectively. Adam’s final move was sometime before 1930 with Madge, Georgie and Anna to Findowrie, near Brechin, Angus,(58) where all three daughters worked in the dairy.

In 1930 Anna married George Stewart (59) and settled in Brechin. The last four places on her list are addresses she lived at with George and their four children. Adam died at Findowrie, aged 83,(60) living long enough to see the birth of Anna’s first child, my mother, in 1931.

Adam is said to have told Anna that “she would make an auld man very happy if she could name her wee girl after her grandmother.” And so, my mother was named Annie Strachan Stewart, and bore the burden of those initials until she was old enough to change her first name to “Nan.”

Legacy of a Black Sheep

Several events in this story could explain the Strachan family disapproval of Adam, but I recently added a final crucial piece. After a bit more questioning about Georgie, a family source shared this: after Annie died, one of her brothers offered to take newborn Georgie and three-yearold Anna. Adam is reputed to have announced, “No child of mine will be singing in the street!” (61) He then took off again to Watten with his family, where he left Georgie with the McKays. Aha. . .

I think of my great-grandfather as a strong and feisty man who had a difficult life. My grandmother Anna reportedly always talked of her father with the greatest respect. And indeed, despite the family disapproval and through all the challenges, he always provided for his family. A favourite photo is of the Logan sisters, taken around 1930. They look happy and, as my mother would have said, “tidy,” in their Sunday best.

And Adam’s legacy is Logan roots across Britain and elsewhere. Bessie settled in Inverness, Jessie in the Scottish Borders, Ian in St. Albans and Anna in Brechin. Madge went to Canada and Georgie to Australia. Their stories are in my mother’s photo collection and will be told.



1 Anna Logan’s birthday book, author’s collection.

2 Margaret Hubble, “Farm servants and the hiring fairs.” History Scotland, 12 June 2017. (https://www.historyscot ants-and-the-hiring-fairs: accessed 2 April 2019)

3 Scotland. Testamentary records. 16 May 1929. STRACHAN, John. Will. SC1/37/150. National Archives of Scotland.

4 Scotland. Testamentary records. 24 December 1925. STRACHAN, Margaret. Will. Aberdeen Sheriff Court Wills. SC1/37/146. National Records of Scotland. (https://www. : accessed 12 March 2019)

5 Scotland. Marriages (CR). Fyvie, Aberdeen. 20 November 1897. LOGAN, Adam and STRACHAN, Annie K. 197/00 0008. ( : accessed 8 November 2011)

6 Scotland. Births (CR). Fyvie, Aberdeen. 21 December 1868. STRACHAN, Ann Ker. 197/00 0004. ( uk : accessed 8 March 2011)

7 Scotland. Census, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901. Parish of Fyvie, Aberdeen. [Transcription] (

8 Scotland. Monumental Inscriptions, St. Peter’s Parish Church Cemetery, Fyvie, Aberdeen. STRACHAN, John. [Transcription] Find A Grave Index, 1300s–current. (https://www.ances

9 “FYVIE. Presentation,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 19 May 1923, p. 8. (https: // uk : accessed 8 February 2019)

10 Obituaries, STRACHAN, John, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 11 March 1929, p. 8. ( : accessed 3 February 2019)

11 “Call to Rev. James Strachan, St Fergus.” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1 May 1903, p. 4. (https://www.british : accessed 4 February 2019)

12 “Rev. Robert Strachan. A Distinguished Son of Fyvie Parish,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 11 January 1929, p. 8. (https://www.british : accessed 23 February 2019)

13 “News Summary. The Lady Graduates,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 2 April 1898, p. 4. (https:// : accessed 8 February 2019)

14 Scotland. Baptisms (OPR). Kirkmichael, Ayr. 9 August 1848. (Birth: 30 July 1848). LOGAN, Adam. 600/30 150. (https://www.scotlandspeople. : accessed 7 April 2019)

15 Scotland. Census, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891. Kirkmichael, Ayr. 600. [Transcription] (https://www.

16 Scotland. Valuation Roll: Kirkmichael, Ayr. LOGAN, Andrew and William. 1875. Farden William. VR009000054- /157. National Records of Scotland. ( uk : accessed 4 February 2019)

17 Scotland. Census, 1881. Straiton, Ayr, 617. ED 6. [Transcription] (https://

18 Scotland. Valuation Roll: Kirkmichael, Ayr. LOGAN, Andrew and Robert. 1885. Farden William. VR009000082- /156. National Records of Scotland. ( uk : accessed 4 February 2019)

19 Scotland. Census, 1891. Kirkmichael, Ayr. 600. ED 2. [Transcription] (https: //

20 Scotland. Marriages (CR). Kirkmichael, Ayr. 20 December 1867. LOGAN, Adam and GERRAND, Agnes. 600/10. ( uk : accessed 7 April 2019)

21 Scotland. Census, 1871. Kirkmichael, Ayr. 600. ED 2. [Transcription] (

22 Scotland. Census, 1881. Kirkmichael, Ayr. 600. ED5. [Transcription] (

23 Scotland. Births (CR). Kirkmichael, Ayr. 1 August 1876. LOGAN, Jessie. 600/34. (https://www.scotlands : accessed 2 February 2019)

24 Scotland. Deaths (CR). Gorbals, Lanark. 13 May 1885. LOGAN, Jessie. 644/12 385. (https://www.scotlands accessed 25 January 2019)

25 England. Census, 1891. Stock, Essex. SN 9. PN 1384. FL 93. (https://www.

26 “Scotch Farmers and Scotch Farming in Essex,” Essex Herald, 6 March 1888, p. 3. (https://www.britishnewspaper : accessed 17 March 2019)

27 “Scots’ Invasion of Essex,” Derby Daily Telegraph, 21 October 1890, p. 3. (https://www.britishnewspaperarchi : accessed 17 March 2019)

28 Robert M. Schwartz, “Rail Transport, Agrarian Crisis, and the Restructuring of Agriculture: France and Great Britain Confront Globalization, 1860– 1900.” Social Science History, 2010, 34(2), pp. 229–255. ( : accessed 12 April 2019)

29 “BUTTER,” Berkshire Chronicle, 27 May 1893, p. 6. (https://www.british : accessed 27 January 2019)

30 Scotland. Deaths (CR). Fyvie, Aberdeen. 31 January 1897. LOGAN, Agnes. 197/2. ( : accessed 16 March 2018)

31 Scotland. Births (CR). Ardoch, Perth. 6 March 1898. LOGAN, Christina Annie. 328/B 7. (https://www.scotlandspeo : accessed 16 March 2018)

32 Scotland. Births (CR). Ardoch, Perth. 19 March 1899. LOGAN, Elizabeth Strachan. 328/B 1. ( : accessed 7 March 2018)

33 England, Wales and Scotland. Census, 1901. Lydney, Gloucestershire. ED 7. PN 4919. FL 22. p. 36. (https://www.

34 England and Wales. Births (CR). Chepstow, Monmouthshire. 2nd Q., 1901. LOGAN, Jessie Dunlop. Vol. 11A, p. 11. ( uk)

35 England and Wales. Births (CR). Chepstow, Monmouthshire. 3rd Q., 1902. LOGAN, Ian Donald C. Vol. 11A, p. 13. ( uk)

36 England and Wales. Births (CR). Chepstow, Monmouthshire. 2nd Q., 1904. LOGAN, Marjorie. Vol. 11A, p. 14. (

37 “LYDNEY POLICE COURT,” Gloucester Citizen, 11 May 1905, p. 3. (https:// : accessed 11 March 2019)

38 England and Wales. Deaths (CR). Chepstow, Monmouthshire. 3rd Q., 1905. LOGAN, Alexander. Vol. 11A, p. 5. (

39 “FYVIE – DEATH OF MR ALEX. STRACHAN,” Buchan Observer and East Aberdeen Advertiser, 8 August 1905, p. 4. (https://www.britishnews : accessed 9 Feb 2019)

40 Scotland. Testamentary records. 22 August 1905. STRACHAN, Alexander. Inventory. Aberdeen Sheriff Court Inventories. SC1/36/152. National Records of Scotland. (https://www. : accessed 12 March 2019)

41 “CHASE FARM, TIDENHAM,” Chepstow Weekly Advertiser, 23 September 1905, p. 1. (https://www.britishnews : accessed 4 March 2019)

42 “LYDNEY POLICE COURT,” Gloucester Citizen, 12 October 1905, p. 4. (https: // uk : accessed 24 January 2019)

43 England and Wales. Births (CR). Monmouth, Monmouth and Hereford. 1 January 1906. LOGAN, Anna. Vol. 11A, p. 31. Entry no. 366.

44 Scotland. Births (CR). Logie Buchan, Aberdeen. 2 June 1909. LOGAN, Georgina Mary. 216/00 0013. ( uk : accessed 8 March 2011)

45 Scotland. Deaths (CR). Logie Buchan, Aberdeen. 7 June 1909. LOGAN, Annie Kerr. 168/00 0003. (https://www. : accessed 8 March 2011)

46 Scotland. Deaths (CR). St. Nicholas, Aberdeen. 18 March 1911. LOGAN, Christina Annie. 216/01 0225. (https: // : accessed 20 September 2013)

47 Scotland. Census, 1911. Ferryhill, Aberdeen. 168/02 026/00 018. ( uk : accessed 13 June 2013)

48 Scotland. Census, 1911. Watten, Caithness. 042/00 003/00 008. ( uk : accessed 13 June 2013)

49 P.E. Dewey, British Agriculture in the First World War (London: Routledge, 1989) pp. 36–59.

50 Scotland. Valuation Roll: North Berwick, Haddington. LOGAN, Adam. 1915. Rhodes. VR99/24/199. National Records of Scotland. (https: // : accessed 25 December 2014)

51 “DAIRYING APPOINTMENT,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 April 1916, p. 7. (https://www.britishnews : accessed 24 January 2019)

52 “Situations Vacant: A GOOD Working Farm Manager Wanted . . .” Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 4 August 1917, p. 6. (https://www.britishnews : accessed 24 January 2019)

53 Scotland. Valuation Roll: Stow, Midlothian. LOGAN, Adam. 1920. Stagehall. VR010800048-/565. National Records of Scotland. (https: // : accessed 17 March, 2018)

54 England and Wales. Marriages (CR). Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. 4th Q., 1920. LOGAN, Jessie D. and JACK, James. Vol. 3a, p. 2312. (https://

55 “FOREMAN’S ACTION AGAINST BRIDGE OF EARN FARMER,” Dundee Evening Telegraph, 26 July 1921. (https://www.britishnewspaperarchi : accessed 24 January 2019)

56 Scotland. Marriages (CR). Inverness, Inverness. 7 December 1926. LOGAN, Ian Donald and MILNE, Rhoda. 098/A 234. (https://www.scotlandspeople. : accessed 28 January 2019)

57 Scotland. Marriages (CR). Inverness, Inverness. 17 August 1932. LOGAN, Elizabeth and BRISKHAM, Cretney. 098/A 180. (https://www.scotlands : accessed 16 March 2018)

58 Scotland. Valuation Roll: Brechin, Angus. LOGAN, Adam. 1930. Findowrie. VR008800083-/5. National Records of Scotland. (https://www. : accessed 21 January, 2019)

59 Scotland. Marriages (CR). Brechin, Angus. 10 October 1930. LOGAN, Anna and STEWART, George. 275/00 0047. (https://www.scotlandspeople. : accessed 19 September 2013)

60 Scotland. Deaths (CR). Brechin, Angus. 13 March 1932. LOGAN, Adam. 275/00 0042. (https://www.scotland : accessed 18 March 2011)

61 Unaccompanied singing of psalms is a distinctive feature of the liturgy of the Free Church of Scotland.


Manchester Life in the 1930s—Part II
March 24, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Charles Morton

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 24, Number 1, 2018.

45 March Street

There were 50 or so houses in March Street, our number 45 being a large house with several paved steps leading up to a glass panelled front door that had an enormous round black knob at its centre. The house had a kitchen large enough to use as a daily living and dining area with a huge grate and attached oven, heated by a coal fire that burned almost every day, summer or winter, making the room remarkably cosy and cheerful when the day was cold. Suspended from the ceiling was a drying, or airing, rack, a large wood and cast iron contraption, which was raised or lowered by a cord and pulley. This was usually full of laundry, being suspended from that part of the ceiling closest to the fire grate, the vapour giving the pleasant smell of freshly washed clothes.

The most remarkable feature of the kitchen, however, was a row of small brass bells, in testimony to the prosperity of the original occupants. Although the bells (suspended on strips of spring metal, fastened high on the wall with a numbered plate beneath each) were no longer connected to the rooms they used to serve, they were reminders of the days when the kitchen was probably the domain of two or three servants. Its cosiness no doubt was lost to the family who would probably spend their time in more formal, and less well heated, areas of the house.

When I was about four years old, my father removed one of these bells and mounted it on a red pedal car I had been given the previous Christmas, thereby converting it into a fire engine. This may have caused some annoyance to the neighbours, but it was a great hit with my friends.

From the front door, off the long hallway that led to the kitchen in the rear, there was a front room (the parlour) containing our best furniture and only used for special company or at Christmas. Until visitors were expected, the fireplace in the parlour was not used, and the room seemed permanently chilled, even in summer. Between the parlour and the kitchen, a sitting room contained more modest but more comfortable furniture and was used as the main living room.

On Saturday or Sunday evenings, my parent’s friends, and sometimes Nin and Aunty Kitty, would come for tea, which in most working class homes usually consisted of boiled ham or tinned “John West Middle Cut” salmon, with thinly cut buttered bread and salad, followed by cakes, jellies, fruit pies and canned fruit. After tea, the family and guests usually settled in for an evening of cards, sometimes moving over to the Blackstock Pub for a few drinks, an hour or so before dispersing to their various homes at the 10:00 p.m. Sunday closing time.

Upstairs, the house had three bedrooms on the first floor as well as two attic rooms in the eaves. Attics in England were regular finished rooms; what in Canada are sometimes referred to as “attics” would be known as “lofts.” Our attic rooms must have been the quarters of the domestic help, one having a gabled window at the front while the other was lit only by a skylight in the roof. Having no servants ourselves, of course, we used the attic rooms mostly for storage; by standing on a few piled tin trunks, a fine view of the neighbouring rooftops could be had by lifting the skylight and peering through the opening.

Of particular note, however, was the family bathroom at the top of the first flight of stairs, the door to which was panelled in coloured glass, fortunately only translucent, filtering light onto an otherwise dark staircase. Inside was a huge porcelain-lined bathtub, which required some effort for even grownups to climb in and out of and which must have made great demands on the hot water supply. Probably because of the size of this bathtub, I was generally bathed in a zinc tub before the kitchen fire. Hot water, incidentally, was provided by a boiler behind the kitchen fireplace; a fire had to be going, summer and winter, to ensure a supply.

The toilet was also massive, having a step up to it, giving substance to the name “throne” commonly used by the children. It was flushed by pulling a chain connected to an overhead tank several feet above. I could only reach the chain by standing on the toilet seat, leading to the occasional unfortunate accident.

Electricity had not yet reached March Street when we moved in; as in all the other houses on the street, gas provided light to our house and fuel to the cooking range.

The light fixtures, some overhead but mostly wall fittings, were lit by pulling a small chain (releasing the gas) and applying a lighted match or taper to the gas mantle, a small mesh bag about two inches long, which cost a penny or so to replace when it was worn out or broken.

The mantle glowed and created light with a brilliance rather like the low wattage bulbs we used after electricity arrived. Spare mantles were kept on hand in the way electric light bulbs are today. When the gas was turned on at the outlet fitting and a lit match applied, the gas ignited with a slight popping sound.

Gaslight gave out a pale kind of yellowish light that was accompanied by the quiet hiss of the gas. Rooms that were not used were kept in darkness, and the convenience of lighting a room by merely flicking a switch was unknown to us. Candles in holders or hand-held oil lamps lit the way to bed and were treated with extreme care because of the fire hazard to flannel nightwear. There were many such accidents in pre-electric days. The fire risk from open candle flames and the sight of a person with large burn scars to the face was not uncommon.

Most, if not all, of Manchester’s streets were also illuminated by gaslight. Every day, newspapers contained a note of the official “lighting-up” time, when all vehicles, bicycles included, had to turn on their lights. Failure to have a light on a cycle could result in a court summons and a five-shilling fine. The streetlamps were turned on manually by a city employee (known to all as “the lamplighter”) at dusk, which in winter could be as early as mid-afternoon. Most street lamp posts were about 8 or 10 feet high with a rectangular glass lamp box on top, and the lamplighter used two long poles over his shoulder, one with a small hook to open the valve and the other containing a flame to ignite the gas mantle inside. Once lit, the lamp cast a circle of light, one such lamp on March Street and another on May Street becoming the gathering point for the neighbourhood children.

A couple of years after we moved in to March Street, electricity was installed for the full length of the street. Gas was still used for cooking and the penny-in-the-slot gas meters, which controlled its use, were supplemented by electric meters which only accepted shilling coins, twelve times as much as the gas meter.

When it is recalled that many families were existing on much less than two pounds a week (forty shillings) the combination of gas and electricity costs provided a great deal of hardship, and I can recall instances where families could only obtain a shilling by borrowing, waiting until dole day or by patronizing the nearest pawn shop in the All Saints area. For many families on the dole, even bedding and clothing might be regularly pawned each week, to be redeemed after the dole payment had been received. Often, families might live in the dark for days until they could afford to feed the meter.

Our house, like every other in the area, had a large cellar that was reached by a stone stairway running from the hall, under and parallel to the stairs to the second storey. The cellar had a stone flagged floor and rough brick walls (which gave off a damp musty smell) and was divided into several sections. At the front, coal was deposited through a round grid in the short walkway to the front door.

Each week, the coalman in his dirty clothes arrived on his horse-drawn four-wheeled cart to deposit hundredweight (110 lb) sacks of coal through the grid opening. He carried the sacks on his back, which was protected by a heavy leather shield the size of a breastplate on a suit of armour, and dropped the contents into the grid opening by heaving the sack over his head. Open coal fires were the only source of heat. The coal deposited in the cellar was carried as needed from the cellar to the fireplace in a coal scuttle, a bucket-like container, and “fetching the coal” was an unpopular chore in the dank unlighted cellar, particularly in the winter when it was most needed.

Immediately under the kitchen, the cellar contained a large “copper,” a deep copper bowl encased in brick with a fire grate underneath. The copper was filled by carrying buckets of cold water from the kitchen (there were no water taps in the cellar) and it was heated from the fire beneath. The week’s washing was done in the copper, usually every Monday, and many items were boiled in the process! However, many families found it cheaper and easier to take their weekly wash, usually bundled in a sheet and pushed in a baby pram, to one of the wash houses operated by the city, where hot water abounded and facilities such as soap, scrubbing boards and dollies (a threelegged stool-like contraption with a long stem that was used to manually agitate the wet clothes) were available for use at a minimum cost.

A few years later, some of these cellars and the stairs leading to them were put to a use never dreamed of by their builders and were to prove wartime lifesavers for the tenants.

The back door of the house opened from the kitchen onto a small paved yard containing an outhouse that had probably been an outside toilet prior to the invention of waterflushed plumbing in the previous century but was now used to store bicycles, for those lucky enough to own one, or for other outdoor items.

A brick wall enclosed the bottom of the yard, with a bolted door that opened onto the back entry or alley (what would be called a back lane in Canada) that ran behind the houses. Weekly, dustbins (garbage cans) were collected and emptied by corporation (city) employees who had a special hooked tool that unbolted the yard door, after which the cans were returned to their place in the yard and the door re-bolted.

On the other side of the entry at the bottom of March Street, a brick wall enclosed a residence for nurses working at the Royal Infirmary; while I and all my friends could be considered expert wall climbers, this wall was left strictly alone because the top was covered in pieces of broken bottles set in cement with jagged edges upright. Today, in Canada at least, this might be considered a danger to the public, leaving the owner liable to a lawsuit, despite the fact that to receive an injury an eight-foot wall had first to be scaled.

Our Daily Life

In many families, the main meal was served after the man of the house came home from work in the early evening but was still called tea, while the midday meal, even a sandwich, was called dinner. In our circles, the term “lunch” referred only to a sandwich or similar food wrapped in wax paper (usually a loaf wrapper) to be carried as a snack or a midday meal by a worker. Supper referred only to a late night snack or meal before bedtime, and was often applied to the fish and chips bought on the way home from the cinema or the pub.

In my house, both parents had jobs at various times. For some time, my father worked at “the Mac,” the Charles Macintosh rubber factory, from which the generic name of “Mac” for raincoats originated. He was also employed at one time by Dunlop, and his occupation is shown on some documentation as “rubber vulcanizer,” a job that Dunlop eliminated as pneumatic tyres started to replace the solid rubber tyres on which he was employed. The rubber industry was then considered to be a very unhealthy environment, as witnessed by the yellow hue of the faces of long-term employees, and despite the prospect of harder times, it was a mixed blessing when my father lost his job.

My mother was a machinist (a machinist, in Manchester at least, was what is here called a sewing machine operator, a machinist in Canada being the equivalent of what in England would have then been called an engineer). It was hard work, but she was good at her trade and there was always at least one income in the house. Although there was little that she could not make with a piece of material and a sewing machine, her real expertise was in shirt-making. In those days, store-bought shirts in Britain did not open down the entire front but were pulled over the head and buttoned from the waist up. (Shirts that buttoned from top to bottom with attached collars were known in the trade as “coat" or "American" shirts and were generally shorter than the normal British type, which had shirt tails that extended almost to the knees).

The average British-style shirt also came with a neck band only, to which a separate collar could be attached by use of front and back collar studs, a most awkward and uncomfortable arrangement. The benefit of this fashion was that the wearer only had to change the collar (a shirt was usually sold with two matching collars) to appear fresh, particularly in the polluted Manchester air, which left a black ring around the edge of the collar by day's end. This practice eliminated the need to change the shirt itself too frequently. Cardboard, or sometime celluloid, collars and cuffs were available at low cost and were often worn by low-paid office or other workers whose job required the wearing of a tie and jacket. Among the labouring classes, however, the collar only appeared at weekends, the usual attire of the working man being a collarless shirt with a scarf, known as a “muffler,” around his throat, summer and winter. Thanks to my mother’s skills as a shirt-maker, my father and I each possessed an extensive “American” shirt wardrobe!

With two parents working, my family's main meal on weekdays (still called “tea”) was always eaten at night and was prepared after my mother returned from work. This was not my favourite eating schedule; I enjoyed the times when I had a cooked meal at noon and a light one for tea.

At school, some of the children whose fathers were unemployed received free meals at another school in Longsight (my school, St. Chrysostom’s, having no such program) and had to rush there and back to eat within the allotted lunch period.

Although I was too young to know about such things, these meals, referred to by all as "school dinners" were considered by those partaking in the programme to be something of a social stigma. Being somewhat envious of my schoolmates who were treated to a free hot meal every day while I received only a sandwich, I clearly recall the time when I was about five years old telling my father that I wished he were dead so that I could qualify! I think that this amused him at the time, but the day came when I regretted my words.

When I too became entitled to free meals because my father had been killed by a bomb, I never once availed myself of them.

Children’s Habits

There were two factions in the area, the old and the new residents, both of which were well represented on March Street. Many of the less prosperous new arrivals were of a later generation and had young children in their families; those already established were generally older folks whose children were grown or in many cases had left home. (However, it was quite common for grown children to remain at home until marriage or careers prompted their departure.)

My sisters and I did not lack for friends, and gangs of boys and girls, largely based on age similarities, were common. These would not fit the present definition of street gangs, their sole purpose being a gathering that was always available for group games or perhaps just company. At any given time, games could be joined just by walking onto the street, where other children were almost sure to be already out, one particular lamppost being the accepted rendezvous spot. A type of yodel, each gang having its own particular variation, would usually bring out other members of the gang when loudly called.

Boys in those days all dressed in the same manner: short trousers, knee socks (which were seldom pulled up), laced ankle boots and a jersey. The jersey was a woollen garment with a narrow collar and sometimes a short inch-wide tie of the same material. More often than not, the front and elbows would have large holes caused by climbing walls, and exposed elbows and knees had perpetual scabs and scars from the same habit. As one sore knee or elbow healed, another would be created.

Parents didn't normally tolerate their children hanging about inside the house, and would order them to “go out and play,” summer or winter. It was not uncommon to see boys and girls on the street eating a thick “butty” (sandwich), usually jam, which would be their tea. (A word on meal times here for Canadian benefit: in working class circles, meals generally consisted of breakfast, dinner at midday, and tea, at about 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

In the absence of much motorized traffic, children could play in the middle of the street with little fear of being run down, and would only appear home for meals. Some streets were in fact officially designated as “play streets” and marked as such with signs at the end of the street. Play streets were closed to motor traffic.

In the early thirties, life was perhaps a little more relaxed than today. Petty crime, like breaking into houses to rob pennies from gas meters, was not uncommon, but the streets were generally considered safe and supervision of children was very casual, although we took care to avoid obviously dangerous situations after dark; molestations and bag-snatching were not unknown. Front doors were usually kept locked, although a front door key was often hung by a string at the back of the door and could be fished through the letter slot to allow all the family to come and go using the same key.

It was not uncommon for youths who were caught breaking into homes to be sentenced to a number of strokes of the birch, made of seasoned birch twigs rather like a witch’s broom. The strokes were, I believe, administered to the culprit’s bare backside and were said to be a most painful experience. Although this was meant as a deterrent, it sometimes became a badge of honour among the tougher street youths of the time, and in the only two cases that I knew of, the boys in question were regarded with awe by their peers. All in all, however, local crime generally lacked the vicious aspects that later became prevalent.

Friends and Neighbours

Our neighbours on March Street were a varied lot. We had a family across the street named Gregory, whose grandmother, living with the family, originally came from Cornwall. It is perhaps worth noting that among the working class at least, elderly relatives such as widowed grandmothers or grandfathers often lived with the families of their sons or daughters. It was common to see an old lady or gentleman sitting beside the fireplace in many homes; retirement residences of the type used today were unknown. When the weather was good, old lady Gregory would sit on the front doorstep puffing on the clay pipe that was seldom out of her mouth, faded blue tattoos visible on her forearms.

Clay pipes could be obtained from any tobacconist, half penny for the small and a penny for the large; they were favoured mostly by the Irish navvies who did most of the construction labouring in England, and by children for blowing bubbles. As a child, I found it fascinating to see the street navvies smoking their pipes with the bowls upside down in wet weather; the burning tobacco never seemed to fall out. Many pipes of the wooden variety, however, had little metal perforated lids over the bowl for the same purpose.

The Gittins family further up the street arrived, I think, from Shropshire, where the father had been a farm labourer. Their four girls and two boys were completely rural types and had a hard time adjusting to life in a city where the houses were side by side, row on row. One boy was called Alan, known as Sonny to family and friends, and quite tall in relation to most of the city-bred boys of the district. Having only five days difference in our ages, we became firm friends, and he and his sisters were readily accepted into the games and activities of the other children.

Shortly after the family's arrival, however, Sonny’s father suddenly died, leaving the family in a state of poverty that was severe even by the standard of the times. The funeral took place from his house, the custom at that time being for the body to be laid out in the front parlour with all the blinds and curtains in the home closed.

Poor Sonny had other, although less serious, misfortunes. When my father's sister Agnes brought a plumcoloured velvet suit with a lace collar and knee britches for me to wear, something she must have found in her attic, my father was furious.

After he had thrown the suit into the dustbin, one of the Gittins girls salvaged it and took it home. Next Sunday, Sonny appeared on the street looking like an Elizabethan nobleman in one of the swashbuckler films that were so popular then; the suit earned him the lasting name "Lord Fauntleroy."

Next door at number 47, Mrs. Hercules lived with her son Leslie. She was a white lady, the widow of a black merchant seaman who had died and was buried, I believe, in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Leslie was also black, but I don't think that his colour was ever noticed by his friends and he was extremely popular among his street companions. Leslie turned out to be a brilliant all-rounder; he excelled athletically and academically. At an entrance examination that he entered, he finished up at the top of several hundred candidates.

Next door on the other side, at 43, lived Mr. Driscoll, a postman, and his wife. The Driscolls were a quiet couple who won my lasting regard by buying me a tin clockwork postoffice van one Christmas, something that today would be worth many times its original value as a collector’s item.

At the time, there was a general anti-Irish sentiment about, mostly among ex-servicemen who regarded the Easter Uprising in Dublin in 1916 as a stab in the back to the men serving in France and to whom the words Irish (Ulstermen excepted) and treachery were synonymous. The Driscolls were aware of this. I remember Mrs. Driscoll saying one day that her real name was O'Driscoll, but that the "O" was not used because its Irish-ness tended to upset people.

At number 37 lived the Jervis family; the husband was a young man who went to work each day in overalls, leaving his wife and two young children at home. Mrs. Jervis was a Roman Catholic who had married a Protestant and sent her son Brian and his sister to the local Protestant school.

Once a week, a young priest from St. Augustine’s church would call in and tell Mrs. Jervis that she was living “in sin,” her children were illegitimate and that her soul and those of her children were in peril. On one visit, he was so forceful that Mrs. Jervis became distraught and her husband found her crying when he came home from work. The following week, Mr. Jervis stayed home from work, a hard decision when days not worked were unpaid, and when the priest knocked on the front door, he hid behind it to listen to what was said.

Local lore had it that before the priest had even finished speaking; Mr. Jervis stepped from behind the door. The priest was said to have turned several shades paler and beat a hasty retreat with Mr. Jervis at his heels. It was his last visit, and Mr. Jervis became something of a local hero, even among some of the few Catholics in the neighbourhood.

At the beginning of the war, Mr. Jervis had a very unusual and nasty experience. His wife and children had been evacuated to the country and Mr. Jervis was in his home, which was somewhat different to most of the other houses because it was at the end of a row where a passageway formed an entrance to the back entry. Possibly, this made the house colder than most, due to its having an outside wall exposed to the weather rather than being shared with a neighbour.

That first winter of the war was particularly severe, the coldest for many years, and there was no heating in houses apart from a few open fireplaces, which were allowed to go out during the night. Behind the living room fireplace was a boiler for the supply of hot water for the house, the water being heated by the fire when lit.

Getting up one morning in the cold house, Mr. Jervis lit the fire, where, unbeknownst to him, the feed pipe to the boiler had frozen, creating a pressure that caused the boiler to explode. The explosion blew a fourfoot hole in the wall and blew hundreds of coal chips into Mr. Jervis’ face. His visiting sister, on her way down from the bedroom, was blown back up to the top of the stairs, and Mr. Jervis, bleeding profusely, covered his face with a dishtowel and ran all the way to Manchester Royal Infirmary in a state of complete shock. For the rest of his life, one side of his face was covered in embedded splinters of coal.

In about 1935, our family moved to a slightly smaller house at 8 Livingstone Street, just a short walk down our back entry, across the end of April Street and into number 8.

Although only a two- or three minute walk from 45 March Street, it was like moving to another world. If anything, Livingstone Street was somewhat more upscale, as though the original inhabitants were conducting an orderly retreat street by street in the face of the advancing newcomers.

8 Livingstone Street

The move was made in the evening, using a handcart (a large twowheeled pushcart) borrowed for the occasion and the efforts of a couple of uncles and my father's friends.

Normally, a move of this kind would have all the hallmarks of a "moonlight flit," a commonly used method of moving dwellings without the landlord or rent collector's knowledge when the rent became too far in arrears. A moonlight flit, however, would have necessitated a move to a more distant location than the one we made, and the use of the handcart was a money-saving measure, while the after-dark operation was necessary because the family and friends helping were at work during the day.

From the outset, possibly because they thought our move was a suspicious one, the Andersons at 10 Livingstone made it clear that our arrival was not welcomed. The Andersons were an elderly couple whose daughter Peggy lived with them. They were part of the original group, Mr. Anderson being a retired white-collar worker while my dad was blue-collared. In the five years that we lived at number 8, I don't think that more than the occasional “good morning” passed between the two families.

From the new house, I was able to walk to school each day without being accompanied by an adult. Other children from neighbouring streets went to the same school and gradually funnelled onto Upper Brook Street, where a policeman waited to take them across from the corner of June Street to Blackstock Street between the newly introduced Belisha beacons.

These were black and white painted metal poles surmounted by a large bright lit yellow ball, one on either side of the street, between which the street was painted in broad white stripes. When pedestrians crossed the street between the beacons, all vehicles were obliged to stop.

Although we hadn’t moved far, my circle of friends expanded to include not only children from April Street, but also particularly those from May Street, who formed a totally different “gang” from those in March Street. May Street had the largest number of children in the area, some of whom attended St. Joseph's Catholic Church and school in Longsight, a fair walk each day. All of us, however, found common ground in York Place.

Number 8 had a similar layout to our March Street house, including a cellar with a coal area and a laundry copper, but having only two bedrooms and bathroom on the first floor (the second floor in Canada). Like March Street, the back door looked out onto a high wall, beyond which there was a hospital-owned building that fronted onto York Place. A second flight of stairs led to two attic rooms, one of which was used as a bedroom for my sisters and the other for storing a variety of items, including a large chest full of books that my father had accumulated from his schooldays and beyond. I clearly recall trying to make sense out of Pilgrim’s Progress and being fascinated by the lurid illustrations in a book about Christian martyrs.

Although the cooking area in the kitchen was much smaller than that in March Street, the adjoining sitting room was a cosy comfortable place and the upstairs bath much easier to negotiate.

We were to live at 8 Livingstone Street until the Manchester Blitz of 1940 turned our lives upside down.


Aggie's Life
March 24, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Ann Burns

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 24, Number 1, 2018.

Mary Agnes McGrath (Aggie) was my maternal grandmother and a constant and influential presence in my life until I was in my early twenties, when she passed away. She was the one who did everything possible to make us feel pride in our Irish roots, because she knew of her ancestors and treasured their memory. Yet it was her grandfather, not Aggie, who was the immigrant. Michael McGrath had left Ireland during the famine and settled in Ottawa. His influence must have been both pervasive and persuasive. Aggie grew up in his home, as I grew up in hers. She is the one ancestor I would now most enjoy spending time with, to ask the questions that never occurred to me when she was still around and that could have eliminated a few brick walls. This is her story.

The Great Fire of 1900

The nightmare was over. Aggie and her family stood in the front yard in disbelief. Their wooden home was still standing, undamaged. Yet just a few hundred feet away were the ruins of their neighbours' homes on Booth Street. To 8-year-old Aggie it must have appeared that the end of the world was just beyond her back yard. To her parents, relief at seeing the house intact was tempered by what could have been. The Great Fire of 1900 had come close to destroying their lives.

A small fire had started the morning of 26 April in the chimney of a home in Hull, Quebec. By the time the fire brigade finally arrived, it had spread to the home next door and beyond. Soon, whipped by uncommonly high winds, it had consumed much of that city. Just after noon, the ash and cinders were blown across the Ottawa River. There the blaze found renewed energy and fuel when it reached the open lumber yards. Soon a large swath of Ottawa was engulfed in flames.

By 8 p.m., when the wind abated, the fire had been extinguished, but the ruins smouldered for days. Help had been summoned from as far away as Montreal, and pumper trucks arrived by train in just over two hours. Firemen and ordinary citizens successfully battled the blaze. However, the repercussions of the fire were to influence Ottawa life for a long time to come.

With 14,000 people homeless, bereft from the loss of all they owned save the few items they were able to carry if they'd had enough warning, a tent city sprang up in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood. Seven people died as a direct result of the fire and more lost their lives in the succeeding days from illness due to the severe weather and lack of appropriate shelter. A young child, Aggie realized none of this, as life at 146 Lebreton Street returned to normal.

With the danger passed, Aggie wandered through the nearby burnedout streets. Was it simply curiosity that drove her? Was it a brief escape from home? What she found on her walk would survive to this day.

Something was sticking out of the remnants of a ruined home—a small cast iron frying pan. Nearby was another find, a cast iron pan for making Yorkshire puddings. She pulled both from the ashes and returned home, elated with the spoils of her walk. Those pans were put to immediate use and were well used by her mother, later by Aggie herself, and through succeeding generations for years to come.

The McGrath Family

Aggie was the middle child of Edward Patrick (E.P. or Ned) and Mary Ann (Minnie) McGrath, nee Morgan. She was baptized Mary Agnes in St. Patrick's Church on Kent Street, Ottawa, on 23 August 1891 at the age of 15 days. Agnes had been the name of Ned and Minnie's first child, who had lived for only 3 months; she was born on 15 April 1886 and passed away on 15 July. Aggie did the second-hand name proud all her life.

After the death of her first child, and possibly other infants, Minnie bore children in quick succession starting three years after this loss. Mary Beatrice (Bea) came into the world on 31 May 1889; then came Edward James (Eddie) on 2 September 1890; 11 months later, Mary Agnes (Aggie) was born on 8 August 1891. The youngest sister, Mary Elena (Lena), was born on 22 April 1894. Francis William (Frank) came along on 31 May 1897, and on 2 May 1899, Allan Joseph (Allan) completed the McGrath family. They were a very close-knit group.

By the time of the fire the McGrath family thus included six children under 10 years of age. They had moved at least once a year since the 1889 arrival of their first child to survive infancy. In 1899, not long before the great fire, they moved into 146 Lebreton Street, the home of Ned's father, Michael.

The family practised thrift in all things and seemed to do quite well. As Grandfather Michael owned the home, he likely contributed at least a little to household expenses.

Minnie's to-do list was never-ending. Three babies in less than 27 months kept her hands constantly in hot water doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning. She didn't get much respite over the following years either, but the older children pitched in however they could to help with the younger ones. In later years they all helped each other.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Aggie's father Ned was a carpenter working for Davidson and Thackray Planing Mills. Ned was a popular man in Ottawa, well known in sports circles, especially baseball. He was a noted Liberal in politics and served on Ottawa City Council for several terms as alderman in Dalhousie Ward. He was among the most popular of aldermen for his devotion to his constituents.

School Days

Aggie's school, St. Patrick's on Nepean Street, had also been spared the flames in the fire of 1900, so there was no holiday from learning. This large brick building opened in 1877 and one of the buildings still stands in 2017. Aggie was an average student; as was the norm for that era, she completed 8th grade.

There was no option of higher education for the McGrath girls. They learned home-making skills from helping their mother and in the home economics classes taught in the wooden annex to the school.

On the Domestic Front

Throughout their lives, Aggie was the most domestically inclined of the three sisters. Cooking, cleaning and sewing proved to be her salvation 25 years later. She learned to sew at a young age; although she later learned to use a sewing machine, most of her work was done by hand. Among her practical creations were quilts; no scrap of fabric was ever thrown away.

Bea married Billie McEwan in March of 1907, when Aggie was 15, and was soon the mother of a growing family. Aggie was more suited to the chores of domestic life than Bea and spent a great deal of time helping her older sister with the children. She would walk to Bea's home in the morning and help out most of the day, as long as Minnie didn't need her at home. It was good preparation for raising her own family.

The “Camp”

In 1909, Ned signed a 100-year lease for land on Nicoll's Island near the Long Island Locks on the Rideau River. Surrounded by family and friends, the entire McGrath clan headed for the property when the weather got warm; they spent the summers there, first in tents and later in cottages, and called it in the family “the island” or “the camp." Aggie loved summertime. She was always happiest at the family camp.

When Aggie Met Harry

In the summer of 1909 a boat docked at the camp and out spilled a rather disgruntled group of musicians, all members of an orchestra from Britannia. They had set out on Harry Sunderland's motor launch in hopes for a day of fun visiting the McGraths. It hadn't been a smooth trip; two major interruptions had delayed the merry making. Not long after the arrival of the orchestra lovely Aggie of the long red hair caught Harry's eye. He was ten years her senior; the age gap took some persuading to overcome and bothered Aggie for the rest of her days. However, Harry was gainfully employed, loved boating, was much in demand to play the piano for parties and was a fine-looking fellow. He fit in very well with the gregarious McGrath clan. Before long Aggie fell under his spell.

On 25 April 1910, a few months shy of her nineteenth birthday, Aggie married Harry in the vestry of St. Patrick's Church. As he was a Baptist and she a Catholic, a dispensation had been required for them to marry. The priest was very clear that there would not be a mass, nor would the wedding take place in the church itself. The ceremony was witnessed by Aggie's good friends Tillie Edwards and George Powell, also non-Catholics, who incidentally also later married. No details were ever passed down of the wedding or whether there was a reception or a honeymoon. Still, I can't imagine the McGraths ignoring any occasion for a party.

A New Life

The young couple set up house, and like Aggie's parents before them, seemed to move frequently—sometimes back into 146 Lebreton Street. To Harry’s family they were known as ‘arry and ‘haggie. Harry had a good job in the federal government as a pressman and was well able to support his family. While Harry went off to work in Hull every morning, Aggie still had time during the day to help Bea for a couple of years.

On 6 May 1913, Aggie's first child, Francis Gilbert, was born. At this time they were living at 109 Division Street, now Booth Street. Gilbert was the light of their lives.

Life Interrupted—World War I

The next year their peaceful little world changed; everyone's world changed when Britain declared war on Germany. Harry faced a dilemma. He had been born in England and felt compelled to serve the country of his birth. Besides, Canada was part of the British Empire and when Britain was at war, Canada was at war. Harry had done military service in the Boer War just over a decade earlier, serving with Damant's Horse Regiment in South Africa and had luckily survived unscathed. Should he sign up for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, leaving Aggie and their baby?

Whether voluntarily or not we will never know, but Harry signed up early in 1917, unaccountably in Renfrew, and shortly thereafter sailed to England for training. By May of that year he was on the ground in France serving with the 7th Canadian Railway Troops. He was a sapper—a soldier responsible for tasks such as building and repairing roads and bridges, laying and clearing mines, etc. Alone with young Gilbert while Harry was overseas, Aggie moved back to 146 Lebreton Street to be with her family and I suppose to save money. From time to time there would be a letter or postcard from Harry, and $15 of his monthly pay was sent directly to Aggie.

Harry was lucky once more— doubly lucky, in fact, despite an accident. In August 1918 he slipped while working a lever on the rail line and fractured his foot. He was shipped back to England for medical treatment. From Epsom Camp in England on November 6, 1918, Harry wrote a postcard addressed “Dear Wife,” to say that he and the others pictured on the card were recovering from influenza; he thought they'd be leaving Epsom for the Front on November 11th. With the armistice occurring that day, he again survived a war and recovered from a potentially deadly illness.

Home Again

Returning to Canada on the Aquitania, Harry arrived in Halifax on 25 January 1919; shortly thereafter he was honourably discharged. His job at the Printing Bureau was waiting for him and the family routine resumed.

On 25 October 1919, Harry and Aggie welcomed their second child, Mary Rita. Their family was complete. The first years of the 1920s were generally peaceful around the world and unremarkable in Aggie's life. She enjoyed her role as wife and mother.

Tragedy for the McGraths

The summer of 1927 brought unimaginable loss to the McGraths, at the very place they loved so much—the summer camp. Aggie's brothers Frank and Allan and their friend Gordon Belot drowned while off in a rowboat to look for firewood. The precise cause is still a mystery.

Newspaper coverage of the tragedy was extensive. Ned was a wellrespected alderman in Ottawa, elected for a second time, which probably added to public interest. He was so well known among members of the Liberal party of Canada, that the Prime Minister himself visited the family at home to express his condolences.

The loss of all three men shattered the family. Ned and Minnie never really recovered from the events of 24 July 1927. Many years later Aggie would repeatedly warn her grandchildren to stay away from the water, and she would relive the tragedy when anyone went out in a boat or went swimming.

The first few years after the drownings were relatively peaceful. Aggie and Harry prospered, but were certainly not wealthy. They bought a lovely brick home at 279 Bayswater Avenue, very close to the Experimental Farm and the Civic Hospital. Paying the mortgage, however, meant savings were small. Gilbert by now was in high school and Rita attended St. Mary's Elementary School a few blocks away. St. Mary's Church, their home parish, was just up the street. The neighbourhood grew, everyone got along well and very few families moved away.

More Losses Take Their Toll

Aggie would suffer several more severe blows in the next few years. Early in 1931 came terrible news: Harry was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Once the poor prognosis was delivered, a pall fell over the family again.

Then, during the difficult summer of Harry's declining health, on 20 July 1931, Minnie McGrath succumbed suddenly to a fatal heart attack at Long Island. Harry passed away on 3 September 1931, just three days short of his 51st birthday. Aggie had not begun to recover from losing her mother; now her husband was gone.

On 12 May 1931, after his diagnosis, Harry had prepared his Last Will and Testament. It was a short handwritten document that left everything to Aggie. When the will went through surrogate court, the total value of his estate was $3,950. Of that, $2,400 was the equity in the house; $1,000 was the value of his life insurance, and the balance of $550 was the value of the furniture in the house. It didn't leave much for Aggie and the children to live on.

While living, Harry had earned a good salary and the family thrived. But in 1931 there was no widow's pension for a surviving spouse. Aggie's income stopped the day that Harry died. She had little education and seemingly no marketable skills; there were two school-age children to raise. By the end of that year Aggie's beautiful red locks had turned pure white. Although she was barely 40 years old, Aggie looked and felt much older.


Aggie set to making ends meet the only way she could: 279 Bayswater became a boarding house. The house had three bedrooms, for Aggie, Rita and Gilbert. To make space for boarders, Rita gave up her room to share a bed with her mother and Gilbert moved downstairs to the living room, where a convertible chesterfield became his bed. Each of the two smaller bedrooms was equipped with twin beds, and the rent paid by the four male boarders kept the family afloat. Additionally, Aggie took in laundry and cooked for others.

There was always a full dinner on the table at noon for the family, the boarders, and sometimes other paying and non-paying guests. Nothing went to waste. Everything was made from scratch, even the bread. She always made sure to darn not only her children's socks but also the boarders', because she always said that when she saw a hole in a sock, it meant the owner of the sock had nobody to love them.

Aggie was just getting back on her feet when the next blow fell. Her adored father Ned became suddenly ill and passed away on 29 December 1932. In 17 months Aggie had lost both her parents and her husband.

In 1937 Rita graduated from Immaculata High School and took a one-year business course at the High School of Commerce. She learned typing and shorthand, two valuable skills for employment. After her graduation things got easier for the family; she got a job that paid $60 a month and was able to contribute to the family income. Gilbert had been working for a few years, mostly as a theatre manager, and helped support his mother too. The boarders stayed on.

War Brings More Changes

During WW II, both Gilbert and Rita’s husband Bob Burns served in the armed forces. When Bob was posted to England, Rita moved back in with Aggie. The boarders still had their meals prepared, their laundry done and their socks darned. Some of them also went off to war. Others carried on as usual and Aggie never let them down.

Once Bob returned from overseas in 1946, he and Rita continued to live with Aggie. His wartime coupons provided a sewing machine that saw active duty for 50 years. Their plan had never been to continue living with her mother, but they all got along well and so they stayed.

The arrival on 14 July 1947 of Rita and Bob's first child, baptized Mary Ann, was a great joy for Aggie. I am that child. Aggie was so thrilled to have a grandchild that she happily took over baby-minding duties whenever possible. With my arrival, Aggie had acquired another name— Nanny. Before I was two there came a little sister, Rita Maureen, born on 15 January 1949. A beautiful baby, with dark curls and bright blue eyes, Maureen was another light in Aggie's life.

Life seemed perfect. The house was big enough for the growing family and Rita and Bob enjoyed the help that Nanny provided.

Another joy entered Aggie's life later in 1949 when Gilbert's wife Thelma (Ashfield) delivered a baby girl they named Sylvia Maude on 27th November; it seemed that fate had turned in the right direction at last. Nanny's granddaughters were her true delight. Gil and Thelma lived in Centretown, just a bus ride away.

Another Setback—Another Recovery

Between Christmas of 1949 and New Year's 1950 Maureen and I were struck with a flu-like illness. I recovered quickly. Maureen became gravely ill and was rushed to hospital with what was referred to as polio-encephalitis. She was transferred to the Montreal Neurological Institute and the family moved to Montreal for two years while she received therapy. Once she was well enough, Maureen was released from hospital and joined the rest of the family. She needed a lot of care but remained a smiling happy child. There was no shortage of devotion to her treatment and care.

The devotion to her therapy and the resulting hard work paid off and by the time she was 3, Maureen was standing and walking in braces, with the assistance of whomever would hold her hand. Nanny was always there, willing and able and tireless. When she was 6, Maureen learned to walk by herself, no longer needing the heavy metal braces. This was a miracle in Nanny's eyes. Her prayers, combined with all the therapy, had finally paid off.

The family moved back to 279 Bayswater Ave in 1951 and the next year Maureen started school at the Crippled Children's Treatment Centre. The financial burden from her medical expenses made for great sacrifices by Aggie, Rita and Bob for years, but they never complained. The other major event of this year was the arrival of another granddaughter on 25th September—Diane Agnes Sunderland, Gilbert's child.

Heartbreak for Aggie

The defining milestones in Aggie's life were tragedies and once again sadness returned with a vengeance. Early in 1953 Gilbert was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away on 7th March at age 39, leaving a widow with two young daughters. Nanny continued to help Rita care for Ann and Maureen, but it was with a very heavy heart. It took years to heal this wound. She kept it all inside and yet she continued to give and help everyone she knew.

More Changes

Until the mid-1950s, 279 Bayswater was a comfortable home. On 10 September 1955, the house got a little crowded when Nanny was presented with her first grandson, Thomas Gerard. Before young Tommy was even walking, Donald Robert (Donnie) made his appearance on 7 December 1956. When the boys were 2 and 3 years old it was time to find a bigger home. The decision took quite a while and circumstances had to align to make it possible.

In the late 1950s the Veterans' Land Act provided for acquisition of the old McKellar golf course and it was subdivided into building lots. Aggie gave the Bayswater house to Rita and Bob and they sold it to finance the building of their dream home at 731 Manitou Drive.

Moving to the new address was more of a transition than expected, but after a while the household members settled in. Aggie now had a sunny front bedroom to herself and she got shiny new modern furniture to fill it. This was her private domain, to which she could retreat from the bustle created by the various activities of the kids.

Two years after the move, Aggie turned 70 and began to receive Old Age Security, her first independent income. It was not a fortune at $75 a month, but gave her something to share. She bought me a better piano for my music lessons and the other grandchildren all got a boost to their current incomes with a supplementary allowance paid from Nanny's new fortune.

Of all the roles she had in her life— daughter, wife, mother and grandmother—Aggie relished the role of Nanny the most. It was the role that brought her the most happiness. She was the embodiment of the perfect grandmother: white hair done up in a bun, cotton house dresses for daily wear, a nice suit or dress for special occasions, and the everpresent apron. Nanny would bake, make pickles, write letters and knit or mend. Her hands were never still.

A huge surprise was in store for the family in 1961. There was a new baby on the way. On my 14th birthday, 14 July 1961, Monica Janet Burns joined the crew. By now Aggie was 70 years old, but baby Janet was a breath of fresh air to her.

Adventures on the East Coast

In 1962, Bob was still in the RCAF and had just been promoted to Squadron Leader. He was posted to Halifax and Nanny decided to come along. The Manitou Drive house was rented and we travelled east to live in a house with six bedrooms. At the end of Bob's posting, the family moved back to Ottawa and took possession of the house again.

Sad News Again

Early in the spring of 1967, Nanny was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had surgery to remove the tumour and ended up with a colostomy. There was no chemotherapy regime. Her personal care routine was turned upside down and remained a struggle for the rest of her life. She was afraid and felt doomed. She knew what was ahead of her, as she had lost her husband to the same disease. The progress of her cancer was somewhat slower, but no good outcome was predicted. Nor did she get one. In early 1969, it was confirmed that Nanny's cancer had spread to her lungs. She carried on, uncomplaining, just as she always had. She even spent part of the summer at the cottage, supervising whichever of the grandchildren were there. However, by August it was obvious that Nanny was deathly ill. She had some medication but spent much of her time in bed, often crying from the pain. For reasons I will never understand, she was denied opiate medication because it was addictive, and the pain was severe. Eventually she had to be hospitalized so that the pain could be better controlled.

Nanny passed away in the early hours of 18 September 1969. Her pain had ended but her legacy lives on. Mary Agnes (McGrath) Sunderland was laid to rest in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, beside her late husband Harry Sunderland, on 20 September 1969.

The Cast Iron Pans

Those pans were well used by Aggie’s mother Minnie McGrath, and many years later by Aggie herself and later yet by her daughter Rita and granddaughters Ann and Janet. Both are still in perfect condition.



Manchester Life in the 1930s–Part III
March 23, 2020 By: Gwen Gibson

Written by: Charles Morton

This article was published in Anglo-Celtic Roots, Volume 24, Number 2, 2018.

York Place: Games and Pastimes

From the end of March Street up to Oxford Road, York Place was the main playground for the neighbourhood children. It had all that could be desired, not the least being it was the only smooth roadway in an area where all streets were cobbled, a mecca for those lucky enough to own bicycles, tricycles or roller skates.

On the other side of York Place from Union Chapel stood St. Mary’s Hospital. The driveway to the hospital laundry descended along the front of the building to a loading dock well below street level, with a bank of earth from the roadway on the opposite side, along the top edge of which a well-worn narrow pathway ran.

York Place being the main route to the Rivoli (locally pronounced “ riverley”) Cinema, this pathway, known to all the local children as the “Death Trail,” was traversed by the boys of the neighbourhood going to and from the weekly Saturday penny matinee to see cowboy movies. Riding the Death Trail meant slowly running at a galloping gait, left hand holding an imaginary rein while the other patted the right buttock, an imaginary horse’s flank. Occasionally, just like in the movies, one of the riders would miss his footing on the narrow trail and tumble down the bank, usually adding to his ever-present elbow or knee sores.

Directly across Oxford Road from York Place were the main gates of Whitworth Park. Between the park and Denmark Road, where the Rivoli Cinema stood, was Whitworth Hall, containing a permanent exhibition of period costume. The approach to the Hall was a series of low broad steps with a low flattopped wall running in a gentle curve across the front of the building, another feature that attracted those on the way to the Rivoli each Saturday. On reflection, it seems that this wall, like all scalable walls, held an attraction for all small boys that could not be resisted.

Oxford Road, from the corner of High Street, past the end of York Place and the Union Chapel right down past the Royal Infirmary, had an exceptionally wide sidewalk, which was mostly composed of a fine red shale, bordered, along the curb side, with regular flagstones and planted every few yards with plane trees. This was generally known as “Monkey Parade,” where local teenaged girls would stroll on Sundays in their best finery hoping to meet teenaged boys with similar interests.

(Unfortunately, when I left Manchester in the 1950s, the composition of the area had changed once more, and the teenaged girls had been replaced by an older breed walking the same route for professional purposes, with nervous older men pretending to be waiting for a bus as they loitered with eyes peeled for the appearance of the beat policeman.)

There were always large groups of children in York Place after school hours, various street groups doing their thing while other groups did theirs. On occasion, these groups, whose members normally kept to themselves, would merge with others (when they thought that it was interesting enough to do so) in large-scale games like the latest movie re-enactment. We were Bengal Lancers, the Light Brigade at Balaclava, the crew of the Bounty and many others.

Ordinary street games, generally using tennis balls, were popular; Rally-Ho!, Queenie-O-Cocoa, Hopscotch or Kick-Can (using an old can if no ball was available) were among the most favoured. When a boy or girl from outside the group wanted to join in a game, the standard question—“Any game?”—would usually allow their admittance.

With the improvement in some families’ financial situation that started to appear a couple of years before WW II, without doubt the most popular and enjoyable pastime was the Sunday Sixpenny Ticket. Manchester Corporation Tramways had a system that permitted all-day travel on a ticket that cost one shilling for adults, sixpence for children. Most parts of Manchester could be reached by bus or tram, just by showing the conductor the ticket (tickets were not valid for travel to areas outside of the city boundaries, or on any conveyance belonging to neighbouring towns Stockport and Salford).

Looking at the dangers of letting children out of their parents’ sight today, it is remarkable that 70 or 80 years ago, parents would allow their offspring, fortified with a sandwich lunch wrapped in waxed paper, to roam all over the city by themselves, or at least in the company of others like them. On most Sundays, we were out from just after breakfast until tea time in the late afternoon. I, like most of my friends, came to know the city like the back of my hand; our preference being, however, for the suburbs on the south side. Favourite destinations included Northenden, Fogg Lane in Burnage, and a ride on the number 22, which was a singledecker on one of the longest routes that Corporation buses travelled. Other lengthy rides could be had on the 53 bus or the 37 tram.

Northenden was a favourite because the banks of the River Mersey were accessible, and in the summer there was a fair, mostly run by the gypsies whose summer camp was close by. This always created a feeling of excitement, even though our participation was limited to those of spectators, due to a shortage of funds.

In Burnage, the main attraction was an area to the rear of the Reynold and Coventry Chain Company, known to all as “Hans Reynold’s,” which had at one time been a quarry or perhaps a clay pit and contained a large deep pond that abounded in frogs, tadpoles, newts and a variety of pond creatures. One of the more popular destinations for the neighbourhood children was Victoria Baths on High Street (commonly known as High Street Baths), particularly in summer. There were two distinct pools with separate entrances in daily use, one for males and one for females. I think, but am not sure, that mixed bathing was allowed on some occasions. Bathing suits were known as swimming costumes, a term as Victorian sounding as the Baths themselves, and were generally made of wool, a very heavy material when wet!

There was another aspect to the Baths; many older houses had no bathrooms and used public bathing facilities. One of my school friends, Jack Devlin, lived in Welby Street which was on the opposite side of High Street, in one such house. Every Saturday morning, Jack would cross High Street with his towel and for the sum of one penny be given the use of a bathtub with unlimited hot water and a small piece of soap, emerging sparkling clean an hour later.

Going to the Pictures

In the 1930s, filmgoing was a regular pastime of all, regardless of age group or income. Although some referred to the cinema as such, (“movie” was an American term, not used in Manchester), a cinema was usually called a “picture house” and the pastime was “going to the pictures.”

Within easy reach of the neighbourhood there was an ample number of these, all of which could be reached on foot or, if preferred and affordable, by a short tram ride. Closest was the Rivoli on Denmark Road, while going south along Wilmslow Road were the converted Rusholme Repertory Theatre, at the corner of Great Western Street; the Trocadero, at Moor Street; and the Casino, near the junction of Wilmslow and Dickenson roads.

Most cinemas ran continuous programs, where a patron could take an available seat at any point during a film and see the missed part during the next showing after the interval. The Trocadero, (known as “The Troc”) was different, however; it operated on the two-house system, whereby those arriving after the show had started would have to wait in line outside until the first house emptied and the second show began.

Just past Dickenson Road, next to the Villa Hotel, was a strange little theatre called Leslie’s Pavilion. The entrance was almost unnoticeable, being set among hoardings and almost indistinguishable from the many bills pasted around it. Leslie’s was, however, a place for grownups with live entertainment rather than movies—and was a place I never visited.

From High Street, in the opposite direction along Oxford Road towards the All Saints area, was La Scala (again, with fine disregard for the Italian and French pronunciation of some cinema names, this was locally pronounced “Scayler”). In All Saints itself, at the corner of Grosvenor Street, was the Grosvenor, while still further towards town, near Charles Street, was the Regal Twins, noted for running the same film in two different rooms at the same time, although not in sync. The Grosvenor, was, however, a little far afield for our neighbourhood, while the Regal was almost, but not quite, considered to be a “town” cinema, pricier than those closer to home.

When I started high school, which was on Whitworth Street in town, I occasionally went to the Tatler, at the foot of the Oxford Road railway station approach. The Tatler was a “news theatre,” which showed only newsreels, cartoons and other short features in a continuous sequence all day. The entire program was just over an hour and was presumably designed to fill time for people waiting for trains. It was, however, also a convenient place to pass the time when cutting classes. A similar theatre (called, appropriately, the News Theatre) was further down Oxford Street, just around the corner from Central Station, to serve the travellers using that station.

The local picture houses generally changed their programs twice weekly, running one picture Monday to Wednesday and a different programme from Thursday to Saturday, all cinemas and theatres being closed in accordance with the Lord’s Day Observance Act on Sundays. It was not uncommon to show two main features per evening, often a first-rate film with wellknown film stars together with a “B” film, a second-rate production with lesser-known or low-calibre actors. In addition, there were short features, including brief documentaries such as “The March of Time,” produced by the publishers of Time magazine, “Crime Does Not Pay,” a series of American crime prevention films with a moral, and short comedies with the Three Stooges, Andy Clyde, or some of the other Hollywood comedians of the day.

The newsreel, however, whether Pathé, Movietone or GaumontBritish, was a regular feature enjoyed by all. Before television, the newsreel enabled the public to see current happenings in action. War in Abyssinia and Spain, the Hindenburg airship disaster, royal funerals and births, weddings and divorces, coronations and abdications were all shown as though the viewer was at the scene. Famous personages could be seen as they actually were: George V, Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson, and George VI were regularly featured. Mussolini with his massive chin, Hitler with his comic moustache, Neville Chamberlain waving his “Peace in our time” paper as he stepped off the plane from Munich, all appeared within days of the events in which they were featured.

It was not unusual for some people to go to the pictures two or three times a week and often in groups of friends or family. My parents were regular picture-goers, mostly to the Rivoli, and my father, who generally preferred the pub to the pictures, even conceded at least one night a week to films. Since his regular pub nights were Friday and Saturday, he tried to confine his viewing to Monday nights only. My mother usually also went on Friday nights. On Friday, with no school the following day, children were allowed into evening shows (at night, admittance to the first six rows was sixpence for adults, three pence for children), provided that the rating given to the picture by the British Board of Censors was “U” for universal viewing.

Considering the area in which it was located, the Rivoli was remarkably elegant. In pre-cinema days when Chorlton-on-Medlock was a more affluent place, it had apparently been a ballroom, evidence of which still existed in the huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I recall hearing how it had been necessary to convert the floor from a flat one suitable for dancing, sloping it down towards the stage to provide clear viewing for the cinema audience.

The toilets also gave evidence of the Rivoli’s former opulence (at least the Gentlemen’s section did), being an exceptionally large room with a raised entrance section and long rows of washbowls and cubicles. Overall, the cinema had a scented smell that was refreshed during each performance by attendants carrying perfume atomizers the size of large fire extinguishers.

Throughout each performance, as in all cinemas, chocolate bars or ice cream in bars or small cups could be bought from usherettes who walked backwards up the aisle carrying an illuminated tray supported by a strap around their neck, even while the picture was showing. Patrons would leave their seats, edging along a row of seats past other patrons to buy from the usherette, and return to their seats, disturbing their fellow viewers, usually without any complaints arising.

Usherettes in all theatres also sold cigarettes (it was quite common to hear the girl quietly saying “Chocolates, ices, cigarettes” as she walked backwards up the aisle) and each seat had a small brass ashtray fastened on the back for use by the patrons in the row behind. Smoking was common, and the clouds of cigarette smoke could always be seen drifting through the beam of the projector.

The Rivoli had the unique feature (at least I never saw it at any other cinema or theatre) of serving cups of tea during an interval at the viewer’s seat. This was served by passing the money hand-to-hand down the row to a tea trolley attendant, in return receiving tea served in a cup with a saucer, also passed hand-tohand! Although I never knew anyone who used this service and never partook of it myself, I assume that the tea had pre-added sugar and milk.

My own visits to the cinema were not confined to the Saturday matinee, which neither I nor my friends ever missed, even when money was at its tightest. For these, and for the cheap seats in the front rows at evening performances (one penny for the Saturday matinee, three pence in the evening), patrons had to use the Rivoli’s back entrance, a small door with a separate box office. On entering through this door, patrons found themselves just to the left of the screen at the front row. In the children’s matinees, the main feature was invariably a Western supported by a short comedy, a primitive animated cartoon and, most importantly, the SERIAL.

Popular serials of the day included those starring Rin-Tin-Tin, the wonder dog that saved its master from a hopeless situation every week, or various cowboys with horses of almost human intelligence; Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, an early space adventure that turned out to be oddly prophetic in more recent years; and G Men, an American police drama in which the police chased criminals in cars with sirens wailing, firing shots while standing on the running board. (A running board was a platform, about a foot wide, on either side of passenger cars just below the doors. It was intended as a step to enter the car, which in those days would be quite high off the ground, but in American films, its chief use seemed to be for allowing police men to stand while the car was in motion, hanging on to the door with the left hand while firing a pistol with the right).

James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans even appeared as a serial, or at least a serial of that name appeared, although the film plot and the situations that it covered bore little resemblance to the classic story.

Each serial, and there were many, had one thing in common: whether the chief character was a man, a girl, a clever and faithful dog or a cowboy’s wonder horse, at the end of each episode, disaster was imminent. A hero might be in a car that was about to go over a cliff, a heroine might be tied to the track only yards in front of an oncoming train, but no matter the situation, escape seemed impossible. Only at the start of the next episode did salvation happen; the car was not as close to the cliff as it had appeared to be in the previous episode, or the oncoming train had reached a (previously unnoticed) switch point in the rails that diverted it at the last moment. By the end of the episode, another seemingly hopeless situation had developed. Serials ran for at least 12 episodes, some running much longer, and were a sure return draw for the young audiences, helping to develop fierce loyalties to whichever cinema they attended.

While the usual Saturday matinee films were B-grade westerns or mysteries, I saw many memorable films at the evening performances. Errol Flynn was one of the most popular stars in the 1930s and all of his films were well attended. Captain Blood, Charge of the Light Brigade and Dawn Patrol were some of his more notable from a juvenile point of view, although we were occasionally fooled by his name into paying for a love story.

Many Hollywood stories that centred on events in the British Empire, (Charge of the Light Brigade being one such) were highly popular, and nobody was concerned that they often completely distorted history. These wild-western style films with British settings included Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Gunga Din (which Kipling would never recognize), both set on the North-West Frontier of India, and numerous other films where, backing up the American stars, a sprinkling of British professional actors gave a little authenticity to the story. Some of these actors were typecast. Sir C. Aubrey-Smith, for example, usually played the kind and wise elderly colonel of the regiment; Donald Crisp could be heard talking like a Welshman in one film and as a Scot or an Irishman in the next. To American ears, there would be no difference; to us, it didn’t matter.

American films were, in the 1930s, highly preferred over their British counterparts, particularly fulllength comedies. Films starring the team of Laurel and Hardy (Stan Laurel being a Lancashire man) or the antics of Harold Lloyd were among the favourites. We really got our money’s worth out of the more dramatic kind, because they provided us with subjects for the games we would play daily in the following days or even weeks. We were everything from Royal Flying Corps pilots to pirates, fighting on the Indian North-West Frontier or riding the Texas trail. At one time, armed with broom poles with paper lance pennants nailed at the tip, the March Street “gang” called itself the Bengal Lancers. Occasionally, my father would take me to a cinema that was further afield. Having grown up in Ardwick, he made a point of going to the newly opened Apollo, which had a rather luxurious interior and a white tiled exterior that gave the impression of being a town-class cinema set in working-class surroundings. In the first weeks of its opening, I saw a British-made film set on the North-West Frontier called The Drum, which starred a young Indian boy called Sabu, who had made a name for himself in another film the Apollo showed, called Elephant Boy. Another thoroughly enjoyable film I saw at the Apollo was George Formby in It’s In the Air, a comedy about a recruit in the Royal Air Force, which was made just before the war and was apparently a great help in actual recruitment. While George Formby would be considered corny today, he was a Lancashire man and immensely popular, both on film and in person, singing risqué songs while playing his trademark ukulele.

Another local all-time favourite, of course, was Gracie Fields, another Lancashire personality whose popularity might not be understood today, but who drew crowds of thousands wherever she appeared. In her movie of the same name, Gracie sang a song called “Sing as we go!” which was on everyone’s lips at the time and can still raise a feeling of nostalgia in people of my generation. Another film song, “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye,” became a wartime favourite still fondly remembered.

The Wonder of the Wireless

In many homes, wireless sets were beginning to make their appearance. While we lived in March Street, my father assembled a crystal set, which received radio signals through what was mysteriously called a “cat’s whisker.” The signal was very weak and required the use of an earphone, but the thought that we could sit at home listening to someone sitting in a studio miles away was wonderment. Technology was improving, however.

One day, my grandmother had a salesman visit her at her Sidney Street house to demonstrate a battery-operated set, complete with a loudspeaker. This type of set operated on power from two wet batteries, called accumulators, which were rectangular glass jars about a foot tall with wire carrying handles and filled with acid. The set was placed on a velour-covered table while the salesman went through his sales routine to my grandmother, my mother, and Aunty Kitty, who had even invited her fiancé to the demonstration. It was a huge success, enough to make an instant sale. After the salesman left, my grandmother noticed large holes in the tablecloth, and within a few days, Aunty Kitty found that the elbows of the dress which she had worn also had similar holes from the acid, which must have leaked from the accumulators.

Our first real radio while we lived in March Street was just such a set. Each week, the accumulators had to be charged at a shop near All Saints (about a mile away) and carefully carried, one in each hand, to and from the shop, being careful not to drop or tilt them in case of acid spillage.

In Livingstone Street, we got our first set powered off the house electricity, which eliminated the need for accumulators. This was such an important and expensive acquisition that for a long time, only my father was permitted to switch it on. Eventually, the set became a more commonplace household item and the restriction was dropped, on the condition that my sisters would not listen to programs featuring Bing Crosby, a popular American singer of a new type known as “crooners” while Dad was in the house.

Favourite programs

All the family became avid radio listeners; each week we looked forward to delivery of the Radio Times, featuring the week’s program information as well as a variety of interesting articles. Each afternoon when I returned from school I would listen to the “Children’s Hour,” in which stories and plays, as well as music and talks, would hold my total interest. In later years in Canada, I met Gerald Iles, well known to young listeners of the program as the “Zoo Man”; and of course the character called Aunty Doris, who used to tell stories to the young audience, was the actress Violet Carson, who later played Ina Sharples on “Coronation Street.”

It perhaps seems incredible today to think that the whole family would gather around a radio set at eight or nine o’clock on a Saturday or Sunday night to listen to a play, often with the only light coming from the fire. Among the more popular programs that I recall were “Monday Night at Eight,” a variety show, and “In Town Tonight,” featuring interviews with interesting people; it came on at 6:00 p.m. every Saturday, heralded by Eric Coates’ rousing Knightsbridge march.

Comics such as Arthur Askey, Old Mother Riley and Kitty (actually a man and wife team, Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane), Gert and Daisy (Ethel and Doris Waters), Ronald Frankau and Jack Warner told jokes that today would seem infantile, but in those days, these artists were as popular as any TV star is today.

During the war, when I was evacuated to Wilmslow in Cheshire, a special treat was to be allowed to stay up to listen to a serialized adaptation of The Four Feathers, the novel by A.E.W. Mason. This came on at 8:00 p.m. on Sundays, and to stay up until 9:00 p.m. on the night before the school week started was indeed a privilege. BBC plays were always first-class adaptations of stories by Dickens, the Bronte sisters and other classical writers. In addition, the BBC managed to expose its audiences to a certain amount of classical music, and perhaps unconsciously, this was absorbed to a surprising degree. It was not uncommon to hear a labourer who wouldn’t dream of deliberately listening to the classics whistling an extract from an opera or a symphony.

Beloved music

Despite the flood of modern songs that were presented on the radio, my parents (as well as most of their generation) regarded the songs of their own youth as being part of the “good old days.” My mother had seen the musical Chu Chin Chow during the First World War (I believe that it had run longer than any previous musical operetta) and knew the words to most of the songs it contained. Musicals such as The Desert Song, Rose Marie, The White Horse Inn, and No, No, Nanette (which featured a song still occasionally heard—“Tea for Two”) left a series of songs that were universally popular. These were the days when Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart, George Gershwin and Cole Porter began to capture the airwaves.

Theatrical Pleasures

Theatre-going was a common entertainment; prices were generally affordable and a wide range of repertory plays, variety (vaudeville) and musical shows were available at several theatres in various parts of the city. The annual Christmas pantomime was a must for almost every family, the quality of the show generally being in keeping with the class of theatre and the corresponding cost. The Palace probably had the best, with stars of radio, highclass variety shows and sometimes even British movie stars filling the leading roles. I do recall, however, seeing Ella Shields, a very wellknown theatrical figure, at the Hulme Hippodrome, which was one of the lower-priced venues in a pantomime and hearing her sing “You Are My Lucky Star.”

Weekend Treats

In the 1930s, the standard working week included Saturday morning. After meeting my sister Belle every Friday evening, I made a point of meeting my dad next day at the corner of Livingstone Street and High Street to get my “Saturday penny,” which I was allowed to spend any way I wished, except for chips (French fries). This stipulation was made in case any neighbours who saw me might assume that I wasn’t being fed properly at home, a matter of family pride.

Usually on Saturday afternoons my father took me to see something of interest that was going on somewhere in the city, memories that I still cherish. One week it might be the docks, where a few words with the policeman at the gate would get us in to look at the ships that had arrived from all over the world. Sometimes we went to a train station to see the engines up close and to chat to the drivers, or perhaps visited one of the exhibitions that regularly took place in town. When the RMS Queen Mary, then the largest ship in the world at 81,000 tons, made her maiden voyage in 1936, a builder’s model, exact in every detail and perhaps 15 to 20 feet long, was displayed in the Territorial Army Barracks on Cambridge Street—and that was a must.

Whenever we passed through Albert Square, I made a point of looking in the window of the Blue Star Line office, where there was a model of one of their ships, the SS Arandora Star. Like that of the Queen Mary, this was also a builder’s model, made completely to scale and highly detailed down to a miniature swimming pool and figures of passengers. (In 1940, the Arandora Star was torpedoed while carrying enemy aliens who were considered to be security risks to Canada and sank with a large loss of life, about 800 passengers and crew.)

Any time there was a military parade, Armistice Days particularly, we would attend, sometimes standing for a couple of hours on a foggy Manchester November morning at a point as close to the cenotaph as we could reach.

On November 11th, Armistice Day was solemnly observed by all; thousands attended the cenotaph in St. Peter’s Square, and at 11:00 a.m., as the two minutes of silence began, all men removed their hats. All over the city, in schools and factories, the occupants stood in silence, all vehicles pulled to the side of the road with engines switched off.

Regimental church parades from the various Territorial Army barracks in different parts of the city were common on Sundays, and people would turn out to see an entire battalion marching by, boots ringing on the cobbled road in a steady step, led by its band.

A Sunday favourite for Dad was a walk to Platt Fields Park to listen to, and sometimes argue with, the speakers in a Manchester version of the Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Religion and politics were always the most popular topics, and Dad frequently crossed swords with a regular speaker named Jimmy Rochford.

Jimmy may have been paid for his weekly appearances, because he often delivered counter-arguments to the ones he had made the previous week. I recall one instance where Jimmy was defending the coal barons’ right to profits, when a man in the audience shouted that two weeks earlier, in another park, Jimmy had made a speech urging workers to help themselves to coal without paying for it.

A habit that Dad used to follow was to look up his extensive literature on religious matters (particularly those dealing with the persecution of Protestants), place bookmarks at appropriate passages and have me stand next to him until a suitable opening occurred, at which time he would refute something the speaker said. When the speaker disputed any of Dad’s facts, I would pass over the selected volume, from which Dad would then quote passages in support of his argument.

If no particular event was on, Dad and I would go to Piccadilly, where Woolworth’s had a whole island of counters selling single lead toy soldiers, mostly for a penny each, but a few more elaborate types for tuppence, and I was allowed to choose one two-penny or two one-penny figures to add to my already considerable army.

These entertainments happily filled my leisure hours until, with the approach of World War II, all our lives began to change.