All posts by Sandra McHugh

The Schoolmaster

In 18th century England, schoolmasters and tutors had to belong to the Church of England. The 1662 Act of Uniformity required all clergy, dons, schoolmasters, and tutors to subscribe to a declaration of conformity to the Articles of the Church of England.1

Samuel Everell,* my four times great-grandfather was the schoolmaster in the village of Longnor, Shropshire, England. He was probably a schoolmaster all his life as I can find him in the records as schoolmaster from the time he registered the birth of his son, Charles, in 18132 until he was 57, in the 1841 census.3 All of the records indicate that Samuel and his immediate family belonged to the Church of England. While there was a community of Quakers in the village of Longnor, Samuel could not have been one of their members. Nonconformists were banned from teaching.4

Samuel, while not necessarily well educated, would have certainly been able to read and write. He was born in 1784 in the village of Condover, about four miles away from Longnor. His father, Benjamin Everall was a blacksmith.5 At that time, one had to be a member of the nobility to attend one of the two universities in England: Cambridge or Oxford. Graduates of these universities sometimes became private tutors for the children of the gentry. These tutors would live with the family and even dine with them.

Samuel probably taught in a charity school. The gentry generally believed that education should not be extended to the poor as it might upset the social order.6 They did, however, believe that the poor should read the Bible. Education for the working classes was haphazard. Sunday schools taught reading so that children could read the scriptures. They also sometimes taught writing and arithmetic. In 1800, when Samuel was 16, there were 2,000 Sunday schools in England with an enrolment of 10% of the population between 5 and 18.7 Maybe this is where he learned to read and write. It was not unusual for one of the better students to become the schoolmaster. The salary of the schoolmaster was either covered by the parents or sometimes the gentry would contribute to the cost of the running of the school, including the schoolmaster’s salary.

It is possible that Samuel’s salary was paid by the estate of Sir Richard Corbet, the 4th Baronet of Longnor. The 1831 Parliamentary Report on Charities states the following:

Sir Richard Corbet, of Longnor, in his will dated November 19, 1764, declared that the trustees of his estate ensure that the poor children of Longnor, Leebotwood, Cardington, and Fodesley and poor children of the tenants and that the trustees shall appoint and pay the master to teach the children to read and write English. There were about 14 children who were instructed in a private home by the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster was paid quarterly between 14l and 15l and included 50s for teaching Sunday School. 7

Manor of Sir Richard Corbet (1696-1774), 4th Baronet of Longnor.8

In the beginning of the 19th century, the Church of England continued to sponsor education. Samuel probably died around 1849, so he would not have seen any sweeping changes during the time he was a schoolmaster. However, the government did start to become involved in the education of the poor, voting sums of money for the construction of schools for the poor. Despite the Elementary Education Act of 1870, 2 million children out of 4.3 million children had no access to schooling at all. England saw compulsory and free primary education in the 1870s and 1880s. It wasn’t until 1918 that the Education Act (Fisher Act) made secondary education compulsory until age 14.9

*Everell can be found in the records as Everell, Everel, Everelle, Everil, Everill, and Heverell.

  1. Gillard, Derek, Education in England: a History, May 2018, http://www.educationengland.org.uk/history/chapter04.html, accessed July 21, 2021.
  2. Findmypast, basptismal certificate of Charles Everall, accessed July 7, 2021.
  3. Findmypast, 1841 census records for the parish of Longnor, accessed July 15, 2021.
  4. Gillard, Derek, Education in England: a History, May 2018, http://www.educationengland.org.uk/history/chapter04.html, accessed July 21, 2021.
  5. National Archives, Probate Benjamin Everell, accessed August 11, 2021.
  6. Dartford Town Archive website, Charity Schools, https://www.dartfordarchive.org.uk/early_modern/education_charity.shtml, accessed Aug 16, 2021.
  7.  Lloyd, Amy J., Education, Literacy and the Reading Public, University of Cambridge.
  8. Parliamentary papers, Reports from Commissioners, 1831, volume 11, Charities, Twenty-Fourth Report of Commissioners, https://books.google.ca/books?id=9joSAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA387&lpg=PA387&dq=schoolmaster+longnor&source=bl&ots=BCKVnr91SC&sig=ACfU3U2H-rc0FjRaxNBk4IFw4WzRMbHfhw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwig1tXOtObxAhWHGFkFHU78AKUQ6AEwCHoECBYQAg#v=onepage&q=schoolmaster%20longnor&f=false, accessed July 21, 2021.
  9. Wikipedia, Sir Richard Corbet, 4th Baronet,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Richard_Corbet,_4th_Baronet, accessed July 21, 2021.
  10. Wikipedia, History of Education in England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_England, accessed August 18, 2021.

Explosion in the Mine

“No Hope for 20 Men Entombed in Mine Afire,” declared the headline in the September 29, 1918 edition of the Chicago Tribune.1

Sadly, 21 men died in the gas explosion on September 27, 1918 in the mine of the Franklin Coal and Coke Co. in Royalton, Illinois.  On the preceding night a fire had been discovered and the firefighters sealed off two of the rooms. They had nailed a door shut but an employee pried it open and ignited the fire with his naked light. He was blown back and he survived until the next day and was able to explain how the explosion happened.2

My great-uncle, John Hynd, a mine examiner, died in this explosion. He was forty-nine and had three young children.3

Rescue operation after Royalton explosion, courtesy of Wayne’s World of History and Genealogy

John came from a long line of coal miners and was born at the Wellwood Colliery in Dunfermline, Scotland. This means that his parents lived on the site of the mine. John’s father, also John Hynd, was illiterate and signed his son’s birth registration with an X.4 Most sons of the miners in the colliery also worked there and started at a young age.

Parliament in the U.K. established the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842 to investigate the conditions of children in mines and factories. With respect to the Wellwood Colliery, James Spawort testified that “the age at which children are taken down depends on the circumstances of their parents, if they are destitute, they are taken early. “ The schoolteacher, William Craig, further testified that “there is no hope of the children being better instructed until some stoppage is put to the practice of working infants in mines. “5

While conditions were still grim, John, born in 1869, had better employment circumstances than his father and forefathers. As a result, the Mines and Collieries Act arising out of the Commission inquiry prohibited girls and women to work down the mine, and ruled that males could only start working at 10 years of age. The work day for any child under 13 was limited to twelve hours.6

The 1881 census shows that John was already working in the mine at the age of 13. He was a doorkeeper in a pit.7 Ten years later, John had been promoted to coal miner. His brother, James was also working at the mine by then and his sister, Mary, was a pit head worker at the mine in Cowdenbeath, Scotland.8

John Hynd arrived in the U.SA. in January 1905. He arrived with a friend.9 He probably came to the U.S. looking for work in a mine. Mines in the U.S. needed qualified workers and hired employment agents in the U.K. to attract workers. It was also usual to advertisement on public bulletin boards. Perhaps this is how John knew about opportunities for miners. 10 While he travelled only with a friend when he arrived, his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Milne and child also immigrated. 10 He possibly settled in Illinois because of the many opportunities for employment in the coal mines and he was living in Benld, a small village that happened to have a coal mine. However, at the time of the census it says that John was working as a bartender. His brother, William was also living with him and working as a miner. William had arrived in 1908 and had also been a miner in Scotland.12 U.S.A. naturalization records show that John’s two other brothers, Andrew and James also immigrated to Benld and probably worked in the mine.13

By 1918 John is back in the mine working as a mine examiner at the Franklin Coal and Coke Co. in Royalton, Illinois, about 130 km away from the village of Benld.  This was a supervisory job that meant he was responsible for assessing the risk of danger in the mine, such as gas leaks and fires. It is not clear whether he lived in Royalton at the time of explosion or he traveled for work. He was buried close to the village of Benld, in Gillespie.14

After John’s death, Elizabeth did not stay in a small village in Illinois. As she had three small children to take care of, she would have had to work. The 1920 USA census tells us that she was living with her three children and working as a confectioner in St. Louis, Missouri.15 Elizabeth died 43 years later in 1961 and was buried beside her husband, John.16

John’s death was the third tragedy in the Hynd family in three years. His father, John, had to bear the burden three deaths. John Hynd’s (senior) wife, Euphemia, died in 1916 of abdominal cancer.73 Then his daughter, Mary Hynd, my great-grandmother, died of liver cancer in 1917.18 And then John’s shocking and tragic death in 1918.

  1. Clipping from Newspapers.com, accessed May 22, 1921.
  2. Wayne’s World of History and Genealogy: History, Genealogy, Coal Mining in Illinois, https://hinton-gen.com/coal/disasters3.html, accessed May 23, 2021.
  3. Death certificate for John Hynd, issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health on April 12, 2021.
  4. Scotland’s People, Statutory Registration of Births, John Hynd, accessed May 1, 2020.
  5. Scotland’s Mining Website, Children’s Employment Commission 1842, Wellwood Colliery,http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/89.html, accessed May 22, 2021.
  6. Wikipedia, The Mines and Collieries Act 1842, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mines_and_Collieries_Act_1842, accessed May 22, 2021.
  7. Scotland’s People, 1881 Census, Mary Hynd, accessed April 27, 2020.
  8. Scotland’s People, 1891 Census, Mary Hynd, accessed August 14, 2020.
  9. Family Search, USA arrivals, John Hynd, accessed May 23, 2021.
  10. Immigration to the United States, Labor, Coal Mining, https://immigrationtounitedstates.org/438-coal-industry.html, accessed June 16, 2021.
  11. Family Search, 1910 U.S.A. Census, John Hynd, accessed May 23, 2021.
  12. Idem.
  13. Illinois Department of Commerce and Labor Naturalization Service, Circuit Court, Seventh District, Macoupian County, Illinois.
  14. Death certificate for John Hynd, issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health on April 12, 2021.
  15. Family Search, USA 1910 Census, Elizabeth Hynd, accessed May 24, 2021.
  16. Find a Grave, Elizabeth Hynd, accessed May 25, 2021.
  17. Scotland’s People, Register of Statutory Deaths, Euphemia Wallace, accessed May 24, 2021.
  18. Scotland’s People, Register of Statutory Deaths, Mary Hynd, accessed April 20, 2019

Little Tipperary

When we think of emigration from Europe, we think of crossing the Atlantic to North America or going to Australia. For the Irish, immigrating to Scotland would have been just as difficult as if they had moved to a new continent.

The Irish started to arrive in Dundee, Scotland around 1825, lured by the prospect of regular employment in the growing jute industry. Within 30 years, the Irish community of Dundee had grown to 14,000.3

This quote from James Myles, a local Dundee author, in Rambles in Forfarshire, 1850, gives us a taste of how the Irish immigrants were perceived by the Dundonians:

A great proportion of them are Irish. Drawn hither by the work they obtain at the spinning mills; and it is to be deeply lamented that the vast hordes that have migrated to the Scouringburn are composed of the most debased and ignorant of their countrymen. Their vile slang and immoral habits have seriously injured the poor population of Dundee.2

The first Irish McHughs to move to Dundee, Scotland were brothers John and Patrick McHugh. They both married in Dundee and worked in the jute mills all their lives. And their families continued to work in the mills for generations, almost a century.3 Like most of the Irish immigrants, John and Patrick probably already had experience in the textile industry in Ireland and most likely came from one of the counties that produced linen and yarn.4

The Irish settled where the jute mills were located in Lochee, Dundee, also known as Little Tipperary. 5 The McHughs, like the other Irish immigrants and unlike most Dundonians, were Roman Catholics. The Church of Scotland has been the dominant religion in Scotland since the Scottish Reformation of 1560 and the Roman Catholics would have been looked upon with disapproval and suspicion.

St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Dundee, Scotland, built in 1873

It is not surprising that the Irish Roman Catholics lived in the same area and worshipped at the same Catholic churches in Lochee for decades. I can find registrations of marriages, baptisms, and deaths for the McHughs for generations. The McHughs remained steadfast Catholics during their century of living in Dundee and only branched out into other religions once they arrived in Canada in 1912.

The Irish were also seen as carriers of disease, such as typhus, also known as ‘Irish fever.’ Of course, this was due to unsanitary and crowded living conditions in which they lived.6

In 1904, the Lochee Harp Football team was formed by Lochee Irishmen to provide recreation for the poor immigrants. Even today, Lochee is considered the Irish quarter of Dundee.7

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/immig_emig/scotland/perth_tayside/article_1.shtml#:~:text=Irish%20workers%2C%20lured%20by%20the,Dundonians%20had%20grown%20to%2014%2C000., accessed April 11, 2021.
  2. Google books, Rambles in Forfarshire, Myles, James, Edinburgh, A. and C. Black, 1850. Thanks to Angus Folklore, The Dundee Irish and Other Catholics, Coleman, Keith, September 9, 2017, http://angusfolklore.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-dundee-irish-and-other-catholics.html, accessed April 22, 2021.
  3. It is assumed that Patrick McHugh emigrated to Scotland with his brother, John, as Patrick married in Dundee and died there, as did John.
  4. BBC Legacies, Perth and Tayside, Little Tipperary, The Irish in Dundee, http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/immig_emig/scotland/perth_tayside/article_1.shtml#:~:text=Irish%20workers%2C%20lured%20by%20the,Dundonians%20had%20grown%20to%2014%2C000., accessed April 11, 2021.
  5. Ibid.
  6. John Gray Centre, A brief history of emigration & immigration in Scotland, https://www.johngraycentre.org/about/archives/brief-history-emigration-immigration-scotland-research-guide-2/, accessed April 22, 2021.
  7. Wikipedia, Lochee, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochee, accessed April 24, 2021.

The Cipher

When I say that my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, worked as a cipher, Bletchley Park, MI5, and Russian spies immediately come to mind. He was neither a Russian spy nor did he work as a cipher during the war. His employer was the Bank of Montreal and it was his first job when he came to Canada in 1912.

The decision to immigrate to Canada was not easy for Thomas. He was in his mid-30s and already had seven children, between the ages of one and fifteen. For over 40 years, the jute manufacturers of Dundee, Scotland had been providing employment for his parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, wife, and for him. However, by the early 1900s, he was facing a precarious future for his children.

By the early 1900s, Dundee had suffered a serious decline in the textile industry and more significantly, the jute industry.  Jute was imported from India, however, the mill owners realized that it would significantly lower the cost of production to open mills in India to prepare the jute and import the finished product to Scotland. Once mills were established in India, the jute production in the mills in Dundee decreased substantially.1

So when Thomas arrived in Canada, a little ahead of his wife and his children, he was eager and prepared to do any job so that he could. The Bank of Montreal had its headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. In the early 1900s, the bank had significant dealings with Great Britain and there were correspondence and banking instructions back and forth between Canada and Great Britain daily. These instructions were mainly sent by telegraph overnight. There were two reasons for this. Some of these instructions were confidential and it was preferred that they remain so. Overnight instructions reduced the number of people who would have access to them. Another reason was the time difference between Montreal and the United Kingdom. The banks in London and Edinburgh were open for business while Montreal was still asleep.

Thomas McHugh with Pal

Even in those days, the banks were concerned about security, privacy, and confidentiality. The banking instructions and transactions were submitted by telegraph and were encrypted. It was the job of the cipher clerk to decipher them so that the bank staff could then ensure that the instructions were carried out as required.

To be a cipher clerk, one had to be reliable, meticulous, and honest, and ensure the confidentiality of the bank’s business. The cipher clerk used a cipher handbook to decipher the information. Also, the cipher clerk worked overnight, so it was a difficult job for a man with a family.

So while my grandfather, the cipher, did not work in espionage, I still think that his first job in Canada was rather interesting.2

1 Wikipedia web site, The History of Dundee, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dundee, accessed February 19, 2017

2 McHugh, Edward. Personal knowledge. [Father of writer].

Love in the Jute Factory

Sarah Jane McHugh was the only member of her family who stayed behind in Scotland. I believe she must have stayed to be with her sweetheart, Thomas Adams.

In 1911, Sarah’s sister, Mary McHugh, was ready for adventure. She decided to leave Dundee, Scotland and set out for Canada on her own to work as a domestic. Mary arrived in Montreal in the summer of 1911.1 She must have liked her new home because her widowed mother, Sarah McLaughlin, and her three brothers, Thomas, Edward, and Francis, followed in May 1912.2 Thomas’ wife, Elsie Orrock and their seven children, Annie, Elsie, Sarah, Thomas, Francis, Mary and Adam also came later that year.3

But Sarah? Sarah, a young woman of 24, stayed behind in Dundee. The McHughs had been workers in the jute factories of Dundee for three generations. When the McHughs left for Canada, leaving behind Sarah, the jute mills were the biggest employer in the city. Almost half the city worked in the jute industry. 4 But the working conditions were difficult. The wages were lower for women and children than for men. The constant noise from the machines was deafening and the dust damaged the lungs. Wages in Dundee were the lowest in the country and Dundee had the highest cost of living, possibly due to the pressure on housing, caused by overcrowding. Mill workers had a bleak future ahead of them.5 Only a compelling reason could make Sarah stay and that reason must have been Thomas.

OpenLearn, Open University, Photo courtesy of University of Dundee Archive Services 6

Sarah and Thomas probably met at mill where they worked. As they lived close to each other, they would have worked at the same mill.7 Both Sarah and Thomas would have started working in the mills as soon as they finished school, at age 13. Although it was not uncommon for younger children to work alongside their mothers. Children under nine worked as pickers, cleaning the dust from beneath the machines.8

But Sarah and Thomas did not work in the mills all their lives. By the time they were in their mid twenties and Sarah’s family had left to settle in Canada, Thomas and Sarah had also moved away from Dundee to Glasgow. Glasgow is about 130 km from Dundee, so this would have been quite a move. It is probable that Thomas went first as his parents and siblings also moved to Glasgow. 9

From left to right, Thomas Adams, Sarah Jane McHugh, Ronald Maddocks (cousin)

  1. Ancestry, Canada, Arriving Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, Library and Archives Canada, Mary Ann McHugh, The Grampion, July 1911.
  2. Ancestry, Canada, Arriving Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, Library and Archives Canada, Thomas McHugh, The Grampion, May 21, 1912.
  3. Ancestry, Canada, Arriving Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, Library and Archives Canada, Elsie McHugh, The Grampion, October 1912.
  4. Dundee and the Jute Industry, Natural Bag Co. website, https://naturalbagcompany.co.uk/jute-news/dundee-and-the-jute-industry/, accessed February 23, 2021.
  5. Dundee History Archive, Workers of the mills, September 16, 2014, https://www.ddtours.co.uk/archive/workers-of-the-mills/#:~:text=Constant%20noise%20from%20the%20machines,breathing%20problems%20were%20also%20common, accessed February 23, 2021.
  6. OpenLearn, Dundee, jute, and empire, https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/dundee-jute-and-empire/content-section-5.2, accessed March 3, 2021.
  7. Scotland’s Places, Ordnance Survey Name Books, Watsons Lane, https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/forfarshire-angus-os-name-books-1857-1861/forfar-angus-volume-34/20, accessed February 23, 2021, and Taits Lane, https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/forfarshire-angus-os-name-books-1857-1861/forfar-angus-volume-33/8, accessed February 23, 2021.
  8. Verdant Works web site, Dundee Industrial Heritage Ltd., Working in the Mills,https://www.verdantworks.co.uk/exploration-article/working-in-the-mills/, accessed March 3, 2021.
  9. Scotland’s People, Death registers, Thomas Adam (father of Thomas), accessed February 23, 2021.
  10. Scotland’s People, Marriage registers, Sarah McHugh and Thomas Adam, January 1, 1915. Thomas is a railway engine driver and both Sarah and Thomas are living with Thomas’ widowed mother in the Possilpark District of Glasgow City, accessed August 21, 2019.
  11. Family Search, History of the Railways, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_Occupations_Railway_Employees_(National_Institute), accessed February 23, 2021.
  12. Scotland’s People, Statutory Births, Sarah Jane McHugh, accessed August 20, 2019.
  13. Scotland’s People, Statutory Deaths, Adams, Thomas, accessed February 2, 2021.

Hogmanay

Imagine Christmas being cancelled? As we all face lockdown restrictions, we can easily imagine how the Scots felt in 1580 when John Knox banned the celebration of Christmas.

Except that his ban lasted 400 years.

Knox led the Presbyterian movement during the Reformation when Scotland officially split from the Roman Catholic Church. He saw Christmas as a Roman Catholic celebration and wanted none of it. Parliament backed him. In 1640, an Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the “Yule vacation and observation thereof in time coming.”1 Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1958. It took almost two decades more to get Boxing Day, which happened in 1974.2

The celebration of Hogmanay, or the coming of the new year, took on a greater significance.

There are a few theories about the origin of the word Hogmanay.  The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was Hoggonott. The Flemish words hoog min dag mean great love day. Some believe that the origin of the word Hogmanay can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon Haleg monath or Holy Month or the Gaelic words for new morning, oge maidne. Many believe that the source is French, homme est né for man is born. In France, the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged, was called aguillaneuf and in Normandy, this was called hoguignetes.3

 My father, Edward McHugh, was usually the “first-footer.” He stepped across the threshold after midnight, bearing gifts.  Traditionally, to ensure good luck, the first-footer is a tall and dark-haired male.  No one wanted to welcome a fair-haired first-footer, as they were associated with the Viking invasions.4 My father brought gifts of coal and a herring, but some of the other traditional gifts include shortbread, a black bun, and whiskey to toast the new year.5

My Scots grandmother also traditionally cleaned her home from top to bottom, literally sweeping out the old. And if anyone in the family had any outstanding debts, they had to be paid by midnight.

Saining is the practice of blessing your house and livestock for the New Year. Anyone can bless their house, as long as they use magical water from a river that has been crossed by both the living and dead. And you will have to find some juniper bushes to burn throughout your house.6

At Hogmanay parties hundreds of years ago, bonfires would be lighted and tar barrels would be rolled downhill. These fire ceremonies represented rebirth and new beginnings. Sometimes animal hides were wrapped around sticks and lit on fire. It was thought that the smoke would ward off evil spirits. 7

Every year Edinburgh hosts its Torchlight Procession to recreate the fire ceremonies. This year, it will be on-line so we can all enjoy the celebrations.8

Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession, 20189

Of course, it would not be a party without ceiladh dancing in Scotland. The word ceilidh means simply ‘gathering’ or ‘party.’ So essentially, it is a gathering that features music and dancing. 10

Ceiladh dancing at Edinburgh Torchlight Procession 11

The partying and hospitality that goes on at Hogmanay is a way of wishing family, friends, and strangers a Guid New Year

I wish you all a very Guid New Year.

  1. Scot Clans website, A History of Christmas in Scotland,  December 17, 2013, https://www.scotclans.com/a-history-of-christmas-in-scotland/ttp://www.scotland.org/features/hogmanay-top-facts, accessed December 21, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3.  Rampants Scotland website, Did you know? New Year’s Eve – Hogmanay, http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow12.htm, accessed December 21, 2020.
  4. https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/explore/view/a-guide-to-hogmanay-traditions, accessed December 21, 2020.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay web site, A Guide to Hogmanay Traditions, https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/whats-on/edinburghs-hogmanay-goes-online-and-on-screens-for-2020, accessed December 21, 2020.
  9. BBC News, Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession Recreates Scotland’s Map, Brown, Angie, December 31, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-46721188, accessed December 21, 2020.
  10. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay web site, A Guide to Hogmanay Traditions, https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/explore/view/a-guide-to-hogmanay-traditions, accessed December 20, 2020
  11. Ibid.

Montreal Transit

“Eddie! Come on, Ed. Frank forgot his lunch and you have to take it to him.”

Ed’s heart sank. He had no school today but, instead of playing with his friends, he would have to make his way all the way from Verdun to Montreal West so that he could give Frank the lunch he forgot. It was sitting right there, on the kitchen table when Frank left – and he forgot it again!

My uncle, Frank McHugh, worked as a tramway driver and he drove the tram on the 63 or 64 route that went along Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal. The unlucky little boy who always had the job of taking him his lunch was my dad, Edward McHugh.

Uncle Frank’s full name was Francis Strachan McHugh. He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1904 and emigrated to Canada with his parents and six siblings in 1912. His younger brother, Edward, was born in 1914. So, by the time Frank had found work as a tramway driver in the 1920’s, Edward was old enough to travel across the city and bring him his lunch.

Thomas McHugh with sons, Edward (left) and James (right). Edward was about eight years old in this picture, about the time he would have carried Frank’s lunch to him.

The first public transportation company in Montreal, The Montreal Passenger City Railway Company (MPCRC) was established in 1861 when the first horse-drawn tramway came into service along Notre Dame Street. The horse-drawn tramway had two employees on-board, a driver and a conductor who collected the fares. The passengers simply hailed the tram when they wanted to get on and signaled to the driver when they wanted to get off.1

Horse-drawn winter tramway on St. Catherine Street (around 1877), Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History

The MPCRC eventually became the Montreal Street Railway Company (MSRC). The MSRC introduced the first electric powered tramway, The Rocket, on September 21, 1892. The electric tramways immediately became very popular as they were much faster than the horse-drawn tramways. 2

By the time Uncle Frank became a tram driver, his employer was the Montreal Tramways Company (MTC). The MTC, created in 1911, acquired all the other transit companies on the island at that time. The citizens of Montreal, concerned that a private company had a monopoly over the public transit in the city, put pressure on the city, and the Montreal Transit Commission was created in 1918 to oversee the MTC. 3


Electric trams, Ste-Catherine Street, Montreal, McCord Museum, Wm Notman and Son, 1895

At the time that Uncle Frank worked as a tramway driver in the early 1920s, it was the peak of the operation of the tramway system in city. At that time, the MTC carried nearly 230 million passengers per year. 4 In 1924, the company published this map of the Montreal Transit system.5


Route map of bus and tramways in Montreal, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, collection numérique

By the mid-1920s, the city began transitioning to buses, with the first major replacement of the tramway in 1936 in the city’s east end on Notre Dame Street. 6 Uncle Frank followed suit and drove the bus that went along Sherbroooke Street West. But by that time, if he forgot his lunch, he was out of luck.

When cars became popular in Montreal in the 1950s, Uncle Frank quit his job as a bus driver and became a taxi driver.


Frank McHugh and his wife, Molly Baxter
.
  1. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History, http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered,accessed October 18, 2020
  6. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020

Good wages, employment guaranteed

Good wages. Employment guaranteed. These words echoed over and over again in Mary McHugh’s head. And only some domestic experience required. Mary thought that she had quite enough domestic experience, thank you, as she was the only daughter still at home.

It was 1910 and Mary had turned 20 in February.1 Old enough to be married. No prospects in sight. She had been working at the jute factory since she finished school at 14.2 Like her older brother, Thomas McHugh, she immediately got a job in the jute factory as soon as she could. Mary’s mother, Sarah McLaughlin, was happy that Mary was working as Sarah was a widow and still had three children at home. Her husband, Michael McHugh, had died of tuberculosis when Mary’s brother, Francis, was just three months old.3  It had been a struggle for Sarah to make ends meet. Even though Sarah had managed to get a job as a charwoman,4 it was not easy. Sarah was exhausted when she got home, too, and it was up to Mary to help with the housework and cooking for her younger brothers. Mary’s older brother, Thomas, was already married with six children. He helped when he could but he had his own worries.

Mary thought ruefully about her job. She was a jute spinner at the flax mill.5 The mill was noisy and crowded. Mary worked twelve hours a day and it was back-breaking work. The women worked hard in the mills but made less wages than the men. The machines were dangerous. Accidents happened often.6 And then there was mill fever or brown lung. Most people who worked in the mill had a dry cough and sometimes even a fever.7

Mill Workers

Photograph from the BBC8

Mary liked the idea of being a domestic. The hours would be long and she would be on her feet all day but the air would be clean and it would be quiet. But Canada? So far away? All by herself? Could she do it?

These thoughts were the beginning of Mary’s plan to emigrate to Canada. Mary McHugh was my great aunt and she arrived on the S.S. Grampion that sailed from Glasgow and arrived in Quebec City in July 1911.9

In the early 1900s the demand for domestic servants in Canada exceeded the number of young Canadian women willing to do this type of work. Governments, employers, and women’s organizations made a special effort to encourage the immigration of household workers.8 More specifically, British immigrants were considered as desirable immigrants to Canada. As of 1888, steamship agents received a bonus for selling the passage of a female immigrant whose intent was to work as a domestic servant in Canada. This was called the British Bonus and it came into effect by an Order-in-Council on September 27, 1890. Its purpose was to offer an incentive to desirable British immigrants. Often the Canadian employer would pay the fare of the immigrant to the steamship company.10 The emigrating domestic would then have to pay it back out to her employer out of her wages. This meant that the young immigrant woman was already indebted to her employer even before she started working. If she was unhappy with her employment, it made it difficult for her to find a better employment as long as she owed money.11

It is probable that Mary’s fare to Canada was paid by her employer. Beside Mary McHugh’s name on the passenger manifest of the Grampion there is a stamp British Bonus Allowed.

Hopefully Mary enjoyed her employment. She was the first member of the McHugh family to arrive in Montreal in 1911. She was probably delighted when her mother, Sarah, and three brothers, Thomas, Edward and Francis, followed her to Montreal in May 1912. And Thomas’ wife, Elsie Orrock, and their seven children, Ann, Elsie, Sarah, Francis, Mary, Adam, and Thomas arrived in October 1912. Mary married John Mervin Porter in June 1913 and her family would have been there to celebrate with her.

 

Notes and sources:

This poster from the Canadian Museum of History is from a 1926 pamphlet entitled Housework in Canada: duties, wages, conditions and opportunities for household workers but there would have been similar pamphlets advertising for immigrants that may have given Mary the idea.  This pamphlet says that “Canada welcomes men and women of the right type who come to seek their fortune in this broad new land … (people) of good moral character, and in good health, mentally and physically.” You can see this on the Canadian Museum of History web site in the section Advertising in Britain in the 1920s, https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/advertis/ads7-06e.html

Household work

  1. Scotland’s People, Register of Births, Mary Ann McHugh, born February 4, 1890, accessed November 18, 2017.
  2. Wikipedia web site, History of Education in Scotland, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_Scotland, accessed August 17, 2020.
  3. Scotland’s People, Registers of Death, Michael McHugh, died May 16, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017 and Scotland’s People, Registers of Births, Francis McHugh, born February 21, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017.
  4. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Sarah McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
  5. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Mary McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
  6. DD Tours web site, Workers of the mills, September 16, 2014, https://www.ddtours.co.uk/archive/workers-of-the-mills/, accessed August 17, 2020.
  7. com web site, Byssinosis, https://www.healthline.com/health/byssinosis, accessed August 19, 2020.
  8. BBC web site, Tayside and Central Scotland, The history of mills in Dundee, December 2, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/taysideandcentralscotland/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8390000/8390747.stm, accessed August 17, 2020.
  9. Passenger list, S.S. Grampion, July 1911, Glasgow – Quebec City.
  10. British Bonus Paid, British Home Children web site, https://www.britishhomechildren.com/single-post/2014/11/09/British-Bonus-Paid, accessed August 18, 2020
  11. Barber, M.J., Immigrant Domestic Servants in Canada, Canadian Historical Association, Ottawa, 1991, p. 9

Spitfire Service Socks

My grandmother, Grace Hunter, used to knit, read, and watch television at the same time. She sat in her well-worn high-backed armchair, with her Women’s Own magazine or her Harlequin romance flattened open on the wide armrest, and watch her soap opera or a game show. I realize now that she was reading when the commercials were on but when I was a child, it seemed to me that she could follow the television and read simultaneously. Her lips moved silently to the beat of the clicking knitting needles. Every so often I heard her take in a deep breath as she concentrated on her knitting rather than the television or her book.

My memories of Nana knitting were more than thirty years after the end of World War II. She was a volunteer knitter for the war effort. This well-worn knitting instruction sheet for Spitfire Service Socks suggests that it was used often.

Spitfire

It is most likely that Nana learned to knit as a young girl. She came from a modest working class family so knitting would have been a necessary skill. During World War I, Grace’s father, John Hunter, was stationed in France. Knitting for the soldiers was an act of patriotism and is was highly likely that Grace, thirteen when her dad went off to war, would have knitted so that the care package that the family sent overseas would contain some warm socks and other knitted clothing.

My mom told me that when World War II broke out, my grandmother was active in the war effort. She belonged to the women’s auxiliary in the church and they held knitting bees, held fund raisers, and catered parties for the men on the eve of their departure for war. Knitting socks and other clothing was one way, among many, of doing something tangible for the men who had gone to war.

During both World Wars, the Canadian Red Cross issued knitting instructions to civilians so that they could contribute to the war effort.  Below is a picture of a booklet published during World War II. 1

Red Cross

The Red Cross was also in charge of collecting and distributing the knitting. Before sending the knitting overseas, the Red Cross inspected all items. Volunteers also helped with the quality control inspections and some knitters corrected mistakes made by others, such as taking out knots in heels of socks. Some volunteers would take the knitting completely apart and redo it, if needed. 2

The Canadian Red Cross estimated that 750,000 women knitted more than 50 million garments for the military in World War II.3

Even the style of knitting underwent a transformation. Continental-style knitting was popular in Germany but it fell out of favour in English speaking countries during World War II. Knitters changed to English-style knitting. The difference between the two styles is the hand in which the yarn is held. Continental-style knitters hold the yard in the left hand, not the right. Nana always had her yarn in the right hand, as her reading material was on the left armrest of her chair.4 She needed her left hand free to turn the page.

 

 

  1. Canadian Red Cross, WWII Civilian Knitting Instructions, https://www.redcross.ca/history/artifacts/wwii-civilian-knitting-instructions, accessed April 26, 2020
  2. Canadian War Museum, An Army of Knitters in Support of the War Effort, March 10, 2014, https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/, accessed April 26, 2020
  3. Idem.
  4. Weightman, Judy, More Knitting History, World War II, October 9, 2012, https://judyweightman.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/more-knitting-history-world-war-ii/, accessed April 26, 2020

Letter to My Grandson

Dear Grandson,

You will be born tomorrow, April 2, 2020. At this time, Montreal has 2,097 cases of the Corona Virus (COVID-19). In Quebec, this flu virus has caused 33 deaths. 1

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Almost every country in the world is currently in some type of lockdown. As governments manoeuvre through this crisis, trying to maintain health care systems and the basic needs of their citizens, families face individual struggles.

Schools, daycares, and businesses that are not considered essential services are closed.  Public health messages tell people to stay at home, to practice social distancing, a new term that means we do not congregate and that if we do need to have contact, to maintain a two-metre distance from each other. Playgrounds, libraries, sports complexes, cinemas, theatres, and shopping centres are shut down.

But love is not cancelled. We already love you so much. Normally we would be preparing for tomorrow, planning on meeting you at the hospital, with balloons, flowers and other gifts. Right now, no visitors are allowed.

Just a month ago, in what now seems to be a carefree world, I would have been planning to greet you at home, waiting to cuddle you in my arms, and lovingly admire your every feature. At this time, we do not know when we will visit you.

A little over a hundred years ago, my family lived through the Spanish Flu of 1918 in Montreal. It must have been just as frightening as today’s health crisis. The McHughs were a large family. My grandfather, Thomas, and his wife, Elsie, had eight children living at home. Grandfather Thomas’ mother, his two brothers, and his sister’s family lived close by. Thomas and Elsie’s daughter, Anne, and her husband, Norman Smith, had their first son, Thomas, just a few months before the Spanish Flu outbreak reached Canada.  They must have been terrified.

It is estimated that 20,000 people in Montreal died of the Spanish Flu. This is out of a population of over half a million.2 Many years ago I asked my aunt why no one in the family died during the Spanish Flu and she answered that the family stayed home. Only those who worked went out. They left the house as little as possible to buy food. They didn’t go to church. The children stayed home from school. And they did not visit anyone. In light of today’s crisis, it seems like they did the right thing.

Montreal was hard hit by the Spanish flu as it was a port city.3 Like COVID19 that has today spread quickly throughout the world due to travel, the Spanish Flu also spread rapidly this way. 4

It is believed that the Spanish Flu first came to Canada in two separate occasions, both on September 13, 1918. Polish soldiers coming through the U.S. to a military training camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake arrived with the flu. The same day, a group of Catholic clergy and parishioners arrived, also from the U.S., to attend a Eucharistic Congress in Victoriaville that hosted over 25,000 participants. By Monday, some of the participants were dead and the students who attended the Congress and who were not yet ill, travelled back home across Canada, spreading the virus rapidly.5

So dear Grandson, always remember that, no matter what, love is never cancelled. And, while you will be born in a time of great turmoil, I am optimistic for your future. You are lucky that you will be a citizen of a country with responsible government. Already the crisis has shown that creative solutions to problems can be found. A coat manufacturer is retooling to produce hospital gowns. Manufacturers of auto parts are set to change production lines so that they can deliver ventilators. Many distillers are making hand sanitizers instead of spirits.6 The provincial government has indicated that it will help farms in Quebec to expand so that they can produce more. One drug store chain has donated over a million face masks to the government.7

We will get through this.

Love,

Gran

 

  1. Government of Quebec website, Information about the Corona Virus, https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/situation-coronavirus-in-quebec/#c47900, accessed April 1, 2020.

 

  1. Wikipedia website, Montreal, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal, accessed March 22, 2020, Population in Montreal in 1911 was 533,341.

 

  1. Government of Canada, Parks Canada website, The Spanish Flu in Canada 1918 -1920, https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/res/doc/information-backgrounder/espagnole-spanish, accessed March 22, 2020.

 

  1. Global News, D’Amore, Rachael, Here’s How the Spanish Flu is similar and different from the Corona Virus, March 21, 2020, https://globalnews.ca/news/6707118/coronavirus-spanish-flu-comparison/, accessed March 22, 2020.

 

  1. Canadian Geographic website, The Outbreak and its Aftermath, Mitchell, Alanna, August 23, 2018, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/outbreak-and-its-aftermath, accessed March 22, 2020.

 

  1. Ipolitics website, Pinkerton, Charlie, March 19, 2020, Trudeau says wartime production law could be used to boost manufacturing of medical equipment, https://ipolitics.ca/2020/03/19/trudeau-says-wartime-production-law-could-be-used-to-boost-manufacturing-of-medical-equipment/, accessed March 22, 2020.

 

  1. Le Journal de Québec website, Gagnon, Marc-André, COVID-19 Pénurie de masques d’ici 3 à 7 jours, March 31, 2020, https://www.journaldequebec.com/2020/03/31/en-directfrancois-legault-fait-le-point-sur-la-pandemie-de-covid-19-au-quebec, accessed April 1, 2020