Category Archives: Scotland

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.

Who were the Irish Presbyterians?

My father’s family were all professed Presbyterians, a religion which originated in Scotland. This included both those on his Scottish father’s side and his Irish mother’s side. Religion was very important in all their lives. They were part of a church, “which had a noble band of loyal devoted men and women who have counted it their chief joy to seek its highest welfare”.

It was not until 1843 that marriages performed by Presbyterian ministers were legally recognized in Ireland. My two times great grandparents, Susan Dodds and Alexander Bailey married in that year in Armagh were some of the first to have a recognized Presbyterian marriage.

The name Presbyterian comes from their form of church governance, an assembly of elders. These protestant churches trace their roots to the Church of Scotland whose theology emphasizes the sovereignty of God and following only the scriptures. The Scottish Reformation of 1560 shaped this Church, when many broke with Rome, led among others, by John Knox. This religion was brought to Ireland from Scotland with the migrations of people in the 1600s. Irish Presbyterians were never a single entity. Groups splintered, formed new congregations, united with others and broke apart again.

The majority of the Irish remained Catholic even when Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church, the Church of England and then the Church of Ireland. Most protestants lived in the north. While they soon outnumbered the Church of Ireland, the life of an Irish Presbyterian was not easy.

The government passed the Test Act in 1704, which stated that those wishing to hold civil or military office had to prove they had taken communion in the Church of Ireland. The Church of Ireland demanding tithes also angered the Presbyterians. Even after the Toleration Act of 1719 passed and Presbyterians were not penalized for their beliefs, they still felt estranged, which contributed to the large scale North American emigration in the early 1800s.

When the Susan and Alexander Bailey arrived in Toronto, they probably attended Knox Presbyterian Church, opened in 1820 as the First Presbyterian Church of York, Upper Canada. This church started by Scottish immigrants, welcomed the Irish but they wanted their own church and organized the Second Presbyterian Church in 1851.

Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The congregation raised money for a minister’s stipend and met first in St Lawrence Hall and then an empty Methodist church on George Street. This church soon became too small for the current members and the many others asking for seats. A new property purchased at Queen and Mutual St for 475 pounds soon a housed brick church.

There used to be many churches in the area as Toronto had a Sabbath Day Law with no public transport running on Sundays. People had to walk to church.

The new building became Cooke’s Church, named for Henry Cooke an Irish Presbyterian minister who in 1834 united the Irish Presbyterians. With his ordination in 1808, his ministry began in Northern Ireland. He reformed both the church and public education. He believed that the only music in churches should be what God created. There could be voices singing but no man-made musical instruments. When he died there was a massive funeral march through Belfast with all religious denominations in attendance.

The congregation kept growing. The church was renovated, enlarged and then in 1891 a new church that could hold 2000 worshipers was built on the same site. The Irish always knew they would be welcome in Cooke’s Church.

The new Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

My great grandparents, William Eagle from County Monaghan and Eliza Jane Bailey, were members of Cooke’s Church. William served as an elder until his death. Both their daughters, Amy and Minnie, were very involved in church life. Amy sang in the choir and served as secretary and treasurer of other societies. Minnie was the President of the Young Women’s Mission Band which had formerly been the Ernest Helpers Society. Their mother Eliza served on the Women’s Association as well as being Honorary President of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society.

Donald and Alice Sutherland, another set of great grandparents, although Scottish Presbyterians were also members of Cooke’s Church. Their children were named in the anniversary booklet. Mary, the Christian Endeavor Society flower convenor and Wilson on the Junior Visiting Committee. It is there that my grandparents, William Sutherland and Minnie Eagle met and were married by Reverend Andrew Taylor.

In 1925 the Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregational Unionists joined together to form the United Church of Canada. Cooke’s Church was for the union while Knox Church was against it and responsible for the continuation of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. It is still an active church celebrating its 200th Anniversary this year.

Cooke’s Church interior with their large organ.

Cooke’s Church closed in 1982. There were few parishioners left as most had moved away from the downtown. It’s glory years only a memory when it was the most pretentious structure in the city, a landmark on East Queen Street and a great spiritual influence. It was torn down in 1984 and is now a parking lot.

Notes:

Roulston, William J. Researching Presbyterian Ancestors in Ireland, Ulster Historical Foundation 2020.

Alison, James. Annals of Sixty Years Cooke’s Presbyterian Church Toronto 1851 – 1911. 1911.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyterianism accessed October 18, 2020.

In Ireland there were many Presbyterian Sects:

The Presbyterian Church of Ireland

The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

The Secession Church

The Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanters) Church

There is a story about my great grandfather Donald Sutherland leaving his church because they purchased an organ. He seemed to subscribed to the ideas of Henry Cooke. According to a story in the Toronto Star, in 1880, a group of parishioners heard the choir had brought a organ into the church for choir practice. These people entered the church and dragged the offending instrument into the street. A riot ensued. Some were arrested and all were suspended from the church. They went off and formed their own church. Was this the incident Donald was involved with?

A story about Susan Dodds https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/1691

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

Far from Home

The news from home gave John Hunter, my great-grandfather, a jolt. Usually letters from home to the troops during WWI were full of the joys of everyday life, encouraging the soldiers that the war would end soon and that the family back home awaited their return with anticipation.

For many months now, John Hunter had been getting bad news. John knew that his wife, Mary Hynd, had become seriously ill. Then John got the news that she was in the hospital, and then that she had died.

Luckily for John, he at least received news regularly from home in Scotland.  All mail going to France, where John was stationed, first had to reach Regent’s Park in England. From Scotland, this would have taken a bit of time. Nevertheless, the government consistently delivered letters to the troops as they felt that the letters helped with the troops’ morale. Nineteen thousand mailbags crossed the Channel every day and arrived at one of three stations in France: Le Havre, Boulogne, or Calais.1

John, a sapper with the 326th Company of the Royal Engineers, worked as a miner by trade back in Scotland. Sappers, sometimes called quarrymen or tunnelers, mined the quarries and built the tunnels essential to the Allies in their battles against the Germans.

The 326th Company was formed at Buxton, England and it landed at Le Havre on May 23, 1917, consisting of four officers, 264 men, and two horses.2 They moved to Marquise on May 27, 1917.  By this time, Mary, back home in Scotland, had been diagnosed with liver and intestinal cancer. Mary died on October 14, 1917 and her death certificate states that her husband, John, was out of the country in Rinxent, France. Rinxent is about 3 km from Marquise. The significant quarrying operations in Rinxent provided the stones for the laying and maintenance of roads by the Allies.3

It was in a document on October 27, 1918 that the request was made to the war office in London to release Sapper John Hunter, 326th Company, Royal Engineers from his war duties and to transfer him to the reserve. Permission was granted:

“…. Provided he can be spared, you will issue the necessary instructions for him to be despatched to the Scottish Command Discharge Centre, East London Street Schools, Edinburgh, with a view to him being transferred to the reserve and returned to his home.”

This permission was based on “compassionate grounds” and “due to his domestic situation.” Mary had left behind two children, my grandmother, Grace, 17, and Thomas, 12.

The Deputy Adjutant General signed off on the transfer of John Hunter to his home. He was transferred to Calais and then shipped to England, and then transferred to Scotland.4

By the time he actually arrived back home in Scotland, the Armistice had been signed, essentially bringing the war to an end. Nevertheless, as part of a quarrying company, he would have still needed permission to return home as the companies continued to mine in France until late 1919.

 

  1. BBC, “How did 12 million letters reach WWI soldiers each week,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zqtmyrd, accessed April 21, 2019.
  2. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/quarry-companies-of-the-royal-engineers/, The Long, Long Trail” or “The Long, Long Trail: the British Army in the Great War” or “Chris Baker’s site The Long, Long Trail” as title in addition to the URL, accessed April 21, 2019.
  3. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battlefields/gazetteer-of-the-western-front/gazetteer-of-the-western-front-rinxent/, The Long, Long Trail” or “The Long, Long Trail: the British Army in the Great War” or “Chris Baker’s site The Long, Long Trail” as title in addition to the URL, accessed April 21, 2019.
  4. Document to the Commandant, Scottish Command Discharge Centre, Edinburgh, ref. Z1/B, signed December 13, 1918 by Lieutenant R.E. for Lieutenant Corporal, Troops Base Depot.

Throwing Rocks

My Swiss grandfather became enthralled with curling when he came to Canada. Curling is a game invented by the Scots but my Scottish ancestors never took up the sport.

René Raguin came to Canada from Switzerland in 1910 to teach school. He knew all about winter and cold weather sports. He had skied, sledded and climbed in his homeland. Once, he cut his leg on a bobsled runner and didn’t realize the extent of the injury until until he was at the bottom of the hill. All of his trips down hill weren’t on sleds with sharp runners, some for fun were on metal trays. I am sure he thought throwing “irons” on ice would be easy when he first tried curling in Trois Rivière. 

IMG_9695
Rene Raguin on the right with some of his curling buddies. Well pinned!

Curling is a game played on a sheet of ice where rocks are thrown from the hack to the rings at the other end and one tries to get closer to the centre or button than one’s opponents. Lakes and ponds hosted the first games, played with granite stones which were plentiful in Scotland. The stones are now carved and polished so they glide over the ice and a twist of the handle gives the curl.

The Grand Caledonian Curling Club was formed in 1838 to regulate this ancient Scottish game. Apparently many rules were needed for throwing rocks on ice. The club later received its royal charter from Queen Victoria and became the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC), the mother club of the sport.

It is generally accepted that the 78th Fraser Highland Regiment brought curling to Canada in the mid 1700s. The soldiers melted cannonballs to make iron curling “stones” and curled in Québec City. Curling then moved to Montreal where men first played on cleared patches of ice on the St Lawrence river before it moved indoors. Quebecers continued to curl with “irons” until the early 1950s while the rest of the country played with granite.

When René moved to Montreal he didn’t give up curling. He first joined the St Laurence Curling Club, downtown on St Urbain Street and when he moved to Dixie, now part of Dorval, he joined the Lachine Curling Club. There he stayed. He played in bonspiels at clubs all over Quebec, Ontario and the North Eastern United States. Bonspiels are tournaments with many games played over a number of days and lots of drinks to celebrate the winners and the losers. Curlers collected pins from all the clubs where they played. Some would cover their their jackets or their hats with their pins. My grandfather had a coffee table that intrigued me as a child. Under its glass top sat many curling pins of all shapes and colours.

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A Squirrel Pin from The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts

He excelled at curling and skipped teams in many matches. He could easily take out his opponents stones and slide his rocks to the button. He gave back a lot to the sport which resulted in him being elected President of the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1939. René was then honoured at a dinner with speeches praising his curling, his character, his tact and diplomacy with many toasts to his good health!

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He never traveled to Scotland but hosted the Scots on their curling tours of Canada. He became an honorary vice-president of the RCCC, the highest office available to a Canadian, for his promotion of all the traditions of curling and especially for the expansion of the game into the northern United States.

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The Scottish Curlers in Canada in 1950s

René enjoyed curling for the camaraderie, the skill needed and the drinks after the games. In out of town excursions he was said to be the life of the party. His son would drive him to all the area curling clubs for the New Years Levees where he would have a drink with the members and toast the coming year, “Good health and good curling.”

Notes:

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/sports/bonspiel-history-curling-canada/Pages/curling-canada.asp

The minutes of the occasion of the election of Rene Raguin to the office of President of the Canadian branch of the Royal Caledonia Curling Club December 15, 1939 by J.J. Sophus.

The History of the Lachine Curling Club http://www.lachinecurling.com/history_en.php

Cartoon by Bill Cunningham in The Montreal Gazette in 1940.

The Heading photograph is of the Lachine Curling Club taken in 2019 by the author.

Some of Rene Raguin’s family curled a few times but I am the only family member to take up his game.

Polio in the Family

My Auntie Elsie McHugh was quite a chatterbox and so were her budgies. When we used to visit her, the budgies filled the room with the sound of their chatter, competing to be heard. Unless it was time to go to bed, or someone was coming in the door, the budgies were free to fly around the apartment. It was quite an adventure to go there.

My Uncle Jimmy Scott was usually sitting in his favourite chair, not saying a word.

Certainly when I remember Elsie, I think about her continual stream of conversation and story-telling. But I also remember that she had a distinct limp.  This didn’t stop her from being a snazzy dresser or wearing fancy shoes.

Scott, Jimmy and Elsie McHugh

Jimmy Scott and Elsie McHugh

As an adult, I learned that Auntie Elsie limped because she was stricken with paralytic polio when she was an infant living in Dundee, Scotland at the beginning of the 1900s.1 While today, polio is almost eradicated, at that time it would have been a frightening disease.

Only Elsie, out of the family of seven children, contracted poliomyelitis, the medical term for polio. Dr. Ivar Wickman of Sweden proved that polio was contagious in 1905. This was probably after Elsie was sick. And it was not until the 1930s that it was discovered that it was an intestinal infection and spread by the oral-fecal route, and not an airborne virus, as previously thought.2

During Elsie’s childhood, the family lived in a tenement in industrial Dundee, near the jute factories. There was overcrowding and poor sanitation.

In children, paralysis from polio occurs one in a thousand cases. Most children are simply sick and consequently develop an immunity to it.3 It is probable that Elsie’s siblings were also exposed to polio, but they suffered from no permanent consequences.

Because young Elsie limped and probably could not run or jump very well, she was considered disabled or “crippled.” As a result, she attended a special school to learn cooking, needlework and housekeeping. The other girls in the family resented the special education that Elsie received.

In Scotland, children had to attend school between the ages of five and thirteen. In addition, the morals and tenets of the Church of Scotland were influential. The church believed that children should be taught to be self-sufficient.4 Therefore, there was considerable pressure on educational institutions to provide for all children, including the blind, deaf and physically disabled.

Throughout the 1800s, institutions for the blind and deaf were opened in the major cities in Scotland.5 It is likely that Elsie attended one of these institutions as some of them expanded to include “cripples.”

The family immigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1912. Elsie was fourteen and would have finished her schooling by then. As far as I know she always worked in a department store as a saleslady, but like many women at the time, she quit her job when she married Jimmy Scott in 1926.6 Her daughter, Norine Scott, was born the next year. 7

Many people who have had polio in childhood experience symptoms of fatigue, weakness in the muscles, pain and breathing problems later on in their lives.8 I remember Auntie Elsie used to have difficulty breathing but she always said that it was old age.  Elsie never let anything get in the way of her enjoying life and she lived to the respectable age of 91.9

She did put her skills to good use at home, cooking for the family and sewing. I have inherited her Singer sewing machine, although I don’t sew at all. The machine works by pushing on a lever with your knee. It is a lovely piece of furniture in my home and, more importantly, a beautiful keepsake of my Auntie Elsie.

sewing machine

 

  1. Birth register of Elsie McHugh, November 10, 1898, District of St. Mary, Burgh of Dundee, National Records of Scotland, Scotland’s People web site, accessed December 1, 2017.
  2. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed January 28, 2019.
  3. Wikipedia, History of Poliomyelitis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_poliomyelitis, accessed January 28, 2019.
  4. The Semantic Scholar, Voices from the Past, Early Institutional Experience of Children with disabilities – The case of Scotland, Iain Hutchison, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f5d8/80cd842c518f3bc8a2dd3f5fb4e359eecf7e.pdf, accessed January 28, 2019.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Personal notes of author.
  7. Personal notes of author.
  8. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed February 6, 2019.
  9. Personal notes of author.

 

Thirteen Children

When I first became interested in genealogy I knew very little, especially on my Sutherland side. A query I posted on Roots Web and a reply from Carol McIntosh Small opened the door to a flood of information, pictures and a number of third and fourth cousins. The cousins all wanted to know, “Who was your William Sutherland’s father?”

One cousin had heard stories that William Sutherland, born about 1750 in Scotland, had 13 children. They had only been able to find seven children from William and his wife Catherine Mackay. My William appeared to be his grandson, with his parents being another William Sutherland and Christina McLeod. He was thought to be one of six children. Then, we all received an email saying, “Guess what?” There was only one William Sutherland and he had two wives, hence the possible 13 children.

If one just looked at birth dates, William wouldn’t be expected to have fathered these 13 children. The first was born about 1779 and the last around 1827. In fact, William was around sixty when he married Christina McLeod and started his second family. He was almost eighty when his last child was born!

Unfortunately, before his second family was grown, William, old and frail was unable to work. His mind went and he couldn’t manage his affairs. He had been a stone mason and had worked the land in Inchverry as a tenant for more than 50 years. He was behind on his rent and was to be expelled from his land and removed from his cottage.

In April of 1833, his wife Christina, with the help of Rev H. McKenzie sent a petition for the consideration of the Duchess of Sutherland, pleading for time to catch up on the arrears. It stated, that if they were removed from their home, she and her young children would be forced to beg to survive.

William had always been an industrious and honest man who had never been in debt. Not only had he raised the seven children from his previous marriage, who were all educated and in various trades, but he had also raised many of his brothers and sisters after their parents died. They were now in other parts of the world and either could not help or were “forgetful of their duty”. Christina had expected to receive help from William’s brothers in Aberdeen and his son by his first marriage in England but no help arrived.

There was another petition, August 14, 1834, stating that their oldest son William, now 17, was finishing his apprenticeship as a shoemaker in Inverness. He would begin working in Tongue in the summer of 1836. As everyone needed shoes and he was a sober and hard working fellow, he would probably do well and would be able to support the family, manage the lot and pay the rent. In the meantime, they hoped the Duchess would allow them to remain on the land and to keep a little summer meal.

The Duchess responded August 20, 1834, “The petitioner’s arrears will be given up upon condition of the petitioner’s son assisting him in the future.” Their son William did looked after the family until he left for Canada in 1845. His younger brother Donald, then also a shoemaker was left in charge.

Further research by the cousins turned up two more children born to William and Christina. Although a William wasn’t a child of William and Catherine there was a John so the 13 children have become 15.

Notes:

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh: Sutherland Estate Papers, Dep. 313/2461    Papers found by Margaret Walker and passed on to the cousins..

Small, Carol A. The McIntoshes of Inchverry. Denfield, Ont.: Maple Hurst, 2008. Print.

Personal communications from Karen Sutherland Pahia, Nancy Sutherland Grieg, Carol McIntosh Small and Paul Worth.

WILLIAM SUTHERLAND was born abt. 1750 in Tongue, Sutherlandshire, Scotland. He married CATHERINE MACKAY. She was born abt. 1755. He then married CHRISTINA MCLEOD. She was born in Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland.

Children of WILLIAM SUTHERLAND and CATHERINE MACKAY are:

 JOHN SUTHERLAND, b 1779

 MARGARET SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1783; d. April 06, 1873, Tongue Sutherland Scotland.

ELIZABETH SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1789.

GEORGE SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1790; d. Bef. 1851.

HELEN SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1794; d. June 04, 1846, Mt. Thom, Pictou Co., Nova Scotia, Canada.

BARBARA SUTHERLAND, b. July 04, 1794.

GRACE ANN SUTHERLAND, b. January 05, 1800; d. September 12, 1889, Strangeways, Australia

Children of WILLIAM SUTHERLAND and CHRISTINA MCLEOD are:

CATHERINE SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1810, Tongue Sutherland Scotland: d. January 23, 1858, Rhitongue, Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland.

ISABELLA SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1814, Tongue Sutherland Scotland; d. June 22, 1897, Heddon Bush District, Southland, New Zealand.

WILLIAM SUTHERLAND, b. 1816, Sutherlandshire, Scotland; d. August 12, 1887, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

JOHAN SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1818; d. November 12, 1901.

HUGHINA SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1820; d. August 09, 1909, Inverpolly, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland.

JANET “JESSIE” SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1825, Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland: d. March 20, 1924, Ullapool, Lochbroom, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland.

DONALD SUTHERLAND, b. Abt. 1826, Brae Tongue Sutherland Scotland; d. May 04, 1895, Brae Tongue Sutherland Scotland.

ROBERTINA SUTHERLAND, b. Aft. 1827, Tongue Sutherland Scotland: d. June 25, 1917, Coldbackie, Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland.

His son William was my great great grandfather. A story about William’s wife Elizabeth Mowat, can be found at https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/3293