Genealogy, Quebec, Scotland

The Cook at the McGill University Faculty Club

by Sandra McHugh

I particularly like the series Downton Abbey.  It portrays the upstairs and downstairs of the upper classes during the beginning of the twentieth century. I like to imagine what it would have been like to work as part of the domestic staff.  In 1922, my grandmother, Grace Graham Hunter, worked as a domestic, probably a cook, in Edinburgh for Dr. W. Kelman MacDonald, an osteopath.1 She was young and unmarried and looking for adventure.

Her experience as a cook in one of the homes of the upper class of Edinburgh surely stood her in good stead when she became head cook at the McGill University Faculty Club in Montreal.  When my grandmother was looking for adventure, Canada badly needed domestic workers.  The Canadian government favoured immigrants from Great Britain to ensure the predominance of British values.  The British Parliament passed the Empire Settlement Act, which entitled my grandmother to free third-class passage from Scotland to Canada.2

Given that the need for domestic workers was acute, government hostels, partially financed by both the Canadian government and the provinces, welcomed these immigrants to the major urban centres of Canada and referred them to Employment Services of Canada who then found them employment.3

The McGill University Faculty Club was established in 1923. I assume that my grandmother was one of the first employees as this is the year she met my grandfather and she used to tell me stories of letting him come in the back door to eat a dessert or two.

My grandmother also used to tell me many stories of the people who were members of the Faculty Club and their guests and of the pressure of preparing the food just right. I used to wonder about the famous people who dined there, who they shared their meals with, and what they discussed.

The Faculty Club was originally located on University Street.  It was only in 1935 that it was moved to its current location in the Baumgarten House on McTavish Street, the former resident of Sir Arthur Currie. 4 It was only when it moved that the Faculty Club allowed women members.  Notably, Maude Abbott became the first woman member of the Faculty Club.  She was a remarkable Montreal citizen.  She started practising medicine in 1894.  In 1910, McGill University awarded her an honorary degree and a lectureship in the Department of Pathology.5 In 1924, she founded the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. 6 Somehow, it seems fitting that such an extraordinary woman should be the first woman member of the McGill University Faculty Club.

 

1 This is derived from my grandmother’s address on the passenger list of the S.S. Montclare that sailed from Greenock, Scotland to Saint-John, New Brunswick on February 16, 1922.  Her address was listed as 41 Drumshegh Gardens, Edinburgh.  Dr. W. Kelman MacDonald, Osteopath, is listed as the owner linked to architectural drawings of work that was done in 1922. As my grandmother’s job was a domestic, I assume that she worked for Dr. MacDonald.

2Immigration Form 30-A of Grace Graham Hunter.

3 Crawford, Ruth, 1924, “Canada’s Program for Assimilation”, The Rotarian, May 1924, p. 16

4https://www.mcgill.ca/facultyclub/history

5https://www.mcgill.ca/about/history/features/mcgill-women

6https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maude_Abbott

 

Genealogy, Great Britain, Scotland

The Harvester Scheme and the Empire Settlement Act

By Sandra McHugh

Who would have thought that finding the immigration records of my grandparents would have led to me to learn about two British government initiatives designed to promote immigration in the 1920s?  I was looking in the Library and Archives Canada web site and found digitized records of Form 30 that recorded the entry of every immigrant between July 1921 and December 1924.1  I was thrilled to find the form that my grandfather, George Thomas Deakin, signed in August 1923, and the one that my grandmother, Grace Graham Hunter, signed in February 1924.

My grandfather’s form indicated that he came to Canada as part of the Harvester Scheme.  In 1923, Canada had a bumper wheat crop and North America could not provide the labour needed to harvest the crop.  Under the Harvester Scheme, the two major Canadian railway companies entered into an agreement with the British government to transport 12,000 workers out west where they would earn $4.00 per day plus board.  This was considered a successful scheme as 11,871 migrants went out west to work, the harvest was successfully completed, and 80% of the harvesters stayed and were considered “successfully assimilated.”2

My grandmother’s passage was paid by the Empire Settlement Act.  This Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1922 and its purpose was to provide an incentive for migrants to settle in the colonies.  Canada badly needed farm labourers and domestic workers.  At that time, the Canadian government favoured immigrants from Great Britain as a means of ensuring the predominance of British values.  In the early 1920s, it was difficult for Canada to attract immigrants from Great Britain as Britain was enjoying a period of prosperity right after World War I.  Another reason was the prohibitive cost of transatlantic transportation.  Even passage in third class would have been expensive for a farm labourer or a domestic worker.3

My grandmother came to Canada to enter into domestic service as a cook and her destination in Montreal was the government hostel.  Hostels were located in major urban areas across Canada.  These hostels were partially funded by the provinces and immigrants from Great Britain were allowed free dormitory accommodation for 24 hours after their arrival.  Young ladies were looked after by the Superintendent of the hostel and referred to a church worker.  They were also referred to Employment Services of Canada who would find them employment.4

Sources

1 Library and Archives Canada:  http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca

2 Foster, John Elgin, 1983, The Developing West:  Essays on Canadian History in Honor of Lewis H. Thomas, University of Alberta

http://www.pier21.ca/research/immigration-history/empire-settlement-act-1922

4 Crawford, Ruth, 1924, “Canada’s Program for Assimilation”, The Rotarian, May 1924, p. 16