Genealogy, Montreal, Newfoundland, Newspapers, Volunteering

Miss Lindsay – Part 1

In June 1922, young Marguerite Lindsay travelled from Montreal, Quebec to Cartwright, Labrador, for a summer of volunteer work. Two months later she went for an afternoon walk and disappeared.

Marguerite, aged 25, had volunteered as a teacher with The Grenfell Mission in Cartwright. The International Grenfell Mission is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1892 by British medical missionary Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell to provide healthcare, education, religious services, rehabilitation and other social services to the fisherman and coastal communities of northern Newfoundland and Labrador.1

She taught the older girls sports such as swimming and cricket and ran the recreation program at the Labrador Public School at Muddy Bay, 10 km from Cartwright. Miss Annette Stiles, an American and the other summer volunteer, worked as the school’s nutritionist and cook.

Marguerite was my grandfather’s baby sister. The youngest of six children born to Mary Heloise Bagg and Robert Lindsay, she grew up privileged in a prominent English Montreal family. Her brother, my grandfather, was an Anglican priest in Montreal.The Priest

Marguerite Lindsay and her brother Sydenham circa 1922
Marguerite Lindsay and her brother Sydenham – photo taken in Montreal, Quebec – circa 1922

An article in The Montreal Standard newspaper described Marguerite as being “popular in Boston, London and Montreal Society.” She attended a girls’ school near Boston and, in 1918, actively took part in The Sewing Circle (making quilts for charity) and The Vincent Club (supporting women’s health issues). Later she attended St. Andrew’s College in England. Her fine education and choice of social circles were evidence of not only her elite upbringing but her ingrained kindness towards others.

In June 1921, a year before her departure for Labrador, Marguerite returned home by ship after a three month visit to England. She was only 24 years old at that time and most likely already considered a spinster!

Her marriage prospects were not good, since after The Great War, there was an excess of females over males of about 5,500 in English Montreal alone. 2 The women’s rights movement had already made progress for women’s suffrage, education and entry into the workplace. Might these changes in society have encouraged Marguerite’s decision to pursue her teaching? Perhaps she learned about The Grenfell Mission itself during her last trip to England. But how on earth did she convince her protective parents to allow such an adventure? Did her brother (the priest) approve of the idea, support her calling and aid in her plea?

Marguerite Lindsay 1922
The Grenfell Mission photo of volunteer Miss Helen  Frances Marguerite Lindsay

The two young volunteers, Marguerite and Annette, were under the direction of the Reverend Henry Gordon. He and his wife ran the school in Muddy Bay. Annette, perhaps a little homesick, described the area as “a bay surrounded by spruce-clad hills, resembling Lake George (New York), warmly sheltered from the Arctic winds.”3

Annette wrote an article depicting some of her experiences with Marguerite and the local people. It was published in an issue of the journal Among the Deep Sea Fishers. She described food demonstrations held for the adults and nature outings with the children in their collective care noting that “the children’s enthusiasm was very contagious – a great contrast to the boredom of some in more civilized places.” And then she continued:

Miss Lindsay was a very good swimmer and the older children loved her teaching them this as well as loving to work with her in the mornings … even on cold days they would beg to go in (the water) and the little ones would join in the chorus: “O! Miss, take I in swimmin’ too!”

It was a hot day on August 4, 1922, when Marguerite left her fellow teacher and friend in Cartwright possibly to go for a swim somewhere along the Sandwich Bay shores. She often took walks alone and was known to be a young lady very capable of taking care of herself. However, that evening when she hadn’t returned in time for the evening meal, a search party was organized immediately.

Miss Lindsay was missing!

1FindingGrenfell.ca – accessed October 19, 2019

2Westley, Margaret W. Remembrance of Grandeur–The Anglo-Protestant Elite of Montreal 1900-1950, p. 126

3 Stiles, Annette – “The Cartwright Expert Cook” – Among the Deep Sea Fishers, January 1923

Genealogy, Verdun

Women Heroines at La Poudrière during WWI

During World War I, 4,000 people, many of them women,  assembled eight million fuses in a building locally known as “La Poudrière.” Given that the job required mounting a detonator cap over a gunpowder relay charge and attaching a safety pin (read more about WWI fuses here), the job was risky and monotonous at the same time.

Who were these people? How can we honour their work?

Recently, while looking through the records of World War I soldiers, I realized that their records may offer us ways to discover our homefront heroines.  Several women moved to Verdun and lived within walking distance of the armament plant while their husbands or brothers served overseas.

Patrick Murray

When Ethel Henrietta Murray’s husband Patrick volunteered for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on Wednesday, April 12, 1916, the couple lived at 80 Anderson Street, in downtown Montreal.[1]

According to his military records, he died on October 29, 1917, driving with the 4th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. She went by the first name Henrietta. Initially, she had moved to 1251 Wellington Street. Later, she lived at 956 Ethel Street.[2]

None of her addresses exist anymore, nor have I yet found any evidence explaining why she moved to Verdun. Based on her address and circumstances, however, I suspect that she—and three other women who lived nearby—worked at “la poudrière.”

La Poudrière

Locals call a building that currently houses 64 units for senior citizens “La Poudrière,” which means powder keg. The Canadien Slavowic Association (l’Association canadienne slave de Montréal) operates the space.

I haven’t yet looked into the records of the company to find out if there is a list of employees so that I can see if Ethel or Henrietta Murray appears on their rolls.

Other women I’d like to verify include Marjorie Victoria Stroude Luker, Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, and Mrs. John Sullivan. These three women also lived within walking distance of la poudrière between 1916 and 1919.

Military records include the addresses of these women because all of them received telegrams about loved ones being wounded or killed overseas.

Arthur Stroude

Marjorie’s husband Arthur was wounded in Italy on August 20, 1917, and then died of the flu in Belgium on December 2018. Although the couple lived in Point St. Charles when he signed up, her benefits were sent to her at 714 Ethel Street by the time he died.[3]

George Winsper

Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, the wife of George Winsper who died on November 7, 1917, had moved from Rosemont to 196 St. Charles Street in Pointe St. Charles by the time he died.[4]

William Wright

Two records mention the grief of Mrs. John Sullivan when Private William Wright, a steamfitter from Scotland, died in action at St. Julien on April 24, 1915. Neither have her first name. One document describes William, who was 21 when he died as the adopted child of Mr. and Mrs. John Sullivan. The one I think is correct mentions that she is his sister. Her address at the beginning of the war was 9 Farm Street, Point St. Charles, the same as his when he enlisted. His medals were sent to her at 431A Wellington St., Point St. Charles.[5]

If these women worked together, as is possible, they too risked their lives.

Employees with the British Munition Supply Company–which was created by The British Government under the auspices of The Imperial Munitions Board–faced the possibility of accidental explosions. Britain paid $175,000 in 1916 to construct a building that could contain shockwaves. It also included a saw-tooth roof to prevent sunlight from entering.[6]

British Munitions Limited

One description of their work comes from the biography of Sir Charles Gordon, who led the team that arranged for building construction.

The IMB had inherited from Sir Samuel Hughes’s Shell Committee orders for artillery shells worth more than $282 million, contracts with over 400 different factories, and supervision of the manufacture of tens of millions of shells and ancillary parts. Its most serious problem was acquiring time and graze, or percussion, fuses for the shells produced by its factories. There was no capacity to create and assemble these precision parts in Canada, and contracts with American companies had proved dismal failures.

The problem was given to Gordon to solve. He recommended that fuse manufacturing be done in Canada. The IMB set up its own factory in Verdun (Montreal) to make the delicate time fuses. Skilled workmen and supervisors were quickly brought over from Britain to train Canadian workers. British Munitions Limited, the IMB’s first “national factory,” was open for business by the spring of 1916. The last order from Britain, for 3,000,000 fuses, came in 1917 and the last fuses were shipped in May 1918. British Munitions was then converted by the IMB into a shell-manufacturing facility.[7]

Another source I read said that Dominion Textile Company purchased the site for its textile operations when the war ended in 1919. Two decades later, Defence Industries Limited revived the site for a shell factory during World War II, between 1940 and 1945. David Fennario’s book “Motherhouse” offers a good look at the women’s lives during this second wartime era.

 

[1] Attestation Paper, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #347740, Patrick Murray, a derivative copy of the original signed by Patrick.

[2] Address card, ibid.

[3] Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #1054006, Arthur Luker.

[4] Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #920146, George Winsper.

[5] Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #26024, William Wright.

[6] “Usine à munitions pour retraités slaves” by Raphaël Dallaire Ferland,  ttps://www.ledevoir.com/societe/354100/usine-a-munitions-pour-retraites-slaves, accessed September 22, 2018.

[7] Biography – GORDON, SIR CHARLES BLAIR – Volume XVI (1931-1940) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gordon_charles_blair_16F.html, accessed September 22, 2018.