a story

A story, part 19 – Pictures and a bit of history

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Published in 1992, I have a copy of the history of Harrow and Colchester South. My Grandfather is listed as a member of Town Council starting in 1934, at the age of 30.

The short write-up says:

William Murdoch came to Harrow as a 21-year-old English immigrant in 1924. He worked as a farm laborer until he started his own Harrow egg business. He and his wife Marie, raised four children. Active membership in church, lodge, school board, town council and literary society made Murdoch an articulate public speaker. In 1943 he was elected Progressive Conservative Member of the Ontario Legislature where he represented Essex South for 20 years. He served under Premiers George Drew and Leslie Frost, and was chosen Speaker of the Legislature.

He worked on the Affleck farm, I know he lived with them for a time. They had chickens and he must have learned that business from the Affleck family.

He opened and operated an egg processing and distribution business which my father worked at and took over until my father retired in about the mid 1980’s.

My Grandfather is listed as a member of Town Council starting in 1934, at the age of 30 until 1940. He was instrumental in bringing water to the Town of Harrow in 1958. He was also a charter member of the Harrow Rotary Club in 1937. I think he was the Grand Mason in this area for a time. The main street in Colchester is named after him, as well as a street in Harrow.

Here are a few pictures of my Grandfather, William Murdoch, given the title ‘Right Honorable’ after his position as Speaker of the Ontario Legislature.


My mom still has the picture given to my Grandfather from parliament (I believe that one still hangs in Toronto in the Legislature). We’re looking into having it donated to a local historical society.

Meeting the King and Queen. A lot of people met the King and Queen as they visited this area a couple of times during his years of service. I know that my grandmother had some private time with the Queen in Niagara falls (the Queen was the first to ‘turn the lights’ on at the Falls and my grandmother was the 2nd), and there are several more pictures of meetings, but this is the only one I have on hand.

It looks like my grandmother has a tattoo on her lower leg – believe me, she didn’t!

It feels good to have this bit of history completed and ‘out there’. Although it does make me a bit sad when I look through all the pictures I have and realize that I may be the only one who cares about the history of our family.


A story, part 18 – the final part

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This is the last page of my grandfather’s (incomplete) memoir – I think there is one short story in the file that I will dig up eventually, and I still hope to post some pics soon. For those of you (four) who don’t know… My paternal grandfather wrote these thoughts at the age of 70 in 1974. He is currently aboard the Scythia traveling to Canada from his home in Barrow in Furnace, England at the age of 20… reflecting on his youth. It’s tagged as ‘a story’ if anyone wants to read the entire memoir. Noteworthy is that this last page is spaced differently and there are several spelling mistakes and typos… strange.

My thoughts were carried back to Barrow, where I sang in the choir as a boy, and the service game me a great lift, restoring my confidence and enthusiasm in the purpose of the journey. After the service ended, while I was walking around the deck, the fact that we were nearing the end of the voyage seemed to be creating a feeling of anxiousness among the passengers, something to be felt rather than explained. Groups were gathered together in spirited discussion and moving quickly to the rail if anyone spotted a school of porpoise, jumping out of the water as though to see what was happening on the surface. Everyone was walking and talking at a quicker pace.

Our approximate landing time, and instructions for disembarking had been posted on the various bulletin boards in the morning and passengers were looking anxiously for the first sight of land. They were actually over-anxious, as land was not sighted until the next day. During the night we could feel that the ship’s engines had been cut back considerably, and in the morning everyone was hurrying at breakfast, to get up on deck. Very little could be seen however, as we were enveloped in a dense fog, and the ship’s fog horn was sounding continuously. We were all crowding the forward rail, straining our eyes; and our efforts were soon rewarded. Out of the mist we could see a dull outline as it appeared to rise slowly out of the water and mist. True enough it was land at last, on the seventh day which had a biblical significance. It was not long before the passengers were out on dry land, solid land which did not move, claiming their luggage.

We were all in a great hurry to leave the ship, pushing and shoving, then walking the short distance to the railway station where the train was waiting. This train would take us to our final destination in the western wheat fields where the labours would commence. On the over, we were serenaded bu a group of about twelve young negroes, who were playing an assortment of musical instruments, and singing well-known songs which were popular at that time. I remember only two, ‘Barney Google and his GOO Goo GOogly Eyes’ and ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’. This welcome raised our spirits and put us in a good mood for our next journey, on land as a change from the sea. The engineer kept blowing the whistle, in a manner which suggested that he was in a hurry and would like to get going. We gave him great encouragement, quickening our steps, and we were soon on the way. With a few more frantic toots from the engineer, the train was packed full of men, and we began to move from the station.

That’s it.

I wish I had more. I wish I knew exactly how he came to Southern Ontario. Hm.

I wonder why he stopped with the sea journey. I would really have liked to read about his travel to and work in Western Canada (or the Prairies). Maybe he became frustrated with typing. Perhaps my grandmother critizised his writing. I can see her disapproving of the mention of alcohol and gambling, encouraging him to add more about church. I’ll never have answers to these questions, but am grateful to have what he did write.

A story, part 18

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The soon to be ending adventures of my paternal grandfather who wrote a short (and incomplete me thinks) memoir at the age of 70 in 1974. He is currently aboard the Scythia traveling to Canada from his home in Barrow in Furnace, England at the age of 20… reflecting on his youth. The story is nearly finished, which is probably why I haven’t posted since early October – I really don’t want it to end… it’s tagged under ‘a story’ if anyone wants more background…

I thought about my school days when I was very active, playing soccer, with plenty of swimming in the salt sea water. I also belonged to a temperance group, not of my own choice, but as a part of my parental guidance programme. This juvenile group was known as ‘The Band of Hope’, and we all quite innocently pledged that we would never imbibe in the demon rum or any other alcoholic beverage, as long as we lived. I was also a member of the Baden Power Scout Group of Boy Scouts and a chorister in St. George’s church choir. Piano lessons were thrown in for good measure.

I also remember that is was about this time, near the end of the war, I had my appendix removed. I had suffered pains in what I thought was my stomach on many different occasions which our doctor diagnosed as pleurisy and he prescribed rest with the application of heat. When I had a later attack, he had by this time joined the armed forces and we had a different doctor who said it was my appendix, and he ordered me into the hospital. This doctor must have been right as I had no more pains after the operation. When I was thirteen and in my last year at school, we were marched once a week to the indoor pool, towel and swimming suit under arm, and taught how to swim, although I could already swim reasonably well. We were also marched once a week to the central handicraft school where we were taught to use the hammer, saw, plane, chisel, square and compass, and with these tools we made models out of wood. I remember the first model was a one foot ruler, the second was a tee square, and then on to the more difficult model of a railway signal.

During the time I was sitting on the deck in the sun and breeze, alone with my thoughts, Pat was getting to know men of his own age, and I think he was addicted to the game of crown and anchor. He mentioned a few incidents of the officers breaking up several games. I was quite content to have these periods to myself, and it amazed me how fast the thoughts can fly through the mind. We can think about the good times and the bad, and remember our deepest anxieties about things which never did actually happen.

Although I was enjoying life on shipboard, I knew it was only a passing phase and I became anxious to get my feet on to solid land which would bring me closer to my main objective. Towards the end of the voyage I was greatly impressed by the Sunday service of worship when the captain, resplendent in his gold braids and decorations, assumed the role of clergyman, and a few members of the ship’s orchestra played their band instruments. It was held in the ballroom and it surprised me how well everyone joined in the singing, with so much feeling and volume.

That’s it for today – only one more part left, and I’m certain that one page won’t tell me how he came to Southern Ontario. I know for certain that my grandfather broke his temperance promise, as he apparently had a well stocked liquor cabinet which my grandmother was embarrassed about, and made him hid it in a cubby hole above the stairs to the basement in the Amherstburg home. Ha! I think he always attended church and continued through his life to be a great lover of music, playing for us nearly every Sunday and always at Christmastime. He died when I was about 10 and had advanced Alzheimer’s so I really never knew him (to be well) at all.

Maybe I’ll dig up some pics to post next time or soon.

A story, part 17

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The continuing adventures of my paternal grandfather, as he recorded in 1974 at the age of 70.

My early days in Leeds, Yorkshire, where I was born, I remember waiting on the school steps for my older brother Alex, before I was old enough to attend. I recall the time that I was with him when I found a two-shilling piece, and the decision was made to buy a new jug for my mother. The one we were using had a small chip out of the spout and did not pour properly without using extreme care. We had to walk some distance to get home and I nursed the jug very carefully all the way. When I got to our front door I was so nervous with haste and excitement that I banged the jug into the door and broke the spout. It was now just as useless as if it had a hole in the bottom. I remembered the way the two of us used to walk to visit our two aunts on Saturdays. At Aunt Edith’s, Alex used to clean the windows and I cleaned the silverware, for which we received a small welcomed remuneration. Also the walks through the woods on Sundays with the family, picking primroses and bluebells. Although I do not recall the actual incident myself, I later heard my father say many times, that on one of our walks someone handed me a small trumpet for a moment, and all the way home I kept crying, ‘I wanna trumpet, I wanna trumpet.’ I never did have one, but I did get piano lessons later. I remembered my grandmother and the exciting stories she told me about India, where she spent many years of her life as the wife of an army man, who was then deceased. I remember asking on many occasions just what the brass plate meant on her front door, with the words, ‘Certified Midwife,’ but I did not get the answer until several years later. I was told that when my grandfather died, the authorities trained my grandmother to be some kind of nurse. There were many gaps in my memory at this time, as I do not remember anything about our move to Barrow, until I first went to school there.

Barrow-in-Furness was strictly an industrial town situated on the west coast of England about eighty miles north of Liverpool an across the Irish Sea from Belfast in Ireland. The production of steel from ore which was imported from Spain, and shipbuilding were the major industries.

The shipyard built just about everything in ships. Cargo and passenger ships and all types of naval ships such as submarines, battleships, and battle cruisers. After the war ended Britain confiscated the German naval and merchant marine ships which resulted in severe unemployment in Barrow. Fortunately, several naval shops were ordered by Japan and I saw Japanese people for the first time. These were the men who arrived in town in their capacity as inspectors and they must have done their work well, as is evidenced by the fact that Japan leads the whole world in shipbuilding tonnage.

I remembered that during the war, a huge building was erected adjacent to the shipyards docks, and it was a well guarded secret as to what was being built inside. When the war ended, it then became known that a huge airship had been constructed and was actually ready for testing. Great publicity was given to the day when it would be towed out to open water and given the trial run. I felt fortunate to be part of the large number of men and women who would be the first to see its ascent and take off. It was towed out alright and then we waited an extremely long time. Finally, the centre portion of the airship began to rise quite high into the air, but the two ends did not move. The centre went higher and higher while we gazed in wonderment at the peculiar sight. Then the huge dirigible collapsed and flattened out on the water, a complete failure. This must have been a severe blow to the pride of hundreds of men who had worked so hard and enthusiastically on its construction.

Only two more small parts left… I keep forgetting to ask my mom about the good luck piece my grandfather carried…

A story, part 16

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The continuing adventures of my paternal Grandfather. He recorded this in 1974, at the age of 70, recalling his youth in England and travel to Canada in 1923. If you are interested in reading the entire story to date, it is tagged, ‘a story’.

I remember that while passing the office of the purser one day, I saw a sign which read, ‘To protect your valuables, deposit with the Purser’. This made me smile to myself, and my hand automatically raised to my left breast.  Here in my undershirt, on the inner side, my mother had sewn a small patch pocket, complete with flap and button, and this was my private depository. My valuables consisted of one United States ten dollar bill and one gold sovereign, inscribed with the head of  King George the Fifth, and dated nineteen hundred and eleven. My brother, who worked in the bank, had obtained them for me in preparation for my trip to Philadelphia.

These two items were my reserves to be used us emergency, and although I did have to use the ten dollar bill later on the train, I never had to use the sovereign. This had always been my talisman, my good luck gold piece, something very special and prized far above its intrinsic value. On several occasions I was sorely tempted to cash it for immediate spending money, but something always came along to make it unnecessary.

I was very interested in the boat drill which took place on the second day we were at seas. We were given full instructions on how to put on our life saving equipment, and given our own particular place to stand on deck to be ready to board a life boat in case of emergency. I thought about the Titanic, probably the greatest sea disaster in history, sunk after striking an iceberg in 1912, with more than fifteen hundred lives lost. It never entered my mind that a similar situation could arise with the Scythia, although the very next day I wished the ship would sink very quietly to the bottom as I was in the throes of sea sickness. I spent the most of the day in the berth, and Pat brought me some food which I could not eat. However I was on my feet again the next morning and enjoyed a good breakfast.

We have all experienced at one time of another, that while driving the car, or doing repetitious work and even when we are in church, our uncontrollable thoughts take over from the conscious mind. Sitting in the warm August sunshine and watching the waves from the deck of the Scythia, this is exactly what happened to me on many occasions during the crossing. When this happens, we readily recall in vivid detail, events and people from over a long period of time, in a matter of moments. I can recall my many friends who I left behind in England, and whose friendships were valued very highly at the time, were valued even more in retrospect. All previous activities which I had enjoyed in a high degree gained new lustre and a new significance. Staring at the endless ocean and sky, it seemed to sharpen my memory, and my thoughts skipped back to small incidents which I had temporally forgotten.

Well, this is a good place to end, as my typing skills are terrible today! Very frustrating. I’m on the desktop, but switching back and forth between it and the laptop have left my finger to brain communication fuzzy.

On Labour (spelled right, lol) Day week-end, Ancestry.com opened a few of its collections to the public. Although it was a busy week-end for us, I was able to spend some time rooting around passenger lists. I easily found my grandfather’s passenger record! Very cool. I also was able to find my mother’s family to and from Europe (her father was in the army and she lived for a short period of time in France and Germany). I searched my maternal great grandfather’s name (the apparently important dude I mentioned a while back) and in the weirdest coincidence ever discovered that he crossed the Atlantic with his new wife in April of 1956 on the Scythia! Weird! What are the odds? My parents didn’t even meet until about 1959! Ha!

Anyway, this is one thing I found online. I’m probably breaking a trillion copyrights, but oh well.  

Pretty cool eh?

On a side note, I searched and searched for William’s father’s crossing in 1952, and could not find a single thing! If you know me, then you know that it drove me crazy! I even searched for his parents’ crossings, before they dropped the ‘O’ in their last name and zip, zero zilch! ARG! I’ve heard that William’s paternal grandfather was a bit of a shady character, and I laughed out loud when I repeatedly found his name on passenger lists as a convict to Australia! I’m assured that it was not the same person – but it was pretty funny.

When ancestry.com opens their vaults again I hope to search around some more. It was really easy and quite fun (nerd). I’m planning to get a free trial membership in the winter and spend some serious time linking some family trees.

A story, part 15

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It appeared that other trains had arrived earlier in the day and deposited their human cargo directly on the ship, but the outgoing tide had made it necessary to move away from the dockside. As we moved into deeper water and caught sight of the ship, Pat let out an excited yell, 'Why it's the Scythia.' he said. On taking a closer look I knew the ship immediately as it had been built in Barrow quite recently, and I had watched it grow under the huge cranes. Since Pat had helped build it, as my father had, he was almost overwhelmed by this coincidence. The gangway was lowered and we were soon on board, when we were directed to the purser who assigned us to our two berth cabin. We were later given our seating arrangements in the dining room, and found out that we were allocated to the second sitting, which Pat said was the best time, especially for breakfast, not as early as the first sitting and not as later as the third. As soon as we were settled in our cabin Pat took me for a tour of the ship, and I knew from what I saw that I was going to enjoy the seven day trip across the Atlantic very much.

If I were to choose any month of the year for an ocean voyage it would be in August, as the weather in this month is most ideal for sailing conditions. This is an event which very few people can enjoy today, as hardly any ships carrying passengers cross the Atlantic. The growing demands on our time and the ready availability of air transportation has almost eliminated this more leisurely and luxurious type of travel. our two berths in the small cabin were quite comfortable and included a porthole. The dining room was well appointed and the food of excellent high quality, and plentiful enough to challenge the most avaricious appetite.

We sailed nothward in the Irish Sea, up the Firth of Clyde and anchored in the deep water outside Greenock. A small tender made a few trips from the shore with more passengers, and we were soon on our way through the beautiful scenery of the Clyde River. Belfast was our next stop where the tender operation was repeated and we were soon on our way around the north coast of Ireland and into the wide ocean of the Atlantic.

It was a carefree and boisterous army of men, English, Irish and Scotch, with many different dialects, about seven hundred strong, all prepared to tackle a new and unknown adventure in the Canadian west. At various times as I looked over their faces, I wondered just what kind of homes they came from and about those they had left behind, which always rekindled my own thought of those I had left behind in Barrow.

There was always great activity on deck such as quoits, shuffleboard and deck tennis. Below deck in the spacious lounges there were always groups playing checkers, dominoes, some chess, along with all the well known cards games. The most interesting game however, was one which was played in many parts of the ship and moved from place as the occasion demanded. This was the well known gambling game of crown and anchor, which was illegal by the ship's rules. My assessment of the game was that a square piece of cloth was pulled out of the operator's pocket and placed on the floor, which soon attracted a small group of players. An accomplice acted as a lookout, and when an officer approached the warning was given, everyone picked up his money, and the operator stuffed the cloth back into his picket, then someone started an argument to confuse the officer. I never saw anyone arrested or taken to the captain, and concluded that while the game might have been declared illegal, it was not particularly banned on this ship.

When this was written in 1974, cruise lines as we know today didn't exist… along with the advances in technology, I wonder if my grandfather would marvel over today's cruise industry – the activities available on today's cruise lines; the excursions available, abundance of balconies, legal gambling, Broadway style shows, low prices, exotic itineraries… I guess it's funny that he enjoyed this mode of travel so much, as William and I love cruises more than any other type of vacation, and have been on 4 together in the last 9 years… 

It's interesting for me to know that he sailed on the Scythia , whose maiden voyage was in 1921… (I believe my grandfather's trip was in 1922 – I did think it was 1923, but I can't find that the Scythia made that sailing in 1923…). On ancestry.com there is a recorded passenger with the same name as my grandfather, but of course I'm not a member so I can't access the document… I was thinking of getting the 'free' trial membership sometime in the winter when I'll have tons of time to look over records and the like.  

 There are only about 2 parts left… I'm still hopeful that I'll find out how he made it to Southern Ontario… we'll see I guess.

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A story, part 13

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We were at the station in good time the next morning and I was sitting in the coach with my brand new suitcase, well decorated with travel stickers, and containing everything I would need for a journey of five thousand miles by sea and by land. Mother and dad were on the platform, anxious looks on their faces, and I did not feel as joyful as I did previously, it was actually a very sad departure.

Very soon a well built, middle aged man pushed his way into the compartment, quite red in the face and puffing a little, carrying two suit cases. There were marked with stickers the same as mine, and without a word between us we soon had both our heads leaning out of the window. As the train pulled out he waved to his wife as I was waving to my parents, and as we left the station he sat down on one side and I sat down facing him. For quite a long time neither of us spoke. My companion in the opposite seat brought out a package of cigarettes and offered one to me which I politely declined. He asked me my name and told me his was Pat Clarke. I told him I played football with a Pat Clarke, an apprentice butcher, and he went on to tell me Pat was his son. From this point on there was no further restraint and we entered into a lively conversation. He mentioned that he had been employed as a shipwright for many years, but had been unemployed for the past several months, and would try to obtain similar types of work in Canada. I related my reasons for leaving Barrow, and from then on we were as close as if we'd known each other for years. I was already thinking that I was off to a good start in my chance association with Pat Clarke. He insisted that I called him Pat and and not Mr. Clarke as I had first addressed him.

The train rattled on through the luscious countryside and we occasionally caught glimpses of the Irish Sea. The blue water entranced me as it reminded me of the many happy summer months I had spend at Roosebeck, and made me wonder how long it would be before I would be there again.

How quickly we can re-capture in a few moments, pleasant thoughts of the past.

I thought of Bill Dall who I considered my closest friend. He was the organizer, the supplier, the acknowledged brains of our group, and could always be relied upon when the chips were down. With his location at his father's store in the centre of the town, he was the main cog in all our activities, and passed our messages and plans to all others. He was an expert on the running repairs of all types of vehicles, and knew every highway and byway in the area. I was thinking how much I would miss Bill, when my thoughts we cut off sharply by Pat Clarke telling me we were coming into Lancaster. I looked out of the window and noticed a group of about twelve men standing on the platform with suitcases in their hands, and I could tell at a glance that they were heading for Liverpool and Canada. They were accompanied by a host of friends and relatives, and as the train pulled out there was the same frantic waving as long as the eye could see. The next stop was Preston, where a much larger group joined us, and I began to wonder what circumstances and conditions prompted so many to undertake this long and perhaps hazardous journey to Canada and the wheat fields of the west. Most of them seemed to be much older than I was, and I was very glad to be travelling and almost fathered by an older man, who seemed to know his was around.

On out way into Liverpool we passed the Mersey docks stretching along the River Mersey for a distance of about seven miles, which is a great sight, full of ships of all shapes and sizes. Pat told me that freight was landed in Liverpool from all parts of the world and destined to the Midlands, northern England and parts of Scotland, and that cloth of all types, metal wares, machinery and chemicals were only a few of the many goods which would be loaded on the outgoing ships. On leaving the train we were directed by two steamship officials to the nearby dock where a small tender was tied up, which would take us into deeper water where out ship was anchored.  

That's it for today – it's hard to stop typing and reading.. I'm finding this very interesting… I think the year was 1923, so my Grandfather would have been either 18 or 19 at the time of his journey.   

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