Saturday, 19 August 2017

Dieppe's 75th Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary the disastrous raid on Dieppe, France. News stories reminds us it was the bloodiest day in Canada's war history.  Of the 5000 soldiers who took part, 916 were killed and as many as 2000 were taken prisoner.

  One of those who gave the supreme sacrifice was a Milne connection, Charles Gilchrist Gunn. He was the 21 year old son of Louisa (Milne) and Donald Gunn of West Kildonan which made him a first cousin to my Grandma Kinnaird.

"Louie" as Louisa was known had immigrated from Scotland in 1911 and Donald came in 1913.  They were married in Winnipeg in 1918.

Charles was born in 1921 although he puts 1918 on his attestation papers. He is an elevator operator and declares his home address as 264 Belmont Avenue in West Kildonan.Charles had an older brother Jack and a younger sister named Muriel.  Their father Donald was the chief fireman in West Kildonan and was Pipe Major in a local Scotish pipe and drum band.

Charles Gunn was a member of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders regiment out of Winnipeg. He was given service number H/19405.  As well as training as a soldier, he was a piper with the regiment to help keep up morale. Bagpipes and war are a historical combination as written about here. The skirl of the pipes puts fear into the enemy and fortifies the troops for the battle ahead.  It is said on that day - Wednesday, August 19, 1942 - the pipers started to play from one mile out at sea and then onto the beach at Dieppe.  Of the 505 Camerons who set off to capture the rocky French shore that morning, only 159 able-bodied men could be assembled afterward. Charlie was declared as missing that day and an agonizing 4 months later for his family, he was finally declared dead. 

As to their mission that day, the Veterans Affairs website here says :
On that ill-fated day they were to land at Pourville, about four kilometres west of Dieppe. They were to support the South Saskatchewan Regiment. The daunting plan for the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada was that they were to land 30 minutes after the South Saskatchewan Regiment, push beyond the village of Pourville, occupy a German airfield, destroy a German Battery, and finally connect with allied tanks and raid a German Headquarters south of Pourville. These tasks would have been impossible for any troop in the Second World War. In reality, the events did not go as planned and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were stopped well short of the town and were faced with enemy fire. When the Dieppe Raid came to an end the Regiment had lost 76 brave soldiers.

The book Winnipeg's Ladies From Hell by Murray Burt tells the stories of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders including the following about Private Gunn:
I remembered the story of how the pipes Charlie was playing were shot from under his arm on Pourville Beach that day, and  how he was killed when in a fit of anger he attacked the pillbox of the German machine-gunners that did it.  

 Charles Gilchrist Gunn is buried at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. Carved on his tombstone is the following somber verse.  In most cases the sentiment on the stone was chosen by the family.

Sunshine fades

And shadows fall

But sweet remembrance

Outlasts all.

Above is a link to a Youtube version of Flower of the Forest - a bagpipe lament dedicated to the fallen. We remember your sacrifice today Charles, along with all your comrades.  

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tonsillectomy on the Kitchen Table?

This year's third annual tour of local family landmarks (first year blog post here) included a stop at the former farm home pictured above of my great uncle and aunt, Bill and Mary Milne near Virden in the Boss Hill district.  During the drive, my Aunt Marjorie added a memory of hers about this house that I just had to look into further!

She said her older brother Keith Kinnaird and cousin Jeff Milne had their tonsils removed on the kitchen table of this house by Dr. George Clingan (1868-1944) in the mid 30's!  Clingan had many experiences over his life including M.L.A., mayor of Virden, commander in WW1, and president of the Manitoba Medical Association.  I suppose I shouldn't doubt his methods.   His wife Ida wrote The Virden Story in 1957.

Tonsil and adenoid removal is so rarely done now, but was very routine at one time as were housecalls for medical matters.  The availability of antibiotics and change in medical opinions on the usefulness of tonsils and adenoids has resulted in fewer removals.

A similar memory is retold on this 2009 blog written by Robert Keith Smith who lived near Oak Lake.  At this link  almost at the bottom of the page, you can read about his experience with his tonsillectomy at home.

Just to prove anything that you want to learn about is on Youtube, the brave among you can watch this silent film of the procedure developed by Mr. George Waugh from London in the 1930's.  I have not it watched it myself, by the way.  Some things you just can't unsee after all!

Thinking about that day, it's one of those moments that makes me think of this phrase:

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Sinclair House

The recent photo above, taken by Richard Turenne and posted on the Abandoned Manitoba site on Facebook, brought back many fond memories for the Sinclair nieces and nephews including me!  What a mansion I thought it was and by any standards, it was a magnificent home for the James and Elizabeth Sinclair family.  It was built in 1912 and the picture below may have been from the 20's.

One tall brick chimney let smoke rise from the cookstove and the other from the fireplace in the parlour. A verandah wrapped around the south and east side of the two and a half story home for the family of 8 children.

The east side of the verndah was made into an enclosed porch by Harry Clyne after the above photo was taken and I remember John Paul (Scotty) and Harry sitting in here smoking their pipes when I would come for a visit.  Inside the kitchen to the right was a washstand with a hand pump for cistern water and straight ahead was the "back stairs" to the second floor.  A huge kitchen table, cupboards, counter, an electric and a wood stove, fridge and the cellar door filled the kitchen.  There was no running water in the house but drinking water was brought from a well near the barn at the outhouse to the north served them for all those years.

A doorway led into the dining room and that followed into the parlor, with the fireplace.  Beyond that was one bedroom on the main floor and the wide main stairs led up to six more bedrooms. A small balcony was outside the door at the south end of the second floor but it's now gone.

Another narrower staircase with an oak banister went up to the half story attic on the top floor with two dormer windows for light.  The attic level was likely used for sleeping quarters at one time, perhaps for hired men at harvest time. My dad recalls a hatch from the attic to get to the widow's walk on the top the house and Uncle Bill would go up there to put up Christmas lights.  The view of the Oak River to the south must have been spectacular!

The picture of little great great niece Kim standing in front of the huge vegetable garden was taken about 1977 and the one of Aunt Nellie and Aunt  Jessie in front of their flowers and the woodpile was in 1981.  Notice the 106 foot long barn (built in 1900) propped up on the north side as Dad recalls it was for many years.  It seems the wall may have weakened from the chaff pile being blown against it from the threshing over the years. 

Left above:  Elizabeth Sinclair on the verandah with twin grandchildren Dorothy & Donald (my dad) Simms 1933, 
Photo on the right:  Jean Fortune, Bill Sinclair, Mary Simms, Nellie Sinclair and Lizzie and Jack Morcom - about 1955 in the doorway between the dining room and the parlour.  Note the wide woodwork.

Left:  Lizzie and Jack Morcom in front of the fireplace in the parlour early 50's,
Right:  Aunt Nannie on the verandah - 1940's

Jean Fortune (with black tie) and her children - Kenneth, Arnold and Irene. Nellie holding Irene and Lizzie (with glasses) and Jessie in matching dresses on the south verandah steps - about 1927
Left:  Jessie and Nellie Sinclair in the kitchen in front of the cookstove and cellar door - 1967
Right:  Bill and Jessie Sinclair on the south steps - 1940's

The Sinclair house and grounds were lovingly maintained by the ladies well into their 80's. New Year's Day was a special event in the Sinclair house for many years with the family all gathering to visit and eat!  I remember playing on all the coats (especially the furs!) on Aunt Nannie's bed. Another fun memory shared by a cousin was of running up one staircase and down the other in a never ending circle!  The last the house was lived in was 1988 but the memories remain.  Richard Turenne's picture on the post on Facebook received 250 "likes" and 54 "shares" and has made me proud to be connected to this piece of history.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

John "Scotty" Paul (1899-1988)

This blog is called 52 Ancestors because I started in January 2014 with the goal of writing about one ancestor each week for a year.  It has turned into so much more than I ever thought and have made wonderful contacts with people all over the world who have found my blog.  Today my subject is John Paul, not my ancestor but he is someone's who may stumble onto this post with his story someday.

John Paul was always known as Scotty and I remember being surprised when I found out he had two real names and neither was Scott!  He lived at least 50 years with Nellie, Jessie and Bill Sinclair at 16-14-22 W1- four miles north of Oak River.

John Paul was born on February 28, 1899 in Rathen, Aberdeenshire in Scotland.  I was able to find the record of his baptism in the Espisopal Church at Lonmay on June 25th of 1899.    The church was built in 1788 and is still in use today.   His parents were James and Maria Paul and they lived at Mosside of Rathen Cottages in the 1901 census.  James would have been a farm worker.

Baptismal records show he had an older brother James (1897) and at least six younger siblings:  Mary Bell (1901), Maria (1905), Alexander (1907), William (1910) and twins Forbes and George born in 1915.

Scotty's name can be found on the ship manifest of "The Melita" as a 22 year old who was heading to Winnipeg with intentions of being a farm laborer for his uncle.  He landed in St. John, New Brunswick on April 19, 1921 - 96 years ago this week!

The 1970 Blanshard history book tells that Scotty worked for his Uncles Forbes and William Ironsides south of  Sidney, MB in the community of Arizona. These two men were his mother's younger brothers and their family was found at Boat of Bridge, Boharm, Banffshire on the 1891 Scotland census where their father James Ironsides was a gardener and their mother's name was Jane.

The online history of the community of Arizona (Manitoba) says Forbes arrived in Canada in 1904 and his brother Billy a few years later.  Both worked for prominent farmer A.C. Sharpley before farming on their own until the early 30's.  Billy went on the run a garage in Sidney as well as the general store. He died in 1958 but I don't know the end of Forbes' story following being on the 1945 Voter's list as a bartender in Rivers.  They were Scotty's only family in Canada that I know of and they died without marrying or having children either.

Scotty found work at Kemnay and Rounthwaite and then came to work at the Sinclair farm in 1936, shortly after the deaths of James and Elizabeth.  I assume it was Aunt Nannie that wrote the in the Blanshard 1970 History book that when they rented the farm to nephews in 1968, they kept the herd of Hereford cattle and were fortunate in having the help of a good stockman in John Paul.

That same history book says he spent the winter of 1953 in Scotland with his family and that in 1967, his parents celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.  Yes, you read that right - 72 years of marriage and at least 8 children.  Scotty is pictured on the far right in the picture below of a wood sawing bee at the Sinclair farm in the early 70's.  The other men are Don Simms (my Dad), Stan Henry, Harry Clyne, and Gerry Sparling.

With the Sinclair ladies - Jessie (on the left) and Nellie


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Henry "Harry" Clyne (1901-1989)

In a recent blog posts about the Rae brothers from Scotland,it got me thinking about the bachelor immigrants who spent their working lives in Canada but their entire blood relations remained in "The Old County".
Henry "Harry" Clyne lived with my Sinclair Aunts Nellie and Jessie across the road from us as long as I can remember (the 1970's) and he was one of these men who died in Canada without family.  His possessions ended up with my dad as trustee of his estate and I have them now and although I've considered it, I could not bring myself to toss them out. Perhaps his family will see this blog post and his things can go home. At the least, his life story will be remembered (as best I can tell it) in this post.

The little purple notebook with the pencil is inscribed:
Presented to H. Clyne late Crook Bilbster on the occasion his leaving the country for Canada.  By his friends of Bilbster and Stirkoke  21/3/22
The photo beside it appears to be Harry's passport picture, taken just before the adventure began in March of 1922. Bilbster  is a rural area near Wick in the highlands of Northern Scotland and Crook is the name of a cottage there.  Not yet 21 years old, Harry set sail on the Tunisian for Canada to seek his fortune.  He had at least 2 sisters, Ina and Chrissie and two brothers, Adam and Alexander.  

There is a little book indicating Harry paid union dues while living in Paris, Ontario in 1924 and 1925 as a section-man for the CN railway.  As with many young men of the time, the west was a land of opportunity and Harry heard the call.

Harry had many many pictures of Clydesdale horses and his address on letter from the late 20's was 356 10th Street in Brandon where J. S. Taylor horse promoter did business according to the card above. I am guessing he worked for Taylor and kept a lifelong interest in livestock.  My cousin Lyn recalls that Harry used to work with the Clydesdales that belonged to Jack and Lizzie Morcom and that he trimmed the horses hooves, including hers.

In this era of instant communication, it is easy to forget that months would go by without hearing from family within the country let alone overseas.  I can't find a date on the telegram but the black border envelope and letters told Harry about the deaths of his father in 1927 and his sister Ina in 1928. The first letter from his sister Ina has the sentence, " Mother thanks you very kindly for the money received today".  The second from another sister Chrissie is below.  

 A sample of the many family and friend photos Harry kept.  The only one with a name is the wedding photo taken at a studio in Wick and addressed to Uncle Harry from Bunty and Arthur.

** Bunty has contacted me and tells me the man in the air force uniform at the bottom is her father - and Harry's brother - Alexander (Sanny).  There certainly is a family resemblance there!

Starting in 1957, Harry has certificates showing him to be certified as a steam engineer and the 1903 book Practical Treatise of the Steam Engine Indicator by N.E. Hawkins was among his possessions.   Evidence can be found of trips back to Scotland in 1931 and 1954, when I assume the picture below was taken.  He was Aunt Nannie's chauffeur, driving her anywhere she wanted to go, Lyn remembers. Harry was laid to rest in 1989 at the White Bank Lea Cemetery, a few miles from the Sinclair farm where he called home for many years.

The well worn clipping titled "In Praise of Caithness" was found in his wallet showing he never forget where he came from.  I can still smell his pipe tobacco and see his flat plaid cap as he sat in Aunt Nannie's porch when I was there for tea.

**Follow Up**  April 16, 2017
 I'm so glad to have heard from his niece Bunty Pottinger from Kirkwall, Orkney through a contact on the Caithness Family History Society on Facebook.   Harry's things are now on their way home across the pond, where they belong.