Red Geraniums

I told people that I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  It was a strange confession, given that I was an English language arts teacher for thirty years and avid reader.  I felt embarrassed because this novel is typically on a high school reading list.  Given that I went to high school in Montana, I assumed I had missed it because I was studying All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.  As a response to this seeming omission to my reading, I added To Kill a Mockingbird to my list of must-reads.

I wasn’t eleven pages in when I realized that I had met these characters before.  Scout and Jem and Atticus…I had read the book!  I decided to carry on, as I’m sure my readers will attest, it is a classic in the truest sense and an excellent ‘read’.  It is simply a joy to reread out favourites along the way.

I had been thinking about red geraniums recently and they DO appear in this novel. “The Ewell family house is falling down around their ears, and yet Mayella cultivates these beautiful, brilliant bright red geraniums in old, chipped slop crocks.” There, amid the brokenness, red geraniums grow.  It is always a wonder when beauty/goodness exists in the rugged, broken and dark aspects of humanity.

A character sketch delves into possible symbolism…red geraniums.  Click on the link for source.

Mayella Ewell

Among the trash and cast-offs in the Ewell yard, there’s one spot of beauty.

“Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.” (17.64)

The geraniums suggest that Mayella desires to be better than her surroundings, to make something bright in her dull world, to aspire to higher things. But whatever Mayella’s hopes and dreams are, she doesn’t get a chance to express them to the reader; she appears only at Tom’s trial. And there, she has to perform a role: the poor innocent white woman attacked by the evil black man, who must be protected by chivalrous white men.

Each year, in early May, my Auntie Eleanor gets her cuttings growing…red and white geraniums, to be blooming just in time for the July first family reunion.  They grow out in her porch where the sunshine pours over them, long rows of green leaved wonders.  When you enter the porch from outside,  the moist green smell of geraniums hits you very suddenly and smacks of feelings of family, home and memory.

Summer brings the edging of the camp kitchen where we congregate, share conversation, laugh, hug and share talents.  Red geraniums…love.

Interesting, that as I visited the resting places of my ancestors last summer…Lindsay, Ontario…Hamilton, Ontario…our family’s plots were marked, where tended, by bouquets of red geraniums.

Canada Day Geraniums IMG_8895

Canada Day in Raymond, Alberta

Canada Day in Raymond, Alberta

Charles E. Burrows and Clara

Charles E. Burrows and Clara, Lindsay, Ontario

Charles E and Clara


Hamilton, John S. Elliott, brother to Florence Elliott and wife.


Return to Hamilton: The Armouries



Now...Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors 2013

Now…Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors 2013

My Great Grandfather signed his World War I Attestation papers in Hamilton in November of 1915, with their final approval coming through in December of 1915.  McMaster University Libraries has posted publicly an excellent archive of life and times in Hamilton, Ontario from 1914 to 1918.  John Moors was killed in a German bombing raid in Etaples, France on May 19, 1918.

From the McMaster site, this…”Hamiltonians had played significant roles in military activities dating back to the War of 1812, so it was not surprising that by 4 October 1915 over 10,000 Hamilton men had enlisted, a total of 10% of the population, and a record for enlistment in Canada at that time. The city centralized its recruiting drive at the James Street Armouries (built in 1908) later that year, a model later adopted throughout Canada.”

494073a Attestation Papers

John Moors Attestation Papers Page 2 Throughout my experiences wandering the streets of Hamilton, I had chills as I knew that these were the streets where my relations had walked.  I also had a very powerful feeling come over me as I stood before the Hamilton Armouries, home of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. My Great Grandparents, living on Murray Street, were in close proximity to all of the goings on.  They would have been swooped up into the mindset of the community at the time. The following image was enlarged from the McMaster University Libraries article.

Copyright, public domain: McMaster University and Local History & Archives, Hamilton Public Library, jointly own the rights to the archival copy of the digital image in TIFF format.

Copyright, public domain: McMaster University and Local History & Archives, Hamilton Public Library, jointly own the rights to the archival copy of the digital image in TIFF format.  This is Tank Day – Downtown Hamilton – Victory Bonds Rally

Hamilton Interior of Armouries


Peeking Through Back Gates, Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Meeting Mike

As a result of conducting family ancestral research, I have connected with new cousins.  Some suggest that the past should be left in the past.  I’m not really in support of that concept.  When I met Mike, I felt that I had met someone who absolutely was connected with my history and my way of being.  For Pete’s sake, he takes awesome photographs of birds!

Photo Credit: Mike Moffat, Green Heron at Grindstone Creek

Photo Credit: Mike Moffat, Green Heron at Grindstone Creek

Although my trip to Hamilton was a short trip, the more I spoke with Mike, the more I felt connected with family.  I am grateful to you, Mike,  for introducing me to your Mom (my Dad’s cousin) and your family (your son is a musician…so is mine) and your beautiful wife.  Thank you for being such a generous participant in the search for my ancestors in their resting places.

P1110531Hamilton Cemetery on York Blvd is a magical location, featuring a Gothic Revival style building erected sometime between 1855 and 1862.  Having initially researched relations on the Elliott, Haddow and Moors branches of my family, I was thrilled to be able to say my prayers at the resting place of many of my ancestors.  Next visit, I fully intend on leaving flowers…and will try to time my visit without my pooch, Max, and with the event, Doors Open Hamilton, similar to our Doors Open Calgary.  I want to make certain that I visit the Hamilton Public Library archive collection in order to round out my knowledge about the area as it relates to my family.  I’m still pretty amazed that I managed to navigate my way on the 401 south west and to the QEW on my own.  My next drive will also include a stop at Paris, Ontario, home of Penman’s textiles.

P1110499P1110509 P1110511 P1110512


John Addow, Hadash, Hadath, Hadda, Haddack, Haddah, Haddalle, Haddater, Haddath, Haddatte, Haddaw, Hadderth, Haddey, Haddock, Haddon, Haddoth, Haddow, Hadeth, Hadnow and Hadwith

The One-Name Study on the Haddow ancestors includes the origin of the name.  Mr. Dick Chandler has been personally very helpful to me as I have searched for my own Haddow relations and while we haven’t been in touch for some time, he DID inspire me to continue.

Origin of the surname

“The first occurrence of the surname has been traced to the part of England now called Cumbria, at the start of the 19th Century. Aided by DNA analysis, a common ancestor has been identified, from whom all living Had(d)aths are believed to be descended. The surname appears to have developed as a variant of Haddow. Research is currently stuck at 1767 when William Haddow of Pennington (one mile west of Ulverston) married Agnes Boulton of Baycliff (on the coast, three miles south of Ulverston) at Aldingham-in-Furness Parish Church (on the coast, one mile south of Baycliff) on 21st February.

The origin of the name is believed to be the Middle English for ‘half’, plus the Gaelic dabhach, which is a measure of land equivalent to four ploughgates (so the name means ‘two ploughgates’). A plough worked by eight oxen was capable of bringing 104 acres into tillage in a year. A ploughgate was therefore the name that was given to 104 acres of arable land, and a ‘half dabhach’ or ‘hadabhach’ (being half of four ploughgates) is therefore 2 x 104 = 208 acres of land – hence the title of the Had(d)ath Family History book.”

It is a wonderful thing to recently have some of the pieces to the ‘Haddow’ puzzle, in Canada and in the United States, begin to come together.

Today, I learned that in 1923, John Haddow  (my great grandfather) visited his son William Thomas Haddow, here in Calgary!  Thank you, Anne.

John Haddow with his son, William Thomas Haddow 1923

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal


From Harvey River: a memoir of my mother and her people

A recent ‘read’, A Memoir of my Mother and Her People From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison, gives a beautiful account of a writer-poet who journeys through several generations through to the present.  From the inside jacket…

“When Doris Harvey’s English grandfather, William Harvey, discovers a clearing at the end of a path cut by the feet of those running from slavery, he gives his name to what will become his family’s home for generations.”

Given my interest in ancestry and my search for the narratives of my own family, the structure of Lorna Goodison’s account was of tremendous interest to me.  I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my own memoir at some point, but am sometimes uncertain about how to protect the ‘living’ from the honesty of a family’s beginnings.  Goodison is successful, I think.  An excellent book for those who enjoy historical accounts.

I would like to include here, a poem by Lorna Goodison.  This poem found on this site.

Guinea Woman by Lorna Goodison 

Another from the Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.

Guinea Woman
By Lorna Goodison

Great grandmother
was a guinea woman
wide eyes turning
the corners of her face
could see behind her
her cheeks dusted with
a fine rash of jet-bead wars
that itched when the rain set up.

Great grandmother’s waistline
the span of a headman’s hand
slender and tall like a cane stalk
with a guinea woman’s antelope-quick walk
and when she paused
her gaze would look to sea
her profile fine like some obverse impression
on a guinea coin from royal memory.

It seems her fate was anchored
in the unfathomable sea
for her great grandmother caught the eye of a sailor
whose ship sailed without him from Lucea harbor.
Great grandmother’s royal scent of
cinnamon and scallions
drew the sailor up the straits of Africa,
the evidence my blue-eyed grandmother
the first Mulatta,
taken into backra’s household
and covered with his name.
They forbade great grandmother’s
guinea woman presence
they washed away her scent of
cinnamon and scallions
controlled the child’s antelope walk
and called her uprisings rebellions.

But, great grandmother
I see your features blood dark
in the children of each new
the high yellow brown
is darkening down.
Listen, children
it’s great grandmother’s turn.

Visiting My Ancestors: Miscouche PEI

After visiting both Mont Carmel and Baie Egmont, on the highway west to our cottage, Max and I had one final stop to make and that was to St. John the Baptist Church in Miscouche.  Late in the day,  we weren’t able to gain access to the interior, but certainly the building itself was a formidable sight!   

Miscouche was the location for the Second Acadian National Conference in 1884, an occasion when all of Acadia’s national symbols including the Acadian flag were adopted.  Somewhere around 5000 Acadians were in attendance and if my readers consider the distance and elements that might have influenced travel at the time, they will know this to be an amazing feat.

Again, I felt the astounding presence of my ancestors.  I walked through the cemetery and felt such gratitude yet again.  When I returned to the van, I turned to the back kennel and said to Max, “Ok buddy, enough for today!  Let’s get some grub and head to the cottage!”

Ste. John the Baptist, Miscouche


Entrance Archway


White on Blue


Farewell Miscouche

Notre-Dame-Du-Mont Carmel, Prince Edward Island

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Thanks to this blogger who has shared insights with me about the MAGIC of Notre-Dame-Du-Mont Carmel!  It was a beautiful day…I could smell the salt that hung on the air.  The sunshine was hot, but the air, somehow cool.  The mosquitoes bit my calves as I stooped to try to make sense of the worn inscriptions on the stones.

At a point I gave up and literally reached out my hand and arm and spilled a blessing over all who rest there.  I felt emotional and deeply connected to my family…especially my mother.  I thought about my Great Grandfather as a wee babe, being baptized in this very church.  I entered after purchasing a CD from a peddler out on the front steps.

Inside, I got chills…it was so gorgeous, warm and singing of history.


A Slice

Witness to My Life

I had to take a quick shot of my exhausted pooch once I had taken him out for his evening walk in Moncton, New Brunswick.  We landed (it was quite an undertaking to locate a bed in Moncton last evening) in a Dieppe Super 8…parked close to the airport.  Every now and then, there is a tremendous roar as a plane takes off, but generally a most wonderful sleep and rest.  This morning we head for the Confederation Bridge and a reunion with Mom’s relations in Summerside, PEI.  This is a bittersweet event, given that Mom’s decline in health has not allowed her to be with me.  I’m certain that there will also be tears!

I promised my great auntie and uncle a copy of the family research I have just recently completed, so for this opportunity, I am grateful.  I had hoped to manage five generations, but have succeeded in most branches of the family, to uncover eight to ten generations.  I will be spending the next week visiting the resting places of several of these ancestors and reconnecting with their most-often-heroic efforts to feed their children, stand for their beliefs and remain hard-working for their lifetimes.

When I load the ‘stuff’ into the van this morning, I will be grabbing the family history from the back and setting it on my front passenger seat.  I feel that there is huge closure to this process and I am so excited!