Alberta Culture Days in Claresholm!

Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta.  My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them.  Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry.  I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad.  There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.

In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family.  At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off.  Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes.  I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21.  Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.

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On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display.  Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display.  I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day.  And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo.  Excellent.

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Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in.  If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.

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The woman who did the physical work here…and a visionary for BHC in the west, our Hazel Perrier.

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The program that the Claresholm museum hosted was fabulous!  I want to thank the town and its people who extended their hospitality.  I know that it was a cold and grey day, but the events and the people created a warm and happy experience for all in attendance.  I really enjoyed the sincere presentation/words and hoop dance performed by Sandra Lamouche. Due to lighting, very few of my photographs give justice to her performance and I hope that my readers will take a look at her website.

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At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch.  It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie.  They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history.  I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum.  There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display!  I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway.  Very interesting stories and generous contributions!

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When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent.  Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.

Remember…please…Leave NO CHILD BEHIND!

Hazel, John, Kath, Bruce, Connie

 

The Week in Review: Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions

The week began with Live Painting at Congress 2016, a huge event hosted by the University of Calgary that included ‘six interdisciplinary symposia to exhibit the university’s most compelling and leading-edge thinking and research.’  The symposia on Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions was inspired by University of Calgary assistant professors Shane Sinclair and Graham McCaffrey, ‘who share a mutual research and practical interest in the topic and in sparking conversation and debate around some of the realities of compassion.’

The topic, Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions, really inspired me and I was thrilled that I would have opportunity to hear Margaret Atwood speak as I find her very entertaining, closely linked to family and very very smart.

At home, I shot about loading easel, panel and STUFF into the car. At the U of C, I was met, early, by Allan Rosales who made the invitation for me to submit my artistic intention a week earlier.  Allan was helpful and very gracious. I also met Zareen and friend, from the University visual arts department, as they displayed a beautiful art exhibit based on compassion.  It wasn’t long and I was settled alongside artists Mark Vazquez-Mackay and  Rebecca Zai.  As the day opened up, Mark seemed to be painting the various layers and facets of compassion and his piece was breath taking.  Rebecca was working from a photo reference that she had taken while on one of her international travels, a person demonstrating care for the ordinary street cats of his village.  Again, a beautiful painting!

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales  painting by Mark Vazquez-Mackay Sunday, May 29, 2016

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales painting by Mark Vazquez-Mackay Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hmmm…doesn’t seem I have a completed painting by Rebecca in my photo archives.  I’ll grab one and post later.

It was a blessing day, as it revealed itself. I thought it was very gracious of both Shane and Graham to come and introduce themselves and chat a little about art and life.  While my painting was not completed by end of day, there were a lot of different feelings that I moved through in the process and I was very excited to begin the journey of painting a body of work based on British Home Children that I’ve been researching for probably, WAY TOO LONG.  I interviewed descendant, Janet Fair, such a long time ago. Her grandfather, Sidney Emms Prodgers, was about to become my very first subject.

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Red underpinnings…the pain of the stories.  Gold…elevating the experiences of these lost/forgotten/abandoned children.

 

Application of Collage bits to the panel...S. S. Scotsman, the ship that carried Sidney, at age of 11, to Canada...facility where Sidney was surrendered as an baby, maps.

Application of Collage bits to the panel…S. S. Scotsman, the ship that carried Sidney, at age of 11, to Canada…facility where Sidney was surrendered as a baby, maps.

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The complete biography written in gold…information received via electronic mail from descendant, Janet Fair

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Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

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Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

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Photo Credit: Waqas (Rebecca….last name?)

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Home!  I’ll take Sidney into the studio to complete…so happy with the process!

I was grateful to hear Margaret Atwood’s talk on Compassion…the humour woven throughout, colourful  experiences of nurses and health care providers, historically, leading up to contemporary issues, as well.  I thought a lot about my sister as I listened.  I’m grateful for Valerie Jean Fiset, more than she will probably ever know.  She has had a most inspiring journey and I am so proud of her.  I likely should have brought along some of my Atwood books for signatures…I’m not surprised that I forgot.

Another blessing during the course of the day was to have a visit with a dear friend, Dr. Rita Irwin.  Our friendship began while we both achieved our B. Ed degrees at the University of Lethbridge.  She wandered over to my location, along with three of her witty and smart friends, and had a short but amazing visit.  Another strong and accomplished woman; I simply loved our shared big hugs and the familiar ring of Rita’s voice and laughter.

Rita...second from left.

Rita…second from left.

Rumble House: September 2, 2015

Having a home and being connected with people is very important to ‘who we are’.  With recent news of 71 migrants dying on an Austrian motorway, 200 refugees drowning off of the coast of Libya and the horrific situation off of the coast of Greece, it is again, time to think about global responsibility and inclusion.  Interestingly at this time there is even a renewed conversation about building a wall between Canada and the United States.  So much of our global context is based on fear, judgement and exclusion.  All human beings require the basic needs that come with belonging.  It is time for belonging to be a focus.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Even in our Rumble House community, we are thinking about what it means to belong.  We gather in this tiny venue, and share a powerful sense of being a part of something. We accept one another, laugh with one another and talk about extraordinary things.  When one of our community is in pain, we support and uplift.  It is interesting that art is our connective tissue.

Kath's Canon September 2 Rumble and Franks September 3, 2015 061 Last night, I didn’t participate in the auction…my piece was largely incomplete.  One of the themes of the night was ‘Take Down the Walls’.

Take down the walls.
That is, after all, the whole point.
You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, don’t know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction.
Take down the walls.
Otherwise you must live closely, in fear, building barricades against the unknown, saying prayers against the darkness, speaking verse of terror and tightness.
Otherwise you may never know hell; but you will not find heaven, either. You will not know fresh air and flying.
All of you, wherever you are: in your spiny cities, or your one bump towns. Find it, the hard stuff, the links of metal and chink, the fragments of stone filling you stomach.
And pull, and pull, and pull.
I will make a pact with you: I will do it if you will do it, always and forever.
Take down the walls.”

Lauren Oliver, Requiem

I painted from a little reference.

British Home Children Rough Crossings 2010

Kath's Canon, September 2, 2015 Rumble House 005Sketch in progress…

Kath's Canon, September 2, 2015 Rumble House 003I’m very-much interested in research and the production of a body of work based on the historical plight of British Home Children.  My readers may or may not think that this is a part of history to reflect upon…it doesn’t matter.  It is relevant because it is a part of MY story.  I am a descendant and find this story on my family line, along with so many other diverse stories, an important one.  From the Library and Archives of Canada….this.

“Between 1869 and the late 1930s, over 100,000 juvenile migrants were sent to Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Many believed that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help.

After arriving by ship, the children were sent to distributing homes, such as Fairknowe in Brockville, and then sent on to farmers in the area. Although many of the children were poorly treated and abused, others experienced a better life here than if they had remained in the urban slums of England. Many served with the Canadian and British Forces during both World Wars.”

As we enjoy our sense of community and security, we need to remember that we are blessed.  We must remember that colonization impacted the homes of others and be respectful of that impact always.  We must remember that our security has been built upon the backs of hard workers and indentured workers, as well as slaves and upon the opportunities that were and are afforded us as a part of democracy.  These gifts must never be taken for granted.

Here are some photographs of an awesome community of artists who are doing a great job supporting one another through various life journeys.

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March 25, 2015: Rumble House

I thought I’d attempt a sketch of a British Home Child on Wednesday night.  Given my connection to this story through my Great Grandfather John Moors and two of his sisters, Grace and Alice, I thought that this might be a subject I would like to explore sooner than later.  I have become very fond of a group of descendants through social media and through connection with people here in Calgary.

I decided to choose as a reference, the face of a boy that appeared as a vintage photograph on the Families of British Home Children / British Child Migrants page.  I chose Edward Seery. Edward Seery was sent out of Liverpool to Canada in 1909.  It seems his brother took the same journey in 1898.  These children were indentured servants in Canada and worked very difficult hours.  Most stories, especially the idea of being separated from all loved ones and finding yourself in an alien culture, were very sad.

I arrived at Rumble House at 7:30 (late again), but finished this first sketch in an hour.  I’ve got no history on Edward Seery and the sketch is not accurate in terms of its LIKENESS, so I brought the piece home and will try another more accurate portrait and post it here.  The facial features in this present sketch are all wrong.

BHC Edward Seery 2  His brother James Christopher Seery came in 1898I’m interested in contacting descendants who are interested in allowing an artist to explore their family narratives from this difficult time in history.  I would like to begin with Edward.  I’m still thinking about the media that I will be using, especially the type of surface I will paint/collage, but I wish to create a body of work that somehow addresses this potent moment in Canadian history.  My opinion only…but, I don’t think enough has been said about this and art DOES speak.  I would like the surface of the paintings to somehow mimic the subject matter.  I will be incorporating text into all of the pieces.

British Home Child March 25 2015 Edward Seery

Photo Credit: Andrea Llewellyn

I was feeling pretty mellow/tired on Wednesday night, but my heart was warmed by the presence of so many artists who I have grown to know and love.  One day, Aaron, I will snapple a piece!

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Three Books

LayingJust before the holiday, I read Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest by Sean Arthur Joyce.  My father had opportunity to meet Joyce at a presentation at the Belleville Public Library and he kindly purchased this book…a gift for me.  A strong historical context is given for those readers who have little knowledge about the huge movement of more than 100,000 children from Britain, Scotland and Ireland for use as indentured servants in Canada, the United States and Australia between the years 1869 and 1949.  It is a part of Canadian history that has largely been swept under the carpet of our arrogance and our ignorance.  This is a topic that I strongly advocate as another one necessary to our history programs.  A combination of memoir and short biography, this book focuses on Canada’s home children moving west, revealing to me for the first time, a history of the Fairbridge Farm Schools.

??????????Recently, I read both The Street Arab and Belonging by Sandra Joyce.  These two books would be in the genre of historical fiction, although I’m certain, having met Sandra and heard her speak about her family, that this is closely rooted to Sandra’s own family history, as a descendent.  I feel blessed to have met Sandra and her friend, Karen Mahoney, when they presented at the Calgary Public Library, just a few months ago.

DSC_0914They work tirelessly to educate Canadians, across the country, about the British Home Children and their struggles in the face of abandonment (in some cases), separation and in most cases, hardship/abuse on their journeys, in their communal orphanages and in their various placements.

Street ArabThe Street Arab: The Story of a British Home Child and Belonging included elements of romance that created emotional relief as I processed the hardships encountered by the children; Robbie, Tom and Emma.  Including beautiful description and intimate interactions in family and in community, the books were accessible and ‘quick’ reads.

Already somewhat researched on the topic, having read and heard about many unsettling stories, I know that Sandra did not stray from the truth and that all of the situations that came up were based on fact.  Belonging illustrated the truth that children who grew up without any roots and without tenderness, grew to be adults who suffered a particular sort of separateness and struggled throughout their lives with openness and affection.  I appreciated the attention to wartime detail as my own Great Uncle Joe gave his life and rests in Ortona, Italy, one of the settings in Sandra’s book.

BelongingI think that the more books that come out on this subject, whether they be historical fiction or vastly researched biography, the more Canadians have the possibility of learning about another aspect of our Canadian identity.  I think that all politicians, at whatever level, and all organizations need to further the propagation of this information to give a full accounting of decisions made in the past.  Along with the appalling history of residential schools in Canada, the deceptive approach to colonization and enforcement of Treaties, the perpetuation of slavery in the Atlantic provinces and evident bias against blacks in Canadian Court systems in the day, the heartless expulsion of the french, the internment of Ukrainian and Japanese families during wartime,  the recognition of injustice served upon these British Home Children must be recognized for what it is, a grave and sad mark on our collective history.

I recommend these three books…a beginning for your own discovery.  I include the following short video because my own great grandfather came to Canada at the age of 13 in 1898.  He died, a soldier for Canada in World War I on May 19, 1918.

Finding Grace Moors

Dad described the Bernardo’s file on Grace and Alice, sparse, and it is.  Their brother, John, had traveled with the Annie Macpherson organization when he was only 13.  While not at the beginning of the sad movement of children for indentured service to Canada, Australia and other countries, it was early, in 1889.

Grampa always spoke of his Dad and Grand Dad helping orphaned children and it does appear that John, after two placements and a number of years, accompanied two other groups of children with the organization, one time traveling with a friend (21), Arthur Wheeler.  Arthur separated from John and traveled, instead, to Toronto and my research has turned up nothing but dead ends where he is concerned.

S.S. Parisian John Moors and Arthur WheelerHmmm….this story is not about John, but about Grace.  Alice is still a bit of a mystery.  On John’s papers I learned of two placements for a Miss Moore, 39 Duke Street, Hamilton and 61 Robinson Street.

P1150648On the recent acquisition of information, dated July 24, 1892, I learn that Grace is a domestic at Dundurn Castle…

Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, 1910

and then, later, a servant with Mrs. Counsell of 11 Herkimer Street in Hamilton, Ontario.

DSC_1778Regarding all of these placements, I feel tremendous gratitude.  In our study of the British Home Children, our group refers to domestics and servants in these positions as the ‘lucky ones’.  First of all, Grace was twenty years old.  If you look at the list of immigrants above, some of these children were as young as four and six.  Some were emigrated without their parent’s knowledge.  As my research and understanding opens up, I realize that I need to be grateful, however repulsed by the stories of so many others.  I’ve just finished a book, a gift from my father, Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest: Canada’s Home Children in the West by Sean Arthur Joyce.  These and other books, as well as the dedicated work of such individuals as Lori Oschefski, Sandra Joyce and Karen Mahoney with the  British Home Children Advocacy &  Research Association have brought to light, bit by bit, a part of Canadian history that needs to be acknowledged and taught in schools.

??????????Grace is found in Dundurn Castle in Hamilton.  By 1892, the residents were no longer the famous Sir Allan MacNab,  his second wife, Mary and their children.  I am trying to locate names of the families (likely relatives) who continued to live in this famous tourist location.

What’s interesting about such placements of domestics is that very little is written about their responsibilities or circumstances in the history books.  These were the people who toiled for the comforts of the fortunate and yet it is difficult, in the rural placements especially, to ever find them on the census records.  Few narratives endure.  My father teases me and says that I can invent their stories, but you see, I will never write anything unless it is based on fact.

Last night, I found a post written by Nancy, a freelance journalist and biographer on a quest to visit and write about all 266 National Historic sites in Ontario.  Her blog, Silcox, provides for some insight into Grace’s story, in a post titled Upstairs/Downstairs: What the Butler saw at Dundurn Castle.  An awesome post.  See also, the Toronto Sun’s article…Ontario’s Downtown Abbey: Visiting Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle.

Nancy writes about her tour, led by Bridget…

“The Servants’ Quarters
Ironically, the low, odoriferous and dark basement where the MacNab’s complement of servants worked was surely cozier than the cavernous rooms above. It was no doubt tempting for the MacNab children to go below. “But they were forbidden to enter the servants’ quarters” Bridget says.

In an effort to keep staff “hanky-panky” at bay, females slept in the servants’ quarters; males bunked down in one of the outbuildings. Woolen sox were advised between November and April!

At least 10 staff kept Dundurn humming: the omnipotent butler, a cook and her kitchen staff, footmen, maids, carriage drivers, and grounds-keeping staff. “They worked 7 days a week, sometimes 18 hours a day with little pay,” says Bridget. Most were Irish immigrants, fleeing famine and starvation in “the Old Country.”

Treating the Servants “Too Well”
“But in most cases Dundurn’s servants were better off, working in much better living conditions than most of the working class in other domestic positions,” our excellent tour guide offers. “People criticized Alan MacNab for treating his servants too well.” She points out the painted wooden floors, windows and wallpaper throughout the servants’ quarters as testament to his enlightenment.

In addition to 3 meals a day, and a roof over their heads, each of Dundurn’s servants got 3 glasses of ale daily. “But the cook, especially if she was valued, had unlimited ale. They wanted to keep her happy!” suggests Bridget.

The large kitchen is the centre of Dundurn’s servant’s quarters. A massive wood-burning stove, with various doors and cubbies covers most of the kitchen wall. “The word ‘range’ comes from the notion that a whole range of foods, cooked at different temperatures, and for different lengths of time could be handled by these cook stoves,” says Bridget.

She now points to a row of bells on the wall of the kitchen. “Each of them rings in a different tone. One tone was for the cook; another for the butler; another for the footmen. Staff soon learned what ring was for them.” A series of smaller rooms give clues to the never-ending chores of a 19th century servant. Bridget’s tour takes us past the candle-making room, the laundry, the brewery, the wine cellar, the root cellar, the food storage room and one devoted solely to luggage.

“After all, when the MacNabs went to visit, it was by carriage and took a long time. So they needed to pack many clothes for at least a week or more.” Ladies’ maids handled all clothes preparation and packing.

The dish-washing room was the domain of the scullery maid. She rested at the lowest rung of the servant pecking order. “The word ‘scullery’ refers to sculling, the movement of water,” informs Bridget. “Scullery maids washed, dried and put away dishes 12 hours a day. And if a late formal diner was held, she didn’t go to bed until the last dish was done.”

Of these circumstances, Bernardo’s records support both the location and the reality for Grace.

DSC_1779My quest for information will continue, but I wanted to touch, just briefly, on Mrs. Counsell of 11 Herkimer Street.  I find 18 year old E.M. Counsell, clerk for the Merchant’s Bank, living at 11 Herkimer Street and so, as the 1891 Hamilton census would suggest, Edward was living with his parents, Charles M. Counsell and Charlotte E. Counsell at the time, listed as a 17 year old.

Hamilton Directory 1892-1893 E. M. CounsellAt the bottom of their records, it is evident that Charles and Charlotte have, in 1891, three domestics, John and Maggie Thompson and Tillie Hammond.  Grace would have followed behind them, although she does not appear on the 1901 census because she was living at home with her father, John Moors and family, immigrated 1898, many years after his own son, John.

1891 Census HamiltonI find Charlotte widowed on the 1901 census (Charles death certificate reading 1900) and she lives in Hamilton for the remainder of her life until May 9, 1923.  So, this is the Mrs. Counsell who had as her domestic, Grace Moors.

Charlotte Elrington Leith Counsell

Charlotte Elrington Leith Counsell

And this is her home at 11 Herkimer, as it appears today.

11 Herkimer Street where Grace worked for Mrs. CounsellAmazing what worlds are opened up with a few pieces of information.  As I watch The Midwives of Netflix or read my current list of books, I can not help but appreciate more and more the resilience of my ancestors for their struggles and their determination.  I am proud to be a descendent, on my mother’s side, of the Acadians and on my father’s side, of the east side Londoners.  I anticipate learning more as I continue my research.

The second address, 61 Robinson Street, will be described in a new post.

Grace Moors 61 Robinson Street, Hamilton, Domestic