Matthew Craig and World War I

whitepoppy1024-768November 11th is upon us and this year, it has a special significance for me. I have always known about a great uncle who died in World War I, but last spring I truly discovered him for the first time.

His name was Matthew Craig and he came to Canada in 1911 at the age of 15. Four years later, he sailed to England with the Canadian 21st Battalion to fight in World War I. A month before the signing of the Armistice, he was killed, on a battle field in northern France. His war medals and effects were sent to his oldest brother, Bill Craig, in Sault Saint Marie. This tragic death broke the hearts of his siblings and family.

I never saw his photo before. I didn’t know he had come to Canada. In my mind, he joined the war from Ireland. I didn’t know he was buried in a war cemetery in France. Many years ago, with my two children and mother, we visited several war cemeteries in Normandy, France. Had I only known.

There is a war tribute  in the honour of Matthew Craig which I also discovered on line. As I read it, I was deeply moved. It felt as if he had just died.

The question arises, why did he enlist to fight in a far away war? Twice he was wounded, once with shrapnel wounds and the second time he was gassed. For months he was deemed unfit to fight. Yet they patched him up each time and sent him off to the front again. Of the original 1013 men of his battalion, only 103 survived the war.

I do not believe that he sacrificed his life for his country. No, his young life was stolen from him as were the lives of millions of other men and women who were slaughtered in that dreadful war.  Ninety-eight years have passed and there is still no peace.

Yes ninety-eight years have passed and this year, 2016 and every year after, I will hold him in my thoughts at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month.

His bio can be found at this link – Matthew Craig 

Other references:

Canadian Casualties

World War I Casualties


The Kiss

Recently I have been going through a lot of old photos, many taken around 100 years ago. It is not the first time I have seen them but now that I am taking an interest in learning

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“The Kiss” Lindley and Harriet -1920

about the lives of my ancestors, these old photos are taking a new dimension,  and are literally  a snapshot of their personalities, habits and emotions. The photo attached which I have called “The Kiss” is between my mother and her step father, Edward (Philip) Lindley whom we knew simply as Grandpa Guy. Lindley, as he was also known, was the life-long partner of our grandmother Edith Guy. We remember him as a man of character, generosity and kindness.

Getting back to the photo, I am mesmerized by it. It shows the love of a father (and he was a real father to Harriet and Mabel) and a small child. It is innocent and tender although he is possibly hamming it up for the photographer.  I find it interesting how our perception on kissing and tenderness has changed over the generations and from culture to culture. As a modern society, we have to catalogue everything and moralize on what is correct or not. Something innocent can be turned into something sinister, yet strangely what is provocative becomes acceptable. These are the contradictions in today’s world. I grew up in a family that even as adults we would think nothing of giving each other a peck on the lips. Contrarily, I never transferred this tradition to my own kids. It was not a conscious decision, it just never happened. Was it because, I married a man of a different culture where kissing on the lips was not customary? Perhaps.

It also made me ask myself, do parents still kiss their children on the lips? To find the answer, I did what every modern person does and googled it and yes they do! It is not without controversy though with some people expressing disgust and others debating until what age it is acceptable. It is a bit sad that we should overthink things that for generations we just took for granted.

I have attached an interesting article on kissing throughout the ages printed in the Guardian a few years back. Family and Relationships

The Junction and the Subway Hotel

cave ophotos032When Edith and William Guy moved from Alberta to Ontario in 1916, they settled in the Junction which was an independent municipality on the western outskirts of Toronto centring around Keele and Dundas Streets. They bought the Subway Hotel at 984 Keele Street on the corner of Vine Street and operated it as a rooming house until the mid-1920s.

At the end of the 19th century, the Junction was a thriving town that attracted many factories and foundries, including the Stockyards. Canadian Pacific Railway established major train yards from Keele to Scarlett Road and the area was granted port entry meaning goods could be cleared there instead of having to go through Toronto. This in turn encouraged a lot of commercial growth in the area. The Junction with its six hotels, was a popular meeting spot for people going to and from Toronto. Read more.

Unfortunately, it had also created a reputation as a place for rowdiness, cock fights, prostitution and drunkenness. It became the target of the religious right that was moving to shut down the sale of liquor, believed to be the source of all evil, across Canada known as the temperance movement. The municipal election in Toronto of April 30, 1904 centred around the passing of a law to ban the sale of liquor.

With all the bars across Toronto closed on election day, the only place serving alcohol was the Junction. Over 10,000 people were drawn to the Junction that day to have their last drink, a colossal event ending in mass drunken chaos. Read more. The next day the law was passed banning the sale of liquor  causing the majority of the hotels to eventually close shop. The sale of liquor was not made legal again in the Junction until 1998. The Junction amalgamated with Toronto in 1909.Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 10.30.36 PM

When Edith and William Guy arrived in 1916, the Junction had been hit by depression which brought unemployment and poverty. The hotel was now a rooming house where rooms were rented on a nightly or weekly basis. Many of their boarders were travelling salesmen but they also included young men and women who came to Toronto in search of a new life. Edith served meals to her clients in the hotel restaurant and surprisingly she also sold beer. Just how they got around the law, I do not know.

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Subway Hotel – Beer 5 cents 1919
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Mabel and Harriet Guy in front of the Subway Hotel 1919 -1920.

It was here in August 1919, that Edith lost her only son, 3-year old William Guy Junior, in a tragic road accident and twelve days later, her husband William Guy succumbed after suffering for years from a weak heart. In September 1919, Edith was left alone with two children under 4 years of age to raise on her own.

The Photo

About 10 years ago after the death of Mom’s cousin, Rita [Cave] (early 90s), Mom received a stack of old family photos of the Cave and Ellicott family. Some people we recognized or more accurately, they were labelled but the others remained a mystery. One was the group photo taken around the end of the 19th century which I have posted below. Mom identified her mother, Edith Winnifred Guy née Cave as the woman on the right, middle row. The grand parents were obvious because of their age but were they her maternal or paternal grandparents? No one knew, not even Mom.

Ellicot family

Then a few weeks ago, as I mentioned in my first post, I received an email from a man by the name of Ric Robinson of Portsmouth, England informing me that we share the same 2nd great grandmother Grace Goss Ellicott. More surprisingly, he had the same photo as above, only on his photo everyone was identified except my grandmother Edith Cave and the person behind her. Finally everyone, including the lady in the back row, has now been identified. This is the prosperous Ellicott family of Torquay, England, who worked their way up through generations to become owners of a flourishing drapery business. Our grandmother worked for her aunts before setting out for Canada around 1912.

Note:  Judging by the youngest child in the photo, baby William Edward, then the photo was taken in 1904.


Unravelling the tale

Last spring after going through some old family photos, I took the leap and joined in order to learn about my ancestors. I worked literally day and night for several weeks before putting it aside due to work constraints. After that it was put on the back burner and I forgot about it until early January when my husband questioned a monthly payment coming off our credit card. ‘What’s’  he asks. ‘Hmm’ I’m thinking, ‘I thought that was a free trial.’

I promised to close the account since I wasn’t doing anything with it and why pay something needlessly but that didn’t happen.  As fate would have it, the following day I received an email from a complete stranger by the name of Ric Robinson who informed me that we shared the same second great grandmother – Grace Goss Ellicott. So now the quest to learn about the Ellicotts has started.  Wish me luck.