Monday, 14 December 2009

Thomas Norris in Montreal and Florida

Thomas Norris McIlhagga

I suppose, genealogically speaking, the 'senior line' of any family is traditionally the first son of the first son..... or, in our day of gender equality, the first child of the first child....... Well, the first son/child of William and Agnes (nee McCosh) McIlhagga was William (born c. 1830). His first son/child was William Carson McIlhagga (born c. 1852). His first son/child was William (born 1875) of whom we know very little, except that he lived until he was twenty-two. Moving down his seven siblings we know of no descendants alive today until we come to the youngest son/eighth child, Thomas Norris McIlhagga who was born on 6th December 1891 in 'Plantation', Govan, Glasgow, to Furnaceman William. He was born at 7.15am at 132 McLean Street, where he lived until he was twenty. At the turn of the century Thomas Norris (where did that second name come from?) could be said to be the 'senior' representative of this branch of the McIlhagga clan, as any present-day representative would be today.

Family tradition has it that in 1911 Thomas and his friend Robert Howie Hardie decided to go abroad to Canada to look for work. Their immediate circle of friendship extended to girlfriends who were sisters, Annie and Katie Campbell who had been brought up in rural Argyllshire in a little loch-side village called Furnace. They were two of the children of Neil Campbell and Christina Bird. Neil's family line can be traced back to Sylvester who was born in 1731, probably in Kenmore. Christina's father was Maitland Bird, born about 1750, of whom we have an early photograph. Thomas and Robert's commitment was to find work in Canada and then to send for their fiancees. We know that Robert Hardie married Vatherine Campbell and Thomas certainly brought Ann Munro Campbell to Montreal where they married in 1913 at Crescent Street Presbyterian Church. (Ann's second name was the maiden name of her paternal grandmother).

Thomas's signature on a Certificate copy of the marriage entry appears to be McIlhaggie, the version he used in that year's Montreal Directory. He must have settled into a job quickly for the 1913-14 Directory has him as a 'Clerk, living at 231 St. Martin Street'. The following year he is at the same address as a 'Messenger'. By 1926-7 he had become a Salesman, with the more conventional spelling of McIlhagga, and he had moved to Cote des Neiges. In 1935-6 the Directory has 'TN' working for The Steel Company of Canada (STELCO) with an address at 4570 Cote St. Luke Road, Montreal. In 1948 he left STELCO to work for Stuart, Busby & Asgo, a Wholesale Hardware firm of 116 St. Paul's Street West, Montreal. This is his last appearance in the Montreal Directory for he retired to the warmer climes of Florida that year, where sadly he died only the following year at Daytona Beach.

Thomas and Annie in fact followed their son William to Florida, as the following Newspaper report makes clear. It is headed 'Couple sell out; Going to Florida - Mr./ And Mrs. McIlhagga Favour Southern Climate':

When Mr. And Mrs. Thomas McIlhagga, 5453 Cote St. Luke Rd, first visited their son, William, in Jacksonville, Florida, they fell in love with the warmth and beauty of the place. But only when William, who had moved down two years ago, returned to Montreal for awhile (sic) in September, and wondered aloud why his parents endured the cold and dampness here, that they decided to take their son's offer to move down and live with them.

In the past few weeks, Mr. And Mrs. McIlhagga have made all the necessary adjustments, passed all the necessary examinations, which involved more red tape and repetition than they like to remember, and sold every household article except bedclothes, cutlery and some dishes. When they board the plane on Tuesday, November 22, they will be starting up a completely new life, and they intend, in time, even to become American citizens.

The couple came to Canada from Scotland (Thomas McIlhagga was brought up in Glasgow, and his wife in Furnace) in 1911, and two years later they were married in the Old Crescent Church. Mr. McIlhagga is a hardware salesman, and will continue this line of work in Florida.

Mrs. McIlhagga belonged to the Daughters of England, Excelsior Lodge, and her husband was a member of the Montreal Operatic Society and the Masonic Order Mount Lebanon Lodge. The latter lodge presented him with a beautiful tan cowhide grip last week.

In the above we have noted an element of doubt about the spelling of Thomas' surname. His birth register clearly says McIlhagga, his marriage Certificate McIlhaggie and his death register McIlhagga. His widow appears to sign this Annie McIlhaggie however. I think we can take it that McIlhaggie is a variant due to mis-hearing or mis-transcribing. A Florida Newspaper notice of Thomas' Death, aged 58, makes it clear that they had moved to Daytona Beach only three weeks before and were visiting a nearby friend for Christmas. He died at Ridgewood Osteopathic-Medical Hospital. Annie survived both him and their son William and died on 1st May 1965 back in Montreal. In an earlier blog on 2nd November I showed a photograph of Thomas' grave stone in Daytona Memorial Park, formerly known as Cedar Hill Memory Park. I am grateful to much of the information about Thomas to his grandson who still lives in Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment