Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A family in Newfoundland, Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba.

On 31st August last I promised that Liston Burns McIlhagga would have a blog to himself. He was the eldest son of Andrew, the third or fourth son of William who married Mary Spence. Three branches of this family have been in Canada for upwards of a hundred years. Among the many grandchildren of Andrew, two sisters were the daughters of James and Elizabeth (nee McGrillis). Their son John's wife, Jane died in Newfoundland where one of the sisters was living (who has two children and two grandchildren). The other daughter has two children and three grandchildren in Ontario. Andrew - very likely the Andrew who signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912 - is to be found on a passenger list, aged 34, to Canada in 1923 (Belfast to Montreal), together with his wife Sarah (27) and children Liston (4) and William (9 months). He married Sarah Patillo Wilson on 19th June 1918 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, so clearly they had been visiting in Ireland to introduce their children to the family 'back home'. A correspondent tells me that a relative remembers Andrew re-visiting Ballymena in the mid-1940s, soon after which he returned there as a payroll clerk and stayed until he died in 1949.

The younger of Andrew's two sons was William who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and rose to the rank of Colonel. When he was in England during the Second World War he married April Smith in March 1942, in Westminster, London. She had been born on 18th December 1915 in the North of England. When she died on 17th August 2003 in Victoria, British Columbia, her obituary in The Victoria Times recorded that she had served as an Officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in England 1939-1943. After her marriage to William, between 1944 and 1947 she took part in a cross-Canada tour for the Canadian Victory Loan Campaign. She held positions within the National Film Board, Computing Devices of Canada, and in Boaz, Allen and Hamilton, Management Consultants, and then in Carleton University before retiring to Victoria in 1980.

During her 'retirement' years April travelled abroad, learned new languages and continued to edit and type documents for people around the world, in addition to papers for post-graduate students at The University of Victoria. The Internet site Questia records April's involvement in a book, Trading beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843 by Richard Somerset Mackie, University of British Columbia Press, 1997. William and April have children and grandchildren in both Canada and England. William married a second time but predeceased his first wife, as he did also his older brother, Liston.

Andrew's elder son, Liston Burns was born on 21st November 1918 in Ballymena. He married Alice Ruth Dobrescue (born 1925, died 1981) on 28th October 1950 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and they have two sons. Liston settled in Winnipeg, but before I record his life in some detail, I must first note an early twentieth century settler in Manitoba, with the 'slightly misspelled' surname McIllhagga. This was another William born 1885, who I am presuming from his year of birth, was an older brother of Andrew the father of Liston and William, and so their uncle. He became a firefighter in Winnipeg in 1916 when he was 30 years old. On 2nd February 1921 he was part of a team which fought a fire in a large commercial building called Dingwall Block at 62 Albert Street. Although not much damage was done to the building, sadly William was killed during the operation. A report of the incident is in The Manitoba Free Press on 4th February (page 3). William had served full-time for five years and six months, and is commemorated by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

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