Monday, 29 March 2010

James of Sarnia, Ontario

On 21st September last I wrote a blog entitled James of Ballyportery. James McIlhagga married Jane Maitland and in 1865 they had a son James, who trained as a Carpenter and emigrated to Canada when he was twenty four years old. There very soon after his arrival he met and married Alwilda Breault from a French-English background. Her father was Levi Breault (French) and her mother Patience Wood (English). Up to now all I have known about James's occupation is that he was a Carpenter. That is, until last week. I have now heard from a great-great niece of his wife Alwilda, who lives in Ontario. Alwilda's sister Agnes was my correspondent's great grandmother. She has kindly sent me the information she has learned about James.

The 1901 Census for Sarnia City listed James as a Carpenter. He had arrived in Canada two years before. My correspondent tells me that there are two memorial stones in Sarnia Cemetery with the McIlhagga name, one of which is for James with a birth date of Nov. 29, 1865. This differs by a month from the date on his death registration, October 29th. His age was recorded as 66 years, 3 months and 24 days. He had been living at 208 South Vidal Street, Sarnia for the previous sixteen years, and had been in the Province for forty-five. He died at Sarnia General Hospital of myocardial failure, and having had bronchial asthma for three months. The Sarnia Canadian Observer published an obituary for James on February 24th 1932, the day following his death. The obituary reveals for us what happened to him following his training as a Carpenter.

James had built his career from Carpentry into a business as a Contractor and Builder in the city. At some point he took on the Superintendancy of School Buildings throughout the city. It is said that he became very popular with and a friend of both teachers and pupils, so much so that when he died school flags flew at half mast. Generally James was a well known and highly respected citizen and was held in great esteem by many friends. He was a member of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church for a number of years but when the United Church of Canada was formed some Presbyterians stayed out of the Union and James continued with what became St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in which he became a member of and then chairman of its Board of Managers. He was also known in 'fraternal circles' and was a member of St. Simon of Cyrene Preceptory No. 37 Knights Templar and Tuscan Lodge No. 437 A.F. and A.M.. The heading of his obituary was Death of James McIlhagga is much regretted, which surely sums up so much about his life and character. He was survived by his wife, two brothers in Ireland and one in Scotland and two sisters, one in Ireland and one in Scotland. No mention is made of his two children and I suspect they had both predeceased him.

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