Tuesday 10 June 2014

Passenger Ships – Part 3

In my last two posts I gave information about how my grandfather and great-grandfather arrived in Canada. Other family members also came by ship, some of which vessels had interesting histories themselves. In the next two posts I will describe the passage of my wife, Linda’s uncles and parents to Canada.

Relationship to Linda
Date Departed
Date Arrived
Departure Port
Arrival Port
John Walker Cooper
SS Athenia
17 September 1926
26 September 1926
Quebec & Montreal
Jessie Walker Cooper
SS Athenia
8 August 1930
17 August 1930

The first to arrive was John Walker Cooper, Linda’s mother’s brother, aboard the SS Athenia, in 1926. John, or “Jackie” as he was known, was one of the Cossar boys, who were relocated to a farm near Gagetown, New Bruswick from Scotland, by Dr. George Carter Cossar, as part of a plan to give them a better life and a more hopeful future. I wrote about Jackie and the Cossar program in an article in Canadian Stories, An Anthology of British Home Child Stories, published in 2012 (Janzen, Ed & Susan, Editors).

Part of the article described their new home: “Cossar Farm or the Cossar Farm, Receiving Home and Distributing Centre for Scotch Lads, as it was officially called, was one of many such establishments set up to house and “train” over 100,000 child immigrants sent to Canada as ‘Home Children’ between 1869 and 1939 (Kohli, 2003). Over the years the farm operated, some boys came voluntarily, looking for a better life.  Others were sent there as punishment for bad behaviour at home.”

John made the trip with other boys of similar age, as shown on the passenger manifest. Five were listed on the outgoing list, with the last address in Scotland shown as c/o Doctor Cossar, 23 Monteith Row, Glasgow. Only four are shown on the incoming record of the Canadian Immigration Service and one of those with a different surname, indicating either a switch in boys or an error in the record.
Part of passenger manifest for SS Athenia on its voyage from Glasgow to Montreal in 1926; showing five Cossar Boys including John Cooper – copyright The National Archives (UK) 
(downloaded from Ancestry 26 October 2008)
Linda’s mother, and John’s sister, Jessie Walker Cooper, came to Canada four years later, also on the Athenia. She was part of a group of women destined for many parts of Canada most of whom would work in domestic service to pay off their passage. According to the Canadian Immigration Records, Jessie’s final destination was to be the Canadian Women’s Hostel in Calgary, Alberta. Travelling on the same ship were five other women originating in Scotland who were also to be put up in the hostel in Calgary and all of whom were to be employed in domestic positions.
Part of passenger manifest for SS Athenia on its voyage from Glasgow to Montreal in 1930; copyright The National Archives (UK) (downloaded from Ancestry 26 October 2008)
John Walker Cooper & Jessie Walker Cooper, Glasgow, ca 1913 (photo from family collection)
Jessie met her future husband, William Alexander McKay, shortly after arriving in Calgary. They were married there 31 July 1931. John Walker Cooper stayed in New Brunswick and married Lillian Marlene McKee on 21 November 1941.

The SS Athenia was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Ltd. and launched om Govan, Scotland in 1923. She was of modest size at 13,456 tons, and could carry 516 cabin-class passengers and another 1,000 in 3rd class. The Athenia was a steam-pwered, twin propeller vessel and could travel at 15 knots. The voyage from Glasgow to Montreal took only nine days. The ship was operated by Anchor-Donaldson Ltd. on its British-Canada route.
Photo of SS Athenia in Montreal, Canada harbour – copyright Library and Archives Canada 
(downloaded from Wikipedia 5 June 2014)
The Athenia was the first ship sunk by the Germans at the start of the Second World War. In that respect it has a marked position in history. The attack occurred on 3 September 1939, while the ship was en route from Glasgow to Montreal, 60 miles south of Rockall, Ireland. She carried 1,103 passengers and 315 crew members. Several ships in the area rallied to aid the stricken vessel managing to save all but 117 of those on board. Many of the fatalities happened during the rescue process.

Reports of the sinking made headlines around the globe and the event became a rallying point for support of the Allies and the war against the Nazi regime. Of the sinking itself, the commander, Oberleutnant Friz-Julius Lemp, claimed the ship was travelling “dark” and steering a zigzag course suggesting it was a troopship or armed vessel. He was exonerated by Hitler who decided no public reports should be made about the sinking for political reason.

Janzen, Ed & Susan (Editors). (2012). Canadian Stories, An anthology of British Home Child Stories. Guelph, Ontario: Gentle Edge Publishing Co. Ltd.

Kohli, Marjorie. (2003). The Golden Bridge, Young Immigrants to Canada 1833 to 1939. Toronto, Ontario: Natural Heritage / Natural History Inc.

Wikipedia – SS Athenia    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Athenia

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.