A Christmas story

My maternal grandmother, Frances A. Cairns (nee Pidduck) immigrated to Canada with her family in 1911.The following is an excerpt from my grandmother’s autobiography, Down Memories Lane. She completed it in 1975.

I thought it would be neat to share a bit of it with you, to mark the season. The following is a familiar story for us — Grandma had fantastic stories to tell and we would make her recite long poems from memory when we visited her.

Her life included the entire 20th Century, starting in the 19th Century and ending in the 21st. Grandma was ever clever, industrious and wise. But above all, she was loving and thoughtful and sharp-minded, which she remained to the end.

Mother told me I was born in a place called Goole in Yorkshire, England, on July 15, 1894…

While we were living in Shoreham, Queen Victoria died [in 1901]. We were awakened one night by all of the church bells tolling and guns going off, then later they peeled out with loud music because Prince Edward had been proclaimed Monarch. Later that year there was a big party for everyone, it was for the Coronation of the King. Every school got a coronation cup and was served milk, buns and oranges, with cart rides all around the town, most of them drawn by donkeys…

While we were at Shoreham, Father had another illness and as Fanny was a baby, Mother could not work all day. When Christmas came there were no gifts for us, neither candy or oranges.

We lived not far from the [RC] Convent. On Christmas morning the children were showing us what they had got from Santa Claus, and wanted to know what we had got. We told them that Santa did not call at our place. Just then, one of the Sisters from the Convent was passing by. She overheard what I had said. She stopped and said we must be the family that Santa could not find, so had left things at the Convent for us. She went back in and brought out a large basket of food and toys for us. She asked Mother if she could help them in the Convent but Mother said she had a small baby to take care of. They said bring her along when she came and they would look after her. They wanted Mother to join their church, but Mother said she had always belonged to the Anglican Church. They still wanted Mother to help them and when Father got better they gave him work as a gardener, although he was never allowed into the Convent. I have always thought how wonderful they had been to us.

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, dad and step-dad.
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