Our own “Dickens Story”: Part Four of Four

1900s-quarriers-boys-by-train-from-halifax-to-fairknowe-brockville-on
Quarrier Boys travelling by train from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Brockville, Ontario in Canada

On the Canadian side of the Quarriers Home Child efforts, William Quarrier purchased a large house in Brockville, Ontario–named it Fairknowe–as a receiving and distributing station for children from Glasgow on their way to live and work with families on farms and in towns in Canada.

In April of 1896, Roderick (Roddy) Ronald, aged 10, travelled across the Atlantic ocean on a steamship from Glasgow to Halifax. Like the boys in this picture, he and the other Quarriers Boys with whom he travelled went by train from Halifax to Fairknowe in Brockville. The Canada Census of 1901 shows him as a Farm Labourer working for a Taylor Paterick in Westminster, Middlesex, Ontario.

abt-1900-quarriers-girls-party-on-steamship-en-route-to-canada
Quarrier Girls on board ship on their way across the Atlantic to Quebec City, Canada

One month later, Grace and Cecilia (called “Cissy” on the Passenger List) set sail from Glasgow on a steamship called the Siberian, with 119 other Quarrier girls. They landed in Quebec City harbour in Canada, from which they too travelled to Brockville.

Jean Hoskins, the Fowlie/Beattie historian, indicates in her notes that Cecilia was placed with a very loving family near Glengarry/Maxwell, ON, where she had a good upbringing. The family cared so much for Cecilia that they insisted on giving her a fine wedding to David Beattie (of Saskatchewan) in Ontario. Grace went into domestic service at the age of 9, living with in-laws of WIlliam Quarrier’s daughter who, with her husband James Burges, ran Fairknowe. At least, in the 1901 Canada Census she is identified as being a servant in the household of brother and sister, Alexander and Anne Burges. Other records indicate that Alexander was brother to James Burges, the man married to Anne Quarrier.

Jean Hoskins does not provide details but it was her understanding that neither Roderick nor Grace were as lucky as Cecilia in their placement(s) in Canada. One spot of light in the story is that the children’s Aunt, Jessie Ronald, followed the three children to Canada one year later (1897)*. She lived briefly in Brockville, then Quebec City  and finally Montreal. I wonder if their Aunt Jessie may have helped the Ronald kids stay in touch with each other in their teen years. At any rate, when Roderick settled in Saskatchewan, he invited both of his sisters to come to Gap View, where each of them met and married a settler/farmer from Scotland. Jessie lived in Quebec CIty and Montreal until her death in Montreal in 1927 (age 65). She never married. Her funeral was held in First Baptist Church, Montreal and then her body was shipped to the town Maxwell, ON for burial, the town where her niece Cecilia had found such a warm reception. Wish we knew more about those folk in Maxwell who were so good to our ancestral kin.

1884-1923 Joseph Ridger, 2nd husband to Marion Ellen Baker
Joseph Ridger

And what happened to Marian, mother of the three? Well, according to the records, she was in and out of workhouses in SW London for some years after she left her children in Glasgow. I imagine her life continued to be hard and maybe even dangerous, as the alternatives for making a living as a single woman were very limited and included some nasty options. However, on June 6, 1907 she remarried, this time to a widower named Joseph Ridger, a Landscape Gardener. After that, I found no further record of her in a workhouse again, which is a mercy. I can’t help but hope that Joseph Ridger was a kind and gentle man who made Marian happy. I was pleased to find his photograph through Ancestry.ca.

Coincidentally, Marian’s little girl, the one whose thoughts I sought to characterize in the first post in this series, Grace Victoria Louise, married George Patterson Taylor Ronald Fowlie on April 19, 1907, in the same year her mother remarried, although neither of them knew of the other’s circumstance, as far as we know.

Linda's Siggy

*Jessie Ronald came to Canada in in 1897 on the steamship S.S. Buenos Ayrean from Glasgow. She is listed as being accommodated in Cabin Two where there was also a John and Jessie Beattie en route ultimately to London, ON. A great many Icelanders were on the same ship as well as a 28-member Travelling Circus, complete with “menagerie” and family members bound for San Fransisco. Truth really may be stranger than fiction!!

Click HERE to view Part Three of this four part series

Click HERE to view Part Two of this four part series

Click HERE to view Part One of this four part series

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