Emigrated 1914 aged 12
Why did Mary go into the Middllemore Emigration Homes?
At the time Mary was born her parents’ marriage was due to take place but unfortunately it didn’t happen because her father was sent at short notice to the South African war. He was away for 7 years. On his return the marriage went ahead but more tragedy struck. Mary’s mother died three weeks later.
At that point Mary went to live with her maternal grandparents for two years. Then her father married again and he took Mary to live with him and his new wife. Not surprisingly, Mary did not settle and her grandparents were now said
(by her father) to be too aged and infirm to keep her. So he put her into the Middlemore Homes
Off to Canada 1914 age 12
Mary stayed at the Homes in St Luke’s Road for three months before sailing to Canada on May 16th 1914 . She was one of a group of 97 children emigrated by the Homes that year. They travelled on board The Carthaginian, a single funnel steamship which provided space for 1000 third class passengers.
The children’s quarters were closed off from other passengers, a boys’ section and a girls’ section and usually no more than one floor below the main deck. They also had two ship’s stewards (one male and one female) whose sole responsibility was the welfare of the children, in co-operation with the Middlemore staff. In charge of the party were Mrs. Hirons (Boys’ Matron), assisted by Miss James (Girls’ Matron) and Mr. Plenderleith (recently employed as understudy of Mr. Jackson in England.)
This was shortly before England declared war on Germany in August,1914. Two years later the boat was sunk by a mine laid by a German submarine.
On arrival in New Brunswick Mary was taken first to Fairview, the Middlemore reception centre in Halifax.
This was a difficult time for the Homes in Canada.
The Superintendent of Fairview, Mr King, had been fired and and so Mr Jackson , who had come over to Canada in April, took charge of organising placements for the new arrivals.
In June Mr. Jackson took a group of children to Stanley for settlement. Mary was placed with Mr Pringle, a farmer who had put in an application for a 14 year old girl. He lived in Stanley, York County, which was a farming- and forestry-based community on the Nashwaak river, sparsely settled in comparison with Britain or any urban community, but not for a farming community. Most of the settlers were British having arrived there mostly between the 1830s and 1850s. It was a very social community that welcomed Mr. Jackson and the children every year.
Initially all went well but in March 1915 she was moved. The report stated,
” Girl was spoilt in her previous home and became very hard to manage. Fault did not lie with the girl”. Her new home was a long way away, in Nova Scotia.
The first 3 months here were good but it but it did not last. In October 1915 she was moved again to a Mrs Allan who described her as “ good in many ways and a bright girl” but of a “restless disposition” .
More moves followed, to Westmorland, New Brunswick and then to Halifax. In Oct 1916 she was described as “ careless and lazy.”
However, there was also an explanation. She was getting letters from her grandparents saying they wanted her to return.
In November she moved again but this was her final placement.
The Grandparents intervene
In July 1915 William Hawkes, Mary’s grandfather, wrote to the Homes.
“ Dear sir. I am wrighting to you to ask how long Miss Mary E L Hawkes will have to stay in Canada.” He said he thought she had gone for 3 years and was very unhappy about her being sent to Canada by her father, ”He was a bad man to send her away- for if she ad done murder“ and added, “the grandmother is nearly broken herted”.
However it was also clear that they wanted Mary back to look after them. “We are getting in years now. The grandmother is turned 70 and I am 67 and she would be very useful now to go and do her erands.”
By December 1916 the matter had progressed because William offered to pay her passage back. He wrote to Mr Jackson at the Homes, ”Thank you for your kindness in getting her over here to be with we and to do the house cleaning and help her grandmother as mitch as passable as lies in her power.”
Back to England
William sent £8 for the passage costs and in Feb 1917 Mary was at last returned to England though it seems that the Homes may have asked William for more money as it cost more than expected. On her return she worked as a domestic and then a seamstress.
In any of the parental requests for the return of children, particularly of older children, the superintendent always asked the child if he or she wanted to return and the answer was always taken into consideration. Clearly Mary wanted to return and this was arranged.
She married Jonah Griffiths in 1919 and they had 4 children:
a son born in 1920, twin sons born in 1921 who both died shortly after birth
and a daughter born in 1924.
Jonah died in 1945 and they were never divorced.
She left her husband in 1936. Her son chose to live with her and her daughter chose to live with her father but still saw her mother daily. Mary had an affair lasting several years with a married man. She worked as a seamstress and as a cashier in a local cinema.
Both her children enlisted at the beginning of the 2nd World War. Mary worked in a munitions factory during the war.
Her son returned from the war in India in 1945 and brought a friend back with him, Patrick Domingo, who had been born in India in 1900.
Patrick’s family were a British Army family (Irish descendants) who had served in India for several generations and he came to visit the UK for the first time. He had been in the Medical Corps. He was divorced with 4 children. One of whom was a mixed race Indian girl, born after his wife’s affair, who he decided to bring up as his own
Mary and Patrick married in 1949. They lived in Birmingham and decided to bring his young family and his elderly mother to live with them in the UK. The family arrived in 1952.
Mary continued to take in work as a seamstress and bring up the family as well as looking after other children on fairly regular occasions while their parents worked.
The family eventually grew up and the mixed race child, now a young woman, had a child out of wedlock (a daughter born 1960). Both mother and daughter lived with Mary and two years later the mother married but left her daughter with Mary.
Mary cared for the daughter till she was 19 and married. Patrick died in July 1963.
Mary also shared her home with one of her granddaughters and her husband for 2 years and looked after their son while they worked. She was 65 years old. She also shared her home with another granddaughter, husband and 2 children for 3 years. By then she was 69 years old.
Mary looked after neighbours by helping in their garden and doing their shopping. Often, they were younger than her. Everyone was welcome to share a cup of tea and a cigarette with her.
Mary was a life long paid up Labour supporter and was awarded a special Labour Party Pin by Neil Kinnock on her 80th Birthday. She was very active in the local Women’s Institute.
She died in 1989, aged 87 after a long and full life. The family say of her,
” Mary was larger than life. She loved children. She was always busy around the house and garden, taking an active life in the WI and Labour Party. She was tough but loving and supportive though beware if you crossed her. She had a wicked sense of humour and took great delight when she was older in accepting car lifts with the Tory Party so she could vote Labour.
Mary’s great delight was a cigarette, glass of sherry and a large cheese and onion sandwich.”
Burying her past.
Mary had contact with her father, Joseph Baggot, who died in 1958. None of the family ever knowingly met him and Mary never spoke of him. None of the family ever knew whether Mary’s maiden name was Baggot or Hawkes.
She always dismissed any questions about her past.