About a year ago, we received a letter from the daughter of a former St Margarets’ resident who has longed to return to the UK since 1946. At the time she was looking for help on getting a flight arranged for her mother to visit, but now writes asking for photos and news. If any reader knows Frances and can relate some stories, or a photographers with a good set of photos of the area, please email us at email@example.com and we will arrange to email off the information.
For the past 60 years as an immigrant to Canada, my mother has dreamt of only one thing: returning to live in her homeland of England.
Frances Grey-Grattan was born in Richmond, London in 1923. She grew up the second child born into a working, middle-class London home. Along with her siblings, she had a nice childhood and a happy home, and even now at 82, she vividly remembers small and wonderful details that make her long for that time and place of so long ago.
The war broke out in 1939. My mother was 16 years old and her life was changed forever. As luck would have it, my mother’s father was working for the Civil Service, and in 1940, just as the war was threatening all of their lives in London, his employer transferred him to Blackpool in the north. Away from the bombing in London, my mother and her family all got involved heavily with aiding England in the war. My mother went into the Women’s Army and served in the signals division from 1942-1945. She met my father, a Canadian soldier in 1943.
In 1945, near the end of the war, they married and then in 1946, along with hundreds of other WW2 brides, my mother set sail on a ship to Canada, to become a Canadian and to make her home in Canada with my father.
My father was from a big Irish-Canadian area in northern New Brunswick and they lived a very pioneer-small town Canadian lifestyle. My mother was foreign to this world of snow, mosquitos and homemade liquor. They were a warm and happy family but my mother felt like an outsider and longed for the cultured life of England that she was used to and missed terribly. For over 3 years she cried to go home and my father tried everything he could think of to keep her happy. He had promised to return to England with her if she was unhappy in his home but unfortunately he did not keep that promise.
Finally, they moved away from his small northern New Brunswick home and my father found a job with CN Rail in Moncton, where they set up a home together. My mother was happier in the town of Moncton but it still was not her beloved England that she missed so much. She gave birth to my two older sisters in 1948 and 1950, which now kept her firmly anchored to Canada and did bring her happiness but did not stop her longing to go home to England.
Between 1953 and 1960, she made several trips home to England by ship. As much as she wanted to return permanently however, my father did not want to leave Canada. He loved his home in New Brunswick and was very close to his family and content in Moncton so my mother was a dutiful wife and stayed in Canada with my father, even though it broke her heart to not be living in England.
In the 1960’s when air travel became more frequent, my mother was able to journey home to England many times but my mother never gave up hope of moving back to England, and in 1979, the year my father officially retired from CN Rail, we rented out our home in Moncton and made the move to England to give my mother’s dream a try. I got to go to school in a little Cotswold village near to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where we rented a small cottage. My mother’s sister and family lived nearby and I developed a love for her magical homeland as much as she had.
Unfortunately, this dream for her was short-lived. My older sister in Canada, lost her husband to cancer very suddenly, a year after we had been living in England. My parents needed to be with her at this time so we had to return to Moncton and my mother vowed that she would get back to England again permanently, somehow, someday.
– Gill Baldwin