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The Story of Williamson Family Women Leaving Widnes and Travelling to Canada in 1910



Nicola Springford, the great granddaughter of John and Ellen Williamson, in remembrance of her grandmother Florence Williamson (nee Hough), requested that the story below be presented.  We  happily concur. 

Ellen Williamson was reluctant to leave Widnes, however she knew the deep desire of husband John to immigrate to Canada could not be easily denied.  So, she disposed of all her precious household furniture and memorabilia, some with much reluctance, and bid her loving sisters and Widnes friends goodbye with great sadness, never to see them again.  While Ellen remained homesick for England the rest of her days, Florence and all Ellen's daughters and sons experienced happy fulfilling lives in Canada; a new world of great beauty, bounty and opportunity. We honor Ellen and thank her for the loving sacrifice she made!

Our thanks to Candace Staniforth, a great great granddaughter of John and Ellen Williamson, for researching the steamship passage information below:


Allan Steamship Line SS Victorian bound for

 Contract Ticket Number 1196 for Quebec:
     10 June 1910,   Mrs. E. Williamson, Flo Williamson & Jack, Mary, Eileen, Phyllis, Mona, Doris

S.S. Victorian --- Allan Line (Canadian Pacific Steamships)

The following story was told to Farrell Hopwood by his mother Monica (Mona):

All the planning and work associated with packing and disposing of household goods and furniture in Widnes was left to grandma Ellen Williamson to organize and complete.  No easy task!

Travelling by boat across the Atlantic would take approximately 6 or 7 days and by train across the very large land mass of Canada from Quebec City to Vancouver would have taken at least 6 days at that time, making the overall travel time about 2 weeks (now we do it by airplane in 9 hours).  Remember, Grandpa John with sons Nicholas and Sydney left England earlier on March  22, 1910 arriving in Vancouver around April 5th or 6th.  The women had waited until grandpa John sent a telegram from Vancouver to Widnes to advise that the men had jobs and had found a nice place for everyone to live on Howard Street in the Vancouver Mount Pleasant area. 

My mother Monica (Mona) was 11 years old and related to me that the seas were a bit rough over the Atlantic Ocean and that she was one of the few persons on board that did not get "sea sick". For reasons I do not understand, the ship navigated around the top of Newfoundland and came down "The Straits of Belle Isle" (between Labrador and Newfoundland) whereby the ship ran aground on a sand bar in the middle of the night.  Everyone on board was terrified because of the dangerous situation they were in.  Fortunately,  with a high tide the next morning, the ship lifted off the sand bar.  Mother also recounted that as they were 3rd class passengers, and were kept restricted and locked off the upper decks, which would have made their safety very difficult in an emergency if the ship had to be abandoned at sea.

The 3500 mile train trip across Canada was not without discomfort and difficulties as well.  The passenger coaches were equipped with wooden seats, which at night were transformed into uncomfortable sleeping bunks.  The train did not offer dining or food facilities and the passengers had to buy fresh food and vegetables at nearby shops close to train stations when the train allowed for such at small towns.  Then, to top it off, they had to take turns cooking whereby each family had to queue or "line-up" to use an onboard small coal and wood cooker/stove.  In those days, --- no such thing as dining and being waited on while enjoying a chicken or steak dinner, savoring a good wine, while flying in relative comfort at 35,000 feet?