The Williamsons of Widnes

A Family of Many Blessings and Gifts



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19th Century Story

20th Century Story
- A Nolan's Story of Widnes
- A Summer in Bella Bella
 -Ashley & Eileen Cooper
Leslie and Mary McLellan
- Letter to Jimmy O'Donnell
 -Nelson & Doris Chamberlain
 -M. Hopwood nee Williamson
 -Nicholas & Florence Williamson
- Nicholas & Charlotte Williamson
 -Phyllis K Williamson
Michael and Ruth Nolan

21st Century Histories

Family Trees

Photo Gallery

Related Families




Nelson Chamberlain (1903-1990) & Dorothea Chamberlain (1903- 1973) nee Williamson

(Lawrence Chamberlain of Victoria B.C. kindly offered the following information for edit and copy)

Nelson  Norman Chamberlain was born the 27th October 1903 in Ottawa, Carlton County, Ontario, Canada and died 22nd March 1990 in Victoria B.C. Canada.  He was the eldest son of Alban Edward Chamberlain and Ethel Florence Matthewman of Ottawa, Ontario, and who moved to Vancouver B.C. in 1910.  Alban (aka) Bob was a Justice of the Peace and an employee of the B.C. Electric Company. Florence operated both a candy shop and cake shops in various areas of  the city of Vancouver

Dorothea (Doris) Williamson was born the 3rd January, 1903 above her father's shop at 74 Victoria Road in Widnes, Lancashire, England and died 13th May 1973 in Victoria B.C. Canada.  She was the youngest child of John and Ellen Williamson of Widnes and later of Vancouver B.C.  Her father John operated a tailoring business and was active in local Widnes and regional Liberal Party politics in Lancashire England.  He was later a journalist and editor of various newspapers in British Columbia, Canada.

 Among Doris's early memories was being frightened by the very large suit of armour once worn by Henry VIII, when her father took her to see the Tower of London.  Another memory recalls her elderly, but spry grandmother, Mary Ann (O'Donnell) Williamson, dancing the Irish Jig.  Doris, along with her mother and sisters, sailed 3rd class from Liverpool to endure the long journey to Vancouver B.C., via the ocean voyage to Quebec City and across the thousands of miles of the mostly virgin lands of Canada by train to Vancouver in June of 1910.   When departing from England, she remembered watching a pretty basket that she had been given, fall into the water between the ship and the dock, sinking slowly into the water. Upon arriving in Canadian waters, the ship ran aground on a sand bar in the Straits of Belle isle and lifted off with the high tide. 

As a child, Doris recalls being offered a ride by a neighbouring boy on his soap box racer. Many years later, this boy, Nelson Chamberlain, also recalled their first meeting.  The Williamson family moved to Penticton, as her father took a new position with the local newspaper. While riding a horse there one day, Doris remembered meeting a first nations girl riding a much larger horse. Unfamiliar with the local people, she nudged her horse on faster and faster, but the other girl was easily able to keep up with her. In the end, she had made a new friend. The family later returned to the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver where for a second time, she met Nelson Chamberlain.

In 1910, the Chamberlain family moved from Ottawa, Ontario to Vancouver to take up residences in the Mount Pleasant area, not far from the Williamson home. The Chamberlain family converted to the Roman Catholic faith from the Anglican communion in 1897.  However, after arriving in Vancouver, not all remained Catholic.  Mary Jane Cove Chamberlain, the matriarch of the family, and her eldest daughter Leonance were members of St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Vancouver.  Leonance sang in the church choir under the direction of John Williamson, Doris’ father.  This set the final stage for Nelson Chamberlain and Doris Williamson to meet and fall in love.  This match, however, was not favoured by Nelson’s mother Ethel Florence Matthewman who had been raised in an anti-Catholic home and took steps to keep the couple apart, even going to the extreme of buying Nelson a Russell-Knight roadster in hopes of his falling in love with a nice Protestant girl.  After a year of separation, Doris and Nelson were reunited and married on February 10, 1924 at St Patrick’s Church by Father Forget with her sister Eileen and brother-in-law Ashley Cooper acting as witnesses.                                                                                      Doris 1917 at 2905----->

 Nelson was a man endowed with many life changing gifts.  His interests were wide and challenging.  They included not only the arts through painting and photography, but also the new technological inventions in radio and in telecommunications that were making astounding advances in the early decades if the 20th century.  With Doris and a growing family to care for, Nelson applied his new knowledge and skills with the new invention of radio products in sales and service.  Nelson was co-owner and co-founder of the Austin - Chamberlain radio company along with Horace Austin. Doris's brother, Nicholas Williamson also worked for the company. The company was called "Radioland".  Nelson did the sounds systems for the opening of the Vancouver airport, the Pacific National Exhibition, the Pantages Theatre (introduction of sound in movies), as well as for his brother Len's band, the “Twinkle Toes.”

Their first child, Rita, was born two years after their marriage in 1926.  Rita recalls being with her father at many events, including conducting the “Twinkle Toes” as a pre-schooler at the Vancouver Trianon ballroom.  During the summers, Doris, Nelson and Rita would load up the business van with neighbourhood children, and spend the day at Vancouver's Kitsilano beach. But, things changed when Nelson took a job with the BC Telephone Co. in Nanaimo for two years to improve the family income.  Doris and Rita remained in Vancouver. Upon his return, he found his company near bankruptcy.
         <--- Rita                                                         Ron --- >

Doris was working for an investment company (Stobie Furlong) when the market crashed in 1929.   Nelson supported the family by going house to house charging radio batteries. Their first son, Ronald (Ron), was born in 1933. Life was very difficult for Doris and her family until her brother-in-law, Jack (Thomas John) Hopwood helped get Nelson a position with the CPR in Grand Forks B.C. as communications technician. The family was soon moved to Lethbridge, Alberta where they lived for the next seven years. This was the first time, Doris had been separated from her mother, brothers and sisters. The WWII years were difficult, but Lethbridge was a good place to bring up her two children.

During the War in 1943, the family suddenly moved to Victoria, BC. Because of the nature of Nelson's wartime priority work in telecommunications, everything had to be done in stealth, so the family were not able to say goodbye to their friends. This was particularly hard on Rita, who would have graduated high school that year.  Nelson now worked for BC Telephone in building that was more bomb shelter than office. Their house in Victoria was an ancient, narrow two story building, which they shared with Doris' brother, Nicholas Williamson and his wife, Florence Williamson, nee Hough.  Doris and family later moved to a larger home, as their second son, Lawrence (Larry), was due near the end of 1945.

In 1948 daughter Rita married Michael O'Brien at St Andrews Cathedral, and the following year, Doris's first grandchild was born. By 1962 five grandsons had been born to Rita. In 1957, son Ron married, and by 1970 three more grandchildren were added to the family. Doris's life centered around her children, grand children, siblings and nieces and nephews. Every child, grandchild, niece and nephew were always very special people. Doris did not live to see one grandchild, a girl born to Larry and Coral in 1985 or any of her six great grandchildren (and still counting).

Throughout all these years, Nelson followed his keen interest in photography and in painting.  He enjoyed the artist's talent in both.  He spent many happy hours at all aspects of these fascinating pastimes which enrich the eye and inspire the soul.  Much of his photo work focused on "black and white" stills.  With the brush and the easel he seemed to love the outdoors and spent countless happy hours producing visions of the nearby sea coast with its wide sweeping vista and the crashing of the ocean waves upon the shore in and around Victoria and along the Oregon coastline.

Some Happy Times

               Doris, Larry, Nelson & Ashley Cooper                       Doris                   Doris, Larry, Ash & Eily Cooper

 Doris fell asleep in the arms of our Lord in 1973, followed by Nelson in 1990 and by her son Ron in 2002. All three are buried together, and will someday be joined by their other son.