The Williamsons of Widnes

A Family of Many Blessings and Gifts

 

 

FAMILY INFORMATION

Home Page & Introduction

19th Century Histories

20th Century Histories
- A Nolan's Story of Widnes
- A Summer in Bella Bella
- Ashley & Eileen Cooper
- Letter to Jimmy O'Donnell
- Leslie and Mary McLellan
- Nelson & Doris Chamberlain
- Monica Hopwood

- Nicholas & Florence Williamson
- Nicholas & Charlotte Williamson
- Sydney & Muriel Williamson
- Phyllis Williamson
- Michael and Ruth Nolan
 

21st Century Histories

Family Trees

Photo Gallery

Related Families

 

 

 

Nicholas Williamson (1886 - 1978) & Florence Williamson (nee Hough) 1888 - 1955

The Webmaster wishes to thank Nicola Springford, with the help of her mother and siblings, for preparing and writing the story of her grandparents.

 Nicholas (Nick) Williamson was born August 27, 1886 in Widnes, Lancashire, UK. He was the second child of John Williamson and Ellen Williamson (nee Farrell). His father John was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, UK.

John owned a tailor shop and was active in local and regional Liberal Party politics in Lancashire. He was later a journalist and editor of various newspapers in British Columbia. His Mother Ellen was born in Widnes, Lancashire, UK. Ellen was an excellent seamstress and it was Ellen who taught John the skills he needed to become a successful tailor. Nicholas was the second of eleven children: Mary (1885-1976), then Nicholas (1886 - 1978), Eileen (1889-1980), Honorah (1891-1899), John Jr. (1892-1906), Thomas (1894-1895), Sydney (1895-1982), Phyllis (1897-1975), Monica (1898-2004), Veronica (1900-1901), and Dorothea (1903-1973). It is believed his Mother actually had 17 pregnancies. Several of the babies, including a set of twins, died before or shortly after birth. Nick died May 6, 1978 at the age of 91. Nick was, in many ways, like his father "a man of many parts". He was a writer, a musician, a builder, repair man, just generally, a "jack of all trades". It seemed he was able to do anything he put his mind to.

Florence (Floss) Eleanor Hough was born December 25, 1888 in St. Helens, Lancashire UK. However, her family felt her birthday should be celebrated on December 28th so that it would be a ‘special day’ and not overshadowed by Christmas. Thus, December 28th became the day her ‘birthday’ was celebrated for the rest of her life. She was the fourth child of William Hough and Jessie Hough (Nee Garnett), having an older sister, Jessie, and two older brothers, Garnett and Bert. Floss died in August 1955 in New Westminster, B.C. at the age of 66.

Floss grew up in a very strict home. Her father being quite stern, didn’t allow music in the home. Floss loved to sing but, was only allowed to sing in church on Sunday. As a young girl, Floss would watch for funerals taking place. She knew there would be people walking behind the coffin being pulled on a small cart, from the church to the cemetery. Floss would slip in amongst the group of people, join in the singing of hymns, and sing her heart out. Floss never lost her love of singing. Her granddaughter, Nicola Springford (nee Williamson) remembers spending many hours at her Grandma Floss’ knee listening to her singing some of their favourite songs.

One of Nicola’s fondest memories is of Grandma Floss standing at the top of the basement stairs, singing Toora Loora Loora while Nicola scurried down to the basement to fetch whatever it was her Grandma wanted, knowing she was safe because she could hear her Grandma singing.

 

 

                                                                    

Nicholas (Nick) and Florence (Floss) met in St Helens, Lancashire, and were married November 22, 1907, at Holy Cross Catholic Church in St. Helens. They had two sons, John (Jack) Garnett Williamson, born February 4, 1908 in St Helens, Lancashire, UK and Nicholas (Obbie) Garnett Williamson, born May 16, 1917 in Vancouver B.C., Canada.

 

 

Nick, Floss, and son Jack in Nick’s 1911 McLaughlin Buick. This photo was taken On Quebec Street in Vancouver in 1915. The car had a two cylinder engine and, according to Nicholas, was once driven by him, all the way to Mexico.  Top speed 30 mph.

 

 
Floss with sons John (Jack) & Nicholas (Obbie),
Approx 1921 or 1922

        

 
Nicholas Sr. (Nick) with sons, John (Jack) and Nicholas Jr. (Obbie),                             Jack and Nicholas Jr. 1925
 taken in the upstairs suite at the Hollyburn Pavilion, 1940. The occasion
 was a dinner for Obbie who had signed up with the Royal Canadian
Air Force and would soon be off to take part in World War II

Floss's father, an Anglican, was very upset when she married Nick, a Catholic. In fact, thereafter he refused to permit her in his home, or to have anything to do with her. Before she and Nick immigrated to Canada, she would sneak home to visit her mother when her father was at work. Years later in Canada Floss received a parcel from her siblings which contained a conciliatory note from her father. It was too late. Proud, stubborn and firm, she would not forgive him. She never spoke with him again.


 SS Grampian

In March of 1910, Nick Williamson sailed aboard the SS Grampian, bound for Quebec, along with his father John Williamson and his younger brother Sydney Williamson. Nick’s Mother Ellen Williamson, his wife Florence (Floss) Williamson, his son Jack, and his sisters; Mary, Eileen, Phyllis, Mona, and Doris joined them in June of 1910, sailing on the SS Victoria. The plan was to travel to Winnipeg and begin their new life in Canada. They had chosen Winnipeg because friends of theirs from England had moved to Canada sometime earlier, settling in Winnipeg where they opened a small grocery store.

However, on the ship during the trip from England to Canada, the men met a nice family from England who had been home on a visit and were returning to Canada. This family lived in Vancouver and, convinced the Williamson men that Vancouver was the place to go and even offered to help them settle in. Thus, the Williamson clan changed their plans, ending up in Vancouver. There is an alternate explanation that Nick’s grandson Paul Williamson recalls, as to why they chose Vancouver over Winnipeg. Paul remembers Grandpa Nick telling him that when he and Syd arrived with their father in Winnipeg in March 1910, domineering old John stepped off the train onto the platform, realized it was 30 degrees below zero, turned around and reboarded the train before the boys had set foot on the platform, and announced "we are going to Vancouver". If that story be true, his descendants born on the west coast are forever grateful to him.

Before moving to Canada, Nick Williamson was a postal clerk in Widnes, later transferring in about 1901 to St Helens, where he worked in the Telegraph Office. Thus, upon his arrival in Vancouver, he was able to get work as a postal clerk again. He was the head clerk in the foreign money orders branch. Initially, Nick, Floss and their son Jack, lived with Nick’s family at 2905 Quebec Street but, before their second son was born, they got their own apartment, # 27 - 777 Burrard Street in Vancouver. When young Jack was nine years old, Floss gave birth to their second son, Nicholas Garnett Williamson.

                                                                        Hollyburn Pavilion

Nick came from a very musical family, and began his musical career in the Alexander Theatre located in Widnes, at the age of twelve. When he arrived in Vancouver, he joined the musician’s union. He played a variety of jobs including the old Honky Tonk, The Boulder Cabaret and many silent movies. At the end of his active musical engagements, in the early twenties, Nick built the Hollyburn Dance Pavilion in West Vancouver, at 17th and Bellevue. It was both a dance hall, and a roller skating rink. There were two very nice suites on the second floor, Nick and Floss lived in one of the suites, and when their son Nicholas (Obbie) married Charlotte McDougall, they lived in the other.

 

 

 

                          
                                                                                                  Nick's Olympians

It was here Nick and Floss’ son Jack, who became a well known local drummer, got his start. Nick, who played the violin, also formed his own band, "Nick’s Olympians". His violin had been in the family for many years. Known as the O’Donnell violin it is believed to have been made in the late 1700s. The violin remains in the family to this day, having been passed on from one generation to the next and now to his Great Granddaughter Laura Williamson. For several years the Pavilion prospered but with the completion of the First Narrows Bridge, everyone started driving to Vancouver for their dancing pleasure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



Nicholas Sr. (Army) and Nicholas Jr. (Air Force) Photo taken in Victoria in the early 1940's.

 

 

When Nick joined the army, he was stationed in Victoria, so eventually, in the early forties, he sold the Hollyburn Pavilion and Floss joined him in Victoria where they stayed with his sister Doris, her husband Nelson, and their two children Rita and Ronald. It was an ancient, narrow two story house on Blanchard Street. They shared the home for a period of time until Doris and family moved to a larger home, as their second son, Lawrence (Larry) was due. At that time, Nick and Floss moved in to the Portland Hotel where they lived for several years, until building their home on Graham Street. Floss had loved living in the Portland Hotel and being right downtown in the centre of all the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

 



       Army Buddies in the U.S. A. - Pete, Nick and Dave - Study Japanese for Intelligence Operations 1943

                               

During World War II, Nick put his knowledge of Japanese to the service of his country and its allies. Although he already spoke and understood Japanese, the Army sent him to Minnesota where he experienced several months of immersion Japanese language instruction. Once deemed proficient, he was sent to Yorke Island, a small bit of land strategically located at the south end of Johnstone Strait between Vancouver Island and the Mainland coast of British Columbia. The principal reason for the military establishing a base there was to install artillery to confront enemy naval forces should they attempt to sail down the inside passage to attack Vancouver. But Yorke Island also had sophisticated radio receiving equipment. Nick’s job was to listen to Japanese naval radio transmissions, translate them, and forward the information to allied intelligence services. He later reported that, somewhat bored in such an isolated spot, he whiled away the hours writing doggerel poetry. Some time later, Nick wrote a novel, Ohara San, set in Japan. The title was a bilingual play on words, for the novel concerned an Irishman in Japan. Ohara is a common name in Japan; O'Hara in Ireland. Unfortunately, the novel was never published.

While living in Victoria, Nick started Garnett Construction, a more or less one man construction company, and built a number of houses, including the first house his son Nick and family lived in on Mt Stephen Avenue and later the house they lived in on Haultain Street. When Floss’ brother Garnett Hough died, Floss inherited a sum of money which allowed Nick to build Floss a nice little house at 2620 Graham Street. Floss had wanted to live close to Obbie and his family, and the Graham Street house was just a block away from where they lived on Vancouver Street. The Graham Street house is gone, but the others remain to this day.

                            
            Grandpa Nick & Peter - 1943                     Peter & Grandma Floss - 1943                     Nicholas Jr. & Floss 1929

It was while living on Graham Street in Victoria that Floss became ill. Not trusting doctors in general, she had never had a family doctor. This was unfortunate because, had she been under the care of a doctor early in her life, her illness likely would not have led to her death at the age of 66, just a few months shy of her 67th birthday. Floss died in hospital in New Westminster. After Floss’s death, Nick rented the house on Graham Street to his son Nicholas (Obbie) and family, and he moved back to the Mainland.

At first he rented a small suite on Seymour Street but, eventually his friends, Doug and Danny Danvers, invited him to move into a wee cottage on their property in West Vancouver. They lived in the main house and his cottage was in the back, along with an in ground pool. Nick did much needed repairs to the pool, as well as any odd jobs that needed doing. During this time, he also worked out of his cottage as a television repair man.

Over the years he had a variety of jobs, well into his seventies. He also enjoyed his time with friends and family, Saturday lunches with his grandson Nicholas Pierre (Peter) Williamson, family gatherings, playing the violin at the Royal Canadian Legion in West Vancouver, in general, he seemed a very content man. Nick spent the last few years of his life in Shaughnessy Veteran’s Hospital.

Nick is buried in the West Vancouver Cemetery, in the section reserved for war veterans. Floss is buried in the Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby B.C. as are Nick’s parents, John and Ellen Williamson. They left, as well as their two sons, six grandchildren. Jack’s daughter Louise McPhedran (nee Williamson). Obbie’s sons Peter, Paul and Neil Williamson, and Obbie’s daughters Nicola Springford (nee Williamson) and Michele Lypchuk (nee Williamson).


Top L-R - Neil, Peter and Paul
Bottom L-R - Michele and Nicola
1962

 

*************************************Researched and presented by Nick and Floss’ grandchildren *********************************************

Photos and Other Memories of Nicholas and Florence Williamson

THE OLD O’DONNELL FIDDLE” – BY NICHOLAS WILLIAMSON

 

I

Well, my son, looking back just makes me sad

To think of all the men who’ve been glad

To slide loving fingers o’er my neck

The vibrations of my strings to check.

 

II

Twas in April I was traded by the gate

At the old O’Donnell’s farm in 1748.

Here I hung, a hundred years or more,

Above the “Inglenook” to cure,

  

III

Except when taken down with loving care

To soothe a “wake”, or speed a foresome “square”:

And from O’Donnell to O’Donnell I was duly passed,

Some of whom sailed before the mast

 

IV

To foreign lands where my dulcet notes

Eased my master’s thoughts of home,

And dreams of Fairies and the Leprechaun

Who graced the banks of Slievenamon,

And slyly gambolled in the grass

Around the farm at Knockinglass.

 

V

Many years have passed and gone

Since I accompanied Father Tom

Across the sea to spread the Faith;

Where lovely evenings spent together

Were soothed with music, just as ever,

Until one day, old age creeping on,

He passed me on to cousin, John.

 

VI

Your great grandfather, my son,

Whose mother came from Slievenamon,

An O’Donnell from Knockinglass

Who bound us, lad and lass,

Never from this family must I pass;

 

VII

But be treasured, day by day,

Nor sold, nor even given away.

I’ll reward you, son, each time you play

With Organ tones, high and sweet

And a wealth of timbre that can’t be beat.

 

VIII

Drawn from memories of other days,

Of Theatre, Shows, and many Plays,

Of Army Camps, and Bavy Boats,

Where fighting men with tightened throats

Muttered prayers as they left the floats:

 

XI

With thoughts of home as they heard me play

Those lovely songs of a happier day –

Mother Machree, or Tara’s Hall,

                                                                                Galway Bay, or Finnegan’s Ball.

 

               
      Ashley Cooper, Jack, Grandpa John and Nick ca 1915                            Nick, Floss, son Jack and his wife  Olive

 

              
    Floss and Nick (new immigrants) 1911 at 16th & Main               Floss & Nick with Corcoran's at Birkenhead UK ca 1925

      
       Nick, Danny Danvers, Mona and Jack Hopwood  ca 1965                  Nick Playing the O'Donnell Violin


                         Floss and Nicholas Jr. (Obbie)  1926                                          Floss and Nick on a Sail Boat ca 1920?

Published April 2010