The Williamsons of Widnes

A Family of Many Blessings and Gifts



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Phyllis Katherine Williamson 1897 - 1975

Phyllis Katherine Williamson was born on November 5, 1897 in Widnes, Lancashire, England and died September 23, 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  She was the eighth child of John and Ellen Williamson (nee Farrell).  She was born at 74 Victoria Road in Widnes.  Her ancestors were both Irish and Scots from Tipperary and the Shetland islands.  Her father John operated a tailor shop in Widnes and was active in local and regional politics in Lancashire.  Her mother Ellen was an assistant school mistress and an accomplished seamstress.  Phyllis and her family attended St Bede's church and her early education, along with her siblings, was at St Bede's parochial school.  

Her family moved to Vancouver British Columbia Canada in 1910 were she completed her education at Florence Nightingale Elementary and King Edward High School.  She lived in Penticton B.C. for a short period after arriving from England, when her father became the editor of the Penticton Herald newspaper from 1911 to 1913.  She was a very bright active girl enjoying sports, the out doors and received due recognition for her academic accomplishments at school.  Phyllis expressed a joy for life and met the challenges it offered with much courage and zest.  She wished to become a professional nurse, yet her father blocked the move and it left her very disappointed.  She was very thoughtful caring person and expressed a heartfelt love for God and her neighbour.  She was also sensitive and easily hurt, that was to cause her sorrow throughout her life.
As a young woman she met and fell in love with a young Canadian soldier who was about to be sent to England and thus to France during WW I.  The two courted for some months and wished to marry before he left.  They were willing to accept the
     Phyllis Katherine Williamson - ca. 1946     
risk he would incur as a wartime combatant.  Hoping to be together before he left, she approached her parents for understanding and approval.  Unfortunately, her father John adamantly refused to allow it.  In those days and in that culture a father's approval was an important issue.  So under the pressure of her father, they did not marry and the soldier left for overseas duty.  This broke Phyllis's heart and, we believe she never really forgave her father.  Later the solder returned from France unharmed, and as far is known, they did not pursue the match further.

Again, Phyllis was a very bright lady who easily mastered devises others might find difficult.  Around 1918 she was employed by Canadian Pacific Telegraphs as a machine operator sending and receiving commercial telegrams.  She displayed the ability to handle and operate these new complex machines with ease.  She was joined by her sister Mona a few months later and the two of them worked in this capacity for most of the 1920's.  Mona knew of her sister's sensitive emotional nature and that she could sometimes react in a temper to those who seemed to challenged her.  Unfortunately, her employer did not understand and after a time ended her employment. This was to hinder a future stable income.  She lived close to poverty thereafter.
Phyllis did temporarily spent some time as a hotel maid with various employers.  She then lived at home with her mother Ellen and her sisters families.  As these families grew with many children, Phyllis was a willing helper.  She was a very good housekeeper and cook, and most of all she lovingly cared for the children.  She seemed to be periodically haunted by emotional stress over the years.  Her life was without a permanent job in the latter 20's and through the great depression, until the beginning of WWII. 

 In 1940 the Canadian Army was looking for women with special skills, and Phyllis's experience with teletype machines eased her entry into the Canadian Women's Army Corp (CWAC).  She remained there until the end of WWII and was further employed by Canada's National Defense Department for some years after.  She rarely dated, and when she did she brought the potential suitors to visit Mona, Jack and the children.  Nothing ever came of these adventures.  The hurt feeling was alive and she seemed unable to trust again.


After the war she lived alone for many years in boarding house rooms and in small suites attached to various homes.  Yes, her soldier suitor again contacted her during the 1940's, he was still single.  They dated for awhile, however the magic seemed to have diminished and they never pursued a closer relationship again.  Had he re-engaged her after WWI, there may have been a match?


Mona, whose compassion and love for Phyllis never waned, kept in close touch with her over the years as did her sister Mary.  Phyllis often came to stay with Mona and Jack Hopwood, she knew Mona was her loving friend and had a deep love for her.  Unfortunately, she died alone in her senior's housing room on September 23, 1975.  Her life was a sad and lonely one, yet her love was deep and true for us all.  We loved her and keep her very much in our hearts and prayers!


Some Photos of Phyllis in the Canadian Women's Army Corp and with Family


Phyllis (bottom right) in Canadian Women's Army Corp - WWII




Nicholas, Mona and Phyllis - 1962


Published February 2010