James Rodger

James Rodger

This is a blog post that I have been working on for quite some time now. I was struggling to post it because I want to have it all right, somehow I feel responsible to make sure that the information I put out there is correct and complete. However, something I’ve re-learned in the past week helped me get over that hang up. I will never have all the answers, but sharing what I do know may help somebody else learn. I recently received a message on Ancestry from a cousin of my husbands who is excited to learn more about the Ramsay and Rodger side of her family. She is just beginning on her journey to trace her family history. I also want to learn more, everything that I can and fill in all the blanks, so hopefully sharing this will help us both! Please enjoy my (not yet complete) post about a very special man.

Below is a photo of my husband’s maternal great grandfather, James Rodger.

James Rodger 1884-1944

Those eyes of his are so familiar to me, my husband and his mom have the same big brown eyes.

He was born in Crail, Fife, Scotland on August 9, 1884.

Then in the 1919 Scotland Electoral Registers (below) we see he and his wife Robina living on 3 South Street, Leven, Fife.
His occupation is listed as soldier.

At this point they already had 4 children as follows:
William Fletcher Rodger born 1909,
Jemima Rodger born 1911,
Robert Ramsay Rodger (my husband’s grandfather) born 1912 and
James Ramsay Rodger born 1918.

So, my next question was how did James and his family end up in Canada?

This is what I was curious about. So, I did a bit of research and discovered that in the interwar years, the Overseas Settlement Committee provided assistance to ‘suitable people,’ many of whom were Scots, who wanted to settle in one of Britain’s dominions. There was promise of plenty of land, jobs and opportunities in Canada. Recruiters were sent with attractive posters and pamphlets to entice emigrants with free passage.

On the below “Declaration of Passenger to Canada” we can see that the ship name is the S.S. Metagama.

The date of sailing was July 1st, 1921. James’ age is listed as 36. His intended occupation is a farm labourer and his intention is to settle in Canada. His passage was paid by “Overseas Settlement.”

This is a scan of the actual postcard that James sent back to his wife, Robina in Scotland.
The inscription on the back of the postcard is so sweet.
July 1921 Arrived all safe at Liverpool as you will see – making ready – it is about 1/2 past ___ Yours faithfully. J.R.”

I know that the following year, his wife Robina and their children also came to Canada to join him. Then in 1923 the youngest child was born, Charles Rodger.

I wish I knew more about his life here in Canada. Someday I hope to learn more. What I do know is that the decision he made to come here affected many generation of Rodgers, Ramsays and Wrights and I, for one am grateful for his bravery! For me, telling his story and passing it onto future generations keeps his memory alive.

There was so much information on this “Certificate of Registration of Death” that was new to me. I was unsure of James Rodger’s parents names, as there are a few on Ancestry. But here they are listed as William Rodger and Annie Wallace. This was a new last name for me to trace! So exciting! I also learned that his occupation was listed as a janitor for Hydro Electric. Sadly, James was only 59 years old when he passed away from Coronary Thrombosis.

He was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario. I have a request in with Find A Grave for a photo. ***Update – thanks to my brother-in-law who went to Mount Pleasant this morning, cleaned up the marker stone and sent out a picture for me. Family is the best.***

Gone is the face we loved so dear,

silent is the voice we loved to hear;

Too far away for sight or speech,

But not too far for thought to reach.

Sweet to remember him who once was here,

And who, though absent is just as dear.

Lovingly remembered by his Wife and Family.

The Abandoned Mansion

The Abandoned Mansion

Postcard (circa 1910)

This amazing building pictured above is where my Grandmother lived as a young girl. Can you imagine?! It is located in Shandon, which is a small town approximately 50 km north-east of Glasgow, Scotland and was appropriately named “Shandon House”. It was originally built in 1849 “in the Scots Baronial style by eminent architect Charles Wilson, whose work included many of the renowned buildings on Glasgow’s Woodlands Hill”. It is quite the sight to see.

In 1910, Shandon House was bought by John Richard Hill Newitt, my Paternal Great-Grandfather, who was a Cambridge University graduate. He had come to Helensburgh, Scotland in 1900 as headmaster of Larchfield School.

Glasgow Herald Aug 24 1900

Some years later, he made the decision to set out on his own. He bought the property in Shandon, which had been lying empty for some time. His wife, my Great-Grandmother, Florence Lilian (Carre) Newitt was also a schoolteacher. Together they opened up Shandon House – Preparatory School for Boys.

I’ve always known that my grandmother, Margaret Hope (Newitt) Apps was born in Helensburgh, Scotland (about 5km south of Shandon). What I never really understood though, until now, was why she was born in Scotland because both the Newitt and Carré families are from England and France, respectively.

My Grandmother is the young child in the centre of the bottom photo, sitting on my Great-Grandmother’s lap. (Taken in 1915)

It seems the property in Shandon had changed hands quite a few times, before and after the Newitt’s lived there. I also found this article about the property in the Glasgow Herald from 1882 (see below). It give me an idea of size of the property that they had to maintain. I’m sure it was quite the task to keep up with the house, property, starting up and running a school. They also had 3 daughters born in 1909, 1914 and 1916. Life must have been busy for the Newitt family.

Glasgow Herald Jan 20 1882

Also, lest we forget…World War I broke out on July 28th, 1914 and lasted for four years until November 11th, 1918. During that time, my Great-Grandmother lost 3 brothers to the war – Maurice Tennant Carré in 1915, Edward Mervyn Carré in 1916 and Gilbert Trenchard Carré in 1917. It would seem that the Newitt family did indeed have their fair share of struggles as I’ve also found a petition of Sequestration of his estates in the Edinburgh Gazette on August 8th, 1916. Then in 1918, I found a record of them living in East Grinstead, England. I’ve read that they were forced to file for bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, this beautiful building has been sitting empty for many years. Some years ago it was purchased by the Ministry of Defence likely due to its proximity to Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Clyde. From what I could read, it was to form a new barrack for Royal Marines charged with guarding the base. It has also been listed on the Buildings at Risk register.

When our family went to Scotland in 2017, this site was most definitely on our list of things to see. We “may or may not” have gone to take a closer look. It was an amazing site to see, but it was also frustrating. It’s crazy to think that this beautiful building is left to just sit and deteriorate year after year.

Another interesting thing to note; directly in front of the derelict Shandon House property is the Faslane Peace Camp. This is a permanent peace camp that has been present in the same area since 1982! According to their website this is “the worlds longest running active protest site and a frontline in the fight against nuclear weapons of mass destruction”. They are protesting the “United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear program”.