Art, Peace and Hope

Art, Peace and Hope

My paternal Grandmother, Margaret Hope Newitt was born in Helensburgh, Scotland. I wrote a bit about her growing up just north of there in Shandon in my previous post The Abandoned Mansion.

She passed away in September of 1985 which unbelievably was 34 years ago. Despite having lost her so long ago I have lots of really beautiful memories and art surrounding me to reflect on her. If I had to think of one word that described her best for me I would say that she was an artist. She taught art for years in Burnaby, British Columbia where she lived for most of her adult life. How I wish I could go back in time and be a student in one of her classes. My fondest memories are of listening to her whistle (inwards) while she painted.

The View From Nelson Island

Her gifts were almost always homemade, which to me are the best kinds of gifts. She made scrapbooks of family photos that she detailed with her own drawings or paintings. She passed on her love of the arts, I hope that she would be proud that I also like to make homemade cards and create scrapbooks to pass on our memories. It’s something I hope to work on more.

She was always creating…she even had a loom in her living room at one point. She was a collector of owls, I’m lucky enough to have a few of them around. She also collected fossils, dinosaur bones and rocks. How cool is this for a Grandma?! Every visit to her home in Burnaby where she lived included a trip to the basement where my brother and I felt like we were on an adventure Indiana Jones style. She was a rock hound and it was this hobby that gave her the unusual nickname “Gramma Rocks.” And rock, she did.

Like all of my grandparents, I wish that I knew her when she was younger, before she became Gramma Rocks. I’ve been told that she worked for a while for James Joyce the author, I believe in his office in Paris. During the Second World War she joined the ATS. This was the Auxillary Territorial Service … which was the women’s branch of the British Army. She reached the rank of Lieutenant which meant that my Grandfather, Walter Edmund Apps who was a pilot and Staff Sgt. (in the Glider Pilot Regiment of the Royal Air Force) would have had to salute her. Gawd, I love this thought.

At the end of the war she and Poppa and their young son left England forever, embarking on their new lives in Canada. They dedicated the rest of their lives rallying for Peace. And why wouldn’t they, hadn’t they seen enough violence and death with all the war in their lives? She lost 3 uncles in WW1. Poppa lost a brother and countless friends in WW2. Any glider pilot that was lucky enough to have survived D-Day would likely go onto Arnhem. So. Many. Lives. Lost.

An Appeal to the Mothers of the Whole World

“She was a veteran of World War II and always worked for world peace and harmony through her art and poetry.”

Florence Lilian Carré

Florence Lilian Carré

My paternal Great Grandmother, Florence Lilian Carré was born in January 1878 in Brighton, Sussex. I’ve always known her as Granny Newitt.

Here is a sketch that was done in 1878 of “Lily” as an infant. It was drawn by Dorothy Tennant, who is my 1st cousin 4x removed (so 4 generations back). She was also known as “Lady Stanley” as she was married to the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley in Westminster Abbey, but that’s another story for another day. Anyhow, I’m not sure who in the family has the original sketch, as the print that I have is only a copy.

Granny Newitt was the eldest of nine children born to Arthur Augustus Carré and Florence Heath. According to the census records I have seen the Carré family sure did move around quite a bit, from Brighton, Sussex to the Isle of Wight to Weymouth, Dorset to Kent. Her father A.A. Carré was a teacher and a clergyman, so I assume that’s the explanation for the new postings in new cities.

Granny Newitt lived a very long life and in doing so endured her share of loss. Beginning at 10 years old, when in 1888 she lost a brother in infancy, and then in 1902 she yet lost another brother, Arthur Collings Carré, he was only 22 years old (I wish that I knew more about what happened to young Arthur). I’ve added him onto my names to research.

At the turn of the century she was attending college, training to be a teacher. While in Helensburgh, Scotland she met and married John Richard Hill Newitt. Together they had 3 daughters, the middle child being my Grandmother, Margaret. The Newitt family lived for years in Scotland, including in Shandon where they opened a school for boys. Read more about that on my previous post, “The Abandoned Mansion” .

Unfortunately for Granny Newitt the bad news kept coming in. Three more of her brothers were killed during the Great War – Maurice in 1915, Edward in 1916 and Gilbert in 1917. For those keeping track, that would be 5 of her brothers that she had lost at this point. Read more about “The Carré Brothers” in my previous post.

Happy in Life. Happy in Death. Eternally Happy.

In 1921 her father passed away. I can only imagine that the heartache and loss got to be too much for him.

It’s no surprise to me that on August 26th, 1939 with the threat of another war looming on the horizon, my Great-Grandparents embarked at the port of Liverpool and set sail aboard the Cunard White Star ship “Antonia” for Montreal, Canada. They had not even completed their voyage to Montreal when Germany invaded Poland and the war broke out on September 1st, 1939. Talk about timing.

Here’s an interesting side note. Great-Granny Newitt’s belongings were all aboard the SS Athenia which left Liverpool for Montreal on September 2nd, 1939. From what I could see, she carried 1,103 passengers. The very next day, 200 km off the coast of Ireland she was torpedoed by a German U-30 Submarine and sunk.

I am so grateful that it was only her belongings on board the SS Athenia, as over 90 people lost their lives that day.

Her husband passed away just 5 years later in 1944. She outlived everyone, her parents, brothers and her sisters. Hopefully life for her in Canada was more peaceful. She settled in Oliver, British Columbia with one of her daughters and is buried there at the Oliver Cemetery.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but as a child I remember being a little bit scared of Great Granny Newitt. I was only 3 years old when she turned 100, and in my defence, 100 can look very old. Again, I feel bad for saying this but she always reminded me of Elvira Gulch aka the “Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz”.

I wish that I wasn’t so frightened of her age. I wish that I had the chance to get to know her, to have a cup of tea and talk to her. Had I taken the time to get to know her, I would have surely found her to be an amazing and inspirational women with a sweet smile, a twinkle in her eye and a knack for playing the piano. She was a resilient, well educated brilliant lady who raised three brave and talented daughters.

Florence Lilian Carré Newitt 1967

What I’ve discovered is that perhaps by writing this and in tracing my family tree I am getting to know her better now. Taking the time to remember and learn about her life and journey. I remember that we used to say “Granny Newitt and I knew it too.” She surely had an amazing story to tell.

I mentioned Granny Newitt lived a very long life, she passed away in 1980 at 102 years old!

Carré Brothers

Carré Brothers

My Great Great Grandparents, Arthur Augustus Carré and Florence (nee Heath) had nine children in total, among them were 6 sons and 3 daughters. Two of their sons had died before the war even began. Tragically, three more of their boys were killed during what would be one of the deadliest conflicts in history, the First World War.

Maurice Tennant Carré (1885-1915)

Maurice Tennant Carré was born on the 3rd of August 1885 in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. In 1914 he joined the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Australian Infantry.

Enlisted in the Australian Military Forces in the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade on 8th October 1914

I’m curious how it was that he came to be in Australia in the first place. It’s also interesting to note that on the enlistment papers he lists his profession as a motor mechanic.

He was killed in action in during the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey on September 2, 1915. He was 30 years old.

Private Maurice Tennant Carré now rests at the Shrapnel Valley Cemetery in Gallipoli.

Gilbert Trenchard Carré (1891-1917)

Gilbert Trenchard Carré was born in Dorset, England on December 12th, 1891. He also had a twin brother named Meyrick Heath Carré. They were the seventh & eighth of nine children in the Carré family.

Captain Gilbert Trenchard Carré

In his early twenties he enlisted as a rifleman in 1914. He became a Captain with the 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment, later the 9th Battalion. He was killed in action by a German sniper at Lateau Wood on the first day of the Battle of Cambrai in France on November 20th, 1917. He was 25 years old.

Lieutenant Gilbert Trenchard Carré is buried at Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery in Villers-Plouich, France

Gilbert’s twin brother Meyrick Heath Carré also served in the Royal West Kent Regiment and was lucky to have lived to be 82 years old. He was the only son of the Carré family to have survived past the Great War.

Edward Mervyn Carré (1894-1916)

Edward Mervyn Carré was born in Dorset, England on February 5th, 1894. He was the youngest of nine children. He became a Lieutenant in the 8th battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and pilot in the 15th Squadron Royal Flying Corps.

He was killed in action at the young age of 22 in Hébuterne, Pas-de-Calais, France on October 16th, 1916. He was gunned down by the German Ace Oswald Boelcke, who as fate would have it died in a crash landing after a mid-air collision only 12 days later.

German Ace Oswald Boelcke
Lieutenant Edward Mervyn Carré at the Hebuterne Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Memorial in Lychett Matravers with the Carré Brothers listed
Immigration to Canada

Immigration to Canada

I’ve often wondered exactly how it is that my family found their way here to Canada.

My direct line of ancestors hasn’t been in Canada for very long at all really, particularly my dad’s side of the family. Grandma and Grandpa Apps came over from England, in 1947… directly after World War II. I can only imagine what life had been like for them, after losing countless friends and loved ones in both WWI & WWII. They must have wanted to move someplace far away from the horrors that they saw and lived through.

Some years ago I was able to find my grandparents names on the ship manifest (see below).

The Apps family comes to Canada via the Steamship Line CUNARD WHITE STAR LIMITED
  • Name of Ship : “Aquitania”
  • Date of Departure : 10th March 1947
  • Steamship Line : Cunard White Star Limited
  • Where Bound : Halifax
  • Embarked at the Port of Southampton
  • 1,396 souls aboard

One of the wonderful things about researching your own family history, is that you learn so much more than what you thought you would. In finding out the name of the ship that my Grandparents came to Canada aboard, I became interested in the Aquitania and dug a little deeper. A quick search on YouTube gave me an idea of what a voyage would have been like for my Grandparents aboard this ship.

  •  the Aquitania was in service from 1914 – 1950
  • her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York was on May 30th, 1914 (the DAY AFTER the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland where 1,012 lives were lost!)
  • during World War I, she served as both troop transport and a hospital ship (see below photograph)
  • she returned to passenger service in 1920
  • during the Second World War and until 1947, she served once again as a troop transport. She was used to bring home Canadian soldiers from Europe
  • after the war, she transported migrants to Canada (including my grandparents)

Aquitania was retired from service in 1949 and was scrapped the very next year. Having served as a passenger ship for 36 years, she was sent rather ironically to Faslane, Scotland to be dismantled. (The ironic part of that in my family’s story is that if you read my previous post “The Abandoned Mansion” you will see that Faslane is directly across the street from where my Grandmother grew up at the Shandon House.)

I feel very lucky to say that I grew up in Canada. I suppose I am a second generation Canadian. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa, for embarking on the voyage across the ocean…

I suppose then..unless you are First Nations, we are all immigrants.
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”.