Sep 10th, 2008 by Andy Funnell
In his book « My Own Brand » published in 1980 (1), the Canadian politician Jack Horner (1927-2004) writes of his wife Leola (née Funnell) and her father, Arthur, who was shipped to Canada, to further the economic interests of the British Empire by working in a pioneer family. This was not an isolated case, as the (old) guestbook leads us to believe. If you can bear witness to this, please use the comments or write to me.
Leola had been born at Oyen, Alberta, and raised in Sunnynook, fifteen miles up the line from where her dad, Arthur Funnell, was a grain buyer for the Alberta Wheat Pool. Arthur was a pleasant, humorous man, and I was amazed when I first heard the story of his background. He had been born in England at the turn of the century [i.e. 20th] and orphaned as a newborn baby. His grandfather and his older sisters (the eldest of whom was only about six years older than he was) had looked after him until he was eight. Then, one day, a welfare group had come round and found his grandfather giving little Artie a pipe to smoke. They concluded that Grandfather wasn’t fit to raise him, so they took little Artie away and shipped him over to Canada. At the same time there were a number of so-called philanthropic homes in England for orphans and neglected children which specialized in shipping their wards off to the far reaches of the Empire. From 1867 to 1912, some sixty thousand children were shipped to Canada, largely to work with farming families. Arthur Funnell was one of those children.
In later life, the only thing he could remember about the trip across the Atlantic was two weeks of bawling on the boat. He was sent to help a pioneer family in Alberta. Then, in the First War, he joined the army and was about to be sent overseas when he broke his leg. So he didn’t get home to see his family.
It seems incredible that teenage men would risk their lives, worse, being maimed for the rest of their days, in the bloodiest most murderous war of all times, for a free ticket home to the UK in the hope of finding their family (2).
As things turned out, it wasn’t until Arthur was in his seventies that he was reunited with his one surviving sister, Gladys. It was unbelievable to me the extent to which they were alike – the same sense of humour, everything – having lived their lives an ocean apart.
Arthur’s daughter Leola was teaching at Rose Lynn, about thirty miles from Pollockville, when I first met her. She had become friendly with my sister Ruth, who was also teaching nearby, and I guess it was Ruth who introduced us at one of the local dances. I wasn’t much of a dancer; Leola was quite splendid. Her dad led one of the local country dance bands. Most important, she liked this country and didn’t mind the idea of having a farmer or rancher for husband.
Things worked out very well for Leola and me, and we were married on April 11, 1950 […]
(1) Photo and quotes (italics) from “My Own Brand by Jack Horner, Hurtig Publishers, Canada, ISBN 8-88830-189-8. There are two photos of Leola (one is a wedding photo) and one of their children. This book is now quite difficult to find, if anyone is interested, drop me a line.
(2) Any contributions welcome.
2 Responses to Arthur Funnell: an orphan shipped to Canada in the interest of the British Empire
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