Category Archives: Family

In loving memory…

Ruth (Neddo) Robertson May 13, 1930 - September 14, 2010

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my mum passed away. I still kick myself for not stopping by the hospital after I did a presentation at the local genealogical society on Home Children but at the time I was certain it would wait until the next night when I would be visiting. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When my mum turned 75, my cousin, Patsy, wrote a poem for her. It was read aloud by the nieces and nephews at the surprise birthday bash I’d arranged at one of our local restaurants. At the end of each verse, the kids all pumped their arms in the air and hollered “Hey, Aunt Ruthie!”

I presided over my mum’s funeral and Patsy, along with her two younger sisters and me, spoke about our memories. At the end of our service, I suggested we give my mum one last “Hey Aunt Ruthie” and everyone in attendance obliged.

The day of the internment, we sent my mum off with a ‘slightly revised’ version of the Tribute to Aunt Ruthie, popped the cork on a bottle of bubbly and played Go Rest High on that Mountain by her favourite country singer, Vince Gill.

This is the revised version of the poem…

When Aunt Ruthie turned 75,
We wrote this little ditty
It’s shorter than “The Highwayman”
But we think it’s kind of pretty.

Our Aunt Ruthie, she’s the best,
Uses you good when you’re her guest
She’s classier than all the rest!

Our Aunt Ruthie, she’s the one,
Has an annual garage sale that’s second to none,
We sell some stuff and have some fun!

She loves all the little creatures,
That can’t fend for themselves.
But George and Laura and the Queen
Can all go straight to hell.

She always has a nice big car
And man this babe can drive.
Just don’t blow your horn behind her
If you want to stay alive.

She keeps her houses sparkly clean,
She’s always on the job.
She likes her tea and bubbly,
And she likes her men called Bob.

Mother, sister, sweetheart, friend,
She’s all of these and more,
And she’s our Aunt Ruthie,
The one we all adore.

Well, Aunt Ruthie, the time has come,
For our little ditty to end.
We wanted you to know what you mean to us,
You really are a Godsend.

So let’s raise a glass to Aunt Ruthie,
Who has shown love and tenderness,
One thing is true and always will be
She’s definitely a Goddess!!!!

Niagara Falls adventure continued…

Unfortunately, seeing a ship pass through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal at St. Catharines wasn’t to be. Still it was a great place to stop, wander around and marvel at the technology of raising and lowering the ships. Athough the signs tell visitors to enter through the main entrance, we were rebels and walked down along the canal to the viewing platform. At the foot of the stairs, this sign caught my attention.

Interesting tidbit of information on display

That’s a lot of bread. We climbed the steps to the top level of the viewing platform. With the exception of the high iron bars to keep folks from climbing over into areas they shouldn’t be in, the views were spectacular.

Looking towards the south and the lift bridge we’d crossed on our way, there were no ships in sight coming through locks 4, 5 and 6 which are in quick succession of each other. All three are at different levels so a ship in any of them would be visible, even if the ship was being lowered for readiness to continue towards Lake Ontario.

Looking towards the lift bridge and locks 4, 5, & 6

Towards the north, the Garden City Skyway crosses the canal at a level high enough that the ships can pass under it. No lift bridges of any form needed that snarl vehicular traffic to allow the ships passage. The trouble with the height of the skyway is, on a windy day it can be quite the scary experience to drive over it.

Looking towards the Garden City Skyway

Inside the Welland Canal Centre, there are many items on display on the second level including a liftbridge model, Algoma Central Corporation’s ship Algoway.

Down on the main level, they have a model of lock 3. The only thing missing from it is the viewing platform.

Lock 3 model

Within the grounds at the Welland Canal Centre, there are a number of anchors and other shipping paraphernalia. One of the more interesting is the signpost with the distances from that point to various major locations around the world.

Distance Signpost

There was one more place I wanted to stop before returning to our hotel in Mississauga so we bid farewell to the lock station, disappointed at not seeing a ship but still it was a place our grandson had never been before.

Our next stop was at Jordan Harbour where the two-masted wreck is anchored. The first time I remember seeing it was in October 2005 when we took my friend (visiting from Wales) to see Niagara Falls. From that time on, I wanted to stop and photograph it. On this trip, the light was perfect and so were the shots.

Wreck at Jordan Harbour
Wreck at Jordan Harbour

When we finally got away from here, the traffic heading into the city was picking up. The overhead sign before the Burlington Skyway indicated high winds and drive with caution. The wind buffetted the car the entire trip but a few gusts actually threatened to move the car from one lane to another.

Prior to the interchange for Winston Churchill Blvd, another overhead sign told that the traffic from there on was moving extremely slow. So since our exit was the next one, we got off there and onto the street our hotel was on. We were back in our room before one of the transports we’d seen stuck in the tailback passed by.

After much debate and walking around near the hotel to find a place to eat, we went back to the hotel for the car keys. The plan was Montanas. Not within walking distance but a bit further from our hotel than originally thought. Still, it was worth the drive. Our server “Fred” was fantastic and so was the food! Since we drove, only one of us could drink but from the time it was decided we’d do Montanas, I immediately went into “Virgin Caesar” anticipation.

When it was time to pay the bill, Fred stayed and chatted with us for a bit. The thunderstorm that according to the weather network would pass through that night was beginning to put on the light show. Fred told us that Toronto was under a tornado watch.

The rain was just starting when we went back to the car and by the time we got back to the hotel about 9:00 was coming down steadily. Up in our room, we turned on CP24 and watched the news. Mississauga, where we were staying had been upgraded to a tornado warning. The lightning displays outside our room were phenomenal and much better when we turned off the one bedside lamp.

Thursday morning before leaving the hotel, I checked CP24’s website for updates on the previous night’s storm. I’ve included the link to that page. If you scroll down, there are a number of pictures of the lightning strikes.

Yet another Niagara Falls adventure…

We had decided earlier in the summer that we would take our oldest grandchild, Andy, off to Niagara Falls for a bit of fun. But, to add to the fun and toss in some mystery, we didn’t tell him where we were going… stinkers, aren’t we?

I booked us into a mini-suite at the Holiday Inn near the QEW in Mississauga for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. A nice room but not nearly as nice as the one we had there back in June when I attended a writing workshop. Enough digression…

Wednesday morning after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we headed off to Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, as you age the need to skip to the loo becomes paramount. This became a moment in time I’d rather hadn’t happened but it did. Of all the times since buying my digital SLR camera in March and taken it places… including hanging it on the hook on the stall doors in the public loos, this time it fell off and crashed onto the floor. I thought for sure it was done and came out to join the others with a face on me like a smacked backside and relayed my tale of woe.

Determined to make the best of things, we bought a pass to four attractions – Journey Beneath the Falls, Niagara Fury, Maid of the Mist and the Whitewater Walk. We could do beneath the falls and the maid anytime we wanted because they’re based on first come first served but the other two we had to have scheduled appointments. Niagara Fury had been booked at noon and the walk at 5:00 pm. Since we were there, we decided to go under and behind the falls first.

Andy and my husband, Don, in one of the portals behind the falls

Even though I’ve done the Journey Beneath the Falls many times, I never tire of it. It’s even more fun when you’ve got someone with you who’s never done it before! Down here where it is SO wet, I pulled out my wee “workhorse” digital camera. If one was going to get waterlogged, this was the one of choice… and trust me, it got soaked! It’s wet enough beneath the falls at the best of times but the wind blew the thundering water towards us in sheets!

Looking towards the American Falls and Rainbow Bridge from the lower viewing platform
Looking towards Horseshoe Falls
What we won't do for a photo!

This poor goose was oblivious to everyone and everything around him. He was more intent on feeding his face. I’m not sure how long he’d been perched on this bit of ledge but he was soaked, so much so, that there was no way he could have taken off. He was stuck there until the wind whipped the water in a different direction and he could dry himself out.

An extremely soggy Canada Goose beside the lower viewing platform
Andy below the falls

After this picture was taken, we went up one level but the water thundering over the falls was far worse. We stopped briefly to read one of the posters on a locked door in an alcove along the tunnel and I decided I’d scoot back down to the lower viewing platform to get a picture of the “cave” from the outside. I got a touch sidetracked but got the shot I was after.

Maid of the Mist below the falls
The "cave" opening in the rocks

After a complete and thorough soaking, we headed back inside for the noon showing of Niagara Fury. We were early so I decided to take a few minutes and check on my injured camera. To start with the lens cap was jammed on. When I finally got it off, my UV filter was smashed! Broken glass all over so it was a good thing I was close to a garbage can. Of course, the filter didn’t want to come off either but I finally got it to cooperate. Dumped the glass off my lens, took out my brush and gently removed the small bits that were left behind. Now for the moment of truth… I tried the camera. It acted like yes, it would work but it didn’t. I tried a couple of different things but still no luck. I figured it was garbage. Never to work again.

I didn’t have a lot of time to fiddle at this point because we were being ushered in to the theatre… and handed another rain cape… this one blue. I’d never done Niagara Fury before and assumed it was just a movie so wondered why the need for waterproofing. I soon found out! At the end of the short animated film, we were led into another room – a round one – and onto a platform where we were told to hang on and we would get wet! They weren’t exaggerating. the platform shook, snow fell, then water gushed out of nozzles in the ceiling. A movie screen surrounding the room, showed how the falls were formed. I would have been just as pleased to only be in here and skipped the film.

We’d picked up cheese and crackers and some cold meat the day before for a picnic lunch and had three large bottles of water (as if we’d not taken in enough already) so thought we would go back to the car and have a bite to eat. While on the bridge over the Niagara Parkway, my husband took my camera and tried to see if he could get it working for me. He changed a couple of settings, ended up putting it on manual and turned the F-stop dial and it worked. Something inside must have jammed from the impact of hitting the floor. The main thing was – it worked! It wasn’t another piece of electronic gadgetry for the scrap heap!

The inclined railway was the first thing I photographed after I put the settings back to my usual ones. You have no idea how pleased I was to preview it and see that it turned out!

The Inclined Railway
The pedestrian bridge at Table Rock Centre

I was so thrilled to have my camera in working order again, I composed this shot of the bridge to immortalize where it was resurrected.

We stopped by the car for the cooler and found a nearby picnic table. The first water bottle to come out peed on the leaning picnic table of Niagara, the trail of water headed straight for my camera! I picked it up and moved it in the nick of time. Poor thing had already suffered enough trauma for one day… a lifetime would be more accurate.

Since we had lots of time and could ride the Maid of the Mist at any point, we strolled leisurely through the greenspace along the street until we reached Queen Victoria Park. The formal gardens were awash with the colours of summer flowers and greenery which painted a totally different palette than when I was there at the end of May.

When we reached the koi pond, the water lilies were in bloom… yellow, pale pink, white, and a fuscia shade. Unfortunately, the yobs had tossed empty drink cups and plastic bottles in, ruining the peaceful and pristine atmosphere.

Water lilies in bloom

The fish stayed under the shelter of the huge leaves but when we walked around to the shadier side, they were more active and swam out looking for someone to feed them.

One of the koi out from the shelter of the water lily leaves


Don and Andy beside the koi pond

And yes, Andy is taller than we are but in this photo Don was on the slope leading into the pond and Andy was on level ground above him.

Andy and I beside the koi pond

Even with him standing on the slope and me at the top, he’s still considerably taller than his gran!

We were almost across from the Maid of the Mist docks when we got this far, so quickly headed across the street, past the ticket booths were we flashed our passes and joined the queue waiting patiently to move closer to the boat. Like at Journey Behind the Falls, we had our photo taken against a green background and were given a claim slip so we could “purchase” our photo after the boat ride.

Heading to Horseshoe Falls

I wanted to be on the lower level along the railing at the bow of the boat but as luck would have it, we were the last to get on that particular vessel so it was take what you can get. We ended up at the top of the stairs at the stern. Not too bad a place but being in the middle of the boat, there were a lot of blue rain capes to shoot over, around, etc.

Looking at the people on the lower viewing platform at Journey Beneath the Falls

Shortly before docking, I asked one of the young girls in the group of teenagers near us to take our picture together. I’d photographed them many times with different cameras of theirs, so I thought it was only right to get them to do the same for me.

Don, Andy and me - aka Three Drowned Rats

We did end up buying the picture from here… only because Don thought it would be great fun to have his hand on my boob when it was taken! He wasn’t 100% certain they would even print it but they did.

Don and Andy
Andy and me

We had two more places we wanted to go before returning to Mississauga so passed on the Whitewater Walk. The plan was to stop at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal in St Catharines and with any luck, see a ship pass through the lock (we had caught a glimpse of one on our way to Niagara in the morning going through) and again at Jordan Harbour.

I can tell you we did both of those stops, but I’ll save them for the next blog post.

Honouring the Past

Today would have been my Dad’s 98th birthday. Unfortunately, he didn’t even get to see his 56th. He died on April 29, 1969, three months prior. I was twelve then. My mother was widowed at the age of thirty-nine.

My Dad was one of the thousands of British Home Children sent out to Canada between 1861 and 1938. He, two brothers and one sister came through The Orphan Homes of Scotland between 1922 and 1930.

Unlike so many others, he never hid the fact he was a Home Child and in later years, I’ve done much to honour the memory of those youngsters who came so long ago. I’ve had articles published on the subject, here and in the US. And most recently, a story specifically about him in Leopard Magazine in the UK. He was always modest and never one to toot his own horn so that one would make him uncomfortable, I think. But to me he was special and always will be.

In 2001, I was involved with an exhibit in Glasgow called The Golden Bridge because of my Home Children ties. When I found out my Dad’s story was going to be one of the featured exhibits, I was there.

I’ve honoured him and his memory in other ways, too. My oldest grandson was named after my father. My son’s middle name was my father’s. I’ve set my novels in the area of Scotland where he was born and have spent time in that area. When my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, we renewed our vows in the church at Quarriers Village (formerly The Orphan Homes of Scotland).

I know he’s watching over me. Sometimes, I feel him at my elbow when I’m writing… and with some of the material I’ve written likely quite mortified by it all. But still, I’m doing what I want to do and he’s happy for me for doing it.

As I do every year on Father’s Day and his birthday, I’ll be making the trek to the cemetery to spend some time with him.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Robert A Robertson July 30, 1913 - April 29, 1969

1930 on the steps of Fairknowe Home

This photo was taken on the steps of Fairknowe Home, the receiving home used by The Orphan Homes of Scotland, when my father first came to Canada.

1930 boys party on the steps of Fairknowe Home. My father is on the left side of the second row.

Fairknowe Home still exists but has been converted to flats. This impressive verandah no longer exists but other than that a change in the upstairs dormer and the paint colour, the building still retains much of its original character.

Pictures from World War II

My dad served with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders during the war. Born in Scotland, he came to Canada in 1930 through The Orphan Homes of Scotland and worked on farms in eastern Ontario. He enlisted at the local armouries and soon went overseas.

These two pictures were in a box labelled “pictures for Melanie” that my mother had carefully preserved.

L-R. Unknown, Robert A Robertson (my father)
L-R. Unknown, Robert A Robertson (my father)

There are a couple more photos, one of the two gentlemen who are with my father in these pictures and another one of the “bat man”, Gordon Armstrong, my father drove for. The backs of all of these photos have been stamped Passed by First Cdn Army Film Service.

These pictures are quite small – maybe 2.25 x 1.5 so until I scanned them at a high resolution, it was really difficult to identify the people.

In 1943, my father was granted leave so he could attend his youngest brother’s wedding in Scotland. He wore his kilt for occasion. It wasn’t until long after my dad died that I got a copy of this photo from a family member overseas. I’d never seen my dad in a kilt, even though his Scottish roots were so important to him.

Peter, Robert and Angus Robertson

This picture came to me from a cousin in England. Another picture of my dad in uniform. After reading Harry Leslie Smith’s book, 1923: A Memoir, I always assumed the one photo I had of my father had been taken by the army. After finding this other one, I think my dad did like Harry and had photos done to send to his family.

Another photo of my dad in uniform

I’m proud to say I have my dad’s Glengarry, leather dog tags, and his medals.