Monday, December 7, 2009

A Little Little


On Saturday, June 16th, 1928, a young woman named Agnes Little boarded the "Regina" in the Port of Greenock, Scotland. The ship was owned and operated by the White Star Lines, the same company that had built, and lost, the infamous "Titanic." The "Regina" was a large steamship, capable of accommodating almost 2,500 passengers along with almost 300 crew members.

Agnes, whose occupation was listed as a 'domestic,' was part of a Salvation Army Party, organized to take young immigrants to Canada. These groups, now considered quite controversial, had years earlier consisted mainly of young boys sent to Canada where they had a chance to gain 'farming experience' whereas the reality was often one of providing free or, at best, cheap labour. By the time Agnes was boarding the ship bound for Canada, emigration through this program had slowed. By 1939, it ceased altogether with the outbreak of war.

Agnes, a petite four feet, ten inches, had left her parents, James and Margaret Little, her three brothers, little sister Jenny, and the only home she had known at 26 Sir Michael Street in Greenock, to travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada where she hoped she would find employment as a "Ward Maid."

As a British subject, there would be no immigration application required and she already had arranged for a place to stay - the Salvation Army Hostel in Toronto. She had money to help her settle in the far away land she had never seen before - the large sum of $10.00. Agnes had also been given the name of a Scottish family to look up once she had arrived in Toronto - the Haddens.

Shortly after she arrived in Canada on June 23rd, 1928, Agnes did contact the Hadden family and enjoyed the support that was offered to her by the family members, who themselves were recent immigrants, having arrived in Toronto only the year before after four years working a prairie homestead. Agnes was able to find work and a place of her own to call home, a flat at 44 MacPherson Avenue near downtown Toronto. She also started dating the youngest son in the Hadden family, John.

Agnes (pictured above right) married John in 1929 and the following year, they welcomed their first of four children into the world, a son they named Lewis.

I remember visiting my grandmother Agnes, or Granny as I called her. She was already suffering from the effects of cancer when I was a young boy but she somehow was always able to muster up enough strength to entertain and play with me. The cancer finally prevailed and Agnes passed away on November 18, 1958 at the age of 50. Though she called Canada home, she will always be remembered for proudly proclaiming her Scottish heritage through the words, "My tongue is my passport."

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