A HISTORY of the COLGAN/HIGGINS and WHITE FAMILIES
On October 17, 1869, a wedding took place at St. John’s Anglican Church in Liverpool, England. Miles Colgan (stepfather named Higgins), the son of John Colgan, an Irish sailor, married Annie White, the daughter of a schoolmaster, James White of Crecrin, Clonmore, County Wicklow, Ireland. The witnesses to the marriage were Joseph W. Clapp and Sarah Rooney. Miles gave his address at the time of his marriage as: Ship Tecumseh, Victoria Docks, Liverpool (a ship registered in Boston) and his age as thirty-two. Annie’s age on the marriage certificate was given as twenty-six. The certificate states they were married by License rather than by banns, a means of speeding the process, or of marrying in a church that was not your own parish.
Annie White was baptized May 7, 1843 in the civil parish of Crecrin, in the townland of Ballyconnell/Crecrin, parish of Clonmore, County Wicklow, to James White/Whyte and Anne Lennon/Lennen sponsored by Pat Lennon and Bess Breen/Byrne (rootsireland website). The 1871 British census----when she was lodging with another mariner and his wife in Liverpool----confirms that Annie Higgins was born in County Wicklow, Ireland. In Griffith’s Valuations of 1865 a James White was living in Crecrin parish, Wicklow. According to Lewis’s 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Crecrin possessed a Catholic Chapel and a national school, probably where James White taught.
Annie’s parents James White and Ann Lennen/Lennnon were married at Crecrin, Wicklow September, 10, 1838 (rootsireland). The witnesses were Edward Bryan(Byrne) and Nessey Lennen. James White was baptized, April 18, 1815 to Tom White and Bess Summers (sponsors James Byrne and Mary Doyle) in Ballingate, parish of Carnew, Wicklow. Anne Lennon, daughter of John Lennon and Hester Byrne, was baptized February 1, 1820 in Corbalis, Rathdrum, Wicklow (sponsors Mike Lennon and Mary Gaffanay). No parents have been found for Tom White, or Michael Byrne. However, Hester Byrne was baptised to parents, Michael and Frances Byrne on March 26, 1804 in Tinhely, Killaveney, Wicklow sponsored by Michael Mernagh and Honor Byrne.
James White and Anne Lennon had six children including Annie who were all baptised in Ballyconnell, Clonmore. The others were John born August, 1839, Biddy, 1841, James, 1845, Maria, 1848 and Patrick, 1850.
Miles Colgan/Higgins was born circa 1835-1839 in Ireland. This line remains to be proven. The closest possibility is a Honora Higgins (born c. 1797 in Ireland) married to a retired Irish foot soldier and Chelsea Pensioner named Patrick Higgins. They lived in Liverpool at 10 North Street in Gregory Court in the 1841 census with a son, Miles aged 6. By 1851 they were boarding house keepers in Fontleroy Street, Liverpool, but Miles was no longer with them. By then he would have been of an age to go to sea.
According to family documents, Miles and Annie Higgins were living at 56 Latimer Street, Liverpool, County of Lancashire in the 1870s. They were at this time using the surname, Higgins, even on official documents. The couple had five children: Agnes Emily, born circa 1871, George W (W. possibly standing for White), born June 29, 1873, Florence (Florrie), born June 15, 1875, Joseph, born circa 1883, and Annie Amelia born May 26, 1879. Miles remained an able seamen. The first child, Agnes Emily died circa 1874. It is reported that she fell down the stairs, but the whole story is not known. This must have been a tragic blow for Annie, especially since she spent so much time alone with the children while Miles was at sea. Even when home, Miles who was as fond of his rum as most sailors often arrived home the worse for wear, so his presence wasn’t always comforting.
The eldest son of Annie and Miles, George Higgins, following the family tradition, ran away to sea as a cabin boy at the age of fifteen. His letters to his mother, written from the SS Nova Scotian tell a woeful tale of homesickness, and of the terrible miseries of the inglorious life in the “glory hole”. In a letter written April 30, 1888 George writes to his Mother, “ You could hardly believe how miserable I have been ever since I left home. It just shows that people who think they know more than people older than themselves, come to find their mistakes. As the Captain says, the sea looks very well ... in books; but when you come to the real thing it is different”. His mother, Annie, writes from 43 Smith St., Kirkdale on April 22, 1888, “I am sorry you are so sick ... If you are spared to come home to me I will put you to a trade. If you had a good father you would be in a very different position to cabin boy”. Later Annie writes, “be careful who you go ashore with and take no heed of them that curse & swear always remember that God is a silent listener and avoid bad language. .... Joseph, Annie and Maggie[probably a neighbour] send their love to you”. On May 13, 1888, George writes from the SS Nova Scotian in Baltimore, “ I received your’s and Florries letters yesterday, and it made me cry to read it. All through [because of] that man telling them I was a Catholic they would not tell me how to wait on the Captain properly. Then they began talking about my clothes”. The SS Nova Scotian, a ship of the Allan Line, travelled mainly between Liverpool and Halifax, stopping occasionally at St. John’s Newfoundland, or continuing to Baltimore.
In 1881, according to the British census of that year, Annie and the two girls lived at 43 Smith Street in Kirkdale, Lancashire, an area north of Liverpool proper which was neither a slum nor an affluent area. Kirkdale is the area to the north of Annie’s former home of Everton. At that time Annie Amelia and Florence were attending St. John Catholic School in Kirkdale, which was next door to St. John’s Catholic Church on Fountains Road in Kirkdale. In 1891 they were at 75 Foley Street in Kirkdale (around the corner from Smith Street) and owned a grocery business there. Annie was running the store with the help of her son George then eighteen. Florence was a dressmaker at that time. Annie Amelia and Joseph were still in school. They even had a servant living there. Annie’s wish to get George into trade came true, at least, for a short time. By 1894 a Mary Ann Bark was in charge of the business on Foley Street.
Family memory has always believed that Miles died on his maiden voyage as a ship’s captain. In truth (certificate of death) Miles died April 29,1890 in Boston while serving on the SS Cephalonia as an Able Seaman. He is, reportedly, buried in a Boston cemetery, but he may have been send back to England. His widow, Annie, died in Liverpool on March 8, 1892, at age forty-five from bronchitis. Both Annie and her baby daughter, Agnes Emily, are buried in Lot. #599, Section 2, in the Catholic Ground of the Liverpool Cemetery, Anfield Park. he Funeral Directors were John Waugh & Sons, and the funeral was arranged by her son, George Higgins. It is believed that a neighbour, possibly called Aunt Lizzie and/or Maggie, took in the young children, and that Annie Amelia apprenticed in a bakery and pastry shop. Later, Annie Amelia was employed as a domestic servant for the family of Tom and Margaret(nee Thomas) Tickle (1901 census) in Formby. During this time, Annie fell in love with Margaret’s youngest brother, William Alexander Thomas, who lived nearby and worked in the Tickle’s grocery store. William and Annie were married in Our Lady of Compassion Church, Formby, Lancashire, on August 18, 1903 (see the Thomas/Lovelady history).
Annie Amelia and William Alexander Thomas lived for several years at 2 Queen Street in the village of Formby near Liverpool, where William worked in the grocery store run by his brother-in-law, Thomas Tickle. Their house was within a mile of the Irish sea. Four children were born to the couple while they were living in Formby: Florence Margaret Mary, born Aug. 1, 1904, Jean Frances Mary, born June 1, 1906, Alexander Joseph, born May 31, 1908, and Ruth Margaret Mary, born July 21, 1910. Florence and Jean attended Freshfield Convent for girls which was just outside Formby. Alex always remembered being pecked by the chickens in the side yard of their house there. However, because Annie was from a different class than William, she suffered the effects of class distinction, and, eventually, she convinced him to follow the lead of some of his friends, such as George Formby, and try his luck “in the Colonies” where their children would have better opportunities.
William Thomas went ahead alone to Canada, in 1911 to find work. Anne followed in September 1912 with the children, the youngest, Ruth, being just a toddler at the time. It is probable that they were met by William in Smith Falls, Ontario, to where they had travelled after docking in Montreal. To her great relief, Annie found no wild Indians in the Ottawa area. She was also surprised to discover that real furniture, not just wooden crates, was easily available there. Indeed, Ottawa turned out to be a reasonably civilized place. However, one distressing thing occurred during the Armistice parade after WWI, when William became so carried away with the exuberance of the occasion, that he gave away to some other merrymakers the copper pot lids he was using as noise makers. These precious lids had travelled all the way from England with their matching pots, and their loss was deeply felt by Annie since they were very difficult to replace.
The only living sister of Annie, Florence Higgins, was a dressmaker, also living in Formby in 1901 where she resided with an older Irish widow, May Ryan. Florence came to Canada either with Annie, or shortly after. Florence Higgins spent several years in Ottawa, working as a nurse at the General Hospital during WWI, and later, as a nanny for the Scott family, as well as, for the family of Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, both of whom lived in the posh area of Sandy Hill. She travelled back and forth to England a few times until the 1930’s, when she decided to remain in Lancashire, England, where she died circa 1960 and is buried. On one return trip to England in 1930s, Florence wrote to Annie in Canada, saying that she now found the Lancashire winters harder to take than those in Ottawa. It is believed that George and Joseph Higgins also travelled and might have settled in Newfoundland and/or Australia. As previously mentioned, George had been for a short time a seaman on a ship that stopped regularly in Halifax and sometimes, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. There is also a suggestion (Alex’ memoirs) that they might have worked in Wild West Shows and/or circuses in the States with the Great Sandow, a renowned performing weightlifter. However, family stories are only stories until proven.
William spend his first year in Canada selling soap door-to-door in the Maritimes. After moving to Ottawa, he found work with H.N. Bates & Co. Hardware store. A short time later, he began working for Bryson, Grahams’ Hardware store on Sparks Street, and in the early 1920’s started to work for Devlin’s Department store also on Sparks Street, where he remained as delivery manager until he retired around the late 1940’s. Three more children were born to Anne and William Thomas after they came to Canada: Robert Joseph (Roy) born September 21, 1913, Margaret Mary (Peg) born November 12, 1915, and the baby, Herbert Percival Joseph (Herval) born December 12, 1917.
The family moved many times in the next thirty years within the Centretown area of Ottawa. In 1912, after a few uncomfortable months in a small flat at Bank and Lewis Streets, they moved to 119 Drummond Street in Ottawa East near the Rideau Canal. There they had electric light, although most of the time the blown fuses were replaced by coins. The children enjoyed watching the Wanakewan, a steamboat travelling along the canal in a daily run to Kingston, which blew its whistle each time it passed. At that time their were still two ferries operating across the Rideau Canal near Ottawa East and there was also a small wooden footbridge, which Annie and the children regularly crossed in their frequent walks to the Ottawa Carnegie Library. Alex and Jean were such avid readers that they were often quizzed by Carnegie librarians who could not believe the children had consumed so many tomes in such short intervals.
They moved to 180 Turner Street (later renamed Cambridge) close to the Glebe area in May 1916. William rode a bicycle to work on what were, in that era, still dusty unpaved streets. At this time, they lived close to their friends from Formby, George and Agnes Formby, who had preceded William and Anne to Ottawa. Florence and Jean attended Youville Convent on Bruyiere Street during this time. The family owned the house on Turner Street, but since it was during the shortages of the first World War they found home-owning very expensive. In the early 1920’s, the Thomas family relocated to a rental house at 192 Somerset Street East, in Sandy Hill, where they remained for five or six years. It was during this period that the Thomas family began summering in Britannia Bay, where they rented and eventually bought a cottage on Park Street (later 313 Greenview Avenue, Ottawa) across from Britannia Park around 1924. In the middle twenties, after a one year interval on Florence Street, the Thomases moved to 22 Waverley Street. During the 1930’s they lived for awhile at 142 Cartier Street.
In his informal memoirs Alex remembers, “One of my most idyllic memories is of Saturday morning walks to the Carnegie Library ... on a clear, cool day after new snow in the night. ... The streets would be alive with the song of sleigh bells, from the ponderous tolling of the single bell on the collar of a coal-horse or double bob sleigh of lumber, ... through the higher notes of strings of smaller spherical bells on the lighter deliveries, to the high-pitched jingle of a smart cutter being driven hard. The wild jumble of notes of every pitch, every tempo from plodding to racing went on the whole way, coming on the frosty air like angel harps. This music has gone forever in this country, but perhaps still goes on in Heaven.”
The elder Thomas children spent their high school years at Lisgar Collegiate. Margaret, however, was one of the first students at the newly-opened Immaculata Catholic High School for girls, and Herval went to St. Patrick’s High School for boys. Several members of the family were active in amateur theatre in Ottawa, especially Jean and Alex. All of the family were musical in some way. Annie’s mother, Annie White, had been a piano teacher in Liverpool and therefore, she considered music a high priority in her family’s education. The mixed sounds (cacophony perhaps) of Peg’s piano, Roy and Jeans’ violins, Alex’ accordion and Herv’s clarinet, accompanied by Ruth’s melodious singing voice, were a part of every day life in the hectic Thomas household. Herval and his clarinet played in a band at Queens University for awhile. The high-strung Thomas youths were often given to loud arguments -- a favourite family tale tells of the time they were arguing about who should slice the bread. It was on a summer day with all windows wide open, and a total stranger walked in off the street to settle the argument announcing that he would “cut the bread”. Eventually Annie encouraged the children to read at the table to forestall further arguments.
During the Second World War, the Thomas’ lived at 128 Lewis Street where they took in service men boarders. Roy Thomas joined the Royal Canadian Navy at the start of the War, in fact he enlisted on September 1, 1939 the same day that war was declared, even though at the time he was visiting a girlfriend in Hamilton. Roy served on Corvettes (submarine detectors) as a sonar operator. One of his ships was the HMCS Saskatoon. He served mainly in the North Atlantic, but travelled as far as Bermuda and the Bay of Biscay, as well as, Lapland and Mermansk. After VE Day Roy re-enlisted to fight in the Pacific, although he never saw action there. Another of Roy’s ports of call was Liverpool, so he got to know some of the relatives there. At Christmas 1945 Roy sent a package of precious currants from Canada to a Liverpool cousin, which was very gratefully received according to a letter written to Roy from his cousin Madge Tickle. During five years of wartime service he sustained nothing more than a broken finger, although several times his orders were changed at the last minute removing him from the crew of a ship which sank on its next voyage. Undoubtedly, Annie had been praying very hard back on the home front, in addition to knitting socks in her knitting circles.
Herval Thomas, after completing his B.S.C. at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941. He was a navigator in a bomber taking part in the devastating bombing raids over Germany. Because he was stationed in England, he had the opportunity to become well-acquainted with his relatives in Formby. He grew a wartime moustache which seems to have been something of a family joke. Family photo albums are filled with pictures of Herval and his moustache in bombed-out London and in the mess halls with his fellow air force buddies. The war took a heavy emotional toll on Herval, who suffered what would now be termed post-traumatic stress syndrome, and he died June 8, 1963 at age forty-four, after many years of wrestling with a drinking problem.
On October 11, 1937, Ruth Margaret Thomas married Brendan (Ken) Kenalty from Sherbrooke, Quebec. Alex married Dorothy Mills of Winnipeg on November 30, 1940, and on June 15, 1943, Jean married Edward McEvoy, a botanist with the Canadian Department of Agriculture. All three couples were married in Saint Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Ottawa. Also in 1943, on July 30, Margaret (Peg) married Lionel Guimond, a French Canadian from Montreal, in a double ceremony with Lionel’s sister Marie and her husband, Roger Neveu. These two latter couples were married in St. Bonaventure, a small Catholic chapel in the woods of Britannia Village, and soon after, Peg and Lionel moved to Montreal.
Florence Margaret Mary, the eldest and an accomplished pianist, taught at the Ottawa Conservatory of Music. It was a familiar sight in the neighbourhood to see Flo riding a large bicycle covered with long white gloves. After only a short time teaching, she gave up music to study nursing at Cooley-Dickinson Hospital in Northhampton, Massachusetts, believing that her musical talents would be useful in helping the sick, particularly the mentally ill. Following her graduation, Florence worked in Toronto at the Ontario Hospital, 999 Queen Street. Later, she took a post-graduate course in psychiatric nursing at the Ontario Hospital, Whitby, where she became an instructress in 1933. In 1940 she took up the position of superintendent of nurses at the Ontario Hospital in London, Ontario, where she lived on Calgary Street. She continued riding her bicycle until the 1940’s when she had a collision with a car near London.
In the spring of 1956, Florence married George Stevenson, the chief Psychiatrist at the Ontario Hospital. George had been separated for some time from his wife and three children, and after the premature death of his daughter in the 1950’s he divorced his former wife. Florence returned from an extended trip to Italy and she and George were married in Reno, Nevada. They moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where they remained until 1971, when George suffered a stroke on a trip to India, attempting to climb the walls of the Taj Majal (he had arrived after closing time). They returned to Ottawa, Canada for awhile, and then moved to a nursing home in St. Petersburg, Florida. George died in St. Petersburg around 1978. Florence lived for awhile in a small house in St. Petersburg where she died alone on May 28, 1987. She is buried with George in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, where George at one time lived, and where his daughter is buried.
The second child, Jean Frances Thomas, attended the Ottawa Normal School where she received her teaching certificate in 1914. She then taught for five years, but upon earning her permanent certificate, she resigned from teaching and went to work as an assistant archivist at the Dominion Archives in Ottawa. She remained in that position until shortly after her marriage to Edward McEvoy in 1943. Edward owned a converted cottage at 2682 Violet Street in Britannia Bay, where they lived for almost forty years. Their daughter, Joan Frances, was born December 3, 1945, when Jean was 40 years old. There were two miscarriages, but no other children. In 1967 Edward retired from his job as a plant research scientist at the Experimental Farm, and the couple began wintering in Delray Beach, Florida. After Edward broke his hip in 1980, they sold the Britannia house, and moved to a nearby apartment. Edward died February 15, 1987, and after less than two years, Jean died of cancer October 15, 1989 at age eighty-three. They are buried together in Our Lady of the Visitation Cemetery in South Gloucester, Ottawa in the McEvoy family plot.
After their marriage in 1939,Alex (Alexander Joseph) Thomas and his wife, Dot (Dorothy) Mills, lived at 448A Riverdale Avenue in Ottawa South. Alex and Dot had met at Britannia where Dot and some friends had rented a summer cottage. Dot was the daughter of Fred Mills, probably a British Home child sent by a charity organization to Canada to Russell Manitoba around 1896, and Maggie McAndrews, an adult British immigrant. Dot was only twenty when she met Alex (eleven years her senior), and newly-arrived from hard-hit, depression Winnipeg working at her first job in the Federal Civil Service. They married only a few months after they met. A daughter, Gwynneth Lovelady (Lovelady was the surname of the mother of William Thomas), was born to them on April 2, 1945, and a son, Christopher Alexander, on January 27, 1949. In 1959, they moved to 97 Marlowe Crescent in Ottawa East.
Alex was a teacher at a business college and a bookkeeper/auditor who worked primarily for Armstrong Cross. Alex had many hobbies, such as, wine-making and chess. At one point during the sixties, he belonged to a chess club which included diplomats from the Russian embassy (a somewhat risky endeavour during the Kruschev era). Alex, like his father before him, rode a bicycle to work, even though at that period it was very unusual for an adult to ride a bicycle. In 1937 Alex had taken a motorcycle trip around England visiting family. After Alex’ retirement in the 1970’s, he and Dot spent many winters in a mobile home in Port Ste. Lucie, Florida. For the summers spent in Ottawa, they owned a condo apartment on Ambleside Drive, Ottawa. Alex died of cancer on April 25, 1993, at age 83. He was also suffering from a form of Alzheimer’s Disease. His wife, Dorothy, survived one bout of cancer in the 1980’s, but died of cancer November 1, 1993, a few months after her husband’s death. They are both interred at Hope Roman Catholic Cemetery in Ottawa.
Ruth Margaret Thomas, the fourth child of Anne and William, and her husband, Brendan (Ken) Kenalty (son of John Kenalty and Bridget Weldon of Sherbrooke, Quebec), remained in Ottawa for several years after their marriage, spending the summers in Britannia. Their first son, Brendan Jr. was born in Ottawa on September 4, 1942, as was their second son, Kevin Thomas Kenalty, on March 21, 1945. During the later years of WWII, Ken, a chemist with the National Research Council, was sent overseas to help set up laundries for the allied troops in Europe after the invasion of Normandy. In late 1945, the family moved to Toronto, where Ken worked for Standard Chemicals, and later, for McGoen Chemicals until 1963, when he started his own laundry supply business, Kenalty Industries. Their third son, Christopher Paul, was born in Toronto on June 21, 1949. The Kenalty’s residence in Toronto remained at 8 Delavan Avenue in the Forest Hill area for over thirty years. Ruth and Ken were very active in Holy Rosary Catholic Church for many years. In the late 1970’s they began spending the winters in Port Ste. Lucie, Florida in the same development where Alex and Dot lived. It was at their home in Florida that Ken died of a heart attack on April 5, 1983. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto. Ruth lived for the next fifteen years in an apartment in Rosedale, Toronto before moving into Belmont Retirement Home in Toronto. She passed away November 4, 2008 and has joined her husband at Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto. Kenalty Industries was dissolved in 1997, but Ken’s son Chris kept his hand in various enterprises connected with hospital supplies, in particular the marketing of an ingenious device for the quick evacuation of patients.
Following the Second World War, Anne and William’s fifth child, Roy (Robert Joseph) Thomas, studied at the newly-established Carleton College in Ottawa, receiving his BA in 1951. He then took two years off to recover from post-war stress during which time he worked in a lumber camp. In 1953 he received his Masters of Library Science from the University of Toronto. He then worked in various libraries in southwestern Ontario, including London and Sarnia where he ran a bookmobile library. During this time he met and married Helen Gilbank, a teacher from Hamilton. They were married in Sarnia, on February 20, 1956, at the Central United Church. While they were living in London, Ontario, their first child, David Alexander, was born October 29, 1956, and their daughter Shirley Margaret on June 30, 1958.
In 1959 Roy and his family moved to the United States. Their first stop was Concord, New Hampshire. From there they went to Rutland, Vermont in 1961, Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1963, and finally, in 1968 they moved to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where Roy’s widow lived for some years after. For many years Roy had suffered from emphysema as a result of heavy smoking, and shortly after their last move, he died from it at the age of 56. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Pleasant Protestant Cemetery. After Roy’s death, his wife Helen Thomas, a school librarian worked for two years in Kuwait, and for many years following in an International School in Germany. She returned to North America once or twice a year to visit family, and used her other school breaks to see the world. These trips took her from Africa to Greece, Italy and Russia. Helen retired in 2002 and lived for ten years in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Presently, she resides in the Aldersgate Retirement Home in Charlotte, NC near her daughter who lives in Lexington, SC.
The sixth child of Anne and William, Margaret Mary (Peg) Thomas, and her husband, Lionel Guimond, lived in various parts of Montreal, including Dorval. When his work with the Wartime Prices and Trade Board ended, Lionel worked for awhile in the lumber camps in Northern Quebec as a change from office work and because of an interest in the work of the unions in these camps. Peg worked at a variety of jobs in Montreal for such companies as Robin Hood Flour and became very fluent in French. Lionel acquired his teaching certificate, and then taught elementary school for several years, while studying at the University of Montreal where he received a P.H.D. in French Canadian history. In 1961 Peg and Lionel moved to Ottawa where Lionel taught French Canadian history at the University of Ottawa and Peg worked for Statistics Canada.
To all their young nieces and nephews, Peg and Lionel were comparatively fun “cool” people. As a young couple they often bicycled from Montreal to Ottawa. Later, when they lived in Hull atop a large hill, Lionel built a long exciting toboggan slide down the slope for the amusement of his nieces and nephews, whom they also took skiing at Lac des Fees near the Gatineau Park and often hiked through the many interesting paths of the Park, or climbed among the ruins of McKenzie King’s “Moorside” Estate. These events often occurred while the parents were home preparing special festive meals. These were fun events. However, with the family Peg tended to argue a lot with her siblings who were fond of arguments even to the point of her walking out in the middle of dinner to be later pacified by Lionel.
In 1965 they built a house in the Mont Bleu area of Hull. Soon after, Lionel developed Hodgkin’s disease, and died January 5, 1869, at age 52. His body was left to the University, and his remains buried at Pincrest Cemetery in Ottawa, in a communal plot. Peg remained at 28 Normandy Street in Hull for 30 years as a widow, before residing 10 years at the Foyer du Bonheur nursing home in Hull, Quebec. Margaret passed away December 20, 2014 at age 99 and is to be interred at Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa in her parent’s family plot .
The youngest child of Anne and William Thomas, Herval (Herbert Percival) Thomas, after the war, continued his studies and received his M.S.C. from Queens University in 1946, and his doctorate of Chemistry from Notre Dame University in Indiana, in 1950. He worked for awhile for the Canadian Defense Research Project in Valleyfield, Quebec, and then moved to Goderich, Ontario. Herval never married. In Goderich he worked for Sifto Salt, of Domtar Chemicals, and was active in the Royal Canadian Legion in that town. In the spring of 1963, Herval resigned from Sifto Salt for personal reasons. On June 8, 1963 at age 45, while returning home from a conference in Toronto, Herval was killed instantly when the car he was driving at excessive speed swerved into a tree. His body was returned to Ottawa for a funeral at Canadian Martyrs Church followed by burial at Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa.
As for Anne and William, they made their summer cottage in Britannia into their permanent home around the late 1940’s, and remained there until the late 1950s. William enjoyed gardening and lawn bowling during his retirement. Even in his seventies, Will still rolled and cut his own cigarettes on a special board with a long indented slot, that was always a great fascination to visiting grandchildren. He talked, occasionally, about his training on Salisbury Plains in England as a young man in the 3rd VB King’s Liverpool Regiment at the time of the Boer War (the war ended before he was sent to the battle front). Roy’s widow, Helen, remembers him telling her on a visit to his youngest granddaughter, that with all his own seven children he was never aware of Anne’s pregnancies until they became physically obvious -- those were days just barely removed from Victorian times. Anne was active for many years in church groups in Ottawa. She also helped immigrants, including the famous photographers, Yousuf and Malak Karsh, who became good family friends. Yousuf, a tennis buddy of Alex, took many family portraits of the Thomases before he became world famous for his photographic portraits.
On May 10 (Mother’s Day), 1958, Anne suffered a stroke, and died later the same day in the Civic Hospital at the age of seventy-four. She had received messages from all her children the day before. Soon after, William sold the cottage and travelled from Hawaii, to Montreal and Toronto staying with his daughters. He later spend a short time in a nursing home, the Wayside Inn, in Ottawa, where he died of pneumonia on April 8, 1962. Both Anne and William are buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa, along with their son Herval and daughter Peg.
In 1938, William returned home to Lancashire, England on the SS Athenia for a short visit to family and familiar places. Anne, however, never left her new home of Canada, preferring to take a holiday alone in Canada. Many relatives of William still live in England, but it appears that all close relatives of Miles and Annie Higgins reside in Canada (possibly some in Newfoundland, or in Australia).
Compiled and written by Joan McEvoy Rooney, granddaughter of Anne Higgins and William Thomas, and daughter of Jean Thomas McEvoy. September 1999. Revised 2002, 2005 and 2015. Special thanks to Margaret Guimond, Ruth Kenalty, Helen Thomas, and the memoirs of Alex Thomas supplied by his son Chris Thomas.