Denaby’s Sons in Canada – Emigrants Tale – When 250 Left for Candada

November 1906

Mexborough and Swinton Times November 17, 1906

Yorkshires Sons in Canada.
A Denaby Emigrants Tale.
Interesting Interview.

In a typical Yorkshire miner’s home at 121, Tickill Street, Denaby, Maine I saw this James Walton, on Wednesday. He had just come across from that island of such enchanting scenery and interesting history – Cape Breton, in the north-east of Nova Scotia in Canada. The mission which brought him home to the old country was a sad one. It was the death of his wife whom he had left behind, when with about 250 more he had left Denaby Main last summer to find a new, perchance a better home in our dominions beyond the Seas. He had come back to look after the bairns and he was returning to the scene of the labourers at Hazeby colliery, Nova Scotia, on the following day by boat from Liverpool to Halifax.

The Unsuccessful Ones.

A few of the 250 who went with him to Canada last summer have returned. They are the unsuccessful one; you always find them in every community. They have quickly circulated tales – as the unsuccessful ones always do – in which Canada has been mentioned as a death trap for emigrants; a country where employment is hard to get, where the wages are low, and there in short it is impossible to live. And those tales of the few homesick and unsuccessful ones have been wafted abroad on rumours thousand tongues, gaining in volume and inaccuracy as they go on.

Hence I thought a chat with this emigrant who speaks of the country as he found it, would be interesting and, mark you, a man who had had to bear a sorrow like unto his sorrow, is hardly the one to be enthusiastic. I saw him at the residents of his father-in-law, Mr Richard Wilcox, also a miner. He was preparing for his 13 day voyage to Halifax, and he has only been home a week. About 250, principally workers in the pit, went with him from Denaby during last summer, he said. “A lot of them are sticking it,” was the way he put it; “but there seem to be more of them locked up for trying to break away.”

When Walton got to Nova Scotia, he at once succeeded in securing a position at loading coal, and he subsequently got onto shunting and loading. He is at present working at a colliery at Glazeby, where there are eight other such pits, and is well contended with the position he has got there. “The Canadian colonies,” he says, “seem to do well financially.”

“About the wages?” I queried.

Oh, the men are paid a lot better over there than here,” was a reply. “I got two dollars a day for loading at the start, which is much better wages and are paid over here for the same thing. Then, some of the men are paid 3½ dollars and four dollars per day. Of course they do not all get that, and some of them have to take up inferior positions at the start.”

Employment for all.

“Our older emigrants able to find employment?”

“Yes, all of them find employment. There seems to be a great demand for men, and they are glad to get English men”

“Is the work hard over there,”

“Well, generally speaking, it is about the same as here.”

“And the country, how do you find that?”

“As far as the country is concerned it is all right. All of the men who have gone over appear to have got good health there. Of course, we live in wooden houses, but they are very comfortable and healthy. I like the climate very well, although it is a bit cold at night, I have seen no bad weather since I went out.”

Is living more expensive than in England?”

“Yes, but we get wages to make up for that.”

As to the lighter and more social side of life in Nova Scotia, Mr Walton also speaks well. The emigrants found plenty to amuse and interest them in their leisure hours. But, wherever a number of Englishmen go they usually do that, and since the Treaty of Utrecht, our colonists have founded myriads of happy homes in Nova Scotia, which have flourished so well under the British flag and despite what the disappointed ones say, Englishmen will continue to flourish and be happy there.

The Lighter Side.

As I have said before, Mr Walton speaks of the country as he finds it. Its characteristic features he has not yet had time to study, but he has seen its theatres and its churches, its games and its pastimes, all of which, he says, there a similarity to those in the old country. His interest in skating seems to have been aroused during his stay in Nova Scotia.

Turning again to the subject of work, he pointed out that it was not done exactly on the same scale them as here, although, generally, the same system is employed. Mechanics, for instance, were used to haul away the cars, and there were other slight differences. One thing he complained about was the manner in which the cage rods were kept at this stage decks whilst the men were entering. There were no “fellers” to keep it in position, he said, and so far as he knew there was nothing to prevent it slipping up or down if anything went wrong with the engine valves. This was particularly dangerous when the men were rushing to get into it. He for those responsible should have something done in this connection, or some arrangement made whereby the same precautions would be taken as in England.

However, accidents in the colliery’s at which he worked had been “few and far between.” Since he went out only one accident occurred, in which a man named Laycock from Denaby main – one of the 280 – got injured through a tub mishap

for what class of men is a country better suited?” I asked.

“It is better for lads and men,” was the reply. “The lads get good money.”

“What class of men, principally, are those who have returned?”

The long and short of it

“The long and short of it is, and when a man goes out there he has got to rough it a bit, and the men who have come back have either done so on that account or have become homesick. The few who have returned comprise both married men and youngsters.”

Interposing, Mrs Wilcox told me that they had a young son out there – he was only 18 – and he was “going on grand.” He did not intend to return until his 21st birthday. Another relation of theirs, however, had not gone so well; but she spoke of the one who had prospered with pardonable pride.

A fine looking young woman with a couple of healthy children hanging about her skirts was present during the interview. Her husband, she told me, with some bitterness, had returned from Canada three weeks ago. “He was not homesick.” She said, “for he is one of the best fellows to work that ever lived when he can get work. But he could not get enough over there to keep myself in the bairns at home, and I had to depend on others. Now he is earning enough to keep us here, and I should 10 times rather have him working here.”

Mrs Wilcox, however, pointed out that it was difficult for the men to pay for their board and send home money, as they were paid monthly.

“But he had not the money,” cried the wife of the returned emigrants, with passion. “If I could get hold of the men, who took them out I would put a bullet into him. She admitted, however, that she would have liked to have gone out with her husband, and I should recommend as many of their emigrants has come to take their wives with them. Walton explained that the certificates of fully qualified English miners were not recognised in Canada, and that they had to begin at the beginning again. But for all that, and despite everything that had been said about the country, he had no intention of returning to work in England again.