Aprial 26th. - Sept. 24th 2005
By Anne Oake
My mother, Dorothy (Dolly) Alexander (nee Knowles) was born in Sheringham, County of Norfolk, England on April 26th, 1926. At the young age of 20 she married my father, Richard (Dick) and a year later set sail from England with a young daughter in tow, and another on the way. The seas were rough, many aboard were sea sick, and the journey was long. The War Brides aboard the ship helped each other during the crossing. If one was sick another looked after her child/children until she was back on her feet. The food, though unappetizing, was , she thought, nutritious enough – but she stated with the war and the ravages it wrought , food was a great commodity (they were still on food stamps in England). Her trip took her to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (Pier 21). From Halifax she boarded a train to go to North Sydney, Nova Scotia and then another ferry to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and yet another train to Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland – where she was met by my father and a hired car driven by Mr. Rory Duffy(one of the few cars on the Port au Port Peninsula where Aguathuna - the place they settled- was located) . She also told me that many of the War Brides were not met at their destination, and had to procure their own transportation to other cities or towns - many returned home to their native land then and there Over the years many more returned to stay in their native land!
Even though my father had told Mum about Newfoundland she was in for a shock! She has been a 'bus conductress' back in England and she came to a place that had no public transportation and very few people owned their own vehicle, no indoor plumbing (so a good long soak in the tub was out of the question), very little in the way of amenities - one store that sold everything from food to clothing – known as the Quarry Store, and moved in with Dad's parents as they weren't to have their own home for several years. She persevered though, learning to take care of her children, learning to cook meals in one big pot, knitting mitts, sweaters, and socks for the cold winters, 'turning coats' so they looked new again, using an outhouse, and walking in the snow – all things she had never done before. She told me later in life that the thing she valued most when she first got here were the fresh vegetables she would be able to give her children, as everyone grew their own. Having survived the war in England and the food shortages that it brought, the sight of vegetable gardens there for the picking was a beautiful sight.
Mum gave birth to eleven children, and they were her pride and joy! Her life revolved around them and many children from our little community would join us as we went to the beach and for walks along the dusty roads. I found out later in life that Mum would pretend she was on the beach in Sheringham when she took us there – and we went often. A part of her heart longed for her home and family she left behind . Unfortunately, she was not to return to her home until almost thirty years later.
My Mum never received any medals or public accolades, but she was content in her children and the times she spent with them . I remember gathering around her in the rocking chair while she knitted or sewed and she would teach us songs that she had learned and we would sing, sing, and sing some more. She spent time with us and spent time for us - sitting up all hours making costumes for school concerts and sewing sequins on dresses. Raising eleven children couldn't have been easy – especially in a foreign land.
I discovered after my Mum passed away that one day at the beach she had saved a young boy's life. He was quite blue when they took him out of the water and she performed resuscitation until he was breathing again. It's ironic but that same young boy, who had grown into a fine young man, sang at her funeral service. I also learned that even though she had a "brood of children" herself, she sat with a first time mother for hours at a time, offering encouragement and giving backrubs until she gave birth to a baby boy. The mother and father of that boy were at Mum's funeral service and when I thanked them for coming, they thanked my Mum for all she had done for them. I always knew my Mum was Special!
Sadly my Mum passed away September 24th, 2005 at the age of 79 years. She was able to return to her home in England four times over the course of her life in Newfoundland. Her final choice was to be interred here in Newfoundland. She told me once that she could never return to live in England because they couldn't afford it when we were all young , and once we grew up and had our own children she couldn't return then either because we were all here! I remember saying, "Mum, we're spread all over the place now, it wouldn't make a difference if you were here or in England." My mother replied, "But this is their home, if they ever need to come home they have to know I'll be here." She always was!
I love you Mum and miss you every day! You are/were one "Special Lady" and I'm so proud of you!
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