Letters From a British Home Child: Edward (Ted) Griffin, 1928-29
A note from the author, Rose McCormick Brandon:
When Edith (Kelly) Newland, the receiver of the following letters, died in the 1980s, these letters were discovered in an attic trunk. Edith’s family had no idea who the writer, Ted Griffin, was. After an investigation, they traced the letters to my family in Canada. Ted passed away in 1978 and so never knew that his youthful letters had survived in London.
In 1928, Edward’s (Ted) step-sister, Edith (Kelly) Newland, wrote to him. It was Edith’s father who put Ted and his two sisters, Lilian and Grace in one of the MacPherson homes in London after he married their mother. Edith searched for information on the whereabouts of her step siblings. When her letter arrived, Ted had not seen or heard from her since he was 5 years old. Now 28, this is his reply to Edith:
June 23, 1928, Curries Crossing, Ontario
In answer to your letter I received quite safe yesterday, I was more than surprised to hear from you. I had quite forgotten you. It must be some 20 years since I’ve seen or heard anything of you. I tried to get around to see everybody I knew when I was in London, England last winter. I didn’t want to see your father as I have no use for him. I guess you know that. I had the time of my life on the boat both going and coming. I was 12 days going and 11 days coming. There is no one likes travelling any more than I do. I have seen a lot of Ontario and the Canadian Northwest, the Prairie provinces.
I will be here until about November then I will have to hunt another job as Mr. Scott (Edward went to this family when he was 12) has has sold his farm on account of his health and is moving to the city. He sold it for 7,ooo dollars, or in English money 1400 pounds.
I had four months holiday last winter and I spent close on to 100 pounds. Grace has never moved since she came out here. (this was not true, perhaps my grandmother never told Ted about the awful homes she lived in until she finally ended up with a good family on Manitoulin Island.) When she was old enough she got married and settled down. Her address is: Mrs. James R. Galbraith, Spring Bay, Manitoulin Island, Canada. I received a letter from her yesterday but I haven’t seen her for 4 years now, and that was the first I had seen her for 14 years. I had quite a job to find her.
No, I’m not married yet. I guess I’m having too good a time single. I expect I’ll settle down sometime. I’m sending you a few snaps taken when I was on the boat. I have crossed the old Atlantic Ocean three times now. I don’t know if I’ll ever cross it again or not. I have a tart over there that I write to quite often. I keep telling her she’ll have to fly over here as the flyers seem to have very good luck in doing so. I have marked on the back of the snaps the same as you did.
I am not working as hard this year as I was last year. It’s hard to say where I’ll be next year. I have done some travelling and I’ve some more to do yet I think before I can settle down. I have had seven or eight different addresses since I came out here. I just go wherever I get the most money. Last year I got the highest wages there was going as I am an experienced farm hand. I think I could do well if I had a farm of my own, maybe I will some day. I like the climate here better than I do in England although we have it terrible cold in the winter but you get used to it. It’s not so damp.
Well Edie if you’ll excuse my scribble I’ll close for this time. I was sure thunderstruck when I received your letter. I thought at first there must be another Griffin and I have got his letter.
Your sincere brother Ted xxx
P.S. I am as free as a #?I!, I go wherever I jolly well please and I don’t take any dirt from anyone.
(This P.S. says a lot about Ted. Other people made decisions for him – his mother, stepfather, The MacPherson Homes, the family he lived with – and now he’s taken back his independence and won’t give it up again.)
Letter #2 – undated – but probably Christmas 1928
From: Spring Bay, Manitoulin Island, Canada (his sister Grace’s home)
Just a line. I should have written sooner but I’ve been very busy travelling and hunting as you’ll have noticed in the change in the address. I have been here with Grace about six weeks now. I have been having a very good time with hunting deer and jack rabbits. I had a lovely trip on the lake steamer named The Manitou from Owen Sound to Gore Bay and on the stage from there to here in Spring Bay. Grace is kept quite busy with so many youngsters and we have heaps of snow here- begins to look like winter. Just a year ago now I was having a good time in old London England. I expect I’ll be here with Grace till about January and then I’ll start rambling again. I don’t just know where I’ll go yet till I hit the station.
This is all for this time Edie. Wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year from your loving brother Ted G.
Letter #3 – undated (probably 1929)
From: Ed. Griffin, c/o J. Tebbutt, Kleinburg, Ontario
Dear Edie and Percy:
No doubt you’ll be most awfully surprised to receive a letter from me. However, you’ll notice I have not forgotten. I have done some considerable lot of travelling around since you last heard from me, as is my nature. I stayed with Grace two weeks after leaving the lumber camps then I hit the train for Toronto. I am now working on a large dairy farm 20 miles north and west of the city.
I like my job fine . . . milk lorrie carries the milk to the city. I manage to get a free ride some Sundays when I can get the day off. I am seeing new country all the time. There is plenty of aeroplans flying around here daily coming up from the city. Grace wanted me to work on the Manitoulin Island but I said I could make more money down here and what’s more I like travelling. I guess you know that it would not take an awful lot for me to make another trip to old London, England but I think perhaps I ought to think about settling down soon. We are all through seeding around here. I expect it won’t seem very long before the harvest. I will be here for the summer. It’s hard to say where I’ll be for the winter, possibly in Toronto. Last week I was driving a motor tractor hauling a two furrow plough across the fields. I can sure make more money out here than I can in old London although we get it most terrible cold here in the winter, I believe it’s healthier.
This is all the news for now. With love from Ted.
When Edith Kelly Newland’s trunk was opened after her death, it contained 3 letters from Ted and 3 from Grace Griffin Galbraith, all written in 1928-29. I believe if she had received other letters she would have kept them. It is only because of these letters that my family found Ted and Grace’s half-sister Winnifred still living in London. My mother Mildred and aunt Evelyn (Grace’s daughters) made a special trip to London visit Winnifred. You can see from the photo the resemblance between Winnifred and my mother Mildred. – Rose McCormick Brandon
Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children is a collection of 31 stories by author, Rose McCormick Brandon. To order this book, visit the author’s website: http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com