William Edwin Hunt
Mary (Hunt) Filipetti wrote this loving tribute to her father, William (Bill) Edwin Hunt. Bill was one of the 10,000 British Home Children who enlisted in the Canadian army.
My father, William Edwin Hunt, was born June 19,1892 to Eliza & William Hunt. in Cloncrane, Ireland.
When his parents separated Bill went with his father and his sister, Catherine, went to live with his mother. There was one more sister Eliza but she died before the separation. We feel that the mother being Catholic and the Dad being a Protestant had something to do with the marriage breakup.
How Bill ended up in one of Annie MacPherson’s Homes is a mystery to us. (After this was written, Mary discovered that her Dad had been sent to Smyly Homes of Ireland, not MacPherson’s Homes.) It’s possible that his father just couldn’t handle the responsibility of looking after him. Times were tough in those days and work was scarce so maybe financially he just couldn’t do it. We will never know for sure.
It was his Dad that who gave the Home permission to send Bill to Canada. A Miss May Joly of Ballydermot, Clonbologue, Kildare was interested in him and it is presumed that his father worked in that county as a farm labourer for her. She and her sister made a contribution towards my Dad’s outfit and passage to Canada.
Dad was 13 yrs. old when he sailed on the S.S. Tunisian ship bound for Canada. He departed from Liverpool on May 3, 1906 and arrived May 12, 1906 to Quebec Port. His destination was 51 Avon St., Stratford, Ontario. (Photo of MacPherson Home for Boys in Stratford above) This building has become a Historical Site. The city has erected a plaque in memory of all the children that were uprooted from their homes and families between 1869 – 1939.
William Edwin Hunt, back row, far left
From there Dad went to work on a farm in Hespler. Then on to a farm for a Mr. Sheriff of Winterbourne,. He seemed to be well liked and happy there until 1910 when he became unsettled but stayed with Mr. Sheriff until June, 1911. Then he went to work in a hat factory in Guelph, ON . He wanted to make enough money to take a commercial course. We feel that he did that as he was very well read and capable of holding an important & demanding job later in life. My sister Sheila contacted Mrs. Smyly’s Homes and Schools and received a letter back telling her what little information they had about him.
Henietta (Rutta) Hunt at her nursing graduation
On Oct. 26th 1914 my Dad, Bill Hunt, volunteered for WW1. He was in the 18th Battalion as a private. January 31st he was badly wounded at Ypres and ended up in Manchester, England in a hospital where his left leg was amputated below the knee. Being wounded and physically unfit for further war service he was discharged. After many months in hospital in England, he returned to Canada in 1918. The Government gave him a good job in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He worked for the National Employment Office there until his death in 1949.
It was in Sault Ste. Marie that Dad met and married Mother, Henrietta (Rattu) Hunt. She was a nurse and they had 3 daughters together. Sheila, Barbara & Mary.
During the depression, times were tough and men would ride the rails looking for work. Some were well educated but just couldn’t get a break. If they landed in the Sault, Dad would do his best to help them find work and would often send them to our house for a meal and a chance to clean up from being on the road. He was a man with a good heart. Probably because he understood what it was like to be alone and trying to get ahead in a tough situation.
Dad was well respected and loved by all who knew him. He was musical and loved to read and write poetry. Apparently he wrote a poem while in hospital tiled, A Little VAD.
Sheila, Mary, Barbara Hunt
Being the youngest of the 3 daughters, I did not know him. I was 5 when he died on Feb. 10, 1949. My sisters, Sheila, 18 and Barbara, 15 knew him well and told me how much he cherished his family and how proud of us he was.
Dad’s early life wasn’t that great but I like to think his adult life turned out not too bad. I was always told I was “special” because I had two Fathers in heaven to watch over me. For this I’m truly grateful.
William Hunt with daughter Mary
After Dad’s death, my mother had to take in boarders to help pay the bills as at that time, he didn’t have any insurance, or pension from work other than from the Army which was very small. Rusty & Stan were RCMP Officers and they boarded with us for a year or so. Great fellows and they were a big help to my Mom.
I’m sure it was difficult for my mother but she did a great job in raising me. By this time my sisters were working and on their own. We feel blessed to have been brought up in such a warm and loving family.
What I’ve learned from Dad’s experience is that you can overcome difficulties if you choose to. You just lift your leg a little higher to get over each obstacle that comes your way. And I know that because Dad certainly overcame challenges and he did it with grace and dignity. He may not have been loved as a child but he sure was later in life by his family who adored and cherished him.
Mary Filipetti lives in Stoney Creek with her husband, John, a pharmacist. She has two children and four grandchildren. She grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, lived there for many years and still considers it home.
Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children
, a collection of 31 stories by author, Rose McCormick Brandon, is available here.