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William Edwin Hunt by Mary Hunt Filipetti

April 2, 2013
William Edwin Hunt

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

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.

Henrietta (Rutta) Hunt at her nursing graduation

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

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

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.
book coverPromises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children, a collection of 31 stories by author, Rose McCormick Brandon, is available here.
16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2013 6:47 pm

    This is a wonderful story of your father Mary, plus it is also a great tribute for him. Just goes to show us, and help us realize that we can get through most difficulties that comes our way.

    • April 4, 2013 9:30 pm

      Thank you Connie for these kind words. They mean much when they come from the daughter of a BHC.

    • Mary (Hunt) Filipetti permalink
      April 5, 2013 1:31 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Connie, Hazel and Rose. I’m so greatful to have had the opportunity to write my Dad’s story. It is wonderful that Rose has chosen to acknowledge as many Home Children as she can find. I would recommend to anyone who has a member of their family that was a BHC to do so. It is a very rewarding experience. Mary…

      • April 5, 2013 2:38 pm

        So glad this was a rewarding experience for you Mary. I encourage all BHC descendants to write the stories of their loved ones. If you don’t, it’s unlikely anyone else will. Their written stories will remain for decades whereas the stories passed along by word of mouth will be watered-down, misconstrued and soon forgotten. And that’s what I have to say about that 🙂

  2. Hazel Perrier permalink
    April 4, 2013 6:57 pm

    That is a great story as there are so many to be told. I wish I had known my grandfather was a Home Child as I really didn’t know him well enough to write much of a story on his life.
    4x BHC Descendant
    Hazel Perrier

  3. Neil Matheson permalink
    February 12, 2015 4:59 pm

    Hi, this is a very interesting post. I have been doing research on Canada’s medical services in WW1 and recently came across a copy of the poem which I think is the one that you mention above. It is entitled “The Little VAD” (the latter being an acronym for Volunteer Aid Detatchment – the Nurses serving in these units were referred to as “V.A.D.s”). The poem was written in long hand and signed by Pte. W.E. Hunt, 18th Canadian, 2nd C.E.F. Clarence House. Clarence House was a Canadian Convalescent Hospital in England. It would have been written in the autumn of 1916. If you think this is the right poem and need a copy, let me know. Regards, Neil Matheson

    • February 12, 2015 6:36 pm

      Hello Neil. It’s amazing that you have a copy of this poem – the Little VAD”. After publishing William Hunt’s story for this blog, I re-wrote it for my book, Promises of Home. William’s daughter, Mary, gave me a copy of the poem and it appears in my book, Promises of Home – Stories f Canada’s British Home Children, with William’s expanded story. William sent the poem to a friend in Guelph, Ontario who sent it to the local newspaper where it was original published. It’s fascinating that you discovered while researching medical services in WWI. In May, I’m reading at the Sault Ste. Marie Library – William moved there after the war and worked for the government – and I also lived there for some time – I’ll be reading his story while in Sault Ste. Marie, and of course, his poem, as well. I’m so pleased to hear that people are still discovering this little poem.

      • Neil Matheson permalink
        March 23, 2015 10:08 pm

        Hi Rose, it’s a rare and delightful thing when connections like this one can be made almost 100 years later. It demonstrates so clearly the power of publishing and the Internet. Have fun in the Soo. Regards, Neil

    • Mary Hunt Filipetti permalink
      March 23, 2015 5:19 pm

      Wow Neil Matheson! This is amazing that you would have a copy of my Dad’s poem. He would be so surprised to know that it has come to life after all these years. Would it be possible to have a copy? I would appreciate seeing his handwriting as I was only 5 when he passed away. Thanks for leaving your comment it was so nice to see. Mary

      • Neil Matheson permalink
        March 23, 2015 10:01 pm

        Mary, I will be pleased to send you a copy. Regards, Neil

    • Mary Filipetti permalink
      March 31, 2015 12:15 am

      Hi Neil Just following up to see if you received my reply that I would love to have a copy of my Dad’s poem. Please let me know how you will send it. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks Mary

  4. Mary Hunt Filipetti permalink
    March 23, 2015 4:10 pm

    Rose, & Neil it is so nice to receive this information about my Dad. He would be so surprised to know that poem has survived all these years. Thanks for sharing. Mary…

  5. Mary Filipetti permalink
    March 23, 2015 6:57 pm

    Thank you Neil Matheson for posting this comment. I am amazed that you have a copy of my Dad’s poem The V.A.D. You mention that it is hand written and I hope you can forward a copy to me as I would love to see his hand writing. I was only 5 when he passed away so it would be nice to see this part of him. It sure is a small world isn’t it. Wouldn’t he be amazed that his poem has survived all these years. Looking forward to your reply. Mary Hunt Filipetti

  6. Mary Filipetti permalink
    March 25, 2015 1:05 pm

    Thank you so much Neil. You have made my day. I am so excited to receive a copy of the poem. I’m not sure how this site works. does my e-mail address appear to you for me to receive it?

  7. Mary Filipetti permalink
    March 25, 2015 2:15 pm

    Hi Neil. I had a problem signing in if you get this several times, sorry. I was so happy to hear you would be sending me a copy of the poem. You made my day. I’m not sure how I will get it. Does my e-mail address appear to you? Please let me know. Thanks again, Mary…

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