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William Hunt: Letters from a Loving Father

June 16, 2013
William Edwin Hunt

William Edwin Hunt

William Edwin Hunt lived in Mrs. Smyly’s Home for Children in Dublin and immigrated through Annie MacPherson’s organization in 1906 at age 13. His daughter, Mary Filipetti, wrote his story for The Promise of Home and it can be read here.

Mary found some letters her father had written to his daughter, Sheila. Mary is the youngest of the three Hunt daughters. These letters illustrate Bill’s gentleness, his love for his family and his good sense of humour.

Because of the trauma suffered by home children – separation from parents, siblings, country and all relatives – many of them had a difficult time showing affection to their spouses and children.

For that reason, it’s especially heart-warming to come across these loving letters written by a Home child.

Bill was living in Sault Ste. Marie where he worked in a government office. His daughter, Sheila, was working in Blind River, about a 2 hour drive away –  in those days a longer commute.

Bill was a musician and wrote poetry. He wrote many letters to Sheila and she kept them all. When she passed away, her children gave copies of the letters to Mary.

These two were written in 1948, one year before Bill Hunt’s death. If you love letters, as I do, you’ll love these.

July 8, 1948

Dear Sheila:

Received your letter and was glad to hear from you again. We are looking forward to having you at the weekend. Our little Mary can’t hardly wait till your bus gets in Saturday. The poor little kid is lost and she cried to come to the office with me yesterday afternoon.

We heard from Barbara (another sister). Apparently she is liking the work alright. How like Barbara to count the money over each day to see if it’s all there. I suppose she jingles it up and down on the bed to hear the sound of it, like the old misers. We laughed when we read that part of your letter.

As this is just a short note, Sheila, we will have the latest news for you when you get home. I am writing this in the office and I am terribly busy so haven’t time for more as I want to get this in the mail this afternoon.

Love from all,

Daddie xxoo

Sheila, Mary, Barbara Hunt

Sheila, Mary, Barbara Hunt

In the following letter, Bill mentions how much he enjoyed dancing. He lost a leg in WWI and that ended his dancing days.

October 22, 1948

Dear Honey:

Glad to hear from you again. Such a nice letter too. Sorry you weren’t able to come up for the wedding, it was a nice affair and the bride looked lovely. It was nice you were able to see Freddie and Marg passing through. I understand they are spending their honeymoon in Toronto.

Had a letter from …. yesterday. They are leaving for home Tuesday night. That will bring them home Wednesday. Hope you can have a longer chat with them on Wednesday, no doubt, you have heard from her by now.

With respect to the doll you would like to get for Mary. While she has quite a few dolls, it wouldn’t hurt to add one more to the family and would possible set off the new doll buggy I got her for her birthday. she asked me for a new doll for her birthday so perhaps it would be nice for her at Xmas.

Sure hope you can wangle a weeks holiday at Xmas. It seems a long time since you were home and we miss you terribly around the house. Bishop Wright was telling us last night he heard some very complimentary remarks about your work and he was very pleased you are getting along so well. He expects to be in Blind River in three weeks and said he would call and say hello to you. He asked if you were able to attend church at all and I told him of the ungodly hours you work on Sunday, it’s impossible for you to attend. He suggested you try the 8 o’clock service if you can. It would be nice if you could. We don’t want you to grow up a heathen! Ha! Ha!

Your suggestion in going in with me on Mom’s Xmas present is awfully generous of you, honey. Very sweet and thoughtful on your part, darling. If you wish it we could go along together and get her something real nice this Xmas. What do you think of a nice mantel clock that chimes the hours? I know she would like that; that’s only a suggestion, dear. You might think of something she would like better and whatever you decide, is ok by me.

Just mailed …. a birthday card via air mail. She should get it tomorrow morning.

The Bachelors are not doing too badly. As you surmised, the . . . is doing most of the cooking but we manage to get enough to eat. Barb did the washing last night, a fairly large one, so guess she will be ironing over the weekend. I help her with the dishes. We only do them at night.

Did you ask Mr. Bacon about the ventilation in the office? That’s something you should do Sheila, for your own health’s sake. How did you get along with him on his recent visit? Fine, I hope.

Was talking to Lena for a minute today. She asks for you. That’s two real . . . you have Sheila and you will never forget them I am sure. I will always feel indebted to them for the wonderful interest they have taken in you and I there’s ever anything I can do for them, believe me I will bend backwards to do so.

Glad you had a nice time at the dance. I guess dancing is fun. I used to love it and . . . was the first type of dancing I learned when I was a boy on the farm and I could dance with the best of them.

The night you called, I woke with a start and jumped out of bed and nearly fell on my face getting to the phone in the dark. I told the stupid operator to cancel the call when you weren’t in at 11 o’clock so something went wrong, I guess. I thought Mr. P wouldn’t like me calling so late and waking them up; however, I was glad to hear your voice even though that late hour wasn’t conducive to lengthy conversation.

Well, honey, I guess I will close for now. I am the Manager of the office this week in the absence of Mr. W. in North Bay and taking advantage of a slack period to dash off these few lines.

Barb wrote you so guess you got the letter okay. The reason she hasn’t got the . . . yet. She’s broke and we will get it for you at the end of the month when finances are a little healthier.

Goodbye for now, honey. Take good care of yourself. Hope you will soon get another weekend for a visit home. Write when you can. Give us a call collect any night, not too late and have a chat. Kindest regards to Mrs. P.

Love from Barb and I – Daddie.

William Edwin Hunt, back row, far left

William Edwin Hunt, back row, far left

This photo of a group of boys from Mrs. Smyly’s Home in Dublin was in William Hunt’s file. He’s at the back, far left.


book coverPromises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children, a collection of 31 stories by author, Rose McCormick Brandon, is available here.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharon Moore permalink
    March 23, 2015 1:55 pm

    Your story is so precious. My Ancestor also was sent from the Smyly Home in Ireland and I believe him to be in the photo. It too was in his file. We believe he is the boy seated on the right with hands together. His name was Ernest Samuel Dixon. He married in Guelph but later moved and lived out his life in Michigan. No children.

    • March 23, 2015 3:18 pm

      Sharon – what a delight to hear from you. And to know that your ancestor is also in this photo with William Hunt. I will pass your comment on to Mary, William’s daughter. I’d love to hear more about your ancestor and post that information on this site so that he too will be remembered in the on-going collection of Home Child stories. In my research into Smyly Homes for my book, Promises of Homes, I found that this particular Home was mindful of the impact of immigration on a child. For that reason, they kept them close to the transition home in Galt for the first year. Rose McCormick Brandon

      • Mary Filipetti permalink
        March 23, 2015 4:59 pm

        Thanks Rose, you’re the best. Keep up the great work you are doing. Also good luck with your Sault reading. Hopefully my family will make it.

    • Mary Filipetti permalink
      March 23, 2015 4:56 pm

      Sharon Moore lovely to to know that we share this interest in our relatives coming to Canada. It is a small world isn’t it. I hope your relative lived out his life happily! Thanks for sharing. Mary Hunt Filipetti

    • Katothecat permalink
      March 23, 2015 7:08 pm

      Hi Sharon thank you for your amazing comment about your relative in the same photo as my Dad! It sure is a small world. I hope Ernest ended up with a happy ever after.

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