The Immigration Story of James S. Lonie (Scottish immigrant)

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.2197.1
Story Text: 

How does one describe the feelings and thoughts of an immigrant? They are as many and varied as the multiplicity of their ethnic backgrounds and their past experiences that impel them to seek a new life in Canada. Some are escaping the horrors of the concentration camps, some are seeking a new start because they have lost everything because of war. Others are disenchanted with their own country’s post war situation and others are restless and want change.

My own experience was that of disenchantment with the lack of jobs for returning servicemen and the feelings of hopelessness for the future.

I embarked on the Georgic in Southampton on the 31 May, 1959 for passage to Halifax, NS and on to Ottawa where I had a job offer with an instrument company. My trade was scientific instrument maker and electrical engineer (marine).

We proceeded to LeHavre to embark refugees and displaced persons and departed via COBH in Ireland for the Atlantic crossing. We arrived in Halifax on or about 7 of June. During the crossing there were many fights between the various ethnic groups and screens were placed across the upper deck to keep them apart.

The mood on arrival was apprehension, fear and doubt.

Disembarkation - People were herded into pens according to their ethnic and language background. This caused much consternation because of the armed RCMP presence. And it looked to the refugees a repeat of the concentration camp treatment. Of course, it was to facilitate processing in their own language.

After processing and documentation, we were herded (escorted) to board the train which was parked right at the pier. The train consisted of a number of decrepit railcars known as colonist cars. They were stripped down of all adornment and had wooden seats without any cushions or arms. These seats folded down at night to provide bare wooden bunks. At the end of the car was a pot bellied stove with wood kindling and an array of battered pots. These cars were attached to the end of the regular train.

Most of the people had neither food or money to spend on food and none was provided. I was lucky because I had bought dining car tickets with my assisted passage ticket. Some Salvation Army ladies were handing out coffee and doughnuts prior to the departure of the train.

A young French couple with a young baby were sharing a bench with me and they had smuggled a French loaf and a sausage from their home with some powdered milk for the baby. This was to feed them till they reached their destination on a farm in Manitoba. I was able to bring bread and rolls and real milk from the dining car to help out. My journey terminated in Ottawa a day and a night from Halifax. The rest is another story!

My wife followed me out to Canada 6 months later. She travelled on the Lismoria arriving in Montreal around the 12th of November, 1959… I have a copy of the manifest showing the entries for her and my daughter. Her name is Margaret Davidson Lonie. My daughter is Sandra Lonie.

My parents emigrated to Canada prior to WW1 (1912?). They met and married in Calgary the 6 day of September 1911. They subsequently returned to Scotland and were trapped by the start of WW1 and remained in Glasgow, Scotland. They both entered via USA and travelled on the SS California about a year apart. One son was born in Calgary and the rest of the family, 2 girls and myself, in Scotland. I have their documentation. I do not have a copy of the ship manifest for myself. I am presently 87 and my wife is 91.