A Family Goes Full Circle

A few editions ago, I wrote a column decrying how so many of us know little, if anything, about our parents and don’t really become curious until they are no longer here to answer our questions.

I resolved then to use a computer program to record my autobiography in case any who follow -, such as grandchildren, might some day in their spare time be interested in reading what this old coot did, if anything, during his allotted time on earth.

Not all of it, mind you, but as much as is fit to print.

Procrastination, as always, has been the problem, but I am committed to getting started as soon as I finish this piece for CARPNews FiftyPlus, the deadline for which was the day before yesterday.

As you may have noticed, I am procrastinating now rather than getting to the point, which is this:

I had pretty well given up learning much about my own father, Joseph Thomas Hesketh. He came to Canada from North Wales near Denbigh sometime early in the century. I am not sure exactly when because I never thought to ask and he, being a very quiet man, never volunteered the information. Mater, bless her, did most of the talking in our house.


A few ancient photos of Joe remain, some snapped with my brother Edward, who died at 39, and me. And I have Joe’s medical discharge from the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1916. And the funeral memory book dated April 1966, which would have made him 81. He was always secretive about his age – probably the strait-laced mother of his bride might have considered a man close to 30 much too old for her daughter, then a tender 16.

I still have faded photos of Joe and Gladys, who bore him son Edward – followed by me. I was vaguely aware Joe left home following the death of his father in an accident involving a locomotive traction machine that Joe was driving. But I became resigned to the fact that after his death I would learn no more about this particular incident, or any other history of what must have been an interesting life.

Wrong! Thanks to two cousins I never even knew existed, by way of the Internet – particularly CARP’s and The Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ websites – they determined I was still around, and where. Recently I picked up the phone and found myself talking to Graham Davis, an English Lit teacher at a school in Shrewsbury, England. He informed me he had been vaguely aware, through ancient letters, of my existence, and that I had been in the media business. He added he had a bunch of family memorabilia and photos that would throw some light on Joe’s life before he emigrated. He also said he was coming to Toronto and would bring this memorabilia along if I had the time and inclination to meet up with him.

Needless to say, I did. As a result, I have updated the family tree. Thanks to Graham’s sister and another long-lost cousin, Hilary, I obtained a column length photostat of the story of the inquest into the accidental death of Joe’s father. After reading the clipping – from The Denbigh Free Press of May 22, 1907 – it was understandable why Joe didn’t speak much to his sons about his life before coming to Canada.

It is headed Shocking Accident at Llanrhaladr (the proper spelling, but let’s not try to pronounce it). Quoting Joe as the major witness, it gave the details of the death of Mr. Edward Hesketh of Ffosgoch Farm who, while attending the valve of his traction engine – driven by my father – fell under the right wheel and was badly crushed. He was carried home but died on the way. The coroner ruled the cause of death as internal injuries and shock. Joe identified the body.

Granddad Edward had been married twice, the first time to Katherine who died giving birth to a daughter, also named Katherine. His second marriage was to Katherine Elizabeth – this was Joe’s mother, my grandmother, who predeceased her husband at the age of 53.

You will hopefully forgive me for going on so long. But I have filled a big gap in my knowledge of a man who, perhaps now more than before, I love dearly for picking up the pieces and putting his life back together in a new country. I should have been more inquisitive. We should have been better buddies.

But I got lucky because some people cared, and took the trouble to communicate. The experience has been like turning on the light in a room that has ’til now been dark.

The way I see it anyway.