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Robert Hutchings in Southampton with the Tinker Brothers, c. 1950. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2013.1887.1).

In the 1950s if you were a young British man looking for employment, Canada wanted you. If you happened to be bright and handsome, it didn’t hurt either! Four young men who stepped off the Scythia on March 29, 1953 at Pier 21 possessed these characteristics and more.


Robert Hutchings and David Tinker playing shuffleboard en route to Canada, 1953. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2013.1143.2).

Fifty years to the day of their arrival at Pier 21 (on March 29, 2003) the three surviving members of that dashing quartet returned to Halifax to commemorate their arrival and celebrate their half-century long friendship.

Robert Hutchings and the Tinker brothers, David and Michael, came from the same village in England. They set out together looking for adventure and the opportunities that Canada promised. Aboard the Scythia they met a kindred spirit in Leonard Read. All four men had completed their National Service and were ready for the next stage in their lives. The four passed the journey playing shuffleboard, throwing darts wildly during storms and indulging in better food than they had had since their childhoods before the war.

When they arrived, Halifax was fogbound so their ship spent two days cruising around the mouth of the Harbour. The boys didn’t mind at all since the food was still good and most of the passengers were young. When asked about shipboard romances, Leonard Read with a telling twinkle in his eye murmured, “We were shy English bachelors.”


Scythia at Port, 1953. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2013.1895.2).

The shy bachelors were processed through Immigration and all boarded a train, bound for Toronto and the good jobs that the staff at Canada House had told them about. Leonard Read’s business was plastics and there couldn’t have been a better time for him to arrive. Plexiglas, developed by the military during the war, was for the first time available to the civil market. Leonard found a job right away with the company that was given sole Canadian distribution rights to the “miracle” material.

Robert Hutchings was a watchmaker and jewelry designer. He had his pick of three jobs on his first day in Toronto, where fine jewelry was beginning to gain popularity. Like Leonard, his industry was at the beginning of a boom.

The Tinker brothers were not so lucky. David and Michael were engine fitters; each had apprenticed for seven years in England and had been told by the optimistic souls at Canada House that they would walk right into jobs. However, in 1953 Canadian industry was in a slump—although this resulted in a positive outcome for the brothers in the end. David Tinker hadn’t been a terribly happy engine fitter and says that having to go into another field was one of the best things that could have happened to him.

A friend in Toronto advised the Tinker brothers to apply at the Imperial Bank of Canada. It was good advice; David and Michael were both promptly hired, even though David admitted that in the beginning, “I didn’t know a debit from a credit.” He learned fast enough when, on his first day, they handed him a box with $100,000 in it and told him that he was now a savings account teller.

Robert Hutchings was the first to leave Toronto and the first to marry. He and his wife still call Ottawa home. Leonard Read and David Tinker remained in Toronto; both married. Michael Tinker went on to Huntingdon, Quebec. Although the friends separated geographically they all attended each other’s weddings and remained close. A mutual love of sports was one of the ties that bound them.

The “boys” from Britain and their brides have contributed so much to Canada and ensured their own family legacies with a total of thirteen children and 26 grandchildren between them.

Michael Tinker returned to England in 1978. Sadly, he passed away in France in 2002. However, he was here at the Museum in 2003, in the photographs, the stories and the thoughts of his brother and friends as they spent their anniversary in the restored immigration shed.

The formerly shy, formerly bachelor, still quite British trio explored the exhibition and shared wonderful accounts of their lives in Canada, many of which (the best ones, perhaps) ended with one of the men adding jokingly, “Don’t write that down.” At the end of their visit all three emerged from Pier 21 for the second time in fifty years and echoed, “We have no idea where the time has gone.”

In the late spring of 2003, four plaques were installed on the Sobey Wall of Honour at the Museum. The names Robert Hutchings, Leonard K. Read, David Tinker and Michael Tinker will be linked together forever. As for the friends themselves, they will not soon be forgotten by the staff and visitors who were lucky enough to have spent time with them. It’s hard to believe that these three charmers had ever been shy!


Robert Hutchings, Leonard Read and David Tinker at the Museum in 2003