Skip to the main content

The Immigration Story of Cecil Harrison (Scottish Immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Creative Commons: 
Accession Number: 

Story Text: 

My Immigration to Canada
By C.B. Harrison

The reason I emigrated to Canada was due to the fact that my mother’s Uncle Rodger and Aunt Chris Gray had both immigrated to Canada in early 1900’s. They lived in Hamilton Ont. at 225 Balmoral Ave. North. They visited our home in Methil, Fife, Scotland in 1949. During their visit it was suggested by Uncle Rodger that I should immigrate to Canada. I could live with them, which meant I had a place to go to. I said that I would certainly consider their offer. Uncle Rodger said that there were many opportunities in Hamilton for a young person with a trade. At this time I was an apprentice mechanical fitter at Henry Balfour & Co. in Leven Fife. I was 19 years old and playing professional soccer with Leith Athletic FC a third division club in Edinburgh.
After a few months I asked my mother if it would be OK to immigrate to Canada and live with her Uncle Rodger and she thought it would be worth a try. I contacted Uncle Rodger about coming to Canada and he replied that it would be fine with him. I applied to Canada House in Glasgow re immigrating to Canada and I got the necessary papers to fill in. I filled the application as did my now brother-in-law (Bob Barclay) and we both forwarded our applications to Canada House in Glasgow. In a few weeks we had the clearance to immigrate to Canada. I finally decided to give it a go and applied at Cook’s, the travel agent in Kirkcaldy, for travel arrangements. After receiving our travel and sailing tickets I had to resign from work at Henry Balfour's and the hardest part was leaving Leith Athletic soccer team as it was a boyhood dream that I could play for Leith, the same team that my Dad (John Somerville Harrison) had captained and played for before WW2.
Both Bob and I left Methil on March 19th, 1951 to catch the train at Kirkcaldy to get the 9:00 PM train from Edinburgh to Kings Cross, London, England. My Aunt Cis who worked and lived in Edinburgh was at Waverley Station to wish Bob and me well and good luck. It was an overnight trip from Edinburgh to London where we boarded the Southampton Boat Train. On arrival in Southampton around 11: am we headed for the docks and boarded the MV Georgic around 1:00 PM. The ship sailed that afternoon the 20th of March, 1951 bound for Le Havre France. While sailing over the English Channel we saw the liner Queen Mary enroute to Cherbourg, France.
Many people were seasick during the crossing of the channel, which is renowned for rough crossings. We docked in Le Havre about 9:00 PM to take on more passengers. That evening we sailed for Cookstown, Southern Ireland and during that crossing of the channel there were many more seasick people. We arrived at Cookstown the morning of March 21st and anchored off; we did not dock. A Tender brought the passengers out to the Georgic. Later that day we set sail for Halifax, N. S.  While we sailed away from Ireland I stood at the stern of the ship and watched Ireland disappear over the horizon, a sad moment. During the crossing of the North Atlantic, I was standing at the rail of the ship with an old English fellow, who was a farmer from Saskatchewan returning home to Canada (he had emigrated many years before). We were looking out over the water and that's all you could see in any direction. I said to him "boy that's a lot of water" and he said "yeah and that's only the top" I have never forgotten that.

We had a good time on the ship, but we had two days of rough seas. The cabin that I shared with 3 more people was on the Port side aft on "D deck" and when the ships stern rose out of the water you could hear the propellers rev up as they came out of the water. Meals aboard the ship were good and we sat at the second sitting. Most of the stewards were from Liverpool, England. The last night aboard ship was carnival night and we all had a great time.
We docked in Halifax, N.S. approx. 10:00 pm at pier 21. We did not disembark that evening; we had to stay aboard one more night. I remember looking over Halifax Harbor (that would have been the Dartmouth side) and seeing all kinds of snow and ice on the ground and wondered what I had got myself into coming to Canada. Next morning right after breakfast, passengers began disembarking, home going Canadians first. Later that day we, the emigrants, disembarked and were ushered into a large hall with rows of benches where we sat until immigration officers called out our names. I remember sitting for quite a while. However, we did get our turn to go through customs, where I had my British Passport stamped, Landed Immigrant, and Canada, March 29th, 1951. From there we boarded a long train leaving late afternoon bound for Toronto with many stops on the way including Quebec City and Montreal. I remember the train being very clean and fairly comfortable. I was particularly pleased with the food on the train and the sandwiches that were sold by a porter from a large wicker basket.

During the train journey we came close to the great St Lawrence River and while stopped at Quebec City we saw the great St Lawrence ice flows with ferry boats crossing the river pushing the great chunks of ice aside. It seemed that wherever you looked there was nothing but snow and ice.
I arrived at Toronto Union station Sunday, April 1st, 1951 and was met by my mother's sister Jess Newbigging and her husband Bill. They drove Bob Barclay and me to the Gray's house on 225 Balmoral Ave., Hamilton. (Bob got a room at a Hostel on Burlington St., Hamilton)

I arrived in Hamilton on a Sunday and started work as a Millwright on Tuesday in the Cold Mill Machine Shop at Stelco. Bill Newbigging was a supervisor in the Central Boiler house and he had made arrangements for me to start work in the Cold mill M/C shop. At this time we were working a four-shift operation, which meant we had to work weekends and this interfered with the soccer that I wanted to play. Canadian Westinghouse Co. had a good soccer team and they asked me to play for them. I said get me a day job and I would sign for them, and they did. I played for Ontario All-stars against old country teams for two years from 1953 up to 1955 before going out to Victoria B.C. I did work steady nights short time at Bertram MC Tool Co. who were manufacturing six Vertical Boring Mills for Orenda who needed them for machining parts for the jet engines that were going to be fitted to the Avro Arrow Air Craft. That program was scrapped by the Government of that time.

When working at Westinghouse I was transferred to their DND plant at Beach Road, Dept. 555 where we built steam turbine driven auxiliary equipment for the Royal Canadian Navy's 14 new River Class Destroyer escorts. The equipment we built and tested were Turbo-Blowers, Main Engine Circulating Pumps and 500 KW Steam Turbo Generators.

I finished up being a Westinghouse Co. representative going to various Canadian Shipyards to oversee the installation of the above equipment. One of the first shipyards was Halifax where I worked on HMCS Margaree and HMCS St Laurent. I was in Halifax for about a month. I lived in digs just off Chebucto Rd. near the Northwest Arm. The people we lived with took us moose hunting and to see Peggy’s Cove. I did some work on other ships at Vickers’s Shipyard, Montreal and Davis Shipbuilding in Levis and at Semard Shipbuilders in Sorrel, Quebec

I was recalled from Sorrel and asked to go out to the West Coast to work at Yarrow's in Victoria, B.C. where I worked on HMCS Fraser then on HMCS Terra Nova built at Victoria Machinery Depot. In between these two ships I spent some time over in Vancouver at Burrard Dry Dock where HMCS Skeena was built. My wife and I with kids Lynn, John and Liz spent three years out West where our fourth child, a son, Robert, was born in Victoria at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. I looked after three ships on the West Coast: HMCS Skeena, Fraser and Terra Nova that were involved in the Gulf War. We installed the equipment, performed basin trials and sea trials using shipyard personnel.  It was great being able to go salmon fishing around Vancouver Island; we fished in the Georgia Straits and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We also did the Sea trials on the Destroyers there. I travelled a fair bit in Canada and saw many remarkable sights. While working at Paper Mills, Pulp Mills, Gas Turbine Natural Gas Plants, and the great Tar Sands at Ft. McMurray, I sailed on the Great Lakes through the Welland Canal, St Mary’s Canal and the St Lawrence Seaway on steam turbine driven Lake Ships. I also worked On HMCS Kootenay when she lost her starboard turbo-generator coming up the St Lawrence River to take part at the CNE’s International Fleet Review. I had never been to the CNE and I had a crew from Westinghouse working on the ship. We joined the ship in Hamilton at HMCS Star and sailed over to Toronto from Hamilton. We were on the ship at the closing of the CNE and watched all the fireworks from the ship. It was a great sight to see from the water.  I finished up at Westinghouse being the supervisor of Field Service and Engineering. I left Westinghouse in 1980 after 28 yrs. and joined Peacock Inc in Mississauga and became the assistant plant manager. I retired in Sept 1990, drove a school bus for a few years and retired from that in 1998.

While out west I played soccer for Victoria United in the Pacific Coast League. Some of the teams we played against were Vancouver White Caps, Nanaimo and Vancouver St Andrews etc.
How I met my wife, Catherine!!!

While at Stelco my Uncle Bill said that I had to meet one of his friends, a Dave Brand, who came from Buckhaven, Fife which was where I attended High School. We drove out to Smithville to meet Dave Brand where we had a nice time and I met his daughter Catherine who was born in Fruitland, Ont. As it turned out, I delivered milk in the mornings in Buckhaven and, believe it or not, I delivered milk to Dave's mother and father who were Catherine's Grandma and Grandpa. Catherine had corresponded with them but had never met them, and here am I who knew them quite well. This same day Catherine (who drove her Dad’s car a 1950 Chevy) and I went out to a local ball game where I learned what a Fly Ball was. Afterwards we went to a restaurant (Joe’s) down in Grimsby for a drink and a hamburger. When we had finished eating, I went to pay the bill and found I had left my wallet at home. I did not have any money and was quite embarrassed, so Catherine stepped up to the plate and had to pay the tab. I told my cousin, Graeme Newbigging, that night I was going to marry Catherine.    

 I married Catherine Carlisle Young Brand on January 19th, 1952. We were married by Canon Arnold Brooks who was minister at St Andrews Church in Grimsby, Ont. from 1944 - 1964. My Best Man was Alistair McKinley and Catherine's Bridesmaid was her sister Patricia.  At this Church, Catherine's Mother and Father, her Sister Patricia & Husband Murray Ridge as well as some of her Uncles and Aunts had been married there. 

Our reception was held in Freelton (on the farm) at the home of Catherine's Mother and Father, Florence and David Duff Brand. The farm is on Lot 9, 10th. Conc. in Freelton and is accessed from the 11th Conc. Rd.

Some of the people that attended our wedding and the reception were as follows: my Uncle Bill & Aunt Jess and Graeme Newbigging, Uncle Dagfin & Aunt Cis Morkholm, Benny McConnell, my school boy friend, Alistair McKinley, (Alistair, also played soccer with Westinghouse) Catherine's Uncle Harold and Aunt Eva Cocks, Uncle Walter and Aunt Jenny Piett, her Sister Patricia and Husband Murray Ridge. From what I can recall we all had a good time.

However on the way home from the church to Freelton it began to snow and it continued to snow all evening. When the guests decided to leave we had to get the tractor out and pull them down the lane and that continued until well after midnight.

Catherine and I had seven children, Lynn, John, Elizabeth, Robert, the one  born in Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1957, Alec, James and Tom all born in Ontario and we have fourteen grandchildren. We have had a pretty good life. I definitely do not regret immigrating to Canada.