Skip to the main content

The Immigration Story of Nan MacDonald (Scottish War Bride)

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.

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Date of Arrival: 
January 23 1946
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.864.1

Story Text: 

In April 1944 I was home on leave from the WAAF when my sister and I went to a dance in my hometown of Glasgow. A Canadian soldier (Douglas MacDonald from Belleville Ontario) asked me to dance, not once but all evening. When the dance was over we made a date for the next night which was the last night of my leave. We went dancing again and had a good time.

As we were running to catch the streetcar home, he said "Marry me and you'll never have to run for a streetcar again " (little did I know that there were no streetcars in Belleville) I thought he was joking so I ignored it and we exchanged addresses and promised to write. I was stationed near Liverpool and he was stationed near London so we didn't see each other but we wrote. After a few weeks, fate took a hand and I was posted to London so then we could see each other when we got a pass.

We were engaged in July and made plans to be married in Glasgow on my next leave in September. But fate stepped in again and in August Douglas was sent to Italy until March. Then I got a phone call from him and he was in hospital in Marsden Green Birmingham and said he could get leave to marry. It was a rush trying to arrange something and getting compassionate leave, lots of red tape but we did it and on March 28th we were married in Glasgow. Five days later he got a telegram to report back to Birmingham and we knew that meant he was being sent back to Canada. I went there with him because he was on crutches and I had to carry his kit and I left him there at the gate of the hospital and went on to my station in London. We thought it wouldn't be long until I joined him in Canada but it was January of the next year 1946 and the war was over.

I was demobbed and back home in Glasgow before I got notice to travel to Liverpool. On the day I was to leave, the taxi to take me to the station didn't show up, so a neighbour ran into the road and waved down the first car that came along and asked the driver if he would take me to Central Station as I was on my way to Canada to start a new life. So my journey began with a total stranger. In Liverpool the war brides were all kept together in a big house just for a couple of days then we boarded the Mauretania. During a very rough crossing the number of people at the dining table kept dwindling until I was the only one left.

We landed in Halifax on January 23, 1946 and all I remember about that day was the confusion and in the middle of it all, people being very kind and making us feel welcome. I don't remember much about the train trip but I'll never forget the arrival in Belleville. It was 6am on January 25th and I was the only one getting off the train. Douglas and his whole family were there and I found out later they had been there all night waiting for the train. It was the first time I had seen him in civilian clothes and it seemed strange but I soon got used to it.

Looking back on it now I realize what a risk all the war brides were taking, we left family and friends and everything familiar and didn't have any guarantee that it would work out. It was quite a risk to take but I was one of the lucky ones. Although Douglas has now gone, after 51 years of marriage, I have a lovely family, two daughters and a son and four grandchildren. So sometimes it pays to take a risk.