Skip to the main content

The Immigration Story of Stuart Woolley (British 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: 
Creative Commons: 
Accession Number: 

Story Text: 

My father and my maternal uncle arrived in Montreal on RMS Ascania in April 1954. My mother and I went to live with my grandparents in Dublin for six months, emigrating to Canada ourselves on the RMS Saxonia. I was 4. My mother was 28.

The Saxonia left Liverpool on Sept. 2nd and arrived in Quebec City for immigration processing on Sept. 8th. My two most vivid memories of the crossing are the brilliant late summer sunshine glinting over an endless seascape and passing near a field of icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland.

As depicted in the movie "Brooklyn", my mother and I were afflicted by almost constant seasickness. I don't think we ate anything more than a clear beef soup and salted crackers until we entered the St. Lawrence. My father had told us that seasickness is always worse below-decks, so we should try to get topside as much as possible. But neither my mother nor I could stand upright, let alone take the stairs to the fresh air.

My parents chose to emigrate for family reasons, but they also shared the thinking of the many Brits who chose to leave the UK in the post-war years.

In retrospect, I think my dad, who had served in the Royal Navy during WWII, had a hard time returning to civilian life in an England that had changed radically since the pre-war era. He needed a new start in a new place.

Although my parents were English speakers, they were still immigrants. They struggled financially for the first 20 years in Canada. My mother adapted better than my father, who was always what they call "mid-Atlantic". Both were successful immigrants of the era by any measure. As for me, once my curly British locks were shorn to a 1950s crew cut and I was taken out of short pants and given dungarees, I became a Canadian boy.

I think my mother always regretted being so far away from her parents and siblings, but I don't think either of my parents ever regretted becoming Montrealers-by-choice. At 67 now, with my mother and father gone, I reflect on their long-ago decision to emigrate and I thank them for it. Coming to Canada was not a perfect decision, but as the course of life has proven again and again, it was the right one.