Belleville and the MacKays, half a century ago and today

Michael, Harry, and new stone in Belleville CemeteryOn this first unabashedly gorgeous spring day in eastern Ontario, I drove with my Dad down to Belleville. We wanted to see for ourselves the new gravestone for my great-grandfather, William Elmore MacKay. For 55 years there had been only an unmarked grave. My father led a family effort to put up a marker, and rallied some cousins to contribute. In this picture with me and my Dad, you can see that the inscription on the stone is genealogical, and not sentimental or religious. This is my doing. In speaking with my relatives who knew my great-grandfather, I hear mixed reminiscences. There were good times, like him teaching Gaelic songs to his three children. And there were difficult times, like the end of his life which was overshadowed by poverty. The facts are he was a son, a husband, a father, and a grandfather, and I would not exist if it were not for this man’s life.

Bill and HarryWe dropped by to see my Uncle Bill and Aunt Barb. Here’s Bill Senior on the left, and his kid brother Harry (my Dad) on the right.

4 Replies to “Belleville and the MacKays, half a century ago and today”

  1. Its a very impressive monument! Thanks so much.

    Grandpa MacKay and Uncle Earl helped my Dad, Roy to build a house for our family.
    It was at 40 Wilgar Road in The Kingsway, just outside of Toronto in 1945.
    It was a good strong house that still stands today. We lived there for 10 years until we outgrew it.

    When I was about 8 or 9 Grandpa MacKay gave me a box of beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs.
    A very happy memory!
    It was the last time I remember seeing him.
    I still have them after all these years. They were a treasure.

  2. Grandpa MacKay was one of many heroes during the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion.
    According to Roy, my Dad, his son, he saved the lives of his own family and a family they took in after the explosion.
    Grandpa was working outside of town on a construction site as a carpenter when the explosion occurred.
    He walked home to find the house had been knocked off its foundation by the force of the blast
    and all the windows and doors had been blown off. He walked back to the construction site and collected as much tar paper as he could. He carried it home and used it to cover the windows and doors. He saved them from freezing during a bitter winter storm that followed.

    I also remember a trip to Carrying Place to help he and Grandma celebrate their 50 ieth
    Wedding Anniversary. Grandma was sick in bed but we had a good visit. We gave them a gold clock.
    He was really glad to see us. He looked after Grandma until she passed away. He was very kind.

    1. Thank you for these reminiscences, Judy. Here is what my Grandpa MacKay, your Uncle Earle, told me about the Halifax Explosion. He was 13 years old on 6 December 1917, and had just arrived at school when the ships exploded in the harbour. He ran back home, to Pepperell Street. His sister, Etta, 12 years old at the time, had stayed home from school because she was sick. She had been under the covers in bed, and the bedspread was covered in broken glass from the blown in windows. Grandpa told me that she was very lucky she had not been standing by the window, as she would have been killed or blinded as so many were that day. He didn’t mention anything to me about what his father did at the time of the Halifax Explosion.

  3. It would be very interesting if you can post here any more information about the Halifax explosion.

    My father Roy MacKay told us he he had come from school because he forgot his blackboard. At the time of the explosion he was looking for a little bottle to hold water to clean the blackboard. It had fallen on the floor and under a dresser. That’s how he avoided being injured from broken glass.
    He talked about it many times over the years. It must have been very tramatic for a young boy and left an impression his whole life.

    Like Judy I remember visiting our grandparents for their 50th wedding anniversary in 1952. It was
    very hard seeing Grandma in bed. She died a couple of weeks after that visit. Grampa was always there to help her.

    I’m so glad there is a monument for him now. He was our grandfather.

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