Thursday, June 14, 2012

Amos from Tring


In spite of being over ninety years old, Amos Crockett's granddaughter still has vivid recollections of her grandfather. She remembers him as being crippled, stooped over, and needing two canes to walk across the room. She thought of him as a very old man, yet he was only sixty-eight when he died.

At one time he ran three outdoor ice rinks in Edmonton and Ev remembers at the end of the evening when it was time to close the rink his voice would come over the loud speaker: "Get hoff the hice". Ev worked for her grandfather at the arena when she was twelve years old, starting at fifty cents per evening but soon she was earning the same as the rest of the concession staff:  $1.00 per evening.

Amos was born at Tring, Hertfordshire, England on May 19, 1865. He was born to James Crockett, a jobbing labourer, and Annie Fitkin, a straw plaiter. He was born at home on Harrow Yard on Akeman Street. At the time of his birth, his siblings James 7, Amelia 5, Rebekah 3, and David 1, were at home.

Akeman Street runs north/south through Tring and is one of the original Roman roads that run through Britain. Tring is about 35 miles north of London.

The Crockett family were among the illiterate working class in Victorian times. The men had to find jobs labouring on the farms or in the textile mills. Women often had more income than the men by plaiting straw for the hat industry. Straw plaiting was done at home and the women took their finished work to market on Wednesday mornings to sell to the buyers from the hat factories nearby. The picture below depicts women working at home plaiting straw while watching their young children. Children as young as seven were put to work, adding to the family income.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Amy Jones, a "Fearless Female".

March is Women's History Month and last year I wrote a number of articles about Fearless Females.  Auntie Amy is one I missed.

Amy Jones was about the same age as the twins, Thomas and Alice Crockett and they undoubtedly knew each other as children.  In 1901 the Jones family lived on Dudley Road and the Crockett family lived on High Street in the city of Stourbridge.  Amy was a twenty-year-old dressmaker living with her family when her fiance, Tom Crockett emigrated to Canada in April 1912.  It would be another three years before Amy embarked from Liverpool on the White Star liner, Arabic on August 18, 1915.  She was twenty-four years old, but the newspaper articles still referred to her as a girl.

The Arabic was one of the first passenger ships to be sunk by German submarines in World War I; it only took twenty minutes for the ship to go down with the loss of six passengers and twenty-six crew members.  The following article appeared in the September 14 issue of the Edmonton Daily Bulletin where Amy gave an account of her experience.

Letter From Young English Girl on Way to Edmonton on the Arabic

Although there were no Edmontonians on the White Star liner Arabic, when she was sunk off the south coast of Ireland on the morning of the 19th of August, there was one young lady passenger who was on her way here.  She is Miss Amy Jones, of Stourbridge, England, fiance of Mr. Thomas Crockett, transfer clerk at the Hudson's Bay stores.  She was among those that were saved, and in a letter she gives a graphic account of her terrible experiences.

"We set sail in the best of spirits; the passengers were so friendly and no one seemed to give a thought to the dangers which might be lurking ahead.  I made friends with a young Irish girl in the same cabin as myself and we quite enjoyed our first night aboard.

Next morning as soon as breakfast was over--it would be about nine o'clock--we went up on deck and were chatting with a few other passengers when out attention was drawn to another ship ahead, which appeared to be sinking.  We little dreamed it had been torpedoed and I did not in the least feel afraid.

We had been watching the Dunsley for some time when suddenly someone near us cried "Look out; submarine" and the vessel was struck in a second.  The explosion was terrible and we were thrown from one side of the vessel to the other, my friend and I being parted in the excitement.  I simply rolled in the water on the deck and the fumes from the torpedo seemed to take my senses away.  I was left lying on the deck; they evidently thought I was done for.  When I opened my eyes I tried to get to my feet but could hardly manage it as I was in so much water.  I couldn't see a woman anywhere, only a few men.  Of course those below, poor souls, had been blown to pieces.  A lifebelt lay near me, into which I tried to get, but the tapes were broken off, so that I couldn't fasten it to me.  Just then I spotted a boat full of men at the side and I rolled off into the middle of them.  It was a case of help yourself and had I not done so I would not be here now.

We had just got away from the Arabic when she disappeared and I felt so sorry, for it was a lovely boat. After being in the lifeboat long enough to get stiff with cold, as I was wet through, we were picked up by a destroyer, and I cried for joy.  I tried not to break down, but I really couldn't help it for I felt half dead.  We must have presented a strange sight, for most were only half dressed.  I had no coat or hat and I even lost my shoes.  I managed to have some of my money, for I had it fastened round my neck, and although the notes were wet they dried out alright and I was able to purchase new clothes in Queenstown when we were landed.  We were taken to the Queen's Hotel, Queenstown, and here I met my Irish friend again.  We were delighted to see each other again, for each thought the other had been lost.  It appears she got away on one of the first boats.

Everything except what I stood up in was lost--presents, jewelry, and all other belongings.  I retained my watch and one ring, but the watch is useless for it stopped when the boat was struck and had refused to work since.  Still, I suppose I should not think of any loss I have had, but thank God for being saved from such an awful death.

Some poor souls suffered far worse than I did.  It made my heart ache to see the poor children who had lost their mothers and I was filled with hatred of those inhuman wretches who could make innocent people suffer so.

We left Queenstown at 4 p.m. Friday and traveled by train to Dublin.  From there we sailed by midnight mail boat to Hollyhead and then by train to Liverpool.  I reached home safely at 9 p.m. Saturday evening little worse for the awful experience which I had undergone"

Undaunted, Amy set sail again to be with her Tom.  She sailed aboard the Corsican less than two months after the disaster with the Arabic and arrived in Quebec on October 25, 1915.  The following appeared in the Morning Bulletin on Friday, December 17, 1915 in the column entitled CUPID'S COURT:
CROCKETT - JONES
A happy event was solemnized yesterday afternoon at St. Faith's church when Miss Amy Jones of Stourbridge, England and Mr. Thomas A Crockett of Edmonton, were united in matrimony by the Rev. Mr. Whittaker.  The bride looked charming in a white satin dress with veil, and wreath of orange blossoms, she was given away by Mr. E. Ball, and her bridesmaid was Miss A. James.  The groom was supported by his cousin, Pte. C. Arnold, of the 51st Battalion, as best man.  After the ceremony, luncheon was served at the home of Mr. and Mrs. B. Arnold, 11824 91st Street.  Mr. Crockett has a large circle of young friends and about fifty guests gathered at the house after the ceremony and showered their congratulations upon the happy pair.
Mrs. Crockett is the plucky English girl who was among the rescued when the Arabic was torpedoed by a German submarine.  A full account of her experiences was published in the Bulletin shortly after that tragic even took place.  Although having lost all she had on her first short trip, she was undaunted, and as soon as she recovered from the ordeal she had undergone, and re-equipped herself, she came to meet her fiance--now her husband.  The happy couple were recipients of numerous lovely presents, including one from a number of Mr. Crockett's fellow employees at the Hudson's Bay store.