Miriam Ann Morris
:LCdr Sean Batte, Commanding Officer HMCS Prevost, Inspector Andrew Cowan, RCMP London Detachment, George Beardshaw, Second World War Veteran and a British Home Child who served with the Queen’s Own Rifles, Veteran and Trooper Len Brown, 17th DYRCH (Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars) and formerly with the 30th Recce Essex Tank Regiment,
Miriam Ann Morris was born 3 Dec 1895 in the St Columb Major Workhouse to Mary Gertrude Morris and John Spicer. John was an engine driver on the Great Western Railway but was not part of their lives and not named on her birth certificate. He was widowed in 1893 and was left with 2 sons and a daughter. He would have met her mother about a year after his wife Fanny passed. Why they never stayed together is unknown but John would go on to marry again in 1898.
According to the history background; her mother about three years later would marry a Mr. Underhill in early 1898, who was reportedly at the time in prison for deserting the Militia. At this time, her mother must have been working in the St Austell Workhouse, as on 24 July 1898, she gave birth to William Elias John Morris Underhill. His birth certificate states place of birth as St Austell and father as Underhill. When Mr. Underhill was released from prison, he joined the regular army and moved to South Africa where he already had a wife and family, which made null and void the ceremony he had with Mary Gertrude Morris. Mr. Underhill was not William's father and it was believed a Mr. Barrett, a sailor who had drowned at sea was. There are sadly a number of possibilities to who that would be as there are a few named Barrett that died at sea during this time-frame. William would go through life with the surname Morris as did Miriam.
Although their mother was working, at one point payments to the caregiver of the children ceased, and they were placed in the workhouse and quickly transferred to Stepney Causeway Children's Shelter in 1902. Their admission photos were taken (shown on the quilt square) and they would remain in the system for 4-5 years. On 2 August 1906, Miriam would board a ship and after 9 days reached Canada's shore. The following year, on 5 March 1907, William too would reach Canada's shore. The 2 bluebirds depicted on the quilt square represent the bluebirds of happiness that we hope the two children eventually found in Canada.
Miriam was placed in many different homes before finally settling in Chatham, Ontario. She married John Ernest Brown on 30 August 1917. Their first son, Barnard, would not survive birth in 1919, but they went on to have 3 more children, of which two are currently still with us. Miriam and her husband John lived out their lives in Chatham and both lie in rest in the Maple Leaf Cemetery of Chatham, Ontario. The 4 maple leafs depicted on the quilt square on the top tree are for her four children born in Chatham, Ontario also known as the Maple City.
William, all who knew him, called him Willie, was placed within Southwestern Ontario and would settle in the Morpeth and Ridgetown Ontario area. William served with the 33rd Battalion, Western Ontario Regiment in the Great War. He never married nor had any children. He died in 1968 and rests in Greenwood Cemetery in Ridgetown, Ontario. At the time of this writing and quilt square being created, he had no grave marker. The new cemetery caretaker used old documents he found and with some measuring, he successfully located his plot. Willie will finally get a marker that is being provided by The Last Post Fund Unmarked Grave Program for Veterans this summer (2016). When Miriam's son, Leonard Brown, who is a 94 year old WWII Veteran heard this, he cried. Cried not for sadness but for the relief to know his uncle's grave now found, would be marked and he would be remembered. Lest we forget.
It was my privilege and a complete honour to help Miriam and William's family uncover a part of their family history and then create their story into this Memorial Quilt with a square in their memory. Once again, her 94 year old son cried. (Dawn Parker Heuston)