Annie YORKE, 1874 - 1970

Annie Edith Macgregor Yorke (Edie) was born on 18th October 1874 at 56 Union Street, Greenock, Scotland, one of ten children of James Masterton Yorke, Civil Engineering Contractor and Anne Macgregor.

She said as children their nurse, Helen “Ellen” Duncan, took them to see their parents for an hour before the parents went to dinner. This was their only contact as their nurse, “Ellen” took them for walks, to church, the circus, etc. !!!

She was educated at a girl’s boarding school at St. Andrews and, after her mother died spent her holiday time with her sister Margaret Lyle, who was considerably older, married and had children near her age.  She was “finished” in Germany where her German was good and her French passable.  She had singing lessons with Lisa Lehmann, mother of the opera star Lotte Lehmann.

She was a companion to two teenage Austrian Countesses to improve their English.  Said they lived in such poverty their castle was falling down about their ears and they even darned their handkerchiefs.  She also accompanied her niece Peggy (Margaret Lyle’s daughter) to Baden Baden and various spas in an attempt to improve Peggy’s poor health.

She came to Canada to visit relatives and friends, probably in the spring of 1912 as she said she thought about coming on the Titanic but decided the maiden voyage fares were too expensive, so she came on a cheaper boat, would visit around Canada for two or three years and then go back on the Titanic when prices would be lower: So much for that idea.

She visited from coast to coast, Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, Stettler, shared a house with some other girls near the Old Chinese Cemetery in Victoria and also visited friends in Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Colorado.

With the start of the First World War she joined the Red Cross, took some training in the use of a massage machine and ended up at the nursing home at Ogden, now a suburb of Calgary.  She was there when Philip Henry Gerrish (Harry) was sent there after having spent about a year in hospitals in England after losing his arm at the Battle of Ypres 22nd April 1915. He had come to Canada in 1908 or 1909. They courted for a year or so and were married on 22nd February 1917 at Winnipeg with her cousins (the sons and daughters of John Macgregor, who had all emigrated to Canada after his death) in attendance. They went for a honeymoon to Regina !!!

Harry had been badly gassed and this was more of a problem than the loss of his arm. He had a job as a grain inspector at an elevator in Calgary. He called it the “dust Hole” but soon had to give it up as the dust exacerbated the gassing. He was then Postmaster at the little town of Swalwell (east of Calgary).  This was fine until the end of the war and the telephone exchange was put in and he also had to run that.  It proved too much of a strain.

About this time they had a baby boy who only lived for three days.  They pulled up stakes and moved to Calgary where he got a job in the Pensions Office. Here he dictated to stenographers and generally helped some of the returned men to get their pensions straightened out. A surprising number were, if not illiterate, at least not capable of filling out government forms.

Then their daughter Margaret (Meg) was born and Edie inherited some money. They decided to go back to England and remained in the U.K. for about a year. They lived in Wales, at Swansea and Cardiff, but found things very expensive. However the doctors there, who had far more experience of the gassing than the Canadian doctors, told Harry his only hope with the gassing was to be out of doors as much as possible.

They therefore came back to Canada and found the two acre farm at Nelson, B.C. where they settled in 1921. Harry still suffered gas attacks (not unlike Flu) as late as the mid 30’s. With Edie’s money and Harry’s pension they decided they could live cheaply on the small farm. They started with a few chickens, Harry got stronger and they increased the chickens until at one time he had 1,500. They were in the right place at the right time and the chickens prospered, not to a fortune, but to the point of making them very comfortable.

This is how the trips to England (1926), Alaska (1929) and Japan (1931) could be afforded. By 1939 Harry had given up the chickens when the family went to England. Meg remembers the return from this visit:

“With the outbreak of the Second World War, we were sent home to Canada about two weeks short of our return tickets. We sailed on the Duchess of York with her sister ship, flanked by two destroyers, zigzagging the whole time until we reached the open ocean. We had a. number of the Athenia (the first ship to be torpedoed) survivors with us.

“One of the destroyers let off a depth charge - whether they saw anything or not we don’t know, but the depth charges upset the Athenia survivors thinking they were having to go through their ordeal again, the next day we were visited by an RAF plane presumably from the Aircraft Carrier HMS Courageous (sunk on the 17th September 1939).  If “our” plane got back to the Courageous, it must have gone down with it.  If not we doubt if it had enough fuel to reach land: Very sad. On the night of Friday 13th of October HMS Royal Oak was also sunk by torpedoes from a German U boat, which had penetrated the British Navy’s main anchorage at Scapa Flow in Orkney. 833 men lost their lives.

“On arrival at Montreal we were all overjoyed to walk up and down St. Catherine’s St. and appreciate the street lighting even after experiencing just three weeks or so of black out. What must it have been like for people who had so many years of it?!!”

Back home again and Harry started up the chickens again. Of course, he had all the buildings, and wanted to produce as much food as possible. Again he was in the right place at the right time and did very well until the end of the war when he was able to give up the chickens, all except a few for themselves.

About 1960 Harry bad a slight stroke and they moved to a nursing home in Kamloops to be near their daughter, Meg. Harry died on 29th July 1966 and Edie died on 2nd August 1970. Both are buried in the Kamloops Cemetery.