While researching my wife’s ancestry last evening, she and I stumbled upon a great and tragic story. I will tell it with the best of my knowledge.
Edward, or Ted as he preferred to be referred to, was a typical 17 year old kid. Ted dreamed of defending his country, and that is exactly what he did when he enlisted to fight in the Royal Newfoundland regiment.
Ted felt as if he had to go, as his family were going through hard times, thanks to his father’s failing eyesight and the other 8 kids who remained at home. Ted promised his mom that he would send home every cent he made, so that she could feed the family until times got better.
Ted wasn’t the biggest, standing at just 5’3 and weighing just over 70 pounds, but he had a fight in him, probably due to growing up in hard times in Western Newfoundland.
On the 28th day of January, 1915, Ted was assigned to the Special Reserves, located in St. John’s Newfoundland. When he arrived, Ted filled out an allotment agreement that 70 cents per day be taken from his pay (he received $25 per month) to send back to his mother. Not only was this young man planning on defending his country at the time of the great war, he was also providing for his family.
During his time as a soldier, Ted met the love of his life, Maud McNiven. Ted sent her numerous postcards testifying his love for her. It appears as if his love was in vain, as Maud wasn’t returning his letters. Still, he never gave up. Perhaps Maud was the one thing that kept this young man going when times got tough.
“Dearest, Just a few cards of the ship we are leaving by. We left Aldershot nine o’clock last night. I am going to try and get someone from the shore to post these for me, we are not allowed ashore. I did not get a letter from you before leaving. Believe me to be yours. xxxxxx Faithfully, Ted”
Ted’ best friend and comrade Will McNiven worried about his sister Maud as well, as neither he nor Ted heard from her since they set out for France.
Back home, the family struggled, Edward Sr. and his wife Selina worked hard to care for their children. Edward’s eyesight was failing, to the point that he could no longer fish. The only money coming into the household was the small amount of money sent home by their son Ted.
One disastrous day, a telegram arrived in the name of Selina Ayers. It was sent to her by Col. Bennett, Colonial Secretary. The telegram was dated July 31, 1916.
“We regret to inform you that the Record Office, London, officially reports No. 1009 Lance Corporal Edward A. Ayre as missing.
Upon receipt of further information, I shall immediately wire you.
J.R. Bennett Colonial Secretary.
According to history, 243 Soldiers lost their life on that fateful day.
Devastated with the grim news, Selina Ayre wrote the Prime Minister of England in hopes of collecting the money that was entitled to her. As per Edward A. Ayre’s will, he left his family a total of $639, which was all the money he had saved. She only received $89.83, which she fought.
Mrs. Ayre’s letter outlined the struggles of raising a family during war time.
“Mr. Randall, Dear Sir.
I want to tell you how much the Tory Government helped me when I lost my son L. Corporal Edward Ayre 1009. He volunteered at St. John’s at age 17. He was steward on the S.S. Portia at the time of enlistment. He made his allotment to me, as he knew I was badly in need of it. He left me 70 cents for a day which I received shortly after his death. He was my major support. I am the mother of 9 children, 3 dead and 6 living.
My husband is alive but his eye sight failed him I wrote to St. John’s and asked could they help me. They did not say I was entitled to it but they said they could not help me. They asked my husband to go under medical examination and he did to my doctor Dr. Grant.
He gave him a paper he sent down to St. Johns saying that both eyes were affected, left eye badly effected. And now he can hardly see to get around. He goes in a little rowboat, so you see it is not much to keep a family for he had his eyesight gone.
There was a separation allowance given but I received none. I think you will say with me that I am entitled to it. I got nothing only the allotment that he left me and I wrote and ask them where was his first money from the time he reported missing on July the first until you reported killed in action but they didn’t say anything about it.
I lost three sons while the war was on and he was my only means of support and it is greatly hard for us to get along with a large family and a man near sighted. I was some glad when the Tories gave the returned soldiers $70 per month, some of them having a good time of it when mothers who lost their sons could put to good use but did not get any money.
Selina received a letter from the Chief Staff Officer stating that her letter has been referred to the pension board, and her application showed that her husband was 48 years of age and that he earns $450 per year. He went on to say that although they had one son at home who was just 16 years old, they rejected her request. Their justification was that despite only having partial sight in one eye, Edward Ayre Sr. was only disabled to the extent of one third his earning power. This meant that the Ayre family would receive no pension from their fallen son.
Selina Ayres received another letter. This one ensured her that despite being missing in action, they were certain that none of them are prisoners of war in Germany; therefore, the Colonial Secretary deducted that all the gallant men, whose names were given in an enclosed list, were killed in that fateful action on the first of July.
The letter went on to state that in sacrificing his life for his country, Edward A. Ayre willingly answered the call of King and Country, did his part nobly, and fell, facing the for, in defense of the principals of Righteousness, Truth and Liberty. Though Edward has laid down the earthly weapons of warfare, he now wears the Soldiers’ Crown of Victory, and his name will be inscribed upon the Glorious Roll of Honor, and be hald in fragrant memory by all his fellow countrymen. This letter was dated November 23, 1916.
Proof of the Crown of Victory reward was sent to Selina Ayre, and was witnessed by Alexander Carew, my wife’s great-grand father. He was married to Julia, who was the sister of Edward.
On June 21, 1917, it was reported that Lance Corporal E. A Ayre was buried West of ‘Y’ Ravine, West of ‘No Man’s Land’ British Front on April 1917. There was no documentation stating that his body was recovered, only that a gravesite bearing his name and rank was placed West of the Y Ravine, West of No Man’s Land.
What a tragic story. Despite the fact that his name was indeed inscribed on the war memorial, his family here on the island actually knew very little about him. It was only due to my digging through the Internet that I was able to locate any information about him.
When we happened upon his name, we were unsure whether he was actually related to the Ayre family of Channel. Only upon careful research and actually calling people currently living in Channel-Port aux Basques were we able to prove the relationship.
I am proud to say that after the research done by my wife and myself, the Carew family are now made aware of the sacrifices of a certain Edward Ayre. He won’t be forgotten again.
Royal Newfoundland Regiment Insignia – In memory of the men who served in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during World War I and did not return home.
When I was a kid, weekends were a time for family. Every Saturday morning during summer vacation my parents had something planned for the family.
Saturday mornings were a time where we all got together to pack for the weekend. We didn’t travel to anywhere special, mostly to a river or maybe to a park.
We had this old canvas tent that my parents bought from Simpson Sears. The top was green and the sides were yellow. The poles weighed a ton, and the tent took forever to set up. Still, this was our weekend get-away. Dad called the tent our home away from home.
I remember once, I was playing with Dad’s pocket knife and I accidentally poked a hole in the side of the tent. I was horrified. I had ruined our summer. If Dad found out, he would be so disappointed. Dad never hit us as kids. He would just look disappointed, and for me that was worse than a trimming.
I remember that day as if it was yesterday. The tent was setup in the backyard so that my brother and I could ‘camp’ overnight, instead of sleeping in our beds. Dad had worked hard to make everything special, he had put our giant foam mattress in the tent, covered it with one of mom’s spare sheets, and put our sleeping bags in there as well. He even had our favourite comic books stacked near the bed for us. He really spoiled us.
While Dad was downtown, I went to the shed and found what I was looking for. A tube of Krazy Glue. This was the stuff the guy in the commercial used to glue his helmet to the steel beam, which held him up. That must have been some tight helmet.
Making sure I had the tent fixed before Dad got home was important to me. I didn’t want his oldest son known for ruining summer, so I quickly opened the glue (never read instructions, who does that?), and proceeded to apply glue to the tent. I ran the stuff in a thick bead around the rip, and held it there with my finger until the glue had set.
Just then I seen my dad’s car pull into the driveway. In an effort to clear the scene and look innocent, I pulled my finger from the rip and …..well Tried to pull my finger from the rip. The glue stuck my finger to the tent. I almost pulled the tent down trying to get away, to no avail. Plus it hurt like hell.
I still remember dad coming over and asking me why I was pointing to the tent. He laughed when he realized that I wasn’t pointing to the tent, I was stuck to the tent. That stuff really held. Dad helped me get my finger free, but I think the remains of my skin stayed on that tent for many years to come.
I feel fortunate to have memories like this to tell my son. He gets a chuckle out of my stories, and sometimes he asks me how I survived.
This year, Charlie decided to work extra hard to keep the ab he seen earlier this week. He created a plan to eat healthier, at least in his mind he did.
When he got to work today, he wasn’t long bragging to the other staff members about his new diet.
“Anyone can give up junk food, but I am going one step further!” he said.
The other staff members grew curious.
“Rather than give up potato chips, I only eat half the bag, and then, with my immense will power, I plan on throwing out the half eaten bag. Eventually I will wean myself from the stuff altogether. Then watch the abs.”
Georgette, ever doubtful, tried to rain on Charlie’s parade once again. “Why don’t you just not eat potato chips? That would make more sense!”
Later that day, Georgette noticed Charlie’s ass sticking out of the company’s dumpster.
“What you doing?” she asked.
“Cutting out waste. I think I accidentally threw out three quarters a bag of chips instead of half a bag. Don’t want to waste food, there are children in the world starving you know.” he said.
“You sure ain’t starving…..” Georgette thought to herself
Charlie, a somewhat overweight fifty something is in the shower. He peers down at his feet and exclaims “A Nab!”
“I can’t believe it, I have a Nab!” he thought, “It’s not much, but it is a nab. I remember seeing one there when I was a young man.”
Charlie could not keep this good news to himself. Throwing on a pair of boxer shorts, he headed downstairs.
“You guys won’t believe this, but I, Charlie Cormack of Washburn street, Cincinatti have a Nab!” he bragged, to his wife and teen-aged son.
“So you had a nap, big deal. You are old, old guys always take afternoon naps on Sunday afternoon.” said his son, in a discouraging manner.
“Not a Nap, a Nab, you know, Abdominal Muscles. I have one! Want to see it?” he asked.
Of course his kid wanted no part of this. For all he was concerned, this was gross and he wanted nothing to do with it, even if his father did have an ab.
Jenny Cormack wanted to see it, Charlie’s long suffering wife remembers a much thinner (but certainly not muscular) Charlie, the handsome young man she walked down the aisle with so many years ago.
“Where is it?” She asked.
“Here, let me suck in my gut for a minute. You have to bend over, look towards my feet, it’s right there.” he said, proudly.
“I don’t see anything except for that small lump below your belly button, you should probably see a doctor about that, it could turn into something” she said.
“It’s not a lump, it’s a Nab.”
“I have been working out you know, at work. I always take the stairs!” he bragged.
The next day, Charlie was up early. Jenny was awaken by her husband’s wheezes. He was on the floor, doing pushups.
“Gotta keep that Ab, maybe I can find more. Who knows, by next week, maybe I will have a six pack.”
Jenny knew Charlie all too well. This kind of stuff happened every January. She also knew that the only six pack Charlie was going to bring home would be the six cans of his favourite beer he guzzles every Friday evening. Like every year, she didn’t say anything.
He was out the door in a breeze, briefcase behind him, almost slamming into he door. He was at work early, the first time since last January, and was set up on his computer, ready to start work by 8:30, half an hour early.
When the company coffee break arrived, Charlie was in the middle of the crowd at the coffee machine. Georgette, the boss’ secretary, with her big hair and tight dress was standing next to Charlie.
“I have abs” he bragged, “Well, at least one. I work out you know” he flirted.
“You have abs? You? I doubt that. Flabs maybe, but you certainly don’t have abs.Just look at yourself, you are fat!” Georgette said, in her usual snotty manner.
“What Gym do you work out at?” she asked. “Gym? I have no time for those things. I work out here at work!” he said.
“How do you work out here? We have no gym here.” she said.
“I take the stairs!”
“The only stairs is the three step stair that leads to the vending machine. You go there three times each day, to buy chips and bars, that isn’t working out!” she corrected.
“Hey, that’s nine stairs per day. It’s still exercise, I could take the elevator, if we had one, but I choose to take the stairs, and that’s why I have this ab!” Charlie said.
“It isn’t exercise, it’s poor eating!” she argued.
Charlie didn’t care. He was convinced that he was in shape. After all, he did have a Nab.
“No time to pay attention to the cat!” momma said, as she hurried with her costume. “Are you ready yet?” she asked daddy. She couldn’t hold back the laughter as he strolled into the room with his long underwear on backwards, and wearing a huge bra stuffed with socks.
“Oh my God, look at you!” she giggled, as she slipped her homemade mask over her head. Wearing socks on her hands, mittens on her feet, and her shirt stuffed with a pillow, it was hard not to grin.
Mummering has been a Christmas tradition in Newfoundland for hundreds of years.
This is my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers. Here’s wishing a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my blogger buddies.
Click on the froggy for more stories based on the prompt
Eldon Hennings was a disgrace of a father, and a drunk. This year, Eldon’s very patient wife, Myrtle saved every cent she could so that their kids could have Christmas. This wasn’t easy, as every cent usually ended up in the hands of the bartender at the Watering Hole, a local bar down the street. Still, Myrtle managed to save enough to get her kids something special this Christmas.
One night when Eldon came home in his usual drunken rage, he forced Myrtle into telling him where she was hiding the money. Reluctantly, she told him. He threw her little jar across the floor, and bending to pick up every penny, he cursed at her and left abruptly. She knew where he was headed.
Still, Myrtle worked hard to give her kids a good life. This was Christmas Eve and she was alone with the kids…again. Eldon hadn’t come home so she had to do everything on her own, like every year. She prepared a special supper and decorated the tree with all the special decorations she had collected over the years. Some of them were broken from the time Eldon fell on the tree, but she fixed them and used them anyway.
With the tree decorated, the kids fed, and off to bed, Myrtle worried about her family. Since Eldon had taken all her Christmas money, she had nothing to put under the tree for the kids. Sadly, she said a little prayer, and went off to bed…alone.
The next morning, Myrtle woke up early. Eldon was lying next to her. He must have came home later in the night and she didn’t hear him. “The gifts! You stole the money and drank it and now they don’t have Christmas!”
“Don’t worry, I got them something. What do you take me for?” asked Eldon.
Myrtle ran downstairs to find the kids sitting around the tree, excited at the one gift in front of them. The label had all their names on it, written very sloppy.
“Santa didn’t forget us, he remembered!” said the youngest one, as he snatched the gift and was about to open it.
The others allowed the youngest to open the gift. He tore at the paper and revealed the gift to the others. With the paper off the gift, the kids all stared sadly at it. Myrtle took one look at it and ran to the bedroom, crying. Eldon had wrapped up his empty Whiskey bottle. This was their Christmas gift from Santa.
The entire house went quiet as Eldon stood in the living room looking confused; and then something happened. All the kids formed a circle in the middle of the room and began playing spin the bottle. “Santa must have been poor like us this Christmas!” they said.
With Myrtle furious, Eldon sitting and laughing with the kids, and her Christmas ruined again this year, a knock came at the door. When she opened it, she found several beautifully wrapped boxes sitting on the step. There was a box for each of the kids, and they ran and opened their gifts right away.
There was a toy train for Lucas, a doll for Mary, a baseball glove for Tommy, a dress for Lucy, a ride on horse for Billy, a wagon for Ricky, and a colouring set for Sally. There was also another box, wrapped with the prettiest silver paper, and a nice bow. This one had a note on it.
“This one is for my beautiful and very patient wife Myrtle. You have put up with my drunkenness long enough. I never thought about you and the kids in all the years you put up with having me as your husband. Last night I planned on buying booze with the money, but something strange came over me. It was as if something was telling me to change. It was almost as if something inside me had awoken and made me see the error of my ways. I love you Myrtle, and I will do my best to change”
Myrtle ran for Eldon, and held him in her arms. She was surprised to find that he didn’t reek of booze, and that he had shaved and cleaned up real good.
From that Christmas on, things were different for the Hennings family. All because of a special little prayer made by a desperate woman on Christmas Eve.