Upton, May

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                                           MAY UPTON
            Move to Sillikers ends 250 years family worked on estate of Duke of Westminster in Chesire
                                        By Bonnie Sweeney


SILLIKERS – A 90 year old woman has just moved from her cottage in England to a home in Sillikers. May Upton left her home on the estate of the Duke of Westminster in Chesire near the Welsh border for a home in Sillikers on Dec. 8. She now lives with her daughter and son-in-law. The move ends 250 years in which Upton’s family worked on the Duke’s estate.

This is Upton’s fifth visit to the Miramichi. She arrived this time with her son.

Sitting at the kitchen table of her Canadian home Friday, she said she is a little surprised she’s here. If anyone had asked her as late as last year about moving she would probably have been insulted, she said. Placing her small hand to her chest, she said, “I love my England. It’s a beautiful country. Canada is a beautiful country too and this is the same as being home.”

When she refers to “home” she means her cottage. “It was passed down from father to son over the years and so it was to my father. There were 10 of us and I’m the last one of the Formstone family. The job was passed down from one to the other, you see.”

About a year ago, she had to leave her home on the estate and went to live in a seniors complex, she said. “It was a nice flat, really nice. But I couldn’t mix with the people there. I wasn’t used to living like that. I was used to my cottage where I could take my dog for a walk down to the river. We always had chickens and a garden. I loved to work in my garden. This here (Sillikers) is much like home. It’s the same, really,” she said.

She made up her mind about six months ago she was coming to live in Canada. “I went to bed one night and I laid there thinking. What am I going to do? I wasn’t happy living in the flat. I decided I was coming here. The next morning I told my sons and they understood.

“We decided if this was what she wanted, this is what she should do,” Reggie said. The smile suddenly left May’s face as she said, “I’ll never see my other son again. He’ll never come over here, he won’t fly.” The son who is here with her gave her a re-assuring hug and said, “Just leave that to me. I think we can persuade him.”

May’s move to Canada was accomplished quickly, in just six months, with the help of two members of parliament, one from here, one from England. The son wanted to meet Miramichi MP Charles Hubbard and thank him personally for his help. “He and our MP Jeffery Richards were a great help to us,” he said.

Asked why, at her age, she decided to leave her England, May took a few moments to answer. “All these years I’ve spent with my two good sons. I wanted to spend my last days with my daughters.”

She glanced at those around her; daughter, son, and finally her eyes rested on her son-in-law. Her face broke into a smile and she said, “Because of them, I know they want me here, I’m welcome. And this is just like home. I’ve got my grandchildren here too,” she said, as a grandson walked in and sat beside her. Grandchildren and great grandchildren had welcomed her the night before when she arrived.

Upton has three daughters and two sons. A daughter lives in Toronto and another lives in California. They plan to join their mother in Sillikers this summer.

Parting memories bring tears to eyes

When her daughter left England for Canada in 1947, May Upton wondered if she would ever see her again. Forty-seven years later, Upton still finds it difficult to talk about it.

She arrived in Sillikers Dec. 8 to live with her daughter and son-in-law. Her daughter was in the British army when she met her future husband. “When she brought him to my place, she was told not to mess around with those Americans. To us they were all the same. But my father said, ‘I like that lad,” May joked as she nodded towards her son-in-law.

Suddenly Upton stopped talking as tears ran down her cheeks, remembering the day her daughter sailed from England for her new home. “It tears your heart out. It’s still hard to talk about. She was the first one to leave, you know.

Her daughter said: “I remember she gave me a hug, but she didn’t speak. Her one prayer was that I was doing the right thing and my marriage would turn out all right. May added: “He told me he would send me the fare to come over to visit. He kept his promise, he sent me the fare.” They were married and May received letters faithfully from them.

Meanwhile, back home, her son wanted to join the navy. But May asked if he would like to visit Canada and he jumped at the chance. Her reasons were twofold. She didn’t want him leaving home for the navy and she thought his sister could use some company. “You see, I could tell by her letters she was home sick. I thought it would be good for her to have her brother visit,” May said.

Her son said “I came over on the Aquitania, the last of the Cunard line. I was about 17 years old then.” After a year he got lonesome and he decided to go back home. “I came over first class and I worked my way home on the Blair Devon, which was carrying pitprops. I was kept busy scrubbing the deck.”

The trip back wasn’t anything like the trip over. “I was up on the deck one day after we had been at sea for about three days. I spotted land and thought we were near home and found out it was Newfoundland. I’ll never forget that. It took us 16 days.”

When he arrived in England it was late and he decided to call his mother and tell her he would see her the next day.

When his mother discovered he was in England, her heart dropped. “I thought he had done something wrong and had been put out of Canada because he hadn’t told me he was coming home,” she said.

After he returned he joined the navy.

That was the first of several trips he was to make to Canada. He also visited in 1972 and 1978. During this latest visit, like the others, he looked up friends he met on his visit to Canada.

This won’t be May’s first Christmas in Canada. She spent Christmas here in 1985.


Source: Miramichi Leader – December 20, 1994

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