Whitty, Charles Edward Part I II

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                                                      CHARLES EDWARD WHITTY
                                                         By Rick MacLean

MIRAMICHI – Charles Edward Whitty – “that’s Whitty with an H” – sat enjoying the spring sun streaming into his porch when a visitor arrived recently.

Avoiding the walker he often uses to help him around, he sits surrounded by history.

His house is 150 years old. Across the street is the home of a former lieutenant-governor of the province, J. B. Snowball – “that’s Jabez Bunting,” Whitty said, spelling it out slowly, watching to ensure it was written down.

The local historian and retired newspaperman marked his 90th birthday May 6.

A stickler for detail, Whitty later regaled a visitor with stories filled with quick asides, taking time out every turn to repeat dates and spell names to ensure their accuracy.

Whitty was born in the former home of a local father of Confederation, John Mercer Johnson. “That’s Johnson without a T,” he said smirking.

The home is next to what is now St. Michael’s Basilica. The historic home is long gone, replaced by a parking lot for the church, Whitty said, delivering his story in rapid-fire staccato, punctuated with laughter. “There used to be an apple orchard and cherry trees on the hill next to the house. Now the only thing left is the hole in the parking lot where the well used to be. They’re still filling it in every year.”

His father, James, was a jack of all trades who did everything from building wagons to work as a painter. His mother, Mary Agnes, watched over the family of four boys and four girls.

The fifth child, Whitty rhymed off his siblings names with ease. The four oldest have died. His sister Gertrude died a year or so ago – “the years go by so fast.” She was 96.

Longevity seems to run in the family. Whitty’s grandfather, Thomas also died at 96. “He was one week short of 97.”

Whitty attended St. Joseph’s preparatory school. “I still remember the names of the sisters who taught me,” he volunteered. He rattled off the names of sisters, McDonald – “that’s Mc” – Fenety and Currie. “It wasn’t like today,” he said, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. “There were no fancy school yards. But we played a lot of ball games.”

One of his early, and most vivid memories in a rich collection is about the day in March 1919 when the St. Thomas College burned. The blaze was just across the road from his home. The family was forced to flee the old Johnson home they were renting from the Bishop – “I think we paid $5 a month. We were standing in the snow in our bare feet when the college burned.”

The family moved soon after, eventually landing in the home where he now lives. “I’ve been here for 75 years,” he said, the sounds of cars passing in the nearby street humming in the background. “Oh, I didn’t mean to tell that story yet. I had other things I meant to tell you first,” then he threw up his hands in mock horror. “Maybe you should just ask me questions,” he suggested helpfully, leaning back in his chair.

Plans had called for an interview running through his life in chronological order. That was long since abandoned, so a question about the history of his home seemed appropriate.

A photo of a woman in white standing in front of his home appeared from a nearby table. So did a copy of James Fraser’s book By Favourable Winds: A History of Chatham, New Brunswick.

The woman was Agnes Loudoun, he explained. It was taken before she was married Lemuel – another quick spelling lesson – J. Tweedie. He was later elected premier, so that made her a future first lady.

Whitty deftly flipped open By Favourable Winds to the section on Alexander Loudoun. The father of the young woman in the photo, Alexander Loudoun came here from Scotland in 1839 to work as a partner in a law firm. He established a fish business on nearby Fox Island in 1859 and died in 1874. “His house stood at the southwest corner of Wellington and King Streets as early as 1864,” Fraser wrote. In fact, Whitty added, putting down the book, he has papers showing the house is 150 years old.

That settled, it was time to get to the Whitty chronology. He graduated from Chatham High School in 1927. “There are a few of my classmates still living,” he volunteered. One of the first calls he received on his 90th birthday was from a schoolmate, Iola Robertson living in Calgary. “Lovely girl, beautiful, lovely girl.”

It’s a bit late for a reunion, he agreed, but they’re having one for the nearby White School here this summer he noted. “I can show you some things on that too, if you want. I’ve got something on everything around here.”

And his life, he’s reminded gently. He married Geraldine Reinsborough of Chatham. She died 50 years ago of a heart condition and he never remarried.

Oh, and before that he worked lugging wood to a steamer for a brief time. “I couldn’t take it. I only stayed for one boat.”

He also spent time working in a pair of general stores. One was run by a W.J. Connors. “That store was right here at the foot of the hill,” he waved to indicate where. “The owner was way up in his nineties though, so he retired.”

His next stop was a store run by John S. Martin. “It was just two doors down.” His workmates included the future Monsignor George Martin.

The Martins have played a prominent role in Whitty’s life. Lois Martin, the wife of judge Robert Martin – “to me he was always known as Bert” – got him into the business of writing a column on a local history for the weekly newspaper the Northumberland News. (the column now appears in this newspaper.)

Newspapers have been a part of Whitty’s life for more than 50 years. He started working for the Moncton Publishing Company in the 1940s doing a bit of everything from news and circulation to advertising. His big break came in news. He happened to live next door to Dr. E.H. Freeman, the coroner. “He was kind of the nervous type, so he always wanted me to go with him.” Whitty said with a wry grin. Not surprisingly, the young reporter quickly developed a reputation for being the first to get news of an accident. “People were stunned to see news of an accident that happened one night in the paper the next morning.”

Whitty and Freeman developed a rapport that lasted for years, often going well beyond the usual reporter-coroner relationship.

One day they rushed off to Bay du Vin for an inquest in the basement of the Anglican church. “Poor Dr. Freeman,” Whitty laughed, “his old car always seemed to bump into the tree on the way out of the yard. He’d always say oops”. Whitty hesitated. Maybe that wouldn’t be a good story to tell. He wouldn’t want anyone to think he was making fun of the doctor.

Anyway, this day they arrived at the church for the inquest. The hall was packed. “But I didn’t care. I just walked in with the doctor, just like a big shot. I was determined to get the story for the paper, that was all I was worried about.” Midway through the proceedings Whitty said he just couldn’t help himself. He turned to the doctor and pointed out he’d used a dictionary to swear in the witnesses. Someone had to scurry out and find a Bible.

He retired from the Times newspaper about 30 years ago, Whitty said.

He hesitated. He meant to talk about performing with the Miramichi Sanatoria club, brightening the days of people recovering from illness, he said. The club included a variety of acts ranging from tap dancing to orchestral music. Whitty’s contribution was one half of a comedy duo. Willie Farrah was the other half.

Sometimes Farrah would dress up as a woman as part of the act. “I’d have to make him up,” Whitty recalled, shaking his head and re-enacting the task as if Farrah’s thin face and prominent nose were just inches away from his own. “My God he was something awful looking.”

These days, Whitty spends much of his time scanning through the back issues of the local newspapers he bought years ago, including the World and the Commercial. “I used to sell the World for two cents. I got to keep one cent.”

He studiously avoids bad news. Fatal accidents might bring back painful memories for some people. He always avoids weddings – for the same reason, he added with a cackle, pretending to hold a shotgun in his hands.

He receives calls regularly from people who read his column. One call came recently from a woman in California, he said. She saw her name and those of some friends in an item from 50 years ago. “She said she had forgotten all about them until she saw that in the paper.”

The visit nearly over, Whitty offered up a possible theme for the eventual story. “You should tell some of the funny things,” he ventured then shrugged. “Oh well, you can do it the way you want”.

He stood to say goodbye. There was one final hesitation.

“You know, when you reach 90 you’re like an old car. You’re probably all right, but you can’t get any parts. There, wouldn’t that be a good way to end your story?”

That it would.

Source: Miramichi Leader – June 4, 1999

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/


                                                 CHARLES WHITTY DIES AT AGE 93
                                       Miramichi Loses Noted Journalist and Historian
                                                  By Harold W. J. Adams

It is with sincere regret, that we have to report the death last Wednesday, Oct. 16, of Charles Edward Whitty, a noted Miramichi Journalist and historian.

Charles Whitty was well known to many Miramichiers as this paper’s history columnist. The “Whitty Files” were a tremendous source for tidbits on details of local history.

“We ran Charlie’s work for well over 15 years and it became a regular feature in our paper. We often received calls from local residents on how much they enjoyed Charlie’s historical notes. He was unable to submit files in the last few years due to ill health but it was always a pleasure to run his material,” said Joanne Cadogan, editor of the Miramichi Leader and the Miramichi Weekend.

“I remember as a youth that Charlie Whitty was a member of the Sanatoria Club that put on concerts around the town of Chatham. It was one of the highlights of the social calendar for folks at Saint Andrew’s street school in those days,” said Rupert Bernard, mayor of the city of Miramichi.

“The work that Charlie did as a chronicler was very important to the social and cultural fabric of the former town of Chatham as well as for the Miramichi. It’s important that the ‘Whitty Files’ be retained and easily accessed,” said Bernard.

He was employed for many years by the Moncton Times Transcript as district manager for the Miramichi area. He also served as a reporter for the Moncton Times.

For the past 77 years, he resided at the family homestead at 34 King Street, a home often visited by tourists seeking knowledge of their family roots.

Charles was well known for his great memory and knowledge of most Miramichi families. He always seemed to know who was related to whom.

Charles Edward Whitty was born on May 6, 1909 in Chatham, N. B., the son of the late James J.P. Whitty (1875-1962) and Mary Agnes Ann Riley (1873-1958). He is predeceased by both his parents, his wife, Geraldine Reinsborough, his brother, Francis T.A. Whitty (1906-1983) and his sisters, Mrs. M. Elizabeth Mayme Bell, Mrs. C. Gertrude Rigley, Elinor May Whitty and Mary C. Whitty (1913-1916).

He is survived by his brother, George J. Whitty, and a sister, Cecilia Whitty.

He will be waked a t Maher’s Funeral Home, Chatham on Friday, Oct. 18th from 2-4 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m. The funeral mass will be held at St. Michael the Archangel Basilica this Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

Source: Miramichi Weekend – October 18, 2002

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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