Halls Lake couple found love in war
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | November 8, 2018|
Written on a-small, green envelope are the words “Sweet memories from Wales” from Arthur to Aunt Sarah.
Inside are dried flowers - 100-yearold dried flowers, to be exact.
The sender, Arthur Robert Oliver, is long gone, having died in 1955. So is the recipient. But the well- preserved letter is one of Linda Coneybeare’s most treasured links to her grandfather, who fought in the First World War.
“I have paintings at home, he loved to paint with watercolours,” she shares in a recent interview. “He seemed to be a very gentle soul. I just can’t imagine him in the trenches and being wounded at Passchendaele and the [mustard] gas,” she says as she shares photos.
Her grandfather was born in Wales in the mid-1890s, before the family moved to Yorkshire. They then emigrated to the USA. Young Arthur was given a scholarship to a prep school in Philadelphia. However, it was revoked when they found out he wasn’t born in America. His miffed father decided to move on and found out about an Ontario land grant that would take the family to Halls Lake. They were farmers. In 1914, when war break out, Arthur went overseas.
After being wounded at Passchendale, Arthur went on leave. He decided to go back to Yorkshire and visit the street the family had lived on. He also decided to call on his sister’s penpal there, Mary Crowther.
Coneybeare pulls out a wedding photo from November, 1918, of Arthur and Mary. “And, as they say, the rest is history.”
The following spring, in May, 1919, the two took a troop ship to Toronto, a train to Gelert Station, a horse and carriage to the Dominion Hotel, where they overnighted, and then a horse and buggy to the farm on Halls Lake.
Mary Oliver lived on the farm until she was well into her 90s. She would live to 103. The couple had twins, daughter Rosamond (Coneybeare’s mother) and son, Raymond.
Coneybeare said her grandfather never talked about the war. “It must have been a dreadful time coming form a farming community, loving to paint, being a teacher and a lay minister.”
As for her grandmother, “She talked about being a woman in her late 20’s when a whole generation of men were just not there. I think she probably expected to be a spinster.”
Coneybeare said she wanted to share the story because she loves history and with her job (Transat Travel), she’s been able to visit places such as Normandy and Canadian war cemeteries in Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.
“My grandmother lived to be so old, she was a link to World War I, which is not a common thing. She was always my link to that generation. And, I’ve read so much about that generation. And, I just didn’t want people to forget there was this great war … the war to end all wars.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.