In 1914

WWI memories remain for Smithers woman

Sitting across from Patricia Scott and her passion for learning about her family history becomes clear.

Sitting across from Patricia Scott and her passion for learning about her family history becomes clear.

The Smithers woman speaks very fondly of a month-long trip to England and Ireland that she ventured on by herself to learn more about her ancestry in 2012.

Scott knows little about her father and even less about her great grandparents who lived in Ireland.

But what Scott does know is the tragedy surrounding the greatest loss in her family has had a ripple effect on younger generations.

In the early 1900s, Scott’s great grandparents James and Mary McIlwrath gave birth to 30 children, only 26 of who survived in Ireland.

“Mary was a very strong woman. Besides raising her own children, she raised three of her sister’s children and she ran a little bakery. I’m sure there were twins involved, but I don’t know for sure,” said Scott, who moved from the Lower Mainland to Smithers in the 1960s.

“They were the dynasty.”

However, when the First World War began in 1914, 14 of Mary’s sons enlisted in the British army’s Ulster Rifles’ Regiment and travelled to France to fight on the Western Front.

Sadly, only seven returned home.

“The story is from my mother Anne, she always talked about it,” said Scott. “She remembers her grandmother saying that she knew before she was told that one of her boys was killed and it was true, he was killed.”

Over the past two or three years, Scott has been working with the Bulkley Valley Genealogy Society to find out more about the seven men who lost their lives in World War One.

“I have found 22 of the 26 children that my great grandmother and great grandfather had,” she said. “Out of those 26, she sent 14 of them to war . . . it takes a while to do this and I’m getting older.”

Though she doesn’t know much about Mary and James and the sons who went to war, Scott continues to share the story of her family’s loss with her six children, six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

“My mom passed it on and my kids know a little bit about it and I just hope they will continue on with this genealogy,” said Scott. “Remembrance Day makes you think about what happened before.”

On Nov. 11, she will head to the cenotaph to honour the people who lost their lives, including her long-lost family members.

“The sense of loss in my family has remained to this day and is still quietly carried in my heart. My great grandmother never recovered from her great and devastating loss,” she said.

“Five generations feeling a sense of loss from a war that was supposed to end all wars.”


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