A few years ago, when Gramma T and I were talking family history, she told me that she remembered being bounced on her grandfather Hutcheon's knee. He used to babysit her and her siblings, while her parents, Charles and Mary, got ready to move the family from Port Arthur, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba. It would have been one of her earliest memories from the 1920s. Her story is backed up by Alexander's appearance in the 1921 census, living in Port Arthur with the Charles Hutcheon family.
Alexander told the enumerator he came to Canada in 1913. His memory might have been getting a little fuzzy, though, as he is shown sailing to Canada on the Ionian, in March of 1912.
The timing of his trip is understandable. His ties to Scottish soil were fading, and there were some very good reasons to go to Canada. His aging and "senile" mother had passed away in January of 1912. He'd likely have felt that complex mix of grief and relief and the need for a change of scenery. His wife of 35 years, Agnes CROLL, had passed away as well, in 1910, and his children were all grown adults. In fact, his youngest son, Charles, had been living in Canada since 1906 and had started a family there. When his youngest daughter, Margaret, announced that she would marry in Vancouver, Canada, in the summer of 1912, I imagine that there would have been an accompanying chorus of pleas to "come and visit".
Ocean crossings are not to be undertaken lightly at any time of year, but in late winter, anything can happen. The Titanic discovered this less than a month after Alexander's voyage. He might have had an idea of what he was getting into, though, as his older brother was a Master Mariner, and a conversation with William would have been of great help in preparing for the voyage.
Furthermore, I picture Alexander to have been a fairly sensible, "street smart" fellow, and not the type to be dismayed at the thought of an overseas voyage. Although he was born and raised in the country, he and Agnes had lived in Dundee, Scotland for over 10 years. Alexander held various jobs there, most often as a General Carter. These days, he'd be called a courier, or a "Man with a Van".
He'd have seen and heard many interesting things on the streets of Dundee around the turn of the century. The third largest city in Scotland, Dundee was booming at the time. It was known for its manufacturing industry, especially of jute and linen. It was also a major port for the seal and whale fishery. There would have been plenty of cartage work for a strong man with a cart, some horses, and some hustle. The 1901 census shows the Alexander Hutcheon family living at 16 Baffin Street, the three youngest children still at home. Helen (16) and Charles (14) had jobs, while Margaret (11) was not quite finished school.
But why did Alexander and Agnes move the family from the country to the city in the first place? I can think of two reasons. Economics, of course, would have played a part in the decision, as it did for so many families. As Dundee's star rose, it would have been a beacon to those from the country, who were hoping for more stable, year-round incomes, especially compared to the uncertainty of being a contract employee in the up-and-down farming industry.
The second reason might have been concern for his family's health. The winter of 1895 was particularly cold in Britain, and Alexander's oldest son, David had caught pneumonia and died at the age of 20. Perhaps Alexander and Agnes believed that the housing conditions would be warmer and healthier in a modern city than in a draughty old farm cottage.
Were they worried about picking up and making such a big move? Possibly not as much as you'd think. Moving house didn't appear to be a foreign concept to the Hutcheon family. The ill-fated David was born in the summer of 1875, in Fordoun. Every child after that - 3 more boys and 3 girls - was born in a different town. Up and down the hilly farmland of Kincardineshire they went, wherever a "ploughman" was needed. They didn't move far - Kincardineshire Parish was about the size of Winnipeg or Calgary - but they moved often.
I don't know how Agnes, who spent her early years in just one house, appreciated life on the move, but Alexander was likely accustomed to it. His father had also been a ploughman, and I suspect that he and his 5 siblings would have been moving from the day they were born. For Alexander, that day was June 7, 1951 in Fordoun, Kincardineshire.