Mary Ann Locke – A scattering of generations
ST JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND (2021) – I grew up with stories of family members travelling to Boston, New York, the Caribbean and family that lived in the USA and the UK. One of my earliest adventures was moving to Toronto in 1966 at age 5. My father and his friend, Kevin Sullivan of Torbay, drove their old Chevy, in a scene reminiscent of the classic Canadian film Going Down The Road , and my mother and I would follow, travelling by train. Across Newfoundland, onto the ferry at Port aux Basques and then from North Sydney to Union Station in Toronto. It was an epic journey for a 5 year old.
Through the late 60s and early 70s we lived in a neighbourhood in North York with other Newfoundlanders and east coasters as well as Italian, Portuguese and Jamaican immigrants before my parents decided to return to Newfoundland. I would repeat this journey a decade later after university. Yet this is a small part of the Locke family history of travel, migration and immigration.
Arthur and Mary Ann
On my fathers side, Mary Ann Locke was a central part of the Locke family’s history of travel and migration for work and her history is the story of so many Newfoundlanders and it has spanned generations in our family.
Born in Port Rexton, Newfoundland in 1911 she travelled to New York in the 1930’s for work like so many of that generation. The men in construction and high steel and the women, typically, as domestic servants or factory workers.
While in New York, Mary Ann, or Nan Locke or Aunt Mary, depending on which part and generation of the Locke, Randall or Ballet family you came from, would lose her first husband in a construction accident during the building of the original Madison Square Gardens leaving her widowed with two children, Gloria and Leah.
Living in the ex-pat community in Brooklyn she met Arthur Locke, a carpenter who was also recently widowed with two children, Jane and William.
Family legend has it that Arthur left Newfoundland to join the Canadian Army but ended up stealing the Captains horse and crossed the border to join the US Army. Details are shrouded in time but a US Army foot stone marks his grave in Trinity, Newfoundland.
Many of the Lockes were in New York working at the time when Arthur and Mary Ann decided to marry and return to Lockston and the Trinity Bight area with their family. They went on to have two more children, Fred and Joan.
Jane and William would return to the USA. They were US citizens. Jane would settle in Florida but maintain her family ties to Newfoundland and cultural identity while still being very much an American. William would die in WWII at the Battle of Malta flying a British RAF Spitfire. Fred would move to Toronto in 1966 returning to St John’s in 1972.
I would leave again in 1983 and after living in Toronto and Ottawa would return home again in 1989 but spend the next five years travelling for work in the USA, Europe and Africa. I chose a career where travel was a part of my work. While in Ottawa my friends were mainly people we knew from high school and university.
In 2020 Mary Ann’s Great Granddaughter, my daughter, would pack up and move to Ottawa for a job.
Mary Ann was an avid photographer and many of the old photos in this project were hers and a part of the inspiration to link up the stories of other Newfoundland migrant workers. I found envelopes of unsorted old negatives in her house after her death and preserved them.
While Ann Locke (Norman) moved to Toronto and returned, her two brothers and sister did not return to Newfoundland. They settled first in Toronto and then in parts of northern Ontario.
Pre Confederation the Normans were sailors and fishermen and plied their trade in schooners between Newfoundland, the USA and the Caribbean and were centred in the Catalina area. Salt fish south, sugar north and everything else in Boston.
While Newfoundland is considered a remote isolated place now it was once a major port on the north Atlantic trade routes. They not only had goods from England and the USA but exotic things from the Caribbean. Anne tells stories of having unique fruit, vegetables, material and even exotic pets. A foul mouthed parrot bought off a sailor in Falmouth, Jamaica and monkey from South America. Both of which ended up going back for bad behaviour.
Newfoundland men would load up their schooner with salt fish and head south in the spring and often not return until the Fall or Christmas. It was a way of life for generations. Work was travel if not full emigration even then.
The Lockes were a big family in Arthur and Mary Ann’s day but today they, like so many Newfoundland families, become scatterlings. Across the country and across the globe.
The descendants of Mary Ann Locke are far flung today. I have cousins in Ontario, Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina, Scotland and England. More than a few now that I do not know, grandchildren and children of my generation. Do they hear stories of Newfoundland and their widely scattered relatives?
One great uncle went to England during WWII. Met a local girl and eventually settled in Edinburgh. I was lucky to visit with him and his children in the early 1990s but have not met his great grandchildren yet.
My wife’s family, who have been in Newfoundland for hundreds of years, have a history of migration to Boston in the late 1800s and much of her extended family are now in New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia.
Having grown up, worked in and visited immigrant communities all my life I recognize many of the same cultural identity traits and behaviours in the Newfoundland diaspora. They are common in people and their children who are displaced from their home lands.
The photo of the Locke brothers with their families on the ship in New York harbour awaiting departure and return to Newfoundland is representative of the Newfoundland migrant experience. A people on the move. …ebb and flow.