About Grampy

Grampy Brown was born Ernest Henry Walker in Leominster, England, January 3rd, 1901.  He was adopted when 3 weeks old by the Browns. Unfortunately, his adopted father died of cancer in August 1907 and his wife died the following year.  Upon being admitted to the hospital, her son-in-law, William Jones, took temporary charge of Grampy. After she died in the fall of 1908, William was unable to keep him.  His adopted mother had requested that in the event of her death, knowing there would be no-one else to care for him after she was gone, Grampy be put into a Home. Consequently, Ms. Hilda Neild from the Vista in Leominster (possibly a good-will society) applied to Dr. Barnardo’s on Grampy’s behalf.  In her application to the home, Ms Neild described Grampy as “utterly friendless”.   “He is  a sturdy little fellow and has the character of being honest and truthful.”  He was admitted to Leopold House in London’s East End, on October 1st, 1908.  He was seven years, nine months old.  As was their common practice, Barnardo’s boarded Grampy out until he left for Canada two years later.

He leaves Liverpool, England on July 28th, 1910 on the S.S. Tunisian with 259 other children under 14 years old, bound for Canada.  They arrive in Quebec, on August 5th, 1910. He was 9 years, 6 months old.  In Canada, he went to live with the Shermans after a brief stay with Mr. John Black.  In Grampy’s own words, he was “badly used” by him.  He was only there for 4 months before the government placed him with the Sherman family.  The Shermans were very good to Grampy, encouraging him to go to school until he finished Grade 9.  He always spoke very highly of them and they kept in touch throughout the years.  Grampy said he worked hard on the farm but that’s what life was like then. The Canada records show that Grampy was industrious and hard-working.  After leaving the Sherman farm, we know that by January 1923 he was employed by the Woolen Mill in Orangeville, Ontario. I t is very interesting that his birth place, Leominster, was partially established on the wool trade.  While at the mill in Orangeville, he met Alice Thelma Berneice Wells.  By July 1925, he was working as foreman at the woolen mill in Hamilton and “doing very well”. He married that good-looking girl Berneice on September 12th, 1925.  His best man and fellow Home Child was Ed Whalen. They lived in Orangeville with Pastor William and Jean Cornelius and were baptized in their Pentecostal church. Their first daughter Evelyn Eleanor Isabelle Brown was born in Orangeville in January, 1931.

Later, he worked for the Standard Paving Company. He began by digging ditches, working his way up to a supervisory position.  Grampy loved this type of work and he excelled at it.  Eventually, Standard Paving sent him to Nova Scotia to pave the  roads, starting in Cape Breton. They lived in Port Hastings where their second daughter, Joyce Alice Brown, was born in January, 1938. In those days, the causeway was not yet built and Nanny had to take the ferry across the Strait from Cape Breton to stay with some friends for two weeks before Joyce was born, as a precaution. They moved from there to Pictou and then Maitland, paving the roads of Nova Scotia along the way.

From 1943-1945, during WWII, American planes needed a place to land as a stop-over in Maitland, NS – this being before the days of the International Airport in Halifax.  Grampy moved there to oversee this project but the air strips in Maitland were never used for that purpose because the war ended before this project came to fruition.  An interesting side note: the Maitland Drag races were later held on those very same air strips providing memorable entertainment for many Nova Scotians over the years.  Evelyn’s children remember how she loved living in Maitland and she still retains friendships with girls she knew in those happy days.  Joyce started school there and remembers one particular day being surprised that Grampy was there when she returned home after school.  When Joyce asked him why he was home he said that the war had ended and they were all let go early.  After the air strip project ended, Standard Paving sent Grampy to work in Halifax/Dartmouth  and he travelled back and forth to Maitland for the weekends.

Before moving into the King House in Maitland, Grampy & Nanny lived in a portable cabin which they hauled with them and set up in each new location as the road paving progressed around Cape Breton Island.  Both Evelyn and Joyce have remarked how Nanny felt these were the happiest times of their lives.  Grampy knew every road and town in Nova Scotia. If we remarked having been anywhere in the province, he would always mention certain landmarks and talk about the work he did there. His oldest grandaughter, Pat, went with them the summers he worked in Digby and Belliveau’s Cove. They were magical times and she has vivid memories of those summers: A one-room cottage with blankets hung to make two bedrooms, Nanny’s pancake breakfasts, hiding from Nanny in a hay loft until Grampy came to get her after one particularly mischievous afternoon, and her first ever bannana split for $.25

Grampy worked with Standard Paving until he was 65.  In those days, it was a compulsory retirement age. It was very hard on him, having spent his whole life working hard from a very early age.  Happily, he soon began working for Blackwood Hodge, a paving equipment service and repair company. They gave him a truck and he delivered parts for their shop. After 7 years, he retired at age 73, again only because it was required for his pension. Grampy loved his work and took great pleasure then and after retiring in driving around the province, remembering this road and that road, this person and that person, from various jobs. To be driving his car while smoking a cigar with Nanny, barely able to see over the dash, stoically by his side, riding those roads together – well, life didn’t get much better than that.

From Maitland, Grampy and Nanny moved temporarily to a trailor in  Birch Cove while they built a house on Tremont Drive in Rockingham, where they lived for 40 years. When Nanny and Grampy found it difficult to care for themselves, they moved to Spryfield, Nova Scotia to live next door to their daughter where Joyce and Albert looked after them for many years.  After 61 years together, Nanny Brown passed away on December 12, 1986. In 1995, Grampy moved to Fairview Villa.  He celebrated his last birthday there surrounded by most of his loving and devoted family.  Grampy passed away almost a year later on November 29, 1995 at the ripe old age of 94.

We always felt Grampy was grateful to Barnardo’s and the Shermans in Canada for the second chance they gave him here. Yet, experiencing the bitter loss of his familial roots, the death of his adoptive parents, that family’s subsequent rejection, the bewilderment of a 9 year old child travelling ,virtually alone, to a vast and far-away country, and the abuse he recieved from Mr Black in his first “Home” situation left their mark. The first two were revealed in his character, which was sterling and uncompromising.  The others were engraved on his personality, which was less inviting and open than it became in later years.  Certainly, his family meant, literally, everything to Grampy, and the security, finally, of that familial love softened him over the years and he became even more dear to us.  Indeed, we all respected and loved him and never doubted his love.  He was always there for us, and we can look back with gratitude for the great influence he had on our lives.  He had a tremendous personal impact, individually, on each of us.

Ernest “Grampy” Brown and Berneice “Nanny” Brown ares survived by their two daughters,  ten grand-chidren, seventeen great-grand-children and five great-great-grand-children.

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