Politics runs in the family as does the arts. In politics you won’t ever see this happen again in Canadian history whereby the leader of the winning party turns down the premiership of the province based on ethics within the party. Then his daughter, my grandmother, goes on to become one of two first ladies elected into a provincial legislature, a brother, Charles Morrison, became President of Canadian General Electric, another brother, Robert Morrison, became Canada’s top cattleman, and grandma’s brother-in-law goes on to become Canada’s first Immigration Minister and Minister of Finance. One powerhouse family!
In my first year of university I signed up for Canadian History. My professor in my first class after reviewing the syllabus for the year requested my presence down at the podium after his lecture. He asks me if I know M. Rae Luckock, “Yes sir, she’s my grandmother.” “Do you know of JJ Morrison? “Yes, I know he’s my Great Grandfather.” “And do you know Walter Harris?” “Yes sir, I do.” He says, “I want to talk to you.” For the rest of my tenure at university I would meet with my professor and he would tell me stories of my family. Dad talked little of it although he was extremely interested in politics and stayed very connected to his family roots within the Morrison/Blyth clans.
Robert Morrison (James Justin Morrison’s dad) was born 1823 and came to Canada in 1845 from Lagan near Edgeworthstown County Longford, Ireland. He married Charlotte Matthews (daughter of George Frederick Matthews, who, after serving with the British Grenadiers at Gilbraltar, became the first settler in GarafraxaTownship. Matthews was the second child of a December 15, 1785 morganatic marriage of the Prince of Wales-later King George IV-and Maria Fitzherbert, a commoner.) in 1853 who was born 1830. Robert saw no future for himself in Ireland because all the land was owned by English non-resident nobility. The land was not leased. Holdings were at the pleasure of the owners and were dispensed by an agent. Thus in June of 1845 Robert sold his Right of Holding to raise money for passage to the New World. He then walked to Dublin and located a steam packet that provided a daily service to Liverpool. There he arranged passage on the Carthagenian, a sailing vessel, that plied between Quebec City and Calcutta, India-a six week voyage. Thank you Uncle Charlie Morrison who wrote a paper that told the story of Robert Morrison and his struggles to build a new life at Petherton just outside Arthur , Ontario. The Blyth and Morrison homesteads are across from each other at the Pioneer Petherton Cemetery roadside site on Highway 6. By the turn of the century the Morrison’s had cleared and were cultivating one hundred acres of land, equipped with a five bedroom brick house (eight children) with a maple driveway, a bank barn, and a large fruit orchard. “And we think we worked hard in our careers!”
George Blyth was born 1794 married Margaret Mitchell from Glasgow, Scotland. Their son Henry Blyth born 1836 is the father of Margaret Blyth who married JJ Morrison, my Great Grandparents.
Robert’s son, James Justin Morrison born 1861 , would found the United Farmers of Ontario and the United Farmers Co-operative. It is said he is the only politician who will ever reject the Premiership of a province-Ontario election 1919.
Grandma, Margarette Rae Morrison Luckock, founded Canada’s most powerful women’s organization and lead the biggest political signed petition in Canadian history. She defeated a formidable opponent and Canada’s Athlete of the Half Century, Lionel Conacher to represent her riding in the Ontario Legislature. She also represented the United Nations on women’s rights, and travelled all over the world advocating for women. I’m proud to say I’m named after her as are my two beautiful daughters. During the McCarthy era in the United States grandma was not allowed to enter the United States of America, branded a communist for travelling to China and other socialist countries at the time. The Iron Curtain existed not just between the USA and the Soviet Union but also within our own country. This quote is taken from the foreword of the series of lithographs grandma received as a gift while in China in the ’50s. “To realize their cherished hopes, the women and all the people of China have to redouble their efforts; it is only with the support of their friends throughout the world that these efforts can be fruitful.” The lithographs have Chinese, English, and French descriptions. In another book are signatures of dignitaries from all over the world and words of praise for my grandmother, including Picasso’s signature.
Grandma led the largest political rally in Canadian history getting more than a million signatures in a time when Canada’s population was only about 12,000,000. She got the federal Liberal government to roll-back milk and bread prices after discovering those industries were price fixing. When she presented the petition to Prime Minister Mackenzie King on the steps of Parliament, she was standing beside her brother-in-law, the Honourable Walter Harris QC, a future Finance Minister of Canada and the leading contender along with Lester Pearson for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. I can only imagine the conversation between Mackenzie King and Uncle Walter after Grandma left the steps of Parliament.
Grandad supported my grandmother’s political activism after their young daughter, my aunt Fern tragically died. She vowed that a poor health care system would never again be accepted by the citizens of Canada. Grandad on the other hand was a self-employed tool and die manufacturer in Toronto. He designed many of the provincial historical plaques you see across Canada. On the side, he loved his photography and created bronze works of art. Grandad was an ingenious man who built our gravity fed waterworks at the cottage and converted a vehicle motor into a generator so we had electricity before modern conveniences, such as electricity and running water were installed in Cottage Country Canada.