Family IV

That young handsome man on the left in his riding britches is Captain Blamey, my grandfather-Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment. He’s greeting the King of England with a few of his older brothers proudly looking on in the background. Grandad Arnold Blamey unlike my dad’s grandfather was born into a family of privilege and status in England. My great grandfather Matthew Hind Blamey owned Blamey and Sons at 62  Charing Cross just a stones throw from Trafalgar Square in London. They were the clothiers for the officers of the British Empire and he was Vice President of the Thames Angling Preservation Society and a Honorary River Keeper.  They lived in Twickenham, had a home on The Strand in London, and the children attended private schools, and grew up with servants and nannies taking care of their needs. Matthew Hind Blamey was born October 11, 1850 in West Hackney, Middlesex and he married Anne Knight Smith at  St. Clement Dane’s Church (the Royal Airforce Church) at the end of The Strand.  Anne Knight Smith’s father had a fishmonger business at 357 The Strand. My GG grandfather Matthew Hind Blamey born March 21 (my birthday), 1816 in Carlisle, Cumberland founded the company  and married his wife Sarah Secker at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church located at Trafalgar Square overlooking Lord Nelson’s column.  

When grandad enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces during the outbreak of World War I he signed up as a rank Private. His older brothers who now ran the family business and had sent the three youngest boys of four to Canada (Bertram died young) with a sizeable inheritance, and told him to enlist as a British Citizen. Why? Because he’d automatically be an officer in the British Army. Grandad said, “No, I’m in Canada!” Fortunately for my grandfather and all of us, grandad was called back to London under false pretences just days before the last calvary charge in recorded warfare at Moreuil Woods in Belgium. Why? Because they knew the Canadian troops were going to be in tough against the German machine gunners dug into the trenches and they didn’t want him sacrificed with a young wife and a new born child, my mother.  

The Blamey’s are a proud family with the British Isles side of the family mostly now living on the Channel Islands. The youngest boys in Canada all grew to have families and lived out their lives in Canada. Interestingly, I was lecturing in Vancouver one day at BC Hydro corporate office and on the roll was a Blamey. At the break I went over to him and asked him who his grandfather was; it was one of my grandfather’s brothers. 

As a little gaffer, I travelled with my mother’s youngest sister on the train to St. Vital to visit grandma and grandad. Funny the memories you hold onto! I remember sitting on the front steps of their home and the porters on the train ride out west from Montreal. Everyone says I look like a Blamey and I’m the only one with blue eyes of the kids in the family. I stayed at another of my mother’s sisters for five months in Scarborough, Ontario while I finished my Grade 13 at Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute. There I made two life long friends (Steve lives in Nelson, BC and Peter Goverde. Peter passed away in Vietnam while teaching at the International school in Hanoi) and met Mr. Allan Manly, just a terrific guy on staff at Birchmount Park.

Grandad loved his sports and I was told that he never worried about my mom because, “She ran like a deer.” My uncle, the youngest child of grandma and grandad Blamey was a very good athlete and his wife was ranked in the top eshelon in badminton in Canada. I remember Jane Youngberg, Canada’s number one ranked player telling me that my aunt was a “one heck of a player.” Jane and her husband Ed, and I were all educators in School District No. 36 (Surrey) in British Columbia. I guess my love of sport was meant to be!

I’m proud to be a Blamey and my grandmother Blamey (nee Spencer) was exactly what you’d imagine a sweet, kind grandma would be like. She was a beautiful women who my mother (mom was named after grandma) was very close to and her father. Both my grandmother and my mother were born in Birtle, Manitoba. There on the wall in the town’s history museum is a photograph of students in a one room school house-my mother is in that photograph. When grandma and grandad passed away I remember well how devastated mom was. The family was close and we as children saw our cousins often, at least those of us in Eastern Canada.

My aunt on the west coast of British Columbia has been researching the Blamey family history for over forty years. My sister (in Australia) and I went on a road trip to the UK visiting homes, graveyards, churches, business locations etc. thanks to the incredible genealogical map my aunt had graciously given us. Both my sister and I have a scroll of the Blamey tree that dates back to the early 1600s and a book she wrote cataloging our Blamey history with photographs and facts. Thank you Auntie Syl, an amazing body of work! 

While visiting my sister “Down Under” in the State of Victoria I met my cousin, Jennifer. Jennifer’s husband was the grandson of one of my grandfather’s older brothers-Horace. His son Horace  Blamey moved to Australia and raised his family on the central coast in Queensland not far from the Whitsunday Islands.  I had the pleasure of visiting that region of Australia back in the early 1980s but didn’t know I had relatives living close by. That’s her coloured book marker in the photograph. Thank you Jennifer! Another piece of memorabilia in the photograph is the deer skin book cover of Lord Tenneyson’s works and the book marker engraved, Birtle Manitoba  The Place I Left. The book was my G Grandma Spencer’s and behind the front cover it’s dated October, 1912. The deer skin cover and book mark were made by a Cree Plains native many years before and were a gift from a friend of G Grandma. Thanks mom for sharing something that you treasured and entrusted for safe keeping with me.

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