When Arthur Bird Griffin was born on November 1, 1888, in Backwell, Somerset, England, his father, John Griffin (1860-1937), was 28 and his mother, Sarah Jane (née Goodland) (1857-1931), was 31. Arthur had three brothers and one sister.
Arthur was by all accounts a very gentle man. He was an artist who dabbled in many mediums including pencil, paint, wood and even fabric. His descendants have evidence of his works proudly displayed in their homes. Arthur’s skill with fabrics was evident in his choice of profession. He was employed as a weaver.
At some point prior to or around 1907, Arthur emigrated from England to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His name appears on the Nominal Rolls for the 91st Regiment, Argyll and Sutherland in Hamilton, Ontario for that year. He is listed as a private in 1907 and Corporal by 1910. According to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders’ Museum:
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s), is a Highland infantry unit of the Canadian Forces Army Reserve. The infantry is the main fighting branch of the Canadian Forces, and is the backbone of the army.
The Regiment was gazetted in 1903 as the 91st Regiment Canadian Highlanders.
I haven’t been able to locate Arthur on the 1911 Canadian Census, but I believe he was still living in Hamilton at the time.
On April 7, 1914, Arthur and his brother, Charles disembarked the S.S. Arabic, which travelled from Liverpool to Boston, Massachusetts, USA. His final destination was Hamilton, Ontario. Although no earlier record has been uncovered, this record indicates that Arthur was living in Hamilton prior to this trip, and had already met his future wife. His stated intention on the documentation is to visit with Samuel Moore, his future father-in-law, at 463 John Street in Hamilton, Ontario (the house is no longer there).
The S.S. Arabic was a member of the White Star line (made infamous for another of its ships, which you might know under the name of “Titanic”).
Arthur enlisted on August 31, 1915, just a month after the beginning of World War I. His enlistment paperwork suggests that he had five years of military service, three years with the Highlanders and two years prior to that with the 2nd Canadian Dragoons. His occupation on the enlistment form is a “weaver.” Arthur enlisted at the John W. Foote Armouries at 200 James Street North in Hamilton, where the Argyll and Sutherland regiment was based. During the First World War, the regiment acted as a training unit providing 145 officers and 5,207 other ranks for service in the numbered battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Just a week after enlisting, Arthur married Lily Moore on September 8, 1915, at St. Luke’s Church in Hamilton, Ontario. The wedding was witnessed by Lily’s sister Dora and her husband Albert Hulme. Arthur’s occupation is already listed as “soldier.” Lily’s name is corrected on the certificate: her name was always Lily, and not Lillian (as it appears the chaplain assumed).
When Lily Moore was born on September 19, 1891, in Chorley, Lancashire, England, her father, Samuel Moore (1868-1951), was 22, and her mother, Elizabeth (née Longworth) (1869-1951), was 22. She had one sister.
The couple had three daughters over the next twelve years. The first, Dorothy Irene (1917-2010), was conceived before Arthur shipped out and was born on February 11, 1917 (she would have been 100 this year).
This photo below of Lily and Dorothy was taken shortly after Dorothy was born and sent to Art on the front. A note on the back reads “This picture received by ABG in Belgium 1917. Was gassed and left France 2 weeks later.” (This post relates to the other soldiers that Arthur was with during that period.)
Arthur was indeed a victim of the mustard gas. His children later said that he wouldn’t talk about the war, but their mother said he was much changed by it.
Dorothy’s sister Gladys May (1922-2001), was born on October 17, 1922.
And a third daughter, Grace Gwendolyn (1927-2017), was born in 1927. After having two girls already, Arthur had really been hoping for a son. As a result, Grace was nicknamed “Sonny.”
Initially, while Arthur was at war and for some time after, the couple lived with Lily’s parents at 299 Grovesnor Road North in Hamilton.
When Dorothy was about five years old, the couple made a trip back to visit the Griffin family in Somerset. They arrived back in Hamilton on October 12, 1922, just five days before Gladys was born. Dorothy and Lily are in the same passport photo in the documents.
Upon returning from the war, Arthur took a job in a Cotton Mill in Hamilton. Given his facility with art and his experience with textiles, it was a good fit. In 1922, the family took a trip back home to visit with the Griffins. They left aboard the Empress of France, arriving in Southhampton, UK in September and returned via the Minnesoda on October 12, 1922.
At some point, the family moved into 1484 Main Street East, Hamilton.
Arthur died on April 30, 1972, in Hamilton, Ontario, at the age of 83.
Lily survived for more than a decade after her husband, initially moving in with her daughter Dorothy, who had also been widowed and then into a St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home in Hamilton. Lily died on May 16, 1985, in Hamilton, Ontario, at the age of 93. Her obituary reads:
Griffin, Lily – Passed away peacefully at St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home in her 95th year. Widow of Arthur Bird Griffin and dear mother of Dorothy Webb of Hamilton, Gladys Prosser of Hamilton and (name removed). Will be sadly missed by four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Friends may call at the LG WALLACE FUNERAL HOME, 151 Ottawa Street North – Thursday 7-9 p.m. and Friday 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Complete funeral service in Chapel Satruday at 11 a.m. Canon Robert E. Adams of St. James the Apostle Church officiating. Cremation will follow. The family would appreciate donations to your favourite charity.
The couple had three children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and as of the time of writing this piece, there are seven great-grandchildren.
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