Cards from Dad and Ma

In April 1914, my great-grandparents William and Polly Monks said goodbye to their son Harold as he left Earlestown Lancashire for a new life in Clayoquot Sound. In this pre-telephone, pre-internet era, they stayed in contact with their son by mail. Harold kept many of the birthday cards and postcards sent by his “Dad and Ma” from Earlestown to the “West Coast BC”. These cards showcase many seaside resorts in interwar Britain and make a nice memento of a close family relationship.

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A 1932 birthday card from Dad and Ma in Earlestown Lancashire to son Harold Monks in “Tofino, West Coast, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada”
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William and Polly Monks in 1914, when Harold left England
Market Street, Earlestown Lancashire in the 1920s. Postcard sent to former Earlestown resident Harold Monks by his parents.
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Harold Monks on board his fishboat in Clayoquot Sound in the 1920s

William Monks was an active correspondent over these years. Harold kept all of his Dad’s postcards. The postcards give a nice overview of Mr. and Mrs. Monks’ holidays and the almost “quaint” addresses of Harold Monks — “The Cannery” or “Tofino, West Coast Vancouver Island, Canada.” William Monks worked at the Vulcan Works (aka Earlestown “Wagon Works”) of the London and North Western Railway building locomotive carriages.

This London and North Western Railway wagon was built at the Earlestown “wagon works” of the L.N.W.R. Photo taken at the Railway Museum in York in 2015.

Mr. Monks was involved in union business. He sent Harold a postcard from an annual meeting in Birkenhead.

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July 1933 postcard from William Monks in Birkenhead to Harold Monks in Tofino
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Mr. Monks’ postcard from Birkenhead July 1933

Another time, business and pleasure (“which he enjoyed immense”) took him to Exeter. He noted “some people from Ontario have been staying at this place” — presumably he thought Ontario and Tofino were a few short hours away!

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A postcard from William Monks in Exeter to Harold Monks in Tofino, 1928

When not on business trips or seaside holidays, Mr. and Mrs. Monks were busy on their allotment in Earlestown. Mr. Monks was always a dapper dresser, as this snapshot shows.

William Monks on the allotment in the 1930s — with suit and watch chain!

Mr. and Mrs. Monks went on several holidays in the 1920s and 1930s to the north Wales resorts of Rhyl, Llandudno, Pwllheli.

Pwllheli Harbour, northwest Wales, 1921 postcard sent to Harold Monks
“Beautiful weather, splendid beach and sea” at Pwllheli Wales. (Alice was Harold’s sister-in-law)

While Dad, Ma and Alice were enjoying the splendid beach of Pwllheli, Harold was on board the Annie H, catching sockeye salmon for the Clayoquot Sound Canning Company at Kenn Falls.

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Harold fished on John Eik’s boat “Annie H” from 1920-1927. Annie H tied up at Kenn Falls cannery. Snapshot by Harold Monks.

In 1927, Dad and Ma were in the Isle of Man – sending a postcard that asked “Perhaps you will recognize this place?” since Harold had spent his childhood summers on the island.

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A 1927 postcard from Mr and Mrs Monks to Harold Monks in Canada that recalls happy summer childhood holidays on I.O.M.
The Monks family and friends on an outing to Sulby Glen, Isle of Man c. 1903.

The Monks family always had professional portraits taken in Douglas Isle of Man. Contrast Polly Monks’ 1927 costume with that of 1902! (and contrast it with her everyday outfit in the allotment photo, but not much change for Mr. Monks, always with his suit and watch chain.

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Harold, his “Ma” Polly, brother Willie, and grandma on the Isle of Man, circa 1902
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Mr and Mrs Monks on I.O.M. in 1927

Mr. and Mrs. Monks and their friends often went on day trips to the seaside. Here’s a postcard from May 1932 when they went with a (probable) choral society for a day trip to popular North Wales resort Colwyn Bay.

Colwyn Bay, North Wales, postcard sent on May 24 1932 by William Monks to his son Harold in Tofino.
Colwyn Bay, May 24 1933. Here we are on Picnic with the L.M.S.C. Society Love Dad and Mother

Most often Mr. and Mrs. Monks went to nearby Southport, Lancashire. Messages on the postcards included: “Just here for the day. Bad morning but at 5 o’clock beautiful sunshine. Received your welcome letter just when leaving Earlestown.” (July 15 1933) and “Here with the old folks from Newton and Earlestown. Having a rare good time” (July 20 1933)

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From Southport Bridge to Tofino – a postcard sent in 1933
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“Ma and Self OK” in Southport, summer 1932.

In 1936, Mr and Mrs Monks made their most exotic trip yet — all the way to “Tofino Vancouver Island BC Canada”!

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William and Polly Monks set sail for Canada, 1936

On April 17 1936, William and Polly Monks sailed from Liverpool. By May 3 1936, they were in Tofino, where they spent the next several months. Their grandson Harold Frank Monks was born on January 31 1937.

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Polly Monks with baby Harold Frank Monks on the steps of the Tofino house

At the end of April 1937, Mr. and Mrs. Monks left Tofino. A few days later, they sailed from New Westminster on SS Pacific Pioneer, a small cargo steamer with first class accommodation. Mr. and Mrs. Monks had shore leave in San Francisco then travelled through the Panama Canal. They arrived in Manchester in July 1937.

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William and Polly Monks – Golden Wedding Anniversary, 1939

William and Polly Monks celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on April 18 1939. Harold’s “Ma” died a few months later. “Dad”, William Monks, died in 1952.