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, British Columbia. 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 in the 1920s and 1930s by his “Dad and Ma” from Earlestown to the “West Coast BC”. These cards make a nice memento of a close family relationship and showcase many inter-war English seaside resorts.

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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”.
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

Business and Pleasure

The postcards were sent to what would have seemed “exotic” addresses — “The Cannery” or “Tofino, West Coast Vancouver Island, Canada.” During the 1920s, Harold was fishing for the Clayoquot Sound Canning Company at Kenn Falls, up the Tofino Inlet.

Postcard sent by Mr. Monks to Harold in July 1921 when Harold was fishing at the cannery
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Harold fished on the “Annie H” from 1920-1927. Annie H tied up at Kenn Falls cannery. Snapshot by Harold Monks
Harold Monks on board his fishboat in Clayoquot Sound in the 1920s.

Back in Earlestown, William Monks was nearing retirement from the London and North Western Railway’s “Wagon Works”) where he built railway wagons, like this one preserved at the Railway Museum in York.

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. Here is a postcard he sent while at an annual meeting in Birkenhead (across the Mersey from Liverpool).

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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
Mr. Monks was always a dapper dresser, even with the turkeys on the allotment!


Most often Harold’s Dad and Ma 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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“Ma and Self OK” in Southport, summer 1932
“Having a rare good time, Love Dad” Southport July 28 1933
“Just here for the day rather bad morning but at 5 o clock beautiful sunshine”. Southport Lancashire July 18 1933

North Wales

Mr. and Mrs. Monks went on several holidays in the 1920s and 1930s to North Wales seaside resorts, easily accessible at that time by an extensive rail network. In July 1921 at Pwllheli, North Wales with Alice, Harold’s sister-in-law, up from North London.

Pwllheli Harbour, 1921 postcard sent to Harold Monks
“Beautiful weather, splendid beach and sea” at Pwllheli Wales
Harold’s brother Willie and wife Alice, photo taken around the time they were married in 1913. They lived in Willesden, North London

In August 1932, Mr. and Mrs. Monks were to spend a day in Llandudno with Alice and the children (“Stella and Harold are becoming very brown”) Here’s a postcard from Alice to Harold. Notice all the “bathing machines” at the water’s edge!

Llandudno North Wales August 11 1932. Postcard from Alice Monks to her brother-in-law in Canada, Harold
“Here we are spending our holidays chiefly on the beach” Llandudno, August 11 1932

In May 1933 Mr. and Mrs. Monks were on a picnic with the L.M.S.C. Society in Colwyn Bay. (Unknown what L.M.S.C. Society is but perhaps a choral society or a co-operative society, both popular groups in early 1900s England).

Colwyn Bay, North Wales, postcard sent on May 24 1933 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

Isle of Man

In 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Monks sent a post card from the Isle of Man that asked “Perhaps you will recognize this place?” since Harold had spent his childhood holidays 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 the Isle of Man.
The Monks family and friends on an outing to Sulby Glen, Isle of Man c. 1903. Harold is at the front of the carriage in a fur collar, next to his Dad in straw boater hat. Harold’s brother Willie is at the back of the carriage, in front of his Ma in feather plumed hat.

The Monks family always had professional portraits taken in Douglas Isle of Man. Here is one from circa 1902. Contrast Mrs. Monks’ fashion with the portrait from 1927!

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


Now for a trip down South to “The Grange”, the home of Harold’s brother, who worked as an engineer at McVities Biscuit factory. “Dear Son Harold, came down to Willie’s yesterday, had a very pleasant journey down. Willie, Alice and the children are well. Mother and myself are O.K. Been out this morning, when we got back to The Grange rain came along. Fond love, Dad”

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

William and Polly Monks sailed from Liverpool on April 17 1936 and 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.

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, games and sunbathing in deck chairs, “a limited party of like-minded people.” (Harold had previously travelled on the “Pioneer” in 1929 and kept all the brochures, so we can get an idea of what it was like) Shipping records show that Mr. and Mrs. Monks had shore leave in San Francisco (but no postcards sent!) then travelled through the Panama Canal. They arrived in Manchester in July 1937.

Pamphlet for the Furness Line passenger service between Manchester and British Columbia from a 1929 pamphlet

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

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William and Polly Monks – Golden Wedding Anniversary, 1939