GSK bingo session sparks Canadian roots search

GSK bingo session sparks Canadian roots search


Ken McDonald, who worked at Beechams Glaxo Smith Kline for 28 years in Shift Engineering, enjoys a game of bingo with his wife Vicky at the GSK Worthing Club meetings in the Autumn and Winter.  After one  bingo session there was a talk given by Chris Vowles on Canadian Roots.

Vicky suggested Ken took along a letter he had received from Canada House.  Ken was born at the home of the British Army in Aldershot in January 1943 to Joan Shubrook just two weeks after her 16th birthday.  He knew he was adopted and his mother refused to marry a Canadian that came to England to fight for us 70 years ago.

Prompted by Vicky, Ken 25 years ago managed to find the court records in Winchester where his father was fined and ordered to pay 7 shillings and 6 pence a week upkeep and discovered his father’s name was Joseph  William Kennedy.  Ken wrote to Canada House and received a reply that Joseph had died on May 18th 1987 just a few weeks before Ken managed tracing him and so he could proceed no further despite trying  on the Internet.  This is the letter that Ken gave to Chris Vowles at 4.00 pm on March 7th 2012.

Ken said: “The following morning at 9.00am I had an e-mail requesting that I phone Chris. Just as I’m about to do so the phone  rang and Chris informed me that I had a brother and sister living in Canada and would we like to meet them.

“After getting over the shock the  reply was yes, providing nobody gets hurt. And so three days later I was  talking to my sister Joan (yes the same Christian name as my mother) on the phone. We talked for over an hour. She had no idea of father’s past but believed that their mother would have known. So it was a bit of a  shock for both Joan and her husband Bill.”

Soon after talking to Joan Ken and Vicky booked flights and hotel to Calgary in Alberta. They left on  June 18th the day after their 50th wedding anniversary.  They were met at the airport by Joan and her husband where there were a few tears but a lot of laughter.

Joseph Kennedy volunteered at the age of 23 to fight for England and was sent over in 1942. In June 1943 he landed on the southern  tip of Sicily fighting his way to the north before landing in
Italy at Monte Cassino.  He was sent to France, then into Germany and Holland where a Dutch family looked after him until he managed to get  back to his unit and back to England.

Joseph married an Irish nurse in Scotland in 1946 and returned to Canada.  Ken visited his father’s grave in Miniota, Manitoba in a lovely cemetery miles from anywhere.

Ken said:  “Peace on Earth and I had found my Roots.  We had a wonderful time, met wonderful people that made us most welcome and we will go back.

“Thanks to my wife Vicky and GlaxoSmithKline and most of all to Chris Vowles, Canadian Roots UK and the Canadian researcher, for without them  I would still be lost.

”Chris Vowles has now found over 115 lost souls.  I was number 92 and so there are now well over 100 stories like this to be told.”