How did the men in our story react to the losses of Ypres and the Lusitania?
It is clear to me, that most of the main female characters in our story talked with each other, shared their grief and then worked with each other. They worked to help others. They loved more and became ever more open hearted themselves.
Their overall response to their losses was to become even more generative.
It was only Marguerite Gault, who was the outsider, without a network, who focused on her own needs, who fell apart.
I see the issue of connection, or network, for the men as well. Those who could connect, coped better.
There was something more. We see, in some of the men, a desire to give all, even if that means that they know what they are going to die as a result. This desire, to give all, means that they deny their own family for what they see as a greater cause.
Lastly I see another response. Here, the man reaches his limit of loss and cannot allow himself to love again for fear of more loss.
We start today with a story much like many of the women that we have observed. This story is about how love and family triumph. Key to it, is I think, a great marriage, where the loss is shared between the two partners.
We look at the life and the reaction of the patriarch of my family, Uncle Montagu. Here is is at the peak of his happiness and power and position.
It is 1912. He has just been made Colonel in Chief of the Royal Highlanders of Canada, The Black Watch. He has been in charge of the business and the family for 11 years.
Here he is after the war.
He lives to be 91. All his children predecease him. He has given away his home. All the family businesses are gone. He lives in an apartment.
But it all looked so different before the war.
He is the third generation of a remarkable family, the Allans, who had created one of the great shipping lines of all time. His father, Sir Hugh Allan, was the driving force in the massive Allan enterprise. He had arrived in Montreal penniless as a teenager and started life in lodgings.
By the time of this picture, he was called the Prince of Ravenscrag and was the most powerful man in Canada.
What was it like to be this man's son? It was hard. It is always hard to be the son of a great man. There was little affection for the boys. He expected a lot from them. His eldest son, Alexander, failed to live up to the expectations and was banished to Brockville.
Uncle Montagu was the 8th of 12 children and the second son. He was expected to look after both the business and the family. 12 siblings were only the start of the family obligations.
Family was as important to the Allans as business. And what a family it was.
Just a few yards down the road from Ravenscrag was Ionouteh, the house of Uncle Montagu's uncle and Sir Hugh's brother, Andrew.
On Sir Hugh's death in 1882, Andrew took over the running of the business and the family. Montagu would inherit it all when Andrew died in 1901.
The Hugh Allans and the Andrew Allans were as one family.
Andrew had 8 children. Andrew and Hugh had themselves married sisters, Mathilda and Isabella Smith. So, each side of the family was linked at the first order on both sides.
In fact it was three families.
Aunt Marguerite, who marries Montagu, is a Mackenzie. Her uncle, we skip a generation too, Willie marries Nina, Andrew's second daughter. Nina is my great great granny and is my grandfather, Alec's, granny. She is also a contemporary and best friend of Aunt Marguerite who is her first cousin on both sides!
In fact it was four families.
Nina has a long affair with another man and has two children by him. Finally, they cannot bear the lie and elope. Outraged, Andrew has her arrested and jailed. The deal is that she gives up her two MacKenzie children and agrees never to see them again. She is banished to Winnipeg.
As a result, her daughter, Isobel, my great granny, grew up in Andrew's house with her aunt Brenda who is only 18 months older. Isobel is treated like a sister by the younger Hugh and Andrew Allans.
Are you confused? Even the family got confused. Uncle Montagu, had to change his name from Hugh to Montagu by deed poll to avoid confusion with his cousin Hugh Allan who was a son of Andrew.
Actually it was five families.
Also brought up in Andrew's care are the children of Adelaide Gault, Hammie's first cousin, who was herself deserted by Nina's brother John
This is why, in my story, everyone is "Uncle" this or "Aunt" that. That's what they all called each other.
And then, there were all the other close relations, such as the Patersons, who all lived less than a mile away from each other and who would spend most of their time with each other either at work or at play. In 1918 amid the wreckage of all their lives, the great wish of Aunt M and Uncle M was that my grandfather Alec would marry their surviving child, Martha.
I have only mentioned the Canadian side of the family. The Allans in Scotland were also a large tribe and were tightly linked to their Canadian cousins. Aunt M introduced uncle Jimmie to Rita Jolivet. The cousins looked after Hugh while he was at school in England. The Scots Allans looked after me in England when my parents went to Ghana.
This, then, is the context for Uncle Montagu and for our story.
How did Uncle Montagu react to the death of his two daughters?
I suspect at first he was simply stunned. He, like so many, saw the war as an adventure in 1914. An adventure that would not take long. He supported Aunt M going to help in England and I think saw this in the same light as his support for the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital McGill. The war and his family's part in it was a project that would end soon. He would have to look after the business in Canada. He would travel to see them but be based still in Canada. There was so much at stake at home.
The Allan line was being taken over by the CP but it was still in his control. Wars are very important for shipping. The Allan line fleet was fully mobilized for war and many key ships would be lost.
Here is the Hesparian. Uncle M arranged for Mrs Stephens' body to be put on the Hesparian to take her back to Canada. It was sunk by the same Captain and U boat as sunk the Lusitania.
The Merchants Bank was also exceptionally busy as the economy expanded as a result of the war.
He had vast estates to administer. Work had kept him in Canada.
He also had plans for his son Hugh. Hugh had just left Eton but he had also got a place at McGill and was due to arrive back in Canada in the fall of 1915 to start his degree. Montagu wanted to prepare Hugh as his heir to take all of this over.
The death of the girls and of several cousins in France changed everything for Montagu and as we will see for Hugh.
It must have been Hugh who had to identify his sister's body after 11 days in the water. He could never go home now. Montagu himself may have opened the coffin in Montreal. He could not stay home either.
It was now a matter of honour.
He put aside all of his businesses and all of his estates and came to England to support his wife and remaining children and to take his part, as a man, in the war. He arrived in England on the Cameronia, a troop ship, on May 21st 1915.
(The Cameronia had had a fight with a U Boat in June 1915 when the Cameronia tried to ram the sub. It was sunk in 1917 while carrying over 2,000 troops. Most survived. Also remarkable was that the Cameronia was due to sail also on May 1st 1915 but at the last moment all the passengers were put off. Over 30 joined the Lusitania. A fateful connection. (More here)
By September 1915, he has, aged 55, enlisted. But what job would there be for a man of his age?
He pulls his friend Dr John Todd out of the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital, McGill, and sets out to create and organize the pension system for the soldiers. This is the beginning of Veterans Affairs.
He also fully commits himself and the family fortune to Aunt Marguerite's work with wounded soldiers. This lead eventually to the 140 + bed hospital, Moor Court, in Sidmouth Devon. This hospital with operating theatres, X ray machines and staff was financed by the Allans.
He rents Ravenscrag to the Governor General as his Montreal residence and sells the rest of the Allan Line to CP in September 1917.
For, in July 1917, he loses Hugh and so any reason, in his own mind, to hang on to the Line.
He loses his interest in the business
From then on, like his wife, Aunt Marguerite, family is everything. And like Aunt M and Julia Drummond, he expands this idea of family to all the families of those who lose their sons. His work on Pensions continues. He does not return to Canada until well into 1919. He is not demobilized until 1920!
He is also now homeless as Ravenscrag is rented to the Governor General. Irony of ironies, Montagu and Aunt M are invited to a dinner at their own home, Ravenscrag, by the new Governor General, Lord Byng of Vimy.
His last great act of generosity is his work to help General Currie find a job after the war. Currie, like a Greek Hero of old, returns home to public and political rejection. While other Generals of half his ability in the UK are given money and titles, Currie is rejected by the establishment in Ottawa.
Uncle M, whose influence at McGill is unparalleled, backs Currie as the new president. Currie, like Robert E Lee, becomes a university president. The Allan's ensure that the Currie's find an honoured place in Montreal society.
In 1942, his daughter Martha dies. At this point Aunt M and Uncle M give Ravenscrag to McGill where it becomes the Allan Institute. They retire to an apartment in The Chateau.
Of all the men in our story, no one loses so much as Montagu. But he remains a sweet and loving man. He becomes a greater man for his losses. For, while he loses all his wealth and the trappings of power, he maintains the role he set himself on seeing his dead daughter's face. He makes family everything.
Why did he react this way? I think that part of this was his natural character.
Part of this was his secure marriage with Aunt M. Their losses brought them closer. They had the same response of generosity in loss.
Part of this was the vast and close connections of the family itself and the shared experience of so many of them.
And because of his losses, he meets every person as just another human. No one sees him as a Prince but instead as another father who had lost so much. And he welcomed all for, because his heart is broken, it is so open to love.
The Allan motto is Spero - "Hope" in Latin. I think he lived it. Don't you?