The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

Site Search by PicoSearch. Help

The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 16)


Emigration To Canada

This is the sixteenth part of Brian Stables's fascinating and very funny autobiography, which is written in his own words.

Brian was born in Tickhill in 1929 and emigrated to Canada in 1976. He is currently serialising his life story for us.

He has also provided a superb collection of photographs to accompany his story. Click the photo for a larger image.









Civilian life begins again...

Life is never dull, the only constant really is the element of change, and everything constantly changes. The job I had planned did not work out as expected. Does anything? It was time to start looking around for new horizons.

It was whilst I was out of the country, drumming up business, that Val decided to visit her brother, who was living in Chertsey at the time, and whilst she was there, they all decided to visit the Windsor and Eton area.

By a huge coincidence (and for me a stroke of good fortune) whilst walking around Eton, Val happened to spot the name of our mutual friend from Singapore days; Colin Edwards, written on a sign outside a small manufacturing company. She called in, and discovered he was in the USA on business, so she left our phone number and he contacted me upon his return to England.

He was now the owner of a group of very diverse companies, from import/export to manufacturing and he was actually looking for someone he could trust, to keep an eye on things in England whilst he went abroad to further his interests. It appeared to be a good opportunity for both of us and we came to a rapid agreement. It was now that my courses and experiences in administration whilst with the army came to fruition. Of course there was a downside; we had to move house again. was exciting and very hectic, so hectic indeed that (about 1972) I suffered a brain seizure...

We moved into an apartment overlooking the High Street in Eton and that kept us together until I was able to put a deposit on a house in Slough, ah yes, yet another move. It was a very interesting time, with quite a bit of traveling to and from a factory in Huntington that the company purchased and to other interesting places. We took over an old brewery building in Chiswick and converted it into offices. I was required to travel to Switzerland, the USA and Canada; places that I never imagined I would ever be able to visit and life was exciting and very hectic, so hectic indeed that (about 1972) I suffered a brain seizure which incapacitated me for about six months.

It was very bad timing. Not to think that such a thing could ever be good timing I suppose, but what compounded the situation was that Val was already in hospital having had an operation to rectify problems on her feet. The good news was that my mother was paying us a visit the weekend it happened, so when I woke up one morning to find myself completely paralysed, unable to move or speak, but able to see and hear, it was comforting to know that I was in good hands, well, I thought I would be as soon as someone found me! My immediate concern being that I wanted to get to the bathroom!

Angela came into my room and was obviously a bit startled to see me not moving, she left to get my mum who came in all hustle and bustle, she placed her hand on my forehead and almost passed out!
Apparently I was so cold she thought I was dead. Mum got the ambulance, and that turned out to be a bit of a giggle, because, as I was stuck in the fetal position, the men could not get me straightened out for correct placement on the stretcher! They strapped me to a chair and carried me off to hospital.

On the way I overheard the ambulance radio giving warning of the imminent arrival of someone else who was being taken in as an emergency case due to a burst appendix. I was not too interested at that moment but I did get a bit worried later on, when, after wheeling me into the reception area, all curled up on a trolley, the men just pushed me into a corner and left me to mull things over for a while. They did not realise I knew what was going on, just because I was unable to communicate they must have thought I did not know what was happening around me, they (obviously) decided that I would not be in a position to complain if they left me alone for a bit, they were right, I couldn’t!

...she had me mixed up with the burst appendix chap... What a surprise they were in for when they cut me open, I thought.

It was not long before a young nurse came along and said, “Mr Armstrong try not to worry, we have everything set up for you and we will soon have you out of pain and put right again”. She noticed my hands were clasped on my lower stomach and tried to move them; she was unsuccessful and probably thought I was in too much pain to cooperate. It didn’t take me long to work out that she had me mixed up with the burst appendix chap. She was such a pleasant girl, and she appeared so concerned for my feelings that I almost wished I could produce a diseased appendix for her. What a surprise they were in for when they cut me open, I thought.

Fortunately, just as she was having me wheeled down to the operating theatre, and at almost coinciding moments: first; the ambulance guys discovered I was missing, and secondly; a senior Nurse came up to check my identification bracelet, this good lady soon sorted things out and I got placed in a small ward and injected with some relaxing medication. A few hours later I was beginning to get straightened out and able to talk in a mumbling fashion and was placed in a main ward.

Val was in the same hospital, she was informed of my situation and they wheeled her around to my bedside.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she cried
“Why aren’t you home with the kids?” she went on.
Poor Val was all upset and frantic with worry.

 I tried to answer but it all came out jumbled. In retrospect it was all rather funny but at the time I was somewhat aggravated at not being able to make myself understood. When I started recovering we both insisted on going home, Mum was getting fractious and it was clear Val was not going to be happy propped up in Hospital when the children were without our supervision. Upon our arrival home it took my mum about two minutes to pack her bags and leave us saying; “I am not being put on like this again!”.

With Val hobbling around through having both legs in plaster casts and me tottering around like a movie style Zombie the whole scene started to take on a nightmare quality...

We ‘phoned Val’s mum but she said she was too busy to help us, so we just got on with the situation. With Val hobbling around through having both legs in plaster casts and me tottering around like a movie style Zombie the whole scene started to take on a nightmare quality, we were fortunate that the two children seemed to understand the situation and were well behaved and thoughtful in their actions.
The most redeeming things to come from this period was the friendship of my employer Colin and his wonderful wife Judy. We also received a lot of support from our good friend Joan Butler who lived just around the corner from us. Without Colin and Judy’s help checking on us to make sure we were coping and Joan’s helping us on a practical note by assisting with the shopping and meals, life would have been very difficult indeed.

After about six or seven months of living in a stupor, I have a recollection of one particular day, whilst sitting on the sofa looking at nothing at all, and I began to realise that the situation was not going to improve on its own, I straightaway determined to take charge of my own health. Very similar in fact to the time I had Diphtheria.
“I am not going to live like this any longer”, I said to my ever loving Val.

The next day I went to visit my Doctor and told him I was planning to reduce and eventually stop taking the medication he had prescribed and that I was determined to be walking properly as soon as possible. He warned me not to be too hasty, but I thought there wasn’t a lot to lose and that there was a great deal to gain, just by making an effort. It was easier said than done, just walking as far as the end of the garden was a big expedition, and the thought of going outside my immediate environment was quite traumatic for I was scared I could collapse again and be without help. But, with the help of my friends, it was not long before I was able to function reasonably well and soon was able to drive a car, Colin gave me a job that did not entail too much stress and by the following year I was almost back up to being my old self and life was good again.

It was New years Eve 1975/76 and the (home-made) wine was flowing, our friends and neighbours were packed into our small living room, the music was loud, we were all shouting to make ourselves heard over the music and each others voices, as usual in these situations no one was paying attention to whatever anyone else was saying, the kids were trying, (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep, all was well with the world. I had a good job; the sailing boat I had been working on for the past three years was almost completed and ready for launching. I shared the home I lived in with the mortgage company and I was fully recovered from the brain seizure of just three years or so ago, what more has life to offer?

It was approaching midnight and things were getting warmed up.

“I am sick of the immigrants moving into the neighbourhood, the whole character of the place is changing, so why don’t we emigrate?”, spoke up my darling wife, apropos nothing at all, and apparently, to the world in general.

It all went quiet.

‘Where would you like to go?”, I made the mistake of enquiring...
“Let’s go to Canada” she said.

The subject was immediately picked up, and it was generally viewed by everyone present that she was speaking an element of truth in the way the community was taking on a new character, no one seemed too bothered about it and it caused a bit of a laugh. They thought she was joking. I, on the other hand, realised that she was serious. I was just far enough under the influence of my own potions to take it a stage further.

I had already been approached, by Colin, (the owner of the company I worked for) to consider taking up one of two available positions within the group. The first was in Montreal, the other one in New York. I had rejected both of these offers, as I wanted to settle down and bring the children up in a ‘Stable’ atmosphere, (pun intended).

‘Where would you like to go?”, I made the mistake of enquiring.
“Let’s go to Canada” she said.
I gave it a moment’s pause then, without thinking straight, I opened my big mouth.
“It just so happens there is a job in Montreal that is available, my love” said I, compounding the error.
“Let’s do it”, she hiccoughed.

I tottered over to the ‘phone, dialled through to New York and announced that I was ready for Montreal.
“You are drunk” (maybe he used a different word here) “aren’t you?”, came the accusing voice in my delicate ear.
“Well, yes that’s true”, I had to admit.
“OK, book yourself on the British Airway’s flight on Tuesday afternoon to Mirabel” (The air terminal for Montreal) “and if I see you there” the voice continued, “you can have the job”.

I informed Val and the present company, but only Val believed I had actually made the call, the rest thought I had faked it and was pulling their legs, they truly thought I was joking. I was not.

There were a few times over the next six months that I began to wish I had been joking. It was such a hassle filling in documents, getting health checks, arranging to sell the house, and furnishings, the boats. The boat I was building, and my small dinghy, proved the largest problem, all the time commuting over to New York and popping up to Montreal to check the job over and make arrangement for our accommodation and the takeover as soon as possible.

I took every opportunity to take the children around as many historical places as I was able to fit into the time available, I thought it was a good idea to let them see as much of their heritage as possible. It was good for me too for these are things you would not perhaps do unless encouraged.

Val, of course was once again displaying her talents at packing the personal items and keeping the home running, I happened to be at the American side of the Atlantic when Val got the documents giving us ‘Landed Immigrant’ status. It was arranged for me to meet Val and the kids in Kennedy airport New York, and then enter Canada as a family group from the USA.

The first impression of the wonderful country of USA for Paul and Angela was the amount of ‘stretch’ limousines that were lined up outside the terminal building. They thought they had arrived in Hollywood. 

Because they would be tired I planned to stay a couple of nights in Colin’s house, which was in Oyster Bay on Long Island, he was in England at the time, but he arranged for it to be open and available. I left in good time but unfortunately ran into some very heavy tropical-style rain, there was about an inch of water on the road surface and cars were aquaplaning like a set of ‘Dodgem’ cars. I had to reduce speed to the point where I began to wonder if I would ever get to my destination. I just got inside the airport terminal when Val and the kids were coming out of the customs department, it was perfect timing.

The first impression of the wonderful country of USA for Paul and Angela was the amount of ‘stretch’ limousines that were lined up outside the terminal building. They thought they had arrived in Hollywood. We stayed a couple of nights, then journeyed up to Montreal via the Taconic State parkway, a most wonderfully unspoiled scenic ride and a pleasure to drive along.

Our new home was in Pierrefonds, a suburb to the West of the city of Montreal. We soon settled down, made some good friends and started thinking of putting down roots. It was September 1976 and winter was fast approaching, I tried warning Val to be extra careful for I knew that her experience of extreme cold was absolutely zero. It took a day when the temperature dropped to minus thirty centigrade, and Val had decided to visit one of our new friends, to really put Val into an understanding situation regarding the cold.

She dressed as she would in England whilst visiting friend’s: skirt and pantyhose, light shoes and raincoat, she got about two hundred yards down the road when her nylons started to crack, and her fingers started tingling, it was then she realised her error. She arrived at her friend’s house very much distressed and lucky not to have frostbite. I got a phone call in my office to pick her up in time for the Angie and Paul arriving home from school.

...shortly after our arrival. New laws were quickly passed making the use of the English language illegal. Added to this was a new bureaucratic nightmare comprising of ‘Language police’. 

Unfortunately our timing for emigration to Canada was very poor. A politician named Rene Lévesque, a ‘Freedom for Quebec’ rabble rouser, (to be honest, a most charismatic person) the leader of the Quebec separatist party; the ‘Parti Quebecois’, was voted into office just shortly after our arrival. New laws were quickly passed making the use of the English language illegal in public and in the workforce. Added to this was a new bureaucratic nightmare comprising of ‘Language police’. A confidential telephone line to enable individuals to (secretly) report offenders became activated and publicised. Worse, it was, (and still is) made use of.

I received two certificates giving permission for our children to continue attending an English language school. From now on all emigrant children would attend French schools, and this includes people moving to Quebec from other Canadian provinces. To my regret, I angrily tore them up and ritually burned them. I knew it was time to go.
The funny thing is that I had just enrolled in the local High school to learn French so as to participate in the local culture. Naturally, I cancelled that straight away. I think what emphasised this situation was a ‘phone call I received from a friend and working colleague who could trace his (Francophone) roots back to the sixteen hundreds.

“Brian”, he said, “you aren’t going to believe this but I have just had the language police in here and I have had to take my calendar off my wall because it is not written in French”. He was so angry, even more so, when he realised I was the only person he could immediately bring to mind, with whom he felt comfortable to let off steam! He kept apologising and admitted he was unsure if he would be reported to the authorities if he spoke of his anger to anyone else. It was like the Nazi party taking over control all over again.

Arrangements were made to move the company, and as many staff as wished to go, to Toronto in Ontario.

I rented and moved into house in Acton, a small town just west of the city, where we once again started making a new life for ourselves.

Read the next installment: Ontario

Send mail to Michael Chance & Andy Stables at with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2004 Andy Stables
Last modified: May 10, 2010