The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

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The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 17)



This is the seventeenth 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.


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New Canadians: Paul, Val, Angela & Brian. 1979.























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Brian's Bar. 1981.















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Bruce Trail Complete. 1981.







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Val Stables & Ann at the Legion










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Paul & Brian Stables. 78th Frasers Burns Night.

Tyler Avenue, Acton, (Ontario) was a happy place for me. We arrived in winter, (February 1978) and the snow was deep.

It was due to this situation that I was obliged to introduce myself to one of my new neighbours a trifle earlier than anticipated; indeed it was to happen at the very moment of arrival. My driveway was buried in snow and I urgently needed the immediate use of a snow shovel. I was at the point of going to a hardware store to purchase this item when I noticed a man holding just that very article; he was standing at the other side of the street from me. Seizing the opportunity I quickly introduced myself and explained my predicament. We exchanged pleasantries and, whilst I dug my way into my driveway with his shovel.[1] Val and the children were introduced to his wife and they were taken indoors to have a coffee and get to meet our new neighbours. It was the start of a close friendship that has lasted to this very day.

We had not settled down very long before Paul came home from school and announced that I would have take up an outdoor recreational activity during the winter months - or face the consequences of early senility. We discussed alternatives and skiing was decided as being the obvious choice, (cost and availability). I was a little unsure how I would adapt to this as I had memories of downhill skiing in Germany in the fifties, and those were the days when I was much younger, fitter, better looking and, moreover, when taking my state of bachelorhood and the type of the ‘aprés ski’ activities into consideration, I could not see me enjoying a similar style fun in quite the same degree.

It so happened that there was an extra curricular activity class at the local school that taught Nordic, (or cross-country) skiing and I suggested that if he, (Paul) were to join this, learn the skills, and then pass them on to me, I would be happy to be his pupil. The girls decided they would like to join in, so we equipped ourselves with all the gear and got started. There was a huge area, ideal for skiing, just west of the town, and we were perfectly situated to be able to ski directly from our doorway, go along a few front lawns, cross the, ( frozen) Lake and gain access to some excellent recreational trails. I somersaulted and spun around like a cartoon character, I remember thinking that if I lived through this, I would murder him.

I recall one afternoon whilst traversing along the top of a small rise, with Paul staying parallel in the valley below, when he shouted for me to join him; he pointed to what looked like a good access route, it was blinding sunshine and the snow was deep. He was the instructor and I the pupil, so I turned down towards him and found myself in the middle of a most unexpected manoeuvre; he had directed me onto a snow shelf that I was unable to recognise due to the glare of the sun. The shelf of snow he guided me onto collapsed, and as I somersaulted and spun around like a cartoon character, I remember thinking that if I lived through this, I would murder him. I couldn’t catch him however, so he lived another day.

I had, (arbitrarily) decided that Television was impinging on time that should be used for school homework and so did not purchase a TV set, thinking it would be helpful not to have one at all rather than have to impose and monitor rules as to its use. This went well, (from my angle) until one Sunday morning our neighbour, (John) asked Paul if he had watched “The game” last evening, and Paul replied that he had been unable to watch the big event, (a Hockey match) because we did not have a TV set.
John was a bit startled at this, and the very next evening, upon answering the chimes of the door bell, I was greeted by two of our new friends carrying a TV set between them and saying; “We hear you don’t have a TV set Brian”

To say I was enveloped in conflicting emotions would be an understatement. How does one explain the reasons for depriving ones children of the anodyne of the 20th century?

The set was duly placed in Paul’s room, and I was obliged to purchase a family set to keep Angela happy.

Early that first summer I built a picnic bench, bought a barbeque and set about giving myself a ‘Barbie’ on the back lawn. No sooner had I got the fire going than John, together with another couple of guys came over, accompanied by their wives. They had got everything organised, complete with an extra picnic bench, coolers of beer and steaks; they just put some steaks on my barbeque, and settled down to have themselves a little ‘welcome to Canada’ party. I was a tad surprised at this apparent intrusion of my privacy, but I quickly adapted and it turned out to be a perfect day. We were able to get to know each other far quicker than otherwise would have been the case.

They were, and are, a zany bunch, I was told of one occasion when one family went off on vacation and found a ‘HOUSE FOR SALE’ sign on their lawn upon their return!

It became customary to just ‘drop in’ upon whoever happened to be ‘firing up’ during the summer.
During the winter months, hunting, skiing and ice fishing[2] appeared to be the most popular pastimes of the men who lived around my neighbourhood, and although I was invited to all their activities I rarely accepted. For one thing I seldom had time available, and in any event my personal philosophy had grown to a point where the thought of killing any creature was abhorrent.

I renewed my skills at winemaking and brewing cask beer. Needless to say this became very popular, although my Canadian born friends did require education on the finer points of real ale...

We all had our own wet bars in the basements of our homes and on cold nights it was a pleasant moment to be able to either entertain the odd friend who had dropped by, or ‘pop’ over the road to cadge off someone else. I renewed my skills at winemaking and brewing cask beer. Needless to say this became very popular, although my Canadian born friends did require education on the finer points of real ale and had to be weaned away from their Canadian tastes, I was very happy to assist them in this and to introduce them to the British ‘Pint’!

When we emigrated we had a family discussion and we had all agreed that it would be permanent without any reservations or ideas that this might be a temporary move. We thought that doing it this way we would not be forever whining about how much better things are at the place we had just left, it always is! In 1979 therefore we all became Canadian citizens and thus cemented our destinations for as long as we live.

About this same time my job security became precarious, there were plans to move the company to Alabama where the tax breaks were encouraging to all types of business ventures; the result was that, later that same year, I started a new job with another import/export company which, although based in Quebec, ran an Ontario office based in Markham. My old company was closed down, and became consolidated within the headquarters group in Alabama USA.

Things were progressing smoothly once more when, about 1980, we made contact with the ex wife of one of my old army pals and a neighbour from Hong Kong days, she had re-married and was living in California. Arrangements were made to visit her, but unfortunately I could not meet the date and John’s wife, Anna, our neighbour and Val’s best friend agreed to accompany Val in my stead.

I tried to point out that, as I had neither requirement nor desire to lose weight, I was unable to understand the point of me going on a diet... Of course it was wasted breath. 

Val decided to lose weight in order to be able to look good in a swim suit, and, of course compete with the California girls; she started a diet and informed me that ‘we’ were now going to do a ‘pep step’, on a daily basis. I tried to point out that as I had neither requirement nor desire to lose weight; I was unable to understand the point of me going on a diet, nor indeed, why I should be required to do a ‘pep step’. Of course it was wasted breath. To our mutual astonishment the first time we walked around the area in a brisk walk we were both exhausted. I just could not believe I was so out of shape, after all I was only fifty years old and I had been doing just fine on the ski trails. We decided to do something about it. We rose a tad earlier every morning and very soon progressed to a fast walk which, as we became more proficient, gradually increased in distance. Eventually we settled to a daily six Kilometre circular walk which took us about fifty minutes.

1983 saw Angela married to a local lad, (Dennis Emond) they took an apartment in the town and our wonderful granddaughter, Melissa, made her appearance in 1985. About two or three years after this they moved to Belleville.

 I got a bit bored with walking around and around in circles and decided to walk some of the southern section of the Bruce Trail. This is a long distance, (over seven hundred and fifty km) continuous Hiking path, broken down into nine sections, each of which are organised and separately maintained by different clubs under the umbrella of the Bruce Trail Association. This wonderful footpath follows the escarpment of the ancient shoreline of Lake Ontario from its Northern tip at Tobermory to Queenstown in the South[3]. For me, it also had an advantage in that it passed close to my home in Acton. After walking a couple of different sections, I decided to complete the whole southern half. Of course I was only able to get out on weekends and therefore concentrated on the parts within easy reach. After a couple of years of this I decided it was time to complete the whole trail, and, with joining club organised hikes and a lot of help from family and friends[4], I accomplished this ambition in 1988.

During this period I had a nasty accident on the ski trails and compressed some discs in my spine, my family physician recommended a fusion to take the pressure off the nerves. Angela suggested seeing a Chiropractor, which I did and he was able to make adjustments to enable me to function without too much pain, I still need to attend monthly treatments however and it is still quite a nuisance.

About nineteen eighty four, the owner of the house we were living in required us to move, he and his family were moving out West and he had to settle his affairs, I could not afford the price he was asking so we moved to a bungalow on the next street which was even closer to the Lake and the ski trails. Thus we were able, not only to keep our good friends, but to make new ones too.

My means of transportation to this exotic establishment depended upon the weather; in summer it was walking or by canoe, and in the winter it was by car or skis.

Our new home, (on Elizabeth Drive) was directly on the lake shore just opposite the Royal Canadian Legion building. This is the equivalent of the British Legion in England and I had joined it in order to socialise with my friends. My means of transportation to this exotic establishment depended upon the weather; in summer it was walking or by canoe, and in the winter it was by car or skis.

I have a wonderful memory of standing in the bar after a Remembrance Day parade, trying to be inconspicuous in the company of so many heroes of hand to hand combat and Fighter plane pilots who always seem to infest these establishments at such times, wondering whatever happened to the guys who got through their service scared to death and carrying ammunition etc. when a guy sidled up, and, noticing my Blazer Motto, he spoke to me in a thick Germanic accent saying; “I used to wear a badge like that, but it didn’t have ‘Or Glory’ underneath the skull” I hastily looked around and suggested that this was perhaps not the best time to mention such things. We enjoyed each others company for the remainder of the afternoon, but unfortunately, I never met him again.

During our stay in Acton, Paul had joined the local militia regiment which is in many ways similar to the British Territorial Army, then after leaving High School for University he took a position with a recreation regiment during the summer recess. This proved to be a very interesting situation; apparently, in 1964 during the preparations for the World ‘Exposition’ in Montreal a man named Colonel Harper was responsible for raising and recreating a company of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, they dressed in the uniform of, and were armed with the weapons of the mid 1700’s This was a regiment which was originally formed by Simon Fraser in 1757, they were, (amongst other regiments) present with Wolfe in the battle of Quebec in 1759. They were disbanded after hostilities ceased a couple of years later.[5] The, (1964) head of the Fraser clan, (Lord Lovat) was persuaded to give his support and the venture was inaugurated as a charity with the object of giving summer time employment to students. I was intrigued by this and upon discovering that commissions were made and sold in the same manner as they had been three hundred years ago, I duly purchased an Ensigns commission beautifully signed and sealed by Lord Lovat himself, this gave me access to all the Regimental functions which were held in many different venues around Toronto City.

The officer...was doing just fine until it came time to stab his dirk into the evil mess on the platter; it shot off the plate like a cannonball... 

I mention this because it brings to mind an unforgettable story of how things can go terribly wrong when one is trying to partake in solemn ritual and ‘Murphy’s Law’ prevails. The main Dinner night of the year’s calendar was always a ‘Burn’s Night’ celebration, and we always took part in a little ceremony, whereby a Haggis was borne into the dining room, carried on a ‘stretcher’ supported on the shoulders of a couple of designated officers, it was paraded around the dining room accompanied by a bagpiper wailing away in true Highland fashion, and duly laid to rest on the top table The ceremony would then continue with a blessing from the Regimental Padre and a recitation of Burn’s poem in praise of the Haggis. This being Canada of the 1980’s there was bound to be something go haywire. The Haggis was imported, (and of course) frozen. This particular year someone neglected to defrost it, and worse, no one noticed the oversight. The officer performing the procedure of reciting the poem and cutting into the Haggis was doing just fine until it came time to stab his dirk into the evil mess on the platter; it shot off the plate like a cannonball and rattled out between the tables and completely ruined the atmosphere of the ritual! What fun!

In the closing days of 1988 our new landlord died and his widow decided she would like to live on Lakeside.

We got our notice to quit on New Years Eve. I could imagine my Dad’s foreboding at our receiving bad news at such an inauspicious moment. He was right. There was nothing suitable that was immediately available in Acton and after examining our changed circumstances of an ‘Empty nest’ with Angie already married and Paul in residence at University, with little likelihood of his returning to live with us permanently, we settled into a rented apartment in Guelph, which is about a twenty minute drive from Acton, and, praise be, within the free phone call area![6] For the following few months’ things ran fairly smoothly, but that was due to change. I once again had occasion to recall my Dad always being very superstitious of anything going out of kilter on New Years Day, and how he always wanted his debts paid off and affairs brought up to date by years end and how we would carry out a ‘First footing’ ritual where a dark haired individual would be delegated to be the first person over the threshold, carrying bread, water and coal. Maybe I should have paid attention.

Read the next installment: Guelph

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[1] To this day, he still ‘pulls my leg’ by saying he thinks that it was a mistake to loan me his snow shovel and he should have ignored me!
[2] A hole is cut through the ice, sometimes, (but not always) a hut is placed over it and the fisherman, (women are too intelligent for this display of masochism) attempt to catch the fish through the hole.
[3] There is a web site; that will give details.
[4] Sometimes my daughter or son, sometimes a friend, would follow me in their car to a ‘drop off’ point where I would park my car. They would then take me to a point fifteen to twenty kilometres away and I would walk back along the trail to where my car was waiting. Sometimes, if, (for example) Paul accompanied me, we would drop off one car then park the second car at the second point, then together, would return along the path for the first car.
[5] I found it interesting that a Colonel John Hale was also at Quebec with Wolfe and it was he who formed the 17th Lancers, (my regiment) a couple of years later. I served with a descendant of his who was also in the Regiment in Germany.
[6] In Canada we pay a fixed amount to the telephone company and all local calls are covered in this basic fee, it is quite customary for a phone call to last an hour or more when the ladies have something to talk about. When do they ever not?


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Last modified: May 10, 2010