Thursday, August 14, 2014


Mount Hope cemetery, Toronto

THE HEADSTONE OF MY FATHER'S PARENTS. A few years ago - about a decade, maybe less - I decided to find where my grandparents were buried. I made a couple of calls to make sure I'd find them there, then packed a bag with a Rolleiflex and a couple of rolls of film.

Mount Hope is the "old" Catholic cemetery here in Toronto, opened after St. Michael's Cemetery, just down Yonge Street, had filled up. The "new" cemetery is Holy Cross, way up in Thornhill, where my parents are buried. My wife keeps telling me we need to start thinking about funeral plans, and while I'd do anything to avoid this, if I had a preference I'd like to end up At Mount Hope, if only because it's closer to the parts of the city where I've actually lived.

It didn't take me long to find the Murphys, my mother's parents, but the McGinnises were a tougher hunt. I eventually found this faded white stone cross, probably put in place when Robert McGinnis, my grandfather, died in Christmas of 1914, not long after the family emigrated from Lesmahagow, Scotland. He'd taken a job at the Swift's Edible Oil and rendering plant in the stockyards north of the Junction - a short walk from where I live now. Typhoid had an affinity for stockyard workers, unfortunately, and he left behind a wife, a daughter and four sons including my father, who'd leave school shortly afterward to help support the family.

His wife, Isabella, would survive for almost three more decades, ill for much of that time, dying in the summer of 1943, when my father was in the air force. He'd put off marrying his fiancee due to his mother's health, and so a few months later he was able to get leave, took the train to Toronto, got married and took my mother for a brief honeymoon in Montreal before heading back to base in Rockcliffe, just outside Ottawa.

I never knew any of my grandparents.

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