April, 1955. The deck beneath my feet shuddered and groaned as the RMS Ascania pulled away from Liverpool bound for Montreal. This was to be one of her last trans-Atlantic crossings as a year later she would be pulled from service and scrapped, leaving only her bell and a large model showing her interior on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. From her maiden voyage in 1925 to this one she’d had a storied career. During WW2 she was an Armed Merchant Cruiser then she became an integral part of the Halifax Escort Force serving with the North Atlantic Escort Force on convoy protection duty and deployed to New Zealand. In 1942 she was returned to the UK as a Troopship. The following year she was modified into a Landing Ship Infantry vessel and took part in the Invasion of Sicily and, in 1944, the Anzio Landings and landings in the south of France. After the war she was returned to her ocean liner routes, the fifth of Cunard’s six “A” class liners. Perhaps her reluctance to begin this journey simply meant that she was aware of the fate awaiting her in just a few short months but I surmise the lady was just tired…weary.
This is a roundabout and somewhat overly-dramatic way of explaining that I came to Canada in 1955 aboard that great old ship. I was eight years old at the time and Canada was somewhere beyond the pointy end of the boat and England was somewhere beyond the not-so-pointy end. I must confess I knew nothing of the history of the Ascania until I started researching her for this blog. Now I look at the photograph of my sister and I against the railing “somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic” and it seems more real somehow.
This has been a difficult blog to put together, for a couple of reasons. I’m finding myself reminiscing about all the sights and sounds of a new country that was so alien to a wee Scottish lad and while I believe this could constitute an interesting series of blogs it isn’t what I set out to accomplish with this one.
I, like so many other landed immigrants from the 1940s and 1950s, assumed that Canadian Citizenship was automatic with permanent residence. Nae s’ fast wee Scottish lad…you’ve been assuming wrong. Apparently I’ve blissfully gone about the last sixty years just acting like a Canadian. Okay I don’t really know how I would have acted if I had known I wasn’t Canadian but obviously I pulled it off because nobody, including myself, saw through my deceitfully clever disguise. I have walked among Canadians unnoticed for six-decades, infiltrating their schools, radio stations, and media outlets. I have assimilated into their culture and generally been able to move undetected along any path I chose to explore.
As of three pm, Thursday, January 15, 2015…I am a Canadian Citizen.