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Robert Dalton AffleckChemical Engineer
Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Robert Dalton Affleck
Date and place of birth: 1st February 1893, S Lanark, Perth, Ontario, Canada
Date and Place of Death: 4th May 1970, Vancouver , Canada
Nationality: Canadian of ‘Scotch’ extraction
Father died when he was 11 months old and his mother was pregnant with his younger brother John
Parents : John Knox Affleck and Jane Camilla nee Wodden
Parents occupations: Farmer
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: University of Toronto 1914-1916 and 1920-21 (School of Practical Science)
Occupation: Chemical engineer then School Principal
Place of residence at Gretna: 1 Edward Street Annan at time of marriage in 1917 Then 46 The Rand Eastriggs at time of son’s birth in May 1918
Marital status : Married whilst at HM Factory Gretna
Children: A son, Anthony Cyril born at Eastriggs
Travels : None known other than for war work
Awards/recognitions: None known
Positions held: Principal of University Hill School, Vancouver, 1926-1956
Trivia / any other information: Yes – brother was also a Chemical engineer at Gretna and was a witness at his wedding.
Robert Dalton Affleck 1893-1970
In December 1916 two brothers, John Knox Affleck and Robert Dalton Affleck sailed into Liverpool en route to their war work for the Board of Munitions at HM Factory Gretna where they would both work as chemical engineers. They both interrupted their studies at the University of Toronto for this important work.
This is Robert’s story.
Robert Dalton Affleck was the second child born to John Knox Affleck, farmer , and Jane Camilla nee Wodden of S Lanark, Perth, Ontario. His sister Elsie Joan was born in 1890 and his younger brother John Knox was born in 1894, 6 months after their father’s death from peritoniotis ( Public member tree) This left their mother a young widow with three very young children.
His parents married on 8th January, 1890 , presumably in a Presbyterian or Congregational ceremony as this is the religion they state very clearly on all censuses from 1891 to 1921 ( Canadian) Further information gleaned form the census returns is that the father identified as of Scotch origin and the mother identified as Irish. The Affleck’s emigrated to Canada from Peebles in Scotland in the 1820s.
In 1901 , the Canadian census lists Jane C Affleck as the head of the household, aged 44 ( born 2nd November 1856), describing herself as Canadian with Irish roots and a Presbyterian. Elsie is 10, Robert D is 8 and John K all described with “Scotch” roots. They were living at Sth Lanark, Perth, Ontario.
By 1911, Jenny had moved with her children to live with her widowed mother, John’s grandmother. She, Jane Wodden was 87, an Emma A Wodden, 45 was still at home, Jane Camilla Affleck, widow aged 54, Elsie J, 20 ,now a student, Robert D 18 and John K 16.
Both Robert and John became students at the University of Toronto School of Practical Science studying Applied Chemistry. ( Yearbook 1921 University of Toronto archives and Roll of Honour 1914-1918). The University Archives hold a wealth of resources regarding both John and Robert and possibly other Chemists who served at Gretna.
Robert’s attestation papers are not readily available but we have evidence that they both sailed into Liverpool as Chemical engineers en route to HM Factory Gretna in December 1916.
On 30th May 1917, 24 year old Chemical engineer Robert of 1 Edward Place Annan, married 27 Doris Conron Smith also of 1 Edward Place Annan, daughter of a private tutor. They were married at the Church of Scotland, Annan. Witnesses to the wedding were Robert’s brother John K Affleck and Gladys Thomson, daughter of the minister who interestingly married there three months later.
There is evidence that Doris had been in Canada in 1916. On the passenger list for their repatriation following the war one question asks if and when they had previously visited the country.
Doris was born in 1887 in Hastings to Herbert a private tutor and Emily Sophie nee Rae. She was the third of 5 children. In both the 1901 and 1911 census returns their household includes a boarder who is a pupil. So we can possibly assume that Doris’s father worked from home. In 1911 the family lived in Dulwich, Kent. It is not clear why she travelled to Canada in 1916. Meeting Robert in Annan could just have been serendipity but they married within 6 months of Robert and John’s arrival in Dumfrieshire. It is also unclear why her father would have moved north of the border to continue his private tutoring.
Whilst John was living at 13-15 The Ridge , Robert and Doris moved into 46 The Rand , Eastriggs. Robert is listed on the Valuation Roll but not the Electoral register.
This is where they were living when their son Anthony Cyril Affleck was born on 9th May 1918 according to the birth registration.
On 12th October 1918 , Robert , Doris and Anthony were repatriated on SS Olympus from Southampton to Canada. Robert probably did not return to his interrupted studies like his brother as he is not evident in the yearbook alongside his John.
The Province newspaper , Wednesday May 14th 1970 includes a detailed obituary of Robert who died on 4th May aged 77. This gives a retrospective on his life including Gretna.
He had been principal at University Hill, Vancouver from 1936 to 1958 when under legislation f the time he had been forced to retire aged 65. The Province dated Thursday 21st May 1970 showed a picture of Robert in sport’s best and boxing gloves as he complained about enforced retirement. “ Age is no criterion” he says. “ It’s your IQ and physical condition that counts. Some people die at 55.”
It goes on to explain that he started his career as a chemist, served briefly in the Canadian Army then worked with the British Ministry of Munitions. In 1918 he went to British Colombia working at a variety of jobs before obtaining a teaching certificate in 1925. He spent two years operating a chicken ranch on Gabriola Island.
From 1925 he taught at Hedley for three years then was Principal at Princeton before moving to University Hill. Whilst at Princeton he was also head of the prospector’s club teaching principles of geology to prospectors and miners.
Several public member trees give 4th May as Robert’s death and that of his son but Anthony Cyril is evident in 1997 in the electoral register. He had become a technician and married a nurse . ‘The Province – May 1970’ includes a grandson Russell in the family.
Doris Robert by 7 years dying in January 1977. Both siblings also outlived him making a little bit of a mockery of his photograph and quote regarding physical fitness and retirement.