Joan Walsh, Moira White, Sandra Tinkler and Morag Beck of Scotland recently made their first trip to Newfoundland, where they reconnected with family from the Burin Peninsula.
©Colin Farrell/ The Southern Gazette
BURIN, NL – George Beck’s 65th birthday is one he won’t soon forget.
The Burin native, who celebrated his birthday Aug. 27, was surrounded by family at the Oldest Colony Trust Building in Burin, including his cousins Moira White and Sandra Tinkler, who made their first trip to Port au Bras from their homes in Scotland.
“It is unreal, I am celebrating my 65th birthday here now today and I got the whole family here, so I couldn’t ask for nothing better.”
Moira’s daughters, Joan Walsh and Morag Beck, also made the trip. For all four women, it was their first time visiting the island.
The family ties between Newfoundland and Scotland go deep.
“It was my dad that came from here,” said Tinkler. “He went to Scotland (approximately 1943) to join the Navy, met my mom, got married (and) had a son, Billy.”
In 1945, Beck and his family returned to Burin.
“Mom came back as a war bride,” explained Tinkler. “They stayed here three years – then dad and mom came back to Scotland.”
Joan Walsh, William’s granddaughter explained, “there was a time after my granddad had died that people lost touch with each other.”
Walsh said she had tried to find her mother’s cousin, Rodney Beck, but was unsuccessful, “but one of Rodney’s relations had found a cousin of ours in England and he went through my cousin’s Facebook list of friends looking for somebody with the first name Joan, because he didn’t know what my surname would be by then.
“And he found me.”
Walsh said she woke up one Sunday morning to a message from Beck.
“It was like 6 o’clock in the morning and I just picked my phone up and it was amazing that he’d been in touch, so we started chatting.”
Walsh explained it was a change in plans that found them preparing for a trip to Newfoundland.
“Morag turned 50 in March, and we had been saving up to go to New York for the 50th with some friends, but slowly but surely some of the friends dropped out and it came to just the two of us.”
She said the two had money saved for the trip, “and after Rod got in touch we thought, why doesn’t New York become Newfoundland?”
She told the Southern Gazette on Aug. 27 that a family member had shown them around St. John’s and Bonavista before they made their way to Burin, where they would be spending two nights before returning to St. John’s and heading back to Scotland.
Morag said it has been an amazing experience.
“We didn’t think this was going to happen, what everybody’s done for us, to see us.”
They were even Screeched-In during a visit to O'Reilly’s Pub in St. John’s, “so we are well and truly Newfoundlanders now,” said Morag.
They commented the island reminds them a lot of Scotland.
“I’m looking at (the) landscape it’s really similar to Scotland. The weather at this time of year is pretty much the same – it’s unpredictable. We arrived on the hottest days St. John’s had in a while, and then we’re in the mist and the fog on the drive up to Bonavista,” explained Beck.
“So it feels quite like home and I guess when you’re surrounded by people that treat you like that as well, it does feel like home.”
All agreed it was an overwhelming experience getting to reconnect with the family.
Visit to Port au Bras
The visitors explained one of the things they planned to do for the following day was to visit Port au Bras, the community where their father/grandfather grew up.
“I think it will be emotional tomorrow,” said Sandra. “Cause that’s the place we heard about, that’s the place that dad talked about.”
They said they would also visit the grave of their mother’s great-grandfather, as well as the church where they were christened.
“It is a shame there is nobody of that generation left,” said Morag, “My mom and aunt Sandra’s dad – all the brothers and sisters (are gone). I think the last one was lost four years ago, so we’ve only just missed some of them.”
George Beck said it was wonderful getting to meet the four women.
“We’re after showing them all over St. John’s and Bonavista – now they’re back to the Burin Peninsula where their roots come from.”