The History of my Grandfather

William John Kane – 1907-2000
William John Kane was born in Dublin’s fair city in 1907. He was the offspring of Mary and William George Kane of -2 Chester Road Dublin, Ireland. Willie, as his mother called him, was born in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital on the 21st of July 1907. He was a two-month premature baby and the smallest baby ever born in the Rotunda Hospital. His father, William George Kane, was not alive at the time of the birth. He died on March 9th1907 at the tender age of 25 years old. Apparently, after playing soccer one cold and rainy day he developed a cold which progressed into pneumonia and he died four months before the birth of his wee baby.

The known history of his biological father, William George Kane, includes his date of birth as the 13th day of January 1882. Born in Crawfordsburn, County Down, Ireland. I believe that he was the son of Thomas Kane. It is not clear if he and his parents also lived at Helen’s Bay near Crawfordsburn at some point in their lives because Willie has vague recollections of spending summer months with his relatives during his youth at Helen’s Bay. William George and Mary Kane lived in Dublin and prior to his death he was manager of McGuire, Gatchelle, a prominent Company in Dublin.

Willie’s mother, Mary Kane (formerly Smith) was born in Blessington, Dublin, Ireland on the 26th day of October 1880. Mary, known mostly as May, was the second daughter of the late Ellen Smith (formerly Batt) and William Smith of Blessington, County Wicklow, Ireland.

May Kane made a few notations in her birthday book, ” Sunday, 21st of May, 1905″ Could this have been her wedding day? Another entry states “my darling husband passed away today, Saturday, March 9th, 1907 at 7 a.m.”
May was from a family of seven siblings. Her mother, Ellen remarried after William Smith’s Death in1889. Quotes from the book “Sensi” written about her sister Irene Webster-Smith’s memories paints a picturesque picture of this Irish family. (“It is stated that Ellen, Smith’s widow, carrying a sixth child, returned to the home of Thomas Batt, her father. Situated at Fairview, a suburb of Dublin, the home was large and gracious, surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards. It was a charming place for a child to grow up.

A few miles away at Liffeyview was her parental grandfather’s farm and May and her brothers and sisters loved to visit there. Cousins and Aunts and Uncles always seemed to overflow the big comfortable house, and many gay times they had together.

Some of the Webster-Smith Clan were Methodists; some were Quakers, though Grandfather William attended the Anglican Church. Both the Batts and the Webster-Smiths were God fearing Protestants in a country dominated by Roman Catholics. Every Sunday the entire family attended service, whether they were at Liffyview or Fairview.

When May was still in school, her mother accepted the attentions of a young Dublin University instructor named Paul Duffy. He was a handsome young man with dark hair and a neatly clipped mustache. He was also a Roman Catholic. But Ellen Webster-Smith loved him, and risking stern family disapproval, she married him. Her father disinherited her and refused to see her the remaining years of his life, not even reconciling with her on his deathbed. Most of the rest of the family ostracized her.

The Duffeys moved to Cork, where May’s stepfather had been appointed to a professorship at Queens College. They settled in a spacious home between the Anglican rectory and the Plymouth Brethren church. Although Roman Catholic-Protestant relations were particularly tense in Cork, the Duffy home was not disrupted by religious controversy and strong feelings, which were building up in the land. May Smith was an Anglican Church member and I believe that she first met William George Kane there. The Duffeys’ returned to Dublin, where her stepfather joined the faculty of Trinity College. The family moved into a spacious home in a good residential section.”)

Ireland was torn, during these times, by the long struggle for freedom from British rule. May’s family were loyal to the Crown. After Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 political strife and wartime restrictions drove many of Ireland’s fine young men from the country. May’s oldest brother Will went to India but later returned to Ireland to become the Registrar of Richmond, Whitworth and Hartwick Hospital in Dublin. Fred, her younger brother settled in America as en electrical engineer.

Apparently he was the first man to telephone from the ground to an airplane. He invented the ticker tape used in the stock exchange. Her stepbrother, Alfred Duffy, was one of the only two survivors of the 7th (pals Battalion), Royal Dublin Fusilliers at the Battle of Gallopoli. He was the chief Customs Officer of Ireland. One sister Irene joined the Evangelical Band and moved to Japan, another sister, Ellie married George Williamson an analytic chemist for Guinness, and her sister Kathleen married Buckley Gamage.

May, as a single parent raised Willie in Dublin. They resided at 105 Marlborough, Road, Donnybrook, Dublin. It must have been difficult for him without a father figure but he was close to his many uncles, aunts and grandparents. He often visited his Aunt Sadie Giltrap in the house named “Elverstown” in Blessington, County Wicklow. Willie attended Drumcondra National School and later attended St. Andrew’s College.

He went to boarding school by rail. He played football in St. Stevens Green. He also played rugby, tennis, and boxed under trainer Tansey Lee.

He was on the winning Irish schoolboy soccer International team in 1922.

He was a great friend of his cousin from Cork, Billy Scott Coomber, a famous vocalist with a popular band. They loved to go to County Brae for dances. Upon graduation Willie joined McGinnes, Mahon Bank as a junior. Later he owned The Mascot Bus Company. He bought a new bus and drove it from Kingstown to Dublin center. It was successful and packed with people every day. He sold the Bus Company in 1928 to pay for his fare to New York to visit his Uncle Fred.

May belonged to the Norwood Tennis Club and Castle Golf Club. She was picked for a game against Susan Lenglen at Wimbledon. She was competitive and a master bridge player and Willie followed in her footsteps even though they did not always get along. May married her cousin, Charles Reginald Batt on March 14, 1930.

The stock market crash of 1929 made work difficult in the United States. Willie immigrated to Canada and resided in Montreal. He met an Irish man, Matt Nesbitt who helped him obtain a job working for the Manior Richileu steam ships as a car jockey. Occasionally he taught tennis and boxing. He left the name Willie behind him and became known as Bill Kane.

He met Elizabeth McCorry at Murray Bay, Montreal, Quebec. She was born December 22nd, 1906 in Lurgen, County Armagh, Ireland but spent much of her early life in Springburn, Glasgow. She was assisted by the Canadian Immigration to sail on the “Athenia” and land in Montreal.

They married and had three children. William John Charles Kane, 1931, Mary Ann Kane (Day) 1935 and Brian Thomas Kane, 1937, all born in Montreal. Lilly had been raised a Roman Catholic in Ireland. Her father was killed in the First World War at Dunkirk. After his death her mother remarried a man by the surname of O’Brien. Lilly’s family would not forgive her for marrying Bill Kane, a Protestant, and refused to communicate with her the remaining years of her life. She tried to contact her brother Patrick many times, but to no avail.

Prior to the Second World War Bill worked with the Montreal Star paper as a sports recorder on the hot seat. He loved all sports particularly boxing and wrestling where he was known as “Killer Kane.” In 1939 he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Airforce. He was posted in Ottawa as the Recruiting Officer for the western provinces later becoming Squadron Officer. He followed his airforce postings as he made his way westward across Canada and settled his family in Kelowna. After the war he was Manager of the Royal Canadian Legion in Kelowna until 1955.

Bill and Lilly moved to Nanaimo for a short period of time and then to Victoria where he became manager of the Brittania Branch Legion, retiring in 1976. He was a vibrant, spirited gentleman who gave of himself unreservedly in service to others. He was a member of the Victoria Rotary Club, Uplands Golf course and a Life member of Oak Bay Monterey Center. He was an avid golfer and while in Kelowna was an instigator in changing sand to grass greens at the Kelowna Golf Course. In his 80’s he taught golf to seniors at Henderson’s par 3 golf club, Victoria. He remained active into his 90’s at the Senior Center in Oak Bay. Here he organized and taught snooker and pool tournaments until three months prior to his death. He had a great positive attitude and indomitable spirit

One could often hear him singing in his great Irish voice,

“Oh, Mary this London’s a wonderful site, where the people are working beday and benight. They don’t plant potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat but there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told, so I took a hand at this digging for gold. For all that I found there I might as well be Where the Mountains of Mourne roll down to the sea.”

Elizabeth Kane died of ALS on September 25 Th, 1964 at the age of 58 years old. Bill married Marian Esther Ronahan (formerly Carter) on November 17,1965. She had one son Christopher whom Bill adopted. Bill’s mother, May, moved to Kelowna in 1950 after the death of her second husband Charles Batt. She died November 16, 1973 at the age of 93 years old.

Bill Kane passed away December 1 ST, 2000 at 6PM in the Royal Jubilee Hospital following a three-month illness of Congestive Heart Failure. He was 93 years old and had enjoyed good health up to the time of his hospitalization. Internment was held at the Carter family site, Royal Oak Cemetery, Victoria.

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