Sunday 5 November 2023

Family Stories Month - Fegan Boy


Another story to be told, and another one not from my family. I learned on Saturday that the model for the man in this monument relief was a “Fegan Boy”. His name was Cyril Kinsella. He had been shunted around three or four farms before his tenure with Fegan’s had expired. The story, as relayed, was that he was at home in Brantford, recovering from a war injury at the time he was asked to be the model for the sculptor.

Of course, knowing Cyril was a BHC piqued my interest and I needed to find out more of his story. I found his immigration passenger list on Library & Archives Canada. Here, he shows, along with the others on the same page, as being destined for a “Distributing Home” in Toronto “Mr Fegans” Young Cyril set sail from Liverpool in April 1908 aboard the Lake Champlain and arrived in St John New Brunswick. From there he went to Fegan’s Distributing Home in Toronto. He was 11. 

In researching, I discovered that Cyril’s parents were Martha Avery (15 Apr 1855) and William Kinsella (2 Nov 1868). Cyril worked as an office porter for Great Western Railway and his main station was Paddington. He and Martha married in 1893. Daughter Mabel was born on 16 March 1895 and son Cyril was born on March 14, 1897. William appears to have lost his job just after the birth of his daughter. His railway record shows that he was dismissed in 1896. 

Martha died in 1902. Cause of death unknown. William died in 1905. While we can’t know for certain what became of Mabel after her parents’ death, it appears that she may have gone to live with family. She shows as a visitor to an aunt in Berkshire. Her occupation is listed as Housemaid. Interestingly, the couple she is staying with (either mother or father’s sister and husband) is named Bates and on 24 Nov, 1915, Mabel marries a Fred Bates. By the time of the 1939 register, she is listed as a widow.

Young Cyril’s fate wasn’t as pleasant. By age 11, he appears in the passenger list for the Lake Champlain along with several other boys. The sailed from Liverpool in April of 1908 and arrived in St John New Brunswick. The group of boys were destined for Mr Fegan’s Distributing Home in Toronto. 

On 29 August, 1914 at Brantford, Ontario, and at the tender age of just 17 and a half, young Cyril signed up for the army. He was assigned to C Company of the 4th Battalion. His attestation papers note that he received 5 vaccines in his left arm and that he had a “pea sized” scar on his left abdomen. He lists his sister, Mabel as his next of kin. 

Army medical records show: 

·         7 May, 1915, he received a slight wound.

·         16 May 1915, in Bristol England, he was once again wounded and this time discharged to Furlough which he underwent in Edinburgh, Scotland.

·         8 Sept 1915, at Moore Barricks, Canadian (military) hospital in Shorncliffe, he had his appendix removed

·         1 Oct 1915, he received a bullet wound. He was in the convalescent hospital from 22 Nov 1915 until 5 Jan 1916 before being sent to the Reserve Unit. He was discharged as permanently unfit. 

On 31 July, 1916, Cyril once again enlists. He lists a Miss M Sinclair (friend) from Dunfermline, Scotland as his next of kin. His attestation paper notes an appendix scar and 2 bullet scars on his right buttock. From here he was sent to France. By 6 Dec 1916, he was once again wounded and gassed. He rejoined his unit on 21 Dec 1916. 

On the 27th of June, 1918, Cyril was transferred to the Canadian Military Police Corp and made the rank of Corporal. By this point in time, he lists a Miss Edie of Toronto as his next of kin. Cyril was discharged from duty on 22 May 1919 upon demobilization. He was a Corporal with the 1st Canadian Division. His plan for residency upon discharge was to live in Victoria, B.C. 

Cyril married Elsie May Mitchell in on 5 January 1924 in Los Angeles, California. He died 27 Dec 1960. 

It is unclear how young Cyril met sculptor Walter Seymour Allward. One theory was that the two might have known each other through Fegans or through Military service, in particular while Cyril was convalescing at the hospital. However, Walter was 21 years older than Cyril and so the two would not have been in Fegan’s together nor would Walter have been of recruitment age for the war. Regardless, Cyril was fortunate enough to be asked to be the model for the man in repose on his casting of ‘Man, discovering his power to transmit sound through space'  on the Bell Telephone Memorial that stands in Bell Memorial Park in Brantford Ontario.

Courtesy Brant Historical Society, Wikipedia, Creative Commons

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