|A sample of the nearly 300 letters that were found in the attic of the Hennessy Estate, Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. Credit is due to Patsy Hennessy (referred to as Patty Ann in the correspondence) and Sharon (Hennessy) Olscamp for their dedication in the winter of 2008-2009 in scanning all the letters in the collection and entering them into a database so that they may be available for others to view.|
In the summer of 2008, a chance search through the attic of our family's 200 year old home in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada, resulted in the discovery of nearly 300 war time letters written by and to my grandfather, Patrick "Pat" Hennessy while he was serving in Scotland as a cook with the 15th Company, Canadian Forestry Corps.
During the Second World War thousands of young men left the logging camps of rural Canada to serve in the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland. Hundreds of them were from New Brunswick.
The CFC is unique among the many specialized units that served in the Two World Wars. Made up primarily of Aboriginal, English, and French speaking loggers from rural Canada, they were experienced woodsmen who cut timber for the war effort in Scotland.
An old man by comparison, Pat was fifty-six years old and the father of six adult children - three who were in the Armed services themselves - when he signed up for the Army in 1940.
But in Pat's case, age didn't matter: he had more experience as a cook than anyone else and that's what the Army needed. He had worked every winter in the logging camps of northern New Brunswick since he was a youngster at the turn of the century and every spring he'd run the drives cooking meals in a makeshift boat that trailed behind the woodsmen along the river's edge. The CFC needed someone like Pat Hennessy and in spite of his age, he was welcomed into the Army. So began a five year odyssey in Scotland that changed his life forever.
In Beauly, Patrick truly came into his own. For the first time, he was able to live the life he had always dreamed of, visiting Ireland, England and Scotland and establishing close friendships with the local people, especially the Frasers to whom he developed a special bond, as his wife was a Fraser by descent. Pat established a deep and lasting connection with the Frasers that outlasted the war years and became part of family lore.
As a family we were astounded by the enormity of the collection: not only are there personal letters back and forth between my grandparents, the Scottish Frasers in Beauly, my aunts and uncles and even my mother, who is now 92 years old, but there are hundreds of archival documents included in the cache - and even a few boxes full of heather!
The letters are fascinating because they explore an heretofore unknown part of my grandfather's life in Beauly, Scotland and the impact that he and thousands of other Canadian foresters had on Scotland - and vice versa - during the Second World War. As youngsters growing up in the Baby boom era, we heard the stories of my grandfather's years in Scotland, of his meeting and attending church at the Beaufort Castle at the invitation of Lady Lovat, wife of Lord Lovat, the British D-Day hero whom Churchill described as the "handsomest man who ever cut a throat." We always knew those years in Scotland were the best years of his life, but we didn't know why. To see it in writing, forty years after his death, was an affirmation of everything that we knew to be true about the gentle man we called "Pappa".