Chance Canada meeting leads to hunt for Shropshire roots

You know how it is, you are a Salopian thousands of miles from home, and by chance you meet somebody with a connection to the county.

Ethel and Bill Bray with their great-granddaughter Hannah Richards
Ethel and Bill Bray with their great-granddaughter Hannah Richards

And now such a meeting has led to Chris and Pauline Wallace from Ketley trying to find more about the Shropshire roots of a Canadian family.

They are hoping to hear from any Shropshire Star readers who may be connected with the family.

Chris said: "My wife Pauline and I were staying with a friend in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada, when we were visited one evening by her cousin and her husband, Wendy and Dennis Richards.

"Out of the blue she asked us if we had heard of a place in England called Madeley. When we told her that it was just down the road from Dawley, where Pauline was born, she almost fell off her chair.

"She then informed us that her grandmother was born in Madeley and her grandfather was born near Norton. She produced a fantastic book full of information on her family, dating back to the early 1800s.

"We promised when we returned home to try and trace any relatives or people who may hold some information or memories of them. The couple in question are William Henry Bray – Bill Bray – and Ethel Jane Gogarty."

Bill, born near Norton, was the eldest of eight children who were all brought up on a small farm. He attended Norton School until he was 13 and then, being the eldest of the family, he left and became an apprentice butcher, a skill which remained with him for the rest of his life.

It was one day when he was delivering meat that he met Ethel Jane Gogarty, born in 1890 in Madeley, the eldest of nine children.


"It was a meeting of opposites – he was very aggressive and forceful of character, quick tempered, but kind hearted under a tough exterior. Ethel on the other hand, was very small, quiet, shy, even tempered and able to summon up great patience and endurance in the face of any adversity.

"Bill decided to emigrate to Canada and seek his fortune, and having settled to his satisfaction he sent for Ethel to come all the way to Winnipeg, Manitoba. How this timid little English girl, who had never been far from Madeley, could have been persuaded to wait for Bill when he went off to invade Canada will never be known.

"When asked how she summoned up the courage to make the long overseas and overland journey, she just said that another couple were going to Canada and they kept her company."

Bill and Ethel were married on June 3, 1913, in Christ’s Church in Winnipeg.

"In June 1917 Ethel gave birth to Kathleen and then in 1921 Bill sold his butcher's shop and returned to England to visit Ethel’s mother, who was very ill, and also other family members on both sides.

"On returning to Canada they moved into a rectory and in October 1922 Ethel gave birth to Burton and then Bill’s father came over from England to live with them. He later returned to England in 1933.

"Bill and Ethel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June 1963 and also their 60th anniversary in 1973, the same day Kathleen’s husband Leslie passed away.

"Ethel spent the last years of her life in a wheelchair and after a lengthy illness died in 1974. Bill lived for four more years and passed away in 1978. They now lie together in the quiet beauty of Baldur Cemetery.

"If anyone has any connection with Bill and Ethel and their family we would be delighted if they could make contact with us."

Chris and Pauline can be contacted at or 01952 872041.

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