My Father, William Fricker


I'm going to talk now about a skeleton in our family closet. It was something that bothered my father for his whole life but the shame attached to illegitimate birth is not as strong nowadays as it was in his day, so let me tell the story. He was a remittance baby. That requires a little explanation. A Remittance Man was someone of a good and presumably well-to-do family who was a black sheep for one reason or another – gambling or drinking or whatever – who was exiled, in effect to the Colonies, which would have been Australia or Canada or whatever but in many cases it was Canada. They were paid a stipend, a sum of money to live on as long as they did not return to England.

Well, my father was not guilty of any such sins but he was the illegitimate child of the privileged class. They were Ship Builders and their last name was Cooper.
His father had an affair with the gardener's red-haired daughter and the offspring of that mismatch was my father, William. The family was an honourable one. They did right by him. They found a couple who were willing to emigrate to Canada and take the baby with them.

I've always had a question in my mind as to whether his adopted mother might have been his real mother, since she also had red hair. In any case, they emigrated to Canada. Bill was a toddler at the time. He was running about on the deck of the ship with a lollipop in his mouth and fell and jammed it down his throat. He survived it. They got to Canada and settled in Mount Forest, Ontario.

He was raised as their own child but when he was about fifteen (his mother or father must have spoken to someone in confidence and the word got around) he found out he was a 'love child' and that was a big deal in those days.


He was so mortified and so ashamed and he would doodle around on th piano when he was disturbed and didn't want to talk but his adopted mother talked to him from behind the piano bench and he told her that he had decided to join the Army. He was only 14 or 15 at the time, so he had to have her permission. Somewhat reluctantly she gave her permission. He had to stay in school for another year until he was sixteen

When she packed his bags to go over to England to join the British Army for WWI, In a pair of his socks that she knew he wouldn't unroll for a while, she rolled up the name and address of his father's family. Sure enough, when he got to England he found the address and contacted the 'old boy' . The old boy, his granddad, was about all that was left of the family because it was the custom in WWI to put the officers in front of the troops where they promptly got shot. So, there weren't any people of the male variety left in that family, the young ones, so my dad was it but he was a wild boy. Were it not for that he might have come into some money and recognition but, as I say, they found him a bit wild, so it didn't happen. The granddad did buy him a Commission in the Channel Patrol which later became the R.A.F. Which is why he ended up in the Air Force in both wars.

Now this secret was kept very close. He told our mother, obviously, and she passed it on to us and there are mysteries attached to the story. My Dad served in the Army/Airforce in England, We have a blackthorn walking stick. Someone attacked him with it when he was posted over in Ireland during the Troubles, the Irish Rebellion. I've still got the stick with the blackthorns sticking out of it and it's hanging on my wall, a bit cracked from age.
He used it as a cane in later years because he had a war injury that he got in WWII.


Sometimes in WWI soldiers were billeted in fairly palatial quarters, not always but sometimes, and in Ireland it was a place called Lep Castle. Not sure of it's location but I know it's reputation. It had a great tower and there was a hole in the top that sent from the top down to the dungeon. In the bad old feudal days if the Lord of the Manor or Castle didn't like someone they were marched to the top and invited to leap down the hole and be dashed to pieces on the pavement below. That was why it was called Lep or Leap Castle. This same place has something rather peculiar. It had a smelly ghost. It made noised too but that was not its most noticeable feature. They were sitting down to dinner one time where they were billeted and the Lord of the Manor was there. Then, there were noises and bangs followed by a really dreadful smell. They all looked at one another and the Lord of the Manor said, “Don't pay any mind to that. It's just the ghost. He's a smelly ghost.” First I've heard of such but apparently they do exist.


I don't know too much about my dad's WWII services. He was a Bombing and Gunnery Instructor on this side of the pond being a bit old for active duty. At one point in time he was in a plane. A training flight, I believe. The plane went down and everybody in the plane except my Dad, was killed. That's where he got the leg injury that he used to blackthorn stick or cane for. He never quite got over that. It was a kind of “Why me? Why did I survive? Everybody else is gone.” kind of thing. Those who have had similar experiences can relate to this. I can only tell the tale. He would go into depression sometimes and go into his basement den and listen to Bach and Opera and just get away from it all.

He was a good man, very honourable. He was a good father and he raised us well. There were four of us children and my brother, Brock Fricker, was the long awaited son.


© Sonia Fricker Brock 2005