Reginald Heppell, my grandfather, was born in York at Smith’s Yard, Marygate to Robert Campbell Heppell and Alice Wood. He was baptised at St Olave’s Church, Marygate. Reg was one of eight children born to the couple. Their first son, Robert, had died in infancy, making Reg their eldest surviving son.

By 1911, the family had crossed the river to a new home on Albion Street, just near Skeldergate. His father, Robert Campbell Heppell, was a labourer at the print works. Tragedy struck the family in 1915, when Reg’s sister. May, died aged only 13 of Phthisis, another name for Tuberculosis.

In 1918, Alice contracted bronchitis and sadly died on 6th September of that year aged only thirty-eight. Robert  was also in ill health and died in the following February of mitral disease aged forty-three. It was said that Robert had died of a broken heart. The six young Heppell boys were now orphaned. Reg had only just turned sixteen and had five younger brothers to care for. The younger boys were taken in by the Blue Coat School. Reg stayed with his grandmother nearby and saw his brothers whenever he could.

Reg worked as a labourer but dreamed of a brighter future. His Uncle James Heppell migrated to Canada in 1920 with his wife, Theresa. James had met and married Theresa McGuire in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1893. They made their home in York but Theresa couldn’t settle here in England, “Too many Pubs and Churches”, so they made the decision to return to Canada with their six York-born daughters, Isabel, Dorothy, Doreen, Constance, Eveline and Kathleen. Reg saved enough money to pay his passage and have £5 in his pocket. On 22nd February 1924, he set sail aboard the SS Lancastria to join his Uncle’s family in Canada.

Reg returned to York in 1926, he stayed for a year and then received paid passage back to Canada, leaving York again on 23rd April 1927 with the intention of living in Canada permanently. On 2nd Dec 1928, Reg once again returned to England, with every intention of returning to Canada. He stayed with his cousin Alice on Huntington Road. Alice had recently married and helped her cousins as much as she could with occasional meals and mending their clothes. One of the brothers, Harold, died aged 25 on Jan 6th 1930. The photo shows the remaining five brothers, Reg, Walter, Albert, James and Robert.

All of the five surviving brothers married and had families. Reg married a young lady called Lily England, who was the daughter of Wharram England and Annie Maria Whiting. Reg was working as a coal merchant, making regular visits to the shop owned by Lily’s family in Spencer Street, Nunnery Lane. It wasn’t long before Reg and Lily became a couple and they married on 12th November 1930. Reg still dreamed of migrating to Canada but Lily wouldn’t hear of it so they made their home in York and raised their four children, Joan, Patricia, Brian and Barbara.