Born in Stoke on Trent, United Kingdom |
Both Eileen and her husband John longed to live in a Spanish speaking country, so they started looking in the newspaper for jobs abroad. John applied for an attractive job in Colombia, not realizing that the job he was applying for was actually in British Columbia, Canada. After mistakenly accepting it, his employer informed him that he would be going to Toronto where they were opening the first school for ‘maladjusted/emotionally disturbed’ children – Thistletown Hospital School. After a year in Canada, they chose to go back ‘home’ as leaving England had been extremely difficult on Eileen. John however, soon wanted to return to Toronto, feeling that there would be more opportunities so, for the third time, their family of five boarded an ocean liner and crossed the Atlantic. Eileen has been here now for more than half a century and she loves the fact that they were able to drive to Mexico from Canada. In 1967 John, an Etobicoke teacher took a sabbatical leave and the family lived for one year in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – a small mountain town full of artists.
“We all loved it… it was like a homecoming.”
They have returned to this magical place many times over the years.
Toronto as Home
“This is my special spot” explains Eileen. This spot was established when Eileen broke her hip in the early 1990s and has a customized chair made by her late husband John. When people visit this is where she sits to entertain and enjoy her tea. John used to sit across from her, surrounded by their art and mementos from past travels. This was where she read, painted, sewed, and studied for her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Language and Literature, and now it is the place where she does her crosswords. Eileen explains that the reason she likes this spot, is because she can see the garden, the trees, and the birds. She gets “an illusion of being miles away”.
Connection with the Past
These photo albums have always been important as they contain pictures of the early days with her children Liona, Vivien and Damien. Whenever the children were bored or sick, it was always, “Can I look at the albums?” and they all knew that “if the house sets on fire… grab the photograph albums!” Eileen also wanted the guitar to be nearby, symbolic of where this instrument has been in her life. This particular guitar is very special. Bought in Spain during one of the visits to Bilbao to see John’s parents, she would pass this guitar in the shop window and, on the morning they were to leave, she sent John to purchase it. She comments that “I wanted it not to play. I wanted it as a house decoration. I liked the shape. I wanted to see it”. Moving to Canada, the guitar came along. It was their first Christmas here and the children knew money was tight. Vivien wanted a “Hammie” (Hamster) and Liona said “You don’t have to buy me a present… just give me that old guitar”. That’s how it all started and Eileen ending up running a music company. Her eldest daughter Liona became a professional guitarist giving recitals all over the world, winning five Junos, and earning the title “The First Lady of the Guitar”.