About the Fleming Family

We are descendants of Hannah and Frederick Fleming

Why The Flemings Came To Canada
Compiled by John Keenan and Theresa Robinson (nee Keenan)

Frederick Fleming and Peter Keenan, who was married to Minnie Fleming, worked at the Britannia Foundry in Derby. The company was owned by Andrew Handyside and Company and was one of, if not the foremost ironworks in the UK and was by then over 70 years in business. Many of the great bridges and engineered structures in Britain were built by Handysides, St. Pancras station, Olympia Exhibition Hall in London etc. as well as pre-built structures, primarily railway bridges and station structures which were shipped all over the world for installation. Handysides was the 2nd biggest employer in Derby, by 1907 there were 1200 employees.

In the 1891 census Fred was recorded as being a Foreman Pattern Maker and then in the 1901 census as a Foreman Bridge and Girder Maker. In 1904 when Peter and Minnie were married, Fred was listed as being an Iron Works Manager on their marriage certificate. Fred’s son Fred likely worked for the company and his other son David may well have been overseas on a job when the Company closed in 1910.

The story of the Company's failure started with a very serious worldwide recession in 1907/08, probably bankruptcies of customers, etc., compounded by a series of corporate mistakes which followed the death of Andrew Handyside in 1887 caused the company to go into receivership and close in 1910. The last big project for the Company was to fabricate and install the structural ironwork for the Rolls Royce factory in Derby.

So both Fred and Peter Keenan lost their jobs, probably when the company failed in 1910. However, Fred, being in a supervisory position and was quite well off. Peter’s son, Tom Keenan (our Dad) remembered their big house with a cook and/or maid. Fred was able to buy a business, a grocers and "off license"; which was the British term for a business which could sell wines, beer and spirits but only for consumption away from the premises.

As far as trade union/labour issues are concerned, there was considerable unrest in Britain during the years before the First World War due to the ongoing effects of the disastrous recession of 1908. Trouble was mainly on the docks and in the mines. Unions had been legal and were widespread in Britain for years. Fred himself would not have been in a union. There were also Factory and Labour Acts in place and Handysides, being a leading employer with skilled and highly qualified employees would definitely have complied with the labour laws.

The general unrest and problems of the era were very likely the cause of Fred’s decision to emigrate. In the late summer or fall of 1912 our Dad remembered that his family came from Glasgow to Derby to say goodbye to his grandparents along with Lucy, Reg, Hilda and Vince. A "charabanc"; which was an early form of bus, used typically for pleasure trips (not sure whether horse drawn or a motor vehicle) was hired to carry everyone to a picnic in Dovedale, Derbyshire.

Their son Charles (Charley), who was 21 in 1908, had been sent ahead on the ‘Empress of Ireland’ to meet with a Red Deer land agent in order to buy a farm in Alberta. There was no Agricultural College in Alberta until 1913 so possibly Charley went to work on a farm to learn the rudiments and scout out which areas would have developed farmland for sale. Here the details become quite fuzzy. Somehow or other the money to buy a farm went missing. No one was ever very forthcoming about the circumstances, whether gambling or alcohol played a part, there were hints but, who knows. (A young 21-year old ‘greenhorn’ from the UK with money could have been the target of card sharks or scammers – just my thought!). Uncle Reg did say once that Charley had suffered sunstroke and was never "right".

Frederick, Hannah and the four children immigrated to Canada in 1913 on the ‘Hesperian’. On arrival, Lucy stayed for about 3 years in Montreal with a friend before joining the rest of the family in Alberta. While in Montreal she worked in an electric light bulb plant inserting and connecting the filaments, as a milliner she was probably skilled in fine work.

The rest of the family travelled by train from Halifax to Coronation and settled in Spondin, Alberta bringing with them among other things a baby grand piano and Royal Crown Derby china. Fred claimed homestead land and the family obtained 2 adjoining quarter sections and a separate one in Charley's name. They lived in a two-roomed sod shack at first and farmed for nine years and had some success but Fred was not a farmer and unfortunately, the land didn’t prove good and was eventually designated as one of the ‘Special Areas’ suitable for cattle pasture and should never have been tilled and sown with seed but by that time the Flemings had moved on. North East of the old homestead site near Spondin is a "range"; of low hills still called the Fleming Hills.

Fred certainly made his own liquor on the farm and the 2 man regular Mountie patrol from Hanna to Coronation used to stay on the farm and enjoy a drink. They moved to Hanna and then to Coronation and when prohibition was repealed in 1924 Fred's education and background in England would have been a great help in his getting a job as first manager of the ALCB store in Coronation with the newly established ALCB.


The Fleming Story, by Lucy Larsen
Transcribed from a copy of a hand-written account by one of her grand children.

“Grandad Fleming born in 1860 worked in a foundry in Derby, England as foreman. The bridges built there were sent all over the world. Hours of work were long, from 5:00 am till breakfast and then all day till 7 – 8:00 at night. Grandad lobbied for better working conditions, and was forced out. Charlie was sent to Alberta Canada to an Ag College and was charged with finding land. He found land between Hanna & Coronation (Spondin) which was p-poor land. The family & younger children followed and homesteaded.

Granny Lucy told the story of driving all day to Richdale to sell a load of oats. No sale was made & they had to turn around and drive all the way back. Times became tougher & Grandad got a job with Alberta Liquor Control & ran the liquor store in Hanna. They lived in Hanna for quite a few years. Transferred to liquor store in Coronation & lived there till Granny died ≈ 1935. Then Grandad came to live with Lucy & her family. A move to Calgary shortly thereafter and lived with them till his death.

Grandad Fleming & Hannah were moonshiners on the side. Their home was stopping off point for the NW Mounted Police on their way to Fort Edmonton. The Mounties warned Grandad that the Chief Inspector was on his way. All the kids were threatened not to say a word, but they didn’t have to because after supper the Chief Inspector sat back and said “Well Fred, where’s a drink of that good booze I heard so much about!”

Fred worked on bridges here, and so did son Reg. All kids worked on threshing crews and a picture of this is in the provincial museum in Edmonton. Charlie died in Aug. 1926 of sunstroke (?) and is buried in Coronation, along with Grandad Fleming, Granny Fleming & two babies of Vince & Ruth, and one baby of Bob & Doreen Barnes. A headstone for Grandad & Granny was paid in 1989.

Grandad wore a grey flannel suit & spats. He had white hair & mustache just the same as Col. Sanders. Grandad was very outspoken in his political beliefs (Conservative) and once drove Chris to swearing in front of Lucy & the kids.

Grandad always had a pocketful of peppermints. “Here, have a peppermint – they’re good
for everything, even sweaty feet!”