My Brother Hugh

My brother Hugh Stephen Symons was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, on April 17, 1931 to Robert David Symons and Edith Maude MacMillan Symons. He had three brothers: Francis Robert (Bob); James Harold (Gerry); and myself Peter. Bob was shot down over Germany and died at age 19 on January of 1944. Jerry died in Colombia, South America in July of 1995. Of the four brothers only myself, the youngest, remains.

During Hugh?s early life, between 1931 and 1946 we lived variously at Meota, Saskatchewan (near Battleford), Mountain Cabin Ranger Station on the Carrot River (between Cumberland House and LePas, Manitoba), the Ranger Station at Cypress Hills Provincial Park (south of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan) and Fort St John, B.C. Our father worked for the Saskatchewan Dept. of natural Resources and later the B.C. Game Department.

Over the several years that Dad was the game warden in Fort St. John, he was often away from home. We sometimes stayed at the famous ?ABBEY? just east of town. The ?ABBEY? was run by a very kind and wise lady named Monica Storrs, an Anglican missionary from England. Some years ago the chapel from the ?ABBEY? was moved into town and can still be seen at the Ft. St. John museum. One year our dad, with help from Miss Storrs, sent Hugh to a private school in North Vancouver. At the school the boys wore blue blazers and grey flannel trousers. When Hugh was challenged about these clothes his reply was ?grey flannel is a gentleman?s attire!?

In 1946, our father, having left government service, took up a large block of crown land at Upper Cache Creek between the Alaska Highway and the Halfway River, about 40-50 miles south west of Ft. St. John. While moving our livestock and possessions to Upper Cache, Hugh and I rode our saddle horses and herded the stock while Gerry and our dad drove the wagon teams. At night we slept under the wagons. Hugh, as a result of his private school experience changed into pyjamas but got such a roasting from Gerry (a rough and ready cowboy, all of 18 years old, who had just moved up from Maple Creek) that the pyjamas were never seen again. Nor were the grey flannels! Too, bad, because Hugh looked really sharp in that outfit.

At about age 16 Hugh was working for Major John Onslow, at the ranch adjacent to our dad?s, for two dollars a day. At the end of one day John said ?Well, Hugh. Another day, another dollar? to which Hugh, (ever literal minded) responded ?Two dollars?..

During the next few years Hugh worked at various jobs, mostly on survey crews, around Ft. St. John and later around Banff and Jasper.

In 1953 or 1954 Hugh left for Australia, a place which had long held a fascination for him. He worked there at, in his words ?this and that?, but I think mostly surveying and similar work. We only had the odd, letter, postcard or photo from him, usually a Christmas card. Letters were typically one short paragraph often ending in (or sometimes containing only) ?I?m fine. How are you? Love Hugh?

Later, in the early sixties he left Australia for England where I think he worked in construction.

Hugh returned to Canada in 1973. Now, Anne and I had been in England early that year and had made enquires after Hugh but to no avail. Later we learned that he had been living only a couple of miles from where we had been staying in London at the same time!

Back in Canada Hugh got work at a mine near Fraser Lake and later hired on at Canadian Forest Products in Ft. St. John where he worked for over twenty years until he retired.

Two or three years after retirement he purchased his town house in Tumbler Ridge where he lived for the rest of his life.

Hugh always enjoyed the outdoors. He loved to walk. He would think nothing of hiking up a wagon trail for 20 miles. He would actually prefer to walk than ride a horse, even though he really liked horses and had a kind and quiet way with them. The 1940?s book ?My Brother Talks to Horses? always reminded me of him

In the summer of 2006 Hugh?s kidneys were found to be atrophied and he had to go into a regime of home dialysis. He took this very much in stride and displayed a courageous attitude towards his situation. It is a pity that he was not able to enjoy more years of good health. Hugh was always kind, polite, honest and courteous.. He will be missed by his friends in Tumbler Ridge and elsewhere. He will certainly be missed by his family. However, his physical suffering and pain are now over and he is in a better place.

Linda Franklin

May 1, 2007