Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 10, 1898
Place of BirthNorth Leith, Edinburgh
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMichael Matthews, father, 42 Maderia Street, Leith, Scotland
Trade / CallingClerk
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number2903
Battalion9th Battalion
BranchRoyal Scots
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEdinburgh, Scotland
Address at Enlistment42 Maderia Street, Leith, Scotland
Date of EnlistmentDecember 12, 1914
Age at Enlistment16
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 21, 1968
Age at Death69
Buried AtWoodland Cemetery, Balmertown, Ontario

Matthews, Owen Joseph

Owen Joseph Matthews was born on 10 December 1898 in North Leith, Edinburgh County in Scotland. His father Michael Matthews was from Ireland while his mother Catherine McKinnon was from Portmahomach, Tarbot by Fearn in Ross-shire, Scotland. The couple married on 6 June 1888 in North Leith. Over the years Michael worked as a gas stoker and fireman in a gas works in North Leith. Children born to the family were Isabella Mary (1891), Jeannie (Jane) (1893), Jessie Rose (1895), Owen, William James (1900), and Peter (1903). Sadly Peter died the same year as his birth.

With occupation given as clerk and his father Michael in Leith as next of kin, Owen enlisted with the 9th Battalion (Royal Scots) Territorial Force on 12 December 1914 in Edinburgh, rank of Private. In May of 1915 he was transferred to the 5th Provisional Battalion (Royal Scotts), serving in Great Britain until March of 1916. Owen was hospitalized in the Dundee War Hospital from 22 January to 5 February 1916 for a tonsillectomy. On 7 March 1916 Owen was discharged from service in consequence of Army Council Instruction. According to his obituary and confirmed by a medal record card, from there Owen joined the Mercantile Marine, serving as a telegraphist/Marconi operator. Along with Edward Summers, Owen arrived in New York, USA on 29 June 1917 aboard the Olympic, both men’s occupation given as telegraphist on the passenger list. On 7 July 1918 Owen enlisted with the Royal Air Force, occupation given as wireless operator and his mother Catherine in Leith as next of kin. With dark brown hair and blue eyes, he had grown two inches taller from his first enlistment. First attached to the Cadet Distribution Centre, a few days later he was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Station at Aldeburgh on the north sea coast of England. The Royal Naval Air Station Aldeburgh was used during the First World War as a Night Landing Ground and for the training of observers. In August of 1918 Owen’s rank was graded to Flight Cadet, later classified as Observer. On 3 October 1918 he was discharged from the RAF to a Temporary Commission, with final discharge from service on 13 June 1919, rank of 2nd Lieutenant. For his service during the war, according to his Mercantile Marine card Owen was awarded the Mercantile Marine ribbon and medal as well as the British Medal and ribbon.

Owen’s later obituary said the he immigrated to Canada in 1920 although other documents suggested that he arrived in 1919. At the time of the 1921 Canada census he was living in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, working as a assistance officer at the Home for the Uncurable, Aged and Infirmed. By 1924 Owen was living in Timmins, Ontario, marrying Margaret Fanning on 9 January 1924 in Timmins. At the time of the marriage his occupation was given as mill operator. Born in 1890 in Waterford, Ireland, Margaret was the daughter of Michael Fanning and Catherine Power. She had first immigrated to Canada in 1907, arriving in Montreal aboard the Victorian on 4 October. Along with a number of other young women, she was on her way to the St Joseph Home in Kingston. At the time of the 1911 Canada census Margaret was working as a cook at the Brockville Asylum in Brockville, Ontario. She travelled back to Ireland that June, but returned to Canada in October of 1920, found working at the Barrie Simcoe Hall hospital in Barrie, Ontario at the time of the 1921 census.

Owen and Margaret lived in a number of places in Canada, including Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario. The couple gave birth to two children, daughter Michael Catherine (Mickey) in 1924 in Timmins and son James Edward in 1926 in Waterford, Ireland. Starting in 1939, for many years the family lived in the Red Lake/Cochenour/Balmertown area in northwestern Ontario where Owen worked for the Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines as mill superintendent. He was the first president of the Red Lake branch of the Canadian Legion, a member of the Knights of Columbus and past Grand Knight, a member of the Balmertown Roman Catholic Church, Chairman of the Improvement District of Balmertown, a member of the Board of Management of the Pinecrest Home in Kenora, and past president of the Gyro Club. Owen received the Leonard Gold medal in recognition for his service to his country.

Owen died on 21 April 1968 in the Kenora General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Margaret of Cochenour, daughter Mickey (Roderick) Macrae of North Vancouver, BC, son James (Arline) of Winnipeg, eight grandchildren as well as his sister Jessie (Peter) Ward of Connecticut, USA and brother William of London, England. When a new regional hospital was built in the Red Lake/Cochenour area in 1973, the original Margaret Cochenour hospital was repurposed to the Owen J Matthews Manor, a home for the aged. Owen’s wife Margaret later died on 18 May 1979 in Kenora. Together they are interred in the Woodland Cemetery in Balmertown.

By Judy Stockham


Photographs of Owen and Margaret and Owen and Jessie  as found on a family tree managed by Rosemary Lynn Kennedy on Geni.
Grave marker photograph by Darryl,

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