County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections
Shirley Williams
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An interview conducted on August 15, 1979 by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Shirley Williams, of the Qua family. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.
This article originally appeared on the County of Brant wiki at It has been included in this collection for ease of research.
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.2 Longitude: -80.38333
Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society

51 William Street, Paris, ON

N3L 1N4

(519) 442-9295

Full Text


Q. What can you tell us about the Qua family name?

A. It's a very funny little name and I can tell you that when I was younger I felt I really used to hate it for a long time but now I wished I had put it in my childrens' names because of our line there are none left. My father's youngest brother had one son and he has two boys so that there will be Quas. They live in Thornhill and then there is another cousin -may be a fifth cousin - lives in Naigara Falls has five boys so he is also a descendant.

Q. Your maiden name was Qua?

A. Oh yes. I was Shirley Qua. It's quite a burden because people always had to do a double take and they never knew how to spell it. And then they say, "Well, what is it - Chinese or Mexican?" and I always used to tell them that lira pure Canadian. Really they were Irish from the beginning but my father and his father were born in Canada and so we are straight Canadian.

Q. What did the Quas do in Paris?

A. They were Irish, they came from Armagh in County Armagh which is in Northern Ireland. His name was Sam and Mary Harper was his wife -Mary Harper Qua.

Q. Their daughter must have been Ruth. Is that right?

A. Ruth Knowles? No.

Q. We have an essay by Ruth Qua when she was age twelve.

A. She's about a second or third generation decsendant. I can tell you the names if you want the names of all their children. They came in 1832 as far as I can make out. They had five children when they came and they had five more after - ten altogether. Most of them grew to be eighteen or so. One or two of them died around that age but most of them grew up and got married. The thing was about the farm. Robert was the eldest son and he's my great grandfather and we don't know just what he did but he did not carry on the farm and I'd/ove to know what happened. They probably quarrelled because you know Irish people -Irish people are so sort of of fiery anyway. It was the daughter - the next child, Martha, who married George McVicar and that was when it became the McVicar farm. There are lots of people around Paris and St. George too who still call it the McVicar farm.

Q. Where is the farm?

A. It's the Depew's now up around the Paris Road. You know not too far from Moyle School. If you go on the Paris Road along toward Brantford, the road that crosses 403 and goes down toward Brantford that way comes out by the School For The Blind. You know old Moyle School, it's sort of a depo for supplies just near Powerline Road. Well maybe the second or third place along there belongs to the Depews. They are on the right with big trees but it's not the original house by any means but there are only three people that have had that property and that was original. They have the original deed to that farm. Dorothy McCormick who lives over on NO. 5-her grandfather went to my great great grandfather's funeral. They both died quite young in their forties or early fifties and it was a family story because he took off his good boots and rolled up his good pants and waded across the river to go to the funeral and it was such a tragedy because you see he had left ten children. The mother had already died and there were the ten children left. And -I mean that's something - she's remembered by word of mouth.

Q. What would happen, would the children just look after each other?

A. Well I guess they - Robert was I think born in 1821 so he would have been 25 or 28 or around there. They weren's real young kids you know but he didn's stick around as far as I can make out. I guess Martha married this Scottish McVicar fellow.

Q. And they got the Qua farm?

A. Yes, and they carried on the farm and then Martha's daughter Martha married into the Penman family and what's the connection there.

Q. That's not John Penman's wife is it?

A. Yes it is from Penmarvian and they had no descendants either and it's just as sad as anything.

Q. John Penman is someone we're having trouble getting infromation on.

A. Well, I have a little stuff here but I don't think it's anything. You would have got it off a grave stone if you've been over there into the cemetery. There's nothing very much that I could find on him either.

Q. So what happened to the farm?

A. Well, the McVicars had it right up until 1909. I think then Depews have had it since then.

Q. Have you talked to them?

A. Yes I did go one time and it's just a young couple and they really don't know much at all. All she said was that you can see on the back of their house there is a line where an old shed was like they built the house and kind of attached it to this old building and the old building might have gone back quite a long way but it's gone now tut there's just this little line that you can see on the back of the brick house. The house there now is not the original house but it's fairly old, but it's not any where near as old as the farm itself.

Q. The Qua children must have come into Paris to go to school?

A. Yes, they did, I think so. They certainly came in for church because Ruth Qua told me. I have letters from her.

Q. We have an essay of Ruth's in the library files.

A. She told me about it and I would just love to read it. I can tell you the connection with Ruth. She's a cousin too. She says we're all related to each other because with such a-frame we just have to be. Now ther's the Presbyterian Church role of honour and you see the Qua's name. They were Presbyterian North of Ireland and this is why I think they left. I think there was religious problems you know. There was always strife. It wasn't a time of famine when they came. 1832 was not a year when they had all that potato problem. Ruth writes to me every once in a while. She must be quite elderly I think. I can't put an age to her because I've never seen her but she digs up all these little things she remembers or she gets them from someone else.

Q. How many of the Qua children were males?

A. I think it was about even. I'll find my big sheet and spread it out. I've got my mother's things here too. That's Ruth's present address. I would imagine she would just love to hear from you. She has a tree she has worked on - a family tree. Kooserwater was the name of the village in County Armagh but it's right near Armagh. Ruth, I think, is in here. There are Samuels all through. Well* he was the third child and he had two wives - his second wife was Mary Muir, who was one of the Myrtleville girls. If you've read Myrtleville. They were Irish and they came and settled down near Northridge Golf Course and the house is still there beautifully preserved and it's like a museum and their history must be sort of similar but anyway this second wife of Samuel was a Good for awhile. Ruth was the child of the first wife, Ruth Knowles - and this George who's in Niagara Falls was is in there somehow but I just don't have it straightened out yet. But he has five sons anyway which is nice and then there is the McVicars and Martha was the fourth daughter and that's as far as I've got in that. Arthur - This line was killed off in the war. There are plaques in the high school from this family. They must have been very intelligent because they won prizes and went on to university and there are quite a few things in the high school about them. There's the Patterson name. Well, that's my mother's name.

Q. Is that any relation to the late Dr. Patterson?

A. No, because we're from Toronto, you see. This is what I'm dying to find out - about where this old fellow ended up. I think he went to Brantford and then I think from Brantford he went to Toronto because I think my grandfather Samuel was born in Toronto. My grandmother -Alice Dally - come from Burford. That's my dad - Robert James - he had four brothers. They all died young. These two died very tragically of meningitis while they were quite young but you see he has one son and his children has one girl and two boys. I know where he is and I'm in touch with him.

Q. Is that Willie?

A. And his son was named Willie too. I don't know where they got it from. There are Authurs and Samuels in all the generations and this George. I think one of his kids is a Robert - I'm sure of it. This Ethel married an American chap - Corbett - and has two little boys. My father never kept track of his family. He was terrible. Well imagine - he had one sister and he didn't know where she was. This is the stuff off the tomb stones. Well I'm sure you've been over to the graveyard to the big one and got all that stuff but have you been to the Pioneer Cemetery - the little tiny one?

Q. No, where is that?

A. You have to go right through Paris and you go up that big hill and just as you come to the top you have to make a sharp left and turn right back on you tracks. There's a little street that goes back and there's a park there.

Q. I know which one you mean. It's sort of at the back end of the park and it's just a little square with a wrought iron fence. It's on Church Street - I don't know what it's called.

A. Well I've never been able to get over there early enough - I always forget until it's all grown high with weed - not weeds exactly - lily of the valley and stuff like that. Helen Randall - do you know her - over on the road to Brantford out by the White Horse there - she tells me she knows an awful lot about the history around here and she tells me that there were the two tombstones of Sam and Mary were there. I've never been able to find Mary yet and I've scrambled around but you see when the green stuff gets growing you can't get down to it.

Q. Were the Qua's always farmers then or did some of them delve into other things?

A. The one here, Sarah was supposed to have married. Her son, I guess was a glass blower - no her second husband - that was it. She married Robert Sloane and then he died and then she married this Innis and he was supposed to be a glass blower in Hamilton. Yes, there is a child there -Suzy - went to Los Angeles and they are extremely active. I think Ruth Knowles is in touch with them all the time and apparently they came over here a few years back and did a lot of digging around and found out a few things. Well I would think that this American family, you know the ones in Los Angeles, if they're that interested they probably have a lot of information too and I think Ruth has their address too. I keep thinking I would love to just drive over to Pickering and visit her before it's too late. We just can't always do these things. This came out of the high school year book. That's the one that Samuel's family - no Arthur the last one.

Q. Were the early Qua's involved in any sort of town Events?

A. I don't think so. No, I have never found their name in any of the histories like I've read every local history I can get my hands on. The Tweedsmuir History - The Moyle/Tweedsmuir History - that's where I found out. You see when we moved to St. George as far as I knew I was just a Toronto girl. My husband's English. We just felt we had no roots, you know. We had just ended there. He's got a job at Massey Fergusson and I got into the Institute and then I would be going to these different meetings and you know, you read their Tweedsmuir History and there was my name in it and it turned out it was my own family. I mean it wasn't very hard to figure it out. And also we had spotted a tombstone in the big cemetery and my son - as soon as he got in high school - he spotted all these plaques up in the hall too and we certainly realized that they had to be connected.

Q. Is it Arthur that was killed in the war then?

A. Arthur Harper - yes - killed in 1916 - buried in Belgium, and then Norman -his name is on one or two of the plaques over in the school. He won prizes it seems. They used to have brass plaques that they put up with these names on them.

Q. Arthur went to school in Paris didn't he?

A. Yes. You'd certainly think that a funny name like Qua would be remembered. It would be so nice to have somebody to remember it. Well like the way it is with Dorothy McCormick. I always feel so - I don't know -it's kind of a link you know to think that her grandfather really knew them. He knew them well enough to go to their funeral, and it must have been a terrible performance going across, wading across a river to go to a funeral.

Q. That was a daughter of a second generation that married John Penman?

A. Yes, Martha's daughter.

Q. Do you know anything about John Penman or have you heard any family stories?

A. Only that they quarreled. They didn't get along with each other and they used to quarell.

Q. The husband and the wife?

A. Yes. I talked to the grave digger one time when I was over there in the cemetery. Oh yes, he's full of stories. Oh yes I guess they didn't even live on the same floor in the building. They just didn't speak to each other.

Q. We heard that he was a very gruff old man.

A. Well that's all I got from the grave digger.

Q. The Paris grave digger - who would that be?

A. I wouldn't know his name.

Q. Is this in the big cemetery?

A. Yes, the big one. I was there poking around and he asked me what I was looking for and I said Qua and he knew where they all were and he took me right to them. Well I had found a few but they're all scattered around you know.

Q. I wonder if that is Mr. Broomfield?

A. I don't know. This was maybe two years ago. He wasn't a terribly old man. But this other the Muirs and Bursons - well they would be the only other names you see but these two have just disappeared. There's nothing that I have. You can't keep track of them all. You've seen the Tweedsmuir History, have you?

Q. No, I haven't, I've just heard about it.

A. Well, I should let you look at all this stuff. I don't know where some of these records came from. I don't know whether the Complins in Los Angeles got it. That just came not too long ago. That was the most recent thing I got from her. John Penman is buried in Greenwood, New York.

Q. Really? Is that the John Penman from Paris?

A. He was an American to begin with. Martha McVicar - wife of John Pennan -died October 25, 1934 and John Penman died October 19, 1931 interred in Greenwood, New York. (City)

Q. Well Penman never did give up his American citizenship. He just donated things so that makes sense.

A. You're welcome to read these letters if you are interested

Q. Who is Annie Qua? "The descendents of Samuel and Mary Harper compiled by Annie Qua, Paris." Oh, she is in the States now.

A. Suzy is the original one that went to the states and I think Annie is her daughter. Annie is a cousin of Ruth and Ruth was at Paris District in 1912 - 1916 and she's now at Pickering.

Q. Did your family have much to do with Brantford?

A. I have an idea that Robert - the one that didn't keep the farm - I have an idea that he went to Brantford. My dad always used to say that somebody or other in the family was one of the first White children to be born in Brantford. And it certainly couldn't have been any of these kids because they were all living out here. So I fend of think that this is why he - he either quarelled with his family or else he didn't want to farm and also there's something in the back of my mind I have a feeling there is a blacksmith somewhere and one of these days I'll try to find out more about that in Brantford. And I have phoned around the Presbyterian Churches in Brantford hoping that I'd find something but I didn't get very far. They're too busy, you know the bigger churches are too busy to dig around.

Q. Someone has obviously dug into the Paris Presbyterian Church. Most of the names there are Quas or Irwin.

A. And Irwin was the sister I guess. She was May Qua Irwin and her tombstone is in that little cemetery too.

Q. Oh. That was Samuel's sister? Did she come out with him?

A. I don't know when she came. Mo, I imagine she came either at the same time or a little after. They must have had a little bit of money to come out here and get a farm right away and travel with five children. You couldn't do it if you were fleeing a famine.

Q. No. They must have been fairly well off and farmers also.

A. Qua came to Canada from Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1834. They were descendants of settlers from Scotland who settled in North Ireland 200 years ago. Samuel and Mary Harper Qua came to Canada with some of their children. Samuel Qua's name was on the original deed to the farm. Samuel Qua.

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Shirley Williams

An interview conducted on August 15, 1979 by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Shirley Williams, of the Qua family. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.