Grimsby Newspapers
Military funeral for old veteran
Grimsby Independent, 3 Mar 1915, p. 1,3

Media Type:
Item Type:
Newspaper located at the Grimsby Museum.
Date of Publication:
3 Mar 1915
Date Of Event:
25 Feb 1915
Personal Name(s):
Wotton, William
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.20011 Longitude: -79.56631
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Full Text

"Billy" Wotton, battle-scarred warrior of half a century ago passes away at the Industrial Home, St. Catharines - 78 years old - "Billy" came to Canada in 1862 with the 1st Battalion Prince Consort's Own Rifles, under Lord Russell - Lived here 25 years - Home Guard 60 strong and firing party lead cortege - Salute fired and Last Post sounded o'er grave. Slowly but surely as time flies by, they are passing to the Great Beyond, the men who helped to build the great British Empire and place that "Old Tattered Rag" where it flies today...Another one of Britain's gallant old warriors passed across the Border on Thursday last, when William Wotton, better known as "Onion Billy", passed away at the Industrial Home in St. Catharines, after a strenuous life of 78 years. "Billy", as he was known to all, lived a sort of a recluse life in a little building on the back end of Mr. Isaac Walker's farm on Livingston Avenue. Very little of his past life up to the time he came to Grimsby was known. He was a great talker, and many times told the Independent stories of his campaign days, but not for publication. The minute a pencil and notebook came out, "Billy" quit talking, and while he had no doubt a great history, nothing could be learned from him. The nearest that a newspaper man ever got to an interview with him was 6 years ago, and we print herewith the Hamilton Spectator's story of that time in full and without correction.

"At the foot of the mountain near Grimsby is an old shack about six feet square that looks, at the first glance, like a discarded tool-house that has outlived its usefulness. With its cracked sides and low door, the casual observer would not dream that the little shed was the abode of a man. But if he took the trouble to examine it a little closer, he would see that a smoke stack protruded through the roof, and if it happened to be a cold day, smoke might be seen issuing therefrom. On the door being opened, it would be found that there was a cause for the signs of habitation. The interior of the cabin is a bedroom, dining room and kitchen, all in one, and a small table, a chair, a box-bed and a cupboard comprises the furniture. The room is warmed by a wood stove, which, owing to its small dimensions, has to be replenished with fuel continually in order to keep a fire burning. In a chair by the fire sits the sole occupant, an old man of 72 years of age. Although he has passed the allotted time of three score years and ten, the old man is hale and hearty, excepting for a weak back, which makes it impossible to do any work. Known to the community only as "Billy Onions", he has lived in his hut for 19 years with no companion and few friends. For the last several years, he has lived entirely on the charity of his neighbors , who supply him regularly with food and clothing. He takes a lively interest in current events, and, provided that he has a newspaper and a pipe and tobacco, he appears to be happy. But "Billy" seems to be anxious to be of some benefit to the community, for he has expressed a wish that when he dies his body shall be given over to some hospital for experimental purposes. On one occasion, when he was asked what he would do if he should become sick, the old man said he would take an overdose of opium and lie down and die. He has never had recourse to a doctor yet and does not want to, he says. The hermit's real name is William Wooton. He was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire in 1837, and in 1862 came to Canada with the 1st Battalion of the Prince Consort's Own Rifles under the command of Lord Russell. At that time it took 22 days to cross the Atlantic. The regiment was ordered to Hamilton and travel led by sleighs as far as Riviere du Loup, and then took the Grand Trunk to this city. Hamilton was then only a small town and four constables were all that were needed to keep the peace. Bandmaster Robinson of the 13th band came over with the same regiment. The old man tells some very interesting stories of early days in Canada, but always reverts to soldiering. Every man he says should be made to serve as a soldier if only to teach him obedience." The Home officials notified Chief Swayze of "Billy's" death on Thursday morning, and the Chief instructed them to prepare him for burial and he would have the body brought to Grimsby. Messrs. J.C. Marlatt and Son very generously sent a wagon after his remains and handled the funeral in excellent shape free of charge. The Rev. J. Allan Ballard on behalf of St. Andrew's Church donated a lot in St. Andrew's burying ground for his last resting place. The funeral was held on Sunday from Marlatt's Undertaking Parlors, and a very large concourse of people turned out to pay their last respects and tribute to a man who had done his share ungrudgingly for his king and country in years gone by. The casket was draped with a large Union Jack and nearly covered with flowers from neighbors and friends. The Home Guard under Capt. Fleming turned out 60 strong and a firing party of 13 picked men under Sergt.-Major Harrison, led the procession. Service was held in the church and was conducted by Rev. Ballard. At the grave Mr. Ballard read the simple burial prayer of the Anglican Church, the firing party fired a salute of 39 guns, and Bandsman Bradley sounded the Last Post, o'er all that remained of one of Britain's builders.

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Military funeral for old veteran