The Mysterious Uncle Mat – Part 3

Matt Liddell

A pit pony and driver from the early 20th century

A pit pony and driver from the early 20th century

The second candidate for the Mysterious Uncle Mat is Durham-born Matthew Liddell. He was born to Matthew and Isabella (nee Pickles) Liddell on July 6, 1896 and, like Matthew Lynn, had 7 siblings. In 1901 the family was living in Gateshead, just across the River Tyne from Newcastle. Ten years later 14-year old Matt Liddell was a working as a Pony Driver in the coal mines near Houghton le Spring, roughly halfway between Durham and Sunderland.

Matt’s father was a bricklayer and he briefly visited Canada in 1910, likely in search of employment opportunities. The prospects must have been good because he returned the following year, arriving in Montreal on May 6th. After settling in he sent for his family who arrived aboard the “Victorian” on Nov. 4th.

The family lived on Avenue d’Orléans, just across the railway tracks from the St. Lawrence River for several years before moving seven blocks south to 513 Rue Cuvillier. Matt was living at this address when he joined the 148th Battalion on the 29th of January 1916. He was assigned Regimental number 841306. Standing behind him in line at the recruiting office that day was his younger brother James who was assigned Regimental number 841307. However neither was the first Liddell to join the colours. Older brother William Harrison Liddell joined the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on March 9th, 1915.

At this point I know very little about the Liddell brothers’ experiences during the First World War however their service records are on order and I will update this story in the very near future. What I do know is that all three brothers survived the war and returned to Montreal. In 1921 the entire family moved to Windsor Ontario where in 1922 William was married. James followed suit in 1923.

"Uncle Mat" Liddell in 1927?

“Uncle Mat” Liddell in 1927?

Matt became a bricklayer like his father but he never married. In the 1920’s and 1940’s he was a frequent commuter to and from Detroit, quite possibly in search of work. In 1949 he crossed the Detroit River with the intention of residing permanently. Unfortunately that’s where all traces of Matt Liddell end, at least for now. However his border crossings left a paper trail and on one visit in October 1927 the card he filled out also included the photo on the right. Compare it to my photo of “Uncle Mat” and let me know what you think. I think we’ve found our man. [Update: read the latest on this mystery]

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