My Life in Music: 1980

On 31 January 1980, I left England to move to Canada, with my mother, my stepfather and my younger sister. I was ten years old and it was the biggest upheaval I had ever experienced in my life.

Four days before the move, my dad and my stepmother got married, because they wanted my sister and me to be at the wedding. My dad is passionate about the American West, and they had a western-themed wedding – at the local Salvation Army Hall, where he was a member. It was such an unusual wedding it made the local paper. The attached photo is the four of us, on that day, near my dad’s house in Ashton-under-Lyne. This is another photo taken by my grandfather.

Life in Lancashire at the end of the 1970s was somewhat depressed. We were living in an area where factories provided the main source of employment, and when they all started to close down the result was mass unemployment. At that time, emigration to Canada required a sponsor. My stepfather’s sister and her family were living in Canada and they were prepared to sponsor us, which made the move possible. But I was not happy with such a major change in my life, and I didn’t want to go. At age ten, you have opinions of your own, but you are not mature enough to express them in a way that will make people listen.

In those days, we were all regular visitors to the library. I enjoyed picking books, and then taking them back a few weeks later to pick out new ones to read. My mother was an avid reader as well, but she also used the library to borrow albums and discover new music. One of the albums she found in the run-up to our move to Canada was a ‘best of’ album by Roger Whittaker, which included a song called “Canada Is”, a patriotic anthem to the country. My mother played this song constantly in the weeks before our move, possibly trying to convince us all what a wonderful place we were moving to.

The first year in Canada was very difficult. Everything changed and I was expected to adapt, and I struggled with that. Everyone dressed differently, spoke differently, did things differently. There is a mindset shared by the people of a country that differs from other countries, and you don’t realise until you spend time there how different that mindset is from your own. I had never been ice skating before we moved to Canada. Canadian kids are put on ice skates the moment they learn how to walk. The first time I went ice skating with my class, I spent the session clutching the side of the rink, while all my classmates sailed by in disbelief, because they had never met anyone who didn’t know how to ice skate before.

I got very homesick. I missed my friends, I missed my family: grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. But most of all I missed my dad. In those days there was no email or internet. The only way of staying in touch with people was to write letters, or speak on the phone, and international calls were so expensive they were infrequent and limited to three minutes, and really what can you say to people in three minutes?

Ironically enough, the song that made me feel the most homesick was a song about Canada, because it reminded me of those last few months in England when I was sick with dread about the move.

This year’s song is a bit of a cheat, because it was actually released in 1974, but it became so integral to the changes in my life that year that it’s really the only choice for 1980. So here’s Roger Whittaker’s “Canada Is”, accompanied by a patriotic video with images from across Canada.


3 comments so far

  1. Freda Grayson on

    This makes me sad, I wish that I had kept all your letters. X

    • Vanessa B on

      I remember the song well and have the same memory of hearing it over and over again. However, this song made me feel excited to come to a new place and when I got here, I felt it was an exciting place to be. It was fresh and different with new experiences every day, fun times. Funny how different personalities can have the same experience but their interpretation of it, is totally different!! Haven’t heard the song in a while and have never seen the viideo so I will have a listen now….. 🙂

      • Vanessa B on

        Love it!! Some places in the video I’ve been to and many I haven’t. Makes me proud to be Canadian and want to travel more of this beautiful country…thanks Sara


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