Biography: Gerard Arthur Joseph
Gerard Arthur Joseph Audcent was born at 7pm on Wednesday the 14th June 1911 at 25 Mervyn Road Ashley, Bristol, the eldest son of Louis Felix Henri Audcent and his wife Henriette Marie Angele Ferney. He was baptized at St. Bonaventure's Church, Bishopston on the 23rd July of the same year, having one Godparent his paternal aunt Pauline Marie Marguerite Audcent.
We know that at some time, Gerard was sent to stay with his Mother's cousin Marcelle who had married Fernand Moutet, where he went to work for them in their Chandlery (rope) business. During that period he became ill with typhoid fever and came back to England to recover. On his recovery he decided not to return, being unhappy with the position he had been given, and the domestic arrangements which gave him no freedom.
We have no knowledge of where he was educated, but it would probably be St. Brendan's College, Clifton, as his brother Jacques had been educated there. We know also that he had attended a commercial college in France, before entering his early career. His first job was with the Bristol School of Motoring, then situated in the Tramway Centre, Bristol, where he was a 'booking clerk'. After that he obtained a position in Dursley in an Engineering Firm (unknown) who were expanding at the time, and where he thought his fluent french would be useful. He was happy in that company, but the war was to intervene, and without a reserved occupation, he was called up early and received a commission in the Army Intelligence Corps.
Following his father's retirement in 1939, his parents moved to Selwood House, Hill Road, Clevedon. Gerard was to join his parents at a Christmas celebration given by their friends Mr. Bennett (the postmaster) and his wife who were ex-Canadians. There he met his future wife Eileen Winifred Kenway, also a native Canadian, the daughter of Bernard Charles Kenway and his wife Margaret Simmons (who though both of English origin had themselves emigrated to Canada), who had been sent to England by her parents to look after an Aunt, who lived at 8 Pinegrove Place off the Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol. Eileen was already known to Gerards sister-in-law Sylvia, who had met her some years before, when she had been brought around to Sylvia's landlady at the time, a Mrs. Warbutton, for tea by her Civil Service Colleagues. He was to marry her on Wednesday the 30th July 1941 at St. Bonaventure's Church, coincidentally the same church where Eileen's parents had themselves been married so many years previously, the bride being given away by her cousin William Kenway and Gerard's best man being his younger brother Bernard.
Of his marriage he was to have issue of just two sons John Peter (1942) and Mark Anthony (1950), although in between the two sons Eileen did become pregnant with twins, but lost them due to her illness as a result of possible kidney failure.
During the 2nd World War, he rose to the rank of Captain. We know that he was in North Africa during the war, for he told his nephew David the following story. He was in his tent in North Africa, and his sergeant came to him, pleading for his assistance, apparently there was a french officer who had arrived at the camp and no one could get any sense out of him, and accordingly he had become quite irate. Uncle Gerard was known of course for his fluent french. He asked the sergeant to bring the officer to him. Who should walk through the entrance to the tent, but his first cousin Marc Lemoine. One can imagine the celebrations! We also know, that he was present at the terrible battle of Monte Casino, there is a small photograph of him in his hole at the time, but he never did discuss details of the affair, we do know however that at this same battle he missed death by minutes. Apparently he had been interrogating an Italian prisoner in one of the huts, and had only just left it, when a bomb landed on top of the building.
At what date, we do not know, Eileen's Aunt died, and she left her house and contents to Margaret Kenway, nee Simmons, Eileen's mother, who in turn passed it to Eileen. After the war, Gerard was to meet (person unknown and his wife), and became great friends. He really believed that in partnership with his new friends a fine career in business lay before him. Interestingly, his new friends were next door neighbours of his sister-in-law Sylvia's Sister and her husband Dorothy nee Peat who had married William Eli Newton, and they all lived at Wellington Hill West. The friendship became even closer when his new friends learnt that Gerard and Eileen had assets as she already owned a house. At some time unknown, he and his wife moved to 111 Warton Street at Lytham St. Annes, in Lancashire and it was here in 1950 that his youngest son Mark was born.
There at Lytham, he and his new friends founded a firm of firelighter manufacturers, of which he was a Director. Eileen sold her Aunts house and the money was presumably invested in the Company and as a deposit for their new home. Gerard himself made the firelighters, which consisted of a cage of wood pieces filled with creosoted wood shavings. Whether the product was unsatisfactory, or whether the company was badly run we do not know but the firm was declared bankrupt, and whilst his friend had cleverly stowed money away in the name of his wife, Gerard was to lose everything. He continued for a while on his own, delivering his handmade fire lighters until finally he and Eileen sold their home and with very little or none of the capital left decided to emigrate to Canada, entering that country, with their two young sons on the 7th May 1952. They made the deliberate choice to settle away from Eileen's near relatives, sought no help from anyone, and more or less started their new life together from scratch. It would seem that they originally settled in Montreal, but we have no details of any address in that city. At some time they lived in an appartment in Gloucester, Ontario for a short while.
Employed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in Montreal as a Translator. He moved, before October 1958, to their Headquarters in Ottawa, and there they settled in a small house at 49 Skead Avenue. It should be noted that 49 Skead Road finally named in 1959, was in 1958 originally called P.O. Box 252 Cardinal Heights, Ontario, and was later in 1968, renumbered and renamed by the Authorities as 911 Blair Road, Ottawa, so that although the address changes on his and his wife's letters, their home remained the same. The house had not been very well built, and in the end, they had to have a steel rod and plates installed to prevent the main walls falling apart.
From that time on, he remained initially as the single translator for the Corporation, though in his latter years he was joined by one other, who became a good friend who appears to have been called Wilfred. He must have liked stability, for he remained with CBC for the rest of his working life, and also resided with his wife in their house right up to his death, adding a glazed extension in the latter years.
He had the very special ability to be able to translate with equal facility from English to French, and French to English, and as a result was understood to be the best translator in the country. Accordingly, he was frequently being loaned to the Government of Canada to undertake difficult translations.
Whilst initially, reluctant to get involved with the genealogical work of his nephew David Audcent and the documentation of the family, he visited England on two occasions, the first in 1974 on his own and the second and last time in 1977 with his wife Eileen. Following his first visit he offered to assist his nephew with any translation work but once he had learned of the families' early Canadian ancestors and realised the rich heritage the family had in Canada he became fired with enthusiasm.
He proceeded to join the two Genealogical Societies in Ottawa (both the English and French), and commenced to assist his nephew David by translating the french documents in the latter's possession.
He looked forward to the time when he would retire, and would be able to offer even greater assistance to his nephew, including the researching of his daughter-in-law's family called 'Plunkett'. However, presumably because he had not worked long enough for a full pension, he applied annually to renew his employment after normal retirement age, and subject to his good health this was approved. He thus continued to work up to the age of 69, but following the collapse of a lung in 1979, he had already made up his mind that he would finally retire (i.e. he would no longer apply for further work) on the 30th June 1980.
Events unhappily took a hand in his destiny, and he learnt, following the collapse of his lung for the second time, to the dismay of himself, his wife and family that he had a serious cancer infection and he subsequently became very ill during the very month before his intended retirement date.
In the very short period of time, he had liaised with his nephew, he had undertaken considerable translation and written numerous letters to David and these are listed in the documentation. His last letter to David and family was written on the 9th December 1980. Thus he left behind a permanent record of his contribution to the family history, for the use of those descendants who follow, just as his Great Grandfather Hippolyte Henri Pinot de Moira had done before him.
He was to become hospitalised on the 15th January 1981, and whilst there aggravated matters by falling and breaking his hip. He had an immediate operation to correct the damage, but died at 6pm on Tuesday the 27th January following from the combined effects of the operation and cancer. He was buried in a beautiful location in the Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, following a requiem Mass, concelebrated by four priests, held at his local church on the following Friday the 30th January. His coffin was carried by his two sons, John and Mark, accompanied by a cousin of his wife, Ken Mitchell and one of her nephews, Gregory Cooney.
His own wife Eileen commented, following his death, that he was good, kindly and very religious man. The scale of his funeral, and the attendance both at the traditional Canadian Wake and the Requiem service indicates the great love that people both in the parish and the community, including his workplace CBC had for him. We know from letters that some form of obituary appeared in the local press both in English and French, but no press cuttings exist in the family papers to hand.