Joseph Welsh

Little is known about Joseph Welsh’s early life in England. He was born on March 29, 1889, in Gloucestershire (which is near the city of Bristol). After attending Thornby Grammar School, Joseph began his teaching career and taught at an all-boys school in Hereford.

When World War I broke out, Joseph went to enlist with Grenadier Guards.

However, the regiment required their men to be 5 foot, 11 ½ inches in height and Joseph was only 5 foot, 11 3/8 inches – so he was refused. Later, he was successfully able to enlist in the First Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment.

Joseph fought at the infamous battle of Gallipoli (which was the unsuccessful attempt by the Allies to control the sea route from Europe to Russia). He was wounded by a Turkish sniper and sent to a hospital in Malta where he gradually recovered. He was finally able to rejoin his regiment in August 1916 during the battle of the Suez Canal in Egypt. The advance across the Sinai Desert took Joseph and his comrades all the way into Palestine.

Joseph Welsh Veterans Application
Red Deer Archives, K15557

In December 1917, Joseph’s regiments were issued new orders to escort a draft of reinforcements to Beersheba and Hebron.

On Christmas Eve that same year, they reach the outskirts of Bethlehem. Being informed by their senior officer that there were no lodgings for them in town, the men had to find some type of shelter. Unable to make a fire due to rain, the regiment huddled together under olive trees for the night.

Thankfully, the men’s luck changed on Christmas Day – they received news that living quarters had been arranged for them in Jerusalem. Upon their hasty arrival, the men were provided with a Christmas feast and were given two days leave from duty. Joseph stated, “Happy Christmas! Never have I experienced one half as happy or as memorable!”

When Joseph was on the Western Front in France, he was wounded again. This time he recuperated in a Canadian run hospital and was so impressed by the treatment he received that he decided to immigrate to Canada after the war.

… upon their hasty arrival, the men were provided with a Christmas feast and were given two days leave from duty.

Joseph stated, “Happy Christmas! Never have I experienced one half as happy or as memorable!”

Joseph Welsh at desk
Red Deer Archives, P18083

Arriving in Calgary, he worked odd jobs to get by, but ultimately decided he wanted to return to his teaching career.

Joseph taught at Berrydale School before attending Calgary Normal School (now the Calgary Branch of the Faculty of Education of the University of Alberta) for additional training.

It was also during this time that he married Violet Hunt, who was also from England. The couple had one child together, a son named Bill.

In 1923, Joseph went on to teach at Hill End School near Penhold. Eventually he took a job as a grade eight teach and principal at Central School in Red Deer. Although he would become known for his firm discipline, Joseph was well received by his colleagues and students. It did not take long for him to build up his reputation as an outstanding teacher who excelled in subjects such as literature, language, history, and geography.

Violet passed away in 1924, leaving Joseph a single parent of a two-year-old Bill. Instead of returning to England, he decided to stay in Canada and continue with his career.

Joseph ended up finding romance again with a woman named Annie Holt, whose husband passed away during World War I. The couple would never marry. Annie, who was a dedicated caregiver to her elderly mother, refused to marry Joseph because she would lose her small widow’s pension.

Nonetheless, their relationship lasted for over forty years and Annie became a surrogate mother to Bill.

From the years 1926-1940, Joseph went on to serve as the principal at each of the Red Deer elementary and junior high schools.

He was granted the title of Superintendent in 1951. After a long and rewarding teaching career, Joseph retired in June 1954.

His farewell ceremony was held at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer and more than 800 former students and members of the community attended. It was a day full of heart-filled goodbyes and loving tributes to a man who had such a positive impact on so many people as an educator, colleague, and friend.

Joseph Welsh Retirement
Red Deer Archives, N6096

“[Joseph’s retirement] ceremony was held at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer and more than 800 former students and members of the community attended.”

Aside from his job, Joseph could be found enjoying himself on the golf course.

He served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Red Deer Golf & Country Club. He was also known for his commitment to the Royal Canadian Legion, which he served as President of the Red Deer Branch. He also chaired the annual poppy campaign for over twenty years.

In 1960, Joseph was able to witness a new elementary school in the Eastview division being built, then named after him – Joseph Welsh Elementary School.

It was not long after, in the mid 1960’s, that his health drastically declined. On January 7, 1969, Joseph Welsh passed away in Edmonton, Alberta. He is buried in Red Deer Cemetery with a quote from Shakespeare engraved on his tombstone: “This blessed plot – This England.”

Joseph Welsh Elementary School
Red Deer Archives, P3531

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