Florence Ethel Tapping (1891 – 1986)
Written by Mark Tapping
Florence Ethel (known as Flo to her family) was born in The Vaches Farm, Aston Clinton in the Vale of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on June 22, 1891. Her parents were William John Hall and his wife Harriet and Flo was their eighth (and last but one) child. She was baptised in St. Michael’s Church, Aston Clinton on July 26, 1891 (but not confirmed in the Church of England until March 12, 1907, in Weston Turville Church). As soon as she was old enough, she attended Lady de Rothschild’s School for Girls, in Aston Clinton. Later on, she went to the Temple School in Aylesbury (which some of her future husband’s sisters also attended).
As a young girl, Flo got an undeserved reputation for being more interested in books than in dolls. She used to be given books such as “The Vicar of Wakefield” as presents, much to her disgust. She was never able to forget that her elder sister Con once took a doll away from her, accusing her of being “cruel to dumb animals”.
Flo became a self-confident young lady, always prepared to try new things. She loved to explore the farm including its machinery and this led to an unfortunate accident. One day she caught her hand in the works of a ‘spreader’ which mangled her right thumb, leaving it deformed for the rest of her life. A little later, when a group photograph was being taken of Flo and her brothers and sisters, it was younger sister Millicent who said to her “Let me hold your hand so your poor thumb can’t be seen”.
As Flo and her sisters grew up, they began to think of the wider world outside the Vale. At one stage her sisters talked a lot about British Columbia and this awakened Flo’s interest in Canada. Then after leaving school, her great friend Maggie Kyle emigrated to join her brother in Canada. But first Flo tried working as a probationary nurse in the Royal Bucks Hospital in Aylesbury. Naturally, the newest nurses were given the worst jobs and Flo soon found that she couldn’t stand clearing up amputated limbs and other body parts and so she eventually decided to join Maggie and answered a Salvation Army advertisement offering to assist emigrants, obtaining a loan from them to pay her fare in 1912, sailing on the ‘Royal George’ for Canada.
After an uneventful journey, the ship managed to get stranded in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Flo and other passengers had to be taken off in small boats and were then accommodated in railway coaches on a nearby railway line, before going on to their destinations.