Kay Caffery had a connection to the Royal family.

A woman of distinction: Kathleen Caffery

Royal blue blood and Haida red

Descended from a long line of fascinating women, Kathleen Caffery, listed in Burke’s Peerage, the authoritative record of nobility in Britain, and on this side of the Atlantic, listed as a member of a Haida chief’s family, has passed away at her home in Sooke.

Kathleen (Kay) was born at home in 1934, to Margaret, wife of Frank Caffery of East Sooke.  Margaret, only daughter of Lady Emily Walker, had arrived in East Sooke with her parents and four brothers in 1912, after a journey by Trans Atlantic steamer to Montreal and overland by Canadian Pacific Railway to the west coast.

Kay grew up on the Frank Caffery farm in East Sooke in the 1930s and 40s, close by the Walker family home of Ragley. Her family’s story is remarkable. When her grandmother, Lady Emily, her five children, together with husband Reverend Reginald Walker arrived in 1912, they were accompanied by a retinue of servants, complete with a governess.

Before long, however, most of the servants had married locally and found other lives for themselves, so the Walker children, and even Lady Emily herself, had to take on the farm and household chores. Lady Emily’s daughter Margaret, schooled by a governess, nobility as her background, found herself helping with a horse team and hoeing potatoes. Few homes had been built in East Sooke at that time, transportation was limited and neighbours were few and far between.

Neighbouring farmer Frank Caffery was one of the sons of Granny Caffery, widow of a sealing captain who had been lost at sea. Of Haida descent, Granny Caffery had come to East Sooke with her children in 1891, taking up a section of land there, and her large family became part of the early East Sooke community. Frank Caffery was on hand to assist the new residents.

When he and the teenage Margaret Walker met, romance followed, and their daughter Kay recalled how devoted the two, from vastly different cultures, remained throughout their lives. Kay grew up a very down-to-earth and resourceful young woman. Like youngsters in most pioneer families, she learned to help with all the chores, and even drove the farm tractor.

At first Kay went to East Sooke School, later coming over to Sooke by school bus to attend Milne’s Landing High School. There was a period when her grandmother, Lady Emily, dedicated to seeing that Kay was not only taught to be a lady but also to be devout, sent her to St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria. Many years later, Kay recalled what she humorously described as a heavy schedule of devotion. She had Sunday morning services at St. Ann’s, was driven to visit Ragley on Sunday afternoon where she attended services conducted by her grandfather Reverend Reginald Walker in the parlour, and then back to St. Ann’s for evening services before bedtime.

Kay also described sitting at Lady Emily’s dinner table and learning which fork to use for each course. If she erred and picked up the wrong piece of silver, she would feel a sharp rap on the knuckles. She hadn’t yet been born, however, when Edward, Prince of Wales came to visit Lady Emily at Ragley in 1927. This was the Prince who later became the Duke of Windsor.

There was a long-standing connection between the British Royal Family and Lady Emily, who was a Seymour, daughter of the Marquess of Hertford, and Lord of the Manor at Ragley in Warwick, England. Those who remember their British history will recall that Lady Jane Seymour was one of the wives of Britain’s Tudor King Henry VIII. Lady Emily was descended from a brother of the Queen, Edward Seymour.

In addition to this connection, there is a suggestion that there was a particularly close relationship between Lady Emily and King George V of England, and that it was due to His Majesty’s ascension to the throne with Queen Mary in 1910 that Lady Emily, the children, and her husband the Reverend Walker were urged to find a new home far away.

One of the memories of her grandmother that Kay cherished was that Lady Emily, a wonderful pianist, would play tunes by the hour to please the little girl.  Another memory she cherished was the tale of how her two grandmothers joined forces during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1917.  Granny Caffery had the skill with medicinal herbs, Lady Emily had the automobile and the two drove from house to house ministering to the afflicted.

Married young to Bob Coates, Kay was mother to a family of three sons and five daughters. For a period the family lived in Prince George.  When her married life didn’t always work out, Kay took the initiative and found ways to support the children. At one time she moved them all to Alert Bay when she got a job driving taxi there.

For a brief time Kay was married to John Jeffrey. Later teamed up with Casey Clinton, the two made a home near Whiffen Spit Road, and really joined into the life of the community.  It was another opportunity for friendly and warm-hearted Kay to enjoy music and dancing as Casey played piano at the Legion.

Shucking oysters, delivering the rural route mail, cooking at Mom’s Café and at Daly’s, Kay turned her hand to many things.  At 51, she went back to school, taking courses to become a home support worker, a most-fulfilling job for her as she loved caring for others.  Later she operated a seasonal produce booth at the corner of Edward Milne Road.

In her senior years, perhaps it was her love of music that led Kay and a newcomer to Sooke, accordionist Karl Mosig to each other.  A romance blossomed and marriage followed. The two planned a trip to Europe, where they would each visit their origins, Karl focusing on Vienna and Kay on Ragley Hall in England, where the couple were hosted to dinner by the current Lord Hertford and his Lady.

From time to time, Kay was invited by the current owners of Ragley in East Sooke, Josie and Rob Hill, to tour guests through the historic building. Kay, who may well have carried a blend of blood intertwining Royal Blue and Haida Red, loved being there re-living the years that meant so much to her.

Josephine and Rob Hill of Ragley Farm have this to say,  “Kay was such a big part of our life here on the farm.

“She was our link to all the history here and was eager to share what she remembered and to satisfy all our curiosities about Lady Emily and her family, the rooms in the house and what life was like when she lived here.  We’ve lost an amazing person and will miss her presence but are so grateful for what she did give us.”

Always strong and confident, Kay bore her diagnosis a year or so ago with great dignity. In her illness, the family that she cherished demonstrated their commitment by caring for her at home.

Kay leaves her husband Karl Mosig, her sons Ed (Jo Ann), Doug, Rob (Joan), daughters Wendy (Goldie), Anita (Brian), Sharon (Dennis Thomas), Phyllis (Breck), stepson Casey Clinton (Wendy), grandchildren Shayne (Megan), Jolene (Paul), Michael (Nicole), Taylor (Melissa), Wayne, Jarrett (Chrissy), Jennifer Cindrich and Michael Berg. Kay was pre-deceased by daughter Debbie and firstborn grandson Troy.

The service, conducted by Reverend Alex Nagy, will be held at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Sooke, 10:30 am, Thursday May 19. Following the service, Kay’s ashes will be placed within the grave of her father Frank Caffery at the historic St. Mary’s Anglican Churchyard in Metchosin.

Elida Peers,

Historian, Sooke Region Museum