Chief A. Birtwhistle 1927-1949

Archibald Birtwhistle held the job as Chief of Police in Charlottetown from
1927 until 1949.

The story of Archie Birtwhistle mirrors the growth of the young country where he chose to immigrate. The hardships, challenges and adventures told through his work and travels are not unique; but tell a tale of Canada in the early twentieth century when expansion westward appealed to thousands of immigrants looking for a new life. What made this young man leave his home, job, friends and family? There is no given answer; but a look into his early years in England does give us some clues.

Thomas Birtwistle, a draper who sold cloth in Northwich, Cheshire and        Chief Birtwhistle
his wife Mary Jane Creswell had the first of their thirteen children in 1876                 1927
and named him Archibald. It was the middle of the Victorian era and social
class dictated people’s lives. That same year Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.  Archie went to school until about the eighth grade and being the eldest child probably had to go right back to work to help support the family which would be normal for his lower-middle class family. He eventually apprenticed and wound up as a clerk copying legal papers by hand in a law office.  Judith Birtwhistle, the wife of Archie’s son Kenneth, noticed that: “His script was always very small and precise; it was beautiful handwriting.” The work, however must have been repetitive, reminiscent of Bob Crachit in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, with the employee sitting on a hard wooden stool toiling in poor light for many hours each day.
 
Archie was a slim, well muscled young man and he found an outlet for his energy and an obsession in running, especially the mile. He trained by swimming in an abandoned salt mine pond near his home. This turned out to be a lifelong pursuit and up even in his eighties his stride was so quick his grand daughter Jill Thompson says; “Even when I was about thirteen I still had to kind of run along behind him all the time or he’d be off and way ahead; there was no slowing down for children like me.”



                                                                                              Archie Birtwhistle with his trophies
                                                                                                           England early 1900's

He left his office job and went to London and joined the Scots Guards, a brigade charged with guarding the Royal Family. Athletics is important in any military unit and in the Scots Guards he became a champion runner, specializing in the mile. At one time his trophies could fill a room; but now a rose bowl and tea set are all that remain in the immediate family. We will never know what prompted him to leave the Scots Guards and embark on what became the first defining event on this side of my family; however, in 1906, in his early thirties and still unmarried, Archie Birthwhistle headed for Canada and training with the Royal North West Mounted Police in Regina in the new province of Saskatchewan. He started at Regina as a Constable on August 17, 1906 and was promoted to Corporal on January 1, 1911. He was made Sergeant on April 1, 1913. It is obvious that he didn’t require much training as he was admitted to the R.N.W.M.P right after coming to Canada.

A new King and the First World War opened the door for Archie to return home to England. Archie went overseas for the coronation of King George V in 1911 and later he went back to guard prisoners of war in Europe in 1918 near the end of the First World War [picture 11]. He also represented Canada with his detachment at the Wembley Exhibition in 1925. He guarded the Prince of Wales [later Duke of Windsor] when the prince visited Canada after the war and foe his service to the British Empire, in 1943 he was made a Member of the British Empire at a ceremony in Ottawa. While in Niagra Falls, Archie retired from the police force.
 
Archie never drove a car; but that didn’t stop “The Chief” as he was known from getting the job done even if it was outside the city.

  The Chief Birtwhistle died on November 1, 1964 in his
  eighty-ninth year. Although he traveled the world he
  made Prince Edward Island his home and today most
  of his descendants live here. His youngest great
  grandson and namesake, Samuel is two years
  old. When he moved to the Island in 1927, Archie could
  not have imagined that this small place would
  eventually be home to three generations of the
  Birtwhistle family. He was the last of my ancestors on
  both sides of my family to immigrate to Canada and the
  first to come to Prince Edward Island. I’m sure he would
  be pleased to know we are still here.

        Chief Birtwhistle & Family


Information provided by Shane Thompson, great grandson, of Chief Birtwhistle.

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