Lady is 'a real person' at last

Always knew she was born in Montréal, but had no proof - until yesterday

by Michael Mainville, The Montreal Gazette , Saturday 27 November, 1999

Lady Balfour of Burleigh always knew she was a Montréaler by birth but could never prove it.

Lady Balfour (maiden name Janet Morgan) knew she was born at Royal Victoria Hospital in December 1945, the daughter of an English scientist working on a top-secret atomic research project in Canada - but her birth certificate had been lost, leaving her without any proof of her Canadian origins.

In town for the annual St. Andrew's Ball, Lady Balfour has finally been given that proof by city of Montréal officials, who dug up her birth certificate from archives in Quebec City.

The birth certificate was handed to her by Mayor Pierre Bourque during a small ceremony yesterday at city hall.

"This is just fabulous," she said. "For years and years I had no birth certificate, only a bit of paper from the hospital with a stamp from the department of health. ... They've managed to establish my identity."

As her husband, Robert Bruce, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, put it: "At last she's a real person."

The story of how a Lady Balfour came to be born in Montréal began in 1943, when her father, Frank Morgan, moved to Montreal to take part in the race to build the first atomic bomb.

It is likely that Morgan was among the 60 or so foreign scientists who converged here during World War II to work on the "Montreal laboratory," Britain's answer to the U.S.'s Manhattan Project.

The Montreal laboratory had been established in 1942 on two empty floors of the partly finished medical wing at the Université de Montréal to research nuclear reactions that could not be threatened by German bombing raids.

The project was so secretive that only Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and a few of his top aides were aware of its existence.

The scientists involved did not have much contact with the outside world and RCMP officers guarded the entrance to their lab.

Research in Montreal went well into the last year of the war but eventually the facility was moved to Chalk River, Ont. The Montréal laboratory was shut down in June 1946. The research done in Montreal allowed Canada to build its first nuclear reactor in 1945.

Lady Balfour says she knows little about her father's work. But she knows that her mother, Sheila Saddler, first arrived in Canada in 1944. "She came in from Yorkshire and had never been outside her home town," she said.

The two were married at St. George's Anglican Church on Stanley St. a week after she arrived. Janet Morgan was born 13 months later.

The family left Canada before the war was over and Janet Morgan eventually became, among other things, a writer. (She is the author of biographies of Agatha Christie and Edwina Mountbatten.)

She also married Robert Bruce, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Lord Balfour also has a connection to Canada, but a more distant one. His grandmother's brother was John Campbell Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen, who served as governor-general of Canada from 1893 to 1898. Aberdeen was a social crusader, and his wife was the founder of the Victorian Order of Nurses.

Last night's ball - the city's annual celebration of Scottish history and culture - was the main reason for the couple's visit. "Here you keep the balls alive to an extent that we don't in Britain," Lord Balfour said.

The St. Andrew's Ball is organized every year by Montreal's St. Andrew's Society, founded in 1835 to help Scottish immigrants adjust to life in Canada.

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