“He was a charming man”, said Agnes Ross to her grand-daughter. Who was she taking about? None other than Al Capone!

So how did Agnes (1891-1983 née MacKenzie), an island girl from Stornoway, Lewis, come to meet the famous gangster? The link is her husband, Andrew Ross, first cousin of my grandfather, John.

Andrew Ross (1890-1977)

Andrew emigrated from Orkney to Canada in 1910 and my father visited him and his family in Winnipeg, Manitoba, while he was in the RAF during WW2. Dad recalled that Andrew (and his brother Hugh) worked for Cran, Mowat and Drever, a fruit canning business in Winnipeg. From his grand-daughter I learned that Andrew was a driver for that firm, taking loads to Chicago among other places.

Andrew once took Agnes on a delivery trip to Chicago and that is when they met Al Capone and even had lunch with him.

But was it just canned fruit he delivered? Or was this quiet, discreet man also entrusted with a much more valuable load, liquor? We will never know, and possibly he never knew either. From what his family said, he would probably not have asked too many questions and he would not have drawn attention.

The story reminds me of one of the reasons why the Hudson’s Bay Company favoured an Orcadian workforce; they were “more sober and tractable than the Irish”.

This post was written on St Andrew’s Day 2018 for the #52ancestors challenge whose theme for the week was “last but one”. Andrew’s father, Sam, was last but one in the Upper Seatter family. I am very grateful to Andrew’s grand-daughter for permission to use this story.

Latest blog posts...

4 comments so far

  1. Anna Rogalski says:

    When my sister (who writes as Dorothy Stewart) was researching for The Mizpah Ring, the first book in a trilogy, she told me she had discovered that Al Capone used many ex-Scots for his heavies!

    1. Janealogy says:

      Very interesting. It was a very last minute decision to do this blog so I haven't researched Cran, Mowat and Drever at all but they must be Scottish in origin, possibly Orkney.

  2. Diane Roberts says:

    Great to see your blog. Brings back lots of memories. I wish I had thought to ask more questions as a child. I am sure it would have been an interesting story.
    Diane ( Andrew's grand-daughter )
    FYI Jane Mr. Mowat was from the Orkney;s. He was my mother's Isabella Mowat Ross godfather and an old family friend. Not sure, but I believe his first name was Billy (Walter) and that he emigrated at the same time as my grandfather. Also, Mowatt may have been spelled with 2 tt's. I do not have access to her birth certificate here but will check when I get back to Canada

    1. Janealogy says:

      Thanks for this Diane. Don't we all wish we'd asked more. I'm now wondering if Mr Mowat was related for Andrew's mother was Isabella Mowat. I'll do some looking.

Comment on this blog post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.