Frank Malin:
85th Cape Breton Highlanders

An English orphan, adopted by a Glace Bay couple almost a 100 years ago, went back to fight in Europe to keep England free during World War One and, after returning home, spent more than 40 years in Cape Breton coal mines.

The life of Frank Malin, who passed away in 1981, is lovingly remembered by his daughter Edith Mac Vicar, of Donkin, who provided information and photographs on the man who for many years raised pit ponies, which were so valuable to miners underground .

Malin was born in Birmingham, England. As a child, he spent two years in an orphanage in England, as his mother passed away when he was only five years old. "Frankie, be a good boy," were the final words she left with him.

After spending time in the orphanage, he was then placed on a boat, with a tag on his jacket, and sent to Canada at the age of seven. He was adopted by an elderly couple, Christie and Lauchie Nicholson, of Glace Bay, and was raised under their family name.

Growing up, he worked very hard and was involved in the mines from a young age.

Frank grew up in Glace Bay to be a very feisty person. He was 16 years old when the war began. He joined the Canadian Army and was in the 85th Cape Breton Highlanders.

The 85th was made up of four companies - A Company: Pictou, Cumberland, Colchester; B company: Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Antigonish, Guysborogh; C company: Halifax, Hants, Kings; D company: Cape Breton, Richmond, Inverness, Victoria.

Although he loved and respected his adopted parents, Frank longed for his own identity and wanted to enter the war under his own name of Malin. However the papers were not ready, so he was sent off under his adopted name.

Frank was shipped out overseas and fought at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and numerous other places, as collectively, the  85th fought in 13 conflicts during the First world War, including Vimy, Lens and Cambrai (Bourlon).

In 1919, the unit returned to Halifax, where their colours were retired. It is also said that the unit was nicknamed The Never Fails by other soldiers, because they always reached their objectives.

After returning from the war, he married his wife, Annie. A war bride from England, she settled with frank in his home in Glace Bay. As a young girl Annie had also been involved in the war. She worked in a war factory, testing bullets at the age of 14. Later, she would learn to bake bread and pies. A skill she is said to have preferred during the course of her life.


Soldier And A Minor
Frank Malin served  his country and his community well

An English orphan who came to Cape Breton as an adopted son of a Glace Bay couple, Frank Malin served in the Cape Breton Highlanders in the great war before coming home to work in the coal pits for more than 40 years, raising a family as a respected member of his community

After settling in Glace Bay, both Frank and Annie worked very hard to make a good life for their children. Frank was very handy around the house and built many things for the family. He built the house which his children grew up and he built a well which was displayed on the lawn. He also built  a barn, where he kept horses and repaired bicycles for the kids.

Frank's family had about 30 horses over the years. He used to train the horses in the pit and spent 43 years in the mines after returning from the war.

Frank would spend much of his time reflecting upon his time spent serving in the war. At night he would sit and tell his children about the war. He told them that when they saw the enemy advancing there was no time to think and the only thing on your mind is that "Your fighting for your country." During the war Frank spent 3 days buried, along with a few comrades, and they were filled relief when eventually dug out by other members of their side.

He would speak of fighting in the rain and snow, and not having a chance to eat. The tunnels of Vimy Ridge were, at that time, all mud, and became messy when it rained (they have sense cemented them).

As well as dealing with the trauma of experiencing war, Frank and Annie had their own personal heartbreak, as the dealt with the loss of two children. their daughter Margaret passed away at the age of four-and-a-half, due to whooping cough and pneumonia, in her father's arms. Six-month0old Ruth also passed away, as a result of dysentery, for which there was no cure.

Frank Malin was proud to be a veteran. He would march in the parade every Remembrance Day, until his legs could no longer handle it.

When reflecting upon her father Frank.  Edith also recalls the times he spent with his family. Summer evenings were spent sitting on the step and telling ghost stories from England. Many nights were spent walking friends of the children home, as they would all gather to hear his tales.

In 1979, Frank's wife Annie passed away at the age of 81Frank died two years later. Both parents left their children with a lifetime full of memories - teaching them to respect others, to be kind to those less fortunate, and that there is is more to life than money.

their daughter Edith recognizes that although they didn't have a great deal of money, they had love and respect for each other - and that's what was most important.

Living by Frank's example, Edith feels we should all reflect upon the war, and remember the great sacrifice made by the men and women of the armed forces - all the heroes who came home and the ones who gave up their lives for us.