Islanders unravel the mystery behind the P.E.I. quilt in England

After CBC News published the story about a signature quilt in Reading, U.K., Islanders came out in droves to unravel the mystery behind how the quilt — which bears the names of hundreds of Islanders — even got there.

'I would never have dreamed this would come up, I wondered sometimes where the quilt went'

Many Islanders, hailing mostly from West Prince, spotted the names of family members on the quilt and shared the story on social media. (Submitted)

The story behind a P.E.I. quilt that wound up in England roughly 50 years ago just got a bit more interesting.

The quilt is currently owned by a Reading, U.K. family who purchased it at a second-hand shop in the 1960s. 

After CBC News published the story about the Island-made signature quilt, readers came out in droves to help unravel the mystery behind how the quilt — which bears the names of hundreds of people from P.E.I. — ever got there.

Many Islanders, hailing mostly from West Prince, spotted the names of family members on the quilt and shared the story on social media.

And they had to get to the bottom of it.

Oh for crying out loud, we'd wondered if there'd be a connection like that.— Jock Rix

"I think everybody's quite surprised and the chatter is all on Facebook trying to figure out how this quilt got to where it is," said Lori Gallant.

Gallant and many of her family members speculated how it got there and spent hours theorizing how it may have ended up in Reading.

It was of particular interest to them because many names from their family were on the quilt. It was a delight to see some of the names stitched into its surface, Gallant said. 

"To see my grandmother's writing last night just touched my heart," she said  "I just think this is so neat."

'My mother won the quilt'

Jock Rix resides in Miminegash, P.E.I., and after reading the story he spotted his own name on the quilt's fabric.

"When I started to pull the picture up closer on my computer, I started to read on the foot of the bed and lo and behold my own name was there," he said. 

"It was very surprising to me, in fact a little chill went up and down my back," he laughed.

Edward Rix, an ex-pat Islander who reached out to the CBC from Philadelphia had a similar reaction after seeing his family members' names on the quilt.

"Wait a second, I know all the people in these photographs," he recalled thinking when he first read the story.

"So I reposted it to Facebook … immediately everyone started talking last night, bandying names around."

Jock Rix did a double take when he saw his name on the quilt. (Submitted)

Summerside's Alan Murray helped pinpoint the family behind the traveling quilt, signaling that it was sent to England courtesy of the family of Christine MacEachern from St. Lawrence, P.E.I.

Now living in Coleman, P.E.I., she's the daughter of war bride Elizabeth (Betty) Smith. MacEachern said her family emigrated to Canada from England in the early 1950s, settling in St. Lawrence. 

Her mother had a passion for sewing and "loved going with the ladies," she said, which led Smith to take part in the local women's institute's signature quilt creation.

The quilt was signed with names of people across P.E.I. and the world, and was raffled off as a fundraiser.

"My mother won the quilt so she sent it to my cousin, Susan Cannings, of Reading, England," MacEachern said. 

'Isn't it wonderful that it's been cared for?'

Cannings' name, as well as MacEachern and her father Alfred's names, are embroidered into the fabric of the quilt. MacEachern has a photo of Cannings with the quilt, shortly after it arrived from Canada. 

'My mother won the quilt so she sent it to my cousin, Susan Cannings, of Reading, England,' MacEachern says. This photo of Cannings was sent to her after receiving the quilt. (Submitted by Christine MacEachern)

"I would never have dreamed this would come up, I wondered sometimes where the quilt went after Sue passed away but I didn't have a clue," MacEachern said.

CBC broke the news to the Rix family.

"Oh for crying out loud, we'd wondered if there'd be a connection like that," Jock Rix said.

"Chrissy is older than I am so she could very well remember the ins and outs of it," he said. "For heaven's sakes, that is very nice."

"Isn't it wonderful that it's been cared for?" says Edward Rix. Christine MacEachern's name (though she was Smith at the time the quilt was made) can be seen top left. Sue Cannings' patch is bottom right. (Submitted)

Edward Rix said even getting a glimpse at at the quilt through the photos online brought a smile to his face.

"Isn't it wonderful that it's been cared for?" he asked.

"People in western Prince Edward Island, their names, preserved in this lovingly constructed textile is still warming people as a quilt is meant to do."