S.S. Walnut

A voyage to Freedom - 1948



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Into God's Hands

 A stormy sea -
the water 
looms endless -
cold and frigid;

We leave behind 
those we have loved
things we have known;

All my possessions
in one small suitcase -
are easy to pack;

What fate awaits us?

Together we came
with dread -
yet filled  with hope;

Into God's hands -
we placed our dreams
and our lives;

Deliver us all
from evil
Your kingdom come;

We thank You -
for this second chance
our lives anew.

Tiiu Roiser 
Dec. 2008



According to Paul Rabisson's 1998 article appearing in Meie Elu, Viking ships arriving in Canada  between 1945 and 1950 brought many Estonian passengers.  The author's research shows that 50 Estonian boats left from Europe, primarily from Sweden.  Of those, 16 arrived in the USA, 11 in Canada, 6 in South Africa, 5 in Argentina, 3 in England, and one went to Brazil.  Two ships perished in storms and the Russians hijacked the Estonian ship "Billy" while on the Atlantic.  Two ships went missing.

One Halifax visitor recalls reading a plaque in Pier 21 that quoted the number of Estonians arriving via Pier 21 as 14,665.  A Pier 21 newspaper writes that the:

  "Baltic immigrants of 1948-49, are, by numbers the smallest of hiccoughs in Canada's immigrant arrivals....they arrived in the span of a single year, most frequently in numbers fewer than 50 at a time. ["The 'Little Boats' from the Baltic, 1948-1949"  The Times of Pier 21, by Steven Schwinghamer.]

Canada is known as a "nation of immigrants".  Everyone's story of immigration is an act of faith and bravery.  The chair of the Pier 21 Foundation, Ruth Goldbloom, explains that one in five Canadians has a direct link to Pier 21. 

The Walnut passengers entered the humble-looking building on the waterfront of Halifax on December 13th, 1948.  On the side of the building was a large sign which read "WELCOME TO CANADA".

One Walnut passenger tried to recall her immigration experience.  She remembers passengers standing in zigzag lines and being taken to Rockhead Hospital.  Canada's welcome was very warm and friendly.  



The Swedish passport 
with which a Walnut passenger 
made her way to Canada.


Final stamps into Swedish passport.

Inside pages of passenger Swedish passport.

Inside view of last page of entries.









Note the stamp two days prior to the Walnut's departure on November 15th, 1948 at Lysekil.


A Jan. 20th, 1949 entry indicates that the passenger has passed the medical inspection.


The final entry into the Swedish passport is the Canadian Immigration stamp on January 31st, 1949 and the designation "LANDED Immigrant".



Immigration reports indicate that 250 Walnut passengers were transferred to Rockhead Hospital.  The remaining 97 were in civil detention quarters and the Immigration hospital.  The Red Cross and Social Services showed a keen interest in the welfare of the refugees.

All 250 refugees were x-rayed.  The inspector in charge notes:  "They [the refugees] lack colour and no doubt could do with more fresh air and exercise."



For immigration purposes the following report dated December 14th, 1948, was prepared by several Walnut passengers.



S.s. "Walnut" left Gothenborg, Sweden, Nov. 13-th, 1948 in Lysekil there she left Nov. 17.  At North-Sea we met a cale [corrected spelling:  gale] force of 9.  Put in Sligo [not legible] for completing bunkers.

In Ireland the people were very kind.  Departed Sligo on the 27th of Nov.  Four priest by the ship gave a pray and God's blessings for safe journey.  Also promised for 7 days to pray for us each morning.

Two days since we left Ireland met a cale [corrected spelling:  gale] force 8-9 which lasted about two days.  Encountered another cale [corrected spelling:  gale] on the 6th of Dec. which lasted for four days.  Cape Breton was the first land we sighted since left Ireland.  Most of the passengers were seasick for all time and many of them did not eat anything till we arrived at Sidney N.S.

Signed by H.S., A. Linde, Captain; A.K. J.S. and J.L. 



The breakdown for passengers on board was as follows:

Men 154 Married persons 158
Women 223 Unattached persons 119
Children (under 16)


Children under 16


     Total 347          Total 347
Age Groups Nationality of Passengers
0 years to 3 yrs 9 Estonians 305
3 years to 16 yrs 59 Lithuanians 9
16 years to 60 yrs 277 Latvians 10
60 years & more 2 Finnish 8
     Total 347 Danish 1
Polish 9
Adults-Over 21 254 Austrian 3
Minors - Less 21 93 American as stated 2










At the time, preferred immigrants to Canada were British and Americans.  Those from eastern and southern Europe were discouraged.  In addition to being a life-saving voyage for the passengers onboard, the greatest impact the Walnut's arrival in Canada had was the change it brought to Canada's immigration policies.  A special immigration was sent to Sweden and the doors for legal immigration were now opened.



We are currently awaiting for approval to post a number of Immigration Reports from the Canadian Department of Mines and Resources concerning the arrival and care of the refugees aboard the Walnut.   To donate further materials, please contact the webmaster.

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This page was last updated 27/12/2018 08:05 PM

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