Rich Ratson

John Retson or Ritson Abt1781 - 1842

John Retson 1809/10 - 1891

George Retson 1848 - 1910

William Rankin Retson 1884 - 1975

George Clifford Retson 1912 - 1997

James Clifford Retson 1948

Retson Surname

The family name that we go by is Retson. When I was 12, I was old by my Great Uncle John indicated that the name in England many years ago had been Ritson but that when an ancestor crossed the Border at Gretna Green, Scotland to get married, his wife failed to dot the i and the name became Retson.

George F. Black’s The Surname of Scotland has two relevant entries for the surname Retson:

Retson. A surname in the shires of Dumfries, Ayr and Dumbarton. A variant of Ritson, q.v.

Ritson, Explained by Bardsley as "son of Richard" from the North England, nickname, Rich or Ritchie, whence the patronymic Richison, corrupted to Ritson. This is a familiar Cumberland surname.

The Ritson family name was, according to Joseph [Ritson], a corruption of Richardson. In his ‘Memoranda’ he records the genesis of the word thus: ‘Richardson, Richison, Richson, Ricson, Ritson.’ But it is highly doubtful if there is any other authority than personal fancy for this evolution” (A. Burd, Joseph Ritson, a critical biography, Urbana, Ill, 1916, p.13

According to the Swyrich Corporations, the name Retson,Wright or variations such as Right, Write, Wrighte are all derivatives of the old English word wyrhta which means a worker, woodworker, carpenter, craftsmen of watermills or windmills.

There is another ‘Retson’ not of our line which came from Retsos of Greece. The name is traceable to a Greek Ancestor who immigrated to the United States

Richard Ratson

Until some of our descendents partake in a DNA gathering exercise and we gain more knowledge of our Ancestors the leading candidate for the earliest ancestor with a name that resembles Retson is Richard Ratson. From the Kendal Parish Records:


Rich Ratson, widower, Hutton, Mgt. Tarne, widow, New Hutton, Sept 27, 1778


John of Richd and Margt Ratson, July 25 1779 at New Hutton

James of Richd and Margaret Ratson, Rawhead, Nov 15 1781 at New Hutton

Miles of Richd and Margrt Ratson, Rawhead, Jan 17 1785 at New Hutton

Thos. of Richd, and Margaret Ratson, Jan. 13 1788 at New Hutton

John Retson or Ritson

His descendents

John Retson or Ritson was born about 1781. John Retson (born 1879) his grandson (born about 1781) relates a story about his grandparents eloping across the border from England to Scotland at Gretna Green (See modern pictures below) and his grandfather not doting the i on his name thus it becoming Retson. The wife’s name was Ann Bateman, married about 1805. If both birthdates of 1790 and marriage date of 1805 is correct she would be approximately 15 years when married.

Gretna Julia Gretna Jillie
<gretnaflag Gretna Jim

John presumably was resident at Sorn at least from 1811 the birth date of his second son to the birth of his last Child in 1819 but exactly when he moved to Fenwick is not yet determined. John died about 1842. Sorn is an ancient parish centre on the upper reaches of the River Ayr 5 kilometers east of Mauchline or about 21 from Ayr. 

John and Ann’s children included

John Retson b. Bet. 1806 – 1810 in West Kendal, Westmoreland, England; m. Jean Hamilton14 Mar 1834 d. 11 Nov 1891 Ayr, Sorn Parish (See below)

James Retson b. 11 Sep 1811in Sorn, Ayrshire; m. Mary Thompson on 12 Jul 1849 in Paisley, Renfrewshire; d.16 Apr 1883 at Burgh Poorhouse, Paisley,

George Retson b. 26 Sep 1813; m. Agnes Dodds on 18 Feb 1842 in Renfrew, Scotland

Miles Retson b.19 Feb 1815 in Dalgain St, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland;  m. Margaret McCrae, 21 Jan 1842, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; d. 9 Apr 1892, Woodside, Tarbolton, Ayrshire

Margaret Retson b. 9 Dec 1816; m. John Watson, 28 Jun 1837, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland

William Retson b. 23 Nov 1819 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. Margaret Weir 16 Dec 1851 Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; 28 Oct 1892 in Woodhead, Sorn



Robin Smith’s The Making of Scotland, A Comprehensive Guide to the Growth of Scotland’s Cities Town and Villages reports that Sorn is an ancient parish centre on the upper reaches of River Ayr about 5 km east of Mauchline. The keep of Sorn Castle was originally built in 1409. A new church was built in the 17th century. In the 18th century a bridge was built over the River Ayr. The village was also known as Dalgain. The Farquharsons built the small mansion of Gilmilnscroft House in the early 19th century . In the 1950s the population of Sorn was about 525. By 2001 it had decreased to around 400. Pictures below include friendly Mr MacDonald located in a stone cottage across from the Church talking to Canadian Tourists; myself holding on to chains located on the exterior of the church used once upon a time for adultery, and other diverse sinners, inside pictures of the church and Sorn’s Billy Gibson and Wife. In all of scotland you will not find a prettier village and one that should be visited by all.

Churn at Sorn MacDonald
Billy Gibson William Retson Gibson and wife, current residents of Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland. For 3 generations the Retson name has been carried as a middle name in honour of the Retson family that housed the Gibsons after the death of John Gibson December 25 1906. Notice to all Retsons in Canada: I indicated to Billy Gibson that they would be welcomed to stay at any Retsons home if they made it to Canada.

John Retson

John Retson, son of John and Ann (Bateman) Retson was born between 1806 and 1810. His marriage to Jean Hamilton 14 Mar 1834 gives his age as 28 which would have his birth as 1806.  He lived in Sorn at least until the birth of his youngest daughter Mary born in February 1857. He died in 1891 in Fenwick just north of Sorn.  His death certificate gives his age as 82, 3 months which would make his birth August 1809.

Their children included

Margaret Retson b. 14 May 1834 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland ; m. Alexander Thomson 3 Jul 1863 Woodhead of Gilmiln, Sorn; d. 16 Jan 1883 Thomsons land, Baillieston, Old Monkland, Lanark

Anne Retson b. 5 Sep 1836 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. William Hendry Reid, 13 Apr 1855, Lintmill, Sorn, Catrine; d. 24 Nov 1884 St Cuthbert St., Catrine

Jane Retson b. c. 1839 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. Alexander Fraser Hamilton, 23 Mar 1868, Lintmill, Sorn, Ayr, Scotland; d. 05 August 1873 at age 34 at 30 Townholm, Kilmarnock

John Retson b. 5 Feb 1841 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m.  Jane P. Russell 13 Apr 1866 High Church, Paisley, Renfrew; d. 05 Jun 1901 Auldon, New Sneddon, Paisley

William Retson b. 2 Nov 1843 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m.  Elizabeth Bradley 27 Jul 1866 Kirkmichael, Ayr; d. 13 Oct 1900 Halliday Hill, Dalton, Dumfriesshire.

James Retson b. 12 Dec 1845 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m.  Mary Anne Cunningham, daughter of Alexander Cunningham & Mary Fisher 5 June 1868 in West-Town, Sorn, Ayrshire;

George Retson b. 6 Apr 1848 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. Mary McManus, 31 Dec 1871 d. 1 Dec 1910 (see below)

Janet Retson b. 4 Dec 1850 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. William Hendry, 5 Jun 1871 Sorn Parish; d. 1 Apr 1909 50 East St. Darvel, Ayr

Thomas Bateman Retson b. 9 Jun 1852, in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. Agnes Jamieson 10 Dec 1879, Lintmill, Sorn Parish; d. 21 Jul 1921 Partick, Glasgow, Lanark

Agnes Dodds Retson b. 29 Mar 1854 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland. 4 Nov. 1923

Mary Retson b. 26 Feb 1857, in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. Robert Murdoch Gebbie 31 Jul 1879 Lintmill, Sorn

George Retson 1848 – 1910

GeorgeRetson Gravestone

 George Retson, son of John and Jean (Hamilton) Retson, was born 6 April 1848 Sorn, Ayrshire,Scotland. He married Mary Armour 31 Dec 1871. He died December 1 1910. The 1881 describes his occupation as mole catcher and farmer of 32 acres. George had moved to Fenwick by at least early 1875.

Fenwick (pronounced fen nick) as “finnick” has been on earlier maps of Scotland at least since 1600 A parish school was started in 1638 and a new church in 1643. At one time the town was known as cobblers.  The Fenwick weavers, an association founded in 1769 has been claimed to be the first co-operative society. In the early 19th century a woolen mill was at work at Waterside near Hareshaw nearby Fenwick. Laigh Fenwick 1 km from Fenwick proper had a meeting point of no less than 7 roads. In 1895,there were churches, an Inn, smithy and a post and telegraph office.  Gardrum was then a corn mill and nearby was Pokelly Castle and Hall but the Castle vanished in the early 20th century. By 1950 there was a population of 1000. By 1971 an A77 bypass had been built and in 2000 the extension of the M77 motorway from Malletsheugh (Newton Mills) to Fenwick was begun.

His children include,

 Margaret Armour Retson b. 13 December 1872; m. Alexander George Archibald 19 Jan 1914 in Bible Hill, Colchester County; died 19 Dec 1914 in Glenelg, Guysborough, Nova Scotia within one year of her marriage to a George Alexander Archibald without leaving any children. Mr Archibald remarried and had 6 children.

Jane Hamilton Retson A.K.A. Jean b. 5 March 1875 in High Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland; m. John Brown, widower. She raised his two children, a boy who was killed in WW1 and daughter known as Wee Jean Brown.

Mary Retson b. 26 April 1877 in High Fenwick, Ayrshire, m. Rev. Andrew Burns, widower.. Son Andrew by first wife became a doctor and married an actress who was also a singer.  She came to Canada during WW2 and Stayed with birth William and John before divorcing Andrew and headed off to Caribbean.

John Retson b. 7 April 1879 in Fenwick, Scotland. John was the first of 5 brothers and one siste, Margaret. He came to Canada on the Siberian arriving in Halifax 23 April 1902. James and Thomas returned to Scotland, He married Bessie Jane Johnson,.22 Jan 1913 in Truro Nova Scotia and had four children,

John (Jack) William Lowney Retson b.11 Nov 1913, m.Irene Sylvie Kenney

Ada Armour Retson b.12 Dec 1916, m. Jack Ellsworth MacLean

Maie Jean Retson b.26 Nov 1921, m Harry Roger Pryor

Georgie Retson b. 15 May 1926

George Retson b. 2 December 1881; m. Edith Taylor

William Rankin Retson b. 22 February 1884 (See Below)

Annie Retson b. 14 Mar 1887; d. 5 Jan 1896 at age of 8 years

Janet Retson b. August 1890 d.24 Sep 1890 of pneumonia age 1 month 2 days

Thomas Bateman Retson b. 23 February 1894; died 26 Nov 1917 in France a casualty of World War 1

James Retson born 15 November 1891; m.  Elizabeth Beattie

They had three children

Margaret Retson

Mary Jane Retson b 05 Aug 1921, m. David Jamieson and had 7 children

George James Beattie Retson b. 26 Nov 1928 m. Marie Irvine and had 4 children

William Rankin Retson

William Rankin Retson, son of George and Mary (McManus) Retson was born on 22 February, 1884 at Townhead, Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland. William commonly known as Bill or Billie immigrated to Canada arriving in Halifax from Glasgow on May 6 1903 on board the Mongolian, at the age of 19 years. Three other brothers, George, John and James and a Sister came to Canada.  According to brother John who first arrived 23 April 1902 at the age of 22, the brothers had to decide between Canada and Australia and flipped a coin to decide. George came first, followed by John, Bill (William) and finally Jim (James). Jim remained only one year before returning to Scotland.

For the last few years before coming to Canada, he worked in a butcher shop. He came to Canada with some cattle and his daughter Doris doesn't know if he meant to stay in Canada when he first came over. The first night in Canada he slept in a hay mound on the campus of the Nova Scotia Agriculture in Bible Hill.

Bill met Beatrice Clifford, a girl of Irish ethic background, but who could claim Nova Scotia ancestry back to the 1760s.  They married in Truro Christmas day 1907. The entire marriage file on William Rankin Ritson contains the license, affidavit necessary to obtain it, consent of Rebecca Clifford, mother of Beatrice Clifford who was 20 years of age.  On the affidavit,William Rankin signs “Retson”, on the marriage register he signs Ritson.  All official documents and new report in the Truro Daily News of Saturday December 28 1907 have the names spelt as “Ritson”. He and his wife Beatrice had their honey moon in Scotland . Later he and his family lived in a house on the campus from the end of 1905 until about September 1928 when they moved to the top of Ryland Avenue.

Bill was quite a livestock man.   He had a Canadian Championship cow at Toronto Royal Fair named Princess Beatrice. The early year of the 20th century were good years for Nova Scotia, Premier George Henry Murray found coal royalties of $437,000 of 1902 increase to $487,900 in 1903 and $619,000 in 1904. Surpluses were reported of $32,800 in 1903 and $66,000 in 1904. Expanding Revenues meant expanding services and the Nova Scotia Agriculture College located in Bible Hill (North side of Salmon River) so long in Works was nearing completion. The world looked good.  Bill worked himself up to Farm Manger of the Nova Scotia Dairy farm at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College.

The Tories under Edgar N. Rhodes came to power in the elections of June 25 1925 with a landslide of 40 conservatives to 3 liberals. Rhodes set about attacking the “machine” that had held power for so many years. The Provincial Highway Board was abolished and the roads put directly under the department of highways and its minister. The Office of purchasing agents was abolished and its functions conferred on three department officials nominated by the minister of public works and mines.  Rhodes attempted to make officers holding tenure of office during good behaviour amenable to the people through their elective representatives.  The upper house forced amendments to this act in 1925 and 1926 however Rhodes gained the upper hand by the 1927.  Conservative rank and file continued to make inordinate demands for patronage and Bill was aware in 1928 that a number of Tories were gunning for his job which he lost by October of 1928.  The greatest supply was not that he lost his job but that it went to his Tory brother, John Retson.  He moved off the campus to 101 Ryland Avenue and commenced to work for the Ayrshire Breeders.  John in turn lost the position when the liberals returned to power.

He was a trustee of the College Road School

He worked in the garden 10- hours the day before he died on July 13 and died in his sleep with the official date given as July 14 1975 at age 91.

Their Children include,

Mary Doris Retson b.19 Aug.1909 in Bible Hill, Colchester County, Nova Scotia; m. Lawrence Thomas Hancock, 29 Jun 1933 at 101 Ryland Ave. Bible Hill.

George Clifford Retson b. 19 Dec 1912 in Bible Hill, Colchester County, Nova Scotia; m. Grace Elizabeth Atkinson, 26 Jul 1941 in Ottawa, Ontario. D. 17 Feb 1997

Rebecca Jean Retson b. 18 Nov 1917in Bible Hill; m. William Angus Jenkins 01 Jul 1943

William Armour Bateman Retson b. 16 Mar 1925 Bible Hill Colchester County, NS; m. Clara Emma Parlee, 08 Nov 1963 Moncton, N.B.

George Clifford Retson 1912 – 1997

George Clifford Retson, son of William Rankin and Beatrice (Clifford) Retson was born 19 December 1912 in Truro, Nova Scotia.  He married Grace Elizabeth Atkinson, 26 July 1941. 1941. 1941. 1941.  He died 18 February 1997.


William Edward Retson 21 August 1944

Madeline Jane Retson  29 May 1946

James Clifford Retson 28 July 1948

Mavis Ruth Retson  7 December 1949

Donald George Retson  20 December 1951

Robert John Retson  10 March 1955

Cliff Retson was born on the campus of the Nova Scotia Agriculture College, Bible Hill, Colchester County, Nova Scotia and lived in a small house on the campus until 1928 when the family moved to 101 Ryland Ave.  He attended school at College Road School until Grade 9 and Colchester County Academy.  He graduated from the Academy in 1929 and entered Acadia University where he studied in economics.  He was a skilled athlete excelling in Basket Ball and Track and field. He graduated with a B. A. in 1933.  He attended NSAC 1933 - 1934.

He commenced work with the Department of Agriculture in 1934.  He worked with the department in Newfoundland 1934 and 1935.  He went to Ottawa in August 1936 and worked with the Department of Agriculture of Canada until the advent of the war, 1939.

He served in the army stationed first at Petawawa, Officer training program in Brockville, Ontario, Shilo, Manitoba and Esquimalt B.C. Cliff married Grace Atkinson on 26 July 1941 in Ottawa.  Cliff was called up from the reserve to the active army in September 1942 and was transferred to Nova Scotia.  Grace followed on October 10.  Grace stayed at 101 Ryland Ave. that winter.   In spring of 1943 Cliff left for a 6 week stay in Trois Riviere and then on to Brockville for four months.  Grace went to Peg Embree on Collin Ave off Eglinton.  She worked for Underwood who provided office help.   On her last job she worked at Plaxton law firm. 

Cliff was transferred to Shilo October 1943 and Grace moved to Ottawa. They visit each other at Portage La Prairie for Christmas with Sister Jean. After Grace moved to Brandon for the winter at a family called McGills. Cliff would come in from Shilo on week ends. Cliff took off for Prince Rupert (Japanese threat) in spring of 1944 and was then sent on a 6 week course in Esquimalt. Grace went to Victoria to stay with friend from Kerrobert, Muriel Gardener who had rented a bungalow house in Victoria. Ted was born a day latter at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. In fall of 1944 Cliff was then transferred to Prince George until the end of January 1945 and then to Petawawa, Ontario. Grace moved to Pembroke. Following the war, he entered the Department of Labour in Ottawa until he transferred back to the Department of Agriculture. He moved back to Bible Hill in 1947 (July 1)to take charge of the federal agriculture economic branch, first located on the NSAC campus. July and August 1947 was spent at 101 Ryland. In September 1947 they rented an apartment from Arleigh Burgess on 112 Main St. Bible Hill. On November 11 1948 they moved to Queen St. Truro. They moved to what was then labeled 2020 Prince St. Salmon River on November 11 1949. The municipal address latter changed to 2031.

2020 Prince


He attended Cornell University in 1949 spring term Cliff went back to Cornell at the end of January 1950 and came home for July and August. He went back for the fall term and came home for Christmas. He received his M. Sc. during spring convocation 1951. He was a school trustee and then Head Trustee for the local Salmon River School district and active in the decision to build the new Salmon River High School which once served grades primary up to Grade 9.

He studied the Bible in a scholarly fashion and was Adult Sunday School teachers for years following a tradition set by his mother.

He was an ardent curler adult and played at the Provincial level for the Brier. He was an avid gardener and throughout his life maintained an extensive from and back garden.

He retired in 1977. Later in life he was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of fame for his Athletic prowess in the late 1920s and 1930s.

James C. Retson


L. to R Julia, Jillie, James, Roberta Retson

James Clifford Retson, son of George and Grace (Atkinson) Retson, was born 28 July 1948, the third son of George Clifford Retson and Grace Elizabeth Retson. He married Roberta Gili 29 June 1774.


Jillie Elizabeth Marie Retson b. 25 April 1979

Julia Ann Roberta Retson b. 25 August 1980

James was called "Clifford" until around February 14 1956 when he decided to have himself called Jim. He was an avid swimmer and worked at Victoria Park Swimming Pool during his summers from Grade 10 to fourth year in University. He was active in vocal and instrumental music. He played violin (5 Years) in Mrs J. Arch Fraser's orchestra, clarinet and saxophone in the Truro Concert Band, Truro Junior Band and CCHS Band (Bass Drum). He sang in the Junior and Senior Choirs of First Baptist Church and in operettas at CCHS. He graduated from Central Colchester High School in Onslow, 1966, attended Dalhousie University, Halifax, in the Faculty of Science from September 1966 to May 1968 and U. B.C. From September 1968 to May 1970 where he graduated with a B. A. in Psychology. He attended Laval University, September 1970 to May 1971 and worked the summer in Quebec.

He attended law school in Toronto graduating from U. of T. in 1974.

He married Roberta Gili in 1974 and had two daughters Jillie in 1979 and Julia in 1980. He was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar December 12, 1974. He practiced law in Truro from 1974 to September 1978 solo and then in partnership with Dave Curtis from 1978 to 1982 before returning to Dalhousie to obtain his M.B.A in 1984.

He was on the Board of the Truro Boys and Girls Club, the Advisory Board of Parents Without Partners, Cobequid Mental Health Centre, a member of the Truro Police Commission, Truro and District Human Rights Affirmative Action Committee, Truro Heritage Committee. He was a Sunday School Superintendent at First Baptist Church . He was a town counselor from 1980 to 1982.

He moved to Kenora in 1984 where he worked for the Kenora Association for Community Living from August 1984 to 2003. He became a member of the Rotary club in 1989 and served as Director of Vocational Services for many years before serving as president 2007-2008. He taught Sunday school at Knox United and held lead roles in various Church Operettas. He was a member of the Kenora Community Police Committee and Race Relations sub-committee.

Throughout his life he has an interest in genealogy, canoeing and kayaking. In his mid fifties he took an interest in flowers and turned his yard into a flower garden.