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Thursday, January 21, 2016

#38 - More on British Columbia's Last Gold Rush

As mentioned in a previous post, British Columbia's last real gold rush started in Atlin, B.C. in 1898 (shortly after the Klondike Gold Rush began, and likely because of it).  The mining season with the highest monetary returns from the area was in 1903 (1).  My Great-Grandparents apparently knew people who were in the area at some point (not sure when they arrived) and who were there more than a decade after that peak.  By that time, tourism was very popular, with hunting and sport fishing advertised to draw people to the area (2).  So the various postcard writers/recipients in Atlin/Discovery may have been there in relation to that activity (either as tourists or providing services).

The second post I wrote about Discovery was from someone who was up there at Christmastime.  Because of the time of the year and the text, I do assume he was living up there at least semi-permanently, and not simply as a tourist himself.  But because I don't know who the individual was, I cannot confirm that.  That first post may well have been to someone who was in Discovery visiting, but again I can confirm none of it at this point.

And to re-cap, a man named Jimmy Kinnaird, who we know to be a friend of the family and who did some gold mining, may not have been in the Atlin area at all - these postcards might not be related to him.  This is a mystery that may never be solved.  But it's sure fun to try!  (Post Script - mystery at least partly solved in post #43).

This is a lithographed picture of Discovery, BC, probably closer to the time of the early gold rush rather than the tourism boom.  As you can see from the writing below, the sender states: "and this is good old Discovery but it is a very old photo."

The photograph was taken by H.E. Brown of Atlin and the card printed in Brooklyn, New York by the Albertype Co.  I was going to say that I suspected the paper stock was provided by that company, but I found this site that has a list of the types of postcards they printed, and I learned that this type of picture (made of dots) is a lithograph and had to be printed commercially, so now I know it the printed cards were ordered from Brooklyn.  Does the fact that it was an old photo mean that the store where they were purchased had lots of these cards sitting around for a long time?  I can't imagine that they sold that many of them.

Again, here is where Discovery is in relation to Atlin:

This other postcard is also in my collection:

This is a coloured lithograph, and from the back of the postcard you can see that it was made by the Portland Post Card Company, but printed in Germany - where a LOT of postcards were produced during the "golden age of post cards," a time period which varies depending on who you reference, by was mostly 1905-1914.  No photographer is noted on the card.

There were several photographers in Atlin in these years.  I have postcards by H.E. Brown and C.W. Brown, but G.M. Taylor, L.C. Read, C.R. Bourne, Fred Warren Cartmel and the Rev. Louis H. Pederson apparently also all produced postcards in the area (3).

It only makes sense if tourism was a major economic driver in the area that postcards would be popular - not a lot of people had their own cameras, and if people did have them, the photographs were not guaranteed to be good, so postcards were an excellent way to have guaranteed good pictures of an area.

(1) Atlin:  the Story of British Columbia's Last Gold Rush.  By Christine Frances Dickinson and Diane Solie Smith, 1995, Atlin Historical Society, p.301.  If you want to order a copy, please contact the Atlin Historical Society at 3rd St, Atlin, British Columbia V0W1A0. (when I bought my copy in 2006, it cost $25).

(2) Ibid p.302


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#37 - Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan!

Wow!  This is a hard one to read.  Join me on THIS particular adventure:

"Dear Friends   We arrived at our destination all very tired  I was sick the first day but the youngsters (thanks to my mother's good interpretation skills, because I couldn't read that word) were fine.  Wallis started to work Monday for the C.P. R. the prairie looks fine the crops are great the mountains were great we went thru the loop and around the principal canyons in day light.  We haven't got our trunks yet but expect to get them this afternoon.  We'll give the guy another dollar I guess he made good on that ___(?) Wallis will write later but I wrote because know you would be looking for a line pfnir2 (??)  Mrs. Arrowsmith"  As always, your expert opinions are welcome in interpreting the unknown words.

NO idea who Wallis and Mrs. Arrowsmith were, how they knew Jack and Nellie, or why they moved to Moose Jaw (actually, we kind-of can assume it's because Wallis got a job with the CPR).

Their address is listed as 170 Lillooet Street, Moose Jaw, Sask, which may be this house:

Or it may not - the one to the right hand side in the picture is #178, and the one to the left has no visible number.  But the one past that is 150.  So I'm guessing that this is 170.

But then there is an online map of Moose Jaw that shows all of the lots, blocks and plans!!  And, yes, this is 170:

So that's where they lived - The style of this house makes me thing is may have been there in 1915 - unless there was another building that burned down around that time and this one was re-built.  I'd have to look up information on it and I don't have the time or inclination to do that right now.  Let's just say we know a Mrs. Arrowsmith and a Wallis moved to Saskatchewan in the late summer of 1915 (post mark is August 24) and moved into this house or maybe one prior on this lot.

We can also see that luggage was lost even on the trains in 1915.  Or perhaps it took a long time to unload and they delivered them later, but I think more likely they couldn't locate the trunks.

But was this a mother and son, a husband and wife?  I am inclined to think husband and wife since she mentions youngsters, but she did sign "Mrs. Arrowsmith" while referring to the man as the much less formal "Wallis," so it could be mother and children.

The "loop" she is talking about is likely the Spiral Tunnels that go into the mountains in the Rockies because the grade is too steep at that location.  It is a rather popular stop on the highway to take a break and admire the technological prowess of our forebears in the early 20th century.  It's really quite amazing.

Click here to go to the website.

They are located just to the east of Field, B.C. (the very pale grey line is the railway, and the two loops go into the mountains):

I'm not sure how the railway opened in 1885 and the tunnels were not completed until 1909 - I'm assuming here, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking that they had problems with the original steep curve and this was built to correct that and allow larger, heavier trains to go through.

The front of the postcard shows wonderful colourized prairie farming scenes from the day:  

So what does this tell us of Jack and Nellie?  Not much.  Aside from the fact that they were living in Vancouver and because it was addressed to both of them, we could assume that they had not yet been separated by the war (although that would be a real assumption if I didn't know they were together at that time).  

We know they had friends who moved to Saskatchewan.  But it tells us a lot about the history of the country and about what people were doing at the time.  And it's just another little piece of a larger puzzle.

#36 - Port Alberni and Beacon Hill Park

I have to say, I was a little stumped by this postcard.

The address on the card is made out to "Mr. & Mrs. McCurrach, Port Alberni."  So what is stumping me?  To my knowledge, Jack and Nellie never lived in Port Alberni.

Port Alberni is located on a long inlet on Vancouver Island (a long trip from Vancouver in 1915):

The date on the Postcard is March 28, 1915 - an odd time of the year to embark on any sort of summer vacation on Vancouver Island.  And the 1915 Vancouver city directory has Jack working and living in Vancouver.

So who else lived in BC who might be called "Mr. & Mrs. McCurrach" (and whose postcard would end up in this collection)?  Well, I know that Jack's brother, Alexander, had two wives during his lifetime (not at the same time).  When I started writing this, I knew that his first wife was named Matilda and his second was named Mildred.  I knew that Matilda had died in 1920 and that he had married Mildred in 1923.  I couldn't find Alexander and Matilda's marriage records, though.  I checked Ancestry and Scotland's People and I was confused.

Well, I tried Ancestry again today.  And when I took Alexander's birthplace off of "Scotland," I got a hit.  Turns out that Ancestry spelled it "Soctland" on his wedding entry.  You do have to take possible spelling errors into account.  Anyhow, I found that he and Mildred were married October 24, 1907 in Ontario - turns out Alexander was living in Toronto before he moved to Vancouver.  Surprises happen every time I do this research.

It is quite possible that he and Matilda moved to Port Alberni for some time.  As a matter of fact it looks like Alexander was away from Vancouver from 1915 until 1919 or 1920.  I don't know a lot about Port Alberni, but it is quite possible that there was a bit of a boom with World War I - they were a major source for lumber and they had a western port.  So he and his wife may have gone there because of that.  Again, we may never know.  But I'm quite certain that it must have been them over there.

The postcard itself was sent from Victoria and shows a fountain in Beacon Hill Park - the Central Park of Victoria.  Beacon Hill Park would soon take on a certain significance in Jack McCurrach's life, but not yet.  From what I can find online, this particular fountain is no longer there, but Beacon Hill continues to be a beautiful public park right beside downtown Victoria.  If you every visit the city, you must visit the park.

The writing on the card states:  "I guess you will now be settled in your new quarters.  This is a great town for weather.  It has been simply great since I arrived.  Beautiful sunshine all the time.  Kind regards, B. Johnstone."

I do not know who B. Johnstone is.

#35 - A Sweet Little Tidbit Derived from the 1891 Census

When doing historical research, it is sometimes the smallest things that stand out the most.

in 6 previous posts I've talked about Sarah.  At first, I didn't know who she was - a postcard that appeared to be from Madeira was all that I had.  In a postcard about the Seaforth Highlanders, I found out that Sarah was in Burghead.  After a couple of other postcards, I came across one that narrowed it down to three Sarahs.  Then to one - Sarah Sandeson.

I still didn't have a lot of information on who Sarah was or how she knew the McCurrach family.

So I went back to the 1891 census.  Here we find out that the McCurrach family was living in Burghead.  Is it possible to see if the families lived near to each other?

Indeed it was - the addresses of each family are listed on the census.

The McCurrachs are at 41 King Street.

The Sandesons are at 19 Brander Street.

And in relation to each other, those addresses are like this:

You'll also note that at the time John McCurrach (Jack's father) was a Railway plate layer and Sarah's father was a blacksmith.  They may have worked together, but even if they didn't, the children would have gone to school together (Ann McCurrach being 8 and Margaret Sandeson being 7 - Sarah and Jack both being 3 - and the Burghead Primary school had been built in 1875), and the families undoubtedly knew each other simply through their geography.

At this point I can still do little more than guess, but their proximity in space and age makes it a pretty educated guess as to their friendship.  The McCurrachs moved away after that, but the families obviously stayed in touch.  Jack also had a sister named Isabella - I have no idea if she was named after Sarah's mother, but it is possible.

Such a small thing to look at addresses and look at a map, but it tells a tale.

#34 - Discovery, BC part 2

This is a postcard written FROM Discovery, B.C. this time.  The last one was written to a W. Grant IN Discovery.  Of all the research I've done so far, this Discovery research is the most elusive.  This is a very remote area which had relatively few inhabitants and online archives have little information.  The "real" archives ... well, a bit hard to get to.

Some background:  My mother has an heirloom piece of jewellery that was given, I believe, to my great-grandmother Nellie.  It was given to her by a friend named Jimmy Kinnaird.  He (apparently) did some gold mining in B.C.  

So I have this postcard being written to my great-grandfather in Vancouver (at 1460 36th Avenue East) from Discovery, BC on December 18, 1914:

On the bottom, written in pencil is:  "What do you think of this team".

The back is written upside down, but here it is:

It reads: "Dear Jack.  Just a PC to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I will try and write a long letter some day.  I told MacDonald to give you all the news about Dis.  I see that he is already home in Nairn.  I hope that you seen (?) him before he went away if not Jimmy (?) seen (?) him so he will give you all the news"  At the end of it is a blurry word that appears to start with a "D" - I really cannot tell if this is a signature or just another word.  

Here - see it close up:

It was written in pencil and that corner of the postcard is quite damaged, so it is really hard to tell what it says.  I had assumed that it said "Dick" or maybe just "D." - but now I'm not sure if it even is a signature.  If it is a signature, it's certainly not that of Jimmy Kinnaird.

So I'm working on a couple of assumptions right now based on a little research I've done so far on Jimmy Kinnaird, this postcard, and the previous one from that area:

1)  That they knew more than one person in the Atlin/Discovery area
2)  That Jimmy Kinnaird was neither this sender nor the previous recipient

Another thing to mention - I do not know who is in the photograph, but because it has a number and series assigned to it, I'm thinking it was a commercial shot and not a personalized postcard with a photo of friends or anything.  

There are more images of Discovery and Atlin to come.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

#33 - Sicamous Hotel, Sicamous, BC ... and WAR!

The subject of the front of this postcard is the Sicamous Hotel, located in Sicamous, British Columbia:

This wonderful, Tudor-style hotel replaced an earlier hotel that had been built in 1890 by the CPR, and had burned down in 1898.  The railway had been completed in 1885, and the CPR built hotels along the route to accommodate travellers (including such beauties as the Banff Springs Hotel, Hotel Vancouver, and Chateau Frontenac in Quebec city).  This more subdued Sicamous location was a jumping-off point for people to go fishing in the Shuswap or for tourists and produce coming and going from the Okanagan.  (Ah ... Victorian Era wealth!!  It strikes me that we are in a similar economic period now).

The replacement hotel was completed in 1900 when it looked like this:

(you'll note that this photo says it is provided by the RBCM Archives for research purposes only.  Since I get comments and information from these blogs, I consider them research - and I make no money on it unless someone chooses to freely give - which no one has yet to do.  So please do not reproduce this photograph - contact the BC Archives and discuss their policy with them).

In 1908, the hotel was remodelled to the state seen in the postcard.  Quite an amazing transformation, adding 1 to 2 more storeys onto the place!  One reader sent me the link to this film clip from 1949 that shows the hotel as it was at that time (and shows some pretty cool train footage):  The building was either burned or torn down (gasp!) in 1964.  Check out this site for a few more local photos.  Various sources provide different details about the life of the hotel.  The ones presented here made the most sense to me from what I've seen.

This spot is not too far from where I grew up in the Okanagan Valley, so it is particularly close to my heart.  Wish the hotel had survived.  I would have loved to check it out.

Here is where Sicamous is in British Columbia:

And here is a close-up look at Sicamous (not a large town with a population of only about 3,000 people).  The tan oval to the left is where I think the hotel used to stand.

I think that because of the mountains in the background from that spot on the highway.  Here is a look that (thank you Google StreetView):

See what I mean?  The mountains are the same.  And the hotel balanced precariously over the water on the side of the mountain.  

Here you can see its awkward positioning in the landscape.

The back of the postcard reads:  "Well How is everybody keeping we arrived in Sicamous at 7am, there is some nice views around here well I guess that is all just now breakfast is ready, will drop you another later on."  It is signed W. MC - which I presume to be William McCurrach, Jack's unmarried brother.  I cannot read the date on the postmark, only that it was 1914.  My assumption here is that this postcard was sent home from Sicamous while William was on his way to war - they would take the train across country and then set sail from Quebec City.  

William signed up immediately at the beginning of the war war with the Seaforth Highlanders.  His first pay was on August 10, 1914 - since Britain declared war on August 4, this indicates he signed up immediately.  He would have trained at Valcartier near Quebec - one of about 36,000 men who went to the camp.  His unit set sail on October 3 - his was the first contingent to set sail (see this page or this page for more information) at a total of 31,000 men (some had been weeded out for various reasons).  Jack would not be allowed to sign up until 1916.

By this time as well, Jack and Nellie had a house at 1460 36th Avenue E in Vancouver (which seems to have been consumed by a large park).  And by this time, if it is October 1914, my grandmother, Gladys Masson McCurrach, was an infant (born in July, 1914).  

Friday, January 8, 2016

#32 - GOLD!!! - The River Nairn, Atlin, and Discovery, B.C.

This is an intriguing postcard.  It was written to and from people whom I cannot yet identify (I do identify the recipient here).  I don't know how my family ended up with this card.  But it was sent on April 27, 1914.  We've jumped ahead in the chronology a good 2 years - the last dated postcard in the collection was from July, 1912.

This is likely because Nellie had, by this time, arrived in Vancouver and married Jack, and their first child, Gladys, my grandmother, was going to be born in July of 1914.  They were busy.  Maybe had less time for writing.  Plus, they had been gone from Scotland for a while now, and I suspect that correspondence from home, plentiful at first, would decrease as time went on.

So this postcard is from Nairn - a photograph of the River Nairn:

The River Nairn runs northeast towards Nairn and the North Sea.  Obviously a major waterway for this area.  The river's name has pre-Celtic origins, and the community at it's mouth is named after the river.

The back of the postcard reads:  "A P.C. to remind you of a local beauty spot.  Think you'll like it.  All the local ___ (?) going strong.  Etties joined the Sallies!!!"

Regarding the last line "Etties joined the Sallies": several people have pointed out that the Salvation Army is/was known as "The Sallies" - so likely a friend named Ettie had joined the Salvation Army.  By the end of the year, she was probably very busy with war aid.

Now here is the interesting thing about the postcard:  it is the first of several that were sent to and from northwestern British Columbia - - Atlin and Discovery, to be specific.

Location of Atlin (screen shot from Google Maps - what an excellent resource!)

Dated April 27, 1914, this card is sent a few months before the start of WWI - the end of both an immigration and economic boom.  Atlin was the site of a gold rush starting around the same time as the Klondike.  The Klondike took place 1896-1899.  In 1898, word came from the Atlin area about gold being found, and many of the men headed to the Klondike were detoured to the area of Atlin Lake.  By 1914, though, there was still a lot of activity in gold mining in the area.

It would appear that Mr. W. Grant was located in Discovery.  Discovery, also known as Pine City, was located about 10 miles east of Atlin.

Atlin was and still is a VERY remote area of British Columbia.  On a good day, it would be 2 hours and 40 minutes drive in barren wilderness from Carcross, Yukon Territory.  Please go to their local visitors website or to to see photos and get information.  I have yet to visit Atlin, because it's really hard and expensive to get there, but I hope to do so one day.

As for who "W. Grant" is?  Well, I don't know.  He had a pretty generic name, so I may never know.  But there are more "Discovery" postcards to come, so maybe we'll find out!

#31 - Nellie's Fateful Trip to Canada

Early in 1912 Nellie Steele must have quit her job as kitchen maid with the John Poynter Millers, as she was planning to travel to Canada to marry Jack.  Her sister, Elizabeth (married to David Gould Bell), was pregnant and ill.

Family memory tells us that Nellie was to cross the Atlantic on a new ship in April, 1912.  But her sister being ill kept her in Scotland.

Elizabeth had acute peritonitis.  She had an operation on May 2nd and died 6 days later:

Nellie stayed in Scotland to help adopt the baby out.  She ended up leaving for Canada at the end of September, 1912.  I have yet to find any documentation relating to the adoption or the birth of the baby, but the family remembers her name as Peggy Black.  (As a post script, a descendant of Peggy Black contacted me and I now know that this was indeed the right name and she went on to live a happy and full life - see this post).

If you know your history, you may have already guessed, that, according to family on both sides of the "pond," Nellie had a ticket on the Titanic.

Although I did wonder about the accuracy of this family legend, after talking to members of the family in Scotland who remembered the same story, and seeing the timeline of the family history and Elizabeth's death, I have less reason to doubt it now, and I wonder if her connection with the Miller family had anything to do with her ability to get a ticket, or her choosing that ship.  It is also quite possible that she had a ticket for another ship and would have been moved to the Titanic.  Due to a shortage of coal that a strike had caused, passengers from the Oceanic and Adriatic (both also White Star Line ships) along with their coal stores, were moved to the Titanic at the last minute.  In any case, she was supposed to be on the Titanic and cancelled her plans because of Elizabeth's illness.
Had she been on the Titanic, she would surely have been in Steerage (third class) and would have died.  So, because of Elizabeth's death, our line of the family exists.  
It is a strange thing to know that you got life because someone else died.  But, then, I am not alone.

Her trip eventually happened on the S.S. Athenia of the Donaldson Line.  It left Glasgow on the 14th of September, 1912, and arrived in Quebec on the 22nd.  It also stopped at Montreal.  After landing in Canada, Nellie would have taken a train across to Vancouver.  She was only 21 years old - quite an amazing trip for such a young woman to take by herself.  After the tragedy and loss of life on the Titanic, it must have been somewhat nerve-wracking to get on a steamer and head into the Atlantic.

We are very fortunate in our family to have a typed copy of a letter she sent.  She would have hand written it, so this typed copy was done by someone else.  There are some inconsistencies in it - for instance, someone typed at the top of the page that she took the SS Athenia to the USA and then to Canada.  I have not seen any evidence for the ship stopping in the US.  Also, the dates are a week off - perhaps someone added the date later and was incorrect.  In any case, it is a good summary of what she experienced on the ship.  It is also the only thing even close to a daily account of her activities that I have ever seen.  The only other writing I have of hers is on a few of the postcards.

Here is the text of the letter with corrected dates:

"Saturday 14th Sept. 1912.  Sailed from Glasgow 11:30am.
We have just started on our journey.  I saw Aunt Maggie standing on the dock at Glasgow until we were a good way out to sea, it is a lovely day and just like a pleasure sail.  Arriving at Greenock; a few more passengers are taken aboard, a woman came up to me, then in conversation with her, she told me she was going to Vancouver; she had six children with her and was going out to her husband. I was quite pleased to think I should have her company all the way.
On going down to my cabin to see who my companions are, I found a lady and a young girl; The lady (an American) was married; and the young girl like myself, going out to be married.
The sun is shining lovely; I am informed that we have no more stoppages until we reach Further Point [can't find this place, but I assume somewhere in Newfoundland] the journey will be almost over then.
Lunch time; off we go to get it, I feel hungry:
I enjoyed it splendid; it was much to my taste.  There is a nice music room containing a piano where we can sit if we choose; but as it is at the extreme end of the steamer it is not much patronized; because when you sit down you can feel the vibration of the ship and it inclines to make one sea-sick; and we all want to avoid that if possible.
Dinner time; then tea time came, then off to bed.

I had a good night's rest: I wondered a little where I was when I awoke and heard the sea roaring.
After getting up I go and have breakfast after which I feel a little sick; not much.  If I never get worse I shall be fortunate; A great number of the passengers (numbering 135) [which, by the way, is not what the ship's manifest states at 372 - perhaps she was talking about Steerage] in all are terrible put to with sea sickness, half the passengers are children it is heartbreaking to see the poor things afflicted with sea-sickness and yet I am unable to do anything for them.  It is very foggy this morning, the steamer keeps sounding her "Fog Horn" and it makes such a peculiar sound.  AT 10:30am a religious service is in course.  I went in, but feeling a little sick I came out again, and going to my cabin all afternoon; not that I was tired or sea sick but it was very cold up on deck, the stewardess brought my tea down to me.  Dinner time came round, I went up to the dining room for it and enjoyed it splendid then after a short time retired to bed.

Nellie Steele

It is a lovely morning; no fog but there is nothing to be seen save the Heavens above an the Ocean through which the steamer is ploughing her way.  Breakfast at 8am a cup of beef tea at 11am they are very good to us, that is with food.
Many more passengers are sick today; I am feeling well but I am getting tired of the boat.  Jack said when he sailed it was the best holiday ever he had.  I am sorry I can't say that - I am quite tired of it already.  I shall be glad when I reach Vancouver.  They tried to get up a concert every afternoon at 3:30, but every body seemed to have quite enough to do to look after themselves without trying to amuse others.

Another foggy morning; I was awakened early by the sound of the fog horn.  Today we have given up our steamer tickets and received tickets for our inland journey (on the train) in exchange.
The SS Hyperian [possibly Hesperian] passed us at 4 am on Sunday; she is now 150 miles ahead of our ship.  The officials of this steamer have received a wire from her stating that they have encountered a heavy storm; we expect to have this storm also.
Today I met another young lady going to Vancouver.  The lady I spoke to at Greenock has been sick all the way I feel heart sorry for her.  As I go to bed a heavy storm is rising on the sea, and continues all through the night, but towards morning it abates a little.

I am sick today but I am not going to bed as I find walking about is better for me than lying down; I took a little brandy; it relieved me so I hope I am done with sea sickness.  I have not missed a meal since I boarded the vessel.
The waiter was chaffing me, saying that I deserved for keeping up so well for the first journey at sea.  I have been up on the top deck today watching the porpoises, it was lovely to see them; and there was such a large number of them, they followed us quite a long way.
A great number of birds are following the vessel, but I don't know what species they are: they are new to me.

I got up this morning feeling unwell, last night was the worst I have had at sea, but I shall go and have a cup of tea after which I'll go back to bed all fore-noon: I've not kept up to my record today as I've not been able to go for my lunch.  The stewardess brought me down a cup of tea, she says it is only a slight cold that I have got and that I will soon be all right.  I went up and had my dinner, I enjoyed it very well, considering that I was not well.  I went right away back to bed after dinner; not that I was in need of it but being a little unwell I felt that my company would be a bore to anyone.

I am all right again today.  But it is terribly cold.  The steamer was stopped for 5 hours during the night on account of thick fog and a stormy sea which will delay us considerably as long as it lasts.  The storm and the fog has also delayed the Hyperian [again, Hesperian?].  She is now only five miles in front of us.  Towards mid-day most of us were up on deck seeing an iceberg it was a very large one, it makes me shudder to look at it.  This has been a terrible lonesome day today it is so cold we are obliged to stay in our cabins to keep warm.  I brought some work for me (crocheting) but I am sorry to say I have been unable to do any of it for whenever I sit down to it my head begins to sway, and I don't want to give way to sickness now after holding out for so long.
There are still a great number of passengers sick, and I have so much to be thankful for as I have not been bad, but I am tired, tired of the sea.
We are expecting to see land today about 4 pm, it is not 1 pm yet.  On going to lunch, we had not been seated two minutes when a great commotion was distinctly noticeable i wondered if a collision had taken place, but I was informed that we had sighted land.  I went on deck and saw Belle Island on one side and Newfoundland on the other, and five huge icebergs, everybody was glad to see land but it will only be for a short time.  Belle Island is covered in snow; a light house is also to be seen on it.
The mail goes this afternoon so I'll send you this just now.  The sea is not quite so stormy, it is extremely cold, of course that it caused with us being in close proximity to the icebergs.
We expect to reach Montreal on Tuesday then I have six days in the train after that."

At the end of the letter, there is a line and then another little jot, which I suspect may have been sent on a postcard.  The dates are wrong on this one, too.  "I had a pleasant journey on the train arriving at Vancouver on October 5th.  The wedding took place on Wednesday October 9th [they were actually married on October 2, 1912].  Everything passed off successfully.  The Reverend George D. Ireland conducted the service."

I really do wonder why the dates are incorrect.  That is a mystery that may never be solved.

#30 - Randolph's Leap

This postcard is of Randolph's Leap in Morayshire, near Forres, Scotland.

The back of the postcard reads:  "Just spending the day here.  Having a rare time.  Expected to hear from you this week.  Sarah" - the last sentence appears to have been added as an afterthought.  It was addressed to Jack McCurrach via box 128, Fraser Avenue P.O., Vancouver, BC, and was mailed from Forres on July 22, 1912.  Jack had been in Vancouver for 2 years already at this point.  Aside from a PO Box number, and the note of an expectation of correspondence, there is very little new personal information to be gleaned from this postcard.  But the subject matter is quite interesting.

Randolph's Leap is on the Findhorn River which winds its way through the countryside.:

The sign at the head of the trail reads:


Randolph’s Leap is the name given to the narrowest point at the entry to the gorge.  In fact it is a misnomer as it was not Randolph who leapt!  

In the 14th century, Thomas Randolph, Early of Moray, lived on the far side of the River Findhorn at Darnaway.  Sir Alexander Cumming and his six sons lived on this side.  The Cummings had traditionally held the lucrative post of ranger of the Forest of Darnaway.  However, they were out of favour with Randolph and his uncle, King Robert the Bruce, and Randolph told them to keep off Darnaway.

Alastair, the eldest son, gathered a thousand men to attack Randolph at Darnaway.  They were ambushed and retreated to the river where Alastair and three others leapt the gorge back to this side.  We can only wonder why it was not called “Alastair’s Leap.”


Following an unusually hot and sultry summer immense rain clouds settled over the Monadhliath Mountains in early August.  The rain started on Sunday 2nd August and continued for three days and nights.  The River Findhorn and its tributaries rose to an enormous height causing devastation through the whole valley.

At Randolph’s Leap the level rose by 50 feet and is marked by the two flood stones.  You can begin to imagine the power of the water when you see the huge lichen-covered boulders which the flood carried as far as the Leap."

The area is located here:

And at a larger scale, here:

Randolph's Leap is nearest the community of Forres (where the postcard was mailed).  Forres is a town and former royal burgh located about 25 miles east of Inverness.  Its earliest historical reference may have been in the 2nd century in the Geography of Claudius Ptolemy.  Coming from Canada, that is absolutely amazing to me.

You can find out more about Forres here.

#29 - Woodpark Asylum, Boyndie

Again this one isn't about a postcard.  But it reflects an interesting and troubling part of history.

My Great-Grandmother, Nellie (Helen) Steele, of whom I have talked a lot, was born on February 23, 1891.  I got her birth record from Scotland's People.  Although is a great resource, it can be limited.  The actual census documents are not always available to see, so if anything is misinterpreted or transposed incorrectly, the error cannot be seen by the user.  Scotland's People is more expensive (well, on an individual record basis - depends on how much you use it), but you can access copies of the actual documents.  And that is what I did yesterday with my Great-Grandmother's birth record.  It's interesting because she is half of the only set of twins I currently am aware of in our family - so the same information is recorded for her and her brother, William.

Her mother is also listed - Helen Steele, whom my great-grandmother was seemingly named after.  Her maiden name was McKenzie.  Their wedding date is noted as July 27, 1883 in Banff.  All important information for doing genealogy.

So I dug a little deeper to see if I could find anything out about Helen McKenzie.  She is listed in the 1881 census as living at the Woodpark Asylum; she was one of two servants at the asylum, being an attendant.  There were also the Matron, a cook, and 24 "Pauper Patients" listed on the census.  All of the patients were women who were aged from 34 to 88 years old.

I can't find a lot of information yet on the Woodpark Asylum, but I did find out that it was opened in 1880 about 1 mile distant from the Ladysbridge Asylum, and 9 years later it was amalgamated into the same.  I have not been able to locate the Asylum on a map or on Google Earth.  If anyone from the area has that information, I would be really grateful.

But since I can't find Woodpark (yet), I thought I'd share with you a wonderful photograph of the Ladysbridge Asylum that I found at "Britain From Above" - a great website that has some fantastic aerial photos from 1919-1953.

Here it is:

A gorgeous bit of architecture, really.  This building was originally constructed 1863-1865 - or part of it was.  I don't have the plans to detail how much of it was constructed at that time.  please note the extensive gardens which were undoubtedly used to feed the patients and staff, and were probably also used as therapy for the patients.

The architects for this building were Alexander and William Reid (A & W Reid) of Inverness.  Apparently the Woodpark Asylum is also in their style, but it is not known who designed it. (Information from the Dictionary of Scottish Architects).

So I am dying to see a picture of Woodpark Asylum if anyone can point me in the right direction.

The irony really is that my 2x great-grandmother worked at a psychiatric asylum.  If I had lived in the 1880s it is entirely possible, with untreated depression and anxiety, that I would have ended up there as a patient - as could have a lot of her descendants on my side of the family.  (I also don't doubt that some of these women were there simply because they could not afford to live anywhere else - or for many other reasons other than "insanity").

Post Script - as you can read the details on in this later post, I was contacted by someone who had a photograph of Woodpark Asylum (aren't people awesome?).  Here it is - it would have been located to the left of the Ladysbridge Asylum in the picture above: