Thursday, October 30, 2014

Postcards #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.

View next postcard post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Evil vs. Sick

A Facebook friend of mine posted on the Ottawa killer.  This is what he commented:  

"OK. I am going to put this out there and take the abuse that is inevitably going to come.
The definition of Terrorism:
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
It does not matter if was done for political, religious, mental-illness or desperation reasons. If you walk up to an unarmed soldier and kill him, point-blank, then run into the seat of Canadian democracy, looking to do are a terrorist. Why? Because your goal is to Terrorize. To get the maximum effect by striking fear into as many people as possible, to bring attention to whatever you want to bring attention to.

Now, let's stop trying to "define" what this murderer was."

I commented the following:

"He was an addict. To be an addict, you cannot be a stable individual. He was very obviously mentally ill, but that doesn't mean he also wasn't a terrorist and murderer. "Mental illness" is not an excuse. But perhaps if our system was different, he would have been safe in an institution instead of homeless and able to obtain arms."

And then someone else posted this:

"He was stable enough to work at Fort Mc Murray and make lots of money and the video he left shows it was politics and islam behind his murder plans. If we can admit that there are people who are simply evil in this world...and they enjoy doing unthinkable things to innocent victims, then we might be able to counteract what they do before they do it. Finding an excuse for their evil makes it more palatable for some so that they can handle the results"

This is a very dangerous place to go - if you agree that there are evil people in the world, you are stepping into the place where your religion is fighting another's religion.  But who decides on who is evil?

There are people who do bad things in the world.  There are usually different impetuses behind each one.  Our legal system is designed to help take care of that.  It isn't perfect, but it works pretty well most of the time.  

Just because one nut-job went on a rampage does not mean that all "evil" people must be killed.  It's ridiculous.  And although this man may have been mentally ill, it does not forgive his action of killing someone.  Still a murderer.  Still a terrorist.  But maybe he could have been helped before he became either.

Here was my reply to the "people are evil" guy:

"We can choose to live in a world where we see some people as evil, or we can choose to live in a world where we see some people as sick. In one case we kill them (but who decides this?). In the other case we treat them or keep them locked up and unable to harm themselves (but again, who decides this?). We currently do the best we can, but occasionally something bad happens. I don't personally want to live in a world where we have a witch-hunt happening to track down "evil" people. I'd much prefer to live in a world where we are trying to help people. In neither case will we ever stop all violence."

Bad things will happen.  We can't stop them all.  We can only do the best we can do.

P.S. - Someone left a comment (that I did not publish) saying that he (the commenter) smoked, which is an addiction, so obviously I thought he would be a terrorist, too.  Please don't comment on the posts unless you can add something helpful.  This man was addicted to heroin and was homeless.  He was kicked out of his mosque onto the street and was on the terrorist watch list.  He had some very serious problems.  I don't consider an addiction to alcohol, food or shopping to mean that you are mentally ill.  But you might want to consider why you need to smoke.  However, had the shooter had some care from the community, he might (and I do say MIGHT) have been more stable and not felt the need to kill someone.  And this guy also commented that this was left-wing drivel.  Well, I'm very left-wing - you can expect that viewpoint from me.  But I don't consider it drivel.  Of course, if you attack me, you're not going to get a conversation out of me, and that's why I didn't publish his comment.  I retain the right not to publish a comment, and you retain the right not to read my blog.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Postcards #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 1900.  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.

This replacement hotel was completed in 1908 and torn down (gasp!) in 1964.  Check out this site for a few more local photos (although they say it burned down and I don't think that's the case).

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.

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).  

View next postcard post.

The Shooter in Ottawa

How can I be a blogger and a Canadian and not comment on the events of last Wednesday (October 22, 2014) in Ottawa?

Well, I had planned on writing about it - I had several paragraphs written and erased them.  It was a horrible event - especially for the soldier who was killed and the families of those affected.  And it was a bit of a shocking day for Canada.

But I don't have it in me.  I don't want to rant about it.  I don't want to go on about the ins and outs of it.

Why?  Because I'd like to focus on the positive things in the world.  For the moment, I don't want to focus on the negative.

There is a lot of bad news out there.  What we focus on become bigger.  So let's focus on the good in our lives.  I have a lot of GREAT in my life.  So I'm going to focus on that and try to not ruminate on the bad.

Go out there and have a wonderful day.  Enjoy the sun, wind, rain, or snow - depending on where you are.  Acknowledge the changing of the seasons, the taste of your food, the hugs of your family.  Appreciate the air we breathe and the blessing that is just being alive.

Blessings to you all.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Postcards #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 don't know how my family ended up with it.  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 that year.  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!!!"

I do not know what the last 2 sentences really mean.  Are we talking about 2 or more women named Etty who joined two or more women named Sally?  I doubt it.  I suspect these were names of something - teams, military units?  At this point I don't know.  Anyone have any thoughts?

Now here is the interesting thing about the postcard:  it is the first of several that were sent to 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!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Postcards #31 - Nellie's fateful trip to Canada

Early in 1912 Nellie Steele must have quit her job as kitchen maid with the John Pointer 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.

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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Postcards #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 Findloss 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.