Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Postcards #23 - The Scott Memorial

On August 30, 1910, someone named John sent Jack, in Vancouver, a postcard from Edinburgh.  The text reads:  "Thanks for the P.C. which I duly received.  Glad to hear you like your new surroundings, and hope you will soon get into their way of working in Vancouver.  I am spending a short holiday in Edinburgh with Dave, and am enjoying myself first-rate in spite of wet weather.  Write ma a letter soon.  Kindest regards, John."


The comparatively excellent grammar, sentence structure, etc. in this postcard make me think that perhaps this man worked with Jack at some point.  Jack was a compositor - he set type for printing.  He was listed as "printer" when he travelled to Canada, and had worked for the County Press, Nairn, for 8 years at that time.  I will be trying to research the County Press, but it seems that it might take some effort - a search of the term in several locations has turned up almost nothing - if anyone has any tips on finding it, please let me know.  Not everything is online yet.

So I don't know who John or Dave are (and given their exceedingly common first names, I probably never will), but the text tells us something.  It indicates that there is some culture shock.  That Jack has expressed some concern about how he fits in and how people in Vancouver do things.  I suspect he might be finding it hard to get a job - and I say this because the Vancouver city directory of 1911 list both of Jack's brothers and their jobs, but not Jack - although we know he was there because he came with his younger brother.  Of course, he may have just been missed in the survey for the directory, because in the 1912 version, he is listed as working for G.A. Roedde (the owner of a printing company) and his brother, William, is missing.  John and his older brother, Alexander, are both living at 434 29th Avenue E in Vancouver at this time (near Fraser Avenue, which was mentioned in the last post).

The front of this postcard is of the Scott Memorial in Edinburgh:


Now known as the Scott Monument, this edifice was erected in the memory of Sir Walter Scott, a famous 18th and 19th century author.  Okay, so most of you probably know who Sir Walter Scott is - I really didn't.  I knew the name.  In looking him up, I find out he was a pretty big deal.  He was the first English-language author to become internationally renowned within his lifetime.  He wrote Rob Roy and Ivanhoe (as well as a lot of other great works).  I'm fairly embarrassed, as the descendant of proud Scottish stock, to not really know who this man was.  I do know Robert Burns, though.

After Scott died in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to him.  George Meikle Kemp won the honour of designing it.  The statue at the base of the monument was designed by Sire John Robert Steell (I wonder if there is a distant family relation to Nellie Steele).  The monument was completed in 1844.

At a total cost of 2.36 million pounds, the memorial was restored in the early 1990s.

I like the fact that there are palm tress in the picture.


View next postcard post.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Postcards #22 - Feugh Lodge and John Poynter Miller

I've already talked about Feugh Lodge in a previous post.  This was the home where my great-grandmother, Nellie, worked as a housemaid from 1910 until 1912.  There are a couple of postcards in my collection that show the Feugh River that runs beside the house.  One is written on, one has a brief note (I'm skipping forward a bit here in the chronological order of the postcards - humour me).

Here's the one with the message:


It is obviously a coloured photograph of the Feugh River while flooding.  I don't think I'd want to be near it when it did this.  But Nellie was as you can see from her note:  "Feugh Lodge 24/10/11 Thank you so much Jack for the nice views I received this morning.  They are lovely.  This is what the feugh is like today.  Nellie"  She was working here by August, 1910, so she had been here for over a year when she sent this postcard.


This one is also postmarked twice - like the postcard of the football game.  This one is postmarked Banchory, Kincardineshire (the community closest to Feugh Lodge) and then postmarked Fraser Avenue, BC.  The Vancouver-Fraser Avenue Post Office was established December 1, 1910 - not even a year before this postcard was received by Jack.  You'll note that he was picking his mail up there - and it was obviously coming over by ship and rail.  There is no Fraser Avenue in Vancouver anymore.  In 1948 it was renamed Fraser Street.  You may also note that postage to Canada is two half penny stamps - as opposed to just one within Scotland.


This card, part of the same series by William Duncan, a photographer from Banchory, was a view of the river when it wasn't in flood.  It must be interesting to live near this river.  On the back is a note from Nellie reading: "This is a bridge, about a ten minutes walk from the House.  Nellie"  I assume this one was written shortly after she moved there, but since it was mailed in an envelope or handed to it's recipient in person, we won't know exactly when it was sent in her two years living and working here.

Aside from the postcards and the information they contain, I've written this post now to fill you in on the owners of Feugh Lodge where Nellie, my great-grandmother, worked and earned money to help establish her new life in Vancouver.  Over the last couple of days I've been able to research them a bit and it's quite interesting (let me tell you, if your family was wealthy, there's a lot more to research and it's MUCH easier!).

John Poynter Miller was the owner of Feugh Lodge and my great-grandmother's employer.  He owned the lodge and at the time the 1911 census was taken, was the head of a household made up of his wife, 4 female servants, and a chauffeur.  He was obviously wealthy and, in turn, considered important.

First off, let's talk about finding his name.  Here is the census record with his name noted:



Okay, you tell me, what is that middle name written in there?  At first I thought it was Doyscher. Doyscher is actually a last name (I'm thinking German?), so I thought that was a possibility.  But no luck finding him anywhere.  So I took a closer look at the census.  On the other page his occupation was stated:
 

"Chemical Manufacturer" - so I searched for that: "John Miller Chemical Manufacturer."

Well, that cracked the door open a bit.  I found his father, John Miller senior (1816-1894), who had founded a chemical manufacturing business in Aberdeen with his brother, George.  It was called John Miller & Co. and it was housed at the Sandilands Chemical Works in Aberdeen (which was also established by the company).  They made chemicals - sulphuric acid, sulphate of ammonia, etc.  They also were tar distillers, oil and paraffin wax refiners, and manufacturers of artificial manures (apparently before they were called fertilizers).  They were in on chemical fertilizers from the beginning - something that went hand in hand with gas manufacturing for WWI.

The 1871 census shows the family living at 14 Crown Street in Aberdeen:



Miller's son, John Poynter Miller was a partner in the firm after 1871, which would have made him 7 as he was born in 1864 (they sold the company in 1928).  As of the 1891 census, J.P. Miller was then living with his parents at 10 Queen's Terrace in Aberdeen (a little nicer than the last one, but that one wasn't bad, either, really, was it?):


He seems to have lived there until after they died, and still lived in their home in 1901 with a lot of other people.  By 1909, he had moved out of the house and on July 3, at the age of 44, married Edith Margaret Cochran (from a wealthy family as well) in London.  They apparently moved to Feugh Lodge after getting married and had hired their housemaid, Nellie, by August, 1910.  (Poynter, really?  Well, after finding it, I can match the letters on the census form, but it really doesn't look like Poynter, does it?).

One last thing - there was always a story in our family that Nellie stayed later in Scotland than she intended because her sister was pregnant and died giving birth.  Nellie, having been a children's nurse, had helped care for the baby before going to Canada after she was adopted out (her name apparently being Peggy Black).  I could find no evidence of her ever being a nurse.  I thought maybe it had been some confusion over the years.  But today, at the University of Alberta Library, I was able to access a page from the London Standard.  A birth announcement came out on August 15, 1911:  "MILLER - On the 10th Aug, at Fengh (sic) Lodge, Banchory, Kincardineshire, the wife of John Poynter Miller, of a daughter."

So she had been caring for their child at Feugh Lodge and had very recent knowledge of newborns when her sister died.  Family story confirmed.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Postcards #21 - International Football Match - Scotland v. England 1910

This card is a photograph of a football match played on April 2, 1910.


Granted, I know virtually nothing about Soccer.  So forgive me if I state the obvious or get something wrong.  My great-grandfather, on the other hand, was apparently a huge fan.  From what I understand, he played when he was younger and helped run a team when he was older and living in Vancouver.

The game on April 2, 1910 was, obviously, at Hampden Park in Glasgow.  It was between Scotland and England for the British Championships.

This game was a big deal for the Scots.  Not only did they win 2-0, the attendance at Hampden Park was 106,200.  (Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta - the closest city to where I live - only has capacity for 60,000, so in 1910, this was a BIG place).  Goals were made by James McMenemy and James Quinn.  And it's amazing that you can find this information on the Internet.

"Hampden" (if you are a local, and cool, that's what you call it, I understand) is currently (and was in 1910, apparently) the home of the Scotland national football team (soccer, if you live in North America), as well as the amateur league club, Queen's Park Football Club (Q.P.F.C.) - the oldest association football club in Scotland.

A stadium on the current site was opened on Halloween day, 1903.  At the time it was built, it was the largest stadium in the world, with a capacity of over 100,000 - today's Hampden Park Stadium only has a capacity for 52,025 (safety was a concern and then renovations further reduced capacity).  John Hampden fought for the Roundheads during the English Civil War - a terrace that overlooked the original Hampden Park, was named after him and provided the name for the stadium.

In 1903, Glasgow actually had the three largest football stadiums in the world.  Hmmm .... wonder why Jack liked football so much ...

You'll note that the P.C. is postmarked August 26, 1910 from Montreal on the front, but August 19, 1910 from Edinburgh on the back - I assume that is because it came by steamer, but I have not seen the same thing on any of the other postcards.

The message on this card is as follows:  "Dear Jack, Glad to hear that you were making progress and that you like the country.  I am sure you are the stuff she wants.  How is B (Bella) getting on?  Was home in July for my holidays and of course enjoyed them very much.  John Macdonald is coming down to stay with me for a week soon.  Hoping to hear from you again.  With kindest regards D.A.G(?)"   (not sure about that last letter).


I don't really have much to add to this.  I don't know who John MacDonald was, and finding him would be pretty much impossible at this point (pretty common name).  And I'm not sure who wrote this P.C.  But I'll see if I can find more as time goes on.  Love the hand-writing, though.  Very beautiful script.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Postcards #20 - Crathes Castle and Feugh Lodge

So Jack went to Canada ... and Nellie went to work.

I'm not entirely sure what Nellie was doing before Jack left for Canada, but I'm pretty sure she was working in the Aberdeen area as most of the postcards from her are postmarked from that city and her parents were living at Backhill of Bruntyards.  But the first idea of an actual place of work that I have seen is on this postcard of Crathes Castle:


Crathes Castle is located 15 miles West of Aberdeen and 3 miles East of Banchory.  It is a tower house built in the 16th century (started in 1553, completed in 1596).  King Robert the Bruce gave the land the castle is on as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family in 1323 (thank you, Wikipedia).  The Burnett family had originally constructed a fortress called a crannog in the middle of a nearby bog.  The castle served as the ancestral seat of the Burnetts of Ley until the National Trust was gifted it by the 13th Baronet of Leys in 1951.

It's location close to Banchory is no coincidence - this post card is postmarked Banchory, and on the back of the postcard, it is clear that Nellie has written it from Feugh Lodge.  Feugh Lodge is located on the Feugh River not far to the south of the town of Banchory.  It was at this house that Nellie was working.  The text on the back of the postcard reads:  "Feugh Lodge.  How are you liking Vancouver.  Hopes you will get on and be well and happy and are not feeling lonely.  N. Steele"  - the formal signature is due to the fact that this particular postcard was written to Mr. W. McCurrach - Jack's brother, William.  It was sent to a post office box in Vancouver.  


Now for the part of this little story that I find the most fascinating.  As mentioned, the postcard was sent from "Banchory S.O. Kincardineshire" and was written at Feugh Lodge - Anyone know why "S.O."?  I sure don't know.  

Anyhow, I looked up Nellie Steele on the 1911 census, and here is what I found (these would go side-by-side, but there isn't room here):




You'll note that Nellie (Helen Steele) is working as one of 4 servants at Feugh Lodge.  She is the kitchenmaid (if you look at the left-hand column in the second image).  She and the housemaid are both 21 years old.  I find it very odd that the Chauffeur, Alexander Brown, is considered a Lodger, not a servant, but is still noted as a domestic.  All of these entries are on the census for Banchory Ternan in Kincardinshire.

This tells me that Nellie was working at the bottom of the hierarchy, at this house of a wealthy chemical manufacturer and his wife (they'd been married a year, were 46 and 33 respectively, and had no children).  She was likely tucking away every penny she could so that she could help establish her family in Vancouver - her wages would likely have paid her way to the New Country.

This collection of postcards has some that were obviously bought for memory purposes - in place of having one's own camera, people would buy picture postcards as keepsakes (or they were bought and simply never used) - well in that part of the collection, imagine my surprise the other day when I found this one:


The house is still standing - and looking very ritzy, thank you very much:


This view is from the opposed side of the house - you can just see the peak of the pointed roof beside the chimney in the other picture.  The satellite image shows this house being in the same location beside the bridge, and having the same roofline (it's not super clear, but I'm pretty sure this is the house):


So that's it - Nellie was a kitchenmaid (something much more meaningful to me after watching Downton Abbey), in a relatively small upper class house, until she and Jack could make enough money to be able to marry and start a family.










Postcards #19 - S.S. Cassandra

And then Jack moved to Canada.

Jack McCurrach left Scotland June 4, 1910 on the S.S. Cassandra of the Donaldson Line.  The Donaldson Brothers had the S.S. Cassandra built in 1906 (by Scotts Greenock).  The engines were made by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.  The ship was part of the Donaldson line (through various names) until 1925 or 1929 (the source isn't clear) when it was bought by a German company (Arnold Bernstein of Hamburg) who used her as a cattle carrier.  She was scrapped in 1934.

During World War I, the ship took part in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign in 1915.  She rescued 700 passengers who were torpedoes on the California.

Jack travelled with his younger brother, William.  It would seem his older brother, Alexander, was already in Vancouver and met them there.

In the collection I have this postcard sent from Jack to his mother in Nairn, it was not postmarked, but I found the passenger's list (at the Library and Archives Canada passenger list website) that tells us the day they left.  It also tells us that Jack was a printer, and William a postman.


The postcard reads:  "Dear Mother,  This is the boat we sail in.  We have been all berthed together and are just upon (?) starting.  I think will enjoy the voyage all right.  Will write first chance.  Remember me to Mrs. Lim.  Love to all Jack.  Tell Bell to mind the spasms.  oXX to Mona."


I have no idea who the "all" are who have been berthed together.  In the second class listing of passengers, there are only a few people going to Vancouver.  One man named Peter Ross was single and about the same age.  But I just don't know who he meant.

He left Nellie back in Scotland while he went to Canada to get established.  It would be over two years before they saw each other again.  The mail must have taken on an even greater significance with them being so far apart.  






Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

Hmm .... to try and put decent words together to broach this subject ... to be meaningful.  Forgive me if I miss the mark.

Depression can be a fatal disease.  Suicide is pretty much always due to depression.  I say "pretty much" only because I'm not aware of any other reasons someone might kill themselves, but I imagine there might be.  Most of the time, though, it's depression.  Even accidental over-doses are usually caused by substance abuse that, in turn, is caused by depression.

As a group, as a culture, We don't discuss suicide and depression until someone we all love - someone who has provided us with so much joy and laughter - kills themselves and brings it to the fore.  Tonight is one of those times to talk about it.

Robin Williams was an incredible entertainer.  I doubt there are any of us who didn't enjoy at least one of his performances.  I enjoyed many.  He amazed me with his energy, his humour, and the speed of his brain.


But whenever I saw him in an interview, I wondered.  I wondered if a man with a brain so fast could be happy in there all of the time - to be honest, I knew he couldn't be.  It was painfully obvious that he was bipolar and that his manic side came out most often in interviews.

My brain works too much - is always going quickly - I'm always thinking of something.  And on occasion I get a taste of the bipolar brain.  I have very "up" days when I talk too fast, am too "on," and am likely annoying or disturbing to some.  But only a taste.  It doesn't happen too often, and it is not severe.  And the "up" days are fun.  But after my "up" days, I know there is a "down" day coming.  You don't get the good day without paying the piper.  So I knew about Robin Williams.  I knew if anyone was that up so much they'd have to be down an equal amount of the time.  I wondered what it was like to be in that body with that brain.  I always thought it could be hellish.  And I could often see the pain in his eyes (just do a Google Image search of Robin Williams and look at his eyes - when he wasn't being goofy, you could always see the pain - when he was being goofy, you could see the joy).

I knew a little about his substance abuse, alcoholism.  I had heard bits here and there.  I hadn't paid a huge amount of attention, choosing to focus on the good that I saw in his life - after all, I didn't know him.  But when I heard today that he had killed himself, it seemed to make some sort of sad sense.  It did not surprise me.  Well, one part of it did surprise me.  I was surprised that he had made it this far in life (he was 63) and it was bad enough for him to feel desperate enough to kill himself.

I've gone through my share of feeling better and then feeling worse, though, that even the age thing shouldn't surprise me.

I feel so badly for him.  I assume that he was treated for the problem, although I don't know for sure.  I feel so badly for his wife and his children.  And I feel sorry for the rest of us who will not get to experience a new, funny performance of his.

Just more proof, though, that depression can be all-consuming.  Even if you are famous, have all the money you'll ever need, have a loving family, have fans galore - all of that can be wiped out by the darkness of depression.

I have no answers.  Stories like this try to chip away at my hope.  But I can't allow them to.  Because there IS always hope.

I just wish he could have seen that this morning.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Postcards #18 - MacLean Memorial Fountain, Burghead

This postcard is of the MacLean Memorial Fountain in Burghead.  As previously mentioned, Burghead is located on the Moray Firth about 8 miles northwest of Elgin.  It juts out into the sea and has ocean basically on three sides.  Burghead is also home to a malting factory and a Whiskey distillery.


Burghead was built in the early 1800s on top of an old Pictish Hill Fort.  Nearby excavations have also uncovered iron age structures, Pictish building foundations, and Roman coins.  

This drinking fountain was built in 1909 or 1910 - so was very recently built when this picture was taken (as the postcard was sent in April, 1910).


Here is a quote from an information sheet on Burghead: "The small memorial situated behind the war memorial, is to a local young man, Benjamin Maclean M.A. He was a student of Divinity and lost his life on 26th August 1909 in a successful attempt to rescue a young doctor who had foolishly gone swimming at a dangerous point near The Red Craig. The doctor had stated his intention of 'battling the waves' to Benjamin who had warned him of the dangers of swimming in that area, but the warning was ignored. Although Benjamin managed to save the doctor, the effort required caused him to become exhausted, resulting in his drowning. The memorial was erected by the people of Burghead. On the memorial it quotes from The Bible, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man layeth down his own life for his friend' (John 15)."


The back of the postcard reads:  "Dear J, I was very please to have your PC from Aberdeen.  I hope you enjoyed your (?)  I am awfully sorry the (?) is not to be at Burghead this year.  Have the Nairn C.B. Tartans got their red tunics yet.  It will be very unnice if they have not.  This fountain is erected opposite our church in memory of Mr. McLean.  Hope your father and mother are well.  Kind love from Sarah"

I can only guess that the C.B. Tartans were a football (soccer) team - as Sarah is taking about tunics and Jack was an avid football enthusiast.  The trip to Aberdeen that she mentions was likely to visit Nellie.