Steel Went Through
Scotland Once More,
AFTER spending a week or so
at Ailsa Ranch, I set out on my journey to Scotland. I stopped at Toronto
for a few days, and renewed acquaintance with many old friends. I then
proceeded to New York and secured a berth on the steamship City of
Richmond, sailing to Liverpool.
Although the age of luxury
ships, as now known, had not yet arrived, there was some improvement in
the accommodation on the City of Richmond over that of the old Peruvian,
on which I had first come to Canada. I shared a comfortable state-room
with a young Englishman; and we got on well together. We had seats at the
same table in the dining-room; and beside us sat two American ladies. They
were sisters; and were making their first trip across the ocean. The elder
of the two was married, but had left her husband behind. So these two
ladies and my state-room companion were my closest associates on the
The weather was fine, and
all went well until we were about half-way across. Then, in the early
hours one morning, I was roused from my sleep by my companion calling to
me, and saying that the ship must be on fire. As he spoke I could hear a
commotion on the deck below, and a voice shouting: "She's burning fore and
aft!" On hearing this, I got up and dressed; and my companion did so too.
We then made for the upper
deck; but we found the stairway jammed with men and women who had not
taken time to dress, and were still in their night clothes. Yet, I could
see no signs of a fire. But I soon learned that there was indeed a fire,
and a serious one. It was in the hold among bales of cotton; it was thus
out of sight of the passengers, but was none the less alarming.
In a very short time the
stewards were on hand, serving coffee to the worried crowd which was
When I finally reached the
deck I was just in time to hear the captain calmly give the head steward
the terse order: "Provision the boats." That order was promptly carried
out; and the boats made ready to launch.
When daylight dawned, it
was a sorry sight to see the good old Union Jack flying upside down, as a
signal of distress. To make matters worse, a storm had arisen with a
strong head wind, against which, owing to a shortage of steam for the
engines, the ship had difficulty in ploughing her way. This shortage was
caused by using as much steam as could be spared, to keep the fire under
Toward noon, a small
steamer was sighted on the horizon, going on the same course as we were.
By afternoon, we had caught up with it and our captain signalled that his
ship was on fire; he wanted this steamer to keep alongside, and take us on
board if necessary. This was agreed to. But the slow speed of this little
steamer made a further slowing down of our own speed necessary.
All the crew, stewards
included, were kept busy fighting the fire; and in order to give these
fire-fighters freedom to work, the passengers were turned out of their
staterooms and were given sleeping-quarters on the deck above; the men in
the dining-room, and the women in the lounge-room. But we had to sleep on
the floor. Mattresses and blankets were spread there at night for our use;
and were rolled up during the day. To me, this was just camp life over
After sailing in company
with the small steamer for two days, I was awakened on the morning by a
steward calling to me that the Servia one of the Cunard Line ships was
alongside, and that I should get up and see her. She was on her way to
Liverpool, and had overtaken us during the night. She was a more
commodious and faster ship than the small tramp steamer, with which till
then, we had been keeping alongside. So our captain had called on her to
convoy us instead.
We then learned that the
City of Paris, of the Inman Line the line to which the City of Richmond
also belonged was on her way from Liverpool to New York; was expected to
be sighted that day; and that the captain of the Servia wanted the Paris
to turn back and convoy the Richmond, and let the Servia proceed on her
That afternoon, a loud
blast from the whistle of the Servia, as she made a sudden dash past us,
turned all eyes in the direction in which she was heading. We could see a
ship on the horizon well to the north-east of us. This proved to be the
City of Paris, which the Servia had sighted, and was on her way to head
On board an Atlantic liner,
one rarely gets an adequate conception of the speed at which it is going.
But from our vantage-point on the Richmond, we had a vivid picture of the
speed at which the Servia and the Paris, like two huge locomotives, were
rushing toward each other. It seemed but a few minutes till the Servia was
back, accompanied by the Paris; and these three ships were lying together,
on a perfectly calm sea. They formed a most interesting picture.
A boat from the Servia was
then put out for the Paris, and it brought the captain of that ship to the
side of the Richmond. He was about to mount the rope ladder that had been
let down, but our captain signalled to him to stay where he was, and he
went down the ladder himself and had his talk with him in the boat. He
evidently did not want to alarm the passengers by their chancing to hear
how serious he considered the situation to be. But looking down at the
boat we could see from his gesticulations that he considered it to be most
The captain of the Paris
was Commodore of the Inman Line of ships; and the decision as to which
course to take evidently rested on him whether it would be more costly
to have the Paris turn back, than to hold the Servia as convoy for the
Richmond. The Inman Line would doubtless have to foot the bill in either
case. He decided that the Paris should hold her course and that the Servia
continue as our convoy.
So, in company with the
Servia we kept on our way. The sea was perfectly calm, and she kept so
close to the Richmond that we could hear her dinner gong sounding at meal
times. We got to Liverpool some four or five days later, after a voyage
lasting about two weeks. And there, as the passengers were landing, they
gave rousing cheers for the captain, whom they had come to look upon as
the ideal captain. He had been so cheerful and considerate to everyone in
the trying situation which he had to cope with.
Prior to our landing, a
handsome sum had been collected on board for the crew, in recognition of
their unremitting efforts in fighting the fire, and keeping it under
When I arrived at Turnberry
my old home I got a warm welcome from my father, and from Robert. But
I found Father had failed greatly since my former visit. His right hand
was practically useless. But he was cheerful, and still took keen interest
in the farm. The actual work and supervision, however, now devolved upon
I stayed at Turnberry
pretty closely for the first few weeks, and visited only those of my
friends who were in the neighbourhood. I missed very much not having
Dowhill to go to, for James Wright as I have already mentioned had
passed away. I, however, went a little farther past Dowhill, and paid a
short visit to my uncle and aunt McCulloch on the farm at Laggan, close to
Ballantrae; just an eighteen mile drive from Turnberry. There were four
girls in the family, all grown up by that time; and they gave me a merry
time. I also looked in on Cousin Etta in Ayr, and on Uncle George at
Maybole, quite frequently. Cousin Susan's school was closed for the
holidays. So, instead of visiting her, I had the pleasure of her company
at Turnberry where she spent a few days with us.
I had, for some time, been
giving considerable thought to my future in Canada. Railway construction
seemed to have passed its zenith, for a time, and mining was coming to the
fore. So I thought I might possibly try my hand at mining; and to better
fit myself for it, I went to Glasgow about the end of July, for a month,
and took lessons in assaying from Dr. Clarke, the City Analyst. I had
attended his lectures in chemistry when serving my apprenticeship. During
that month in Glasgow, I met many old friends; and spent pleasant
week-ends with aunts and cousins who were then living in Edinburgh. I had
an invitation, too, from Robert Allan to visit him at Howwell; and that
invitation I gladly accepted.
In his letter he told me of
the changes that had taken place in the Allan family since my last visit
to him. Their mother had died, and the old home at Cumnock had been broken
Miss Allan was still
keeping house for him; and he also had her younger sisters, Grace, and
Saidie, with him at Howwell.
Andrew had gone to Selkirk,
and was engaged in the yarn-spinning business there.
His younger brother
William, whom I had not yet met, was living in lodgings in Glasgow; and I
called on him one evening and made his acquaintance. He was then in the
employment of the Clydebank Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, in the
Clydebank shipbuilding yard. Shortly afterwards he was with the National
Telephone Company, and eventually with the Post Office Engineering
Department of the State.
When I had finished my
course in assaying, I set out for Howwell on the day fixed by Robert Allan
for my visit. On my arrival at Kirkcudbright station, I was delighted to
find Miss Allan there, with the dogcart, to meet me. I had had no
communication with her since my former visit; and I had no idea what her
feelings toward me were. But her coming to meet me was, I thought, quite
She, however, evidently
didn't want me to think that she had come because she wanted to. For, as I
mounted the dogcart and took my seat beside her, she was quick in
explaining the reason for her coming. Robert, she said, was too busy with
his harvest to come himself to meet me; so she had to come in his place.
But the very fact of her making this explanation when no explanation was
needed, encouraged me all the more; and I there and then determined to do
my best to win her.
It was a beautiful morning,
with the sun shining brightly, and the six-mile drive to Howwell passed
most pleasantly. The horse was a high-spirited one; and I was pleased to
note the expert way in which Miss Allan handled it.
On arriving at Howwell I
was heartily welcomed by Robert, and introduced to Grace and Saidie, who
each had a welcome smile for me. Saidie was still a schoolgirl, but was in
her last year and would be returning to her school in Glasgow after the
Anyone who has had the
experience of making love to his hostess will admit that it is a delicate
matter; and difficult too, when the hostess has two sisters who are
continually in her company, and there seems no chance of ever getting her
But my chance finally came,
after I had been a week at Howwell. Saidie was about to leave for her
school in Glasgow, and the day before she left, she and Grace were going
to make some calls that afternoon, by themselves. Now or never, was my
thought as I saw them leave the house, and the door close behind them. At
last I had Miss Allan alone; and I made such good use of this opportunity
that, long before her sisters returned, she had consented to be my wife,
and accompany me to Canada in the spring.
We had now to consider how
we should tell the other members of the family, of our engagement. I
undertook to tell Robert; and Miss Allan undertook to tell the others.
When I confessed to Robert
what I had done, he said I might have done worse; but afterwards remarked
that stealing his housekeeper was a nice trick to play on him.
Andrew did not seem to take
the news as complacently as Robert. Miss Allan showed me his reply to her
letter telling him of our engagement. He did not object to her getting
married, but he hated to think of losing her by her going to Canada. In
his own facetious way, he wrote: "What does the beggar mean, taking you
away to Canada?"
Several years later, he was
to know from his own personal experience what the beggar meant. For he
took a trip to Canada and married a Canadian girl, Miss Margaret Anderson
of Guelph, and took her to Scotland.
On my return to Turnberry I
told my father of my engagement, and he seemed well pleased. I also showed
him Miss Allan's photograph, and that pleased him too; for he remarked:
"Fine!" Some few weeks later I brought her to Turnberry, so that he should
see her in person and get to know her. He was well satisfied and gave us
I was not long either in
letting Cousin Susan know. She was delighted. As a match-maker she had
played her cards well, and had her heart's desire.
About this time I had the
unexpected pleasure of meeting Peter Paterson, an Ayr Academy schoolmate
and one of my most intimate friends in the days when I was serving my
apprenticeship in Glasgow. He too was then serving his apprenticeship as a
civil engineer. He afterwards took a course in engineering at the
university; and then went to Australia. And now, like myself, he was on a
visit to his native land, and was staying with his sister, Mrs. Rennie, at
Maybole. So, being so close to each other, we had many interesting walks
together; just as we had had when we were in Glasgow.
He did not, however, return
to Australia, but went to Texas, and engaged in ranching.
I lost sight of him for
many years; but recently got in touch with him again, and I hear from him
about once a year.
He is now spending the
evening of his life very comfortably in Austin, Texas, with his wife and
family. He is the only one of my schoolmates about whom I know anything
I spent a quiet Christmas
at Turnberry with Father and Robert. For New Year's day I went to Howwell,
and participated in a happy reunion of all the members of the Allan
family. I stayed for a few days and then returned to Turnberry.
Early in February my father
had the misfortune to fall and break his hip. I stayed closely with him
after that. But he did not recover; the shock to his system was too great.
He gradually got weaker, and passed away on the 9th of March; just two
weeks before the date which had been fixed for my marriage.
I felt his loss keenly. But I had the comforting thought that although I
had been away from him for so many years, I had been with him at the last.
And that thought still remains with me.
Robert took over the farm,
and carried on for thirty years. Then he too passed away.
The marriage, with all the
preparations which had been made for it, could not be postponed, even if
it did follow so closely upon this sad event. It took place at Howwell on
the 23rd of March, 1892, in the presence of numerous relatives on both
sides of the family.
My wife and I went to Paris
on our wedding trip; and afterwards visited a number of our most intimate
relatives and friends, so that I could get introduced to hers, and she to
We sailed from Liverpool to
Montreal early in May, on the Parisian of the Allan Line. The weather was
fine, and we had a comfortable voyage. Among the passengers were Mr. and
Mrs. John Lee Johnston and their little daughter Isa, well known Old
Timers in Calgary.
Louise Philippe Hébert,
noted French Canadian sculptor, was also one of the passengers. He sat
beside us at meals, and we got to be very friendly with him. He had a keen
sense of humour, and we found him very amusing. It was he who, many years
afterwards, designed the beautiful South African War Memorial which stands
in Memorial Park in Calgary and when he came to Calgary for the unveiling
ceremony, my wife and I had the pleasure of entertaining him in our own
home. Some years later, we met him again in Paris where he had taken up
his residence. And it was he who did the entertaining this time, in his
We spent some time in
Montreal, Toronto, and Niagara Falls, so that my wife would get some
knowledge of Eastern Canada, before going on to Calgary, where I had made
up my mind to settle down.
We arrived in Calgary early
in June; but it looked more like December; for we were welcomed with a
We took up our abode at the
Alberta Hotel; and stayed there until I had a house built. This hotel was
then being run by Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Perley; and they looked after our
After I had decided where
to build, I engaged Llewelyn Wilson, of the firm of Child & Wilson, as
architect. Thomas Underwood was the contractor.
The house was completed by
the spring of 1893; and we then took possession, and settled down to
housekeeping. My roving days were over; and I feel that will be a fitting
period at which to conclude my reminiscences. Before concluding, however,
there are a few remarks I would yet like to make.
Robert Allan, since I stole
as he said his housekeeper, hadn't let the grass grow under his feet.
For, on the first anniversary of our marriage, he got married himself; and
thus settled his housekeeping problems, for good and all.
William Allan then took
Grace and Saidie under his care, and started housekeeping with them in
I was engaged that spring
in making a survey for the irrigation of some lands near Calgary. I had as
leveller, Owen P. Schreiber, younger brother of C. S. Schreiber, who had
been with me in Maine. And as rodman, I had a young man named Derwyn
Trevor Owen. And that young man since became Archbishop Owen of Toronto,
and Primate of all Canada.
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