Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 6 – Gulf of St Lawrence

 

May 14

There is the same range of land to be seen when it is clear southwest from us. There are a great number of houses along the seacoast occupied by fishermen, I believe, but there also appears to be some land improved.  This is now part of Lower Canada.

May 15.

We are not advancing much.  There is land on every side of us today. Sometimes we are not very far from the shore.  I saw a whale again this morning sporting about the ship.   We have been all engaged in helping the sailors today by pulling ropes etc when turning the ship about.  

St L lighthouse.jpgMay 16

A change of weather again, rain falling heavily around us.  There were two vessels ahead of us and one turned out to be our late companion the Rose from Plymouth.  She had a great number of passengers, 330 in all, who were all taking a look over the ship’s side. Some of them looked to be rum looking characters.  We are all very thankful that we were not among such a mass.  She has now been six weeks at sea when we have only been four. There is to be a doctor on board the ship tomorrow for inspecting us before we land. 

I saw a number of large white fishes in the forenoon of the whale type. I believe the name for them is Porpoise.  A large number of them swam along the ship’s side.  Another ship named the India from Kinach Ireland passed us about 6 o’clock with a great number of passengers on her.

May 17

Lying at anchor this morning… I never saw so many houses together all spread up and down the river side as far as we can see always before us.  They are white and have good appearance when the sun shines.  I believe thy extend on this way all the way to Quebec.  Not many large houses among them.  About 3 o’clock we passed McPherson’s Island. by 6 we were lying at Quarantine Bay, waiting for the doctor to inspect us. He merely looked at us and went away again!

May 18. 

The scenery is very beautiful today, a great many houses on the north side of their the river with their land all laid off in long narrow steps from the shore.  Between 2 and 3 o’clock a steamer named the “North America” came down the refer and our Captain engaged her to tow us to Montreal.  We expect to be at our journey’s end tomorrow night. We are now at a place called Point Levi, with harbour and some shipping.  In sight of Quebec. 

Point Levi, on the south side is  a pretty place and has a large crunch with a beautiful spire and a seminary.  We are not in the harbour but lying out on the river.  We are all getting impatient at so many trifling forms we have to go through. 

There appears to be a good deal of traffic here on the river, steamers going between here and Point Levi every hour of the day.  At 8 o’clock a gun or cannon, I am not sure which, is fired off every evening and at 12 o’clock noon.  We hard it fired off tonight from the fort on a high cliff at the river side. 

May 19

The Captain and a few passengers went ashore this forenoon. At about 2 o’clock about 20 pound of shot was fired off from the fort, the echo one every shot was like thunder, the day was so calm. It reminded me of the siege of Sebastopol.  I heard a rumour that it was because Sebastopol was taken of the truth I can not tell*.

About half past three we lifted anchor and “set sail”,  our steamer towing us on the way… we got a fine view of a Montreal steamer that passed us,  longer than any I ever saw before. This has been the warmest day we have had yet.

 

The progress up the St Lawrence seems to have been a bit slower since the ship requires wind to propel it and the river is more protected than the open ocean.  Eventually the ship will have to be towed by “steamers”, paddle wheel boats,  that must have been busy as tugs for the several sailing ships of immigrants and goods landing in Canada.

"Look_out"_(Transport_Steamer)_on_Tennessee_River_-_NARA_-_5289791_restored.jpg*Sebastopol was under siege throughout 1855 as part of the Crimean War against Russia.  That chapter of the war did not end until late 1855 so Peter was wrong about it being taken.  I wonder how news spread in those days or what the delay would be.  No internet or news channels and as we have seen it takes a few weeks to get across the Atlantic by ship to bring mail or journals.  The image below is of the battle of Sebastopol in 1855.

Siege_of_Sevastopol_1855.jpg

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 1 – leaving home.

One hundred and sixty two years ago today,  my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield set out from Scotland to come to Canada.   I am trying to imagine this trip, made across the North Atlantic in a clipper ship.  The voyage took five weeks.  Today we do it in a plane in 6 hours.

Fortunately,  20 year-old Peter wrote a diary along the way and it is still in the family.  I plan to follow him along over the next five weeks to reflect on this ancestral voyage and hope you will join me.  I will copy some of Peter’s notes (italics)  as these weeks unfolded for him. I will mainly let him speak for himself.  I will post a few daily journal entries every few days until Peter arrives back on dry land in May 21. Come along on this journey with us.

April 16, 1855

Peter P.jpg

I bade farewell to Ardmellie*, Parish of Marnoch, this day about 11 o’clock.  Was in Huntley about two o’clock and took the 3 o’clock train and was in Aberdeen about half past 5.

April 17

Left Aberdeen this morning on the 6 o’clock train for Glasgow.  Arrived there about 20 minutes past 3 in the afternoon, got my trunk on board the “Home”** which was to sail next day if things could get ready.

April 18

Went on board the “Home” about 2 in the afternoon.   Slept on her that night for the first time.

April 19

Gloomy…we set sail about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, being pulled down the Clyde by two steam tugs….There are about 96 passengers on board, likewise 3 dogs and more poultry.  Mr Jas. Poole, commander.

April 20

Fine morning…we were lying before Greenock this morning. Must wait until the wind goes around… A chaplain came from Greenock in the forenoon in a boat and distributed books among us, wishing us good passage. The wind still continuing contrary we were again obliged to get a steam tug with came to our assistance about have past 3, led us down the channel a good distance and left us about half past 5.   Between 7 and 8 o’clock the first mate found a bottle of whiskey about some of the sailor’s hammocks.  He gave the owner a good scolding and then threw it overboard into the sea and bade him to get it now if he could.

April 21

Fine morning…now paling between Scotland and Ireland and the land fast disappearing from our view.  Good-Bye Bonnie Scotland –It may never to be seen any more by some of us. In the morning, some of us began to get sick for the fist time and by 9 o’clock we were, with the exception of a few, al on the sick list…There was a strong wind and the ship was heaving a good deal…The sea was very rough throughout the night making the ship tumble about like a cradle, the water betimes coming across the deck. The only land in sight before going to bed was the north west coast of Ireland.

Now, imagine being on this sailing ship with about 100 other people, most of them sick and watching the land disappear into the distance,  heading out to sea for the next few weeks.  What kind of navigation would they use? They had no power but sail.   It was spring in the North Atlantic.

April 22

Sunday.  Slept sound last night.  No land in sight.  Sea very rough.  Our only element now is water, water in whatever direction we turned our eyes.  I have this day seen something of the Mighty Deep like what is described in the 107th Psalm, verses 23-28.

107  23 to 28.jpg 

Most of the passengers are very sick today. I have as yet not been very sick myself.  i have been able to step about today and read a little betimes, though debarred from attending the House of Prayer.  I have been won’t to do in times bast from my infancy till now. Yet I hop my Meditation this day on the Mighty ocean will be blest to me for good.

*Ardmeallie is in Northern Scotland near the Marnoch Bridge over the Deveron River.  The only reference I can find to it now is Ardmeallie House, a privately-owned estate with a lovely walled garden.  The house was built around 1750.  I found a Google maps image of the house (below) and its location relative to the river.  Peter must have lived very near there but his father farmed 42 acres, not the lord of the manor.Ardmellie House, Marnoch.png

Screenshot 2017-04-10 12.23.19.png

It intrigued me, as well, that train trains were so efficient in 1855.  Peter was able to travel from Aberdeen to Glasgow by train in a few hours.  The railways in this district were relatively new, most being completed in the 1840’s.  It must have been remarkable to get from one city to another so conveniently and quickly.

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**The “Home” was a bark ship – one with three large masts and under wind/sail power only.  Imagine setting out from Glasgow to Canada across the north Atlantic in April on a boat that had no other power but sail.