When reading this account I had several thoughts:
The first was my negative reaction to the arrogance of the first paragraph – that the British, so steeped in their belief in their empire, should think that they had a God-given right to colonise another country and that it would be better for them doing so.
But then I was pleased to see that Church organisations were so ready and willing to provide encouragement and assistance to those who were making such a huge step into the unknown. Some came from very rural communities – just like Pte James Pickard Bell.
He was born in Aysgarth in 1888, the son of the station master, William Bell and his wife Barbara. James emigrated to Canada in 1910 when he was 22 to farm on the prairies of Manitoba. He enlisted in the Army in 1915 and, when with the 43rd Canadians (Grenade Section), was killed during the later stages of the Battle of the Somme in October 1916. He was last seen leading a section of the bombers towards the German Lines and his body was never recovered. There is a photograph of him on Thoralby Through Time.
From The Church Monthly, May 1892
On Board an Emigration Ship
by the Rev C R Job, Vicar of Newington, Hull
The question of emigration is one which is daily being pressed home with greater force upon vast numbers of people in this country. The rapid growth of population, and the limited area of land capable of cultivation, enclosed by water on every side, point to a time not far distant when ‘pastures new’ must be sought beyond the seas to a very much greater extent than they are now by our sons and daughters. Happily for us, we are a nation of colonists. While we are patriotic to a degree, and love the old country with a love that never dies, we are also gifted with a love of adventure and enterprise, coupled with the power of settling down in far-off lands, and surrounding ourselves with the comforts and happy institutions of the home of our birth. And happily, also for us the wide world offers vast fields in every way suited to our requirements. An incessant stream of enthusiastic humanity is pouring from our ports, going forth ‘to replenish the earth, and subdue it.’; and wherever they place themselves, under the beneficent smile of our Great Father, the wild waste becomes a fruitful field, the prairie becomes a pasture land, and the ‘desert is made to blossom as the rose’.
It was my lot to accompany a large body of emigrants, who sailed from Liverpool for Canada, last year; and it may not be without interest to some to hear what the journey is like. While attempting to describe the incidents of the voyage, I propose to also to try to give such information as I can for the guidance of those who may be contemplating emigration.
Canada, being nearer than any of the other British Colonies, can be reached quicker, and at less expense, the time occupied from Liverpool to Quebec or Halifax being from nine to eleven days. The cost for third class passengers is about £4. Special emigrant trains meet the boats, fitted with sleeping berths, and which carry you to your destination at exceedingly low fares.
It is always wise to be provided with warm clothing for the journey, and also for wear in the severe weather on the other side. Clothing is one of the few things which are more costly in Canada than in England. Everything necessary in the way of food is provided on board ship.
I will ask you to let your thoughts go with us from port to port. All is bustle and excitement as the time arrives for us to sail, luggage pours on board in tremendous confusion, partly because far too many leave everything to the last moment. Friends accompany us on the ship to see what it is like and to say last good-bye. Finally, the bell rings for friends to go ashore, the steam is up, the word is given to ‘let her go’, and we are off. Lingering, wistful looks are exchanged as long as eyesight will serve, and then we turn our attention to our new quarters, and try to accommodate ourselves to our novel situation. The decks are soon cleared of the piles of luggage of every description, and all is order and neatness.
Ere long the bell rings for dinner, and those who have crossed the ‘mill-pond’ as the Yankees call it, before, advise us to make a good meal while we can; and this advice we do our best to follow. At first, thoughts of home and thoughts of what may be before us fill our minds, and we are disposed to be silent but by-and-by, our natural friendliness loosens our tongues, and we break the ice of estrangement by some common-place remark, and soon we have many speaking acquaintances which, in some places, ripen into friendships. Indeed, our voyage is not without its romance, for at least one matrimonial engagement is formed ere we land.
I am appointed for this voyage by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to do what I can for the spiritual welfare of the emigrants, and to give them such assistance as I can in other ways as well. Many have been provided with letters from their parish clergyman, and these are first sought out, and a note made of their names and destination.
During the course of the voyage the acquaintance of many others is made, and advice is tendered wherever needed. All are urged not to put themselves in the hands of strangers when they land, as there are bad characters always on the look-out to take advantage of the ignorance of unwary ones. The name of the nearest clergyman to the place to which they are destined is given in each case, and they are urged to go to him in any case of difficulty. In many instances letters of introduction are written and put in their hands. And here let me say that every intending emigrant should, before starting, provide himself with a letter of introduction from his parish clergyman to the chaplain of the ship by which he intends to sail, and also one to take to the clergyman of the district in which he proposes to settle down. He will then be sure of a friend and adviser who may be of the greatest advantage to him.
Our passage is very smooth and pleasant until we reach the little town of Moville in the north of Ireland, where we call for the mails. We have yet to find our sea legs, for the Atlantic has ways of her own about which our seas know nothing. ‘Now, my boy, let us do the Old Salt as long as we can,’ said a friend who had crossed many times and knew what to expect. And steadily we paced the quarterdeck for half an hour, when conversation grew rapidly fitful and finally, after a long ominous pause, we betook ourselves below. The next few hours it is not necessary to describe. Everybody has heard of the stage of sea-sickness in which you are afraid you are going to die, and then the still worse stage in which you are afraid you are not. Suffice it to say, that sooner or later you get over it, and in four-and-twenty hours a very large proportion creep on deck, and enjoy the life-giving breeze and the delicious sunshine.
With a fairly calm sea, deck quoits, shovel-board and skipping ropes are produced on the third day, and everybody tries to enter into enjoyment of some kind. The ship is for a time our little world. There is not very much to do and our steps are circumscribed; but there are many lessons to be learned for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. There are many on board who are returning after a visit to the home country, and they are full of information, and ready to give it kindly and ungrudgingly. From these the wise ones seek to gather all they can.
They learn that it is useless for those who know nothing about farming to go and place themselves on the 160-acre free grants until they have first spent a couple of years as hired labourers. The people who are sure to get on are farmers, farm labourers, domestic servants, and artisans. Everybody who is steady and will work is sure of a living, but nothing is to be obtained without toil.
Opportunities for acts of kindness offer themselves, for some are sickly, and there is no lack of kind hearts who vie with each other to make all happy and bright. The ship’s doctor makes a tour of the emigrants’ quarters every day to see that everything is in a sanitary condition, and to minister to all who require his assistance. His cheery smile and encouraging words do good like a medicine.
Twice a day we have a bright little service on deck, weather permitting. Our choir consists of a dozen or so of the passengers who have voices. We sing a few hymns, in which all are ready to take part with a heartiness that is delightful and stirring. A portion of the Prayer Book service is used, and a short address is given. On Sundays the saloon is placed at our disposal, and is literally crammed with worshippers. Our surroundings seem to make worship very easy. We feel our utter dependence upon our God. We cannot but pray. Hearts are homesick, and turn instinctively to the One Father for comfort. Minds are anxious, and seek for guidance from the great God who holds all things in the hollow of His Hand. Our beautiful Church service never seemed so delightful nor so full of happy, holy associations as now. And when a small group of us gather round the Holy Table, in happy communion with each other and with our Lord, we can not feel that He who gave His life for us will take care of those we have left behind, and that our future, unknown as it is, is safe in His keeping.
The days go by pleasantly if a little slowly. Occasionally we see a passing ship and, if possible, signals are exchanged. And as we approach the banks of Newfoundland we get into the track of icebergs. Great is the excitement when the first is seen like a great mountain of snow rising out of the deep. It is sixty feet high and a quarter of a mile long. In the course of four-and-twenty hours we no less than twenty-three and each is different, and are all beautiful. But they are not things of beauty only. If a fog comes on they are a source of great danger as a collision with one of these masses of floating ice means almost certain shipwreck.
Soon, however, we are clear of their track and now we are anxiously inquiring, from the men on the watch, how soon we shall catch a sight of the longed-for land. So accurate are their calculations that they can tell us almost to a few minutes. A thrill of delight is experienced by all when the lighthouse gleam is first sighted. Another hour’s run and we shall be in Halifax harbour!” We are leaving the Atlantic rollers behind and passing into still waters. More lights are seen. A gun is fired on the ship and immediately answered by another on shore. Rockets are sent up and the sky is all ablaze with coloured stars.
It is a lovely night, the air is crisp and frosty, the moon beams upon us in brilliant fulness, and as we glide silently to the quay side, all the glories of the skies are reflected in the glassy sea. The whole is a touching illustration of the close of the Christian’s life when the waves of this troublesome world are safely passed, when all the perils and perplexities are for ever over, and he calmly enters into the ‘haven where he would be’.
With marvellous alacrity the living freight is unshipped and, after the scrutiny of the custom-house, the trains which are in waiting hurry us off to Montreal and to Ontario and the far West. Thus is the daughter colony continually receiving precious supplies from the mother country. And while she feeds and enriches them she, in her turn, is being made great and prosperous by them.
The Rev Job then provided the names and addresses of church organisations in the UK willing to help emigrants.
About Pte James Pickard Bell – ‘Wensleydale Remembered’ by Keith Taylor, Country Books, 2004, p128
Article by the Rev Job published in ‘The Church Monthly’, 1892, pp 150-152, with permission from Aysgarth PCC.