W4490 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his brother Thomas B. McQuesten
Jun 16 1901
To: [Rev.] Calvin McQuesten, [Toronto, Ontario]
From: 155 Crown [?], Aberdeen, Scotland
This is Sunday and I arrived here yesterday morning at 7:30 from Manchester where I started at 11 o'clock the night before. Here I am comfortable for the first time since I left Toronto. Will write Mamma a description of the place and you can see it from her. I have spared her the description of the voyage over, but will describe it to you. By the way have just seen the results but there is nothing about the honour list.
We did not eventually leave Toronto until 9 o'clock and we arrived in Montreal about 3 o'clock the next afternoon. The journey was not bad. During the day we spent most of our time seated in a row on top of the freight train and so we enjoyed the scenery better. When I arrived at Montreal I found the two MacDougalls waiting. They had been there for two days and had made all kinds of inquiries about the ships. We were to sail on the SS Concordia and so we all went down to the docks to see it. It certainly was the most wretched looking craft you ever set eyes on, the dirtiest-looking boat we saw there as well as the smallest. We said there and then that we would not sail on her, so set out to look for another one. We picked out the best boat we could see, and set about getting on her which proved to be the easiest job in the world. This was the Manchester City, belonging to the Manchester line. She is one of the largest and best tramp ships on the North Atlantik [sic], 8500 tons burthen.
And so our trip in this particular was much ahead of the rest of the bunch 5 in number who preferred to stick to the Concordia. The trip across was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure and I hope I will never have to do it again, altho' I don't regret having done it. I am not going to tell people how hard it was for they will be sure to say I told you so.
Well, we went aboard on Saturday night. Commenced to work, tying up the cattle at 8:15 after having had 15 minutes sleep and worked steady getting up hay and watering until 6 o'clock Sunday night with no rest and nothing that I could really eat. I thought after I had been at camp that I could stomach almost everything but what we got there was luxurious compared to this. The whole journey across I never got even one square meal.
For breakfast there would be skilly which consisted of potatoes and vegetables all stirred up in some kind of gravy. I never ate that once--could not do it. The potatoes were always absolutely rotten. Dinner would be salt horse and potatoes. I made three attempts at this during the trip and then I would only eat [?] and bits of meat it was so tough and salty and half a potato. The tea was all the meal we got, it consisted in one cob (a loaf about 4 inches square), & sometimes we got butter generally we did not. For the most part we lived on hard rock biscuits and water. We tipped the Steward $2 each and got from him 2 loaves a day except for the last two days when we got nothing. He cheated us and we could do nothing. This, we learned afterwards was the general thing in Stewards. I lost from 14 to 20 lbs in weight altho' I am now as hard as nails and I think the trip did me good.
We arrived at Salford the port of Manchester at 1 o'clock on Friday after having gone up the canal past Liverpool a distance of 35 miles. Salford is the wickedest looking place I ever saw and we lost no time in getting out of it to Manchester, two or 3 miles away. Manchester was a miserable sort of a place so we set out that night for Aberdeen. I have not seen a house yet here which is not made of grey granite. It is the most magnificent city, I was ever in. It is spotlessly clean. It is a very queer place very often the street will be on a level with the third story of the house and you will look over a fence and there away below is a bright little garden. I guess I will grow rather tired of the place for there is absolutely no lawn in sight, everything of that sort being behind the houses. There are blocks and blocks of lodging houses such as I am in when you [?] and home.
By the way, [Mullin & Lazier?]1 surprised me last night as I was getting undressed. They want a room in the same house, so we have a jolly party, a sitting room amongst two or three where meals are served. It is certainly very comfortable. Everything is spotlessly clean and the meals are cooked to a turn just as you get them at home. We will start work tomorrow. We have only a very little paper, so can only afford you this much.
With regard to my fellow-cattlemen they were the toughest men you could imagine. There was only one of them who had not served his turn in jail and they certainly looked it. On board ship a cattleman is looked upon as just a little lower than the stoker and you can imagine how low that is, so we certainly learned humility. However, those things are done with. I'm now feeling fine and ready for anything and would not sell my experience for the world.
Your loving brother
Tom [Thomas B. McQuesten]
1 These two words are very faint and we are not aware that Tom's friends "Mullin & Lazier" had also gone to Scotland, although they likely arrived on another ship. Tom does state that he was "surprised" by their visit.