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- Canada and the States - 6/71 -


"If your readers will refer to the map they will see, outside the north-west corner of the mainland of Ireland, Tory Island. It was on Tory Island that 'The Wasp' and her gallant captain were lost, without hope of rescue, for want of cable communication; and Tory Island itself has excited the interest of the philanthropist on many occasions. On Tory Island there is a lighthouse, with a fixed light, which can be seen sixteen miles. Not long ago, as I learn, a deputation from the Board of Irish Lighthouses went all the way to England to beg the Board of Trade, at Whitehall, to sanction the expenditure of eight hundred pounds, with a view to double the power of the light on Tory Island. Perhaps the Board of Trade, after some interval of time, may see their way to do what any man of business would decide upon in five minutes as obvious and essential. But that is not the point I wish to lay before you. My point is, that while the lighthouse on Tory Island is good for warning ships, and may, as above, be made more effective, no use is made of it in the way of transmitting ship intelligence.

"I ask, therefore, to be allowed to advocate the connection of Tory Island, by telegraph cable, with the mainland of Ireland and its telegraph system. The cost of doing this one way would, as I estimate, be two thousand five hundred pounds; the cost of doing it another way would be about six thousand pounds.

"The first way would be by a cable from the lighthouse on Tory Island, leaving either Portdoon Bay, on the east end of Tory Island, or leaving Camusmore Bay on the south of it, and landing either on the sandy beach at Drumnafinny Point, or at Tramore Bay, where there is a similarly favourable beach. The distance in the former case is six and a half, in the latter seven and a half miles, the distance being slightly affected by the starting point selected. Adopting this route at a cost of two thousand five hundred pounds, which would include about twenty miles of cheap land telegraphs, available for postal and other local purposes, would be the shortest and cheapest mode.

"The second way would be to lay a cable from Tory Island to Malin Head, where the Allan Steamship Company have a signal station. The distance is twenty-nine miles; the cost, as I estimate, about six thousand pounds. I should, however, prefer the former and cheaper plan, as I think it would serve a larger number of purposes and interests.

"From Portdoon Bay, on Tory Island, to Tramore Bay the sea-bottom is composed of sand and shells, very good for cable-laying; and there is a depth of water of from seventeen to nineteen fathoms.

"Tory Island is the turning point--I might say pivot point--for all steam and sailing vessels coming from the South and across the Western Ocean, and using the North of Ireland route for Liverpool, Londonderry, Belfast, Glasgow, and a host of other ports and places. It can be approached with safety at a distance of half-a-mile, near the lighthouse, as the water is deep close to, there being twenty fathoms at a distance of one-third of a mile from the Island.

"The steamers of all the Canadian lines pass this point--the Allan, the Beaver, the Anchor, the Dominion--while all the steam lines beginning and ending at Glasgow, Greenock, and other Scotch ports do the same. Again, all sailing vessels, carrying a great commerce for Liverpool and ports up to Greenock and Glasgow, and round the north of Scotland to Newcastle and the East Coast ports, would be largely served by this proposal. Repeating that this is a question of saving life and of aiding navigation at an infinitesimal cost, I will now proceed to show the various benefits involved.

"First of all it would save five hours, as compared with present plans, in signalling information of the passing to and fro of steamships. As respect all Canadian and many other steamers it would also expedite the mails, by enabling the steam tenders at Loch Foyle to come out and meet the ships outside at Innishowen Head; and this gain of time would often save a tide across the bar at Liverpool, and sometimes a day to the passengers going on by trains. As respects the Scotch steamers going north of Tory Island, it would enable the owners to learn the whereabouts of their vessels fourteen hours sooner than at present. In the case of sailing ships the advantages are far greater. Captain Smith, of this ship, a commander of deserved eminence, informs me that he has known sailing ships to be tacking about at the entrance of the Channel, between the Mull of Cantyre and the north coast of Ireland, for eighteen days in adverse and dangerous winds, unable to communicate with their owners, who, if informed by telegraph, could at once send tugs to their relief. Again, when eastern winds prevail, in the spring of the year, tugs being sent, owners would get their ships into port many days, or even weeks, sooner than at present.

"But it needs no arguing that to all windbound and to disabled ships the means of thus calling for assistance would be invaluable.

"For the above reason I hope the slight cost involved will not be grudged, especially by our patriots, who have taken the Irish and Scotch emigrants under their special protection. I respectfully invite them and every one else to aid in protecting life and property in this obvious way.

"I am, Sir, your obedient Servant, "E. W. WATKIN. "S.S. Sardinian, off Belle Isle, "_September_ 9, 1886."

Our voyage on to Quebec had the usual changes of weather: hot sun, cold winds, snow, hail, icebergs, and gales of wind, and, when nearing Belle Isle, dense fog, inducing our able, but prudent, captain to stop his engines till daylight, when was sighted a wall of ice across our track at no great distance. Captain Smith prefers to take the north side of Belle Isle. There is a lighthouse on the Island, not, I thought, in a very good situation for passing on the north side. But I found that there was no cable communication between Belle Isle and Anticosti. Thus, in case of disaster, the only warning to Quebec would be the non- arrival of the ship, and the delay might make help too late. I ventured to call the attention of a leading member of the Canadian Government to this want of means of sending intelligence of passing ships and ships in distress. In winter this strait is closed by ice, and the lighthouses are closed too. Inside the fine inlet of "Amour Bay," a natural dock, safe and extensive, we saw the masts of a French man-of- war. The French always protect their fishermen; we at home usually let them take care of themselves. This French ship had been in these English waters some time; and on a recent passage there was gun-firing, and the movement of men, to celebrate, as the captain learned, the taking of the Bastille. On the opposite coast is a little cove, in which a British ship got ashore, and was stripped by the local pirates of everything. Captain Smith took off the crew and reported the piracy; but nothing seems to have been done. A British war-ship is never seen in these distant and desolate northern regions. It may well be that the sparse population think all the coasts still belong to France, in addition to the Isles of St. Pierre and Miquelon. This is how our navy is managed. Can it be true that the Marquis of Lorne recommended that an ironclad should be sent to Montreal for a season, as an emblem of British power and sway--and was refused?

After some trouble with fog and wind, preceded by a most remarkable Aurora Borealis, and some delay at night at Rimouska, we reached Quebec, and got alongside at Point Levi, on the afternoon of Saturday, the 11th September; and I had great pleasure in meeting my old friend Mr. Hickson, who came down to meet Mrs. Hickson and his son and daughter, fellow-passengers of mine. I also at once recognized Dr. Rowand, the able medical officer of the Port of Quebec, who I had not set eyes on for twenty-four years. I stayed the night at Russell's Hotel; and next day renewed my acquaintance with the city, finding the "Platform" wonderfully enlarged and improved, the work of Lord Dufferin, a new and magnificent Courthouse being built, and, above all, an immense structure of blue-grey stone, intended for the future Parliament House of the Province of Quebec. The facility of borrowing money in England on mere provincial, or town, security, appears to be a Godsend to architects and builders, and to aid and exalt local ambition for fine, permanent structures. Well, the buildings remain. To find the grand old fortifications of Quebec in charge of a handful of Canadian troops, seemed strange. Such fortresses belong to the Empire; and the Queen's redcoats should hold them all round the world. I was told--I hope it is not true--that the extensive works above Point Levi, opposite Quebec, constructed by British military labour, are practically abandoned to decay and weeds.

CHAPTER III.

_To the Pacific--Montreal to Port Moody_.

On the evening of the 12th September I left Quebec by the train for Montreal, and travelled over the "North Shore" line of 200 miles. One of the secretaries of the Vice-President of the Canadian Pacific, Mr. Van Horn, called upon me to say that accommodation was reserved for me in the train; and that Mr. Van Horn was sending down his own car, which would meet me half way. It was no use protesting against the non- necessity of such luxurious treatment. I was further asked, if I had "got transportion?" which puzzled me. But I found, being interpreted, the question was modern American for "Have you got your through ticket?" I replied, that I had paid my fare right through from Liverpool to Vancouver's Island--as every mere traveller for his own pleasure ought to do; and I was remonstrated with for so unkind a proceeding, as the fact of my having been President of the Grand Trunk was of itself a passport all over Canada.

At Three Rivers, about half way, while reading by very good light--good lamp, excellent oil, very good trimming--there was some shunting of the train, and the usual "bang" of the attachment of a carriage. A moment afterwards Mr. Van Horn's car steward entered, and asked if I was Sir Edward Watkin; and he guessed I must come into Mr. Van Horn's car, sent specially down for me. Where was my baggage? I need not say that I was soon removed from the little, beautifully-fitted, drawing-room into this magnificent car. In passing through, I heard some growls, in French, about stopping the train, and sending a car for one "Anglais." So, on being settled in the new premises, I sent my compliments, stating that I only required one seat, and that I was certain that the car was intended for the general convenience, and would they do me the favour to finish their journey in it? I received very polite replies, stating that every one was very comfortable where he was. One Englishman, however, came in to make my acquaintance, but left me soon. I now became acquainted with Mr. Van Horn's car steward--James French, or, as his admirers call him, "Jim"--and I certainly wish to express my gratitude to him for his intelligence, thoughtfulness, admirable cookery, and general good nature. He took me, a few days later, right across to the Pacific in this same car, which certainly was a complete house on wheels--bedroom, "parlour, kitchen and all." His first practical suggestion was, would I take a little of Mr. Van Horn's "old Bourbon" whisky? It was "very fine, first rate." On my assenting, he asked would I take it "straight," as Mr. Van Horn did, or would I have a little seltzer water? I elected the latter, at the same time observing, that when I neared the Rocky Mountains perhaps I should have


Canada and the States - 6/71

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