Here are some things my brother wrote in his diary about our trip [Courtesy Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon]:
Monday, March 30th/03: At last we are off & fairly on the briny. After three months of planning, struggling, squabbling & working we are off. This Canadian idea was fathers. He came home from Hull one night with a bundle of papers he had had lent on the subject & was full of it… For a few years Father has wanted to get away from the worry & fuss of a commercial traveller’s life & now he has got what he wanted. Of course when he talked about the advantages of Canada we all talked about its disadvantages till he got wild & said we were trying to damp him. My goodness, Dad and Mam had some fearful rows before she finally agreed to come! [I didn’t put them all in the book]. I was on Dad’s side from the beginning. I really wanted to come!
We slept overnight at Liverpool, my first time ever in a boarding house! The next morning it took forever to finally board our ship, the Lake Manitoba: Tuesday, March 31: By 8:30 we are on the landing stage & find that we are not the first by about a thousand. Already there are three of the great Liverpool lorries filled with baggage of all sorts & conditions, all labelled “St. John NB”. On making inquiries we found that the Manitoba would not come alongside until 10 o’clock as she would have to wait until the tide was high enough. The landing stage is gradually becoming more crowded & there are four more great waggons of baggage and now it makes me shudder when I think of ours & I wonder whether it is at the bottom of one of those loads. Ten o’clock comes but the Manitoba does not budge & finally gets alongside about 11:30. After the luggage is put on board the passengers start to crowd on to her all by one gangway. The crush is something tremendous. I was terrified in that crush of grown-ups. I don’t think anyone even knew I was there. Except for Frank, of course. He had his hand wrapped around my wrist, pulling me forward. I would have been trampled if it wasn’t for Frank.
Poor Frank got seasick the very first day at sea. So did Lydia. People even heaved on deck. The smell was simply AWFUL! Wednesday, April 1: By this time sickness is the general rule & as we get into the Atlantic & the ship begins to roll I begin to feel queer & am not able to eat any tea. I am glad to slide into my berth at a very early hour.
Thursday, April 2: This day can be described in one sentence – seasickness & nowt to eat. Dad and Mam were too sick to get out of bed. They were too sick to even notice what I was doing, so I made my own choices.
The next day Frank was feeling better and started noticing his bunk mates in steerage, including the PUPPIES! Friday, April 3: People are still seasick, heaving and retching all over the ship, but many are like myself, getting over it. Some have never been bad at all & have been singing & carrying on every night. I find that they are not such a bad lot in our place after all. They are a bit rough but very genial & good tempered. In one of the bunks opposite to mine is a chap with a basket with two retriever pups in, a few weeks old & the little devils have been screaming & yelping all night.
Saturday, April 4: Now everyone in steerage was eating again. Got up just in time for a wash & then a good breakfast of porridge & corned beef & bread. I think this is the first morning that all in our quarters have been up for breakfast… There seems to be very little else to do here but eat. As soon as breakfast is over you will see a small crowd around the Bill of Fare looking at what they are going to have for dinner. Then quite an hour before dinner they are sat in their places waiting.
Sunday, April 5: We had a splendid dinner today. Pea soup, roast beef, potatoes & peas & plum pudding 7 sauce. The complaints about the food have been completely knocked on the head today for I’ll be bound that today’s dinner has been a good deal better than at least half the people on board have been used to. I didn’t know people were complaining about the food. I thought all the food was good.
Frank said the men in steerage were getting bored, with nothing to do but play cards. [I was never bored, between exploring with Victor and babysitting Rose.] Tuesday, April 6: After breakfast I just mooned about until dinnertime. I am just about sick of the life here & shall be glad when we get to Saskatoon & can start to work. The time passes so slowly.
Wednesday, April 8: There was a fight in our quarters tonight & when they had finished a chap dropped down in a fit & they had to fetch the doctor out of his bed to him. The doctor had only just gone when a fellow who had been drinking in the saloon smoke room rolled from the top of the stairs to the bottom. It’s a good thing Mam wasn’t around when Frank told us about it. It sounded dreadful to me but Victor was miffed that he missed the action.
Friday, April 10: People were still angry at Mr. Barr and didn’t trust him anymore. As Frank said: It has been announced today that Mr. Barr is having 8000 loaves of bread baked & he is going to sell them at 2 1/2 pence each, he calls this his cost price but the old rogue is trying to make some money out of us.
Sunday, April 12: EASTER SUNDAY and we were in the harbour at Saint John. Frank described going ashore to buy food. There was only one shop open & this was simply besieged. When the first lot went to buy, cheese was 18 cents a pound & before night it reached the magnificent price of 45 cents, or one shilling & a halfpenny per pound. I got half a dozen apples at 15 cents per doz. & a pound of dates at 15 cents for it.