Travels of Charles Arthur Sankey

a letter written to his daughter Nora ca.1940

Our home was near the village of Brookboro Carmanagh known as Lurganbrae. Nearly every year in July I was taken to Bundoran on Donegal Bay, seeing Sligo, Ballyshannon & Belleek (where the china is made) on the railway near Enniskillin.

When near eleven years old (spring 1876) my father died and I went to Kingston via Dublin thence with my Uncle Ian William Sankey C.B. by steamer to Holly Head Wales and train to Euston Square London. At Charing Cross station I took train & bus to Brompton and stayed a few days at Brompton Military Barracks with my cousin Harry Sankey (Royal Engineers). Taking train to Dover & boat to Calais France, by train to Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt & Darmstadt South Germany. I stayed here with my uncle's family till end of June 1876.

Having decided to go to sea in Merchant Service, I came back with a party of lady friends via Frankfurt, Cologne & Hastings taking boat to Gravesend. Train to Victoria station caught train at Willesden Junction for Holly Head & boat to North Wall Dublin and train to Kingstown where my mother & family had moved to.

August I left Kingstown via Dublin North Wall steamer for Liverpool via Holly Head, Birkenhead and later by ferry boat to join H.M.S.Conway at Rock Ferry where I stayed till Christmas then back to Kingstown via Chester, Holly Head and steamboat. This trip was repeated half yearly til June 1878 when I finished my term and got my certificate for Navigation & Seamanship. I remained at Kingstown till the following summer except for a few months I spent with cousins (Abbotts) at Sheelagh Co.Wicklow on a farm.

In May 1879 I travelled to London & Woolwich where my Uncle William was residing on Shooters Hill. I was expecting to join the White Adder one of John Willis' ships lying in SW India Docks; I was changed to Barque Fantasie bound for Sidney New South Wales where after a very stormy time in the southern sea we arrived end of July. After discharging cargo (mostly exhibition goods) we loaded with coal and had a fair passage to Shanghai China, discharging the coal to the Chinese arsenal. We then loaded with rice for Canton, passing through the Formosa Channel to Hong Kong where we got a steam trip to take us to Whampoa (the port of Canton). We were here for Christmas 1879 then loaded a cargo of cassia oil and cane for London. With a fair wind down the China seas we negotiated Gaspar Strait, Java Sea and Sunda straits without any difficulties; out into the Indian Ocean & a nice ride to the Cape where a three days blow held us up. Rounding the Cape & up the South Atlantic. Across the line we met heavy weather in North Atlantic, later a fair wind took us up the Channel to London on a Sunday afternoon in May 1880.

On the following Friday I was on board the Cutty Sark in Cardiff Roads Wales, taking train from Paddington Station via Bristol & Penarth. Outward bound for Sunda straits (Auger) for orders with a cargo of best Welsh coal and a badly mixed crew the sailing was anything but pleasant and sails were cracked on for speed whenever possible. North & South Atlantic & South Indian Ocean were negotiated. Near the island of St. Paul in a dispute the mate killed a darky sailor. At Auger the mate escaped to another ship. We got our orders to proceed to Yokohama Japan with our coal for the American fleet. In the Java Sea our Captain jumped overboard & was drowned. We put back to Auger & got orders to go to Singapore where we sailed through the Sunda Straits. Discharging our coal we took on ballast, got another captain & 1st mate, then sailed up the Malacca Straits to Hoogley River & up to Calcutta.

Had Christmas here & lay at moorings five months, then got a cargo mostly tea for Melbourne & Sidney. Down the Indian Ocean and sailing along south of Australia arrived at Port Phillip Bay & thence to Sandridge (port of Melbourne). Ten days stay and then down the Bay & heading east through Bass Straits to Sidney. Another coal cargo, then north to Shanghai sailing between the Solomon Islands & Carolines.

Arriving at Shanghai we unloaded cargo, had an outbreak of Asiatic cholera & lost four of our men. We took ballast and went over to Philippine Islands, staying about 2 months at Cebu Island getting a cargo of manilla fibre for rope making for New York. Leaving about December 1st 1881 going north & then west through the Sulu Sea & Beltac Straits, Gaspar Straits, Java Sea, Sunda Straits, in Indian Ocean Jan 1st 1882. With fair winds we made round the Cape sighting Capetown, & then up South Atlantic sighting St. Helena. Got very short of provisions and had to get some supplies from a French & later a German ship, crossed the Line, got some more supplies from H.M.S.Thalia in North Atlantic & later made New York, leaving the Cutty Sark at that point.

Taking train at Jersey City for Niagara Falls then next day made Toronto where my mother and the family had come to after I went to sea. I did some sailing in small yachts & deciding to go to the West where a big migration was moving, end of May took train for Winnipeg via Chicago & Minnesota. The CPR was being built & I got to Brandon, taking a buggy to Plum Creek (Souris) then on to Turtle Mountain via old Deloraine to Whitewater June 1882. I lived with my brothers who had previously come out and had taken up homesteads on farms for two years and there obtained a homestead by entering for an abandoned townsite. There I lived working the farm till 1892.

Disposing of the farm & stock I went to Toronto & joined the Ontario Veterinary College. Following spring I went to Tonawanda New York State with a Dr. Wende. August 1992 I took a trip on the lakes steering a lumber barge up the upper Niagara River, Lake Erie, Lake St.Claire, Lake Huron & Superior from the St.Mary River to Duluth. Loading lumber came back down Superior and Lake Michigan to Chicago, unloading here then went to Minnominie on Green Bay, got a cargo of lumber back to Tonawanda. Winter in Toronto at College then in spring went to Prescott on St.Lawrence. 1895 I moved to Lowville northern New York State where I practised & inspected cattle for interstate shipments. 1898, I came back to Boissevain to look after some business. That fall went with my mother to Santa Barbara California via CPR to Mission Junction BC then south to Seattle, Portland, Coast Range to Oakland & on via Southern Pacific to Santa Barbara 1898.

Spring 1899 went north with a party of American miners to Atlin BC via steamer to San Francisco, rail to Seattle, boat to Victoria staying there 3 weeks, then north by steamer loaded with miners through Queen Charlotte Sound, Wrangell, Juneau to Skagway. Took train up to top of White Pass and then on foot with hand sleighs loaded with provisions & took to Log Cabin, Otter Lake, Bennett & Atlin Lake, getting on a claim on Spruce Creek & working others. I stayed here till October 1899. Came back by boat to Victoria then to Vancouver & home to Boissevain.

The CPR was extending their line from Deloraine to Waskada so I decided to go there & open a lumber business and except for trips to Ontario, Winnipeg & Lake Winnipeg & Norway House I have lived here since, apparently having finished my long distance excursions by sea, land and air (yes I have been up there too), and turned my hand to many occupations during the last 40 years.