Donald and Isabella had not been well over the winter and of all the things they could do to improve their health, felt an ocean voyage would be the cure. Hopefully the salt air and a good long rest would improve their appetites.
In 1900, Donald Sutherland, my great grandfather, his sister Isabella Sutherland Rae and sister-in-law Jessie Johnston Sutherland traveled to New York from Toronto and sailed from there to Scotland aboard the Laurentian, a steamship of the Allen Line.
Food was not available twenty-four hours a day, as on a cruise ship today, but was plentiful and varied. Breakfast was porridge with fresh milk or maple syrup, Loch Fyne herring, or beefsteak and onions. Lunch, the main meal was roast veal with lemon sauce or roast goose with apple sauce along with potatoes, parsnips and sweets for dessert. Supper was lighter, with cold meats, preserved salmon, finnan haddie, not our family favourite, breads, cheese and jam.1 Donald wrote, “We had a fine sail for about four days and the rest of the voyage was not very fine but for the pitching and rolling and heaving we had yet none of us three were sea sick long enough to miss our meals.”2 I love this quote as it captures some of the essence of his character. I can just see them struggling up the stairs, not wanting to miss a meal they had paid for and hoped would improve their health.
Donald and Isabella were born in Canada to William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. Jessie Johnston was born in Scotland and came to Canada as a child. She was married to William, Donald and Isabella’s older brother. They arrived in Glasgow and then went on to Edinburgh where Jessie was born. They had a wonderful time touring the area and Jessie remembered many landmarks from her childhood, including of course the castle.
The Sutherland’s father William, was from Tongue, in the very north of Scotland. He had left for Canada in 1845 and never went back. Isabella’s mother-in-law Hughina Sutherland Rae, who was also her father William’s sister, was still living in Tongue at the time, but they didn’t visit. I always thought this strange because as far as I know they had never even met. Here they were so close in distance, but when they had the choice of a trip north to Tongue or down to London, London won out! They couldn’t do both without more expense and time than they had available.
Donald had a book store in Toronto, Sutherland’s Dominion Book Store and was very interested in visiting the London book sellers. He wanted to spend time among the books. That city impressed them all and they would have loved to stay longer to see more.
On arriving back in Canada they figured the trip was a great success as they were all in good health and had gained weight. “However I got the benefit of the trip as I expected and I feel a great deal better now than I have been for a long time. I have gained over 9 lbs. after I got home and am still gaining.”3
They had great tales to tell of their trip and the funniest thing that happened in Dublin, but unfortunately these stories were to be told in person and were not put to paper.
2Letter from Donald Sutherland to his McIntosh Cousins. Dec 17, 1900. Original donated by Carol McIntosh Small to the Bruce County Historical Society.