Arthur Bottom

Arthur Bottom (L) and Tom Gillard (R) in Malta, (ca. 1896 – 1907).
Photo courtesy of Alice Faye Watts.

Prior to the invention of commercial passenger planes, the only option for intercontinental travel was by ship. For many of Glenbow’s former residents, their ocean crossing to Canada was a rare, perhaps unique, event. However, Arthur Bottom sailed the world for nine years before he gave up his seafaring lifestyle and came to Glenbow.

At the age of 15 years, in 1896, Arthur joined Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. From his training on the HMS Chatham in the Thames River, he went on to cruise the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. Although he visited exotic locales, most of his time was spent below decks, as a stoker, shovelling coal into the furnace of the ship’s steam engines.

Despite his gruelling daily labour, Arthur was dedicated to the Navy. His journal includes poems, one of which he seems to have composed himself, that honour military service. His proudest moment was being chosen for the Royal Naval Guard that lined the route of Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901.

When he was 24 years old, three years before the end of his twelve-year term of service, Arthur bought early releases for himself and his friend, Tom. Tempted by advertisements for the land of golden opportunity, these young sailors immigrated to Canada and soon became Albertan homesteaders. Although the land was effectively free, farming it required money for supplies and equipment. 

To earn cash, Arthur and Tom sought work at Glenbow Quarry, where Arthur operated a derrick. Eventually, eight years after leaving the Navy, Arthur met the girl of his dreams. She was the sister of Tom’s wife, Ethel (a former Glenbow governess). Arthur married Alice Hughes in 1915 and they spent the next 60 years together.

Exchanging the expanse of rolling oceans for a horizon of waving grain ultimately brought Arthur the enduring happiness of family. For Arthur, Glenbow played a key part in life’s journey. Today, a trip through the lovely Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park continues to bring joy to visitors, both local and from overseas.

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