Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Italy (ca. 1905-1906). Photo courtesy of Alice Faye Watts.

The vagaries of modern travel are nothing new. People a century ago would have empathized with today’s long lineups, last minute delays and lost baggage. Many of Glenbow’s former residents encountered challenges while travelling.

One of the most frightening incidents was endured by the Fitzgerald family, residents of Glenbow from 1905 to 1908. In October 1910, Mrs. Constance Violet Fitzgerald and her two children, four-year-old Aileen and not-quite-two-year-old Terence, were aboard the steam ship SS Royal George en route to Bristol, England. Two days out from Canadian shores, the coal in the hold shifted and the ship listed 45 degrees. The crew was unable to rectify the situation, so the ship spent four more days at that angle, until it reached England safely.

Travel adventures involving two sailors who became Glenbow quarry workers, Arthur Bottom and Tom Gillard, range from surprising to mundane. For instance, in 1905 or 1906, while they were serving as members of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, their ship was anchored twelve miles out to sea in the Bay of Naples. During the night, Mount Vesuvius — famous for its destruction of Pompeii — erupted and covered the ship in inches of ash.

On the other hand, Arthur also recorded more conventional trials. For instance, as he and Tom were sailing to Canada, they had trouble with their tickets for the connecting train journey. Tom was carrying the tickets and $50 CA in his pocketbook, which he tucked inside his shirt for safekeeping. In the middle of the night, when he went to the lavatory, he undid his belt and the pocketbook slid out of his shirt, down through the pipe, and into the sea. 

Irked by the loss, Arthur bought replacement train tickets when the ship docked at St. John’s, and the two men boarded the train to Montreal. Instead of placing the tickets in his money belt, which was securely fastened under his clothes, Arthur kept the tickets at hand to show the conductor when required. Distracted by his need to “take a walk,” Arthur stowed the tickets in his shirt, but soon found these tickets had also slipped away. Fortunately, as Arthur had noted the ticket numbers, the CPR officials were able to reissue the tickets so Arthur and Tom did not have to purchase the train tickets a third time. 

The hazards of travel in any era can be due to transportation quirks, acts of nature, or personal blunders. Fortunately, many of these risks can be avoided with careful planning. Check for updates to trail closures and weather forecasts, and dress appropriately for your next visit to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *