Box 6 Files 4-10
Dear Miss O’Reilly
Many thanks for your letter which I received about a fortnight ago at Jeddah. I did’nt answer from there as I was there under peculiar and very unentertaining circumstances. The plague broke out at Jeddah during the time of the pilgrimmage to Mecca, so they tried to isolate the place & land the pilgrims somewhere else. The people of Jeddah make their annual incomes by fleecing the pilgrims and finding themselves unable to do so, they threatened to make disturbances, & our consul wired for a man-of-war. I had the proud position of being sent to the plague-stricken city, with orders not to communicate unless absolutely necessary – so there I lay two miles from the town for 3 weeks on salt grub and running short of biscuit, I had to come over here to get some. returning to Jeddah in a day or two . They wanted to prevent my having quarantine here, but I represented to the Sanitary Board in Alexandria that I should never be able to land at all if it was enforced, and managed to get a special dispensation for my ship. I am entirely dependent on the Consul as to when I can get away, & having once got hold of me, he will hang on to me as long as he possibly can. It is a miserable life to be living, and the heat is getting atrocious. but as you remarked in your letter “sailors do get dreadfully spoilt”, I suppose its alright, only I dont see where the spoiling comes in. I did’nt write letters from Jeddah, as they would arrive at their destinations brown with fumigating and stabbed through, and people look at them with suspicion, & burn them at once and think they would sooner not have handled them at all. Many thanks for “one of the broken brigade”, and please excuse me for calling it a tissue of unmitigated rot. You will have read all about the battle on the “Atbara” I was detained at Suskin some time before as they did’nt know what direction the Deroishes were making for, and some thought this way to raid the crops at Tokar so we sent out & got them in. Two hundred Dervish prisoners, fugitives from the battle, arrived here today. a [?] looking lot. they are going on to Cairo to be drafted in to Soudanese regiments, & fight on the other side for a change. It was funny to watch, first they were all driven in to the sea to wash themselves then they were put in to lines of 50, and made to put on old suits of soldiers’ clothes, boots which must be hurting them like [?], & red fezzes on their heads where nothing but a turban has ever been before. However they seemed quite interested, and some of them grinning away.
After being fallen in two deep, the first bit of drill they had ever done, they were marched on board the streamer which takes them, and this letter, to Suez.
I hope you will have an enjoyable summer. Does the Spanish American was affect B.C. at all? It was a pity they could’nt find a way out of it without fighting. I’m afraid I cannot be promoted in June. Thought I slaved pretty hard at the Admiralty, one is not allowed to count a minute of the time. so have to get in all my sea time, & unless they alter or stretch the regulations in my favour, I cannot be promoted till June year. it looks a long and weary time and may even be longer than that. Anyhow I am too old for it to be any good to me, so I often think “why so foolish as to go on with this kind of existence” . I hope all your people are well please remember me to them, also to Mrs. Master when you see her. Hoping some of Klondike is coming your way. Ever yrs sincerely
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This collection of letters has been digitized from an earlier transcription project and is for informational purposes only. This transcription has not been verified against the originals. Researchers interested in these letters should consult the original documents housed at the BC Archives.