The British Presence
in Southern Patagonia

++  George Wilson, to his brother Jack  ++
in Quelimane, Mozambique (1888)

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This letter is written by a young shepherd who has recently arrived in Punta Arenas, and been hired by Henry Reynard to work at Ea. Oazy Harbour. He writes to his older brother, who is working in Africa, telling him how well situated he is in Magallanes; and pleads with him to come, holding out visions of a healthy climate and quick riches.

Sandy Point,
Straits of Magellan,

Dear Jack,

I received a letter from Sissie which contained all the sad news of poor little Polly and Mamma. I can assure you I felt it very much - you may guess how I felt it - I grew that sick that if it had not been for my boss's son, because he saw me getting so white, he ran for a tumbler of cold water, which saved me from fainting; or otherwise, I would have fainted. However, I got over it and said to myself it was all done for the best, and you know we must all go some time sooner or later.

Now Jack, you know i'm an awful bad writer, speller and dictator, so I will write this in paragraphs, and I know it must be very bad when you won't be able to read it.

Now to begin, the last word I had from anyone belonging to me was from yourself, and that letter I received in Dunkirk all right, but could get no chance to go home as you wished me to do, and on the other hand I had no money to pay my passage and you can bet I wouldn't lay down on the streets and die, so I went into a boarding house and shipped in a full rigger bound for Philadelphia, which was a d---d hard packet, but you know I know the way to get along, so I got through it all right - when I arrived in Philadelphia, what could I do? no money; well, I went into another, "S. B. Hall". Now of all the hard ships I ever saw, heard or read about, this was the cock-crow, the Berlin; well, I shipped as an a.b. [able-bodied seaman, Ed.] in the great American ship Berlin, bound for San Francisco, but thank God it wasn't my luck to go that distance with her, for if I did I very likely would have got prison for no less than 5 years, but you see the more I travel the more I learn, if not by knowledge it's by experience and perseverance that I have got in cultivating an evil plot for a lot of idiots to perform - I need not say they were all idiots, because they done what I told them, but I being the only one on board or in the forecastle that had any gumption, so they all used me as their counsellor, and I may say the chief ring-leader at first. Now I may tell you the officers were all hard nuts, but it so happened that there was very few Dutchmen among us - however, the biggest crowd of us were men that neither feared God, devil, nor men, which was a good job too. Well Jack, I must cut this paragraph a little short by saying that it came to mutiny after we got 'round Cape Horn, and told the captain to put into a port or we would sink her and draw blood if he had to refuse, so the captain said the nearest port was the Falkland Islands - "all right then, put her in or by G-d" and so forth, you know the rest - I only wish you had to be with us, for I must say I enjoyed the fun from A.1. at Lloyds. However, when we got into port we were taken ashore and tried - the result was 14 days hard labour, which was only a sleep; after, he had to pay our passages across to Punta Arenas, where I am at present, so now you know how I got here.

Paragraph 2.

Now to tell you my plans. In the first place I'm a shepherd here at six pounds per month, and am engaged for a 12 months, which is not up until the 9th April '89, when I hope to have a little put together, but mind you I don't intend to go home then either, until I consider what I can do - Great God come out to me at once and I will get you a place along with me and you see - if you come at once we can make, or after you are in this country a wee while or you and me can put our heads together and get a sheep-farm of our own in no time. Jack I don't want you to waste any more time, as you know we are both getting old, and must look out for a kind of living respectfully too. The land is very cheap and so are the sheep, and considering everything, a fellow like you and me can get on like a house on fire, for I know some men here that started on mere nothing and are getting on A.1. For the great God that made us, lose no time in coming out to me. I suppose you can raise your passage money - if so drop me a note saying which mail to expect you, and I will take one of my own horses into the Colony at port for you. At present I have two young horses that I tamed myself I got them very cheap from a fellow that wanted the money. The short and long of it is that this country is the very best for anything and everything, and the like of you can make money flying at anything. Jack, if you were here along with me for two years, then we would be gentlemen, and one of us could go home for Cissie, and then we would be all together; you know we are orphans now, and must get a respectful livelihood for the sake of our parents and our name.

Now Jack, you know that East Africa is not at all healthy, and I hope you will consider your health a little, and consider me too - good God, if you were to die I would simply go to hell again, for what could I do? I would have no friend in the world except poor Cissie, and you can understand there is nothing for me at home now. You see, by the 19th day of March 1889 I come to be 21 years of age, and I think you are 26, so mind what I say, there is no time to be lost - come at once.

Paragraph 3.

Now to begin another, Jack, I'm strict teetotaller, and have been for nearly 18 months, which if you come out I don't intend to break, but if you don't I don't know what I shall do. At present I make every farthing a prisoner, and spend very little; the fact is I get the name of being the meanest fellow in the country, which I like, so you come and then we will both act the same, which will be awful nice, because the fellows that are here all drink and spend their money, and never get out of the bit which I can't see through. There are two of us in one house and I have a fine chum which is a canny Scotchman, from him I learned all my good qualities that I have now - his name is Robert Grant, and a very nice sensible fellow, so now I'll live in hopes 'till I get an answer from you. Remember Jack, my boss thinks a great deal of me, which I watch and work to the best of my abilities for - so, when you write, write awful good, [an] envelope anyhow. So I will conclude wishing you a happy Xmas and a merry New Year, Good Night Jack. S.S.P.D. [?] you used to say to Miss. J. Banningtoyne [Banningtyne?].

I am your affectionate bro:
George [Wilson]

My address
C/O H. L. Reynard Esq.,
Punta Arenas,
Strait of Magellan,
South America.

I can speak the Spanish pretty well now, and can do almost anything under the sun, Jack. Write to me by return of mail.

Source: Reynard family papers
Thanks: Robert Lemaire
Page created: 30-XI-2013
Last updated: 2-XII-2013