Letter from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary, 25 October 1903

From ArchivesWiki
Title: Letter from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary, 25 October 1903
Parent item: Collection of letters from T.H. Barker to his wife Mary (sort key: 2)
Storage location:
Authors: Thomas Henry Barker
Format and extent: 11 pages on 6 leaves. The last page is blank.
License: Public Domain Mark This work is free of known copyright restrictions.
Related people:
Related places:
Description: Handwritten. Letterhead: S.S. Shelter (Windsor Hotel crossed out).


Page 1

S.S. "Shelter"

Chemulpo, 25th Oct, 1903

My Dearest mary,

I have to use Montreal paper as I have no other so thin. We left Shanghai on the 21st & arrived here on the afternoon of the 23rd (Friday). We were threatened with quarantine, as there had been a death from cholera at Shanghai & one of our crew also died of heart disease on the way here. We were, however, only quarantined for an hour or two & I got on shore after dinner, in the dark, in a sampan rowed by 3 Coreans. We were ¾ hour in landing as we were lying 2 ¼ miles off shore.

Page break
Page 2

There were no Europeans about & I told a rickshaw man to take me to the club. After ½ hour's riding up & down hills in darkness he landed me at the French Mission. After another quarter hour's delay I reached the club at ¼ past 8 & found all the members dispersed to their homes for dinner. I left a note for Mr Lay, the British Consul & then took a rickshaw to the station and left for Seoul the Corean capital at 9pm. I arrived at Seoul about 10.30 p.m. & was met by the proprietor of the Hotel de Palmes (?) & had 20 minutes again in rickshaws before reaching the hotel, traversing desolate looking spaces, & passing thro' one of the great gates, somewhat like that of Pekin. It was cold & I had some hot milk and whisky & slept in the hotel annex. I rose at 6, had a sponge down & went out, finding myself at daylight in the Place de Palais, a most romantic square, with old palace gates & buildings gaily painted principally crimson and green. Hundreds of soldiers were being drilled & I was [illegible] 

Page break
Page 3

Reuben (a Russian) who had command of about 8,000. I had cafe au lait, & then set off in a rickshaw around the city, one of the most remarkable & picturesque in the world, situated in a basin in the mountains, which rise round it fantastically, some bare & some forested.

I saw some of the gates, the main street where rice was being sold in quantities & all kind of interesting local manufactures being carried on. I visited the marble pagoda & the great monolith, beautifully carved with 4 twisted dragons; afterwards the new park, which

Page break
Page 4

name cannot give you any idea of the appearance of the place. I toured the Japanese quarter & and then returned to the hotel to second dejeuner. Capt Kashurian (“Shalka”) had said I must be back at Chemulp'o at one o'clock to catch the steamer & therefore after dejeuner I raced off again to the British Legation to see Mr Jordan, the British Minister who was most cordial & wanted me to stay with him a day or two. His wife & children are in Europe, & he has a fine house. The Russian and French legations are still finer, with towers. We walked around the garden & I had a grand view from the pavilion, over Seoul & saw the old walls, crenellated like the Great Wall of China, running far away over the mountains around. I told him I was sorry I could not stay; I got to the station in plenty of time & had 2 hours most delightful ride back to Chemulp'o, crossing the beautiful blue river An on a splendid cantilever bridege. The form & colour of the landscape was superb, & the Coreans with

Page break
Page 5

their white dresses and black hats added to the scene of picuturesqueness working up to their knees in the paddy fields. The rice crop has just been gathered & they are preparing for another crop. The Corean rice is of high quality.

Mr Lay met me at the Chemulp'o station & took me to the Consulate to lunch: I met his wife & two beautiful children. The Consulate is splendidly situated overlooking the sea. When we got on the beach he had arranged for me to go on board the “Shalka” in the customs steam launch – we met Colonel & Mrs McDowell

Page break
Page 6

who were coming in to Port Arthur; also Col. Raaben and Mrs Raaben, also going to Tientsin, & others. I am now at the Captain's table wth the party, next to Raaben & opposite to Thackwell, so we have a polyglot conversation in English, French and Russian – I am learning a lot of Russian. The Captain, 1st officer (a delightful Russian!) and stewards & all taking an interest in helping me. I am better of the inflammation & we are all very merry in this beautiful climate & amidst such lovely scenery. After all the hurry yesterday, here we all are today (25th) at 11 o'clock still anchored waiting for the Russian Minister's despatch. We shall be guaranteed fairly short time at Port Arthur, but the time here will ?.

+ + + + + + + + +

It is now past 11 & lunchtime – I will complete this on voyage to P. Arthur; it is about 30 hours distant. We breakfast at 7, lunch at 11, afternoon tea 2, dinner 6 & finish with Russian tea at ½ past 8.

Russians most pleasant and friendly people.

Page break
Page 7

Off Port Arthur, 27th Oct 1903 11a.m.

Just after writing the forgoing on the 25th I went to lunch. The Minister's despatch did not arrive & after lunch, seeing one of the officers (Dimitri Glavinski, 2nd Officer) going on shore in a sampan, I jumped in & had a pleasant row to the beach. We went to the Agent's office (Mr Sabatin) & found he had wired the Russian Minister asking whether the steamer could go. He did not expect an answer for some time, so I went again to the Consulate & had afternoon tea with Mr & Mrs Lay, who showed me many Corean curiosities. At last the Minister wired we could proceed without his letters, which

Page break
Page 8

we had all been kept waiting 24 hours for. It was aggravating to think that I had lost the chance of spending 24 hours more at Seoul, such an interesting place. However at four we were underway & had a most delightful evening, a lovely sunset; the sky pale orange & the crescent moon throwing a delicate blue black line over the darker blue sea. I had never seen quite the same effect before. During the night a strong monsoon was blowing & yesterday we had a comfortless day in the Gulf of Corea. The vessel rolled frightfully & our things were pitched about & got wet. I had breakfast alone, & afterwards while righting my cabin threw it up & so took only Russian tea and biscuits (zukhari?) for lunch. The day was very cold & I went on deck in the afternoon & lay on a long chair wrapped in Russian blankets. I was the only passenger on deck. Madame Raaben was in terror; she thought the vessel was going to capsize. Thackwell never appeared & had his watch dashed about and broken. Only 4 of us sat down to dinner at ½ past 6 when the weather had moderated a little. I was very

Page break
Page 9

hungry, having had nothing but tea (chai) for twelve hours. I went to bed early & found the night very cold – I got up at 2am, turned on my electric lamp & learned Russian for an hour, then turned in again & had to put my overcoat over my knees. When I woke we were off Port Arthur, where we arre still as they won't allow us to land until tomorrow; They won't let us into the harbours. We can see part of the terrain within. The coasts without are covered with fortifications & barracks. Artillerymen are firing guns now from a plateau – not

Page break
Page 10

a tree is to be seen, nothing but hills, rocks & sand. Port Arthur is under the command of Admiral Alekseyev. Dalni, where we shall go tomorrow night, is under the command of railway government. I shall return to Port Arthur about 35 miles ?and sail for Chepoo? on the 29th or first thing on 30th. Two days after, I hope to be at Tientsai & the next day at Pekin. I shall therefore spend the 5 hours at Pekin & leave afterwards for ?Shanhackwan. I shall not be able to reach England until the end of Novermber so shall exceed my time by a fortnight; that must be laid to Chinese & Russian rules, especially Russian, who act eratically altho' nice enough as individuals.

They will not even allow our letters to be landed until tomorrow, nor were letters allowed to be brought off. Raaben was complaining. He and Mr Wallis (of Chemulp'o) & a young Russian, who speaks good English & is a graduate of Alexander 1st Institute, & a Frenchman, spend most of their time at “bridge”, Thackwell reads and talks, Mrs Thackwell sleeps, Madame Raaben sits about & I write and learn Russian.

Your loving husband Thos H Barker

Page break
Page 11

Off Port Arthur, 28th October 1903 10.30am

Here we are still waiting to be liberated from quarantine – the Russian officers do not rise until 11 am so I suppose Admiral Alexioff who controls our movements is still in bed. We hope to get ashore before noon & I shall take all my good on shore & go by rail to Dalni: there is no hotel fit to stay at in Port Arthur. I suppose I shall get away to Cheboo tomorrow. I hear the doctor is just coming on board so must close. I will post this on shore.

With best love to all Your affect. Husband, THB

Mrs TH Barker Liverpool England