James Victor Hamilton





I was treated most kindly and considerately in Raphoe and very happy in the business and social life of the place. I made many friends, whose friendship lasted throughout the years; a very special friend was Thomas Hamilton of Raphoe.

In William Porter's house, besides himself there was Walker McCleary, a very lovable and good elderly man and John Moffit, about my own age, who, I am glad to say, after a successful business life in Raphoe, still survives.

A constant daily visitor in the house was Samuel Carson, "Mr Sam", a man of ample means, a bachelor, intelligent and genial, very friendly and considerate towards us boys, an uncle of Mrs MacDermott of Belmont. [JVH NOTE: She was the wife of the Very Rev. John MacDermott and mother of Lord MacDermott j

In the dining-room - which was indeed the principal living-room - in the winter evenings, many topics were discussed by the other members of the household, all men of independent minds; acute but friendly differences of opinion often emerged. These discussions on political, social and religious subjects did much to stimulate thought on the part of us younger people; as the moral and religious tone was always high, the influence was moulding and salutary.

Indeed, William Porter's shop was a sort of rendezvous for many local men of many opinions. Protestants and Catholics - especially the men who read and were interested in the affairs of the day - foregathered there from time to time. The outstanding events of the day, things political and religious were discussed and often with considerable warmth. But while there was often wide and heated divergence of opinion and sometimes an abrupt parting, there was no personal antipathy, and one could see that there was always a deep underground of respect and indeed affection for William Porter.

Coolaghy was within a mile of Raphoe, and I spent many happy times there. Mr and Mrs William Hamilton were both exceedingly kind to me. Henry [the future Sir Henry], James and Thomas were near my own age; Jane, a very attractive girl, was only a little older, and as I was allowed to go to Coolaghy frequently in the afternoons and evenings, sometimes to stay for the night, the hours spent there - in one of the most hospitable of houses - were always exhilarating and delightful. [JVH NOTE: William, father of Sir Henry, was a son of William of Gortaquigly (c.1730-1812) by his second wife ne Henderson; the latter William, as we have seen, was a son of Henry of Gortaquigly (b. ca 1700) by his 1 st wife (name unknown)]

In those days, many young people in all grades of society emigrated to Canada, the United States of America, Australia, etc. I sometimes expressed the wish to go somewhere, but my mother was so emphatic in opposing the idea that I gave it up.

However, one Saturday evening, when I came home from Raphoe, I was told that Willie Scott, a distant cousin of ours, son of the Rev William Scott of Newtowncunningham, was going to America to an uncle, I think in Ohio, in a few weeks. [JVH NOTE: Rev. William Scott was the first minister of Newtowncunningham: he was there from 1830 till his death in 1880.] I said, half in fun, half in earnest, that I wished I was going with him. My mother took the matter quite seriously, in such a way that I at once thought it might be possible to get her consent, and before bedtime it was decided that I would get ready and go with my friend.



After getting released from Raphoe, William Porter kindly giving his consent, (he gave me 5 also), and a few weeks of hurried preparations, on 26th March, 1868, I left Trentagh, stayed all night with my brothers in Derry and sailed the next morning from Moville in the good ship Hibernia of the Anchor Line for New York.

During the first twenty-four hours, going round the Donegal coast, we had extremely rough weather, and I had a rough time, indeed had the feeling that if back home again I would give no more trouble about wanting to cross the Atlantic or any other sea. However, I soon got over the horrible sickness and after a day or two enjoyed four or five meals a day for the rest of the journey.

It was a long and tedious journey of seventeen days, head winds retarding us all the way - these were the days when we had both sail and steam.

The Hibernia foundered off the coast of Ireland on her homeward journey the following year.

When I returned to New York in 1875, I sailed from Queenstown in the Inman Steamer, City of Richmond; we made the quickest passage yet made across the Atlantic - seven days and some hours, but a fortnight afterwards the record was beaten by the City of Paris of the same line.

In 1875 our captain was laid up all the time and the first officer was in command. One morning when we got up we were surrounded by magnificent icebergs, and had been all night. But as there was the promise of a record trip, risks - and many of them - were taken. One of our passengers had a remarkable experience that night. He knew nothing of the icebergs, but had an intense sense of danger and could not sleep, but was praying for the safety of our ship all night.

In going to New York in 1868, I had three letters of introduction - one from the Rev. Dr. Denham of [Great James Street,] Derry to the Rev. Dr. John Hall of 5th Avenue Church, New York; one to the New York Y.M.C.A. from the secretary in Derry; and one from Mr Chittick of Manorcunningham to his son Gervais Chittick of New York. I delivered the last-mentioned first and the second day after I landed in New York was taken by Mr Chittick to A.T. Stewart's retail dry goods store in Broadway and was engaged and entered work at once. Shortly afterwards I went to the Y.M.C.A. and found Mr McBurney, an Irishman, very kind, and enjoyed and I believe got much benefit by attending the rooms of the Y.M.C.A. Later on, I delivered the letter to Dr. Hall, to whose ministry I owe much.

I did not remain long in Stewart's, but engaged with Alec Field, who had a small store off the Bowery.

At that time a new store was started in the Bowery, two Englishmen, Sugden and Bradbury being the proprietors, and Field's being a very third-rate place, I got engaged with them. They did a good class of business and treated me very well. But in the autumn I got a chance of entering A.T. Stewart's wholesale place and engaged there. I was not long there when the head of the department came to me and told me that Menkin Bros, the largest dry goods house in Memphis, Tennessee, wanted a salesman and that he would recommend me if I would go. The salary was $100 per month, much more than I was getting, and I engaged to go south.

The Menkins were Jews, but were gentlemen and most considerate and kind to me. I was there about 10 months when I contracted smallpox and was in hospital several weeks, and when able to leave the hospital, being much enfeebled in strength, I determined to come home to Ireland for the summer months. I returned to New York in September, and for a time was selling goods on commission. This was the most trying time in my business experience. Business was very precarious and sometimes my funds were at a low ebb. Subsequently I returned to Sugden and Bradbury's, where I remained till the following June. This really terminated my business career.

In the summer of 1869, my first holiday, I went to see my relatives in Montreal - Aunt Gault [Mary Gault, wife of Leslie Gault of Strabane and Montreal], my father's sister and her family. My father wished me, when leaving home at first, to go to these relations, with whom we had always kept in touch, Emma and Frederic Gault when in England often visiting Trentagh. [JVH NOTE: Emma and Frederic were two of the children of Mary and Leslie Gault; Emma married Sam Finley and their children were Mrs Wright, Mrs Adams and Gretta (Margretta) Finley (who died 27/10/1952).] I told my father I preferred to be independent, would go to push my way in New York and on my first holiday would visit my aunt and cousins. They took me to their hearts at once. Aunt, now well on in years, was specially glad to see me and treated me most lovingly. She had her granddaughter Margretta living with her and Frederic and his wife lived next door. Matthew and Robert [presumably other Gault children] and their families were also most kind. I went to Cacouna on the St Lawrence with some of them.

Samuel Ewing also, and his first wife, were most kind. His father, who had married Margaret, my father's sister was still living, but feeble. Aunt was gone. [JVH NOTE: Father and son were both Samuel.]

I had a most happy time with these relations. I returned there for a few weeks in 1870 before going home after the smallpox.

Then, in 1871, I spent months with them and during my time with them came to a clear decision about studying for the ministry.

Most of this summer was spent at Cacouna, then the popular seaside resort for Montreal people. The accommodation in that day was primitive compared with to-day; there was something of the pioneer spirit still in the air. But lavish love and considerate kindness abounded. Three families of relatives were there - the Matthew Gaults, the Frederic Gaults and the Finleys, all exceedingly kind to me, making me feel myself one of themselves. In later days, when at Princeton, I spent my holidays with these relatives, staying mostly with Frederic Gault, sometimes in the winter and sometimes in summer. I have very vivid memories of fishing expeditions with Frederic and others.

When at Cacouna, we went a long drive to Lake Saint Simon to fish for trout, where we were housed for some days in comfortable but primitive cottage rooms and caught lots of fish.

Another year, when at Cacouna, Sir George Stephen, then manager of the Bank of Montreal, afterwards Lord Mountstephen, invited Frederic and friends to stay with him at his house near Father Point, where he had rented a river for salmon fishing. There I caught my first salmon, nearly 20 lbs - much enjoying the excitement of playing it for about 50 minutes. Lady Stephen was a cousin of Sir Stafford Northcote, and a very kind hostess.

Another summer, Frederic took a party of us - I think the Rev. James Carmichael, the Rector of St. George's Church, Montreal, a most genial Irishman, was with us - to the Richelieu River, about 25 miles, I think, from Montreal, where we stayed at night in a comfortable hotel and all day in small row-boats. We caught lots of fish, principally perch of a good size; we sometimes caught as many as 40 an hour. We brought some provender with us from the hotel, and about noon landed on the beach, cooking our fish and enjoying our sumptuous meal; whether the enjoyment of the preparation and cooking was greater than that of eating, it would be difficult to say. I was in poor health on this visit to Montreal and greatly benefited by this week on the Richelieu River.

I never can forget the affection and kindness shown to me by these Montreal cousins; and while all the members of that old generation are gone, one of the pleasantest experiences of today is the constant affection of the present generation, and from time to time the happy intercourse with them. They possess much of the love that will not let me go.