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Archive for the ‘Rideau’ Category

Well, I was at the Boat Show in the new CE Centre out by the Ottawa airport – quite a building and it was jam-packed with BIG boats – of course.
In the 3 days that I was there, a lot of people came by to comment on “Invisible Army” ( all positive, of course!) I did get one gentleman who said that he thought that his father had worked on the canal but he didn’t know where, exactly. He suggested one of the locks at Smiths Falls, so we looked at all 3 ( including Old Slys) but didn’t find him. He said he’d write to his mother and try to find out where and when (and if) Dad was there.

I’m always on the lookout to add names (with verification, of course).

I am sorry to report that there are two retirements: Bill Glover has retired as Lockmaster – Merrickville. Les Philp has retired as Lockman- Nicholsons. This information is from Les Philp himself, who stopped by to chat. I had heard about Bill earlier.

 

So, if you’re keeping track, make the changes above.

 

When the 2012 staff list comes out, I’ll post it.

Cheers.

 

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Himself !!!

   I’ve been looking through old newspapers for a project related to Lower Town – as Col. By called it when he was laying out the streets around the Rideau Canal. A couple of things popped up.

First, Lower Town wasn’t a “des res”. Much of it was still covered by trees. There was a swamp in the middle of what was grandly called George Street.  A number of streams ran through Lower Townt. Finally, the Bywash – a channel cut through from the canal to handle overflows from anticipated spring floods was directed through there to connect with another stream that ran down King Edward and drained into the Ottawa River. This is where the canal labourers lived, in rough shanties – some even dug out caves in the material piled up by the contractors who were digging out the channel for the canal. Zero sanitation or clean drinking water, except what could be picked up from the Rideau itself or the Ottawa River. Pigs, cows, etc., roamed freely through the area. Little wonder that cholera and temperate malaria was rife.
 
The lots couldn’t be bought – only leased on an annual basis. What was the lease rate? It was half a crown – about what a canal labourer earned in a day.
 
So, many of the lots were snapped up by enterprising and far-sighted citizens, as you might expect. What you might not expect was that many of the members of By’s staff leased lots. In fact, two of the future canal lockmasters leased lots, but not in Lower Town - the Buck brothers in May 1827 – Thomas Buck, who leased Lot 5 on Wellington Street,  became the first lockmaster at Merrickville and Daniel, who leased Lot 1 on Rideau Street,  was the first lockmaster at Clowes. Martin McPherson, who became a lock labourer at the Ottawa Locks, leased Lots 36 and 37 on Rideau Street, also in 1827. Whether these were speculative leases, I don’t know. It certainly seems likely.
 
Col. By staff members,  John MacTaggart, John Burrows, Master Carpenter James Fitzgibbon, William Tormay, William Clegg, all leased lots. MacTaggart took Lot 13 on Kent Street in 1827. James Ftizgibbon took  Lot A on Rideau Street in 1827 and  later, in 1829, leased the Wharf ( Steam Boat Landing) on Entrance Bay – a very busy place. Tormay leased Lot B on Rideau Street, while John Burrows took Lot C beside him. William Clegg joined his colleagues, leasing Lots M and N on Rideau Street in 1827.  He later (1831) leased Lot N on George Street in the heart of what was to become the Byward Market.
Burrows had also leased Lots 33 and 34 on Vittoria Street ( where the Supreme Court now stands).  
       In any event, there seems little doubt that these were speculative investments.  But, they were small time players compared to one James Inglis, who leased 50 lots in Lower Town – Lot F on Sussex Street, 24 on York Street, 19 on Clarence Street, and 6 on Parry Street ( an extension of Clarence Street east of King Edward).
 
The lots were only available on a lease, not a purchase basis. The British Ordnance wanted to preserve the maximum flexibility in terms of future military requirements. Retention of a lease depended upon erecting a building, at least 30 feet square, within a year. The leases that were granted over the period 1827 to1832 were all dated May 1st to simplify collection of the annual rents.
 
Other updates: George Shepherd was the lockmaster at Burritt’s Rapids from 1847 to 1880. As the book notes on page 383, George had been a senior NCO during the canal construction. Later, he became involved with a local militia unit. It seems that He eventually rose to the rank od Lieutenant-Colonel in the 56th Burritt’s Rapids militia unit. For more, see the Ottawa Free Press, January 22, 1875. 
 
Under tragic circumstances, the drowning of the daughter of Shepherd’s successor, James Todd, appeared in the Ottawa Free Press of June 28, 1881, on page 1. The locks could be a dangerous place to work, it seems.

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Himself !!!

Well, I was out at Read’s Book Shop in Carleton Place the other day, signing books and talking to people. I find it stimulating to meet readers, and to explain what has moved me to write about the Rideau Canal and the men and women who have kept it alive for almost 180 years.

In that light, the current government squeeze is depressingly familiar – that has been an invariable part of the history of the canal – “do more with less, charge more for less”. Pile on the bureaucracy, spout lofty inanities about the priceless heritage of Canadian parks, but don’t spend any money on it. Sigh …

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Himself !!!

Well, I’ve started looking into the possibilities of converting some of my books into electronic formats that could be read on Kindles, Nooks, Kobo, iPads, and so on. There is a wealth of software (mostly free) out there – how to decide between the freebies and the paid programs. I have the impression that the free stuff is often “good enough”, but I’m not sure.

I guess what I will have to do is try converting something small and seeing what the experience is like from the production side. Testing such an “ebook” will give me some sense of how it looks in the real world.
If the “free” stuff doesn’t measure up, then I can consider paying (ugh!). It’s still a lot cheaper than paying Adobe, that still doesn’t guarantee a smooth and painless experience.
If anyone out there has any experience or views on creating ebooks or simply reading them, I’d be interested in hearing about it.
I’ll be going off to Johnny Pigeau’s Reading Series at Backbeat Books in Perth this coming Friday. This session is on novels – earlier sessions have been on poetry (and most enjoyable). Things have certainly moved right along since Worsdworth and Frost.

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I had a request for an earlier book, Fish Tales: The Lure and the Lore of the Rideau, from England. When I checked the cost of sending the book by ExpressPost (6 days – no tracking), it came to $35. If I wanted tracking and 2 day delivery, the mailing cost jumped to $66. The book itself cost only $25.

No surprise – the potential buyer cancelled the order and said that she would pick it up on her next visit to the Rideau Corridor (summer 2012). Smart move!

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Himself !!!

I’m really having trouble getting books to readers by mail. They are sent “expedited post”, but what sometimes happens is that they arrive in the destination city, and then aren’t delivered.  Wrong street number in one case – the PO identified the correct street address but didn’t deliver it and returned the package to me. Back into the system and am waiting patiently for the parcel to get there – still checking the tracking number.

Another package of 4 hasn’t arrived – still waiting to hear why.
I don’t think that the PO staff are screwing up, but it sure is frustrating for me and for those would-be readers.
Sigh….

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Himself !!!

I came, I saw, I was blown away (to paraphrase some famous Roman)!!!

This fair has been going on for ever, since Pontius was a pilot. Anyway ….
I was there selling and signing my three books at the Writers’ Corner in the Public Library – I was able to make contact with some of the former guides, like Thea Fleming, and boat builders, like Charlie Cliffe ( through his daughter).
 
A number of people with family histories working on the Rideau Canal came to talk to me about the new book, Invisible Army. I loved it !!!!
 
Next year for sure and a tip of the hat to Margaret Brandt and her article in the Review-Mirror that alerted people to the Fair and to the fact that I was going to be there. It made all the difference in the world, I’m sure.
 
BTW, Lyndhurst has a brand new main street now, so if you haven’t been there in a while, or, even worse, have never managed to go there, this pretty village is sure worth the visit. It’s off COunty Road 43, about 10 minutes south of Delta, and can also be reached from Highway 15 through Morton ( Briar Hill Road). It has a very picturesque stone bridge as well.
 
With autumn leaves beginning to turn, plan a drive that takes you through Lyndhurst – you’ll be glad you did.

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Himself !!!

The Lyndhurst Fair takes place Saturday September 17, 9-4.

I’ll be there with all 3 of my books – Invisible Army (natch!), plus Pathfinders and Fish Tales - in the Lyndhurst library.
Lyndhurst has a great stone bridge, and some fine old houses.
It seems to me that I went there back in 2006 to talk to the family of Cornell “Chef” Bennett, a former guide. His story is in Fish Tales, in the chapter on Westport.
For those unfamiliar with Lyndhurst, it can be reached from Kingston by taking the Briar Hill road from Morton ( on Highway 15) near Jones Falls. An alternate route from Ottawa or Brockville is to go to Delta and then take Hicock Road to Lyndhurst.
As a former parish priest used to say when encouraging attendance, “Come numerous!” I hope to see you all there.
 

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Just a quick note to poiint out the latest page – Smelly Socks, etc. Who would think that it was something so simple to deal with mosquitoes?

Does this mean that we can get rid of all the bug sprays, etc., and simply carry around a bag of smelly socks to lure the mosquitoes away from ourselves?

Opinions welcomed.

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Himself !!!

The Monday evening talk on Invisible Army went very well – about 35 people showed up – some from as far away as Kanata and Rideau Ferry. Gerry Covell, a retired lockmaster at Poonanmalee, came, and we went through the common travails of working around the Parks Canada personnel records.

Another gentleman brought the family genealogy of his distant ancestors – the Newman brothers, who were among the first lockmasters at Black Rapids, Clowes, and Nicholsons locks.

 
Creation of the “slackwater” canal flooded a lot of low-lying areas – shown in a “before and after” map of the Opinicon Lake area. Water management kept the water levels relatively stable to meet the needs of the steamers and the timber trade (which obviously went away, as road and rail pushed into the area).
 
I illustrated the difficulties of the early “roads” (so-called)  using Lockmaster Peter Sweeney’s diary (1839-1850) . He was a “travelling” man, as well as a “drinking” man, and his jaunts from Jones Falls to Brockville, Prescott, and Kingston sorely tested his stamina, but not his determination.
 
I focused on showing how the canal had successfully overcome its lack of long-term commercial success by recognizing (reluctantly) that the future lay in the tourism/ guiding/ cottage country area. Serendipity – the rise of the “back to nature” movement in the northern US in the 1880′s and the abundance of unspoiled nature in the Rideau Corridor was the catalyst.
 
My new projector, an Epson EX5200, worked like a charm!
 
All good!

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