Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

It’s that time again – the usual shuffles of staff among lock stations. Some   changes of note – Amy Roach is the Acting Lockmaster at Chaffey’s Lock, ably supported by Julie Lalonde-Savard. Dustin Bulloch is the Acting Lockmaster at Kingston Mills. Les Philp and Bill Glover have decided to retire.

Looks like being a “normal” season ahead – let’s hope that the weather is good and the tourists and boaters are numerous.

Here is the complete list.

2012 Lockstaff List


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Well, the start of a new season on the Rideau-so what’s new?

For those who may have heard of the short season being imposed this year, be philosophical. As the book tells the story, this has happened before in living memory. As a matter of fact, that great organization, the Friends of the Rideau, was born from the desire of those Rideau-philes and local settlers’ descendants to see the beloved canal preserved.

The whole thing is in the book !!

The Landscape Strategy is “rapidly” (a joke, son) creeping up on the same schedule, i.e., it may take as long to complete as it did to build the canal in the first place. And imagine if you will, that public input has been restricted, so that it can’t hamper progress ! It isn’t clear what the problems are that are causing the glacial pace, and we probably don’t want to know.

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I was given a Kindle for Christmas and have begun learning how to use it. I’ve been practicing on free ebooks from Gutenberg, which familiarizes me with how to use the thing, as well as getting to read some of the classics or even not-so-classic old books.

It got me thinking of doing an e-book on the Rideau. This at least has the merit (for me) of not involving printers) and lugging boxes of books around. Perhaps an historical fiction, based on real characters and real situations. Lots of examples out there and lots of free software to make it work.  I already have a few pages done and they work well (technically, not necessarily as great literature – no doubt that will come ) – yeah, right!

Onward and upward! Bastardi non carborumdum!

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Following on from yesterday’s post, I mentioned the figure of 1000 deaths at Smiths Falls for canal construction workers to Ken Watson, who had done a lot of research into this topic.

He said that workers and others who died during construction were buried in what is now the Old Ward Burial Ground, then located at the corner of Aberdeen Avenue and Jessie Street. Ken reckons that perhaps there were a few dozen deaths. As far as he is aware from factual information, there were 2 funerals for canal workers and there was a headstone discovered in 1957 for a master mason who died in 1831.

It’s beginning to seem that if all the deaths that were thought to have occurred at various places had actually taken place, this would amount to more than most estimates of the number of workers who were actually employed.


Ken’s view is that the total number of deaths for the entire canal might be somewhat less than 1,000. I agree. When I was doing research for Invisible Army, I came across deaths after the canal had been built. As I point out in the book, there were lots of opportunities for accidental death ( and I named a few), as well as diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever (typhus).

I haven’t looked into these two causes closely apart from canal staff impacts such as Lockmaster Thomas Buck at Merrickville. When the canal shut down for 3 months during the summer of 1847, due to the fear of spreading typhus by transporting Irish immigrants, this reflected a very real and present threat.

I hope that this helps to clarify things a bit. We will never know the total impact of accidental and disease-related deaths, I guess.

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Well, I’ve begun experimenting with using e-book software to produce something that could be read on a Kindle, or a Kobo or an iPad and downloaded from Amazon. Naturally the story will be based on what I’ve done so far, but there will be more new material worked into it.

I find it a little strange but it seems to work OK on something short – a couple of pages. I’ll try sticking in photos, but that doesn’t sound too difficult.

When I get a more complete story line developed, I may post it for comments. “Running it up the flag pole, etc.” sort of thing.

Why am I doing this, you may ask.

I was struck at the Boat Show by the number of young ( under 50-ish) people who were fascinated by the Rideau and who didn’t know the history, or had very strange ideas about what it was. These ideas were mostly about the “thousands” of canal workers killed by accident or malaria. I was told that an unmarked grave site had been found recently at Smiths Falls that contained about 1000 individuals, and my informant was certain that many would have been the canal construction workers. Incidentally, there is a fond belief on the part of some of those of Irish descent that they built the canal without help from any other nationality.

We may have convinced some people about what we now think are the facts, but I’m sure many walked away secure in their own beliefs. We tried to get people to read Ken Watson’s little book “Tales of the Rideau”, but they saw this as just outright attempts to confuse them, and to take their money (right about the last bit).

I’ve wondered whether a reprint of Leggett’s “The Rideau Waterway” would help, but I think that it’s likely better to try something new.

Of course, I’m probably wrong about wanting to clear things up – after all, no doubt a lot of what I know “for sure” is also wrong.


Off the soapbox and back to the keyboard.

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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.



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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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