formerly the Archives and Collections Society  

Mariners' Service, Prince Edward County

Philip Dodds
Philip F. Dodds

     The Mariners' Service is nowadays held annually, on the second Sunday of August, as a tribute and memorial to sailors and fishermen, past and present, of Prince Edward County.

     Captain Nelson Palmatier, of Cherry Valley, who sailed the Lakes for more than fifty years (1874-1924) on thirty-eight different vessels, was a God-fearing man. It was he who suggested to the Minister, the Reverend Walter Smart, in 1923 that Cherry Valley organize a "service for mariners and fishermen" the first of which was held that same year [ 1 ]. In 1936 Philip F. Dodds reported in the Picton Gazette on the 9th Mariners' Service showing that the service, held in early April, had become nearly an annual event designed as a "God-speed to sailors and fishermen about to leave for their work upon the Great Lakes".

     It continued for twenty years into World War II, during which proceeds were donated to the British War Victims Fund [ 2 ], via an auxiliary fund set up by the Picton Gazette and its News Editor, Phil Dodds, which collected more than $25,000 from the Mariner's Service and other individuals, including school children, and other groups. Dodds was also at this time instrumental in helping raise funds for the "comfort packages" destined for HMCS HALLOWELL.

     Although Dodds reports that the service only missed one year from 1927 to 1948, and that thereafter the service did not seem to have the same purpose, it was apparently "revived" in 1947 and continued to be held for about fifteen years [ 3 ]; finally it was moved to the South Bay United Church, with the first service being held in its still current location on 19th July 1970. Phil Dodds must be credited with the revival and much of the continuation of the service; in 1937, he had already donated memorial flags to the Cherry Valley church in memory of his brother, John, and other Athol dead of the Great War.

     This now-traditional service continues to this day; recent guest speakers have included Parks Superintendant Norman Ruttan, Captain Paul Adamthwaite of this Society and the Reverend David Mulholland of the Seamen's Mission.

Mariners service programme 1945
The programme for the 1945 Mariner's Service, held in Cherry Valley – click for enlargement.

[1] Dodds, Philip F., Athol: Stories of a township and its people; Eastern Ontario Graphics, 1979

[2] The BWVF had been initiated and widely promoted by the Toronto Evening Telegram.

[3] Calnan, Patricia, History of the Churches of Prince Edward County, Picton Gazette Punblishing Co, 1971

Revised: 31 March 2012