Mariners' Service still an annual event at South Bay United

County Weekly News, April 21, 2016

maggie haylock


Marking a safe and successful year on the Great Lakes, Prince Edward County's sailors and fishermen joined for a service of Thanksgiving at Waupoos United Church, on January 2, 1936. One newspaper account of the event noted that although the bitterly cold winter's day caused "a widespread difficulty with motor cars" there was a high attendance at the service.

Capt. John Buchanan, Walter Mitchell, and Ernest Creasy supplied ships' models to decorate the church and the altar was draped with fishing nets. Oars were crossed in front of the pulpit to accent the nautical theme. Among the sailors in attendance were Captains Nelson Palmatier, John Buchanan, D.B. Christie, and James Haylock and engineer Gilbert Reid of the package freighter, Glen Allan.

As participants gathered for the service, hymns including Throw Out the Life Line, Out on Life's Wide Heaving Ocean, and Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me were sung. Capt. Buchanan and his wife sang the solo, Only Remembered by What We Have Done and the Helen B. Anderson hymn, The New Year Dawns was sung by Philip and John Fraser. Capt. Nelson Palmatier, a veteran Prince Edward County mariner, sang We're Homeward Bound, as the service began.

Mrs. John Buchanan gave a dramatic recitation of The Wreck of the Stella, while Ross VanVlack read an account of the 1883 wreck of the schooner Eliza Quinlan, on Poplar Point, off Point Traverse. The schooner was enroute to Belleville from Kingston when a snowstorm hit and drove her ashore. The crew was saved by fishermen as the Eliza Quinlan was breaking up on the rocks.

Capt. Palmatier then recounted the story of a voyage to Oswego with a head wind and a heavy sea, during which the efforts of the engineer and the stoker played a key role. He said it emphasize the importance of "the man behind the poker." Capt. Buchanan, who had been both a fresh water and salt water sailor, recalled a wreck of 1904 when a ship foundered and 22 men were lost.

Rev. J.M. Fraser, who officiated during the service, told the gathering that the sea is "separation, mystery, and danger." Heaven is security, knowledge and reunion." "One by one, we lay down the tiller and the oar, one by one we forsake the wheel and the bridge. No sea, no sailing, no sailors. Your day of service and opportunity is soon gone."

He emphasized the importance of making the most of this brief opportunity by living a Christian life.

At the close of the service, Capt. Palmatier sang Homeward Bound. Newspaper accounts of the Waupoos mariners' service of Thanksgiving declared it "one to be long remembered" and it was stated that, hopefully, a similar event would take place the following year.

It was Capt. Palmatier who first suggested, in 1923, that an annual Mariners' Service be held in Prince Edward County. The idea met with swift approval and annual spring services took place in Cherry Valley for many years. One of the key promoters was Philip Dodds, news editor of the Picton Gazette. The Mariners' Service lapsed for several years, but was revived by Dodds and fellow members of the Prince Edward Marine Historical Society, in the early 1970's. The event moved to South Bay United Church at this time. Today, the Prince Edward County Mariners' Service is one of two remaining events of its kind in Ontario.


Editor's note: It is likely that this service "of thanksgiving", while resembling the traditional Mariner's Serice, may have constituted asomewhat special one. The venue, Waupoos United Church, and the date of 2 January, do not correspond to tradition at this time, as recounted by Philip Dodds, of Cherry Valley United Church and a date of April.



With permission, M. Haylock Capon.


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Revised: 10 May 2016