Toronto Telegram, 21 July 1951
Schooner Days MXI (1011)
By C.H.J. Snider

Cork Man Couldn't Be Drowned

Three Prince Edward County schooners went to the Georgian Bay soon after their birth on Lake Ontario. All ended their lives far from home. One was the Phoebe Catharine, which ended as a stone barge at Parry Sound twenty years ago. Another was the Prince Edward, called after the county. She had to winter in Little Current through stress of weather. Her captain, one of the McNabbs, died aboard her. She was lost later on Cockburn Island. The third was the Maple Leaf, not to be confused with the Maple Leaf built at Bronte, which Capt. Richard Goldring sailed so long and honorably out of Whitby. This last was a much smaller vessel.

The Maple Leaf of Picton was built there in 1867, the year of Confederation. Her registered dimensions were length 91.7 feet, beam 21.6 feet, depth of hold 7.7 ft.; tonnage 114. James Sutherland of Owen Sound was her registered owner in 1874. Speaking of him and of her, Leon C. Julien of Gwen Sound says:

"Sometime after the Picton-built Maple Leaf was purchased by David Sutherland and brought here, he built an elevator just across on north side of Captain Smith's warehouse.

"My memory fixes the date as around 1881, was constructed of pine planks 2" thick and either 10" or 12" wide, laid flat and spiked together, its foundation was cedar piles. This elevator was burned shortly before or after the CPR built the first of theirs.

"It, with its larger sister, passed to history one dark December night in 1911 by the same element which carried Elijah heavenward. Cold facts, but their origin, we can vouch was extremely hot.

"Standing at a considerable distance I watched their death struggles in the grip of the demon, leaving nothing the following morning but charred smoking timbers, blackened twisted metal sheathing and thousands of bushels of damaged and destroyed grain. Some was salvaged by district farmers at a few cents a bushel for stock feed. Thus, 'It's an ill wind that blows naebody guid.'

"Might mention the site of Sutherlands elevator remained undisturbed, all down the years until recently when the Diamond Steamship Company secured it and built their fine modern office, Owen Sound being made headquarters for their fleet of the four Hindman freighters.

"But to return to the harbour fleet.

"How we would like to know the names of all, they being in the grain trade, or most of them, out of Chicago. Can give a pretty good guess of a few, namely: The Phoebe Catherine; Ariel; Albatross; Restless and Jessie Drummond; they all often wintered here in those days.

"One we are certain of was the Maple Leaf – not the mystery vessel that, after Captain Goldring had parted with her, landed herself in the hands of a U.S. sheriff and customs officers, no it was certainly not that hussy. Ours was the very respectable lady, born in the shipyard at Picton in 1867, receiving her baptismal water there, five years before our entry into this vale of tears.

"We received ours in St. Mary's Church, Toronto, overhauling her here in 1874, though not making her acquaintance until around 1881 in company with Tim Jr., son of Captain Tim Crowley her master, whose family lived near ours, all attending school together.

"Many a fistful of that good old dark brown sugar Tim and I scraped from the sides of an empty wooden hogshead put out on deck by the cook to be disposed of as was customary. This kind of sweetening and container of those days no doubt will bring to the memory of Schooner Days the numberless plates of oatmeal porridge – the roller process had not as yet been invented – he covered with this delicious kind of sweetening and ate, before stepping out on deck for duty in the days when he sailed before the mast, eh?

"The aroma of resin and pitch from her calking and every part of her anatomy, particularly her shrouds, was captivating, truly incense to our nostrils. We noticed this, due to chum Tim's challenge to climb them to the crosstrees. Though to complete our happiness the thrill and joy of a trip in one would have accomplished it, this we never experienced.

"Captain Tim we remember quite well, and if in conversation with someone who referred to the life of a sailor being a dangerous one, would invariably counter with a chuckle and reply "who ever heard of a cork man being drowned" – he being born in Cork, Ireland. True enough in his case, he lived to a good old age, leaving for his last home port in a hospital bed here. Might add this hospital, the first one, was opened by the late Christopher Lang, MD, and nucleus of our present General and Marine."

To this let us add this extract from a protest entered before George Moberly. JP, at Collingwood in 1872:

The Schooner Maple Leaf of Picton, 114 tons burthen, Jas. Foote, master; Robt. Foote, first mate; Louis Pyette, seaman (all of whom signed the protest) loaded 118,739 feet of lumber in Collins Inlet for Collingwood, and got within 6 miles of Nottawasaga light early in the morning of Sept. 13.

Wind and sea heavy from the northeast, black as pitch and pouring rain. Let go the anchor with 45 fathoms (three shots) of chain, but could not get bottom. So rode head to wind under double reefed mainsail, rolling, pitching and drifting.

In the rolling she lost 2,000 feet of lumber of the deckload. It so damaged the windlass that the anchor and chain could not be hove in when daylight came and the weather cleared. To keep her from driving ashore they had to slip the anchor and cable and put the head-sails on her. So they made port in safety, and entered the "protest" for insurance purposes.


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