Tag Archives: Bruce Stewart

The Southport Marine Slip: Infrastructure that never happened

One of the 1935 aerial photos of the Hillsborough River at Charlottetown shows a fascinating image.  The docks of Charlottetown are shown and a vessel, probably warship, is moored in mid stream. On the Southport side a little village is seen on the road leading to the site of the ferry wharf which had not been in use since the building of the bridge. The Langley shore is devoid of the summer cottages which would appear after the war.  From the height of the plane the channel can be clearly seen, the shallows delineated sharply by a change in the colour of the water.  There is a dredged channel leading to the Southport ferry wharf and the dredges have clearly been at work on the Charlottetown side.

But there is an anomaly in the photo. Just to the east of the ferry wharf another dredged channel can be seen which simply ends at the shore. This is all that remains of a scheme to bring industry and marine security to the Island – a scheme that had not one but several incarnations.

Detail from 1935 aerial photo of Charlottetown Harbour. The huillsborough Bridge can be seen at the top right and the ferry wharf is near the middle.

Detail from 1935 aerial photo of Charlottetown Harbour. The Hillsborough Bridge can be seen at the top right and the ferry wharf is near the middle. The light line running just east of the Ferry wharf is a flaw in the print.

Since beginning of steam communication a regular problem for the Island vessels was the necessity of periodic visits to a dry dock or haul-out slip for hull repairs and maintenance. While some work could be done by beaching ships at high tide but this was not an effective solution. So ships would have to take time off their routes each year for trips to dry-docks and slipways in Pictou, Sydney  or Halifax or even Quebec, leaving the Island with temporary back-up vessels, or no vessels at all. When there were a number of ships, as in the case of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company’s summer ships such as the Northumberland or Empress or the Dominion government’s Stanley, Minto and Earl Grey it was less of a problem. However with the announcement that a single vessel, the car-ferry Prince Edward Island, would replace all of the other ships the problem became acute.  When the Prince Edward Island went to dry dock the Island held its collective breath in hopes that the S.S. Scotia would be able to fill in.

Location plan for Marine Slip. Public Archives and Records )Office

Location plan for Marine Slip. Public Archives and Records Office

Even before the establishment of the Borden ferry service Charlottetown felt aggrieved. There were 170 steam and sail vessels registered in Charlottetown before the Great War and few facilities for repair. The Board of Trade passed a motion in the fall of 1912 calling for investigation of a marine slip for Charlottetown and at the beginning of the next year a study was announced. However, it must have come as a surprise that when the plan passed through the Dominion Privy Council Office it was for funds for the purchase of land on the other side of the harbour. W.P. Mutch who owned much of the Southport shoreline (and was perhaps a supporter of the Conservative government) was to get $300 per acre for the needed land and in December 1913 tenders were called for dredging at the site and removal of 130,000 yards of material.  The privately owned dredge Edmond Hall began the work of clearing a channel to a depth of 20 feet linking the water of the river to the shore facility. The work continued through 1915 and into 1916 and the dredging part of the project was completed before the end of the war.


Detail from the elevation for the Southport Marine Slip. Public Archives and Records Office

The proposal called for a 5,000 ton marine slip whose main client was clear from the blueprints prepared in 1915. Although these prints deal primarily with measurements and depths, an elevation clearly shows the unmistakable profile of the Island’s new ferry the S.S. Prince Edward Island on the cradle. However, the scheme fell prey to the war effort and no additional funds were voted. In 1917, J.O. Hyndman, who had been a major supporter of the initiative received word from one of the Island MPs that “owing to the high cost of steel, tenders will not be called.” After the war it was clear that the number of vessels which might use the facility was sharply reduced and the land-side construction was not proceeded with.

Detail of vessel cradle Southport Marine Slip. Public Archives and Records Office.

Detail of vessel cradle Southport Marine Slip. Public Archives and Records Office.

In spite of occasional interest from the Board of Trade the matter lay dormant until 1937 when the plan was dusted off as a possible employment and infrastructure initiative to counter the effects of the depression. The head of  Bruce Stewart and Company noted the loss of employment opportunity through not having dry dock facilities but it was clear that the thousands of dollars of repair work going to mainland marine slips was of primary interest to the company. However, at the time there were too many other labour intensive competing projects to make the investment in a marine slip a priority.

With the outbreak of the Second World War the issue of ship repair capacity again became timely. Bruce Stewart and Company had a number of defence contracts but were not able to take on major underwater work owing to the lack of a slipway. In 1942 the Maritime Board of Trade endorsed a motion calling for action on the matter. The loss of the car-ferry Charlottetown on its way to dry-dock in Halifax provided one more reason for a local facility as proponents argued that the ship would not have been lost if it was dry-docked in Charlottetown.

Guardian 3 December 1947

Guardian 3 December 1947

With post-war reconstruction another campaign was mounted in favour of the project. The Dominion government offered to transfer surplus equipment from either Shelburne N.S. or Bay Bulls Newfoundland to Charlottetown but the $100,000 cost of moving and erecting the material would have to be carried by the province which quickly backed away from support.  In 1947 the federal Progressive Conservatives under John Bracken included the Marine Slip along with the Brighton Bridge and a Grain Elevator as promises to the electorate. The Tories were not successful in the next election and none of the projects on their list were picked up by the new Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent. In fact all three remain unfulfilled.

The last hurrah for the marine slip was in 1953 when the employees of Bruce Stewart and Company called a public meeting in Charlottetown on the marine slip. By this time the Southport site had been discarded in favour of land near the railway round house (and not far from the Bruce Stewart plant) and the size had been scaled back from 5,000 tons to 1,200 tons. The project was no longer about the car-ferries which had grown too large to be considered as customers but about smaller commercial, fishing and pleasure craft.  The more modest proposal still failed to attract Ottawa interest and the matter finally died.

When the air photos for 1958 are examined there is still a faint outline of the dredged channel, more than 40 years after the project was begun and abandoned.  The federal government held on to the land in Southport until at least the late 1950s and it is now a neighbourhood of shore front homes with a view of Charlottetown instead of an industrial site.  Today the dredged channel appears to be completely silted up and not a single trace remains of the Southport Marine Slip.



L & N Paquet – motor boat builders of Souris

In 1912 motor boating was the coming thing for Prince Edward Island. Unlike the province’s roads where the use of motor vehicles was highly regulated, being allowed only on certain times or days or not at all, the waterways were open for traffic. There was a dramatic increase in the number of motor boats in Charlottetown Harbour. Some were locally built  but many of them came from the East end of the province.

Guardian 18 March 1912

Guardian 18 March 1912

L. & N. Paquet (Leander and Nelson) were boat builders in Souris who supplied craft to fishermen and fish packers. They built a number of stock boats from 20 to 25 feet and offered a package of a 22 ft. boat with 2 1/2 horsepower engine for $125.00. They also built larger vessels and in the same year supplied a 50 foot launch with 24 hp motor to the St. Andrew’s sardine fleet. Initially building dories and row boats (including several for the Hillsboro Boating Club) they quickly moved into gasoline boats for the fishing industry. The Paquets built a number of launches for Bruce Stewart including the Imperial II launched in 1910. By 1913 they advertised that they could supply any type  of boat from a row-boat to an ocean-going cruiser. They had a successful sideline in pleasure craft as seen by the following excerpt from the motor boat column in the Guardian on 1 April 1912:

L. & N. Paquet, of Souris, who have built a number of boats for parties in Charlottetown, have just issued an illustrated catalogue in which are described the various types of boats which they can put out. They constructed the three Imperials, and the house-boat Doris, all well-known here. They are acknowledged leaders in the manufacturing of fishing and working boats, large number of which they put out each year from their factory at Souris.

They have lately added to their stock models a 22ft. V. bottom, which they construct either for heavy work or for pleasure. In ether case the boat gives comfort and speed, and when the construction is lightened and sufficient power installed the boat will prove to be very speedy. One of these boats is now being built for a Charlottetown customer and will be down here next month, when all interested will have an opportunity of seeing what she will do. There is no mistaking the place the V-bottom is going to occupy in the pleasure class and the Paquets, who really love their work, and turn out beautiful boats, will doubtless have many inquiries as soon as the boats are given a trying out.  

Houseboat Doris built by L & N Paquet

Houseboat Doris built by L & N Paquet

It is probable that the author of the glowing report was a young Malcolm Irwin. A month later it was he who was the “Charlottetown customer” who took delivery of the new 22 foot cruiser. Equipped with a five horsepower engine she was expected to reach a speed of ten miles per hour.  In June a twenty-foot boat arrived by train from the Paquets for a group of ten young Charlottetown men who had clubbed together for its purchase.  The group included Austin Trainor, Ivan Hughes, Frank Steele, Fred Skerry and others. This boat, christened The Orient, also had a five horsepower Bruce Stewart Imperial engine mounted under the forward deck. She was capable of carrying a party of twenty at eight miles per hour.

The boom in motorboats may have been a victim to the outbreak of the Great War and in spite of the Paquet’s skill the Souris business was not a success. In November 1914 the entire plant, equipment and land were offered for sale by the assignee. I have not been able to find a copy of the firm’s 1912 boat catalogue and none of their boats appear to have survived.

Mystery Yacht Identified

Unidentified ship min Farquharson album

Unidentified yacht, Farquharson album, Public Archives and Records Office accession 3909 #55 (click on photo to enlarge)

Every archive and museum has them – in some cases by the hundreds or thousands. Unidentified photographs that could tell a tale but are silent. They are mute storytellers waiting for some key to unlock their importance.  The photo above is one of them. A white steam yacht. Even with its uneven exposure  and marred by a number of blemishes it is still a striking photo – or at least a striking ship.  It is inserted into one of the final pages of an album almost exclusively devoted to detailed construction photos of the building of the Hillsborough Bridge and the background is recognizably the Southport shore of Charlottetown Harbour. All of the other photos seem to be from 1900 to 1905. However none of the photos in the album are captioned and without a name the vessel’s place in the history of the harbour is a mystery. We are left with a three-masted steam yacht with no name. What was it and what was it doing in Charlottetown Harbour?

Searching for resources for a planned story on the building of the Hillsborough Bridge I found the photo but it clearly had no link to the bridge itself. A few days later searching for information on the survey ship Gulnare a hint is found in the Guardian for 22 June 1903:

The new surveying ship Eleanor which is to take the place of the Gulnare arrived in port Saturday night, eleven days from Portsmouth with Capt. Tooker and Lieut. Musgrove in charge.  The Eleanor is a handsome three-masted steam yacht apparently very suitable for her work. She was purchased by the British Government from the Prince of Monarco [sic], whose private yacht she was. She will probably sail Tuesday, a month later than usual, to continue admiralty survey off Newfoundland.   

This seemed to tell the tale. Except – a further search of records fails to find any record of the Eleanor belonging to the Prince of Monaco and there is no record that a ship named the Eleanor was ever in the Royal Navy. A few days later the unravelling of the mystery is begun by the following note in the 20 October 1903 Guardian:

The Gulnare is at the Steam Navigation Wharf, where she is undergoing repairs which are being made by Bruce Stewart and Company. The Ellinor will also receive a thorough overhauling during the winter months.

So, if not the Eleanor, could this be the Ellinor with an understandable confusion as to spelling?. The search re-commences and a listing is found in a volume titled Ships of the Royal Navy by J.J. College which notes ” Ellinor (ex-screw yacht Eberhard) Survey ship, 593 gross, 180 (o/a) x 27ft. Purch 1901. Fate unknown. ” It was reported in the Halifax Chronicle that the ship had been acquired from the Prince of Monaco by a “well-known yachtsman in England” (who presumably had changed the name as there of no record of the Eberhard in connection with Monaco) but that omits one link in the chain of ownership. But what of the “ex-screw yacht Eberhard“?

The story of the Eberhard contains a gruesome chapter in the yacht’s history. By 1900 the ship was registered in Hamburg and was owned by Bruno Mencke, son of a German chocolate millionaire, Eberhard Mencke. She was used by Bruno to mount what became known as the First German South Seas Expedition in 1901. After visiting several Islands the scientific expedition landed on Mussau, one of the St. Mattias Islands of the Bismark Archipelago, then a German territory. After the yacht had departed to re-coal and pick up more supplies the camp was attacked by the Island’s natives and the expedition doctor and two policemen killed. The rest of the party, including several wounded, escaped to a nearby trading post where Bruno Mencke died of wounds received in the attack. It was subsequently discovered that the three bodies left behind had been consumed by the natives who practiced cannibalism.  Later that year a landing party from a German cruiser accompanied by police landed on the island and massacred 81 natives, including women and children in retaliation.  It is not surprising that the Eberhard was a disposed of soon after her return to Germany.

Princess Alice3

Princess Alice before foreyards were removed.

The buyer was Spencer Chapman who re-named the vessel Ellinor and moved the registration to London.  It turns out that the Eberhard was not the first name that the vessel bore and learning her initial name  finally revels the connection between the ship and the Prince of Monaco.  Part of the reason why the vessel was chosen for the German scientific expedition may have been that it was uniquely equipped for the task, having been built specifically for scientific research with a considerable amount of auxiliary machinery and several laboratories on the main deck, as well as providing sumptuous accommodation for the researchers as well as the crew of the ship.


Portuguese stamp honouring Prince Albert, showing the Yacht Princess Alice.

The vessel was built as the auxiliary yacht Princess Alice for Albert the First of Monaco who had a noteworthy career as an oceanographer. During his reign he commissioned four oceanographic research vessels.  The Princess Alice was the second of these ships and was named in honour of the Prince’s  second wife Marie Alice Heine, dowager Duchesse de Richelieu. Marie Alice was the daughter of a New Orleans building contractor who had married well and was widowed at an early age.

The ship, launched 12 February 1891, was built on the Thames at the Blackwall, London shipyard of R & H Green.  It was a single-screw, three-masted, single-stovepipe-funnelled, auxiliary-topsail schooner of about 600 tons.

Princess Alice

Builders model of the Princess Alice 1891. Royal Museums Greenwich, Green Blackwall Collection

Detailed descriptions were provided of the ship in both The Marine Engineer and Naval Architect and Engineering. She was 168 feet long, 27 feet wide and drew 12 feet. Two boilers were fitted; one to drive the vessel at a top speed of 9 knots, the other to provide power for electric lights aboard.  Her frames were of steel and the planking of teak with teak used for the deck houses and finishing throughout. She was not dependant on her steam power however, as the Ratsey & Lapthorne sails on the three masts had a spread of 12,000 feet.

Princesse Alice001

Princess Alice about 1896 – from Results of the Scientific Campaigns of the Prince of Monaco Vol. 84. NOAA ship collection

The Princess Alice was used in seven scientific voyages between 1892 and 1897, mostly in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. She was replaced in 1897 by the larger Princess Alice II and the first ship was offered for sale. It is not clear when she was acquired by Mencke.

The steam yacht was used  by the British Admiralty in 1903 to replace the privately-owned survey ship Gulnare, whose charter agreement had expired.  The charter term for the Ellinor was five years or until the survey of Newfoundland and northern Canada had been completed. Records suggest that she may have been purchased by the Admiralty sometime during this period.  The Gulnare later returned to government service in connection with the tidal survey.  The Princess Alice was used on the Newfoundland survey until at least 1912 although after 1904 she was probably based out of Halifax rather than Charlottetown. In 1912 the Ellinor was transferred to the West Indies for further surveying in the Kingston Jamaica area.   I have been unable to learn of the fate of the vessel after 1912 but another researcher has found a reference to a British government vessel named Ellinor as late as 1919.

The few photographs found of the Princess Alice as well as the builder’s model leave little doubt that this is the vessel in Charlottetown harbour in 1903 although the 1903 photo shows an added upper-deck wheelhouse. The Ellinor was one of the many vessels that contributed to the accuracy of Canada’s nautical mapping but her role appears to have largely been forgotten.  Still, it is nice to know that a photo of His Majesty’s Survey Ship Ellinor, ex-Eberhard, ex-Princess Alice while anchored in Charlottetown Harbour in 1903, is part of the collection of the Public Archives and Records Office. Every picture tells a story.

SS Ellinor - card front (3)Post script 2019: The Ellinor was the subject of an early postcard (publisher unknown) dating from 1906 which was mailed in Halifax (which may very well have been where the photo was taken). I am indebted to Allison Nelson who is responsible for the very useful pictoupostcards.com site for sharing this image of the card which she discovered in Cambridge Ontario.