The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the July 04, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Daring-do boat ride narly turns into derring-done

foreword by Louise Schwartz

The following article appeared in the Evening Citizen of May 27, 1908 under the caption EXCITING TIMES AT KIRK'S FERRY - Three Ottawa Girls Have Narrow Escape - PLUCKY RESCUE - Boat Caught on Brink of Chute by Ottawans"

The Way We Were
The dramatic Eaton's Chute in Kirk's Ferry was once a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. In 1926-27, the massive hydroelectric project raised the water level of the Gatineau River by some 60 feet, silencing it forever. Here are some picnickers on the river's west shore, showing the chute in all its fury: Charlotte McAllister with Reggie Kilby (in centre) and Eddie Leslie (on left). (1925). Photo courtesy of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

Ottawa people spending the day at Kirk's Ferry, up the Gatineau, figured in an exciting incident which came within an ace in resulting in the drowning of four persons. There are often reports of narrow escapes that mean little but in this case the outcome was effected only by extreme pluck and presence of mind.

The three ladies who were rescued went into hysterics at their rescue and before they were pulled to safety had practically abandoned hope and had lain down in the bottom of the boat with their hands over their eyes to shut out the sight of the falls to which they were helplessly heading.

The young men who deserved full credit for the rescue are Howard Stewart of the public works department, Fred Wood of the post office department, and Walter Green of the topographical branch of the interior department.

Several Ottawa parties had gone to the ferry on the train or in carriages for the day. The river is swollen by the spring freshets until the water is way over the banks and as a consequence boating above the falls was considered too dangerous for almost everyone.

But Mr. Robt. McCauley, who formerly resided at Kirk's Ferry and who knew the river well, decided to venture out with three ladies, Miss Lucille Pelton, Miss Ruby Powers and Lilliam Porteous, all of Ottawa, and went out from almost opposite the post office. He was urged not to go by others on the bank but the party in the canoe simply laughed at the warnings.

When the boat was near the middle of the stream one of the men, who later figured as a rescuer shouted "For God's sake turn back, you'll be drowned." Still no attention. Then, in a few minutes, the boat was in the current and drifting towards the chute through which the water was pouring in torrents.

Everyone recognized that in the swollen condition of the river no one could go over and live. Immediately, there was a panic, women on the shore commenced to scream and soon the occupants of the boat realized their danger and their screams added to the excitement.

Messrs. Stewart, Wood and Green who had witnessed the whole affair ran down the bank at full speed, for over half a mile to where, on account of the high water, the tree branches were hanging in the river. The three waded out to their necks and by clinging to the branches were able to grasp the chain of the boat as it drifted past and pull it to shore.

Several times they came nearly into the current as the branches snapped. Mr Green got into where the water was fifteen feet deep and very swift but managed to swim to safety. Twenty yards more and the boat with its occupants would have been over the brink of the falls. Mr. McCauley did not lose his head but was powerless to bring the boat to safety.

His only explanation for his reckless daring was that he knew the river and that he thought it was safe.

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