The S.S. Keewatin
One of Canada’s most famous ships sits in Port McNicoll, just outside of our own small town of Midland. Older than the Titanic, the SS Keewatin was launched on July 6, 1907, and entered service the following year. The SS Keewatin ran continuously for almost 60 seasons and is a great part of Canadian history. She carried passengers between Port Arthur/Fort William (now Thunder Bay) on Lake Superior and Port McNicoll on Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Great Lakes Steamship Service. Along with passengers, the SS Keewatin carried freight and ran until 1967. She was moved to Douglas, Michigan in 1967, where she sat as a museum ship until making her way back home on June 23, 2012.
5 YEARS IN THE MAKING……..
On April 22, 2017, 851 participants worked together to move the Keewatin to her new location so restorations can begin and this beautiful ship can be open for the public to tour and reminisce. The efforts that went into this move by many were a huge success, not only because we have such a treasured piece of history in our town, but the efforts of everyone helped raise $23,251 for the Radio for Cardiology at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie.
The SS Keewatin has not only wonderful history, but it holds sentimental value for many, like Captain Eric Conroy. Captain Conroy has been the honorary captain for 17 years but has been working with the US owner as a volunteer for 15 years prior. For Captain Conroy, it started in 1963 at the age of 17 when he was a waiter on board. Captain Conroy has said that “this is his dream come true” to bring the SS Keewatin home and “the project is near to his heart”. The Keewatin has been featured several times on the big screen as well, for maritime-related documentaries and television docudramas, including being extensively used in the opening episode of Season Seven of the Murdoch Mysteries. A documentary on CBC Canada has also been made about her called “Bring her on Home”.
Whether you are a history enthusiast or just someone who can appreciate the wonders that this 110-year-old Edwardian era steamer has to offer, May 19, 2017, will be the day that the SS Keewatin allows people to come aboard observe her beauty and all the hard work that has gone into restoring many of the original items such as the lifeboats. Please check their website for times and costs.
** Special thanks to Captain Conroy for providing all of the pictures for this blog.