Longtime members of the Toronto Marine Historical Society will recall that, many years ago, we featured in these pages a corporate history and fleet list of Point Anne Quarries Ltd., a company which dug stone from quarries at Point Anne, Ontario, on the Bay of Quinte, and distributed the stone to the construction industry throughout Southern Ontario. This company was active during the first quarter of the twentieth century, but ceased doing business in the Toronto area about 1925. Point Anne Quarries Ltd. operated a quite substantial number of wooden vessels over the years, and also owned two steel canallers which had been built in British shipyards prior to the beginning of the First World War.
One of the directors of Point Anne Quarries Ltd. was J. F. M. Stewart, of Toronto, a financier who eventually became manager of the company. But the stone quarries and the company's vessels were certainly not Mr. Stewart's sole connection with Great Lakes shipping. In fact, he was no stranger to the vessel management business, and his name has been mentioned in this publication on several previous occasions concerning his involvement with various steamers.
One of J. F. M. Stewart's enterprises was the Bruce Trading Company Ltd. of Toronto, of which he was the manager. In March of 1923, Stewart contacted various British shipyards for the purpose of securing bids on the construction, to his own order, of a canal-sized steamer. The firm selected to build the ship was the Smith's Dock Company Ltd., which constructed her as its Hull 779 at the company's shipyard at South Bank-on-Tees, England. She immediately followed from the yard two sistership canal steamers, KEYSTATE and KEYBAR, which had been built for Keystone Transports Ltd., Montreal, as the builder's Hulls 777 and 778, respectively.
British yards were quite adept at the rapid construction of canallers, and Stewart's boat was no exception to the rule of speedy delivery. She was launched on April 14, 1923, and was christened DONALD STEWART, in honour of Donald Elias Stewart, the then-29-year-old younger son of J. F. M. Stewart. The steamer was enrolled as C.147765, and was soon completed. After running her trials, she was sent off under her own power to Canada, no doubt with a cargo of British coal in her holds.
DONALD STEWART was 250.0 feet in length, 42.9 feet in the beam, and 18.7 feet in depth, with Gross tonnage measured at 1781 and Net Registered tonnage calculated at 1074. She was designed for a deadweight carrying capacity of 2,300 tons on a draft of fourteen feet. The hull had a cellular double bottom all fore and aft, and was given after peak tanks. She had three watertight and two non-watertight bulkheads which divided the hull into compartments. She was built to Lloyd's 100 Al class for service on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The vessel was powered by a direct-acting, surface-condensing, triple-expansion steam engine, with three inverted cylinders, 16, 26, and 44 inches in diameter, by 33-inch stroke. It was supplied with steam, at 180 p.s.i. working pressure, by two coal-fired, cylindrical, multitubular boilers, each 12 1/2 feet diameter by 10 1/2 feet long, which worked under forced draft. This machinery was built especially for DONALD STEWART by the Smith's Dock Company Ltd., and was to remain with her for her entire life.
DONALD STEWART was generally similar to Keystone's bulk carriers KEYSTATE and KEYBAR, but she appeared to be of rather more heavy construction. Whether this was actually the case is now anyone's guess, but the STEWART did seem to be noticeably more substantial. She had a straight stem and elliptical counter stern, with considerable sheer to her deck (a feature sadly lacking from the design of many of the mass-produced canallers). She was given a raised forecastle and quarterdeck, with each of these structures surmounted for most of their length by a closed rail.
Her texas cabin was a squarish structure, which was graced by large observation windows, rather than portholes, across its face and down its sides. Atop it was the rounded pilothouse, which sported five large, varnished-framed windows in its face. Large bridgewings protruded from either side of the bridge deck. An open navigation bridge was provided on the monkey's island above the pilothouse, originally protected from the elements by a canvas dodger strung on the open rail and by awnings above. A closed rail was later built around the equipment on this open bridge. One rather handsome feature of DONALD STEWART's pilothouse was its sunvisor, which was a broad brim running parallel to the deck rather than being curved or bent downwards.
Her after cabin was large, and contained accommodation for the engineers, stewards, etc. An overhang of the boat deck provided shelter from the elements down its sides and around the fantail. The STEWART was given a large well-proportioned stack, which rose from the boilerhouse without much rake. It was this large funnel that gave the STEWART her balanced profile.
DONALD STEWART was equipped with six large hatches, five on the spar deck and one on the raised quarterdeck in front of the boilerhouse, and all six were fitted with wooden sectional hatchcovers. The tall, heavy foremast, located right abaft the pilothouse, and the equally tall mainmast, stepped between hatches four and five, each carried cargo booms. To assist with the handling of cargo via these booms, the steamer was equipped with a double-cylinder windlass, and two double-cylinder seven- and ten-inch steam winches.
DONALD STEWART's hull was painted a distinctive dark green colour, this green extending even to the forecastle rail. Her cabins were all painted white, while all of the wooden trim, such as windowframes, etc., was varnished. Her stack was painted black, with a narrow white band.
Once safely on the Canadian side of the North Atlantic, DONALD STEWART was placed in service by the Bruce Trading Company Ltd. J. F. M. Stewart was also much interested in the British Empire Steel Company Ltd., of Sydney, Nova Scotia, and he served as a director of that firm. It was little wonder, therefore, that DONALD STEWART spent much of her time hauling steel rails from Sydney into the Great Lakes. She would frequently return back down the lakes with cargoes of grain for the St. Lawrence River ports. A good illustration of her attachment to the rail-carrying trade was the fact that she spent the winter of 1925-26 at Sydney, an unusual place for a laker to lay up.
Her first season on the lakes, 1923, seems to have been uneventful for DONALD STEWART, but 1924 was somewhat less so. She went on the drydock at Kingston during the month of July, 1924, for the repair of damage to both her port and starboard sides, this work necessitating the replacement of fifteen shell plates. We do not know how this damage was caused, but it probably resulted from canalling incidents, for each upbound or downbound trip required DONALD STEWART to run through the many small locks of the old Welland and St. Lawrence canals. Then, from August 13 through 15, 1924, she was ensconced in the Canadian Vickers Ltd. drydock at Montreal for survey and the repair of damage to her bottom shell plating and internals. Once again, there is no explanation of what happened to her, but she obviously struck bottom somewhere, probably in the lower canals, only shortly after she had emerged from the first drydocking at Kingston.
DONALD STEWART spent the winter of 1926-27 laid up at Toronto. She had, however, seen her last operation in the service of J. F. M. Stewart. In addition to his various vessel holdings, Stewart had been involved in the operation of the Home Bank, and the failure of this institution was one of those unfortunate events that made the news across Canada as a result of the number of Canadians that were ruined by the bank's collapse. The failure of the Home Bank caused the implementation of a number of strict regulations concerning the operation of banks that are still in effect today. Be all this as it may, however, Stewart was out of the vessel business shortly after the collapse of the bank in which he had holdings.
Sometime during the winter of 1926-27, probably very early in 1927, DONALD STEWART was acquired from the Bruce Trading Company Ltd. by the International Waterways Navigation Company Ltd., Montreal, which was a concern that was operated by two well-known shipping entrepreneurs, Robert A. Campbell of Montreal, and John E. Russell of Toronto. We know that they acquired STEWART before the beginning of the 1927 navigation season, for it was announced early in 1927 that International Waterways had offered an issue of $400,000 of 6% first mortgage ten-year sinking fund bonds, dated March 1, 1927 and due March 1, 1937, and that the bond issue was to be secured by direct first mortgages on the company's four steamers, namely BELVOIR, DONALD STEWART, JOLLY INEZ and ARAGON.
DONALD STEWART was not to remain in the International Waterways Navigation Company Ltd. fleet for more than two full seasons, but she was painted up in the company's colours. Her hull was all black, while her cabins were white. Her stack was blue, with a black smokeband. Unfortunately, her service with this fleet was brought to an untimely end as a result of an accident which involved the small, wooden-hulled, Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. steamer CATARACT, (a) MYLES (06), (c) THERESE T.
As a result of the litigation arising out of this accident, wherein Canada Steamship Lines claimed against International Waterways for the damages sustained by CATARACT, the DONALD STEWART was handed over to C.S.L. in 1929 as payment of the judgment. It was thus that she came to wear the colours for which she is best remembered. It is interesting to note that Canada Steamship Lines did not keep the wounded CATARACT, but rather sold her off after the accident to the Sorel Sand Company Ltd., which had her cut down to a barge.
DONALD STEWART was given the usual C.S.L. livery and entered into the various trades in which the company kept its bulk canallers occupied. Her main service was in the grain and coal trades. She spent the winter of 1929-30 laid up in the Soulanges Canal, where the company's IGNIFER, (a) CARLETON (16), was also lying. Not only was the following navigation season to be an unhappy one because of the gradually worsening business conditions, but it also saw DONALD STEWART involved in yet another accident.
On Thursday, August 21st, 1930, DONALD STEWART was downbound from Port Colborne for Montreal with grain. At the entrance to the Cardinal Canal, she met the Keystone steamer KEYVIVE, which was upbound with a cargo of pulpwood for Erie, Pennsylvania. As she passed through the canal piers, KEYVIVE's mate failed to see the approaching STEWART, or else he would have tied up his boat. Instead, they met, and a collision ensued. The officers of both steamers were censured by Capt. L. A. Demers, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, who presided over the subsequent enquiry, and it seems fairly certain that harsh disciplinary action would have been taken had it not been for the fact that no particularly serious damage had resulted from the collision.
The remainder of DONALD STEWART's years in Canada Steamship Lines service were apparently quiet, although she could hardly have failed to be involved in the numerous scrapes to which all canallers fell victim as a result of having to operate at close quarters for most of their lives. She spent the winter of 1931-32 at Sarnia, 1935-36 at Kingston, 1936-37, 1937-38, and 1938-39 at Montreal. She laid up again at Kingston for the winter of 1939-40.
Like many of the canallers in the C.S.L. fleet, DONALD STEWART was caught up in the hostilities of World War Two. Shipping losses on the North Atlantic were reaching epidemic proportions, and operable hulls were very much in demand. The little canallers were hardly designed for deep-sea service, especially in the foul winter weather of the North Atlantic, but they were pressed into such operation in any event. DONALD STEWART was requisitioned by the government for war service on salt water, and she passed to the control of the British Ministry of War Transport. She was destined never to return to her home waters of the Great Lakes.
There occurred, during the late summer of 1942, what has now come to be called (somewhat derisively) the "Battle of the St. Lawrence". The event and its true meaning were little known at the time, and not much was said in contemporary press reports. In fact, German U-boats had penetrated into the St. Lawrence River, and the Canadian government was undeniably embarrassed by this state of affairs, particularly because one of the U-boats managed to torpedo and sink a Canadian warship, the corvette H.M.C.S. CHARLOTTETOWN.
Several German submarines were involved in this escapade, but the one that created most of the havoc was U-517, which was sailing under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Paul Hartwig. A first-hand report of the U-517's voyage into the St. Lawrence River was not available until 1972, when Hartwig gave his story to an interviewer for publication in a string of Canadian weekend newspaper magazine supplements.
During the day of September 2, 1942, U-517 stalked an outward-bound convoy which was making its run to the Atlantic via the Strait of Belle Isle, a stretch of water which lies between the Quebec shore and the northwesterly edge of Newfoundland. The submarine ran on ahead of the convoy and lay in wait for it, planning an attack for the wee small hours of the morning. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, September 3rd, U-517 attacked the lead ships of the convoy, coming at them out of the moonlight while the escort vessels, two corvettes, were stationed on the dark side of the lines of merchantmen. In a position approximately 50.32 North by 58.45 West, in the westerly approaches to the Strait of Belle Isle, the submarine fired two torpedoes. One of them missed, and the other found its mark in a direct hit on the poor DONALD STEWART. The submarine then fled from the scene, hotly pursued by the two corvettes.
A direct hit from a torpedo was enough to sink almost any canaller, but Hartwig's hurried choice of DONALD STEWART as a target was particularly unfortunate. The steamer was carrying a cargo of aviation fuel in barrels and the hit resulted in a tremendous explosion. She was soon enveloped in searing flames that were so hot that even Hartwig, on the bridge of his submarine, could feel the heat, and the explosions aboard the STEWART made such a commotion that he had trouble making his orders heard by the U-517's wheelsman. DONALD STEWART sank less than twelve minutes after she was hit by the torpedo.
If there was any consolation to be found in this tragic event, it would be such cold comfort as could be gained from the knowledge that DONALD STEWART was not U-517's only score so close to the Canadian coast. The submarine sank a total of nine vessels in the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In addition to CHARLOTTETOWN and DONALD STEWART, she destroyed a troop transport and six other freighters. Amongst the other merchantmen sunk was another Canadian canaller, the OAKTON of the Gulf and Lake Navigation Company Ltd. She went to the bottom, with the death of two crewmen, on September 7, 1942, some 15 miles off Cape Gaspe.
(Ed. Note: Much of the information concerning DONALD STEWART'S early comings and goings has been taken from various issues of "Canadian Railway and Marine World". The story of Lt. Cmdr. Paul Hartwig and his U-517 appeared in the February 26 and March 4, 1972, issues of "The Canadian Magazine".)
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.