We received very favourable response to our May Ship of the Month (No. 155) which featured the elusive Toronto Island ferries ISLAND QUEEN and KATHLEEN, which were burned at Hanlan's Point early on the morning of Tuesday, March 12, 1918. It seems that readers not only enjoyed the article (which we believe to be the only history of the two steamers ever written), but also got a kick out of seeing, perhaps for the first time, photos of both vessels.
Capt. John Leonard, who grew up on the Island and was well acquainted with the ferry service, has written to tell our readers that Capt. Nelson Miner, who began working for the Toronto Ferry Company in 1912 and remained with its successor, the Toronto Transportation Commission, until his death in 1947, knew something of the circumstances of the 1918 fire.
Miner told John Leonard that it was believed that the fire which destroyed ISLAND QUEEN and KATHLEEN was caused by the night watchman's lantern. It was said that the watchman thought he heard a noise aboard one of the boats (perhaps one of the "loungers" mentioned in the press?), and went to investigate. He allegedly dropped his coal-oil lantern, which exploded, and the conflagration ensued. It appears that nothing official was ever said about the lantern, and today we might speculate about certain reasons for such an oversight. In any event, we have no reason to doubt the truth of Miner's story, which he related to Leonard in 1940, only 22 years after the event. Forty-seven years later, we have no evidence with which to refute it, and we feel that it should be part of the record.
In the ISLAND QUEEN/KATHLEEN story, we made reference to the little ferry steamer LUELLA, and gave our readers to understand that she was retired at the close of the 1935 season. We also made the same comment when we featured LUELLA as Ship of the Month No. 46 in February 1975. We suppose that we were lulled into this error in that LUELLA's replacement, the diesel ferry SHAMROCK (II), now operating as WILLIAM INGLIS, was completed in 1935. John Leonard, however, states (and we have confirmed this) that LUELLA made her last trip on Sunday, October 21, 1934.
John recalls that it was still daylight when LUELLA came in from the Island on her last trip, and that reporters were aboard taking photos of her master, Capt. George M. Brown, and some of his passengers. One man claimed that he had made the first trip on her back in 1880 as well as the last trip. John's late grandmother, Mrs. Norma V. Gray, remembered the commissioning of LUELLA, and recalled that she made her first trip on the bay on July 6, 1880. It is interesting that a wooden-hulled ship of LUELLA's conservative dimensions enjoyed so many seasons of passenger service on the Island ferry routes, but be this as it may, we thank John Leonard for correcting the record.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.