Captain Robert Cooney
Captain Robert Cooney is one of the best known sailors between Kingston and Port Arthur. In the city of Chicago he is so well known that he thinks the "Windy City" a good place to steer clear of, for was not he the intrepid mate who assisted Captain Irving, master of the good ship Edward Blake, to carry off McGarigle in his famous escape from justice, landing him safely on Canadian soil. Captain Cooney was so written up and pictured in the Western papers at that time that his name was nearly as familiar as that of the President. When the gallant Captain becomes enthusiastic over the institutions of the glorious United States, and some friend asks him pointedly, "Why don't you go over there, then, if you are so fond of the country?" his answer invariably is, "I would if I could, but I can't and if I can't, how can I, can you?"
Captain Cooney was born at Port Dalhousie, Canada, in the year 1862, and in this town attended school until he was fourteen; and it is said of him that he was so adverse to school discipline that the doors and windows had to be locked in order to keep him in the building. Thus, it is only natural that the boy's adventurous spirit should lead him to choose the life of a sailor at a very early age. His first boat was the barkentine Cecelia, which was engaged in the grain trade between Kingston and Toronto. Then he was on the schooner Gulnair for a time, and afterward on the American schooner Senator Blood, of Oswego, which carried grain between Detroit, Toledo and Buffalo. On the schooner Jamaica he attained to the position of mate, this boat running between Kingston, Oswego, and Chicago, after which he served on various boats, mostly schooners, which included the John R. Noyes, the Guido Festor (a schooner carrying 60,000 bushels), the Lizzie A. Law, of Chicago, the Comanche, and the Edward Blake, on which boat, during the year 1888, was safely conveyed to Canadian shores the boodler-politician McGarigle, when escaping from the political sleuth-hounds of an opposite party, who were metaphorically thirsting for his blood. In 1889 he entered the employ of the Hamilton Steamboat Company's line, serving at different times on their two fine boats, the Macassa and the Modjeska. These boats were built on the Clyde, and sailed across the ocean to enter into their fresh- water service on the Great Lakes. They are the two most commodious and best fitted up steamships on Lake Ontario, and the only one having the many advantages of compound triple expansion engines and twin screws, they being capable, by means of the latter, of turning around within their own length. Five years ago Captain Cooney became commodore on the fine side-wheel steamer Garden City, which plied between Toronto and the various lake ports, remaining on her many seasons.
Captain Cooney can recall many exciting episodes in his career, not the least interesting of which is his experience on the Comanche, when she was dismasted and wrecked on Lake Ontario in 1886. He is a lake captain who has had wide experience, and is one whom his employers implicitly trust at all times, although, as he says himself, he has often had to shoulder their sins as well as his own. When at home the Captain resides at Port Dalhousie, which is situated at the Lake Ontario entrance to the Welland canal.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.