For some few months, local marine historians have been aware of the preparation of a book dealing with the distinguished career of Captain Horace Louden Beaton, and have awaited its appearance with considerable anticipation. At long last, the 80-page softcover arrived on the bookshelves in early December, and even a quick glance at the finished product will confirm that it has been well worth the wait.
"From The Wheelhouse" contains the reminiscences of Capt. Beaton (as told by himself and arranged into book form by his son, Rev. Charles P. Beaton) concerning almost half a century of service aboard Great Lakes vessels, beginning in 1919 with the government tender LAMBTON and ending in 1967 with his retirement from FORT CHAMBLY. The events of the intervening years are mentioned in chronological order but are not presented simply as a factual listing of Capt. Beaton's activities; instead, we are treated to a series of interesting anecdotes involving the ships and the men with whom Capt. Beaton had contact over the years.
As might be expected, one whole chapter is devoted to the fire which destroyed the passenger steamer HAMONIC at Sarnia on July 17, 1945. It was Capt. Beaton who was in command of HAMONIC at the time, and had it not been for his courageous efforts in moving the ship away from the flaming wooden freight sheds and downriver to a spot where she could be driven ashore and the passengers removed, it is certain that the fire would have been accompanied by considerable loss of life. Strangely enough, this portion of the Captain's story is recounted with a detachment and matter-of-fact objectivity that might seem unusual to the present-day onlooker, especially in view of the nature of the disaster and the fact that to command HAMONIC had been Beaton's dream ever since he first laid eyes on the handsome steamer. Of such stuff, however, are made those persons who can continue to function in a rational manner when faced with immediate danger to themselves and those about them.
"From The Wheelhouse" is well-written and much attention has obviously been devoted to the verification of historical material. Only a few minor errors of an historical nature have crept into the text, and they are of such minimal importance as to be scarcely recognizable. The book is profusely illustrated with well-chosen and superbly reproduced photographs, a number of which are completely new to us. The highlight of the book, however, in our opinion, is the magnificent colour photograph of the beautiful HAMONIC (lying at the Port Arthur wharf, we believe) which graces the front cover. Historians may wish to obtain an extra copy of the book simply to have an unsoiled copy of this photo for their collections.
We heartily recommend "From The Wheelhouse" to all of our members, and we extend to Capt. Beaton, a T.M.H.S. member himself, our congratulations on a piece of work very well done. "From The Wheelhouse" will be priced at $8.95 in your local bookstore, but may also be obtained from The Boston Mills Press, R.R. 1, Cheltenham, Ontario, L0P 1C0. While they last, autographed copies of the book may also be ordered from a bookstore in Capt. Beaton's hometown, Broad Horizons Books, P.O. Box 2259, 625 Mill Street, Port Elgin, Ontario, N0H 2C0 (phone 519-832-6025) for the afore-mentioned price plus postage of fifty cents.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.