Down at Old McIlquham’s Bridge

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McIlquham’s bridge number 1 as they called it was on Highway 511 between Perth and Lanark. In the beginning the settlers didn’t have any other way to cross the old Mississippi River except to take Cameron’s Ferry— which was basically a canoe to get to Perth. As you know most of the roads were quite impassable in those days and a quick drive down the 511 will give you an idea.

Well that old bridge hung on as long as it could, but in 1987 something had to be done about it. Wooden piers filled with stone had to be replaced with cement and steel railings were needed– basically it was the works.

When Sandy Caldwell was king in the lumbering days- the logs used to pile up at this bridge  blocking the river for days. Lumbermen worked for hours and days with their pike poles trying to free those logs- and some even lost their lives.

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It was during these hard times that Lanark County’s famous song “The Ballad of Jimmy Whalen”  supposedly written by John Smith of Lanark and was allegedly first put together by a Ferguson’s Falls bard.

The facts behind the song are elusive, but Jimmy Whelan or Whalen – actually was James Phalen (so spelled; pronounced Whalen) – was killed on Ontario’s Mississippi River. The date given was 1878, but James Phalen’s grandniece, Mary C. Phelan of Ottawa, thinks it was 1876, and she names Timothy Doyle as the ballad’s composer.

Whatever who wrote the song- it still lives and reminds us of when life was rough and tough on the Mississippi River.

 

 

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Perth Courier, July 23, 1897

On Sunday afternoon, July 25, Rev. James Cross conducted a baptismal service at McIlquham’s bridge on the Carleton road when Mrs. Jas Dodds and Miss L. Borrowman were baptized.  The news that an immersion was to take place drew quite a large crowd, a number walking down from here to witness the ceremony.  From the Lanark Era

Lost Jimmy Whalen_Mrs John Coughlin NA1.30 T30

Lyrics:

1.
Slowly as I strayed by the banks of the river,
A-viewing those roses as evening drew nigh;
As onward I rambled I espied a fair damsel,
She was weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

2.
She was weeping for one that was now lying lonely,
Weeping for one that no mortal can save;
For the dark rolling waters lies slowly around him,
As onward they speed over young Jimmy’s grave.

[At this point, Mrs. Coughlin asked if that was good enough to give Sandy the tune. She claimed she couldn’t sing.]

3.
Slowly there rose from the depths of the desert
A vision of beauty more brighter than the sun,
With roses of crimson around him a-waving,
To speak to this fair one he just had begun.

4.
“Why do you call me from red-lums [realms] of glory,
Back to this wide world I no longer can stay?
To embrace you once more in my strong loving arms,
To see you once more I have come from my grave.”

5.
“Darling,” she said, “won’t you bury me with you?
Do not desert me to weep and to mourn,
But take me, oh, take me along with you Jimmy,
To sleep with you down in your cold silent tomb.”

6.
“Darling,” he said, “you are asking a favor
That no mortal person can grant unto thee,
For deep is the desert that parts us asunder –
Wide is the gulf lies between you and me.

7.
“But as you do wander by the banks of this river,
I will ever be near thee to keep and to guide;
My spirit will guide you and keep from all danger.
I’ll guide you along from my cold silent grave.”

8.
She threw herself down and she wept bitterly;
In the deepest of anguish those words she did say:
“Oh, you are my darling, my lost Jimmy Whalen;
I will sigh ’til I die by the side of your grave.”

 

Related Bridge Stories

The Tragic Tale of the Rideau Ferry Swing Bridge

The Bascule Bridge of Smiths Falls — A Ghost Story

The Floating Bridges of Lanark County

Debbie Dixon and The CPR Bridge Incident in Carleton Place–Linda’s Mailbag

How to Really Catch Fish With Dynamite at the Glen Isle Bridge

One Day a Long Time Ago on the Glen Isle Bridge

Spring at the Gillies Bridge

Over the Falls- June 1984

Shark Week in Carleton Place on the Mississippi Bridge

Who Caught the Big Shark in Carleton Place?

Down by the Old Pike Hole–The Island Bridges of Carleton Place- Before and After

Lawsuits in Carleton Place — The Collapse of the Appleton Bridge

Feeling Groovy by the Lake Ave East Bridge

Was the McNeely Bridge Funded on “Drinkin’ Fines”?

 

 

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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