The Man that Brought “Canada” Back to Carleton Place – Bill Bagg

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The Man that Brought “Canada” Back to Carleton Place – Bill Bagg

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TONIGHT!!—Friends and family are welcome to celebrate Bill in the hall at St. James Anglican Church (225 Edmund Street, Carleton Place) on Monday, May 1st from 5-7pm. A funeral service will be held at 7:00pm.

I never wear any Canadian flags on my being. It’s not that I’m not proud to be a Canadian, but I feel people will understand the second I open my mouth. But tonight at the celebration of Bill Bagg at St. James Anglican I will proudly wear a Canadian flag on my hat. It’s not a fashion statement of any kind– I’m doing it in memory of Bill Bagg.

Bill Bagg told me lots of stories, and when you saw him you knew it just wasn’t going to be a short conversation.  After all, everything is a lengthy conversation here in Lanark County; that’s the first thing I warned Steve about when he emigrated here last year.  Over a year ago I stood in front of Walmart with Gary Strike and Bill for so long that I was almost gassed to death by the fumes of passing cars.

If it wasn’t local politics with Bill it was history or something else that irritated him and just like me, a lot of things irritated him. But sometimes you wondered if he really listened to you when you were in deep discussion with him — or did he just file it away for future reference.

In 1991, one of Bill’s best friends, Gary Strike, was watching a story about an old sailing boat on Mike Duffy’s show, Sunday Edition. The boat was said to be the oldest registered sailboat named “The Canada”, and was built in 1896, or 1897. It raced and sailed out of St. Johns, New Brunswick for 68 consecutive years, winning many races and when I told Bill The Dorothy was the oldest Canadian ship he argued up and down with me.

The story as it was told: in 1968, The Canada needed extensive repairs and was sold to Major William Gamblin.  Well, Gamblin moved it, along with his family, lock stock and barrel to Carleton Place by rail.  According to Google Earth The Canada and what was left of it was just on Dixon’s Landing on a private road off highway 7.

According to an article in the Ottawa Journal, Gamblin was an excellent craftsman and had refinished many a piece of maritime furniture. But Gamblin never got around to The Canada and the boat sat exposed to the elements of Lanark County for nearly 20 years.

In 1984 he and his wife retired on another sailboat (one that was intact) in the Caribbean. He gave the “The Canada” to the Lanark branch of the Navy League, they tried to raise $150,000 to restore her but they were unable, so they traded her to a boat builder in Kemptville, Ont. for repairs to their other boat called the “LANARK”.

When Gary Strike saw it in 1991 it was in a sorry state, badly needing to be rebuilt and the project and story received all kinds of media attention. Well, they all lobbied, worked and they struggled for three long years but sadly another group took over.  But after struggling to raise money for ten years the new group too gave up, auctioned off the parts and closed down their organization. And all this time you know that somewhere Bill Bagg has heard Gary talk about The Canada and probably filed it in his “Gary Strike file”. You can be assured we all had files in Bill Bagg’s mind. If we had forgotten about something, he had a file on it and would remind you. So what happened to The Canada with her full sails that was once the pride of Canada?

One day Bill Bagg pulled up in front of the Strike’s house with his old truck.  There was always stuff in the back of Bill’s truck, but when Valerie Strike looked out her window she thought Bill was on his way to the dump, because it was really full of junk. Sometimes when you sell antiques you needed a good imagination and a pile of junk and Bill was a triple threat.

Bill Bagg had gone to an auction and bought most of the parts of that sailboat named The Canada. Most of you know Bill specialized in primitives–and the truck was full of what loosely could be called primitives. There was the anchor, port holes, shelves, head, stove, hatch complete with the name The Canada on it.  That  was the same boat that Gary Strike tried to raise funds to rebuild. Because Bill Bagg had listened to his old friend all these years now that iconic sailboat called The Canada, or what was left of it, was sitting at the end of the Strike driveway.

Bill could have probably bought a toy model of The Canada for Gary as there were 14 inch ones available from Harbor Crafty. But Bill Bagg remembered how much the old sailboat meant to his friend Gary Strike and he brought home the real deal.

I’m going to miss driving over the back bridge this summer and not seeing Gary and Bill in their deep discussions by the side of the Mississippi River. To quote Gordon Lightfoot’s song the S. S Edmund Fitzgerald:

And all that remains today is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what someone has to say, and may I say I am so honoured to have been able to listen to the stories and discussions of Bill Bagg. It’s hard to forget someone who gave me so much to remember.

As Bill would say–“I am from Lanark County, God bless ya!”

May we raise our glass today to the memory of Bill Bagg.

Author’s disclaimer— There might be a fact or two out of joint a wee bit here and a wee bit there– but like Bill we wouldn’t be storytellers if we didn’t juggle the words around to make it a fine Lanark County tale.Right Bill?

with files from Gary Strike’s website

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The Dorothy, the oldest still-sailing vessel in Canada, built in victoria in 1897. Dorothy, a 26-foot sloop that was built in a Victoria shipyard in 1897. –

 By the way, I talked to Beckwith Councillor Tim Campbell about this story and he said he has a piece of this boat too- so it would seem like a lot of people are sharing what Bill Bagg brought back to Carleton Place.

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The Canada– read all about it here.. Click here..

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

Related reading

One of Us– Memories of Bill Bagg

Before and After with Bill Bagg and the Mississippi Gorge

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