Article from the Almonte Gazette– Documented by Historian Fran Cooper
Eddie Malone – – He Took a Chance
By Hal Kirkland
Easter was late in 1916. In that year Easter fell on April 23rd, which was indeed late. In fact, only twice in this century has it been as late. On that Easter Sunday two young Canadian soldiers went for a long walk out in the country, well back from the ruins of Ypres. It was a beautiful warm spring day and there were small flowers coming up through the grass on the gently rolling fields of the Flanders countryside.
Both young men had come from the same small town in Canada, one was serving with the 2nd Battalion in the 1st Division: the other with the P.P.C.L.I. in the 3rd Division. It happened that their regiments were in reserve at the same time and also billeted in the same area, a happy circumstance which would not occur very often. One was Eddie Malone, the other, the present writer.
I have now no recollection whatever of our conversation in those hours, we spent walking. Both of us had spent a miserable winter in the Ypres Salient and perhaps we didn’t even talk much. I don’t know. Maybe it was enough just to be walking on green grass and in broad daylight.
By luck we both survived the war and by coincidence we arrived back in our home town together. We met in a soldier’s hostel in Montreal and took the midnight train to Almonte. It was the end of January, 1919.
Less than three years later Eddie Malone was dead. He was drowned on September 7, 1921. An account of his drowning was printed in the Almonte Gazette of September 16 under the heading “Took Chance and Saved A Comrade.” Following is the story of the tragedy taken from that issue of the Gazette.
“George E. Malone, the most popular young man in Almonte, was drowned at Chippewa Falls on Wednesday, September 7. He was 29 years of age.
It appears that he and a companion were in a boat when the craft capsized. Eddie thought he could swim to shore and bravely left his companion to cling to the upturned boat, but he failed to reach the shore. The craft could not sustain the two of them and as he was an excellent swimmer he decided to take the chance. It was just one of of the kind of things he had been doing all his life. His companion was rescued. Up to the time of going to press the body had not been recovered. When it is found the remains will be brought home to Almonte.
“Eddie Malone was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Malone, who reside on Victoria Street. He was born in Almonte and was in his boyhood and early manhood a great athlete. When war was declared he enlisted at once with the Second Battalion and was five years overseas. He served with the machine gunners and was wounded three times, the first time being early in 1915.
“Early in the summer he went on a survey to Northern Quebec. His two brothers, Michael and Dennis, accompanied him. Dennis returned home on Sunday. Eddie was to have been home early in October.
“The news of the tragic death caused keen regret in Almonte. He had very many friends and he had won them by doing little acts of kindness all his life. For example, when the late Francis Coulter was ill and could not perform all his duties Eddie Malone would go down early of a morning and put on fires at the town hall for him. He will be remembered with gratitude and affection for many a long year to come.”
Now if any member of the young generation aspires to become popular he knows how- by doing little acts of kindness all his life. But I doubt that Eddie had any aspiration to become popular: he was too happy-go-lucky for that. he just liked people, regardless.
Mr. Coulter, for whom Eddie put on the fires in the town hall, was a life-long, faithful member of the Orange Lodge. And yet, nearing his last hours, who did Frank Coulter ask for? He wanted to see that R. C., Eddie Malone. In this day of a growing ecumenical spirit in the churches, the religious bigotry prevalent at that time would be hard for our young people to believe. But Mr. Coulter and Eddie were showing the way.
I think the last time I saw Eddie was on a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1919 at a meeting in the Belmont Hotel, since destroyed by fire. That meeting, held fifty years ago, is of interest as it was the first meeting of returned soldiers held in Almonte. I quote the write-up from the Gazette of April 18, 1919.
“The first meeting of the Great War Veterans Association in Almonte was held in the Belmont House, on Sunday afternoon, April 13, to which an encouragingly large number of the returned soldiers of Almonte and vicinity turned out, and credit is to be given to the men for turning out as they did which shows that business is meant in the formation of a branch of the G.W.V.A. in Almonte. After the decision to form an association Comrade Ed. Malone was appointed chairman pro tem. The chairman then appointed the following committees to deal with matters concerning the Association: Comrades S. Ritchie, D. W. Forgie, Hal Kirkland, Ed. Malone and A. Wilson.
In 1885, while at the Battle of Fish Creek during the Northwest Campaign, the captured enemy watched the battle and remarked on the forest green uniforms of the 90th Battalion (the forerunner to The Royal Winnipeg Rifles) which looked black in the distance. They commented that they knew the British’s red uniform but asked who are these little black devils? The name “little black devils” stuck, and the Regiment adopted a little black devil on their badge.
All of these names will be familiar to many in Almonte today. The writer remembers that the minutes of that meeting were taken by Charlie Haydon, who served in the Battalion. “Little Black Devils” and was leaving for Winnipeg the next day. Some will remember Charlie, fondly: he excelled in recitations of Dr. Drummond’s habitant poems.
Yes, Eddie took a chance, as The Gazette put it. Alex Wilson, also an original 2nd Battalion man, well remembers another time that Eddie took a chance. “He carried me on his back for a mile when I was wounded.” Alex recalls, “and I sure was glad that Eddie was a big, strong boy.”
Eddie’s remains were brought back to Almonte and buried in the family plot at the old catholic Cemetery a little more than a mile from town on Highway 44. His was probably the last burial in that cemetery.
Every year members of the Canadian Legion from Almonte make a pilgrimage to that old graveyard and place a poppy on the grave of Sgt. G. E. Malone, the sole, veteran buried there. So, feelingly, the Comrades intone at their meetings:
“At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.”