Captain Lyall Dougan was well known on both sides of the international border for his piloting skills of ocean going ships that headed up the St. Lawrence River. He was based in Kingston and his house was on the shore south of the Kingston Water Works, now the Pump House Steam Museum, at the foot of West Street. He also operated a private ferry service to Wolfe Island. In many emergencies, Lyall was the one who would ferry passengers through rain and sleet to the Kingston. He would also be called to help in boating mishaps and other water based disasters.

I have written some stories about him, one is an attempt at historical fiction, based on the stories in the Kingston Whig Standard and oral communications with his surviving family members. Here they are, have a good read. But first Captain Dougan’s commemorative plaque that shows his life’s achievements. It is a popular animated commemorative monument designed and built by late Ken Olson, a friend and employee of the City’s Parks and Recreation. The artifact was dedicated to the City by former Mayor Helen Cooper on June 6, 1989 in the presence of Leona Dougan-Leroux

dougan plaque++++++++++++++++


It was early December 1936. Ice floes choked the powerful Saint Lawrence River, which flows over a distance of more than 1500 km from Lake Ontario at Kingston into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and from there into the North Atlantic Ocean. The ice was not yet thick and strong enough to stop the big ships that navigate the river. The force of the great currents kept on breaking it in large pieces with clean cut transparent blue edges, like broken glass. These solid sections would collide, ascend, subside and emerge from the water at steep angles to form a solid ragged surface. Farther away, as far as the eye could see, the pressure ridges appeared to form a rough blanket of white Arctic coldness. At the horizon it merged with the puffy cumulus clouds in the northern blue sky to form a silent dome that embraced two mighty forces of nature engaged in a giant struggle. That battle would be decided by the start of the winter when water solidifies to great depths, and snow covers the vast landscape above the 45th latitude like a gigantic sparkling white blanket.

The MS Texaco Brave, a Great Lakes oil tanker, struggled to escape the churning ice at Pointe des Cascades just west of Montreal, desperately trying to reach open water in Lake Ontario. Navigation was almost impossible. The tanker ship, fully loaded with light fuel oil, took a beating and finally got trapped in the thickly packed ice field within a stone throw of a small village. The crew could clearly see the curved metal-roofed cottages and houses, stretched out along the highway which ran along the top of the hills and the low mountains of the Montérégie region. At night the houses seemed to almost disappear below the snow drifts, with one or two small windows glowing with soft orange light from within, while the intense lights of the gas station and the general store sparkled against the backdrop of the dark sky. It is here that the Saint Lawrence flows into Lake Saint-Louis and this confluence is under normal conditions one of many treacherous navigational hazards to Lake Ontario. This is especially the case in the late fall and early winter and the Texaco Brave made therefore little progress.

Finally, the captain ordered to stop the engines, drop her anchors, and prepare the Laker for her long hibernation until at least late February or early March of the next year when the seaway would be opened for the new shipping season. The Texaco Brave was now very close to shore, and surrounded by thick sheets of ice that held the ship in its unrelenting grip, like the jaws of a shark.

The crew could climb over the icy landscape to shore to buy supplies and for a break in the monotony of their imposed hibernation. But for the anxious community of Pointe des Cascades the stranded ship was much too close. People were scared, their observations fed on each other like a full blown nightmare.

“What if that boat catches fire? Could easily happen, eh?”

“Fire? I’m worried sick about the whole shebang blowing up. Remember Halifax? My wife and I can’t sleep anymore thinking about getting  blown away like that.”

These were remote possibilities, but the concerns were real. The shipping company tried to reassure the citizens of Pointe des Cascades, by ordering half the crew to stay on board. The Captain and Lyall Dougan, First Mate, were in charge, while six sailors took care of the few daily chores and the continuous twenty-four hour watch.

At twenty-eight, Lyall was an experienced sailor, having spent almost half his life on board ships, the last three years on the Texaco Brave. He was now responsible for the physical plant on the stranded leviathan. Under normal circumstances it took him only an hour and a half to check up on the deckhands and the skeleton crew in the engine room, where only a single backup diesel engine provided electricity to drive the pumps and plumbing system, to generate heat and lighting.  Every day, he took time to write a few brief comments in the logbook. He saw its pages slowly filled up with mostly the same coded statements about the physical plant that lay now mostly idle.

It did not take long for the crew to make friends with the town’s folk. They were especially welcome at the grocery store which saw its business increase notably.  Lyall with his long list of groceries for the crew easily made friends at the store. Among them was a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Leroux, who invited him to her house to meet her family. The Leroux farmstead sat on a large tract of land along the St. Lawrence River. From the ship, Lyall could see the farm covered with a layer of snow which extended from the top of the hill over the gentle furrows of the plowed land, all the way to the lower edge of the river. Mr. Leroux, a jolly giant of a man invited Lyall to join him and some neighbours to play cards on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.  Lyall, eager to have some distractions from the deadening routine on the stranded ship, had happily accepted the invitation. It gave him something to look forward to.

Like most Quebec families, the Leroux family had a large number of children. Lyall had counted ten including the youngest, a baby. The oldest daughter, Leone, was twenty-three and was her mother’s right hand in the handling of this crowd.

One morning at breakfast, the captain said with a smirk on his face, “ Hey Lyall, I hear you play cards at the Leroux’s house? Lucky you. But I imagine you could do with a little French, eh?  I wonder how you manage over there, just play cards and say nothing? With that pretty young lady there it must be hard to keep your mouth shut.” Lyall’s face reddened. His mates glanced at each other and smiled knowingly.

“None of your business, is it, Cap? But if you are so concerned why don’t you teach me a few French words, and then I will take it from there.”

“OK, son, let’s try. First word: Bonjour …” The captain grinned broadly.

“Fuck you,” Lyall said, and walked out of the canteen. He was angry at himself being so gullible. He slammed the heavy steel door and kicked hard against the walls of the narrow companion way.

The Leroux people did not know much English, but Lyall had managed quite well with a few gestures and saying merci and Non, merci. Slowly he had picked up a few French words, which he combined with simple English ones to create short sentences that made sense to him and made the Leroux people smile.

“Don’t need le capitaine to teach me,” Lyall thought. He started to laugh. The French word made the old man sound less overbearing, more human. Lyall felt a pang of pity for the old geezer. There had to be more to life than being a lone captain on a stupid freighter running up and down the Saint Lawrence River and lording over a bunch of sailors. It paid well, though.

That night in the large kitchen at the Leroux house, Lyall had as always a good time. Opposite of him was Monsieur Leroux and his neighbour Philippe. To his left sat Madame Leroux, wearing her apron which seemed glued to her motherly body. Leone was as usual doing the dishes in the kitchen. The kitchen was off the living room but she could hear and see whatever might draw her attention. The kids did their homework lying on their tummies spread out around the table.  The youngest played with their trainset letting two trains collide. They squealed and made loud noises when the trains derailed and jumble over the carpet. “Tais-toi, braves bruyants. Cut it out, you noisy brats,” Mr. Leroux admonished his children.

Eh Ly-elle,” Mr. Leroux said. “Votre bateau …can go POOF?” He made a grand gesture with his two arms in the air describing an imaginary large cumulus cloud of debris and black smoke. Lyall did not answer immediately. He looked intently at his cards to order them for his next move. Then he looked at Mr. Leroux and said, “Le Texaco Brave? POOF? Mais non…, Monsieur Leroux. Me and le capitaine…,” he lightly tapped his right temple with his forefinger trying to think what his next word should be.  “No problème,” he said nonchalantly, waving his hand from left to right as if to emphasize that he had things under control. Leone turned to look at him, but said nothing, and continued doing her dishes. Mr. Leroux smiled, and the players resumed the game. The kids in the living room had interrupted their homework only for a few seconds when they had heard their father say “POOF.”

The winter months passed uneventful. Each day was one big boring routine and the sailors were fed up with the monotony.

By mid March 1937 the ice was getting soft, and it started to break up. Day and night, there were loud booming noises, but especially at night one could hear the cracks running for miles in all directions. The crew became restless. They were looking forward to sailing again.

Lyall knew that in a few days they would try to leave Pointe des Cascades to deliver their cargo of fuel oil to Sault Ste. Marie at the top of Lake Huron, hopefully before the middle of April. He had become a part of the Leroux family and dreaded the moment they had to say goodbye, not the least because he and Leone had become more than good friends.

After the card games, Leone and Lyall would sit in the living room and talk. Lyall had never experienced this intimacy and it made him very happy. Leone equally relished these moments and she was not shy to show her affection.  Lyall also felt that the family had been most welcoming and with their joie de vivre there had never been a dull moment. He had learned more French, and while not fluent, Lyall was comfortably speaking a mix of comprehensible French and English. At least he thought so.

“Madame Leroux,” he said halfway through the last evening they would be together, “merci beaucoup… for… votre hospitalité, je t’aime”. Lyall leaned back to resume his game, satisfied that he had managed to thank her and the family for their hospitality. When he looked up from his cards, he saw Monsieur Leroux shaking with laughter, Madame Leroux hid behind her set of cards and Leone looked at him with a broad smile. She lovingly blew him a kiss. The little ones bounced all over to the living room singing in their loud clear voices: je t’aime, je t’aime. By now, everybody was laughing. Lyall knew he had said something quite different from what he had intended, but he remained stoic. “Not much else I can do,” he thought. He smiled sheepishly, and then he laughed heartily with the rest, still not knowing what had caused the excitement.

The next day the Captain told Lyall that they would haul anchor that afternoon. Lyalll scrambled over the still solid ice near the shore to go over to the Leroux’ farm to say au revoir. He gave Mr. Leroux a hand, hugged Mrs. Leroux and lifted the little ones high up in the air, then put them back on their feet. “Au revoir, a la prochaine,” he said. He promised to stay in touch. Leone walked Lyall back to his ship. Before he climbed on board, they embraced.

“I will write you often Leone, will you, too”? Lyall whispered in her ear.

“Of course I will, je t’aime,” said Leone with a smile, but Lyall saw tears in her eyes.  He held her close, aroused by the sweet smell of her youthful skin. For the first time in his sailing career, Lyall felt pain and anguish. One more kiss and then they had to say goodbye.

Many in Pointe des Cascades had come out the see the Texaco Brave lift her anchors. It took a long time for the large ship to make progress through the slushy ice towards the channel. She discharged clouds of black smoke and soot from her funnel while the engines were groaning moving the ship forward and then backwards to take a longer run at the ice floes. Once the ship was in the main channel, it blew the whistle, three short blasts, three long ones and then again three short ones: the mariner’s way of saying goodbye.

The Texaco Brave made better time than expected. At Kingston they signaled for the pilot service and soon the old man came alongside. Lyall knew him well. ” Hello Mr. Cleary, how are you?”

“Not too well,” Cleary said.

I can see,” Lyall thought. The guy looks awful, much worst than last year, for sure.

Lyall knew from the stories of other pilots that Cleary’s cabin was not in good shape. But that might make it affordable and with some repairs and painting, Lyall thought, it might be a cozy little place.

Lyall leaned over the railing. Looking over his shoulders, he said in a low voice, “Let me know when you are thinking about selling the place.”

“I will, I will.” Mr. Cleary said. He had one foot on the boarding ladder to hold it steady while he looked up at Lyall. His face was contorted in a painful grimace.

Lyall felt guilty, the old man had tears in his eyes.

The pilot who had boarded the ship at Pointe des Cascades clambered down the rope ladder, jumped into Cleary’s launch and waved nonchalantly goodbye to Lyall. “Au revoir,” he said, and off he went to the pilot’s dock at Cleary’s cabin to sign off and return by train to Montreal. Lyall looked at the speeding boat. “Nice job, I could work from home,” he thought.

“Home?” He had not known a home for the last eleven years, since he was just a teenager. The ships he had sailed on had offered board and lodging, but that was not the same as home. He had toyed with some ideas, but now he made a plan and he was going to do something about it.

During his trip from Point des Cascades to Kingston and beyond, he had written every day a few lines in a letter to Leone. In Toronto he posted it. The bits and pieces he had written had become more like a bundle of love letters and Lyall wondered what Leone would think of it. But his plan was prominently fixed on top of the package.

“Dear Leone, we came by Kingston two days ago and I talked to the old man Cleary. You have heard of him? He owns the pilot dock and office. He looked sicker than ever. I asked him if he would sell his place, it is a very nice little cabin right on shore beside the docks. It needs a little sprucing up but we could do that easily by  ourselves. I also know that Cleary’s business does not earn much, but we could expand it and get by. Would you come to Kingston?

Just thinking of you has made the voyage so far the best of my life. It would be wonderful if we could start a family and business in this town…

In Sault Ste. Marie he got his answer, in a letter not quite as long as his. It opened with:

Ma très chère Lyall, you asked if I would marry you and come to Kingston?  Devine ! J’adorerais. I would go anywhere and be with you, as long as you can work from shore so that we can be close.  J’ai entendu, Kingston c’est une ville trés belle.”

Lyall bought the Cleary Pilot Service in 1937. The cabin was old and rickety and was built on a concrete slab. It had steel cables dangling from each corner. It was located just behind the Kingston Water Works and the Shipyards, an industrial area, but the view from the cabin over Lake Ontario was unobstructed and magnificent.

Lyall and Leone married a year later and the couple moved into their first home.

When Leone inspected her maison she knew that Lyall had made the place look better than it actually was, but that didn’t bother her. She did notice the steel cables, though. “What are these for?” she asked, as she pointed at one of the rusted ropes.

“Oh…the lines?” Lyall said. “They can be hooked up to these large anchor bolts, see?”

“But pourquoi would you hook them up?” she asked.

“Well…” Lyall hesitated, not sure yet if Leone shared his enthusiasm for their new place.  “It can blow hard from the Lake, and Cleary told me to tie her down, otherwise she may shift.”  He looked anxiously at Leone. “Aha, tiens donc. I see,” she said.

Lyall and Leone had lived for a month in the cabin when the first storm was approaching. Lyall connected the cables. He also checked the moorings of the old pilot boat at the rickety dock and for any loose planks on the gangway to shore. He stored the smaller appliances and tools safely inside the tiny mudroom of the cabin. There was barely room for all the equipment and some of it was on the cot for the pilots in case one was stranded overnight in Kingston and could not find a hotel room. Lyall and Leone had decided they should continue with this informal service that Cleary had offered. It gave them a bit of extra income.

Leone and Lyall finally sat down to relax around the wood stove. Lyall read a book on geology, one of his favorite topics. Leone studied last year’s Eaton’s catalogue for some furniture that she would like. It was not yet winter, but it was cold enough to have the stove go full blast.

The storm gathered more force and the gusts were coming from the lake like freight trains rumbling down the track. The force of the wind rattled the cabin, which sat highly exposed on the rocky shore. Lyall was not particularly alarmed. He knew the cables would hold. The faint sound of the rainstorm hammering the waves grew louder. When the rain hit ashore it pelted down on the cabin roof like the clatter of a snare drum.

The wind was so strong that it created much pressure on the exposed side and a vacuum inside the cabin which made the water seep straight through the chinking. Leone saw it first. “Lyall,” she said pointing at the dripping wall. “What do we do?” Lyall looked up and his jaw dropped. The water came in so fast that in seconds it caused a heavy drizzle in the cabin. The few pieces of furniture they had got soaked. Lyall was perplexed. Never in all his sailing years had he seen something even remote to this.

            “Aller,” Leone said. She started to pull the chairs over to the lee side of the cabin, and then with the help of Lyall they moved the heavier pieces into the mudroom as far away from the spray as possible. The stove hissed and belched clouds of steam like an overheated engine. Lyall and Leone, both soaking wet, looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Well,” Leone said, “add that to our routine.” Mockingly she counted on her fingers: “Tie down work boat, stow away tools, anchor cabin, move the furniture, and what else, sailor?”

Lyall relaxed. He knew that Leone would be his partner no matter what. In the middle of the chaos he drew her close and said: “Je t’aime.”

Henk Wevers, February 2005, revised February 2018


The animated monument commemorates Captain Lyall Dougan, built by the late Ken Olson, Parks and Recreation City of Kingston and friend of Lyall Dougan. It was dedicated to the City of Kingston by the former Mayor Helen Cooper and Leone Dougan-Leroux on June 6, 1989.


In the mid-nineteen-forties, Kingston’s Ontario Street was a bleak, dust covered and pot-holed road. It was lined with factories and dreary boarding houses.

It was early in the morning. A heavy fog blanketed the lake with some of the wet clouds drifting ashore. With his head buried deep in the collar of his woolen jacket, Archie walked along the dilapidated chain link fence of the Canadian Locomotive Company towards the Kingston Water Works at the bottom of West Street. His leather cap, sweat-soaked over the many years he had worn it, covered his eyes. Ahead of him lay the dry dock, the Kingston Shipyards, and several buildings that housed smaller workshops, such as the blacksmith, a hardware store, a chandler. Just before the impressive water works pumping station was a rickety plumbing shop. He had spent many hours there to keep the pumps going. Archie, who was a free spirit, had worked as a helper on and off for most of these companies. He knew the foremen and several of the workers by name. Some of them were good friends who he would meet after work in the tavern.

Today, he was on his way to “Cleary’s Point” as most people called the spot, at the rear of the water works. From this point, the Cleary Pilot Service had shuttled pilots to and from ships on the St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. But when Mr. Cleary had fallen sick in old age, the business had been sold to the young Lyall Dougan almost ten years earlier. Archie had dropped by not long after the ownership had changed and had offered his services. “In case you need a pair of extra hands,” he had told Lyall. Soon they had become friends.

In 1938 Lyall had married his sweetheart and soulmate Leone Paula Leroux from St Pierre des Cacades, Quebec. Archie liked her, she was an outgoing young lady and had readily made friends in the community. To bring in some extra money she had started a land-based taxi service, while Lyall ran the pilot service and slowly took on more business ferrying people to and from the islands, often when there was an emergency. Archie has often lent a hand with the maintenance of the pilot launches and of the docks.

For Lyall and Leone the drafty smoke-stained log cabin that Cleary had built way back, had been cozy enough, but in the late 1940s with a baby soon to join them, they had decided to expand the cabin. In a stroke of pragmatic genius, Lyall had got the idea to build a new house over the old cabin, which would enable them to stay put during the construction.

The last couple of days, Lyall and Archie had worked together framing the new place. With the diminutive cabin overarched by a dense web of two-by-fours and wooden trusses the place had become the talk of the town. Since Lyall was in a hurry, Archie had convinced Bill, his friend, to help them with the roofing. Lyall had been hesitant to agree to the deal, he had felt that Bill was a bit clumsy and slow, but time was running out and Leone had urged him to get on with finishing the roof.  “Go ahead,” he had told Archie. “While you two do the roof, I can work on finishing the siding.”

Archie and Bill went to work, and within a couple of hours they had laid several sheets of plywood and had nailed them down.

“Jesus, they are fast,” Lyall thought. “Better get more sheets ready for them so that they can stay up there. We might be able to finish nailing them before the end of the day.”

He got a sheet, and stacked it upright against the side of the house. At that moment, Bill stumbled and let go of the heavy four-by-eight plywood board that he was holding so that Archie could nail it in place. It slid down the roof, swung around, and went over the edge. “Watch it!” Archie yelled, but it was too late, the sheet came crashing down, hitting Lyall on the shoulder and knocking him to the ground. It smashed into the concrete pad, the impact splintered and crushed a corner, and then it bounced and fell on Lyall, half covering him.

In a flash, Archie slid from the roof, jumped on the scaffolding, and clambered down to the pavement. He rushed over to Lyall, and removed the plywood, fearing the worse. Lyall lay on his back.

Archie was shaking. He touched Lyall, “Are you OK?” But Lyall only moaned. By now, Bill had come down. “Get Leone, “Archie said.

Lyall opened his eyes and looked at Archie. “What the hell happened?”

“Tell you later,” Archie said, and he motioned to Leone, who had rushed to the scene. “Get the car, Leone. We need to get him to the hospital, quick!   Bill and I can get him in the back seat.”

Leone fetched her car. Archie and Bill took Lyall between them, and gently moved him onto the back seat. At the hospital, Lyall limped to the registration desk, supported by Bill and Archie, while Leone parked the car. There were not many people in the waiting room and a nurse who seemed concerned waved them through. “Put him here on this chair, and stay with him. The doctor will be seeing him shortly.”

Moments later a tired looking man in a white coat walked in, and asked casually, “Got into a fight?”

“Yeah, with a sheet of plywood, it hit him right here,” Archie said and he pointed to Lyall’s shoulder.  The doctor ignored the comment. He started to check Lyall’s head.

“There is nothing wrong with his head, Doc. Better look at his shoulder, its all blue and bruised, you can see it, that’s where he got hit.” Archie had a concerned look on his face.

The doctor turned around and snarled, “Get out!”

Archie froze. He shrugged repeatedly, something he always did when nervous or threatened. He looked at Lyall, not knowing what to do. Lyall winked and tugged on his arm. He whispered in Archie’s ear.

“I said…, get out!” bellowed the doctor.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s what Lyall just told me to do. You don’t have to scream, Doc.” Archie shrugged and shrugged some more. He slowly moved to the exit.

“Wait…. Does he have family?”

Archie stopped in his tracks, and turned around. “His wife parked the car, while we took him in, eh Doc. She might be waiting in the corridor?

“Tell her to come in. And you. Stay out!”

Archie shrugged again, but kept quiet. He left the examination room. Leone sat on a bench in the corridor. She seemed confused. Bill sat beside her, his hands between his knees, staring ahead.

“Lyall seems OK,” Archie said, but Leone didn’t react. A little louder, Archie repeated, “Lyall seems OK, he told me he had to pick up a pilot at three. He asked if you could do it for him.”  Leone looked up, surprised and worried.  ”But Archie, I can’t leave him there?”

“I will stay with Lyall, don’t worry,” he said.

When Archie came back in the room the doctor exploded. “Are you his wife?”

Archie shrugged. “His wife had to go, Doc. She had to pick up a pilot.”

“A what…?” The doctor was incredulous. “Get the hell out of here,” he yelled, loud enough to be heard from outside the examination room. Archie figured that it was better to say no more, and got out.

He waited for a long time. He just sat quiet, staring ahead like Bill. The accident had come at a bad time. Leone looked as if she might deliver any moment, and the house was not closed in.  He also felt sorry for Bill, he was a nice guy, but clumsy, and maybe Lyall should not have allowed him on the roof. Or he, Archie, should have warned Lyall not to hire Bill? They should have taken it more slowly.

Finally, the door opened and Lyall walked out, supported by a nurse. He looked a little wobbly, but smiled faintly.

“Are you his friend?” the nurse asked. Archie nodded. “He’s got a broken collar bone and two broken ribs, but he should be OK.  Make sure he keeps his arm in the sling. We have given him some pain medication. You can take him home now.”

She turned to Lyall, “Good luck, and take it easy”.

Archie was overjoyed. Lyall would be all right after all, and most importantly, he was good enough to go home.

“Lyall, if we go slowly, can you walk to the house?” Lyall nodded, and the two men ambled out of the hospital, along King Street towards Cleary’s Point. They looked like two drunks, but they didn’t think of that nor did they care. It was a nice spring day with the wind gently blowing in from the lake.

Approaching the Kingston Water Works, they could see Leone coming in with the pilot boat. “She looks like Bob standing behind the wheel,” Archie chuckled. They both knew portly Bob, one of the older pilots, and often made fun of him. Lyall didn’t seem to hear. He smiled faintly.

“Gosh, she handles the tender well,” he said.

Leone had noticed the pair and blew the horn. Archie made haste to help with the mooring. Leone clambered out of the boat and took Lyall in her arms, careful not to touch his bad side. “Are you OK? What happened? I did not want to leave you there, but Archie said you wanted me to fetch the pilot, that we had to get to the Northern Ranger to pick Francois up.”

Francois had boarded the Laker at St. Regis in Quebec, and was happy to get off in Kingston, the end of his shift. He would spend a bit of time with his friends, the Dougan’s, swapping stories. Later in the evening he would check in at the Sleepy Fox for a good rest, before boarding the train back to Quebec City, the next morning.

The four of them sat down. Leone had some tea while the men drank a cold beer. Archie told about his run-in with the doctor. They all laughed.  Unnoticed, Bill sidled into the cabin. He felt guilty and wondered if Lyall would be mad. When Lyall finally noticed him, Bill made a cautious attempt to apologize. “Don’t worry, Bill, it can happen to all of us. Here take a beer, and sit down”.

It was a nice Saturday afternoon in late August, a couple of days after the accident. The roof was finished faster than Lyall would have thought possible with the help of several friends who had heard about the mishap. Archie and Bill had decided to work for Lyall until five, and then go to the pub on King Street. At the end of the work week, it was one of the busiest in the downtown. Labourers, business people, and professionals could be found there in an amiable mix around the bar. Others sat at the few tables that filled the small smoky place. Archie and Bill had seated themselves at one of the tables, and ordered a beer. After a day’s work, they enjoyed one or two pints, as did most others. They looked around and greeted a few friends they knew from the locomotive factory. There were also some better-dressed men talking at the side of the bar. Bill noticed that Archie was staring at one of them.

He kicked Archie under the table. “What the hell are you staring at,” he said.

Archie turned to Bill. His face was red, his eyes angry. Bill had never seen Archie in a frame of mind like that.

“That’s him,” Archie said, straining his voice over the roar of the people in the pub.

“What do you mean? Let’s go,” Bill suggested. He sensed something might get out of control.

“That’s him”, Archie repeated.

To Bill’s horror, Archie got up, shrugged, and walked towards the three men at the bar. He pushed his big chest into the narrow space between them, and stared at the man to the left. People nearby had fallen quiet.

“Do I know you? Archie said. The man looked at him and smiled a bit nervously. “Are you the doctor who got me in trouble at the hospital?”

By now, most people were looking at the pair. Bill didn’t have a clue what to do next. Slowly, he got up and inched towards the exit. From there, he nervously watched what might happen.

Archie was one of the old-timers in the pub. Feeling so much at home and among friends gave him a sense of comfort and power, which he did not have at all in public. The put-down from the doctor had caused him more pain than he had admitted to his friends. And now, all of a sudden, that anger surfaced.  Archie looked determined, threatening.

“Why did you bully me, Doc?” he asked not loud, but people nearby heard it clearly.

The two men, who seemed friends of the doctor, backed off towards the exit, and joined Bill.

“I want an explanation Doc,” Archie said.

The doctor looked worried. He had a sad, tired look on his face, which was flushed from the drinks he had consumed, and most likely worsened by the unexpected confrontation.

“May I sit down,” he said.

Archie was taken aback, and the doctor’s submissive posture confused him.

“Yeah, why not, but you still owe me an explanation.”  He shrugged repeatedly.

They both sat down. Bill, from his vantage point, couldn’t believe his eyes. The two men stared at each other for what seemed a long time. Then Archie moved a little closer and appeared to listen intently. The stand-off soon ended peacefully. Both men stood up from the table and shook hands. Archie walked calmly over to Bill.

“What the hell did you tell him, Archie?” Bill asked, as soon as they were outside.

“I dunno, I didn’t say much, except I told him he owed me an explanation, and after that he did the talking. He said that he was sorry. He had been working day and night on some pretty bad emergencies. When he saw Lyall and me, he had figured that we had been in a fight. We looked pretty scruffy and besides, it’s a question they have to ask anyway. He said. Why? I don’t get it,  but it’s the law. He got me wrong when I tried to be funny telling him that Lyall’s head was fine. And that’s all.”

“That’s it? Did he apologise?

“Oh yeah, he did. After that I figured it was OK with me. I told him so.”

Let’s go home,” Archie said. He didn’t want to talk about it any more. Walking side by side, Bill noticed that his friend walked a little taller, and his tic was gone.

In the next four weeks the shell of the new house was finished and closed in. They had taken down the old cabin, which opened up a palatial space. Lyall got more men to help, and the inside of the new house was soon roughed in. With the plumbing installed, the house was now habitable. While some of the interior finishing went on, Leone and Lyall were now ready for the baby’s arrival.

A few weeks later, Archie came by to visit. Lyall looked tired, and appeared drawn out.

“What’s up,” Archie said.

“Sorry, Archie, it’s maybe not a good time. Leone and the baby are sleeping. Come by next week and I’ll tell you all about it. By the way, her name is Lyne Joan.”


dougan house

The house the Dougans built on to replace the small cabin that served for many years as the Cleary Pilot Service. Note the rear facade of the Kingston Water Works just over the veranda of the house. To the left is the Simco apartments, the first highrise in Kingston built by Britt Smith of Homestead Landholdings.


A real event, with historic information from Lyne Dougan. Story by  Henk Wevers, February 2005.

Captain Lyall Scott Dougan came inside his cozy log cabin, soaking wet, ready for lunch. Outside the wind was screaming and the rain mixed with the waves to become a foaming boiling mass. It was late summer in 1954, and Hurricane Edna whipped up the greatest storm Lake Ontario had ever seen.. Lyall’s two workboats banged against their docks and pulled on the mooring lines. He had retied the lines and had checked for possible trouble around the house.

“This is worse than I have seen in all my years on the Lake, Leone, I hope I can stay put. Any traffic on Channel 16?”

Captain Dougan operated a water taxi service from his home on the shore of Lake Ontario, behind the Kingston Waterworks, which is now the Pump House Steam Museum. His main activity was ferrying pilots from and to the ships that were about to enter or leave the St. Lawrence River at Wolfe Island. His work included search and rescue, ferrying patients from the islands to Kingston’s hospitals. assisting stranded boats and much more. Lyall was an experienced mariner and he had quickly made a name for himself after he took the existing business over from Mr. Cleary. He handled his boats as an extension of his body and he could navigate stormy waters as no other around the St. Lawrence River.

The Dougan family sat around the table as usual and had lunch. Lyall was relaxed; he slowly sipped his coffee and teased Lyne, his six-year-old daughter, that it was her turn to do the dishes. Lyne objected loudly and he lovingly looked at the spirited girl.

captain dougan and child

Lyall Dougan with one of his children during a relaxed family moment.

Channel 16 crackled in the background.

Suddenly … “Mayday, Mayday, this is the Kentucky Queen, this is the Kentucky Queen, we ran aground and capsized, our position is Main Duck Islands. Over”Lyall heard the Coast Guard come in but he was already halfway through the door. Leona continued to listen to the radio. Lyall in his speedboat the “Lyne-D”, slipped into heavy weather gear and put his life-jacket on. Leona came to the dock to brief Lyall on the emergency.

She said in a clear voice and in quick succession: “Kentucky Queen, 38 foot sailing yacht, husband and wife only. They abandoned ship in dingy, no oars, life jackets on, drifting”.  She looked at the Lake, the waves were steep and violent and she was deeply worried, but did not show it. She gave Lyall a kiss and threw off the lines.

Lyall now alone, piloted the Lyne-D as fast as he dared to go. He covered the distance to the Main Duck Islands, about forty miles, in less than two hours. He had been on the radio keeping the Coast Guard informed, and he knew that Leona was listening as well. The thought of her and the kids in the cabin spurred him on to pull this one off.

When he saw the wreck, his heart sunk. The Kentucky Queen was on its side and the waves went clear over her. It was a magnificent yacht, but now it lay there helpless.

“Where is the crew, for Gods sake, he mumbled to himself? Don’t’t they teach to stay with the boat? Always?”

He circled the yacht at a safe distance and then discovered two bodies in the water quite far away from the wreck on the lee side. They appeared lifeless and they disappeared every time a wave went over them. Their dingy was gone.

“What the hell am I going to do, he thought aloud.  The water is OK, but I am alone, the waves may get me and……” He quickly went on the radio and said, “ Coast Guard, Cost Guard, this is the Lyne-D, this is the Lyne-D. I am a quarter mile East of the Main Duck Shoals, I spotted the crew, two adults, I will attempt the rescue. Over”.

“Lyne-D, Lyne-D,” came the answer. “Go ahead, we will contact you in 20 minutes, Roger Out.”

The boat, at low speed, bounced violently on the waves, but Lyall managed to circle the victims. He decided to lash the rudder in place, set the engine in low,  tied a lifeline to the boat and to his life jacket, and slid without a moment hesitation, smoothly  over the top sides in the water.

“I will be OK”, he thought. “I can always come back to the Lyne-D, and if not, they at least will be able to find me,” he said wryly.

Reaching the victims he noted that the husband was unconscious and needed help fast. He grabbed the victim and pushed him in the direction of the slowly circling boat.

“If we aim way ahead of the Lyne-D, she will meet us,” he said to himself.

He had to cover about thirty feet with the body in tow, to meet the slowly circling Lyne-D. He was able to grab onto the boat while he held the victim firmly with his other hand.

“Over the topsides you go,” he said aloud.

He tried with all his strength, but the body, with its foul weather gear on, is too heavy. “I must get this Goddamn body in the boat or else,” he swore.

It felt like a huge bag filled with water, and Lyall was desperate.

“Come on Dougan you can do it. Go slow. Don’t panic. Yes of course try to use the waves to get him level with the topsides of the boat”, he thought. He tried it  and it worked.

“Great, his arms are over the topsides. Grab him by the butt and wait for the next wave,” Lyall figured.

Lyall did what very few could do; by combining his  strength with his knowledge of the water, he managed to push the semi conscious man in the boat. The victim rolled on the cabin floor, and lay there motionless.

He returned to the women.  drifting in and out of consciousness and was only half coherent. He tried to reassure her: “We will be OK, just do as I say,” and with that he grabbed her life-jacket and slowly pulled her through the water. The waves were so high that the Lyne-D was not visible when he and his victim were in a trough. But that did not affect his determination and he knew that if he kept working his way ahead they would meet up with the Lyne-D. These same waves, he now knew, would help him to heave the women inside when they reach the boat.  In what looked like a long time, but in fact was only five minutes, he could grab hold of the boat. He now saw that the husband was on his hands and knees, and stared  at them without any expression.

“Hey you,” Lyall yelled as loud as he could, to be heard over the storm. “Hey you, come here and grab your wife,” he barked.

The man crawled in slow motion over to where Lyall was holding on to the Lyne-D. Lyall put one arm of the women over the topside. To Lyall’s surprise the reached out and grabbed his wife’s arm.

“Hold on, for Christ sake,” he yelled. If the man does what he told him, it might just be a little easier to get her on board,” he thought.

He took a rest by just holding on the boat, letting the woman float a little away from him and to check if the husband hung on. To Lyalls’s surprise, the husband had found enough strength, and he seemed to hold on to his wife’s arm.

“OK,” he yelled as loud as he could. “When I say PULL, you pull as hard as you can”! “I wait for the next large wave and then we put her on board, OK?”

Lyall did not wait for an answer, “It is his wife,” he reckoned. “The guy will probably do it instinctively,” Lyall thought. He looked over his shoulder and saw a large wave coming towards them. The wave reached them just as he finished screaming: “PULL”.

At that moment, Lyall and his victim were riding the top of the wave and with a mighty push from below, he pushed her over the topsides. She dropped in the safety of the Lyne-D.

Lyall could only think: “I did it, I did it, the rest will be easy”.

A great sense of relief came over him. This was the first time he felt the water. It was not too cold and it gently supported his tired body. For a few seconds he enjoyed the feeling, he allowed himself to float in the momentary calm between two waves and then with the next wave he heaved himself over the side and rolled beside the two victims.

“If Leona could see this,” he chuckled.

Then he got up, took off his lifeline, untied the wheel, opened the throttle and got the Lyne-D heading down wind to Kingston. He reached for the mike and said: “ Coast Guard, Coast Guard, this is the Lyne-D, this is the Lyne-D. Got the two victims from the Kentucky Queen. I am returning to Kingston. Victims are in shock and hypothermic. Over.”

“Lyne-D, Lyne-D, this is the Coast Guard, this is the Coast Guard. Received you loud and clear. Report when you arrive. Roger, out.”

Lyall made  very good time. In one sense he enjoyed this ride; the victims were now sitting hand in hand on the cabin floor leaning their backs against the bulkhead.  They looked OK. “They better be,” he thinks. There is nothing he could do now, except for getting them back to his house.

Near Kingston, he called the Coast Guard again and reported his position. He knew Leona would hear him she knew what to do.

When the Lyne-D emerged from the gray heavy clouds of rain, spray and waves, Leona was on the dock. She and Lyall do not show any emotion but they both thank God it was over. Their anxiety drained away and they started to relax. Everything would be routine from here on.

Lyall turned the Lyne-D into the wind and in seconds she drifted towards the dock where Leona grabed the bowline and tied it on the cleat. Lyall jumped off the boat and tied the stern line to the dock.

Leona took charge. She supported the woman over the boardwalk to theircabin. The woodstove was red hot, and Leona had already laid out piles of warm dry clothing. Lyall entered the mudroom last and throws his rain gear on the floor.

Lyne,  looked at the strangers and her father, as any six-year-old would do.Just another event that was interesting to watch.

Her mother was busy taking the life jacket off the woman. Suddenly, Lyne saw her mother jump back and falling over backwards. A wet, deranged monkey jumped out of the life-jacket on the table, onto to the cabinet, then onto the pantry. It managed to get into the pantry wher, in a frenzy,  it started to rip up the cereal boxes in search for food.

Lyne forgot everything and jumped up and down of sheer excitement, this was magic! Her father sat motionless, his jaw dropped and then he followed the erratic movements of the monkey. The two wet victims sat on their kitchen chairs seemingly oblivious to what was happening.

Leona quickly scrambled to her feet and resolutely grabbed the wet hissing monkey by the scruff of his neck and pus it in the lap of the women. “There,” she said, ”Stay put!” “Hold onto your monkey, will you?” she told the women.

Lyne felt that she was part of a magnificent circus act and she kept leaping up and down and sideways to mimic the chaotic movement of the monkey.

“Lyne”, her Mother said. “Will you calm down? We have work to do, help me with this lady.“

Leona gave a pile of warm clothing to her husband and motioned that he should take the man to the mud-room where they could change. Lyall got up and said to the man: “ Just follow me.”

The owner of the Kentucky Queen was a well-known actor. He and his wife had enjoyed their sailing holiday on Lake Ontario, but they were poorly prepared for the storm. They never expected to nearly drown in Lake Ontario and were truly grateful for Captain Dougan’s rescue and the warmth they found in the log cabin on the shore at Kingston. They sent Christmas letters for many years.

Lyne never forgot the monkey in the pantry.


  captain dougan wooden boat aPilot boat at the dock, the ramshackle cabin is replaced with a larger house in the same location at the foot of West Street.

Dr. Nancy Simpson remembers: When I first lived in 32 Simcoe street I used the sound of Captain Dougan’s old mahogany launch, with its deep throat-ed engine, as an alarm clock at 7:00 am every morning when he was taking the fresh water pilots to the deep sea ships on the south side of Wolfe Island. This was in the late 1960s.