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Keep the Keewatin home campaign gets loud boost

Town criers from across Ontario voice support for historic ship staying in Port McNicoll

The Keep Keewatin Home campaign has enlisted some rather vocal support.

Town criers from across Ontario have collaborated on a rhyming cry to the federal government that's designed to ensure the Edwardian-era vessel remains at its own port.

The video includes Ottawa/Gatineau town crier Daniel Richer, Barrie’s official town crier Steve Travers, who wrote the cry, and Midland’s own town crier Judy Contin, who recites her cry in front of the large passenger ship at its Port McNicoll berth.

“‘Save our history and heritage,’ they cry,” Contin recites. “‘Please keep our ship here,’ they do sigh. So may God save the Queen and fulfil our dream. So please join us now to ensure our ship does not realm...and keep the Keewatin home.”

Reading from a prepared scroll, the collected criers also detail the Keewatin’s history and its important role ferrying passengers between Port McNicoll and present-day Thunder Bay.

“Listen to reason, understand what we mean when we say, ‘save the Keewatin and God save the Queen,” Petrolia town crier Les Whiting says in the video’s concluding stanza while tipping his hat towards the camera.

Local resident Daniel Travers, who’s involved with the campaign to keep the ship in Port McNicoll, said he’s happy with the criers’ efforts and hopes others will come on board.

“The Keep Keewatin Home team were delighted when they agreed to do this with us,” Travers said. “There is a deep historical connection between town criers and the spreading of important news and events.

“For centuries they were one of the only means of keeping the public informed - especially among those who could not read or write.”

Travers said the criers featured in the video all came forward and wanted to be part of the video.

“The criers in the video are all part of the Ontario Guild of Town Criers,” Travers said.

In April, Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton presented an e-petition in the House of Commons to keep the ship in Port McNicoll. The petition was signed by 1,585 residents with most living in Simcoe County.

In his presentation, Stanton first outlined how the Keewatin was built in 1907 and is now the world’s last remaining passenger steamship of the Edwardian era – “that is the same ilk of another famous vessel you’ll know,” the RMS Titanic.

Stanton noted that the Keewatin is a beautifully restored museum ship moored in the same port from which she sailed as a CPR ship from 1912 to 1965, and gave passage to tens of thousands of residents and new Canadians making their way to Canada’s west.

“Keewatin is a touchstone of our region’s marine history, a major tourist attraction and a community treasure of national significance, but the petitioners point out that she is at risk of being moved away from Port McNicoll, on a technicality,” Stanton said.

“The signatories are calling on the Government of Canada to work with the community and the Friends of Keewatin Foundation to ensure the SS Keewatin remains in the port to which her service and history are most known and celebrated.”

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Community Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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