The Marine Memorial of the Upper Lakes Committee lit up the SS Manitoba display at dusk on June 29, 2017, on the east harbour of Owen Sound. Over 3,000 lights now adorn the replica of the first steel hulled steam ship built on the Great Lakes. Everyone was thankful that the weather cooperated and it was a beautiful evening.
The Polson Shipyard built the Manitoba in Owen Sound. Because they did not have a shipyard big enough to build the 320 foot long and 38 feet wide ship, the Company had to build a new shipyard. The Town of Owen Sound provided a free building site, no taxes for 10 years and a dredged launch basin. Polson employed 300 men, many of whom were master shipbuilders from Scotland, to build the Manitoba. The ship was launched in 1889 but it was two years later when it went into service as there had been an economic downturn. The ship retired in 1949.
Prior to to the lighting, people gathered at the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre on the west harbour. The Owen Sound City Band played prior to the short program held on the Station decking. Refreshments were enjoyed and people had a chance to visit the “Made in Owen Sound” exhibit and to visit with other attendees.
City Councillor, Peter Lemon, was the Master of Ceremony, for the program. He shared some of the history of the SS Manitoba. CWHC curator, Wendy Tomlinson, also shared information and welcomed everyone. City Councillor and chair of the Canada 150 and Owen Sound 160 Committee, spoke to the attendees. Many special events are planned in the City between now and July 9th. There were also representatives from the City of Owen Sound and the Township of Georgian Bluffs in attendance.
Before everyone went to the harbour walkway, the City Band played O Canada. The Trustees of the estate of Tom Williams, who was the impetus for getting the harbour cleaned up started and sustained on its east side, rang the bell located on the decking in front of the former CN Rail station. This signaled that the lights should be turned on.