The year before, McDougall had shepherded Arthur, Duke of Connaught, down the Nipigon River, world-renowned for its speckled trout fishing. The Duke had recommended McDougall’s services to his cousin, Edward, Prince of Wales. On his tour of Canada, the Prince of Wales had insisted on a Nipigon trip with McDougall as his guide. The Prince achieved a notorious niche in history some years later when, as Edward VIII, he abdicated the throne of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth.
In one of his reminiscences about the fishing trip, McDougall said that the Prince had insisted on a bed of “wood feathers”, such as McDougall and the Indian guides had. So the royal mattress was left in its pack, and the Prince slept on a bed of spruce boughs.When McDougall left the employ of the H.B.Co. in 1878, he undertook the supervision of the telegraph line construction from Fort William to Winnipeg. And when Van Horne was constructing the CPR line on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the early ’80s, McDougall was there extending the line. This was the era before telephones, before electricity, before roads even. To the end of his life he reveled in the label “bushwhacker”.
During his 73-year sojourn in Thunder Bay district, McDougall was remembered as the founder of the sport of curling in Fort William. In 1879 he organized the first game on the ice of the Kam River. For rocks they used slices of birch logs filled with lead. McDougall spent most of his life as a resident of Port Arthur, curling well into his 80s. At one point he recalled that he was giving his fortieth address to the annual meeting of the club.
Towards the end of his life, news reports referred to McDougall as the Grand Old Man of the pioneer fraternity. Perhaps his most prized possession was the sterling silver pin presented to him by the Prince of Wales, with an E spelled out in diamonds.
Yes, Neil McDougall inherited a history and brought it to this region. Then he set about making history. And when he passed away in 1949, most of that history died with him. No person living today remembers it.
Now it’s time for this writer to revive those memories.
Now it’s time for me to make history . . . by writing it.
That’s what we writers do.