SS Prince Edward Island 1917-1968

SS PRINCE EDWARD, circa 1960 (Photo credit:

When I was a very little girl, my father (Lloyd Clark) who worked almost all of his life on "the boats", took me onto "The Prince". The only memory I have of The Prince is standing next to my father (his knees actually) at the newsstand and being mezmerized by all the shiny wood and brass!

I was researching through copies of old Island newspapers when I came across the following article which I thought you might enjoy and may well bring back a few fond memories to Islanders ;)

The Charlottetown Guardian (p.9)
Monday, April 1, 1946

(By Island Traveller in Halifax Herald)

Last week I had the pleasure of looking over the car ferry "Prince Edward Island" while on a business trip to Cape Tormentine. On the voyage over from Borden in the morning, I met and talked with several members of the crew and on the return trip in the afternoon, I was shown through the ship from stem to stern. It was one of those beautiful March days and although there was considerable drift ice in the Strait, it did not hamper the progress of the ferry and the crossing was made in fast time. This is unusual for the time of year, as March is generally one of the most difficult months of the year for the ferry to operate, due to the heavy ice.
Considering it's age this boat is providing outstanding service, and during the past two or three weeks it has been operating almost continuously, averaging six or seven round trips daily in order to transport the large number of freight cars which always collect on the mainland during the winter months. When ice conditions are bad, crossings are limited, thereby causing a congestion of freight traffic on mainland sidings which otherwise would not occur if this province was provided with continuous and efficient transportation. A few weeks ago there were 500 freight cars at various mainland points awaiting transportation to the Island but the early break-up has enabled the ferry to practically eliminate this freight bottleneck within a comparatively short time.
My guide for the ship inspection was the ever-obliging Joe Kelly, the second steward. We started from the bottom and worked upwards, so the engine room was the first point of interest. Here I preceived (sp?) the signals being received from the bridge as the ship pulled away from the Tormentine wharf.
Dan Edmonds was the engineer in charge while nearby was Lloyd Howatt, another engineer. I met Willard Crooks and Mydrick McKenzie, oilers, and in the stokehole I saw John Deegan, Charlie Love and Joe MacDonald. We proceeded by way of a narrow passage between the boilers to another engine room where I watched with interest engineer Reg McAleer, oiler John McKenzie and water tender John Williams carrying out their respective duties.
We left the engine room and came up to the railroad deck, which was completely loaded with freight, mail, baggage and express cars. Located on one side of this deck, whether it is the port side or the starboard side, I wouldn't know, are the crew, cooks, mess rooms, etc. On duty at the time were two cooks, Richard McCarville and Aeneas Hennessey. A third cook, Urville Leard was missing as he is on night duty. As we passed the mess room I saw the chief engineer, Frank Dalziel talking with Reg Rogers, the engineer in charge of the power house at Borden. As we moved on I saw another oiler in the person of Bill Doyle and several deckhands including Art Jay, Charlie McInnis, Bert Dickie and Clarence Waddell.
Our next clim(b) upwards took us to the main deck where Joe Kelly left me as I entered the restaurant to appease my growing appetite. With quite a large number of passengers on board, the restaurant staff had few idle moments on their hands. The headwaiter, Frank Westhaver, was a busy man as also were waiters Jack McIssac and Ralph Leard. Equally as busy were Elmer Stordy, Harry Ross and Camille Arsenault, the cooks who were responsible for preparing the food for the hungry travellers. At the news stand I bought some cigarettes from Norma Howatt and then I went on to obtain my landing ticket from purser Frank Campbell. In the ladies' rest room I could see Nadine Howatt attending to the needs of the lady passengers. While meandering around this deck I met George Birch, the chief officer; and Herb McKenzie and John McDonald, other officers; Bill white, the quartermaster; and William McIvor, the chief steward. I was informed that second officer Tom Paquet returned to the ship recently after a long period of service in the navy. Another important member of the crew who I must not forget to mention, is Gordon Campbell, the ship's carpenter.
Then I arrived at the bridge where the master, Capt. John Maquire holds forth and directs the movements of the ship. Capt. Maguire, formerly from near Mulgrave in Nova Scotia, is a well-known figure on this run as he has been stationed here for a number of years. Capt. Albert Jay is what you might call the second captain in charge but at the time of my trip he was on his holidays and Capt. Wylie Irving of Cape Traverse was relieving him. The crew of the ferry numbers approximately seventy and at the present time they are working in three eight hour shifts.
On the homeward crossing there were about a dozen automobiles on board and it is not often that this number of cars are seen heading for the Island in March because in former years the roads would be blocked with snow. And with that, "the boat bumped into the dock and another voyage was over." I expressed my appreciation to Joe Kelly and then I went ashore and climbed aboard the train for Charlottetown with pleasant memories of a grand trip among as fine a bunch of men as you will find aboard any ship anywhere.

A photo of the diningroom on the old Prince, circa 1915 (Photo credit: Earle MacDonald)

If you'd like to see more photos of this lovely old ship, you can find them on the Marine Atlantic site in Darrell Mercer's article: Proud of our History - the SS Prince Edward IslandI am particularly fond of the photo of her docking at Borden. I walked down that pier many, many times to take a trip with my Pop on "his Boat" ;) be it the Prince, the Connie, the Abby, the Fuddle-Duddles, the Lucy...

(Note: I did see the Abby in Chicago - her new home. That oval "hole" wasn't near as big as I remembered! A member of the Yacht club took me down to the engine room and up through the old cabins. Pop was really happy to see how they had restored all of her shiny brass - the staircase was lovely! I'll post about that in another blog :)


Wilna, thank you for posting

Wilna, thank you for posting this! I have been working on a second history book for the town of Borden. The first book did not give much focus to the Ships that docked in Borden and I'm trying to rectify that. The names dropped in this article are fantastic... and will be a pleasure for everyone to read in the book.

If it's alright with you I would love to mention your memories as a little girl as well. I would, of course, add your name as a contributor to the book.

If there's anything else you think should be mentioned please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sarah E. Fisher

A fantastic article! I am

A fantastic article! I am sure i made many trips on the Prince or as my dad called it "The Old Prince" I just don't remember, i was born in 1958 so would have been very young. My fondest memories are of the Abby-although i loved the John Hamilton Gray as well. My parents often talked of "The Old Prince" Thank you for sharing!

"The Old Prince" ;)

Hi Karen,
Lovely to hear that you enjoyed my blog :) The 'Boats' are near and dear to my heart.
Glad it brought back some fond memories.
My best,

The S.S. Prince Edward Island

My uncle (Don MacPherson) was chief Engineer on the "Prince" for over 40 years and his father before him. I spent a lot l my childhood on that ship. In the summer my aunt and uncle had a cottage at Cape Traverse, and of course we could see the ship crossing from there. My Aunt always knew when my uncle made his last crossing for the day and would say time to start supper.
I have a couple of newspaper clips from when my Uncle retired in 1968, same year as the ship, If you are interest. I would love to see the book about the history of Borden. My Aunt taught school in Borden before she married my uncle. Do you know where I can get a copy? I live in Ontario but go back to the Island almost every year, it will always be home. Love the bridge but miss the boat.


Thanks for posting! As soon as I saw the picture of the unique 2+2 funnels I remembered many trips aboard in the 1950/60’s! Remember how smith the old steam engines were compared to the other diesel powered ships. I also remember the rails as we drove over them on the lower deck! The ferry seemed big to me as a little boy. Hard to realize how small it really was compared to our large “spirit class” vessels on the west coast!!

Memories correction!

Smooth not smith!!
West Coaster now for 50+ years (I’m a regular passenger on BC Ferries since I live on “the island” - Vancouver Island!!

Preserving history

Thanks so much for this article - which I found in August, 2020.

I'm researching an incident in which the Prince Edward participated in 1943 - and you've given me some nice tidbits here. Much appreciated!

Preserving History

Thank you Mark - glad you enjoyed it! Best wishes with your research.

As a young boy in the

As a young boy in the mid-sixties, I remember our annual trips to PEI to visit my Grandparents. I was always fascinated by the whole process including the lineups back to Bayfield on the NB side with the hours spent counting cars! Of course the game was on to guess how long or how many boats would sail before we would make our crossing, and best of all, which boat it would be

First choice was of course the 'Abby' It was the biggest,...then the SS Prince Edward Island which was like going back in time, affectionally called the 'Four Stacker' ...then the 'new' boat (Confederation) During the peak summer months we may have been unlucky enough to get the Scotia II,...known as 'the barge'

A little latter on the John Hamilton Grey came on stream which seemed so modern at the time. When the 'twins' arrived in 1971 (Vacationland/Holiday Island) the romance was gone. No more lines as the new parking lot was built and the new fleet could handle the traffic with ease.

One final memory was traveling by train by myself (1968) after my grandmother waived goodbye in Borden. I was under the care of the conductor all the way to Halifax. Shortly after that Rail service on the Island was abandoned

Last but not least was watching the construction of the historic link for 3 years during crossings

Hi Brian

Enjoyed your comment…brought back memories. The “twins’ were known as the Fuddle Duddles (a saying by Pierre Trudeau). I think they had to earn their stripes to qualify as ‘real’ boats/ice-breakers. I loved the Abby also. I was mesmerized by the escalators on the John…I’d never seen anything like that before and was chastised a few times for playing on them!
Take care and stay safe!

An old ferry from the 60's

In the 60's our family would regularly go to island as my dad's family are from the Egmont Bay area.
As some previously mentioned we would wait in line to see which ferry we would.
There was one (which dad referred to as the "scow") which we didn't want, as you pretty much stayed in the car for the crossing. My younger brother and myself used to love exploring the different decks and areas on the other boats, but the scow was boring for an eight and nine year old kid.
I would love to know which boat it actually was. I am always interested in all things PEI and history.
Thanks for any information.

SS Scotia II

Hi John,
I don’t remember a scow…I wonder if it might have been the SS Scotia II? There were times when she would help out - she ran up until the late 60’s. I don’t remember ever being on her - the old Prince is my earliest memory :)
The bridge is convenient but I really miss “my Daddy’s” boats!! You would find more info under the Marine Atlantic blog for Northumberland Straits. There are also a couple of FB pages dedicated to them. CN Marine switched to Marine Atlantic (the old “Connie” MV Confederation and one of the “Fuddle Duddles” MV Holiday Island still do the Wood Island run. (The Fuddle Duddles were nicknamed after PM Trudeau’s Parliament cursing incident - I think those two twin ships, the MV Vacationland & MV Holiday Island, had a hard time proving themselves as they didn’t have the class of the former ships.) Except for the “Abby” Abeqweit which is now the Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago, the rest of the ships met a sad demise…especially the MV John Hamilton Gray. Breaks your heart, that does.
Apologies for the delay…long hours at work, especially due to Covid, have pushed my creative projects to the side…for now

The scow

My husband, Preston Deegan, says the scow was the Scotia. He worked on the boats for 30 years until the bridge was built. Hope this helps.

The Scow

Thanks Cindy! Sorry for the late reply - (medical issues) Take care, Wilna

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