Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Top of the Morning to Some Irish Gentlemen: Schooner Days DCCCXLIV (844)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 24 Apr 1948
Full Text
Top of the Morning to Some Irish Gentlemen
Schooner Days DCCCXLIV (844)

by C. H. J. Snider

MICHAEL KELLY, for fifty years a Toronto schooner captain with his home behind St. Mary's Church on Little Adelaide street, became master of the schooner Marco Polo, named after the fastest ship in the world, in the spring of 1859, and was in her till 1863, when he took over the Perseverance. There were four vessels so named. The oldest list of lake vessels names two small brigantines of 45 tons, a topsail schooner of 168 tons register, built at Port Dalhousie in 1843, and a scow schooner of 140 tons, built at Niagara in 1855. One of the undated "brigs" may have been the Perseverance built at Kingston in 1816, forty years before this oldest list was compiled.

In one Perseverance young Capt. Kelly was nearly drowned. We don't know which, but one of the square riggers is probable. He knew square topsails from the Defiance. After three years in the Perseverance he went into another square rigger, the Gooderham and Worts' schooner Caroline, of South Bay, which also had a square topsail. She was wrecked on the shore of Lake Erie, off Dunkirk, (N.Y., not France) Oct. 4, 1867.


In between he had been in command of the Beaver, perhaps the one old Capt. Jas. Sparks lost at Buffalo. Fifty years ago, in a second-hand shop on Queen street, was to be seen a good Gibbons portrait of a fine white barquentine called the Beaver, all square rigged forward, and with a gilt figurehead, a beaver of course. We hadn't the sense to buy it then, or more truthfully, the dollars, but she was a very handsome vessel.

Anyway, Capt. Kelly went on to the Alliance, a schooner of 180 tons register and 400 carrying capacity, built at Oakville, 1856. And from her to the Albion—of which also there were several. There was a fine tall Oswego schooner with a square topsail, and a smaller Canadian one which had been the government yacht or naval cutter Bullfrog, built in Kingston in 1835, perhaps rebuilt then, a carryover from the naval establishment of the War of 1812. There was also the Albion of Oakville, built there in 1853. One — probably the ex-Bullfrog, went ashore in a heavy gale on the south side of the island, Nov. 11, 1852; with a cargo of sugar, if you please, Another Albion, probably the Oakville built one, was wrecked on Gibraltar Point when lumber laden. She missed stays in a southwest blow and was caught in the breakers. This was after Michael Kelly had left her. She was sailed at this time by his cousin, Ned Kelly, who was also a captain.


Michael's ninth command was the John A. Macdonald, early in the 1870's. Probably before the "NP," that national policy now all but forgotten. At any rate the schooner had been named and renamed before Sir John A. got his knighthood. She was originally the J. H. Torrance, called after the head of one of the early forwarding firms and flour dealers and built at Wellington Square in 1845. She was rebuilt in Toronto in 1861 and was 112 feet long and 179 tons register — "as straight as a yard of pumpwater and as thin as a razor strap," to quote Edward Joseph Kelly, now touching 80, Michael's surviving son.

At this point we have pleasure in interrupting this program in order to extend double congratulations upon two April events, one just over, the other just coming. The other is the birthday we hope Edward Joseph, Sr. (for there are two) will enjoy to the full this coming April 29th. He was born in the old Kelly homestead in 1868 and has lived a useful and happy life in the same neighborhood. His own home, his for forty-five years now, is at 599 Wellington street west, well within sight of St. Mary's, spire, and it has just been gladdened by the arrival of a nine-pound grandson. Patrick Joseph, latest of the Kellys, and we hope not the last.

This great-grandson of the Belleek boy who arrived in Canada 101 years ago and became Capt. Michael Kelly is the son of Edward J. Kelly, Jr., who, as Major Conn Smythe, his commander in the Sportsmen's Battery, the 30th Anti-Aircraft RCA, puts it, was "a good hard-ball player before the war, and a good gunner throughout it."

Little Patrick Joseph's grandfather, now a hale sample of the fine old Irish gentleman, was known all over Lake Ontario as "Young Eddie," and as "Knucker," to distinguish him from his elders. "Knucker" was the nickname Michael Kelly had bestowed upon a very competent sailor named Jim Kelly, who sailed with him in the early days and could do anything that was asked of him. So when "Young Eddie" came aboard and proved equally useful his proud father honored him with the same pet name, and his sailing friends from Oswego to Toronto still keep it up. We hope to tell something of his prowess afloat, before reverting to the equally exciting adventures of Capt. Michael Kelly, progenitor of this St. Mary's parish family.

Limitations of familiarity with Neo-Keltic language and literature prevent Schooner Days from properly pluralizing the top or tops of the morning or mornings, and wishing them to the plural of a broth of a boy, but with all our heart we wish all the best to all the Kellys, including the proud father and mother of the latest—and in particular to "Knucker" and Patrick Joseph. With further apologies for our halting Hibernian, both tops of both mornings to both those broths of both those boys, and you will be hearing more next week.



When the gulls come in and the shallow sings

A song to the wind and the bell-buoy rings,

And a spirit calls the soul from sleep

To follow over the flashing deep.

When the gulls come in from the fields of space,

Vagrants out of a pathless place,

Waifs of the wind that dip and veer

In the gleaming sun where land lies near.

Long they have wandered far and free,

Bedouin birds of the desert sea;

God only marked their devious flight,

God only followed them day and night,

Sailor o' mine, when the gulls come in.

And the shallow sings to the bell-buoy's din,

Look to your ship, let all hands stand by,

There's a gale in the heart of the golden sky.


Thank you, Mrs. Egerton, This is sound weather lore for Lake Ontario, and has proved right again and again. It is both good nature study and good poetry.—Compiler, Schooner Days.


Patrick Joseph

THE LATEST OF THE KELLYS, Patrick Joseph, weight 9 pounds, Gunner Kelly's son and Edward Kelly's grandson who had a birthday this month, too. His pretty mother was Miss Kathleen Burrows before her marriage. Being a really handsome young man, PATRICK JOSEPH indignantly demanded a recount when his first picture was taken, and Telegram camera artist A. Van hastily obliged. Patrick Joseph will be two weeks old on Sunday.




EDWARD JOSEPH KELLY, Capt. Michael Kelly's son, who celebrates his 80th birthday next week.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
24 Apr 1948
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Top of the Morning to Some Irish Gentlemen: Schooner Days DCCCXLIV (844)