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Thirty Years After It Was Vandalized The Headstone Of Seven Victims Of Balsam Lake Drowning Will Be Repaired

KAWARTHA LAKES-As a kid Doug Paterson would sit in a pew at St Thomas Anglican Church on Balsam Lake Drive and think about 10 young boys and a camp leader who had drowned nearby in 1926. They were all members of the Brotherhood of St Andrews.  The commemorative plaque on the wall of the church was a constant reminder of the tragedy.

“To me the brotherhood thing is very close to my heart. I used to read the names on the plaque at church in the summer, I used to canoe and I envisioned what they went through.” Paterson told Kawartha 411 news. “It’s part of our history.”

Courtesy Doug Paterson

In July 1926, 10 young people and a camp counsellor drowned when their canoe capsized off Grand Island on Balsam Lake. They were at Long Point Camp for the ultimate Canadian summer experience and had set out in a canoe to gather supplies in Coboconk They toiled in the water for hours, struggling to keep one another alive. 11 of them would not survive.

In 2019 a movie about the tragedy was released and screened locally. The community gathered with the cast of “Brotherhood” near Balsam Lake at the Kirkfield and District Historical Society and Museum to see the movie. In addition to the private screening, there was a flotilla of 10 boats that toured the lake and held a special ceremony at the approximate spot of the drownings. Watch our video story here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2019/08/02/kirkfield-hosts-world-premiere-screening-of-brotherhood-the-movie/

Director Richard Bell said “Brotherhood is a bristling adventure tale and a forgotten piece of Canada’s history. But more meaningfully, it’s a tribute to a group of young Ontarians who started their day as boys and ended it as men.”

Paterson took a special interest in the incident after taking part in the film’s premiere in 2019. He later visited the Toronto gravesite of seven of the boys who drowned and was upset to learn it had been vandalized thirty years ago and not repaired.

“Initially I didn’t even know there was anything wrong.” Paterson told Kawartha 411 News.  “It wasn’t until the caretaker explained there used to be a cross on the top of the headstone and then you could tell it was missing. When he told me it happened 30 years ago it struck me as this is wrong! There are no direct descendants to speak for these boys.”

Site of the burial in 1926 courtesy Doug Paterson



Paterson immediately contacted the management at St James Cemetery on Parliament Street to see what could be done to repair the monument. He says he spent three to four years working on it but kept hitting a brick wall. Finally, he received a call from officials at St James Cathedral that his hard work had paid off and the repairs had been ordered. 

“They said I’m ordering a new cross and we are going to have it in six months or so,” Paterson says. “I said awesome I would like to have a service once it’s done with some of the actors, dependants of survivors and a small community of us. It will be an important milestone to put this back in place and the respect of honouring these boys who lost their lives.”

The service is being planned for next spring.

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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