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OHASSTA Nov 2014 final

Rapport 2014 Ned was thrown across the top deck while listening to the sudden screaming of men being mashed below deck. In a flash of lightning he saw Captain Osgood stuck half through a porthole window. Stuck tight. All this in a matter of seconds. "She's going down!" Ned yelled but could not be heard by the sudden roar of lightning, thunder, screams, rushing water. "She'll right herself," yelled someone. And she did right herself - underwater the Scourge became upright as it slowly sank deeper and deeper into the gloomy blackness of the Lake Ontario bottom where she sits today. Captain Osgood and 41 crew members went down with the Scourge. They are still there. Maybe Osgood is still wedged in a hatch. The ghostly stern of the ship Ned was thrown overboard and he, like many of the crew, could not swim. He knew death was imminent. His thrashing hand hit the side of their deck skiff, he grabbed and hauled himself aboard and then hauled any others he could find - not many. All of his gun crew, a black crew, went down with the Scourge, as did the crew of their sister ship the Hamilton. This was the greatest naval loss of life in the whole war of 1812. How did this story get recorded? Lots of ships have been lost in the Great Lakes. Their stories never really told. But the story of the Scourge is now part of our Canadian heritage. Why? Because of Ned Myers. Ned was born in Quebec. He was a Canadian. What was he doing as a crewman on an American warship? Fascinating story. in a nutshell, I would have to say Ned was a troubled child. He would sit at the back the classroom if he were alive today. And he would look longingly at the back door. He would want out. This did not mean he was stupid. Disadvantaged, yes. His mother may have died in childbirth or shortly thereafter for Ned was raised in fits and starts by his father, a British soldier stationed in Quebec and then, later, in Nova Scotia. When Ned was 12 his father disappeared, likely killed in line of duty. Others took him in. But Ned decided to go to sea and persuaded a deckhand to hide him in a potato locker on a schooner bound for New York. He was a sailor until his death at 56 years of age. He was 19 when the Scourge went down. He must have been only 13 when he sailed across the Atlantic with James Fenimore Cooper. Just a grade 8 kid today. British press gangs tried to kidnap him into the British navy, but Ned was street-wise. Ned made a big impression on Cooper and when they met again in the 1830s, he must have said "Ned, we have to write a book about your life." In 1843 the Ned Myers story hit the bookstores and has become one of the great maritime histories of North America. Before the Scourge sank, Ned was here in Toronto (York) when Fort York was taken and the powder magazine was detonated killing many American invaders. Ned rowed the soldiers ashore - lots of bullets flying. Some actually hit people. Ned and his friends tried to help the wounded on both sides afterwards. At the same time, he discovered the British regular soldiers' canteens were filled with good Jamaica rum so they spent some time topping up their own American canteens which just held whisky. Heavy drinking seems to have been part of battle. Ned rescued the wife of a dead British officer from molestation by American irregulars. Even after the sinking, Ned's adventures continued. The ship that picked up Ned and Scourge survivors was in turn captured by a British ship and Ned found himself in prison, then a long walk barefoot from Toronto to Kingston. Then imprisonment in Halifax still barefoot. He planned several escapes from prison including a tunnel so well-built that two men could walk down it with ease. How did they get rid of the sand and gravel? Easy - latrine duty involved dumping foul things in the ocean each day, the tunnel sand was never detected until Ned was betrayed. 18 RAPPORT FALL 2014