The Search For Thomas Halliday

Naval Architecture, Family Man and Friend

The Search for Thomas Halliday

The List of Ships in Canadian Registry (1940) revealed that Dr. Grimson of Vancouver was the original owner of the Chere Amie O.N 172511. Would he be listed in a telephone book after 44 years? Apparently so!
The voice was gracious and helpful. “My husband passed away a few months ago. She was a lovely boat and we had a lot of fun with her. If you want to know more, you could contact my son Victor in Point Roberts.”
Victor was commanding, “Come on down”, and then a question easy to affirm. “You drink beer don’t you? I’ll meet you in the Breakers at two o’clock”.

He brought along a photograph of himself diving from the stern of the family boat as a fourteen year old and yarns and flagons flowed. “You’d better come over to the house. I have something for you”.
His arms were full as he came down from the attic on a folding stairway. “These belong with the owner of the boat”, he stated with a melancholy confidence while spreading out drawings of Halliday’s smaller sailors on the table; five architectural prints that seemed to have life within every detail and life in Victor’s solid handshake and the twinkle of his eye as he placed them on the back seat of the car. He loved that boat.

Point Roberts is a sliver of land in Washington State and surrounded by salt water. The Volvo headed north to the border and was greeted by the usual question from the official gatekeeper, “Anything to declare?” The negative answer elicited a gaze inside. “What are these then?” The drawings spoke for themselves; they were Canadian naval designs of classical boats and neither purchased or sold. They were a gift and going home! Victor’s warmth and generosity were there in the wave from the tunic as well as her words. “Free to go.” Such began my search for Thomas Halliday.

Over time, many have asked me ‘how’s the book going?’ It’s a question not easy to answer given that there seemed to be no end to Tom’s story. As you read on you will know why. It always seemed to me that more could be added that our interactive internet might accomplish. Visitors with an interest are invited to add commentary, anecdotes and their knowledge of Tom’s work. Uploaded images are appreciated and encouraged. Enjoy the voyage!

Geoff Potter,
Duncan 2019

Dedication

The Search for Thomas Halliday - DeskAlthough many of the vessels attributed to Thomas Halliday still exist, it is now many years since he designed a boat. Research has shown that he must have been fascinated with the art. His vessels were unique and functional in their service to British Columbians, and it is ironic that only the quirk of human foible has prevented us from having a complete compendium of his designs. It is hoped this book conveys his story to readers and researchers and that Tom be granted his rightful recognition.

Tom designed for work and pleasure. This volume is dedicated to the mariners of the British Columbia coast and those with an interest in water craft generally. It is dedicated to the historians who, through their own journey of discovery, produce a record where none is known.

During Tom’s career, naval architects worked on draughting boards. Their tools were sharpened pencils, black ink and slide rules. Cumbersome mathematical tables have now given way to electronic calculators and computers running complex graphic programs. Regardless of the tool, the pursuit of the goal has remained the same, and that is the creation of a plan that ends in an elegant, workable and economical vessel. Here, respect is paid to the devotion and effort that forms the art of the naval architect.

Faith And Favours

Within the confines of all museums are their libraries and the Chere Amie Boat - The Search for Thomas HallidayVancouver Maritime Museum is no exception. The List of Ships in Canadian Registry (1940), revealed Dr. Grimson as the original owner of the Chere Amie O.N 172511. Would he be listed in a telephone book after 44 years?

The voice was gracious and helpful. “My husband passed away a few months ago. She was a lovely boat and we had a lot of fun with her. If you want to know more, you could contact my son Victor in Point Roberts.”

He was commanding, “Come on down”, and then a question easy to affirm. “You drink beer don’t you? I’ll meet you in the Breakers at two o’clock”. He had brought along a photograph of himself diving from the stern as a fourteen year old. Yarns and flagons flowed. “You’d better come over to the house. I have something for you before you go”.

His arms were full as he came down from the attic on a folding stairway. “These belong with the owner of the boat” he stated with a melancholy confidence, spreading out drawings of Halliday’s smaller sailors on the table. Five original prints that became alive with stunned gratitude and Victor’s solid handshake as he later placed them on the back seat of the car.

Point Roberts is a sliver of land in Washington State and surrounded by salt water. The Volvo headed north to the border and was greeted by the usual question. “Anything to declare?” The negative answer elicited a gaze inside. “What are these then?”

Halliday’s drawings spoke for themselves. They were Canadian architectural designs of now classical boats and neither bought nor sold. They were a gift and going home! Victor’s warmth and generosity were there in the wave as well as the words. “Free to go.”

Reports And Rumours

Pacific Motor Boat Magazine Cover - The Search for Thomas HallidayMany are wrapped in string. Some more frail are nestled in boxes. Magazine Periodicals speak. At the Seattle Public Library, Pacific Motor Boat of 1924 describes Lady Kindersley and her pedigree. “Halliday previously designed a vessel now in service”. Previously! Few vessels were operating in the Arctic during this period. Which one?

In 1995, James Delgado, an under-water archeologist and then the Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, dove on a wreck in Cambridge Bay. The Maud was built in Norway in 1917, and re-built and re-named as the Baymaud in 1926 by the Hudson’s Bay Company. James writes in the Vancouver Sun, “Here we have the grandmother of the St.Roch”, he states. Halliday had supervised the rebuilding and had mentioned this to Ottawa in his letters but this was some years after Pacific Motor Boat’s report. Was there more?

In London England, IPC Magazines keeps the 24th. floor, overlooking the river. “Sure, help yourself. I think we have most of them here.” They were bound with hard covers in annual increments and filled a top shelf. “They start about 1907. They are interesting and I wish there was more time.” A helpful editor went back to his desk. Below the volumes of ‘Motor Ship and Motor Boat’ magazine, was a small table and there it was after many pages. A 300 ton Arctic trader, from 1914. Was this a great-aunt?

A year after Halliday first arrived in Victoria, his partner Bulkely had written an article about marine engines, their maintenance and operating considerations. He had included some of Tom’s designs. Was the trader ever built? Unlikely, but she is remarkably similar to her sister, the St. Roch. Periodicals not only speak, they sometimes hint.

Sometimes Synchronicity

Discovering the life of Tom Halliday produced some unexpected yet pleasant surprises. Before the late 1990’s and the passing of privacy laws it was common to be visited annually at home by representatives from the City Directory. They collected and published a list of residents, where they lived and what they did. For a researcher, one could trace their existence for years.

Tom lived with his family at 1460 Alberni Street in Vancouver and was listed steadily until 1942. From then until his death eight years later, there were no notations.

The older Directories are heavy and beautifully bound but many of the pages between the advertisers were printed on newsprint, flimsy and easy to crinkle or tear. Carefully closing the 1943 edition, the thumb slipped and a new page opened. The same address struck out for the eyes. Here was Thomas, Agnes and William too; but now the surname was McHalliday! And with a new address. So it remained until his death.

With this new information the researcher could follow Tom’s move to Bute Avenue, and through Land Registry records, his mortgages and other arrangements. What wonder, and without which we may not know details of Tom’s last years. This lends credence to Agnes’ observation of Vera. She did not wish to be found.

Thomas Halliday

 

Visitors with an interest in Thomas Halliday and his work, are invited to share commentary, anecdotes and their knowledge of Thomas Hallidays work.  Any photographs you may have would be greatly appreciated.

geoff@thomashalliday.com

If you would like a PDF copy of my book,
please use the link below.