EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vince Crichton active in Chapleau life but devoted to preservation of this beautiful rugged land and the animals that roamed it

After graduating from Grade 13 at Chapleau High School, it appeared that Vince Crichton may have followed a career as a banker or a plumber or a theatre operator, but such was not to be as he seems to have already chosen his lifestyle and country where he would live -- "The woods where the weird shadows slant."

Although Vince would spend most of his life in the Chapleau area, the line from Robert Service's famous poem 'The Spell of the Yukon' perhaps sums up his love of the forests and wildlife. In an article paying tribute to Vince in 1977 in the Chapleau Sentinel, it is noted that Vince "devoted his life to the preservation of this beautiful rugged land and the animals that roamed it.

"Through his work, he was able to oversee what he loved the most -- the austere, vigorous northern country, the sphere of his reality."

Vince was born in Sunderland, England, and as a boy of seven, arrived in Chapleau in 1913 with his mother Helen, brother George, and sisters Vera and Anne, where his father Walter Vincent Harvey had established a plumbing business in 1911. Rita, Edith, Joe and Charlie, also his brothers and sisters were born in Chapleau. His father also took over the motion picture theatre.

By 1917, land had been purchased in Mulligan's Bay and as his son Dr. Vince Crichton writes in Chapleau Trails, a camp was built, which is still in the Crichton family. Dr. Vince noted that the camp was built by his grandfather, his father and brother George, George Hunt (my grandfather) and Ernie Quelch.

My grandmother, Edith Hunt, and Vince's grandmother were sisters.

After completing high school Vince worked with his father in the plumbing and theatre businesses and was also employed by the Royal Bank, but by 1933 he was appointed game warden with the department of games and fisheries, later the department of lands and forests, then ministry of natural resources.

Dr. Vince relates an interesting anecdote told to him by his Uncle George. While Vince was helping his mother raise the family after the death of his father in 1932, he "poached, trapped and hunted food for the family as there was no money. Eventually he had to stop when the government made him the game warden."

In 1935, Vince married Dora Morris, (no relation) the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Morris who also lived in Chapleau. Vince and Dora bought a house on Queen Street, next to Dora's parents.

The Crichton family home was on the corner of Birch and Aberdeen streets, the big red brick house.

Many of us will recall reading 'Young Bush Pilot' by Jack Hambleton where Vince is mentioned. Hambleton writes about Vince catching poachers including the legendary Grey Owl to fixing fire pumps based on his experience as plumber to chief ranger Ernie Morin wondering where he was and then seeing him emerging from the fog in front of the point -- "at the outboard motor at the stern of the larger canoe was the unmistakable form of the big overseer." If you can get a copy of Young Bush Pilot, its is a great read.

In 1948 Vince was appointed inspector of the Chapleau District which included the Chapleau Game Preserve. In 1955 he was chosen by the Ontario government to work for a year at Winisk on the Hudson Bay coast on polar bear, blue geese, caribou and seals.

Despite his work and travels, Vince was also actively involved in the life of Chapleau. He enjoyed curling and baseball, and was catcher on teams for many years. Later he umpired ball games, sharing duties with J.M. 'Jack' Shoup. He also liked playing his horn and was a member of the Chapleau Town Band, playing the E Flat Bass Horn until 1976. He would also take out his mouth organ to liven up many a gathering with lively music.

Vince also served as chair of the museum board, and on the library and hospital boards and was a resource person to the Cubs and Scouts. With his friend Alcide Small he donated a trophy to Chapleau schools for a competition on conservation issues. Vince was also a member of the Masonic Lodge.

A history buff, Vince wrote 'Pioneering in Northern Ontario' a valuable contribution to the life and times in his beloved north country.

Among the honours conferred on him was being named as a member of the Hudson's Bay Society. There were only 500 members worldwide.He was accepted into the society for his work in locating Brunswick House an old Hudson's Bay Post.

When Vince retired in 1969 as fish and wildlife supervisor, a mark of the esteem in which he was held was the presentation to him of a boat and motor by the people of Chapleau.

Dr. Vince Crichton will give his annual lecture this year on ungulates specifically “The World of the Moose and The Man Who Would Be Moose" at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in Chapleau on July 31 at seven p.m.

Photos courtesy of Dr Vince Crichton

Dora and Vince Crichton

Dora and Vince Crichton with grandchildren Susan and Scott.

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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