Captain Edward Gillam

by John MacFarlane 2017

Captain Edward Gillam

Captain Edward Gillam (Photo from the MMBC collection. )

Born in Newfoundland in 1863, Gillam was the Master of the Tees and then Princess Maquinna for two decades until she was replaced by the Tees. He died on the bridge of the Princess Norah in 1929. Captain Gillam spent almost his whole career on steamers of the Canadian Pacific Steamships on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

On November 23, 1915 Captain Gillam was in command of the Princess Maquinna carry a large number of passengers and valuable cargo. He went to the assistance of the Chilean sailing ship Carelmapu wrecked on the western end of Long Beach in Wickaninnish Bay. In spite of mountainous seas and strong gale winds he stood by and attempted to give aid to the crew of 24 of whom only 5 survived.

Major George Nicholson states in his book (Vancouver Island’s West Coast) states that "Shortly after noon the Maquinna came out from Clayoquot Sound southbound and to quote Captain Gillam’s own words,
"Never in all my long experience in the West Coast service have I been called upon to nurse a ship through such terrible seas." "

Gillam ordered anchors to be dropped and he slowly moved his ship toward the stranded sailing ship keeping her bow to the sea. At one point she came within 150 yards of the stricken vessel. They floated a line to ship but the strain of the seas broke the winch which was torn from the deck. To avoid further damage he ordered the anchor chain cut with a hacksaw and lost the chain and two anchors. Reluctantly Gillam headed to Tofino where the Tofino Lifeboat was notified.

Princess Maquinna

The Princess Maquinna (Photo from the MMBC collection. )

The main shipping channel into Esperanza Inlet is named Gillam Channel as are the Gillam Islands in Quatsino Sound.


The Tees (Photo from the collection. )

Major George Nicholson states in his book (Vancouver Island’s West Coast) states that "Captain E. Gillam, the original master who occupied her bridge (Princess Maquinna) for twenty years, died at his post on board the Princess Norah, a ship that had just come out from Scotland to take the [Princess] Maquinna's place. His acts of human kindness will always be remembered on the West Coast. Years ago, the only hospitals of the area were at Port Alberni and Port Alice, two hundred miles apart. If by reaching either place a few hours ahead of time might save a life of a seriously ill or injured person brought on board at some remote village, or to avoid converting a ship's stateroom into a maternity ward for convenience of a woman who had left the "happy event" too late. Captain Gillam thought nothing of passing up several stops. They could be made afterwards."

He is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria BC.

Captain Edward Gillam

Captain Edward Gillam (Photo from the MMBC collection. )

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) Captain Edward Gillam. 2017.

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