Reflected Glory - Jack Leitch

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As we have said before, and probably will continue to say, it is human nature to like to shine by reflected light. If we have no particular glow of our own we like to say of a prominent person that we "knew him when ..."

This little foible is currently brought to mind by a picture to appear in another issue of the Dominion of Upper Lake Shipping Ltd. new bulk cargo carrier which has been named "Ridgetown". The big, 549-foot ship has been so named by the company's president, Jack Leitch, as a memorial to his parents. Not many of us will claim to have "known him when" but many of the older citizens can say it of his parents, Gordon Leitch and Hilda Bawden, and at least a few of the "seniors" class will remember his grandfather, Dan Leitch who played a mean bridge hand around the old Ridgetown Club, and John Bawden who at around 80 could chalk up a nice score at the golf club.

But interest in Jack Leitch is not confined to the fact that his parents came from Ridgetown. By one of those coincidences that do happen, the current issue of Maclean's lists him among the "Outstanding Canadians in 1963". The listing is due to the fact that next to Judge T.G. Norris, Mr. Leitch has been the mainspring in the fight against Hal Banks and his Seafarer's International Union, which have made such a mess of things on the Great Lakes. Maclean's points out that while Judge Norris did no more than his duty in likening Banks to Hitler, Mr. Leitch went far beyond duty in actively supporting the Canadian Maritime Union in its fight against the Bank's dictatorship. The fight has cost Mr. Leitch and his associated in the neighbourhood of two million dollars, but is apparently being won though not yet finished.

Because of his Ridgetown affiliations, the people here have probably taken more interest in the lakes dispute than most inland centres. It is quite understandable that we should feel proud of Jack Leitch and wish him complete success in his fight against the Bank's gangsterism.

Note: According to Ahoy & Farewell II, (Marine Historical Society of Detroit, Inc., Detroit, MI, 1994), the "Ridgetown" was built in Chicago in 1905. It was originally launched as the "William E. Corey" and was the flagship of the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. of Cleveland. It was subsequently renamed the "Ridgetown" in 1963 after being purchased by Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. In 1974 it was sunk as a breakwater for the entrance to harbour at Port Credit.


Ridgetown - Historical Highlights.

The first person to settle on the ridge, which runs through Howard Township, was William Marsh, a Loyalist, who moved to Ontario from Nova Scotia in 1823. Other farmers followed, taking up land along the ridge.

But as of late 1837 there was no store at the settlement, and it was 1851 before a church was built. The first industry arrived in 1855 when George Moody built a flour and woollen mill.

Four years after the Canadian Southern Railway went through in 1872, Ridgetown was large enough to be incorporated a village. By 1881, the populations was over 2,000 and Ridgetown became in fact a town. Just prior to incorporation as a town, Ridgetown had several light industries, including flour, saw and woollen mills, a foundry, and carriage factories.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.