John's Canadians

the engineer

As resident engineer he took charge of a number of challenging tasks;  we have his tattered photograph album from that period with snapshots of some of them.

He marked his photographs of his fellow workers surveying branch rail lines "On the pike," "Gimli Branch," and "Winnipeg Beach" as they surveyed the stretch of the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. In almost every picture he is seen smoking or a holding the pipe that was his lifetime trademark.

One major task he undertook while still a bachelor involved returning to upright a huge grain elevator in Transcona that had tipped over to a 30-degree angle.  The operation, which involved redesigning and replacing the structure's foundations, is considered one of the most remarkable feats of Canadian engineering. The building still stands straight today, owned and used by Parrish and Heimbecker Grain Company.  Patrick's progress photographs of the elevator restoration portray the pioneer conditions with the rough work gangs pulling a massive building erect with ropes and muscle power.  A photograph of himself and another man in rubber boots is marked succinctly, "Manitoba mud."

His terse record shows he supervised reconstruction of a bridge over the Red River at East Kildonan, and in April 1915 one over the Pembina River at the town of Sangudo, on the Peace River branch of the railway.  Most of the hundreds of blueprints for these projects were completed by Foundation Company of Canada engineers and draughtsmen in a small building beside the tracks in North Transcona.

Before Mary Louise arrived, Patrick lived at a boarding house on Gertrude St. in Winnipeg  presumably to be close to the original St. Ignatius Church nearby.  His fellow boarders were all young Irish bachelors like himself, among them two brothers, Brian and Chris O'Kelly, who became his lifelong friends.  Another character, John Burke (who became godfather to Patrick's third son), appears in a photograph dated October 1914 -- a month after Patrick's marriage, standing at the front steps of a house numbered 176.  We heard tall tales of those early days, of fortunes made and lost on paper, and of their involvement in Winnipeg's developing professional life.

building bridges

Patrick's active involvement in his profession began soon after he arrived in Canada.  He was accepted as an associate of the Engineering Institute of Canada on May 15, 1917 and contributed a paper to the EIC Proceedings in that year entitled "Geological conditions affecting the design of foundations in Manitoba."

Patrick was appointed Bridge Engineer in the Good Roads Branch of the Provincial Department of Highways and Transportation (1915-1922).  A Government memo dated May 1916 lists the salary of a bridge engineer from $1,800 with annual increases of $100 up to the position's maximum of $2,400.

His superior, Manson Ainslie Lyons, not much older than Patrick, had four bridge engineers on his staff each responsible for a different district of the province, plus road engineers and draughtsmen.  Mr. Lyon's mandate in 1915 read, "responsible charge of the design and construction of 80 wooden bridges, 35 steel bridges, and 350 concrete structures."

This group of engineers must have been prime movers in organizing a provincial branch of the Association of Professional Engineers:  Mr. Lyons in 1920 became the first president of the Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba (APEM) , and Patrick was elected to the first permanent council. That first council registered 400 members that first year, reflecting Manitoba's thriving development.

Patrick's view of the role of the engineer in society is neatly captured in a note written in 1948 to his oldest son, a geologist, who had been made manager of labour relations of his mining company: "I was particularly elated because it is the maturation of a theory I have been preaching.  Two years ago I had to give the address to the engineering graduating class at the Dalhousie Convocation and the theme was the relationship of engineering to social and political life.  The main point was the necessity of bridging the gap between management and labour which is threatening to wreck our economy.  I hold that only the engineer can do it and it is his duty.  By the nature of his work, he has to carry out the management's plans but in doing so he is in intimate contact with labour and hence is known and understands the problems and aspirations of both.  It is the most important domestic job in North America today and I am no less than exalted that you are getting the opportunity to do it."

His view of duty extended to his professional, social, political and moral obligations throughout his life, and left a lasting impression on his associates and, of course, on his children.

Patrick remained involved in and committed to his professional association until his retirement.  He was a member of the Manitoba Council for three two-year terms, registrar in 1924 and 1925, councillor to the Dominion Council of Professional Engineers for seven years commencing 1939, president of APEM in 1938, and president of the Dominion Council in 1945.

In 1919, Patrick was caught in the struggle when massive unemployment, inflation and unrest caused the Trades and Labour Council to call the notorious Winnipeg general strike, lasting during May and June.  Like other government employees, he was conscripted to enforce the martial law imposed by the Federal Government.  Posted to Minto Barracks in Fort Garry in charge of a squad of militia, he soon concluded that doing nothing more important than signing weekend passes for toy soldiers was a poor exchange for leaving his young family alone.  He went home -- and was arrested by armed soldiers for taking unauthorized leave.  The director at Good Roads declared that he was indispensable and saved him from being 'court-martialled.'  When one recalls his letter to Ted in 1948, citing duty to both management and workers, he may well have resisted supporting the Government's arbitrary stand against the strikers.

He left the Good Roads Department in 1922 to set up private practice with office downtown in the Currie Building on Portage Ave.  We don't have much detail of this period but it was about this time that he became a partner in a venture named Gripoll Tool Company.  His children for years embossed countless sheets of paper using the company's official seal and played with the only tool produced by the firm:  a metal handle with a length of bicycle chain attached to one end that could loop around a pipe, lock on the handle and act as a powerful wrench.  Their patent must have expired because Stanley Tools Ltd. many years later produced a very similar item.  We are certain Patrick never profited from the enterprise:  he never acquired the knack of self-aggrandizement.

Patrick joined Canadian Johns-Manville Co. Ltd. as district engineer in 1924.  The first office building lay directly behind the old City Hall on Market St., where a farmers' market bustled all summer long for many years.  In the Thirties, the company moved to McPhillips St. on the (then) western outskirts of Winnipeg in a bleak industrial park.  Patrick drove across the city every day to have lunch with his family, take a brief nap, then drive back to the office.

Johns-Manville made asbestos products and services to support their effective installation and use.  For example, a community would decide to install or expand a water distribution system using J-M's Transite pipe:  Patrick would consult the officials, recommend the appropriate products, help design the system, and inspect the job in progress to guarantee an effective outcome.   

One day in 1959, at a business reception, his son John met a senior member of the University of Manitoba who said,"Your father was offered the post of dean of Engineering years ago.  Many of us were greatly disappointed when he chose the higher pay in industry but we all understood perfectly that his first priority was his family."

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