John Roderick McDonald EM

b. ? 1866/1868 Westmeath, Ontario, Canada.  d. 19/01/1929 Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 26/06/1915 Bow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Little is known about John Roderick McDonald’s early life, and differing records state his date of birth as either 1866 or 1868. He is stated on a number of Canadian Census returns as being Scottish so it is thought his parents were immigrants to Canada. It is known from his obituary that at the time of his death, he had a surviving brother and four surviving sisters. John lived in Westmeath, Ontario, his place of birth, until 1898 when he moved to Calgary, Alberta. He had recently married to Mary Elliott Morrison, and they went on to have four daughters. John then began a homestead in Carstairs near Calgary, which he ran for 12 years, until returning to Calgary in 1910. John then became a bridge carpenter. In 1921, he moved to Hussar, Alberta where he lived out his final years. He died in Bassano Hospital, Lethbridge on 19th January 1929, aged 63.



On the 26th of June, 1915, while the Bow River, Calgary, Alberta, was in flood, a hundred-foot steel span was washed loose from a bridge in course of construction. A man named Garden was upon this span, and was precipitated into the water, which was icy cold. He managed to get hold of a baulk of timber, to which he clung. McDonald and Powell put off to the rescue in a small boat, which was used in connection with the building of the bridge. No other boats were available, as the river is too dangerous for boating, even when not in flood. They had to cross a dangerous rapid, and also to avoid collision with logs which were coming down the river in large numbers, and timber from the broken bridge. Had they been capsized they would almost certainly have been drowned, as they wore heavy hip rubber boots. They reached Garden, though he had been washed nearly a quarter of a mile down the river. He was at that time nearly unconscious owing to the coldness of the water. It was too dangerous to take him aboard the boat, and they, therefore, tied a rope round him and secured it to the boat. All three were carried about a mile and a quarter down the river, when McDonald and Powell managed to steer the boat to an island. There can be no doubt that McDonald and Powell incurred very great danger in performing this brave rescue.



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