There’s been a lot of chatter about the name of Sarnia’s newly consolidated high school – Great Lakes Secondary – most of it negative.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad name. But it’s not a great one, either. Safe. Generic. Uninspiring.
The ah hoc naming committee that recommended Great Lakes Secondary reviewed 145 community submissions that ranged from interesting (Oodenawi Secondary, Ojibwe for community) to odd (Cosmos Secondary, Vendome Collegiate) to smile-inducing (Schooly McSchoolface).
Several submitters tried to honour the legacy of St. Clair and SCITS by combining them into some variation of “St. Clair Institute and Technical School.”
However, the committee rejected all attempts to respect the two schools’ history. Instead, it asked for a vote on a shortlist of three generic names: Bluewater, Sarnia Clearwater, and Great Lakes.
Sadly, even trustees who disliked the winner voted for it anyway.
Blue Water everywhere
Speaking of Bluewater, we already have the Blue Water Bridge, Bluewater Health and Bluewater Power, not to mention countless businesses, sports clubs and agencies with the name.
And there’s an interesting story behind all that.
The Boer War was the first overseas conflict to which Canada sent soldiers, and an early enlistee was an officer from Sarnia named Fred Gorman who signed up in 1899.
The story goes that Gorman met an expat from the Sarnia area in South Africa and asked him one day what he remembered most about his youth.
The man replied: “All that blue water back there.”
Major Gorman survived the conflict and reenlisted in the First World War. And while serving in France he shared that exchange with another Sarnian, Johnston M. MacAdams, according to an old newspaper article.
It was MacAdams who proposed the name Blue Water Highway for the new Lake Huron road (Hwy. 21), and some time later, Canada and the U.S. agreed to call the new international span the Blue Water Bridge.
Fit to be tied
A recent piece on the United Empire caught the attention of Sarnia resident Pat Clarke.
The luxurious steam ship was the finest on the Great Lakes when launched in 1882, and such a powerful symbol of our young nation’s prowess it graced the Canadian $4 bill.
As it turns out, the United Empire was built by Clarke’s ancestor, John Dyble, at the Dyble and Parry Shipyard, which was located at the foot of Clifford Street.
“My great grandfather, a skilled ship builder, immigrated from England in 1871 to this area because of (its) great oak forest,” Clarke recounted.
“The story goes that when it was launched it was minus its wheel and could not be controlled. As a result, the ship headed straight for the American shore with tugboats in pursuit.”
The United Empire had to be snared and hauled back for a final outfitting.
John Dyble died in 1893 at the age of 54 and it’s believed the shipyard closed shortly after, Clarke said.
The Dyble name is gone from Sarnia, but it’s nice to know some the great shipbuilder’s descendants still live here.