• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Swinging Into Deadman Bay

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

Deadman Bay was a short walk from where I lived on Lundy's Lane in Fort Henry Height, CFB Kingston. There were several routes to get there but the usual one lead from my house, across and down the street a bit, through the Batoche schoolyard, over Red

Rock then along a path through the woods.

Depending on where in Deadman Bay I wanted to get to, sometimes I would use a route past White Rock, or along the ravine.

Today I was headed to the rope swing so it was the Red Rock route.

Now, Deadman Bay was pretty cool to us kids because of how we believed it got it's name. Rumour had it, when Fort Henry was a manned and active garrison, a ship sailed to Kingston that had a bunch of sick and contagious passengers. Instead of letting the ship come ashore and infect everyone else, Fort Henry sunk the boat in Deadman Bay with one of its cannons. Kind of a mercy act.

We believed the story and I also believe there is (or was when I was there) a shipwreck at the bottom of the bay that would attest to this. Now, I don't remember if I actually ever saw this wreck or if we just talked it up so much among ourselves, that it became real to us. We did a lot of swimming in that Bay and we did a little canoeing but too, as I recall, the bay went from quite deep at its mouth, to quite shallow further in. The part where you could actually see the bottom wasn't all that deep and it was full of weeds so my memory of the shipwreck is probably false. Anyway, it was real for us.

Someone had strung a rope high up in a tree that leaned out over the bay. The worn and smooth bank around the tree attested that the rope had been there quite a while and a lot of kids had taken advantage of it. There was a big knot at the bottom of the rope that you could stand on by placing you feet on each side and pressing them together.

This was the best way to ride the rope because it hung within inches of the ground. Kids who tried to just hold themselves up on the rope, picking their feet up high to clear the ground and ensure sufficient height above the water for a good splash, generally found their hands slipping (the rope was wet, muddy and slippery from the kid before them) and either they would strike the ground or fall into the water before they wanted to. Both results generally ending with scrapes and bruises, the rest of us laughing.

Some people tried to sit on the knot, sticking their feet out in front of themselves but, due to the steep slope, this generally resulted in their feet striking the ground, them falling off, them getting scrapes and bruises, the rest of us laughing.

There was a bit of an art to riding that rope swing. If you didn't start high enough up the bank, you wouldn't get out far enough, over deep enough water for a pain-free landing. If you timed things just right, you could do some acrobatics, taking advantage of the upward momentum when you let go of the rope. I saw lots of kids crash and burn, did it a few times myself as I got it all sorted out, but I had plenty of great swings and applause-drawing landings. Well, maybe not applause, but a few ooohhs and awwws.

As far as I can remember, that swing was there the whole four years we lived in Kingston. Did you ever take a ride?

I have lately learned there are actually two wrecks in Deadman Bay, both purposely scuttled after the end of the War of 1812. I found this reference to the bay's naming: "In 1847, during construction of the Martello Tower on Cedar Island - "Cathcart Redoubt", a group of 23 workers were returning home from Cedar Island. A heavy swell caused the overloaded boat to capsize. Two swam to safety. Another four survived by clinging to the overturned boat. But 17 died. As a result of this, Hamilton Cove, between Cedar Island and Point Henry was renamed Deadman Bay." at http://k7waterfront.org/wc.dll?k7water~History.

Who knew growing up so close to history could be so much fun?

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