Chasse-Gallerie: Old Hat for 8725 Fergus McLaughlin

Caption: The Major Danny McLeod was on hand with then Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay when the 2011 Chasse-Gallerie crew departed Ottawa for the seven day adventure by canoe to RMC in Kingston.

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed 8725 Fergus McLaughlin (CMR RMC 1971), one of 13 Ex-Cadets and two current cadets who will raise money for the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund by paddling a voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Kingston this September, 2016. You can make a pledge or donation at www.rmcclubfoundation.ca.

Victoria Edwards: This will be your 3rd fund-raising canoe trip down the Rideau. What gave you the idea?

Fergus McLaughlin: 8788 Geoff Bennett (bourgeois), the instigator of Chasse-Gallerie, contacted me in 2001, and again in 2006, 2011, and 2016 to crew. I was a trip photographer in 2006 and trip videographer in 2011. We paddle a 10-metre replica of a canoe used by voyageurs during the days of the fur trade. In a tribute to West Coast tradition, the paddles were designed by First Nations Kwakiutl Band artist Jason Hunt. The paddles depict an orca, a wolf and an eagle in honour of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  (Click on photo for better viewing)

Victoria Edwards: Do you have any canoeing experience? Any lessons learned?

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Fergus McLaughlin: As a teenager and active member of the Ottawa YMCA Judo club I was interested in their wilderness canoe trips to the Algonquin Park. I took beginner, intermediate and advanced paddling courses led by YMCA members (Paddle Canada Certified Instructors). I recall clinics which taught us how to roll a swamped canoe while treading water. Although these lessons learned came in handy over years of evening paddles, day and weekend trips on tributaries and lakes of the Ottawa River system, I doubt the fifteen ex-cadets could flip our flat-water voyageur canoe in the unlikely event we capsize. My wife, Nadine Delbeke, and I have three canoes at our cottage on McGreggor Lake; we prefer paddling and windsurfing over motor boats. We have four adult children, two are married with children, they all love canoeing.

Victoria Edwards: What did you study at CMR/RMC and Queens?

Fergus McLaughlin: I spent three years in St Jean (CMR 1966-68) and 1 year in Kingston (RMC 1969). I completed the third year of civil engineering at RMC. I married Monique Lemay in summer of 1970, to my surprise; I was given an honorable discharge in my senior year at RMC. It is possible that sharing my time between RMC and my apartment in Kingston was not what the college wanted to encourage. I transferred to Queens, where I actually studied Geological Engineering as opposed to Civil Engineering. Queens University gave me the credentials I needed to pursue my ambition.

Victoria Edwards: Outline your career & life progression since leaving the College. Any highlights?

Fergus McLaughlin: With an engineering degree in Geology, my first line of work was in the field of paleontology. I spent one year with Museum Canada assembling the 30 foot Daspletosaurus, which is still on display at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. I spent seven years with the Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology; Most of that work had to do with mapping the Cretaceous in the Porcupine and Old Crow river region, northern Yukon, above the Arctic Circle.

Two daughters (Melanie and Olivia) and the need for more living space sparked my interest in building. That’s when I started collecting tools. In 1977, Monique and I built our home.

The next 7 years were with Environment Canada, working on developing the HYDAC (Hydrographic Data Acquisition) system. We used a jet boat with two inboard Ford engines, echo sounding for depth data, a couple of Tellurometers for positioning and an onboard hydrographic plotting and compilation system. This was the beginning of the computer era. We were able to produce bathymetric contour plots on an Applicon Colour Plotter of reservoir storage potential (Lesser Slave Lake, Lake of the Prairies) and plot the sand dune movement on the bottom of Fraser river in BC.

The HYDAC operation and maintenance became controversial, management felt it should be left to the private sector. The system was mothballed in 1983, the boat remains under a tarp in storage to this day.

Victoria Edwards: You retired in 2008 as Executive Engineer of the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board.

Fergus McLaughlin: In 1984, I was hired by the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (founded in 1983), first as regulation engineer and later as Executive Engineer. The many years of applied programming in the field prepared me very well for this work. I was very excited about this job and that’s probably why I stayed 24 years until my retirement in 2008. I was finally doing something meaningful and with real consequences. The mathematical modeling in real-time of the routing of water in the Ottawa River basin through 13 major reservoirs and over 50 dams was a bit intimidating at first. I enjoyed dealing with the various Quebec and Ontario stakeholders and even the media, probably because of my ease in both official languages (thank you CMR). After retiring, after 24 years as a Regulation Engineer, I worked part time (2 days a week) to help with the transition and training of new employees and to make some mathematical models more user-friendly.

Victoria Edwards: When we last spoke, you were training for the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrims’ route in Spain and France. What is new?

Fergus McLaughlin: Nadine Delbeke and I met in 1984 and had two children (Juliette and Nicholas). In retirement, we work on our cottage; we enjoy the presence of 4 grandchildren with a 5th on the way. After 50 years, I finally retired from Judo in 2014, now I have more time with Nadine, every two years we like to trek to new heights in some faraway place. We trekked in Argentina in 2008, Mont Viso France 2010, Dolomite mountains Italy in 2012, Népal 2014 and we are now planning ‘Le tour du Mont Blanc’ in 2016.

Our aim at e-Veritas is to conduct one-on-one interviews with all 15 participants (in no particular order) over the next few months of e-Veritas editions.

5893 Tom Gee

8684 Peter Holt

8725 Fergus McLaughlin

8788 Geoff Bennett

8833 John Leggat

8836 Clark Little

8926 Ray Hook

9143 Bruce McAlpine

12192 Tom Lawson

M0288 Roxanne Rees

15519 Sandra Sukstorf

15566 Helga Grodzinski

22461 Claire Bramma

RMC Cadet (TBA)

CMR Cadet (TBA)