The Ghosts of the Opinicon
a poem by Captain Ned Fleming c.1930
This poem was written by Captain "Ned" Fleming (1868-1953), one of the last steamboat captains of the Rideau, and a descendent of Chaffey's first lockmaster. During his long career, he was captain of the Rideau Queen and Rideau King which operated between Kingston and Ottawa - running night and day.
Captain "Ned" frequently put his thoughts into verse - in this case, inspired by Opinicon Lake at night.
THE GHOSTS OF THE OPINICON
Come with me and I will show you, a gem of the Rideau chain
If a fairer lake you look for, you may well look in vain.
Fairy isles rise from the waters, and silently form a sight
Whose beauty fills the human heart with wonder and delight.
The wooded slopes, the green isles, the waters sparkling sheen,
In beauty shine today, as they did in days pristine.
On its shores wild potatoes grew in days long past and gone
The indians ate them, liked them, and called the lake "Opinicon".
At night o'er the quiet lake hangs an air of mystery
'Tis said that at the midnight hour, people often see
A little boat out on the lake, that doth swiftly and silently glide
Without-paddle or oar to propel it, o'er the mistly moonlit tide.
At times three people in the boat, sometimes, only one,
The one they say is the ghost of Thomas Dennison.
He was drowned as he towed a raft, in sight of his own door
And 'tis said that he labours still to bring the raft ashore.
Perhaps he is joined by Joe Leway, who died in a mine near by.
Under a rockfall he lay for hours, and no one heard his cry
Now at night his voice is heard, in tones of agony
"Help, help, save my life, please lift this rock from me."
The third one may be Samuel Poole, who drew his latest breath
On the lake shore, where the frost king, closed his eyes in death.
He went to Kingston, to get the pay, for lumber he had sawn.
Next day he was seen to leave, for his home on Opinicon.
From that day for many years, his fate was quite unknown.
Some people thought, with the money, to other land held flown.
But after forty years had swiftly come and gone
Children one day found his bones, on the shore of the Opinicon.
It is thought that on that day, from Kingston he had come
Full forty miles, where now he was but three miles from his home.
An icy wind blew down the lake, a blizzard from the west.
He went ashore at a sheltered spot, for a few minutes of rest
Something seemed to tell him, "Don't stop here. Go on."
But he brushed the snow from an old log and with a sigh sat down.
He thought, for ten minutes only, here he should remain
While he gathered strength to face that bitter wind again.
Ah, the blessed feeling of rest, there in that sheltered place
As with benumbed hand, he rubbed his frosted face.
Nodding he fell asleep, only ten minutes rest he was taking
Alas, it was the sleep of death, that knows no earthly waking.
There was a light in the window of his cozy little home
Where anxious hearts were waiting, for one who would never come.
His loved ones searched far and near, and time flowed swiftly on;
But they never knew that his bones lay on the shore of Opinicon.
Joe Leway's spirit lingers, at the mine, 'tis said
Where 'neath a rock for hours he lay, with none to give him aid.
And now each night with a crowbar, he rolls the rock aside,
And goes forth to join other spirits on Opinicon's silvery tide.
The body of Tom Dennison by man has never been found,
Until the lake gives up his bones to lie 'neath a flowery mound,
He will struggle with the raft, to gain the wished for goal,
Tho' at midnight, he may cross the lake with Leway and with Poole.
At times, 'tis said that Dennison. goes wandering forth alone,
Or he may have with him, Leway, who died beneath the stone.
Sam Poole may sometimes join them, and then, this ghostly three
Will glide o'er the Opinicon, swiftly and silently.
For never the creak of oarlock or sound of paddle dip,
Not a word is spoken, by any ghostly lip
Until the hour of midnight, then breaks the magic spell,
And they talk of things of long ago, on the lake they know so well.
All long dead, their spirits linger yet
To wander o'er at the midnight hour, the lake they can't forget.
Reminders of a long forgotten day, why should they linger here?
Like dead leaves drifting quietly from a long forgotten year.
And all their ghostly whisperings, at midnight you may hear,
Though you may never see them, the little boat their spirits steer
You may hear their quiet voices, speaking in varied tone
If at midnight you would listen, to the Ghosts of Opinicon.
Poem courtesy The Lockmaster's House Museum, Chaffey's Lock.