Cranberry Portage Heritage Museum

Alec Moodie: Veteran of the North

Written by: Ted Tadda
August 6,1949

Alec Moodie Had Stirring Adventures in Northland

Cranberry Portage, Manitoba August 6, 1949 (Special) – Did Juan Ponce de Leon explore too far south in his search for the fountain of youth? Should he not perhaps have explored farther north around Cranberry Portage?

In this section of the North Country are to be found the most amazing number of youthful old ladies and gentlemen. Old age only that is, if one cares to call seventy old. However, a seventy year old is definitely not an old person in these parts. Here at Cranberry Portage, we have at least 12 people over the age of seventy. All are very active today and all have played an active part in the development of Canada, particularly the north.

One of these fellows – though he does not belong to the older set until he attains the age of seventy – is Alec Moodie, son of the late Major J.D. Moodie one time superintendent of the world famous R.N.W.M.P. and uncle of Lady Edgemont who with her husband the Earl, resides on a ranch near Calgary, Alberta.

Alec Moodie has just celebrated his 68th birthday. He was born at Brandon, Man. In the year of 1881 and at the age of fourteen went to work as a cowpuncher for the 76 ranch, then situated at Crane Lake, Sask. Later he left to join the Turkey Track ranch eighteen miles south of ‘Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

In 1901 Alec joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles and went to South Africa to fight in the Boer war. Over there he was transferred to the ‘Canadian Scouts’ under Captain Charlie Ross.

Returns to Canada

He returned to Canada in 1902 and in 1903 went with his father, Major J.D. Moodie, on board the Dominican Government Ship, Neptune, under the command of A.P. Low, bound for the Arctic on an exploration trip and to take soundings in Arctic waters. However Alec and his father took no part in these explorations but went along for the purpose of establishing police posts, for the protection of fishing rights in Canadian whaling waters around Southampton Island, Fox Channel, and Davis Straits. The party wintered at Cape Fullerton. Coming out in July 1904.

That same year Alec and his father returned to the Arctic, this time on board the ‘Arctic’, skippered b Captain Bernier, the Arctic explorer. The party again wintered at Cape Fullerton.

In the spring of 1905, the S.S.Eric which was to have been their supply ship, not having turned up, the party went in search of her and found the Neptune, instead of the Eric, off Shorto Bay near the Strait of Belle Isle. From her they learned that the S.S. Eric had been sent as a supple ship to the /arctic explorer, Robert Edwin Peary, and that the Neptune was replacing her as their supply ship.

On coming alongside, Major Moodie and Alec transferred to the Neptune and again headed north. The S.S. Artic carried on homeward bound for Quebec.

Ship Aground

Off Marble Island the Neptune ran aground on some rocks, staving in her bow at the keel. They managed to get her off but had to keep the pumps going steadily in order to get to Fullerton, where they unladed police supplies, then carried on under the same tough conditions until they reached Churchill, where they unloaded as much of the Hudson’s Bay Company supplies as possible before the ice forced them to leave.

Pulling away from Churchill still a big percentage of their cargo yet aboard, and not having been able to make repairs, they set a course for St. John’s, Newfoundland, fighting high seas most of the way keeping the pumps going night and day.

Reaching St. John’s the Neptune was put into dry dock. When the sailors of that town saw the condition of the Neptune’s bow, they were amazed at the fact that the Captain, Sam Bartlett, and his crew had been able to survive the storms and bring her in.

In 1906 Frank Oliver, minister of the interior, sent him into the Peace River country on an exploration trip. Leaving there on completion of his work, he was ordered to Prince Albert, where he was to pick up a packhorse train and make an exploration trip into the The Pas territory. Alec left The Pas in the fall of 1906 and went to Calgary, Alta., where he joined the C.P.R. With them he reached the position of locomotive engineer. In 1910 he quit and returned to The Pas territory with a government survey party. He was ordered to take charge of an expedition, consisting of twenty-five men, and to make a map out the approximate boundaries of the burned timber area around Lac Saul, Lac St. Joseph, on up the Root River, English and Wanasaga River country and estimate the amount of logs fit for lumbering. This job he completed around the end of 1911 and returned to The Pas.

From 1911 to this date, Alec has lived in this section of the north. He was one of the first to settle at Cranberry Portage. At present he is engaged as a guide for one of the tourist camps and is reputed to be one of the best guides in the country.

Alec is married, has fourteen children – eight boys and six girls, ranging from school age to marriage. His closing remarks were, “There is a splendid future in this north country for young and old alike.”