Jun
04
2020
Volume
8-2

Flying Ace in The Fort

(1 Vote)

Frosty morning on the frozen muskeg;

A pilot named Punch shows up to the Snye

with his mechanic, Parmenter, and a bush plane packed

with a sack.

His cargo, a special delivery – one that would be life-changing,

and rewarding, for an already awarded,

and mighty World War fighter-flyer

of a man.

 

The river in McMurray, his starting point;

The launch pad to his historic journeys

along the Mackenzie into territories,

North West.

 

On-task to map out remote destinations;

To deliver handwritten-letter mail by air.

First of its kind in the Fort,

in Western Canada.

 

Months following the first drop, his published words came

in Maclean’s on Canada Day in Nineteen-twenty-nine.

He spoke of the Arctic Air Express, simply

put with divine:

 

“Put your pencil on any point

in the map of Canada and we’ll

get you there – if you can

afford it.”

 

Ask the man of flight: What happened on the first

comeback day? When local folk in the Fort

began conversing on the Flying Ace’s

time arrival delay.

 

“All talk about taking our lives in our own hands

and that sort of drivel…” and recalled they had

no fear: “There wasn’t anything to it. We damaged

our landing gear.”

 

Nothing short of victorious, glorious; he claimed,

But the twelve-day jaunt over the little-known North

Will be forever remembered,

and famed.

 

 

About the poem

Canadian aviation pioneer Clennell Haggerston “Punch” Dickins made his mark in the Wood Buffalo region for delivering the first airmail to the Northwest Territories in January 1929.

At age 18, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in the Royal Flying Corps and flew 73 missions during World War I. Following his Royal Canadian Air Force service, he joined the Western Canada Airways.

During his time as a pioneer bush pilot, Punch logged more than 1.6 million kilometres, which included flying over remote reaches and unmapping areas of the Canadian North. One of his most historic flights tallied up over 6,000 km in 37 hours over 12 days.

He continued flying until the age of 78. In 1995, Punch passed away, and his ashes were scattered alongside the Mackenzie River by his son, John.

Today, Clennell “Punch” Haggerston Dickins legend lives on by his name found within one of the Fort McMurray’s subdivisions, schools and streets, which are Dickinsfield, Dickinsfield School and Dickins Drive.

In October 2019, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo held a ceremony in his honour with a plaque recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The monument sits at the Snye Point Park alongside the river Dickins had landed his floatplane, once upon a time.

 

Photos courtesy of Canadian Encyclopedia, Alchetron, Historic Winga and Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

DAWN BOOTH

Dawn Booth is a local journalist and business owner of the communication service, Media Booth. Residing in Fort McMurray since 2007, Booth has been actively working in the Wood Buffalo region as a media and marketing expert. From her arrival to the city, until November 2010, she worked as the Special Features Editor at the Fort McMurray Today. In April 2011, she co-launched snapd Wood Buffalo and managed the publication for three years, until June 2014. In March 2014, she created Media Booth and is currently working with a wide-variety of clients in the business and nonprofit sectors throughout Alberta. Her passion for volunteering in the community has given her two civic awards from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. She has also received the title for the Fort McMurray Connect's Top 40 Under 40 and is one of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta's 2014-2015 Women of Inspiration. A happy wife and loving mother to two young boys and a baby girl, Booth can be found easily at www.mediabooth.net.

Website: mediabooth.net/

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