The Livingston(e)s of Great Bras d'Or

Captain William Dawson Livingston

1870 - 1957

A Lifelong Mariner

William Dawson Livingston was born February 3, 1870, at Big Bras d'Or, the second of 11 children of Captain John Livingston and Elizabeth Hayes.

At the age of seventeen, he went to sea on a sailing vessel with his father as master. Sailing in coal boats all over the world, he attained his Master's papers and became Master of a sailing vessel in 1904.

While studying for his Master's certificate in Halifax, William boarded at Mapleton House, a boarding hotel owned by Catherine (McDonald) Lynch, the widow of John Lynch. On April 24, 1906, he was married in St. Mary's Cathedral to Winnifred May Lynch, one of Catherine and John's daughters. Shortly after his marriage, William joined the Commercial Cable Company as a junior officer in order to be based in Halifax. He remained with this company, holding four commands before his retirement in 1932. Following his retirement, Captain Livingston retained his sailor's habit of recording the daily events of importance and interest: he kept his log until his death on October 8, 1957. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of this log is unknown to me.

The Cable Ships

Captain Livingston joined the Commercial Cable Company in 1908 as a junior officer on the Mackay-Bennett. It was on this ship that he was to experience one of his most memorable voyages. In April of 1912, shortly after the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, he was navigating officer of the ship when she was the first of several vessels to take part in the recovery of bodies from the disaster site.

In 1921 W.D. Livingston became master of the Mackay-Bennett, the first Canadian and the first Roman Catholic to hold the rank in the Commercial Cable Company. Captain Livingston's second command was the Marie Louise Mackay, of which he was master from 1922-24. In 1924 he took command of the C.S. Restorer, a cableship built for the repair of cable in the Pacific Ocean and stationed in Victoria, British Columbia.

Captain Livingston retained this command until 1926 when he was named as master of the new ship, John W. Mackay, being built at Newcastle-on-Tyne. It was under Captain Livingston's command that the John W. Mackay undertook one of its largest and most hazardous jobs: the repairing of ocean cables east of Sable Island following the earthquake and tsunami of 1929. The ship worked in this area during the winter of 1929-30, and Captain Livingston was awarded a commendation by company president Clarence Mackay for his service. William Dawson Livingston retired from the sea in 1932.

Photographs of these ships.

Maritime Reference Book. Halifax:Regal Print & Litho., 1931, p.75
Personal recollections: Lillian Kathleen Livingston

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© 1996 Copyright E.A.Capstick
Updated 05 December 1996 Edited 18 February 2005

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