Sunday, January 21, 2018

That time a heartsick young Jimmy McElligott threatened to leap off the NDG transmission tower

    The majestic red-and-white transmission tower flanking the railway tracks near Wilson and Upper Lachine stands triumphant as an NDG landmark.
   But sadly, it lacks a narrative.
   So when your kid or guest to town asks "hey what's that thing?" your options to dazzle with offhand anecdote are limited.
   Some have darkly suggested that the towers beam down cancer rays that lowers lifespans of locals but there's not much to back that up.
   (Do you think you'll eventually get to some point or another? You're losing readers  by the second- Chimples) 
  The tower was, for a moment at least, a useful tool for a heartbroken lover.
  Back in the mid-1960s the tower was not flanked by those mafia shoebox condos, which sprouted up about a dozen years ago.
   Back then it stood on lands that long housed a Bell Canada facility and sprawling parking lot.

   Chronically misunderstood Jimmy McElligott, 21, left his home at 2066 Claremont on Saturday 24 April 1965 and climbed up the tower with the intention of leaping off to cure his broken heart.
   Neighbours called police, police called firemen and they called a priest.
   So fire chief William Greer and Father Dollard talked him down with a megaphone and the young and precious McElligott was brought to a police cell to answer some questions.
   McElligott found himself romantically distraught once again a year later.
   So on Thursday 19 May 1966 at 10 p.m. he pulled the same heartbroken climbing stunt for the third time (apparently there was another attempt we are not aware of).
   He rose up, step by perilous step, higher and higher towards the peak of a CN Rail lighting tower at 2993 Lionel Groulx (then called Albert) in St. Henri, this time to promise to kill himself over a girl named Cindy.
   A firefighter climbed up in the dark to coax him down. They insisted on total darkness for fear light might surprise him and lead him to fall.
   A reporter from an English language radio station chatted with him and somehow got a beer up to him.
   Sadly, however, McElligott died.
   He died 44 years later in Saskatoon after marrying a different woman and fathering a pair of kids. But heck it's still sad.

1 comment:

  1. How about the guy who, despite the extensive fencing and security measures, managed to climb the enormous CBC tower on Mount Royal? Not sure exactly how high he got, but I seem to recall this occurred sometime back in the 1980s. Either he was likewise distraught over some personal issue or was simply determined to be a scofflaw trespasser and experience the view from what is still the highest tower overlooking the city.

    I wonder what became of him after he, too, was arrested, since it was later reported that RF radiation emitted from the transmitters could be damaging and potentially even fatal to a human body not properly shielded by the appropriate safety clothing worn by crews who conduct routine maintenance. I doubt if anyone could pull off such a climb there today, although judging from the many YouTube videos featuring determined dare-devils, this has become a worldwide "hobby" of sorts. Quite a splat if you fall, needless to say.

    Emails to the CBC requesting that they mount a webcam up top have thus far fallen on deaf ears, which is unfortunate as the spectacular view from there would surely increase traffic to their website.

    Incidentally, according to Lovell's Directory, 2993 Lionel-Groulx (formerly Albert) doesn't exist. Your Google Map link brings viewers to 2295 instead--one of the many new apartment blocks built decades after the closure of the former Grand Trunk/CNR railway line which lead to and from the old Bonaventure Station and its related freight yards west of Chaboillez Square.

    As for Jimmy McElligott, we can only guess how high was the CNR lighting tower he climbed back in 1966, then presumably located near the aforementioned address. Judging by the shadows thrown by sun on the applicable, circa 1947-49 aerial map, no structure of comparable height presents itself--if that tower even existed back then.

    As an aside, those apartment blocks along Lionel-Grouch appear to be reasonably decent-looking, although I have not seen their interiors. Surely these could serve as the model for any future low-cost housing projects long-promised and so necessary in the city.


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