Northern Prairie Ships: Phyllis Williams / Baldur

The Phyllis Williams was built in 1909-1910 to replace the Premier. Designed and built at Sarnia, Ontario by shipwright Bob Morill, its 110-foot oak frame was shipped to Manitoba for assembly, along with the boiler and engine salvaged from the City of Selkirk. Originally intended for the William Robinson Company, by the time its construction was completed, ownership transferred to the newly established Lake Winnipeg Shipping Company (LWSC). Launched in 1910 to great fanfare, the vessel’s name commemorated Miss Phyllis Williams of Toronto, a 1910 house guest (and possible extended relation) of LWCS President Hugh Sutherland. Commanded by Captain William “Bill” McDonald, the ship hauled barges of building materials, including limestone from quarries along the shores of Lake Winnipeg, down the Red River to the company’s Water Street docks in Winnipeg. In early September 1913, the vessel brought the first load of crushed granite into the city. After the LWSC was dissolved, the ship was re-acquired by its original owner, the William Robinson Company, and was used as a fishing and sailboat tug under the helm of Captain William Crawford.

Eventually, the vessel’s high operating cost and prohibitively deep-water draft led to its abandonment at an unknown location. Its internal machinery and boilers were removed and a subsequent fire destroyed its cabin and superstructure. The burned hull broke free from its moorings and floated a half mile or so before it flooded to the point of being mostly submerged. Deemed a hazard to shipping, it was ordered removed by the federal government. Instead, in the late 1930s the Phyllis Williams was extracted from its watery grave and rebuilt, being renamed Baldur in 1939. It was used by the federal government to tow dredges and coal barges to supply lighthouses around Lake Winnipeg. In the fall of 1951, Baldur was condemned and replaced with the CGS Bradbury.

The Phyllis Williams at Winnipeg (1925)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, George Harris fonds (1979-141), Album 19, page 58.

The Baldur, formerly the Phyllis Williams (undated)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Transportation - Boat - Baldur 1


“Society [Miss Phyllis Williams],” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 May 1910, page 5.

“Lake Winnipeg Shipping,” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 June 1912, page 11.

“Lake Winnipeg Shipping Company, Limited,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 November 1912, page 36.

“Crushed granite brought in from Lake Winnipeg,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 September 1913, page 1.

“The Lake Winnipeg Shipping Co., Limited,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 September 1915, page 85.

“Lofty name, lowly job,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 April 1952, page 11.

“The Lake Winnipeg Shipping Company,” by Capt. Ed. Nelson, Winnipeg Free Press, 24 July 1965, page 21.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 12 February 2022