One of the last big weekends of this Dawson City summer will be built around an RCMP Regimental Ball, to be held here on August 27.
The force has held a number of special events and anniversary celebrations in Dawson in the past, but this one, organized to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Lost Patrol of 1910-11, is a more solemn occasion than most.
Called the Fitzgerald Memorial Event, the weekend will honour the memories of Inspector Francis Joseph Fitzgerald, Constable Richard O’Hara Taylor, Constable George Francis Kinney and their guide, Special Constable Sam Carter, who set out make the trip from Fort McPherson, NWT, to Dawson City on December 21, 1910.
By January 12 they knew they had lost their way and, according to Fitzgerald’s journal, determined to retrace their trail to Fort McPherson.
He made his last journal entry on February 5, by which time the party had killed five of its 10 dogs for food.
A relief patrol found their bodies on March 21 and 22. Dead from cold and hunger, they were 40 kilometres from Fort McPherson. The four men are buried in a special plot of ground there. It contains a memorial to the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Patrol of 1910.
There will soon be a second memorial in Dawson City, to be unveiled as part of a ceremony organized by the Dawson Detachment and the Klondike Centennials Society (KCS).
“The Lost Patrol is a significant historical event for the RCMP and the Yukon,” Sgt. Dave Wallace wrote in a letter to Dawson’s council last January. “It represents one of several tragedies in the organization’s history.”
“We’re doing a Regimental Weekend,” said detachment administrative assistant Andrea Magee. “On the Friday [August 26] we’re having a golf tournament and then a barbecue afterwards. Then on Saturday we’re doing a rededication of the Fitzgerald Memorial, which is being built in our yard at the moment. Then there is a ball in the evening.”
There was an earlier memorial, but it was destroyed by the flood of 1979.
The dedication will feature a march from the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre along Front Street to the detachment by the members in full red serge, accompanied by the horse, which is being trained in hopes of having a Mounted Mountie program next summer.
The ball itself has been sold out, with 165 tickets purchased.
The Dawson Detachment has four constables, a corporal and a sergeant, plus a civilian administrative assistant at present. All of them, plus volunteers, have been busy getting this event ready along with the usual hectic Dawson summer season, including the Dawson City Music Festival in July and the Discovery Days weekend just past.
The KCS president, Jon Magnusson, says his group is always happy to assist the RCMP, and has in the past worked on bringing the Musical Ride and the 100th anniversary celebrations to town, the latter having been held in 2002.
A short version of the story of the Lost Patrol can be found on the official R.C.M.P. website at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/hist/hh-ps/lost-perdus-eng.htm.
A more detailed account, complete with maps, photographs and timelines, can be found in The Lost Patrol: The Mounties’ Yukon Tragedy, by historian and journalist Dick North (Raincoast Books, 147 pages).