Media Release: Stratford Recognizes Role of Tea Hill Park in First Canadian Transatlantic Flight
Posted on 09/30/2020
Image of the new interpretive panelFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2020

Today at Tea Hill Park an interpretive panel was unveiled telling the story of the location’s direct connection to a milestone in Canadian aviation history. The land, which today is home to one of the Town of Stratford’s community parks, was 90 years ago the departure point for the first Canadian transatlantic flight.

“Last Wednesday, September 23, was the 90th anniversary of this historic event that is unknown to the large majority of our residents,” said Stratford Mayor Steve Ogden. “At this site, a Bellanca monoplane took off after an unexpected landing at what is now Tea Hill Park. The plane then successfully continued onto Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and further on to their final destination of England.”

The trip was not without its many delays and challenges, however, including the surprise landing at what is now Tea Hill Park. Having left Montreal approximately eight hours earlier and flying through continuous rain, then strong winds, the crew piloted by Capt. Erroll Boyd and navigator, Lieut. Harry Connor, had previously flown over Charlottetown and moved onto Cape Breton before deciding to return to the flat land of PEI rather than proceeding in the dark to Newfoundland.

The news quickly spread across PEI and beyond, with a newspaper in South Carolina even running a front-page story. Boyd and Connor were treated to the best of Island hospitality and though intending to leave the following day, weather continued to delay their departure for a further ten days, finally taking off on September 23, 1930.

“The plane reportedly took off smoothly on September 23, 1930 shortly after the noon hour and made a farewell circling of the field where a small group had gathered to see them off,” added Mayor Ogden. “By both of their personal accounts and those told by people who had met and accommodated the pair during their ten-day stay, it appears they made the most of their time on PEI, meeting the Lieutenant Governor, F.R. Heartz, the Mayor of Charlottetown and attending numerous dinners and events.”

After leaving Tea Hill and arriving in Newfoundland, the pair were again delayed by weather for a couple of weeks. Finally taking off on October 9, the flight was met again with challenging winds, followed later that day by darkness, rain squalls and fog. They ran into further trouble when they experienced an electrical failure and had to use the emergency flashlight to energize the phosphoric material on the flight instruments, followed the next day by a terrifying discovery -- the pipe to their reserve fuel tank was clogged and the main fuel tank was being rapidly used up. In view of the dwindling fuel supply, the plane’s crew of two tried to align the aircraft with an ocean vessel sighted in the distance, just in case, but thankfully soon after spotted a piece of land which turned out to be Tresco, one of England’s Scilly Islands. Having successfully landed on a narrow piece of the beach, the pair was able to refuel and make some minor repairs before taking off the following day, October 11, for their intended final destination of Croyden, just south of London, England.

“It’s incredible to think back to what these two individuals must have endured and dealt with during this time,” added Mayor Ogden, “and to have Tea Hill as a part of that history is outstanding. It is certainly something to be recognized and not lost to history which we have done today with the installation of this interpretive panel. On behalf of the Town of Stratford, I wish to thank the members of the Town’s Heritage Committee for their work on researching this story, to Mike Chapman for bringing this story forward to us and making us aware of it, and to Aggi-Rose Reddin whose late father owned this property previously and who was able to help us with the story and provide some photos.”

The full story is available on the Town of Stratford website at www.townofstratford.ca and the interpretive panel can be viewed by visiting Tea Hill Park.

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For more information please contact:

Wendy Watts, Community & Business Engagement Manager
Town of Stratford
T: (902) 569-1995
E: wwatts@townofstratford.ca

Image #1: Interpretive Panel
Image #2: Mayor Steve Ogden (centre), Aggi-Rose Reddin (left), Doug Kelly (right)