McQuay, Russell Bateman: Captain

Digitized Service Record

Source: Memorable Manitobans via the Manitoba Historical Society


Bush Pilot Busy Mercy Angel To Snowbound Islanders
Flies Food To Kiddies Rescue Priest of 80 Saves Sick Settler
Worst storm in Quarter Century Isolate Manitoulin Villages
Indians Bring Word

Yesterday and Sunday, a Fairchild plane, piloted by Thurston “Rusty” Blakey of Austin airways, Sudbury, rescued an 80-year-old priest who had been storm-locked in an Indian mission for a week; flew milk and bread to children who hadn’t seen either for days; carried a sick man out of the bush to Sudbury; flew a doctor to a 70-year-old man suffering from a heart condition. Also the plane took Mrs. Harold Humbrus(sic), wife of Little Current’s mayor, out to her home from Gore Bay and flew a soldier’s wife to Little Current so that she might see her husband on leave.

Dog team, Indians, snowmobile and a “mercy” plane share in a modern saga of Ontario’s snowbound northland that followed the past week’s blizzard-the worst in quarter of a century. It isolated villages, mission posts and towns on the eastern end of Manitoulin island.

For over a week, fence-high snow drifts have cut off mail, medical suppiles (sic), food and other necessities of life. The village of Bidwell, with about 100 inhabitants, has been without lights for 10 days.

“Nothing to It”

Blakey casually dismissed the flight.

“Shucks, there’s nothing to it.” He said. “The roads are blocked, people are sick or cut off from food, and you got to get to ’em.”
Details of the rescues were supplied by Robert Commins, lodge owner at Manitowaning. He flew with Blakey during the past two days, and with his five Sepella Siberian dog-team made a 46-mile round trip to Quary carrying medical supplies to four children.
“It has been impossible to use horses.” He said. “A 15-year-old Indian boy walked 18 miles here to tell us that Father Belanger was stranded at the Wikwemikongsing mission. He had lived in the church for a week. His only food was what the Indian boys brought him.’

Hauled by Indians

Blakey landed yesterday about a mile and a half from the church. Four Indian boys hauled the priest oer the ice and snow to the plane on a hand sled.

Sunday the plane picked up Dr. R.B. McQuay at the Red Cross hospital at Mindemoya, 33 miles from Manitowaning, and took him to ten a man by the name of Turnbull living in the bush near Snowville. Blakey had to put the plane down in a farmer’s field.
At Gore Bay, Blakey picked up Mrs. Humbruss(sic), who had been stranded there a week. At Little Current he picked up the mail and took it to Kagawong. Arriving in this village of about 100, Commins and Blakey discovered a number of children who hadn’t seen milk or bread for over a week.

Takes in Milk

The plane flew back to Gore Bay, and picked up two cases of milk and three cases of bread.
Two men, a woman and a child were flown to Providence Bay on Lake Huron. Mrs. Harold Wright was flown from Gore Bay to see her soldier husband at Little Current, 40 miles away. For five days they had been separated by that distance while his leave ran out. She arrived too late to see her husband at Little Current, but followed him on the train and saw him at Kingston.

George Hindle, a Clover valley farmer, taken ill, was drawn seven miles by a team of horses to Manitowaning in a four-hour trip, and then flown to Sudbury yesterday afternoon.

Toronto Daily Star, March 23, 1943

Physician and surgeon.

Born at Pickering, Ontario on 20 February 1889, son of Mr. and Mrs. James H. McQuay, he was educated at Peterborough Collegiate, Manitoba College, and Queen’s University. His family came to Manitoba in 1902 and settled at Foxwarren. In January 1915, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He went overseas with a draft and was attached to the Tallow Hospital (Duchess of Connaught). He returned to Canada and finished his medical course then re-enlisted and went to France in October 1916. He was Medical Officer with 6th Brigade, C.P.A. and was invalided to the Duchess of Westminster Hospital at Paris Plage; 5th Brigade Artillery, No. 3 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne; Medical Officer, 18th Battalion; after Armistice, 12th Field Ambulance near Brussels; returned to Canada and discharged 15 June 1919. Lecturer and demonstrator in Anatomy, Queen’s University, 1919-20. Came to Portage la Prairie; formed the McQuay Clinic. Member, Canadian and Manitoba Medical Associations. In 1920-21, special work Mayo Clinic, and Cook County Hospital, Chicago. Specialises in X-ray. Address, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Married Gladys Saunders, 1920. Had a son and a daughter.


Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

CEF attestation papers, Library and Archives Canada.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 20 March 2011

Daugther’s Obituary:


MARY ALICE THACKER (née MCQUAY) – At Ottawa, on February 12, 2011, in her 86th year. Beloved wife of the late Douglas Gerald Thacker. Mary Alice was born June 7, 1925, in Portage la Prairie, the daughter of Dr. Russell Bateman McQuay and Gladys Marguerite McQuay (née Saunders). Raised in Mindemoya, Manitoulin Island, she went on to become a registered nurse and graduate of Kingston General Hospital (1947) and Queen’s University (Gold Medallist, 1952). Loving wife, mother, sister and grandmother; collector of antique dolls; talented doll artisan; and a generous and independent spirit. Deeply missed and lovingly remembered by her daughters Jane and Ann (John); sons Donald (Connie) and Robert (Julie); grandchildren Sarah and Ian; sister Ann (Jim) and brother Tom (Barbara); nieces, nephews and grand-nieces. She was predeceased by her sister Peg and brother Jack. Special thanks to the staff of the Lindenwood section at the Glebe Centre for their remarkable kindness and compassion to our mother and her family during the past four years. Visitation Friday, February 18 from 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Tubman Funeral Homes, Westboro Chapel, 403 Richmond Rd., Ottawa. Funeral service Saturday, February 19, 2:30 p.m. at Tubman Funeral Homes, Westboro Chapel, 403 Richmond Rd., Ottawa. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Glebe Centre (950 Bank St., Ottawa K1S 5G6) or Doctors Without Borders ( would be appreciated.


Grave Marker at Mindemoya Cemetery, Carnavon Township (Manitoulin District).
Detail of plaque.

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