Bill Windrum header

Bill Windrum - Bush Pilot

Northern Saskatchewan

Aircraft Line.

Is commercial flying what it used to be? Not in the opinion of a quiet-voiced man who now sits in an administrative office of Canadian Pacific Airlines at the Vancouver International Airport.

"Pilots today wouldn't fly the planes we did," says W. J. "Bill" Windrum, a former bush pilot of fifteen years standing who helped develop Canada's vast northland when the airplane was the only means of transportation. "They consider them unsafe."

Flying is different in other ways, too. The bush pilot of old was on his own. If his run was across northern B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan. or the Northwest Territories, he used the roughest of maps. He frequently did his own mechanical work.

During cold weather, he warmed his plane in the morning with blow pots and put it to bed at night. He loaded his cargo, which he sometimes purchased and "fueled" his plane by loading 40-gallon barrels of aviation gas.

Should he be forced down in the wilderness, out of gas. or with serious motor trouble, he might never be found. An elaborate search would be made, but the pilots wouldn't know where to look in that vast area. Unless there was a river or a settlement nearby, he would rarely get out.

Bill Windrum has had his full share of hazardous experiences. But he, too, is one of "the lucky ones" who didn't get into any trouble they couldn't get out of and can now see the great contributions that pioneering airmen have made to commercial flying.

Aviation for Bill Windrum has come a long way. It all began when he applied to join the Royal Navy Air Service in World War One.

"The head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Admiral Kingmill, didn't give me any aptitude or intelligence tests when he called me in for an interview," he says. "He just asked me, 'Windrum, if you had to go overseas tomorrow, would you go?' After some thought, I said yes and I was in. That was all he wanted to know.

Amiral Kingsmill
REAR-ADMIRAL SIR CHARLES KINGMILL. Born: Guelph, Ont., 1855 - Died: 1935.

After a short stint in the government service after the war was over, flying became Bill Windrum's life occupation. He instructed for a few years, and when bush flying was developing in northern Saskatchewan, he took it up.

From his base at Prince Albert, he flew trappers and prospectors and hard rock miners into the north, to the beginnings of current "boom towns" like Yellowknife, Uranium City, and Beaver Lodge.

He flew constables and magistrates into the isolated settlements and brought out prisoners. He flew in doctors and brought out sick and dying men. He was a mailman for the north. He took out loads of fish, samples of ore, and raw furs. He once brought out a dog team from Tavani, Nunavit for a travelling dog show, and flew in dancing slippers, moccasins and once, a size 44 corset for the women, and brides and whisky and champagne for the men.

Leland Abbott's dog team
Leland Abbott's dog team on their way to the New York World's Fair - 1939.
Bill Windrum flew this dog team out of Tavani, Nunavut.
First airmail leaving Big River for Ile-a-la-Crosse. March 1933.
First airmail leaving Big River for Ile-a-la-Crosse. March 1933.

On March 15, 1933, a Buhl five-passenger CF-AZC piloted by Captain Bill Windrum arrived from Prince Albert with five other passengers. A large number of Big River residents welcomed the plane as it landed on the ice at Cowan Lake. The plane, heading for Green Lake, Beauval, and Ile-a-la-Crosse, left with 1200 pounds of mail.

He flew the geologists and the geodetic instrument men over the north country, even up to Victoria Land when the first surveys for maps were being made, at a time when he had neither maps nor radio equipment to fly by. When he was forced down, he was the first pilot to take off on ice with pontoons.

Once when he lost oil on the snow, he had to land and run to gather up enough oil-saturated snow to get his plane to the nearest northern oil and gas cache. And every season at break-up or freeze-up, the competition between himself and Wop May and the pilots flying out of Edmonton would be resumed for the pilot to be first in or last out of the northern settlements.

Wop May.
Wop May in front of a car and Bellanca Aircraft.

In the morning before a flight, his plane would be frozen. Bill Windrum would cover a tarpaulin over the engine and start heating the enclosed space with blow-pots until he could work the propeller. He can remember agonizing days when the engine would freeze again before he could clamber into the cockpit to start the motor. At night when he landed on the ice-covered areas, he would have to jack up the plane's skis off the snow or ice.

Bill Windrum with engine cover.
Bill Windrum covering the engine of his air craft. A blowpot would be lit
under the engine shroud to warm up the engine.

Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk

Bill Windrum believed that caution was a prime requisite. "You couldn't take chances in that country" he says. "If you developed motor trouble, you landed your plane as quickly as possible. Then you had to figure out what was wrong with it.

"You used all the ingenuity you had in any situation. Bush flying wasn't built on luck, it was built on minimizing chance. I always carried a tent, a rifle, an axe, some non-perishable food, snowshoes, and a stove. You couldn't take much bulky emergency equipment because of your cargo, but you needed these. If your destination was too far away for the gas you could carry, you flew your gas to a halfway point and went back to your base for the cargo."

Emergency supply gear.
Emergency survival equipment.

Bill Windrum took few risks. Once in a while he had to cache a load, once it was a half ton of whisky. When on the only occasion his plane crashed through motor trouble, he neither panicked nor despaired, but set off on foot for the nearest cabin or village, setting his tent up in bitter cold and existing on the food he carried or the game he could shoot.

In the only diary he ever kept, written on the back of a rough map of the three western provinces, he wrote of being weather-bound by blizzard. "There are three of us in the party, P. D. Walker, district inspector for the Revillon Freres Trading Co., a trapper Howard Darbyshire, and myself. This is the sixth day of our inspection trip of posts and trappers. It is getting monotonous here and we are anxious to get going. We hope to go further north tomorrow. We are almost out of food, the bread, butter and jam are finished, and from now on we shall have to go on a fresh meat diet of moose, lynx, and caribou."

Howard Darbyshire.
Howard Darbyshire in Big River, Saskatchewan.

To the small population of the north he represented the outside world, the only contact the men and women at some posts and settlements had.

"They besieged me with questions of all kinds, asking after friends, wanting to know what was going on. The rest of the world could end and they wouldn't know the first thing about it."

"But when you got to a trapper's cabin bringing supplies, or to a mine with equipment, you got the best welcome you could possibly imagine. Hospitality in the north is something that makes city entertaining look like mere politeness.

Bill Windrum and his airplane became an institution in the country he flew. The Prince Albert papers made him a celebrity of northern Saskatchewan. When the Provincial Government constituency of Goldfields (the predecessor of Beaverlodge) was established he was nominated for MLA. Every trapper, miner, settler, and prospector turned out to vote for him. He lost by fourteen votes to the representative of the Indians.

Jules Marion.
Jules Marion, the man who beat Bill Windrum for the Goldfields MLA election by 14 votes.

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix Article, North Battleford, May 5, 1938.

Sense keen fight in North Riding, Bill Windrum and Jules Marion to wage battle in far-flung Athabasca seat. How about political campaigning in Saskatchewan's far northern riding of Athabasca, where rival packs of politicians will never be nearer than within several hundred miles of each other, and where giving constituency boundaries the once over calls for a 75,000-mile jaunt.

There are already two candidates in the field. Pilot "Bill" Windrum, clever aviator, a nominee of the mining town of Goldfields; and Jules A. Marion, former M.L.A. of the old Ile-a-la-Crosse riding, pressed into the contest by his old friends, the hinterland trader and trapper.

There are two thousand voters in this 75,000 square miles of the constituency, with 20 polling stations dotted here and there, as it were. They do without conventions, principally because they don't need them; and besides, there isn't enough money in one Saskatchewan heap that could pay for a representative convention in this territory.

With rival fighters already glaring at each other across four hundred miles of northern wastes, how about their respective chances in an election which will follow Saskatchewan's main bout? Bill Windrum, with an airplane always under his feet, is favoured by Prince Albert to get the call.

North Battleford, Meadow Lake and points north are backing Jules Marion, the veteran campaigner. It's an old dog for a hard road In the north country," the oldtimers say.

Incidentally, the deferred election in the northern riding has always taken on something of the nature of a dog-derby for the rival cities of Prince Albert and North Battleford, Prince Albert won last time.

Looking back over the adventurous years, Bill Windrum sees quite a few changes in aviation. The big airlines have taken the place of shoestring commercial ventures where a plane lost meant a business ruined. The pilots fly by instrument and not by pure resourcefulness and have little contact with the people they carry. "A passenger becomes a friend," he says. "Modern aviation in comparison has lost a great thing."

As for bush flying, it is also different. The country is opened up now and the pilots know more of where they are going. They use radio equipment now and have better engines and much better airplanes with undercarriages better stressed for rough landings.

But this man, whom his close friends say never got the recognition he deserved like a handful of others, welcomes the progress for he is not a little proud that he has helped it along.

This article was written by John De Wolf. Credit for this article and pictures, the Vancouver Province B.C. Magazine, Saturday July 10, 1954 edition.

Aircraft Line.

Bill Windrum's Freeze-Up Adventure

In mid-October of 1936, Bill Windrum and Mickey Sutherland, flying a Canadian Airways Fairchild, CF-AOP, left Prince Albert for Goldfields with a load of mail, diamond drill parts, and perishable goods. They ran into bad weather at Ile-a la-Crosse and stayed there overnight. What they did not know was that it would be their last night in a warm bunk for quite a while.

CF-AOP Fairchild 71 aircraft, which Bill flew.

They headed north the next day, expecting to eat lunch at Goldfields. The weather was marginal but they pressed on. Finally, they could go no further and were forced down on an uncharted lake.

The next day they started out again. Although they were uncertain of their position, they knew any northerly heading would bring them to the southern shore of Lake Athabasca. They continued northward through more bad weather until they had to land again. At least this time they knew where they were, on Archibald Lake, 65 kilometers straight east of Goldfields. The weather worsened, the temperature plunged, and the rain turned to snow. The two men worked to keep the airplanes free of snow and ice. But before the blizzard subsided, the lake froze over.

Archibald lake.
Archibald Lake, Saskatchewan.

Realizing they had lost the battle with nature, they dug in to wait out the storm. On the fourth day after leaving Prince Albert, the weather improved, and they were able to set up a radio antenna on a hill and contact Goldfields. However, the only airplanes there, Jim Warren's plane from Borealis Syndicate, was still on floats.

Three days later, Jim Warren was able to change to skis and reach Windrum and Sutherland. Their Fairchild was frozen into the ice by then, so Warren took them back to his camp on frozen Neeley Lake, just north of Goldfields.

They returned with chisels and ropes and managed to pry the tips of the floats up onto the ice. Windrum would gun the airplanes's engine and inch his way up on to the ice while Sutherland kept the ropes tight to keep the airplanes from slipping back into the water. Once out of the water, they quickly cleared the floats of ice, taxied across the frozen lake on the floats, turned into the wind and made what they thought was Canada's first float takeoff from ice.

They finally made it to Goldfields, where the water was still open, and spent the day relaxing.

On their return trip, they planned to land at Canadian Airways' base at Emma Lake, but the lake was frozen over with smooth, transparent ice. Windrum was prepared to land but spotted the ice in time and continued to Prince Albert.

At Prince Albert, however, Windrum's troubles were not over. While landing on the river between floating chunks of ice, he struck a rock and punctured the left float. He quickly turned toward the edge of the river but got hung up on a sand bar ten metres from. shore. Mickey Sutherland had to jump into the knee-deep icy water, attach ropes, and pull the airplanes to shore.

When their ten-day adventure was all over, they were probably warmed as much by their new hero status as they were by the radiator in the office.

Canadian Press Edmonton, Alberta, Oct. 27.

Using pontoons as skis, pilot completes flight.

New feat In the colourful annals of northland aviation a takeoff on pontoons from an ice surface was reported here today by Capt. W. R. "Wop" May.

When Pilot W. J. Windrum's airplane became "frozen In" on a small lake a few miles from Goldfields, Sask., during a flight several days ago from Prince Albert, the airman refused to abandon hope of reaching the mining settlement.

Waiting until the ice had formed solidly enough to bear the weight of his machine, Windrum pried the pontoons of his craft onto the solid ice and took off by skidding the floats along the smooth surface as if they were regulation skis used for winter flying.

Wireless messages received today said Bill Windrum reached Lake Athabasca and took off again on a return flight to Prince Albert.

Canadian Press, Prince Albert, Sask., Oct. 27.

Pilot W. J. Windrum, who took off in his pontoon-equipped plane this morning from the solid ice surface of Archibald Lake, 500 miles northwest of here, landed here tonight to complete the northland's most unique flight.

"Nothing to it," Windrum commented of his takeoff from ice with floats, believed to have been the first time such a takeoff had been negotiated In Canada. "Pontoons work better on ice than In the water. The run is shorter because there is less resistance."

Bill Windrum and J.B Lussier.
Pilot and passenger check the route before taking off. "Bill" Windrum (left) took the "flying magistrate" J.E. Loussier of Prince Albert to try cases in the far northland settlements.
Justice Flies North

J.E. Lussier began flying his travelling courtroom into northern communities in 1932 with Brooks Airways. He soon became known across the north as the "Flying Magistrate."

On the days before his travelling courtroom, lengthy preparations were required to bring together the judge, the police, the witnesses and, off course, the accused. Bringing the magistrate in by airplanes simplified things greatly. In August and September of 1932, Lussier tried 50 cases across the north.

Magistrate Lussier was not always welcome. During the Depression, men headed north, where they could live off' the land, trapping and trading furs for necessities. Not all trappers played by the rules, and sometimes trappers came off the trapline for a Christmas holiday to find the RCMP waiting with a list of trapping violations.

When Brooks Airways became Wings Ltd. in the spring of 1935, Lussier continued, often flying with Bill Windrum. In the fall of that year when Wings' business went to Canadian Airways, Lussier followed.

Even those who must pass judgment have personal biases and feelings. Lussier's aviation experiences made a mark on his life. Maybe that is why the Flying Magistrate showed leniency to one particular post office robber.

Buster Whiteway helped hold up the post office and store at Bay Trail, near Humboldt, Saskatchewan, during the fall of 1932. Whiteway trained a gun on the postmaster while his two accomplices tied the postmaster up. They rifled the cash box of $100 and took another $60 of goods on. the way out. They made a clean get-away. Constable P. Greaves arrested Whiteway on January 7, 1933, in northern Manitoba. Whiteway was to appear in court in Prince Albert. The constable, Whiteway, and fellow passenger, John Robinson, a prospector, climbed into an airplanes piloted by W.A. Spence and headed to Prince Albert from Manitoba.

The airplanes was caught in a storm and it crashed at Moose Lake, Manitoba. The pilot was killed; Whiteway was thrown clear of the wreckage and suffered a broken ankle. After regaining consciousness, he staggered back to the mangled airplanes and pulled out his captor, Constable Greaves, and Robinson. Making sure they were all right, Whiteway hobbled across the windswept ice to a fishing camp for help.

A month later, Whiteway finally arrived in Prince Albert and within minutes was standing before Magistrate Lussier. "Six months," said Lussier, "dating from the time of your arrest." Six months was a light sentence for armed robbery.

Lussier became a great friend of aviation in Prince Albert and chaired the committee to form a flying club in Prince Albert in 1936.

The following is a series of newspaper articles from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
reporting on stories of interest during Bill Windrum's flying career.
The articles are in no particular order but, range from 1917
up to his ultimate retirement.

Star-Phoenix, 16 April, 1943.

Colourful Northland Pilot, now C.P.A. Superintendent.

Times change, said Bill Windrum, newly-appointed superintendent of Canadian Pacific Airlines for Saskatchewan, on his arrival in Regina Wednesday.

It is certainly a far cry from the days of flying fish from the northern lakes into Prince Albert Those were the days when we always carried a bale of haywire just in case accidents happened.

Mr. Windrum comes to Regina from Edmonton where he was superintendent of C.P.A. at that point. He is an air veteran of the days when navigation was mostly a matter of common sense and luck.

Born in Lindsay, Ont., he began his flying career at 17 when from then on his life centred chiefly on northern flying.

Bill Windrum was the first to fly the Prince Albert-Goldfields route in the summer of 1935. In those days he piloted the big Norseman monoplane of the Canadian Airways called the Goldfields Express.

Flying in prospectors to their gold finds, trappers to their traplines and bringing out sick whites and Indians on mercy flights was ail the order of the day.

Mr. Windrum predicts a great future for Goldfields, presently the ghost city of Saskatchewan. He believes that Goldfields and Yellowknife will be the largest mining centres.

In 1917, and he joined the R.F.C. after that Canada has ever seen, in the enlistment, said Mr. Windrum, in the post-war period. I left almost immediately for England where I had exactly two hours and 45 minutes of personal instruction before I soloed.

Then was assigned to fighter plane duty and from then on was on my own. Since then I have between 8,000 and 9,000 hours flying at least.

After the war, he spent 10 years as a civil servant in eastern Canada. "Flying as a civilian profession in Canada was simply nonexistent, he said. This period together with a brief and stormy political interlude when he was nominated by the Liberals at Goldfields in 1938 and defeated by Jules Marion in a controversial election represents his only absence from active flying work.

In 1928, he became a flying instructor at the Saskatoon Flying club. Shortly after that he became associated with the Brooks Construction Co. in Prince Albert and He says his most Interesting flight to date took place last July when he flew Dr. Donnelly over a northern route covering Victoria Land, Banks Land and other sub-Arctic points.

Dr. Donnelly was engaged in shooting the stars in order to spot the exact location of these northern lands on the map. One of the highlights of the trip was in watching and photographing the Eskimos spearing seals. They wait patiently for hours, said Mr. Windrum, with spear poised above the seal's air vent hole in the ice.

I never tired of marvelling at the skill of these fishermen, nor that of their womenfolk in removing the blubber and skin after the kill.

Another incident of this same trip.was an encounter with an aged Eskimo lady of 80, this woman suffered pangs of remorse for her past life to such an extent that she burst into tears on every occasion of meeting local missionary authorities.

The reason for the remorse and the tears said Mr. Windrum, was that on some far distant day the lady had evidently partaken of an accepted cannibal feast and the bill of fare included her brother. She was evidently later to suffer from a severe, but a belated case of religious indigestion.

Mr. Windrum has broken into the news on many previous occasions. Not the least of these was a trip some years ago taken with Mickie Sutherland, now superintendent of maintenance with T.C.A. for Canada.

On this occasion, they took off for Goldfields from Prince Albert on a late fall trip. "It was to be our intent before freeze up and we waited too late. We got lost in a terrific storm some 20 miles from Goldfields and had to come down on an unsurveyed lake, now known as Archibald lake.

We were frozen in, pontoons and all, before the storm lifted. We were lost for a week and there was small comfort, believe me, in our cargo of champagne, after our food ran low.

Finally, we managed to rig up an improvised radio atop a hill and contacted Goldfields. We asked permission to try and take off on the ice with the pontoons.

It was risky business but it was that or, stay and starve as far as we could see. Securing doubtful permission, the job really began then. It took three more days of chopping the ice and lifting the plane before we managed a takeoff.

This was done without damage to either plane or pontoons and to my knowledge is the first and only time that a pontooned plane has taken off on the ice. Early flying days in the north meant taxed ingenuity.

He recalled a trip taken with Max Webb, a fur buyer, far over the northern headwaters of the Churchill River.

They sprang an oil leak and upon landing, the precious fluid was strung out far behind in a long black plume along the ice. There was not enough for the return trip, I could see that.

So we conceived a plan of scooping up the snow and oil so wasted, sifting the snow out over a slow fire and salvaging the precious oil for our return journey It took four days, but we managed.

Pilot W. J. "Bill" Windrum

Bill Windrum.
Bill Windrum, by his own confession,
he would still "rather fly than eat".

Bill Windrum is undoubtedly Saskatchewan's most experienced airman. His flying record embraces a full 20 years and close to 1,000,000 air miles. He pioneered the "All-Saskatchewan" route to Goldfields, in 1935.

Bill Windrum would leave Prince Albert on the 1,600 kilometer trip in the Bellanca CF-AKI at 5:30 a.m. He stopped briefly in Beauval and then pressed on to Goldfields.

He rested there long enough for residents to check their mail, write a quick response, and post it. Then Windrum headed south, touching down in Prince Albert just before 5:30 p.m.

CF-AKI on the water.
Aircraft CF-AKI on the water with spectators..

Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk

Bill Windrum in the window.
Bill Windrum in the window of his aircraft.
Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk

Aircraft at dock.
CF-AKI at a dock, loading or unloading, passengers.
Photo probably taken at La Ronge.

Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk

Goldfields Express Aircraft.
Noorduyn Norseman Mark IV CF-BDD, nicknamed "The Goldfields Express"
Flown by Bill Windrum in 1937.

Star-Phoenix - Wed. 02 Feb 1944 - North Battleford.

Former Bush Pilot Tells Of Experiences in North.

Rotarians heard from W. "Bill" Windrum, Canada's ace bush pilot, and superintendent for C.P. Airlines - Saskatchewan, the story of northern flying, and through coloured slides, glimpsed the beauty and native life of the far northland.

At the noon luncheon of the club, Mr. Windrum told of many of his experiences and showed how the ingenuity and adaptability of northern bush pilots often stood them in good stead in a realm remote from the outside air.

Coloured slides were shown of bush pilots flying into the northland, dog teams, and Eskimos in their native igloos. He told of the old Eskimo superstitions that still persist, particularly regarding the burial of their dead.

While the younger people were beginning to accept the idea of burial for their dead, the older ones, said Mr. Windrum, still cling to the idea of leaving bodies above ground. Rotarians saw pictures showing such a body left like this, held down by stones.

Cannibalism was always associated with dire need, pointing out that It had now almost entirely disappeared. Only now and again did it re-appear among the natives. He showed a picture of one aged Eskimo woman, who to keep alive, had resorted to eating the body of her brother.

Up to the minute, northland news was reflected in pictures showing the development of the Alberta tar sands. Blasting operations were shown, and scenes showed oil extraction from the tar sands.

The speaker was introduced by J. D Ferguson and thanked for his unusually interesting address by Dr. H. G. Garrioch, Sara Doan presided.

Star-Phoenix - 26, October, 1933.

Life of northern aviators filled with dull monotony.

The life of a northern airman is not the romantic existence imagined by many people. The dull monotony that many find in their own lives exists to even a larger degree for the man who spends the summer months in endless flight over endless lakes and forests, and the winter months watching the white of a northern winter from the air.

This is the opinion of Bill Windrum, noted western airman, who visited Saskatoon yesterday after spending the summer flying freight for Brooke Airways limited across the barren wastes east of Lake Athabasca.

Mr. Windrum spent only a few hours in the city. He was on his way home to Prince Albert after taking his summer plane to Sioux Lookout, Ontario, for the winter tie-up.

To the people of the prairie engaged in their daily routine pursuits, the life of an airman might hold a romantic appeal, Mr. Windrum observed.

But the dally task of flying long distances alone, with little variety of scenery and with the constant danger of being forced to land and spend days in some isolated spot pending the letting up of a storm, was not the exciting existence it might be thought.

Often, Mr. Windrum related, it was necessary to land on some lakes and pitch a lonely camp on some faraway lakeshore to await days during which his only company were the lashing waves of the lake, the bending trees and the stormy elements.

Because of this necessity, fliers in the north country always provided themselves with at least two weeks "grub" and a rifle. Seldom did they go hungry, except in cases of a crash and inability to fly out; yet these periods were always dreaded and so soon as the storm showed signs of ceasing, the northern flier took off often before it actually was safe.

Tours Northland

C. D. Lang, editor of Fur of Canada, Takes Airplane out of
Prince Albert - Special to the Star-Phoenix.

Prince Albert, Sask., Dec. 17, 1938.

Making an extended goodwill tour of northern Saskatchewan, and of a wide expanse, of the North West Territories. C. D. "Chris" Lang, editor of Fur of Canada, left for the north, by plane, early this morning.

He will visit La Plonge, Fort Stanley, Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Stony Rapids and Goldfields in Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Providence, Fort Rae, and other points in the Northwest Territories.

The journey is expected to take six weeks, and Mr. Lang will return by way of Edmonton, Equipped for any conditions that may be encountered on the excursion.

Mr. Lang took off in a Canadian Airways Norseman with Pilot Keith Murray at the controls. Author of "Rhymes of a Proper Rough Neck" and other works, Mr. Lang spent several hours with Bill Windrum, acting superintendent of the Canadian Airways and himself a pioneer of northern expansion and development.

Canadian Press - Prince Albert. June 10, 1935.

Pilot Has To Land on North Lake "Bill" Windrum Located At Clark Lake;
Made forced landing, oil line broken, Jack Moar finds missing airman;
sought refuge with a trapper.

Forced down on Clark Lake, north of Big River, Sask., by a broken oil line, Pilot W. J. "Bill" Windrum, Saskatchewan manager for Wings, Limited, was found late Saturday by Jack Moar, secretary-treasurer of the company, who flew north in search of the missing pilot.

Missing three days, Windrum had been unreported since taking off from Emma Lake base Wednesday with Mrs. L. M. Marion, wife of a northern trader, Marcien Marion, as a passenger.

Without oil, Pilot Windrum was unable to take off from the lake. He and his passenger were quartered temporarily at the home of a Russian trapper.

According to Moar, who took in oil, Windrum left immediately for Beauval, Mrs. Marion's destination, only a few minutes flight from Clark Lake.

Marcien Marion
Marcien Marion, husband of Mrs. L.M Marion,
mentioned in the above article.

Canadian Press - Prince Albert, Dec. 23, 1937.

Bad Times In North Trappers Hit as Caribou Fail to Appear in Usual Haunts.

The possibility that northern trappers would probably have to haul in their traplines In January this year instead of In April, due to the almost complete lack of food for themselves and dogs, was reported today by Pilot Bill Windrum, veteran northland flier for the Canadian Airways.

Fly in supplies.

The complete absence of barren land caribou has so seriously affected the food supply of white fox trappers that it has become necessary for them to have extra food supplies flown from the settlement of Stony Rapids on Lake Athabasca.

It is the first time in ten years that caribou have not abounded in the barren lands and late freeze-up is given as the reason. Failure of lakes to become frozen sufficiently for animals to cross on the ice during their southward trek caused them to turn eastward and consequently are this year wintering in an area 250 miles east of their usual haunts.

It was such a calamity as this that several years ago befell the veteran northerner, John Hornby and his two nephews, then residing in the Thelon River area east of Fort Reliance.

Hornby's boast had always been that he would never starve because he could always "live off the country." But during a season such as now exists In the barren's, when the caribou were forced from their natural haunts for winter feeding, the bodies of Hornby and his nephews were discovered in his cabin. They had starved to death.

Canadian Press - Regina, Thursday, January 6, 1938.

Ruthless slaughter Windrum reports, wanton killing of caribou for trap bait.

Ruthless slaughter of caribou by Indians and trappers of northern Saskatchewan and the adjacent area of Northwest Territories was reported by Bill Windrum, northland flier.

In a letter to Hon. T. C. Davis, attorney-general. Informs Davis Indians and trappers were using the meat of the slaughtered animals for trapping bait, he said.

The destruction was comparable to the use of poison bait in the taking of fur animals. Mr. Windrum recently completed a 2,000-mile flight over the northern part of the Province and the Territories.

His recommendations will be forwarded by Mr. Davis to Hon. T A. Crerar, minister in charge of the administration of the Northwest Territories.

To rectify the condition Mr. Windrum recommended that this indiscriminate slaughter should be stopped and urged that provisions be made for the appointment of official guides who would take sportsmen into the barren's and would act also as game guardians.

Indicative of the necessity for some such action, he cited the case of an Indian trapper who complained after returning from the rounds of his traps that the caribou were very scarce and that he had been able to shoot only 62.

Canadian Press - Prince Albert, Dec. 23. 1937.

Man's fate uncertain, trapper missing while wife and child near starvation.

A chance visit of a barren land's trapper to a neighbourhood cabin, 700 miles north of here, has brought to light the disappearance of a trapper and the discovery of his wife and child on the verge of starvation.

At Boyd Lake, tucked away in the wilds of the Boyd Lake country in the Northwest Territories, the cabin of Mr. and Mrs. Dick Bursay held only Mrs. Bursay and her small child when Fred Riddle visited it recently.

The husband and father had walked out of the cabin toward the end of last October with a rifle over his shoulder, dressed In light clothing, never to be seen or heard of since.

Despite a diligent search by Mrs. Bursay throughout the area as far as she dared to travel with her child, no sign of the missing man could be found.

Riddle's chance visit brought the news to the outside world and two days ago a Canadian Airways plane piloted by Bill Windrum penetrated deep into the barren land country to bring out Mrs. Bursay and the child to Stony Rapids, 250 miles south.

After gathering together a large supply of food, Mrs. Bursay again boarded the plane and returned to the family's outpost cabin on Boyd Lake, there to either await the return of her husband or, learn of his fate.

The Bursay family has engaged In white fox trapping in the Boyd Lake country for several years.

Star-Phoenix - Goldfields, Sask. - Sept. 20, 1938.

Finds Corpse In Northland, Mountie Discovers Remains of Lost Trapper; Inters Body After Probe.

The body of Dirk Bursay, Barren Lands trapper who disappeared ten months ago into the snowy wastes of the sub-Arctic, was found by Constable R. J. Ball of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the shores of a northern lake.

Constable Ball made the necessary examination, interred the remains, gathered the evidence and took to the trail again. After two months of a patrol of the Barrens in which he travelled nearly 600 miles, the constable returned to Goldfields to unfold the story of the last chapter in the tragedy.

A well-known trapper, Dirk Bursay for years trapped white foxes in a vast and little frequented area of the North West Territories lying well above the northeast corner of Saskatchewan.

He was married to a native woman and they had two small children. Caribou were scarce last year and Bursay went out after early snow to hunt, intending to go only a short distance, as he was lightly clad, he never returned.

The plight of the family was discovered by another trapper, named Riddle, who reported to Pilot W. J. Windrum of Canadian Airways.

Windrum flew in to rescue the mother and children. With a fresh supply of provisions, Mrs. Bursay returned north to spend the rest of the winter waiting for her husband. It is thought Bursay perished when he went through thin ice on his hunt.

Star-Phoenix - 18 Feb. 1935 - Winter's catch of fish heavy.

Windrum and Banting fly 4,000 pounds daily from lakes to Prince Albert.

Flying fish out of the icy waters of the northern lakes, the winter harvest of the finny tribe, white fish, trout and yellows, (pickerel) over forests, over lakes and rivers in Brooks Airways transports is the task of "Bill" Windrum and Charlie Banting, who daily fly from the shores of Lac la Ronge and Dore Lake to Prince Albert and Big River with a total of 4,000 pounds.

Fresh from the nets the fish are cleaned and loaded into the plane that waits for them and in an unbelievably short time they reach the warehouses of the company, there to be filleted, packed and shipped to the eastern markets for which they are ordered. Up to the present the Brooks catch this year totals 100,000 pounds.

Aircraft and dog team.
This dog team brought a load of fish to be taken by pilot Windrum (left) to Prince Albert.
Cargoes varied from ore samples and furs flown out, to whiskey and supplies flown in.
Passengers varied from prisoners, to superintendents to brides.

Photo credit Harry Rowed Photo, and Les Oystryk

Canadian Press - Regina. May 22, 1939.

Fast Air Service To Mining Centres.
Plane leaves for Yellowknife As Summer Schedule In North Is Inaugurated.

Providing the fastest and most direct service to that comparatively new Yellowknife gold area, Canadian Airway officially commenced its summer schedule on Sunday out of Prince Albert to Goldfields and points in the Great Slave Lake region.

The service will operate twice a week. It is expected to appeal principally to traffic to and from the northern area of Eastern Canada and will greatly speed up the present mall service as Canadian Airways connects at Prince Albert with Prairie Airways, a feeder line in Saskatchewan for Trans-Canada Airlines.

Unofficially the service to Goldfields opened on Friday, Capt L. W. Windrum said, with the entire load comprising mall and express first to go north since April 24, the period of spring break-up.

There was still ice floating on the bay at Goldfields, a radio report said. Between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds of mail were scheduled for shipment.

Because of the new service right through to Yellowknife, 860 miles north from Prince Albert the company has purchased a new Stinson cabin plane carrying four passengers and powered with a new E-type 325 horsepower Wright motor. It will have a controllable pitch-type propeller.

Stinson cabin plane carrying four passengers.
Stinson cabin plane carrying four passengers.

The 860-mile run will be made in one day, according to the present schedule. On one of the two days, the ship goes North It will touch at Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Fort McMurray, Goldfields and Yellowknife.

On the second trip of the week, the route will be by Lac la Ronge, Goldfields and Yellowknife direct Scheduled stops will also be made out of Goldfields at Fort Smith and Resolution. Services will also be provided into Snowdrift, Rocker River and Fort Reliance.

Special to the Star-Phoenix Prince Albert, Dec. 4, 1935.

Aviators Enthused By Mining Activity Back From Inaugural Flight
Pilots Tell of Busy Scene At Goldfields

When a Canadian Airways aircraft with Pilots Gilbert and Windrum aboard landed at Goldfields, Sask., on December 1, the arrival marked the inaugural flight of a regular service to that point departing from Prince Albert every other Wednesday morning.

The plane carried a capacity load of express for the comparatively young settlement. Superintendent Gilbert was highly enthused over the progress and activity in and about Goldfields.

He said that beyond all doubts Goldfields is Canada's most actively-growing mining settlement and that "depression" talk is unheard of.

The future of the settlement would seem assured by the remarkable progress made in the past summer, said Pilot Gilbert, pointing out that in the five months which had elapsed since his last visit to Goldfields on the occasion of flying Premier Patterson's party there in June, he noted more real progress than the Great Bear Lake field had shown in three years.

Contributing mainly to this development are the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company and the Athona Mines Ltd., these companies have modern mining camps, electrically lighted and steam heated and work three shifts a day, employing over 100 men between them.

Aerial activity is also seen, with no less than five aircraft having flown Into the mining town on December 1, one from Great Bear Lake, three from Edmonton and Fort McMurray and one from Prince Albert.

It seems certain that Goldfields Is destined to be the centre of one of Canada's greatest mineral developments.

Rich gold values are being proven at Pine Narrows, east of Fond du Lac settlement but still on Lake Athabasca water level.

This latest discovery brings the mineral development to a point exactly north of Prince Albert and more and more points the way to a general revival of the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan.

Star-Phoenix - Prince Albert, June 18, 1935.

Consider Air Harbor Plans River Base at Prince Albert May Be Built; Board of Trade Interested.

Plans for the construction of an Air Harbour on the Saskatchewan River were discussed today, at a meeting of the Board of Trade and city officials with representatives of the three air companies operating from Prince Albert.

Tentative proposals were to buoy the river and construct floating docks and a gravelled approach to the base. The assistance of the Provincial Government is to be sought in financing this project. It is proposed to use relief labour under the supervision of air company officials.

W. E. Gilbert, of Canadian Airways: W. J. Windrum of Wings Limited, and R. Mayson, of the M. and C. Aviation Company, Saskatoon, spoke for the airway companies.

Prince Albert Airbase on the River.
Prince Albert Air Harbour on the Saskatchewan River.

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Dec. 18, 1935 - Prince Albert

Airplane Takes Liquor to Miners.

An airplane load of Christmas cheer in sealed Saskatchewan Liquor Board boxes is on its way to Goldfields. Canadian Airways Pilot W. J. Windrum and Engineer Mickey Sutherland, took off this morning with the liquor for the Lake Athabasca settlement.

Canadian Press Goldfields - Dec. 12, 1935 - Take Out Body

Harms to High Court Elderly Trapper Sent Up For Trial for Death Of His Partner.

Accused of the slaying of his trapping partner, Johnny Anthony, 25, in their cabin at Springpoint, Lake Athabasca, Saskatchewan, on November 23, 1935.

John Harms, 58, a grizzled northerner, was committed for trial Thursday after the preliminary trial before Justice of the Peace Howard Souch.

The body of Johnny Anthony, 25, allegedly slain by his trapping partner, John Harms, during a quarrel in their cabin at Spring Point on the north shore of Lake Athabasca on November 23, was flown from Goldfields to McMurray Thursday by Pilot Archie McMullen, Canadian Airways Limited.

Friday the body was placed on the N.A.R. train which will arrive here Saturday and will be carried to Bellis for funeral service and burial.

Rumour denied Prince Albert

Sask., Dec. 13. 1935 - The report current in this city last night to the effect that John Harms, 65-year-old northland trapper who is to stand trial in connection with the killing of Johnny Anthony, would be brought here by Pilot Bill Windrum in a Canadian Airways airplane was given denial this morning by Superintendent Gilbert of the airways firm.

He stated further that word had been received that Harms and R.C.M.P. escort would leave the north via Fort McMurray for Edmonton.

Prince Albert - April 5, 1938.

North Flyers Set Records For Huge Amount Of Freight Flown to Mine Areas.

Previous performance records by Canadian Airways pilots out of Prince Albert went by the board during the weekend as company pilots and planes endeavoured to keep pace with the annual last-minute rush into Saskatchewan's northern mineral areas, now at its peak.

Pilot Bill Windrum, flying the Goldfields Express, excelled his former record for winter flying by covering 2,700 miles in the three-day period ending Sunday night.

On the route from Prince Albert to Goldfields and Yellowknife, Windrum accounted for 19,600 passenger miles and 967,000-pound miles of the express.

In the three days, including in his itinerary two round trips from Prince Albert to Yellowknife with a side trip to Selwyn lake, north of Stony Rapids, and numerous local trips around Goldfields.

Pilot Parker is making a habit of daily round trips between Prince Albert and Goldfields, logging two of these during the week just past all northbound trips have been loaded to capacity, yet all schedules have been maintained.

Pilot Wally Carrion, who has been engaged for the past 10 days in local freighting out of Goldfields to Nitchie Lake, turned in a remarkable record of poundage flown.

Canadian Press Regina - Sept 19, 1935.

Bill Windrum Sees Good Chance For Mink Farming Senses Great Opportunity in North;
Visits in Regina.

Mink farming is going to be one of the great future developments of the North in the opinion of Bill Windrum, Prince Albert, superintendent of Canadian Airways, who is in Regina today to confer with C. H. (Punch) Dickins, Winnipeg, superintendent of bush operations for the Canadian Airways.

I see no reason why mink farming cannot be successful," said Mr. Wlndium, "There is food in the north for millions of mink. Their food is 100 percent fish, and the North is two-thirds water.

During an interview at the Hotel Saskatchewan, Mr. Windrum also mentioned the flight he made last Tuesday to show the northland to Walter Tucker, MP for Rosthern.

The flying trip took four days and included a visit to Ile-a-la-Crosse, Goldfields, Fond du Lac, Stony Rapid, Cree Lake, Greig Lake, then back to Prince Albert.

Freight from Goldfields was heavy. Last week the "flying boxcar" carried 43 tons of freight in one day for the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, from Goldfields to Tazin Lake said Mr. Windrum.

Special to the Star-Phoenix - Prince Albert, Jan. 28, 1935.

Pilot W. Windrum Makes Speedy Flight From
Lake Athabaska to Prince Albert.

Completing a flight of 500 miles In slightly over three hours was the record of Pilot W. J. "Bill Windrum as he breezed into Prince Albert after a seven-day flight Into Saskatchewan's northland.

Plying with a steady northwest tailwind, Pilot Windrum travelled from Lake Athabaska to Prince Albert at the rate of 150 miles per hour, bringing the Canadian Airways, Limited, Bellanca CF-AKI to a safe resting at the local river base.

Accompanied by Engineer Mickey Sutherland, the 500-mile trip over the Cree Lake route was accomplished in three hours and ten minutes, creating a new record from Stony Rapids to Prince Albert.

Four other aircraft were at Goldfield when Pilot Windrum brought the Bellanca to earth there. Mining camp activities are continuing in preparation for spring work.

The Canadian Airways aircraft brought 400 pounds of fine furs, principally white fox, from Ed Hannon, independent trader of Stony Rapids. Pilot Windrum lifted the big Bellancea from the river early this morning going north with mail for the posts in the upper Churchill area.

Jules Marion of Ile-a-la Crosse was a passenger. The plane will pick up Inspector T. E. George of Revillon Freres at Portage la Loche for Montreal Lake, as well as Alex Ahenakew for Prince Albert.

Special to the Star-Phoenix - Prince Albert, Aug. 30, 1935.

60 Men Strive for Favor of Five Women in Dance
at Northern Outpost.

Goldfields, Sask., is rapidly becoming more than a spot on the map. Jimmy Fotheringham of Ventures Ltd. and Pilot W. J. "Bill" Windrum of Wings Ltd., who arrived here from the new mining settlement today told of new buildings being erected almost overnight and the tent town of the early days is fast disappearing.

Notable additions to Saskatchewan's newest community are a Catholic church in the course of construction and a school and hall, the latter two community enterprises.

The early indications of vast mineral wealth, according to Mr. Fotheringham, have not been misleading and more free gold has been found. The former small northern outpost is now a hive of activity, with some 3000 persons directly or indirectly engaged in wresting the valuable mineral from the earth.

Two restaurants attend to the inner man in this new northern town, while a doctor and dentist are in residence. About 15 children of school age residing at Goldfields led to the community building a school which will be opened shortly.

It is a man's town, stated the mining man from the north. At the first, and so far the only dance, there were five ladies and 50 or 60 males in attendance. "Imagine the scramble," smiled the visitor from Goldfields.

Mr. Fotheringham leaves here for Edmonton tomorrow, he stated that the route out via Prince Albert compared favourably with the route via McMurray.

Star-Phoenix - Big River, June 6, 1938.

Story Of Search For Trapper Anderson.

The story of a search for a trapper after his cabin was found in a state of neglect as related today by Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Theriau and Frank Anderson, brother of Alfred Anderson, 24, whose body was found in the bush near the shores of Holgar Lake Saturday.

Holgar Lake.
Holgar Lake.

The Theriaus, running a trapline at Russell Lake, were coming in for the summer when they stopped at Alfred Anderson's cabin and found things in disorder, with pelts strewn around and the furnishings upset.

While they were still there, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Darbyshire, also trappers at Russell Lake, arrived and the four travelled to nearby Cree Lake, where they contacted Frank, the brother.

Mr. and Mrs. Theriau and Frank returned to Holgar Lake and searched for some hours before finding Anderson's canoe and later, the body, with a rifle on the ground nearby.

Dr. P. E. Lavoie, the coroner and a jury viewed the body at Cree Lake, 240 miles north of here, on Tuesday, and burial was then made at Cree Lake. An inquest was ordered.

Canadian Press - Prince Albert, Oct. 27, 1936.

Goldfields Residents Have Food Sufficient to Last Until Air Service Begins, Says Windrum River
Frozen Over H.U.C. Officials Believe Boat Can Yet Reach Mining Centre.

Pilot W. J. Windrum, who landed here tonight after a flight from Goldfields, said inhabitants of the mining camp on Lake Athabasca have sufficient food to last until aerial service is resumed in the northland.

Windrum said the mouth of the Athabasca River, through which boats must pass to reach Goldfields, appeared from the air to be frozen over and if so, there would be little chance of a supply boat getting through.

He anticipated the 350 inhabitants of the town, 450 miles north of here, would be forced to depend on more costly aerial transportation for their supplies until navigation reopens.

It is estimated winter flying will begin in about three weeks. Windrum obtained 18 cans of sausage and 12 cans of other meat in Goldfields against the possibility he might be forced down on his flight south but the food was given to him only on the condition It be returned as soon as flying is resumed.

Canadian Press Winniped, Oct. 27. Officials of the Hudson's Bay Company here tonight expressed belief their supply boat Canadusa, loaded with Winter provisions for the northern Saskatchewan settlement of Goldfields, would yet reach that mining camp.

The Canadusa was halted at the west end of Lake Athabasca yesterday by engine trouble. Messages from Waterways, Alta., today indicated repairs had been completed and officials stated they expected the boat would proceed to Goldfields, a day's voyage from the mouth of the Athabaska River.

Veteran Pilot in Sask. North Due to retire - Prince Albert.

One of Canada's veteran bush pilots and airline executives is retiring this month after a career in the aviation industry that started during the First World War in the Royal Naval Air Service.

He Is William J. Windrum, director of northern development for Canadian Pacific Airlines. Bill Windrum won his wings in 1917 at one of the original RNAS stations Red Car in England.

In 1930, he moved to the Saskatoon Flying Club for a two-year stint before heading north to Prince Albert and a job as a pilot for Brooks Airways which took him all over Canada's north country.

Among his early exploits were the first airmail flights between Prince Albert and Goldfields, Saskatchewan; Prince Albert and Lac la Ronge and the first flight from Prince Albert to Beauval and Ile-a-la-Crosse.

In 1934, he joined Canadian Airways as a pilot in Prince Albert and In 1942, when Canadian Airways was amalgamated with nine other companies to form Canadian Pacific Airlines, he was transferred to Edmonton as superintendent of CPAs Mackenzie district.

Since that time he has served the airline in Regina, Whitehorse and Winnipeg.

Quarter Century Club.
Quarter Century Club, founded by Bill Windrum.

William Windrum

Birth, 23 Dec, 1897 - Death - 4 Jan, 1976 - age 78.
Burial - North Shore Crematorium.

North Vancouver, Greater Vancouver Regional District
British Columbia, Canada.

Aircraft fallen through ice.
Aircraft CF-CTG and a fuel truck sunk through the ice.
Photo probably taken at
La Ronge on the Churchill River.

Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk

Stanley Mission.
Stanley Mission on the Churchill River.
Photo credit: Harry Rowed Photo and Les Oystryk
Bill Windrum Lindsay, Ontario.
Bill Windrum in Lindsay, Ontario
Photo credit: Roger Hodgson.
Bill and his wife Lulu.
Bill Windrum and his wife, Lulu
Photo credit: Roger Hodgson
Bill Windrum with his mother Margaret.
Bill Windrum with his mother Margaret
Photo credit: Roger Hodgson
Margaret Windrum with her grandson.
Margaret Windrum with her grandson. Photo credit: Roger Hodgson
Windrum Lake.
Windrum Lake in northeastern Saskatchewan, named in honour of Bill Windrum.


Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified: March 27, 2024"

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