Since 1840, the Port of Montreal has awarded the famous gold-headed cane celebrating the return of port activities when the ice melted. The prestigious award was given to honour the captain of the first transoceanic ship to reach the Port of Montreal. This tradition brings us back to the time when Montreal was cut off from the world during the long winter months because of the ice that froze the St. Lawrence River. It’s also a symbol of economic recovery and the links with Europe. As soon as the first sailboat had been sighted, the news travelled and thousands of Montrealers flocked to the dock. Everyone knew that the ship’s holds were loaded with tasty victuals, letters, and the latest designs from London and Paris fashion houses.
In 1840, Captain John Swimburn, master of the Great Britain, was the first to arrive. Until 1850, he won this award no less than six times, a record for a single ship that has never been broken. As a reward, he received a top hat, which served as a trophy for the first 40 years of the ceremony. It was only in 1880 that it was replaced by a much more prestigious and less common object at the time: a gold-headed cane. This prize remained unchanged until 1945: 14 carat gold being impossible to find during World War II, the pommel was made of silver that year. The tradition resumed in 1946, and the cane forever kept its famous golden head!
In 1962, icebreakers opened the way to the St. Lawrence River for Danish cargo ship Helga Dan, which had set a record by arriving first on March 12. It was the beginning of a new era—one of year-round sailing. That’s why on January 1, 2022, at 12:31 a.m., the famous trophy was awarded to Felino D’Souza, captain of the Quebec Express. Congratulations!