First Rapids - 1845
First Rapids or Poonamalie Lock; ca. 1840s
John Burrows, watercolour
(Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1979-12-1)

The single lock in the artificial canal cut can be seen to the left of the original channel of the Rideau River. There is a defensible lockmaster’s house as well as a couple of buildings left over from canal construction. The name Poonamalee (later spelled Poonamalie) was used during construction in addition to the official Ordnance name of First Rapids (the first set of rapids on the Rideau River). Ordnance maps always showed the name First Rapids while provincial documents showed Poonamalee or Poonamalie. When transferred from the British Government to Upper Canada in 1856, the name First Rapids was dropped.

About this Painting: This painting is part of a series of 23 watercolours showing all the lockstations. There are at least 4 different copies of each painting (done before the days of copiers, each one had to be painted individually). These unsigned watercolours are credited to either John Burrows or to William T. Clegg. Burrows was an Overseer of Works of the Rideau Canal from 1827 to 1848. Clegg was the Paymaster for the Rideau Canal (Clerk of Cheque) from 1827 to 1845. It is speculated that this series of watercolours may have been prepared to document the Rideau Canal for presentation to visiting officials. I think it most likely that John Burrows was the main artist, he was a surveyor and trained in art. But Clegg may have annotated the paintings, and perhaps had a hand in making copies of the originals. The paintings are undated, but features in some of the paintings (such as lockmaster houses) suggest the early 1840s.

Read about the history of this lockstation

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© Ken Watson