Collector asks for whom the Empress of Ireland bell shall toll
Published Saturday, April 7, 2012 6:31PM EDT
MONTREAL - Philippe Beaudry is getting frustrated that his deal for his collection of items from the doomed Empress of Ireland still hasn't closed.
The vessel sank in May, 1914 after it collided with a Norwegian ship near Rimouski, making it the largest maritime accident in Canadian history, as 1,012 passengers and crew died in the disaster.
The horrific incident has long been Beaudry's great passion and has inspired him to spend 16 years collecting the world's largest Empress of Ireland collection, valued at over $3 million.
The ship's bell is all that remains in his possession, after he agreed to sell the rest of the items to the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau in December, following a grueling five-year negotiation.
"I cannot keep a treasure that has to be seen by the public," said Beaudry.
The deal was to be finalized April 12, 2012 but the federal review board responsible for approving the agreement has postponed its decision until June.
Beaudry says the museum botched the deal by failing to follow the review board's transfer guidelines.
"I'm very unhappy because I feel that over a period of five years there was so much that could have been done that now it's very frustrating that I have to wait," said Beaudry.
The museum said that it would have no comment until the collection is appraised and authenticated and the deal is final.
They say that it's normal for the review board to postpone a transfer decision with questions and clarifications.
Victoria-based historian Chris Klausen says more Canadians should be salivating at the chance of getting the pieces into a public museum.
Tens of thousands of immigrants came to Canada aboard the ship, which played a big role in Canada's history.
"I love the fact that major artifacts, and Phil's collection especially, will remain in Canada," said Klausen.
The bell is the most valuable part of Beaudry's collection and he's planning to keep it as insurance.
Beaudry says he's looking forward to Canadians getting to see the goods. He's also anxious to get paid and retire on the money he earns from the deal.