When Robert Napier built the sister ships of the St. Lawrence, his yard on the Clyde was already a worldwide name and it was this, indeed, which had attracted Francois Baby. But success in business generates competitors, and in Scotland there were many. Among these were David Todd and John McGregor, who had learned their trade under Napier himself before branching out on their own in 1833. It was from the firm of Todd & McGregor that the Nova Scotia Government purchased a vessel for their lighthouse service to augment the schooner Daring in 1856, the year that Baby went to Napier.
The Druid was an iron paddler with a two-cylinder steeple engine and two boilers, originally designed as a river steamer. The steeple engine, now a forgotten piece of mechanism, had a cylinder in the bottom of the ship and a piston rod and crosshead working in vertical guides called the "steeple" which projected upwards high enough to use a connecting rod downwards to the paddle shaft and crank. This arrangement was greatly favoured, as the heaviest weights were low down and took up little room fore and aft; however, owing to the short longitudinal bed, the steeple engine was prone to transmit unbalanced rotational forces to the hull, and it was little used in North American side wheelers where wood construction and sheltered waters encouraged the development of the walking beam type, such as the Admiral, which became almost universal.
The Druid was a pretty ship; one photograph survives showing her alongside the Napoleon at Quebec in the seventies. She had a black hull with a nicely proportioned fiddle bow and short bow spirit, white paddle boxes and two slim masts, altogether a period piece of river steamer design which had been transplanted to the hard service of the Atlantic coast.
"This steamer was employed in supplying the lighthouses of Nova Scotia, visiting Sable Island from time to time, towing disabled vessels, and in the protection of the Fisheries in conjunction with the British Fleet. While on a voyage from Halifax to Cranberry Island and Sable Island she got on the Roaring Bull Rock on 18th., November 1868 and received much damage."
After repair, the Druid was transferred to the Quebec agency in return for the Lady Head which was sailed to Halifax. The intention had been to dispose of her but, no reasonable offer having been received, she remained in service as a consort to the Napoleon. It was recorded of the Druid that:
"As she draws little water and is a powerful tow boat, she is well suited for river service."
At times she was more than a "tow boat". On June 9, 1873, the liner Prussian anchored in the stream off Quebec bearing the body of Sir Georges-Etienne Cartier who had died while in England. It was the Druid which brought him ashore to the ancient port for the last time and, after the funeral service at the Cathedral, embarked the body and cortege for the passage to Montreal and the interment. As the muffled beat of her paddles gently died away up river, it was a fitting requiem for one who had played a leading part, in the smoke room of the Queen Victoria, at the birth of the Canada we know today.
In 1894, the Todd & McGregor steeple engine was still running, the shining rods and polished brasses of the crosshead popping briefly into view from the skylight with every turn of the wheels; but the Druid was beginning to suffer from the constant working of her powerful engine and it was decided to convert her into a screw steamer. While Carrier Lane & Co. were carrying out the surgery, the hull gave way and the vessel filled with water. Nothing daunted, the bottom was replaced and riveted up and, with a compound marine engine, the Druid went back to work in her new guise, stripped of sponsors and paddle-boxes.
She was still a useful ship:
"The Druid, with 100 citizens on board passed down the river on August 24, and at St. Joseph Levis met the R.M. Steamer Lake Ontario, from which she took on board 117 invalid soldiers. . . ."
Seven years later, in the last days of December, 1901, the Druid was placed in dry dock at Levis for a comprehensive survey by Captain McElhinney, the nautical adviser to the Department, and the steamboat inspectors; their verdict was unanimous, the Druid was found to be unseaworthy. She was sold in the spring of 1902 to A. E. Pontbriand of Sorel for $2,150.
Despite this prognosis, the iron hull of the Druid lingered on, in one employment or another until, in the mid nineteen thirties, she was last seen as a stranded hulk at the Lakehead. It had been a long time since she cleared from the Tail of the Bank at Greenock to face the broad Atlantic but, in some ways the most delicate of our first iron steamers, she was the only one to come to the natural twilight of old age.