122 perish in Toronto’s “Noronic” disaster – Horticultural Building at CNE used as morgue

This post continues the on-going saga of the Noronic Disaster, when fire demolished a cruise ship moored at Pier 9 on the Toronto waterfront. On 17 September in 1949, during the early-morning hours, 122 persons perished. The novel “Arse Over Teakettle,” includes a  detailed section on the disaster, where the reader views the event through the eyes of the book’s central character, Tom Hudson.

From “Arse Over Teakettle” – Book One of the Toronto Trilogy 

9781450205313-Perfect.indd My dad read with disbelief that the Horticultural Building at the CNE was serving as a temporary morgue. A few weeks earlier, we had attended the late-summer exposition, enjoying the colourful blossoms of the prize-winning floral arrangements and garden displays. As my dad read aloud the details, I had difficulty imagining wall-to-wall bodies, and white sheets covering row after row of corpses. During the days ahead, relatives attempted to identify their loved-ones. It was beyond everyone’s worst nightmare.

Throughout Saturday, bodies were transported to the Horticultural Building. By 3 p.m., 111 bodies had arrived. The clergy were on hand to assist family members. Some relatives of the passengers arrived and afterward departed in shock, after walking among the rows of corpses. Many were unable to recognize the loved ones they sought, as their bodies had been burnt beyond recognition. They identified some through their rings or watches. In the days ahead, the Cleveland and Toronto Coroners joined forces to identify as many as possible. A few were to remain unknown forever.

They soon discovered that the passenger list had burnt on the ship. However, a duplicate was found, and the police from the station at 149 College Street canvassed the hotels to determine the location of the passengers. Where possible, they phoned all over the continent to notify passengers’ relatives that they were safe. For the late editions of the papers, names of passengers were grouped. Under the heading “Survivors and Injured,” those in hospitals or hotels were listed. The “Known Dead” list was short, as so little information was yet available. There was also a list of names under the heading “Not Located.” The final count was 122 dead, just 40 of which had been identified. It was known that 479 had survived, and the location of 84 remained unknown.


When the sun set over the harbour Saturday evening, the five million-dollar luxury liner the “Noronic” was a hulking wreck of twisted metal. The search for bodies had ceased, to be resumed the following morning. However, they would need to pump water out of the ship before the cabins at the lowest levels of the ship could be searched. Divers would be required. It was feared that the search would require ten days or more.

Many questions remained unanswered. Why were so few members of the crew on duty at the time of the fire? What caused the fire? Why was the sounding of the alarm delayed for eight minutes after the flames were discovered? Why had no fire drills been held since the luxury liner departed from Cleveland?

The passengers claimed that negligence had occurred, but Canada Steamship Lines denied the allegations. Within days, the House of Commons in Ottawa announced that there was to be a full inquiry.


The second book in the Toronto Trilogy continues where the first book ended. “The Reluctant Virgin,” however, it is a murder mystery.

The first two books of “The Toronto Trilogy” are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store. To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.com/

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