The Blind Mechanic

The Amazing Story of Eric Davidson, Survivor of the 1917 Halifax Explosion

Reviewed by Beverley Tallon

Posted January 16, 2020

The 1917 Halifax explosion killed almost two thousand people and injured thousands more. Eric Davidson was only two years old when he became a victim of the catastrophe.

On December 6, 1917, the toddler was playing by a window while watching a fire in the city’s harbour that had been caused by a collision between two ships — the Imo, a Norwegian steamer, and the Mont Blanc, a French munitions freighter. Upon impact, the Mont Blanc’s “lethal cargo” ignited; it exploded about twenty minutes later, causing what author Marilyn Davidson Elliott calls “the worst disaster in Canadian history.”

The shattering of glass resulted in the loss of both of Davidson’s eyes. “In that moment, he was plunged into darkness for the rest of his life,” writes Elliott. Although the boy’s subsequent blindness created many challenges and setbacks, he did not let this stop him from achieving his goals. Davidson married and became a loving father to three children, a friend to many, and, most notably, a qualified auto mechanic.

Elliott is the daughter of this remarkable, modest man. Her book, The Blind Mechanic, is about his struggle to fit in to the “sighted” world and his many accomplishments in the wake of tragedy. It also tells the history of the Halifax explosion, including the ways the disaster affected many people’s lives and the valiant work done by men and women in its aftermath.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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