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Author tells story of how her father, blinded by the Halifax Explosion, became a mechanic

Marilyn Davidson Elliott will be launching 'The Blind Mechanic' Tuesday night at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
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One of Marilyn Davidson Elliott's early memories of her father, Eric, is him taking her outside at night, telling her to look up to the stars and describe to him what she saw.

It didn't occur to her at the time that her father couldn't see them himself.

Eric Davidson was two-and-a-half years old in late 1917. 

On the morning of Dec. 6 of that year, the toddler was looking out the window of his north end Halifax home at a ship on fire in the narrows of Halifax Harbour.

At 8:45 a.m. the SS Mont-Blanc, fully-loaded with wartime explosives, had collided with the Norwegian ship SS Imo.

About 20 minutes later, the Mont-Blanc exploded, obliterating buildings and structures in the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of the atomic bomb.

"When the ship exploded, the glass shattered and destroyed his eyes basically," Davidson Elliott told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

Growing up, Eric would develop a fascination with how cars worked. 

His application to enrol in an automobile mechanic course was rejected because the school didn't think it would be safe for him to attend, but that didn't stop Eric.

His brothers read automobile manuals to him and he experimented on a car he bought in 1932 for $50 

Eric overcame the odds and had a decades-long career as an auto mechanic.

Davidson Elliott, who served as a member of the Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee, has written a book about her father's life.

She'll be launching The Blind Mechanic: The Amazing Story of Eric Davidson, Survivor of the 1917 Halifax Explosion Tuesday night in Halifax.

At the event Davidson Elliott will be reading excerpts from the book.

"One will be about the actual event, what happened the minutes after the explosion, with my father and his mother, father and sister," she said. "Then I'm going to skip ahead to when he went for his first job interview to be a mechanic."

Davidson Elliott said her father had a wonderful sense of humour and never perceived himself as having a disability.

"It was his approach in life in general to be thankful for what we have, to not focus on what we don't have," she explained. 

"He always considered his family one of the luckiest in the city at the time of the explosion because he didn't lose a mother or father. He always looked at the people who were less fortunate than him."

Tuesday's book launch takes place at 7 p.m. at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.




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