Through Water, Ice & Fire


The schooner Nancy, legendary vessel of Great Lakes and Canadian history, lived a thousand lives in a noted career that began in Detroit and ended in a fiery explosion in Nottawasaga River in the last year of the War of 1812.

This dramatic, soundly researched narrative depicts the reality of the men who sailed her while fighting a gritty war. Carrying the war to the enemy in hazardous ways, they fought against a powerful American foe, using stealth and daring to maintain the besieged Canadian position in the last armed struggle for the heartland of North America. The loss of the Nancy inspired generations to regard her as a symbol of devotion to king and country.


Through Water, Ice and Fire is a compelling story, a tale not just of an obscure ship rescued by the late Stan Rogers in a song, but of the War of 1812. If the war had been lost to the United States, we would all be Americans today. The Nancy represented one of the differences between victory and defeat. Forgotten for decades, the ship's bones became an innocent-looking island in the Nottawasaga. Until 1927, when she was unearthed by a vacationing Toronto dentist named F. J. Conboy.

Today, the Nancy's hull rests in a glassed-in exhibit at Nancy Island Historic Site. Even if you have ever visited her, you can now read of the exploits of this historic schooner and her daring crew.

Andrew Armitage, The Sun-Times, June 8th, 2006

"It's a fascinating story, and well-written."

The Naval Review (November, 2006)

"The strengths of this book lie in its thorough documentation and a familiarity, not only with the sources, but with the waters in which Nancy sailed."

"Barry Gough has made another useful addition to the literature of the War of 1812."

International Journal of Maritime History (January, 2006)

About the Author

Barry Gough

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Barry Gough

Barry Gough, sailor-historian, is past president of the Organization for the History of Canada and the Official Historian of HMCS Haida, Canada's most decorated warship. His acclaimed books on the Royal Navy and British Columbia have received numerous prizes, including the prestigious Clio Award of the Canadian Historical Association. Professor emeritus of Wilfrid Laurier University, he lives in Victoria, British Columbia.