View Full Version : "The Blind Mechanic"

01-04-2019, 05:26 PM
On the morning of December 6, 1917, Eric Davidson of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was a typical 2-year-old boy. He was playing with a toy, while looking out a window of the family home towards the harbour. Two ships had collided there, and a fire had started on one of them.

The burning ship, the Mont Blanc, was fully loaded with high explosives destined for use in World War 1 in Europe. About 9:04 a.m., the ship exploded in what is still the largest man-made non-nuclear blast that has ever occurred. The Davidson home was one of the thousands which were destroyed. Shattered glass from the window slashed Eric's eyes so badly that they had to be removed.

In all, about 9,000 people were injured and about 2,000 were killed. The blast was heard in Truro, 100 km (60 miles) away. The shaft of the Mont Blanc's anchor was found more than 4 km (2.5 miles) away.

"The Blind Mechanic" is a very interesting and well-written biography of Eric Davidson. The author is his daughter, Marilyn Davidson Elliott. She used many different historic sources as well as her memories and those of her family. The 198-page book was published in December 2018.

Fortunately, Halifax had a very good school for the blind, where Eric was educated. The book describes his family life growing up. His parents did their best to give him a normal childhood, although his mother was often over-protective.

At a very early age, Eric became fascinated with cars. He wanted to become a mechanic. After graduating from the Halifax School for the Blind, he was denied entry to trade school. Through his own determination and hard work, he eventually became a skilled and much respected mechanic. With no sight, he used enhanced senses of hearing and touch, and an excellent memory, to do his work. The book describes the challenges he overcame, his career, and his family life.

Eric was a founding member of the Halifax Antique Car Club, where I first met him. A full chapter of the book tells of his participation in the hobby. He owned, restored (and occasionally drove) several antique cars, including a 1924 Studebaker touring.

Eric did not see himself as handicapped. He felt that he, his parents and older sister were fortunate because they had survived the explosion when so many had not.

Eric and his wife, Mary, who had very limited vision, created a surprisingly normal family life for their 3 children. They lived in their own home until Eric was 90. He died in 2009 at age 94.

While reading the book, the reader realizes that it is far more important to look at a person's abilities than at his/her disability.

"The Blind Mechanic" may be purchased from the publisher, Nimbus Press, Halifax, Nova Scotia, https://nimbus.ca . The price is C$19.95 plus postage (and tax on Canadian orders.) In Canada it is also available through bookstores. ISBN 978-1-77108-676-9

01-04-2019, 07:00 PM
Thanks for posting. It looks like an interesting story, that will make a good addition to my library.

Chris Pile
01-04-2019, 08:13 PM
I know 2 blind auto mechanics. One worked for the local Volvo dealer for several years before getting a better job building avian incubators at a local plastics company. The other is in several old car clubs, and has restored a Model A and an REO in the last decade. His work is exemplary. Neither man drives, of course - but they continue to enjoy car events of all kinds - cruises, car shows, and swap meets. Both can count accurate change, which still amazes me....

01-07-2019, 11:30 AM
Many years ago I hired a legally blind student worker. A strange thing to do because I was the technician in a college TV Studio, a very visual medium. The reason I initially hired him was because of his attitude and willingness. He was able to walk about but barely able to discern anything. He eventually went on to start a blimp photography business with his wife being their "eyes." At one point she had cataract surgery and they joked they were running the company on one eye.

Today we are still friends 30+ years later. Sadly his sight is almost completely gone now. This past summer I helped him repair his travel trailer and I am still amazed at what he "sees" in other ways. I'll also add that he went to a vocation school and was trained as a mechanic. Unfortunately few were willing to give him a chance and that lead to the blip photography company he started. BTW, drones have all but shut down the blip and he has now started getting together with investors to build storage buildings. Like I said, I hired him for his attitude and willingness.