scFenton MacKayWEB

Fenton MacKay


The greatest thing that happened to me in my lifetime was when I was twelve years old, back doing the hay, and my grandfather told me, “Get up on the load and drive the team home.” When I drove that team home, I thought I owned the world.

Cars meant nothing, nothing meant nothing, that’s all I knew was horses. I started working at the racehorses when I was fourteen, in 1948. I’ve been at it ever since, and that’s sixty-one years.  I grew up on the Island here. I was down there with my grandfather farming with the horses, and that’s how I got in with the horses, eh?

The only luck you could have at horse racing is that the horse that you got, or bought, or reared from a foal, it’s got speed enough that can bring the track up. That’s the only luck you can have. If it ain’t there, you ain’t got it. You can’t make what’s not gonna happen. And if you force the issue, you’re gonna cause a problem.

They gotta do away with the whips, it’s too cruel. I designed whips, had them put on the market to prevent cruelty, but the horsemen didn’t want it. It was a whip where they couldn’t whip them around the shaft, or beat them around the stifle, in behind their hind legs, or around the belly. I made shorter ones, built like a riding crop the thoroughbred people use, only longer, so the horses couldn’t be struck like that. It worked, but they didn’t want that, they wanted to still beat them to death. It’s not right. I seen horses come in off the track, blood running around their belly, blood running down the inside of their legs. I seen horses where they put leather on the end of their whip, and wire to beat them.

I was the first to ever hitch a horse to steel in 1974, with my universal hitch. I designed it for safety and also to hook up a horse a lot easier than the way it was, eh? If a horse went down, you just pulled two pins and the horse was free. I was a way ahead of anybody else.

But things went wrong. My first wife got sick and I just threw it away and forgot about it. I picked it up in later years, in the early 1990s, and got the patent for it. I had it on the market, and then the fella I had the contract with took a heart attack and had to quit the business. For me to restart with a new person to get it back on the market, and borrow a whole bunch more money, I just said no.

All horses I have respect fer. You gotta have that. I don’t care whether it’s a kitty cat or an elephant, respect them. If you don’t have that, don’t own them. If you respect an animal then you’ll have dedication from them.

 


cNorman PetersWEB

Norman Peters


Growing up in a big family, we’d watch at the window, I guess in the early 1960s. We’d see Dad coming home from the post office, and if he was walking with his hands in his pockets, we knew he’d got his two week pogey, eleven bucks, and we’d have something for supper. And if he was walking with the head down, there wouldn’t be much for supper.

There’s ten in the family, eight boys and two girls. We had it pretty rough, lots of Christmasses where there wasn’t much to eat. Sometimes the Church or someone would help, and they’d send down a box. You’d hear a knock on the door Christmas Eve, there’d be nobody there; you’d look down and see a box there from the parish or whatever. We had I guess what you could call a normal life, in a community that wasn’t very well off.

I was the rascal of the family. Bernice next door had chickens, and Mom always complained about them chickens coming and digging the garden. I loved a hunting knife. I seen a chicken in the garden that day, let go with the old hunting knife, got him right under the wing, “Oh my God,” Mom said, “What are we gonna do?” She said, “Take him down the cellar, dig a little hole and bury him, we’ll leave him there, and Bernice won’t know.” And then she got thinking after, we got nothing for supper, and nothing for tomorrow, and she just put a good chicken in the dirt! So, I went back down, dug him back up, and she roasted him. 

Dad worked at the factory at the harbour. I got into fishing because I was always around the shore and my uncle Marshall fished, next door. He finally said, you wanna come out, take in a few days fishing in the fall? I fished as his helper, and ended up buying his gear in 1967. There have been some rough years fishing, and catches weren’t great, but we hung ‘er through.

I started my own deep-sea fishing business in 1973, but am semi-retired now. I loved running the tourists, meeting people, having a chat, and trying to play them a little tune on the fiddle. I couldn’t play, but I had a great time.

I drank up until 1983 pretty heavy. It changed because if it wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t be here. I had to see a doctor, and he said you either decide to drink for a career, or let me help. I said, I’ll do anything you say. I had a bit of a rough time for a coupla years. I didn’t give up hauling tourists though, I kept taking them out and not feeling very good some days, but I didn’t give up.

We all got stories to tell. Whether it’s for a laugh, or to try and live a better life. I do try and be happy. Today, it’s a great day fer livin’.

Norman Peters

Prince Edward Island, 2010

 


scFenton and Anna MacKayWEB

Anna and Fenton Mackay

 

I weighed a pound and a quarter when I was born. I was kept in a shoebox, wrapped in cotton batting and olive oil, and fed with an eyedropper. That was my incubator. When I turned blue, they put me in the oven, took me back out when the colour came back. And I survived. Doctor said I wouldn’t, but I did.

I was born premature, and there was three of us. My brother lived fer nine days, my sister was born dead, and I survived. My mother walked in there from the barn, come in the house, and she forgot the cellar hatch was open and fell down the cellar. Six and a half months pregnant. She didn’t go to a hospital to have us; my two grandmothers delivered us. My father told me I just laid across his hand, that’s all I was, just the size of a little witsy bitsy doll. When I was a year old I wore a cap that went on a tennis ball. An’ a sock that was three inches long, and it was too long for my leg, the foot was an inch and a half, and that was too big. I’ve got them in there, I’ve still got them.

When I was born, because she fell, I was ruptured on both sides, under me arms was all tore, me tail bone stuck out through me back. I had no ear rims, no hair, no eyebrows, I was too early, eh? She had to lower my ear rims, put a cap on me, and tie it down so me ear rims would grow. That’s how she done it.

I can’t find where my brother’s buried. Down in Lorne Valley in the cemetery, but they don’t know where the plot is. Supposed to be next to my grandparents, but they’re not sure. And my sister, she was buried under an oak tree, home at the farm. She was only eighty percent formed. She’d a’ been the small one at the end of it. And they took her and they just put her into a little rough box, just wrapped her up in a pillowcase and put her under an oak tree.

Back then, the people that went around collecting taxes registered all the children of that time for fifty cents. And that’s what was done. My sister wasn’t registered, and my brother was registered at nine days, but he didn’t have a name. So when they come round to do the census, I was a twin, not a triplet. So, that’s the way that life goes. But you can’t change that.

I always felt that there was a big loss. I’ve always got that feeling I’m alone. It happened so young in life, but there was something missing, eh? You’ll be working away, or just walking or just going to bed, and bingo, there it is in your mind. And you never get over it.

 Fenton MacKay

Prince Edward Island, 2010


scAlice CourtWEB

Alice Court

 

Well, coming into a house of four bachelors, I’d say it’s probably a bit neater, a little cleaner, and it’s not so much boiled fish and potatoes but on the other hand, let me balance that out with how kind they have been to me, you know? I have enjoyed being here, caring for them. As long as they’re here and I’m here, I will take care of them.

It’s been eighteen years now. I lived in Ontario, and had been down here three times. I came down again in 1990, and wanted to go deep-sea fishing. So, that’s what I did, with the Court boys. I was separated, heading for a divorce, so I was also looking for a place to live on the Island. The boys said well, there’s a trailer out the back there, and I thought well, that’s not bad, I could live there until I get my feet on the ground and find out what I’m going to do.

It went from there, and eventually Vance and I became pretty close. As Vance says, he had the right hook and the right bit. My divorce was all taken care of, and by then I had also started helping at My Mother’s Country Inn. So I’d go out at four o’clock in the morning and fish with the boys, come in, get cleaned up, and go to work.

One day Vance kind of yelled at me in the middle of the kitchen, “Will you marry me?” I said, “Would you mind asking me again, when you’re a little more romantic about it?” Some time later Vance came in, with this lovely little box. Well, I opened it and there’s this diamond ring. It was close to my birthday, so I said, “Is this what I think it is, or is it a birthday present?” He says, “It’s what you think it is. I went into the jeweller, just like you would buy a box of Tide. Why make a fuss over it?”

I had a minister friend, and I thought, we’ll just do this very quietly. Our guests were sworn to secrecy, because the Courts being kind of famous, I knew there would be a lot of fuss. So all our friends lied to each other as to what they were doing that Saturday. As they came in the church, Vance pinned a corsage on the ladies and I put a boutonniere on the men. Then the minister and Vance and I stood at the back of the church, and Vance says quite loudly, “Well, let’s get this show on the road.”

So there we are. I got his three brothers along with him, and we all lived together very happily. Four bachelors. I enjoy being part of this family.

I kind of keep in the background because I don’t want to overstep. I‘ve tried to make things really good for the Courts, but as you can see I’ve kept much of their way of life around.

Alice Court 

Prince Edward Island, 2010

 


cMatthew Carr Jamie Gallant and Gerard MilesWEB

Jamie Gallant, Matthew Carr, and Gerard Miles

Matthew Carr (left)

You got salt in your blood, that’s what they say. Can’t stay off the water.

I am a fisherman’s son, from a lobster fishing family. My dad’s fished since he was seventeen. His father fished as well. I can’t remember the first fish I caught, but I’ve got a picture, a cod that was taller than I was. I was seven or eight.

I can get up, no problem, if I’m gonna make money. I started here when summer started. I plan to go to the aqua farms this winter, to work on Saturdays during school. One year left of school.  My uncle owns this company. I’d like to be involved for a while. If I don’t climb up the ranks, I’ll just go to Holland College because I’ve wanted to be a mechanic for a while too.

The best advice I’ve been given is you gotta get good before you get fast. That applies to this job. It’s all about your knots. Untying and tying knots. I can’t say I’ve had a perfect day yet, slick, smooth running, not having to stop, just going straight down the line.

My happiest moment would probably be out on the water, I know that, I love being out there.

 

Jamie Gallant (middle)

I’ve always worked on the water. Tried a couple different jobs, but always came back to the water. I grew up up west. There’s no work up home in the fall. We started coming down here in the fall because they needed extra crew. Been down here ever since.

I’m up from four o’clock usually. Get here, make sure we got everything, and try to get out there by seven o’clock.

I chose mussels just because you get more weeks. Not as much sitting around. If you fish lobsters, you work ten weeks, then set around fer the rest of the summer. I only work part time in the winter though; there’s probably only twenty days that they harvest in the wintertime.

We start in the fall, socking season. There’s only a certain window where the water’s the right temperature. The lease we work on in Rustico, that’s where we catch the baby mussels. Then up Stanley River we put them in the sock. It looks like a net, round as a pop bottle, probably ten feet long. We tie it on lines, buoy them up, and make sure the mussels aren’t touching the bottom.

We watch them all year, and once they’re big enough, we start harvesting. The bigger you put out in the fall, the faster you can harvest. It all works a cycle. Down here, it’s probably a year. In Malpeque it’s slower, takes three or four years, because there’s not as much food in the water. The rivers here put out a lot of food.   

Probably a couple of times a summer I’ll cook some. An inch of beer in the bottom is my cooking secret. I cook them twelve or fourteen minutes, once it’s steaming good.

Prince Edward Island

2010


scEmerd CourtWEB

Emerd Court

 

When my dad started out fishing, that’s the only way they had to do it was in dories, rowing.

In the spring, the heron would come in the harbours, and the harbour’d be full of heron, and they’d be putting out that net, taking the fish out of one side, the heron’d be going in the net the other side, so the fish going over the side, so’s the ocean was full of spilled fish.

When the white man came to the Island, the ocean was full of all kind, and they had dories to row out. My dad, well, he was in the business; he had to row out like this. It changed now since they got engines in the boat, they did away with the sailboats, and the boats got bigger, and wider, and higher. My dad was the first boat in Rustico Harbour put an engine in it. He was the first. Well he got an engine, and as soon as he put an engine in the boat, he took the sail right out. The other people when they got engines, they were scared that the engine wouldn’t work, and they left the sail in the boat fer a few days, then after that they quit the sailing. After awhile they put car engine in, and go faster, and now they got diesel engines, still go faster.             

One time my dad and my brother Quentin went out fishing, it was years ago. All the other boats were out of the water and theirs was the only boat went out of the harbour. They were out there fishing, fishing and they went to start the engine to go home, it was rough, getting rougher an rougher. Engine wouldn’t go. It was getting rougher and rougher, and anchors wouldn’t hold, and they had to take all the engine apart, bolts, nuts, everything off the engine.

Quentin only had one wrench and it was an old wrench, and every once in a while it kept breaking, and they took all the nuts and bolts off the engine, and they couldn’t get the head of the engine off.

They tried, they couldn’t get the head of the engine off, and after they found out there was one nut they didn’t find, and it was getting rougher and rougher, and darker. They put it together again, fixed up the engine, put all the bolts and nuts and everything all on and when they started the engine, the engine went. The engine finally started. Just got in at dark. The next morning there was a big storm, and nobody went out.

Alice says that’s why they have widow’s walks around the old homes, believe me, in those days there wasn’t two way radios.

Emerd Court

Prince Edward Island, 2010

 


cTrevor GauthierWEB

Trevor Gauthier

 

There was over fifty kids in just four families in our street. There was fifteen kids in our family; across the road, seventeen; the next-door neighbour had nine; and there was another family up the street with eleven. There was a lot of lonely nights I guess.

Growing up in a large family was quite an experience. I remember sleeping five to a bed; a double bed with three at one end, two at the other. And a set of bunk beds with seven boys in one room. There was never a dull moment. None of us ever got in trouble with the law, we were raised, I’d say, top notch. I think there was only six months that there was fifteen kids home. After the youngest one was born, the oldest one moved out. After that, we were never ever all together until my father passed away.

Mealtime was a free for all, if you didn’t get your food first time around, you didn’t get anything. There was some pretty big meals cooked; potatoes and fish, that’s what we were brought up on. My father was a fisherman, and they traded fish for potatoes with the local farmers.

Every chance I got, I was out fishing with my father, from the time I was four years old. I loved the outdoors, and the water. He died in 1989, and left my mother the gear. My brother Pat and I fished the gear for my mother fer a coupla years, and she wanted out. I said to Pat, “You’re older than me so if you want to buy it…” It’s easier if one person has control of the show, especially in a family. So I fish with him, and this is our twenty-fifth year fishing together. We always got along, Pat and I.

Pat is one of the kindest fellas in the harbour; he’d give you the shirt off his back. We’re all the same, there’s not a mean bone in any of us. He watches my back, I watch his, mind you we don’t usually get into trouble, so there’s not much watching backs.

There’ve been a few scary days, dirty days out there. Once there was a two or three day sea storm on, and we went out when the wind had died. There wasn’t a breath of wind, but there was a heavy roll coming in. Mountains coming at you, but it wasn’t rough. We had gear in shallow water and had to move it out. Anyway we looked and there’s a great big mountain coming at us, had to be twenty-five feet high. We didn’t get the boat swung around fast enough, the wave hit and spun us right around. Water come right aboard. Scared the crap out of us. We wheeled it around, got outta there and come home. That was enough fer that day. That was the only time I been that scared out fishing.

I love fishing. I’ll do it til I die.

Trevor Gauthier

Prince Edward Island, 2010


cBlythe GauthierWEB

Blythe Gauthier

 

I don’t have any traditions and superstitions; I just work hard. I get up in the morning and go. I’ve been fishing thirty years, I started fishing because I loved the water. I was always around the water ever since the time I was a kid, always around fishing boats.

I grew up in Rustico, with four brothers and two sisters. I know most of the guys in the harbour, 90% of them I grew up with. Thirty years ago we were able to fish cod and mackerel, but in 1993 or 1994 there was the cod moratorium. There are only a couple of fishing industries left, and they are short seasons. It’s hard to go out to fish for nothing. Now lobster season’s finished and we have to tie up the boat and sit all summer. Some guys do deep sea fishing tours, but I don’t like hauling the tourists around.

I’ve always fished lobster, but I’m not a lobster eater. I love fresh fish but I’ve never been a lobster eater.

Barely Legal is my own boat, I’ve had it for seven years. They are trying to cut out smoking altogether, so I made a statement by painting pipes on my boat and calling her “Barely Legal”. I have three people on my boat. We have three hundred traps. You can catch between twenty and thirty-five thousand pounds per season; it depends how hard you work. Before her, I had a few old boats. Now, a new fibreglass boat is a quarter million by the time you get it fitted out with an engine and electronics.

My father’s father fished, and my father worked for the fisheries. After the war my father went to fishing. I used to fish with him, and got my licence through him. My wife’s father fished all his life too. There are only a certain number of licenses, and most are passed through families. If you don’t get one from your family, you have to buy it from someone else.

I love the solitude and quietness. There’s never too much hustle and bustle around the wharf. I will live here forever. What I don’t see, I won’t miss.

 Blythe Gauthier

Prince Edward Island 2010

 


scVance CourtWEB

Vance Court

 

With the mackerel it was much the same, we’d salt them in puncheons, the ones we didn’t sell, and last of October, November we’d take them out and put them in barrels. They’d go to a broker in Halifax, go on a big boat, and then down to West Indies. What I understand, it’s so hot down there and with their cravings for salt, they’ll take the mackerel and that salt pickle, put it on two slices of bread and eat it as a sandwich. Then the pickle itself, the liquid pickle, they’d just drink it. That was back in the 1940s.

Our family has been on this property a long, long, long time, and fished. It was granted to us, by Queen Victoria, for the yearly rent of one peppercorn.

As my wife will tell you, my family started as farmers up in Cavendish and the one son, our grandfather, decided he would like to be a fisherman. Eventually he married and had a son, Beecher, and also a little daughter. Sadly, the mother and little daughter died. So, he raised Beecher on his own and used to take the little chap out fishing, and tie him somewhere on the boat so he wouldn’t go overboard. Roughly four or five years old.

Beecher grew up fishing all his life. He eventually met a lady from down Dunstaffnage, Ella. He used to go down by boat, tie up, go across the fields and court the eventual Mrs Court. They raised seven of us, five boys and two girls.

We fished lobster, mackerel and cod. We took the fish in, cleaned them, got them ready for fish peddlers, and they’d peddle them on the road. We were also cutting ice at that time, and the fishermen and farmers all around came down. They had no fridges, and no other way of keeping their milk or cream cool. We had different sizes, three or four cents a cake. Electricity finally came to this place in the 1950s.

Eventually we had boats taking out passengers. We charged something like $2.50. I’m seventy-five, and I’d be eighteen or nineteen years old at that time. Families were coming to the Island and enjoying what we had, and fishing was a big part. When we came in, we’d have a little stove down there and cook mackerel, get them to taste it, and enjoy it.

As my wife will tell you, our dog Heidi was just a little handful when she came off the plane from Courtney BC. That’s a long flight for a little doggie. She will be ten years old in March. We have a birthday party for her on St Patrick’s Day every year, an Irish party. Even though her friends are told not to bring anything, Heidi gets given these little outfits that are hanging up. In this house in the wintertime it’s quite cold, so she wears the little sweaters around. She likes them.

Vance Court

Prince Edward Island, 2010


cPat GauthierWEB

Pat Gauthier

 

No such thing as a best day on the water, they’re all good. You’re always waiting for the next day to come.

My mother was a Gauthier and my father was a Gauthier. Growing up in a family of fifteen wasn’t bad, I was third oldest. There were eighteen years between the oldest and the youngest. Large families were normal back then, there was one family right next door to ours that had twenty-one. She had twenty-one births, but I think a couple died shortly after.

In a large family you had to eat it while it was hot, or you mightn’t be able to eat, so I wasn’t slow. We’d all be bringing friends home, l’d be in one school, my sisters would be in another, and my brothers in another because of the ages – it was fun meeting so many people. I’m shy though. Some people from one and two person families would think a big family was awful strange, they’d all be amazed at it.

Fishing was always in my family, for three or four generations. Dad started fishing when he was a kid. Pretty well always knew I wanted to fish, I started when I was sixteen. I went west two years, and I didn’t like not fishing. I love the freedom. Out of all of us, just Trevor and Michael fish. I took over my father’s license when he passed away; back then the others didn’t really have any interest in it.

I ain’t a scientist. I don’t know why PEI grows such good lobsters. As for what makes for good fishing, we just follow the lobsters and put bait out. You don’t know where they are, it’s just luck.

I build my own traps. Some people use oak, some people use softwood, some people use juniper, all different. We buy the bows, they’re made already; they gotta be steamed. How long they last depends on the weather. I got one there with the plastic bows that’s fourteen years old. I decided to try it one year. Not tempted to go with all plastic because they’re hard to build with them. The traps stay outside through the winter, under the snow. Some people put them in but I don’t, I leave everything out all the time.

Life has changed since growing up here. We got bathrooms now, instead of outdoor toilets. We had that outdoor toilet until I was sixteen. We had wells in the house, and a pump, but there was no room for a bathroom. Mom hardly knows how to cook a small meal now. Now it’s usually just her, and one of the girls’ll come over.

 Pat Gauthier

Prince Edward Island 2010