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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


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


scRichard MacKinnonWEB

Richard Mackinnon


I’ve had everything from autopsy tables to stainless steel correctional toilets. I do business with people in Toronto who do movie shoots. I had a coffee table in one of Vin Diesel’s movies, a stainless steel toilet in Jodie Foster’s “Panic Room”, and today I have a painting that was in Gene Hackman’s movie “The Fifth President”.

It started when I was a kid. I always collected pop bottles growing up here on the Island, going around in old abandoned barns, crawling under old houses, looking for bottles and tin cans and things like that. I had an uncle who had an antique shop, and you know, all my family had antiques. I guess I sort of just fell I love with it that way. About eighteen years ago when I moved to Toronto, I saw a market for it, and just picked up from where I left off as a young fella.

At first when I got in the business, I fell in love with everything. After three or four years of doing that, my money dwindled down and I had a lot of stuff. Now I’m more careful. The things that I buy, I try to have customers for already so the inventory doesn’t just sit around collecting dust. I never ever dreamed of owning a shop before. I just stumbled across the location, thought about jumping into a shop, and that was it.

My pieces come from all over. I was in the Rocky Mountains two years ago building some chalets. In my time off, I was able to travel around and do some picking. We had a couple guys on site that were First Nations, and I was able to get back to their reserve and purchase some stuff. Some of the other stuff, like the soapstone carvings and seal skin jackets were bought in antique shops along the way. The old shaving utensils, and stuff like that on top of the display case there, were just picked locally here in Prince Edward Island.

Once I waited six hours for two chairs to come up on the auction block, and purchased them for five dollars each. I sold them the next day for a thousand dollars each. Early nineteenth century, there was no maker’s name on them; they were way ahead of their time. Another time I paid something like five hundred dollars for an antique Persian carpet, a big carpet, with a large hole in it, and sold it for ten thousand dollars. With a hole in it, a huge massive hole. Probably would have cost six thousand dollars or more to repair the carpet, but the carpet’s a fifty thousand dollar carpet when it’s all said and done.

Getting back to finding it hard to get rid of things, I don’t fall in love with any of this stuff any more, it’s all material things. None of this stuff really means anything to me anymore.

Except my dog, that’s it. And love, well that’s not for sale.


cAnna MacKayWEB

Anna Mackay


I was settin’ at the table with my daughter and her friends. This guy come in dressed like a butler, and I thought oh my soul… He had a vest on and a jacket, and oh, he was… hair just so, and I thought, oh God, I don’t know.

My daughter and her friends had been going to the dances in North Rustico. She had come home one Saturday night and said, “Oh, you should see what’s down there, he’s gorgeous. Come down next Saturday night and we’ll arrange for yous to meet.” So, I went down.

Anyhow, after I went home that first night, he phoned me and said, “Can I meet you down there next Saturday night?” And I said, “Yeah, you can meet me.” I had me own car, so he didn’t get the chance to bring me home until we met two or three times. He even phoned and invited me back for a lobster meal. I said, “No, I don’t like lobsters.” I weren’t gonna get too much involved because I had been married before that, so I knew what I might get into. We went together for about three years before we decided to get married. Wanted to make sure. That was thirty-five years ago.

I like a horse, but I’m scared of em because my father always said, “Look out now, don’t go behind them, they kick! Don’t get in front, they might bite!” And so I was never around horses, even though my father always had a farm horse or two. I’ll go out and feed them if Fenton ain’t here, but I keep back a distance.

I don’t go to the races often, I’m really not interested in racing. I think it’s cruelty to animals, beating them around the track. And when they go out on the track you don’t know if they’re coming back. I’ve seen accidents where the horses was all cut to pieces, some was killed. There’s more worry watching a race than it is to stay home.

As a child I walked two miles each way to school alone. That was weird for a little one; at that time my brothers and sisters were all out on their own. I never went in the wintertime. There was no plows or anything in them days. After every storm, the horsemen had to hitch up the team of horses, or a single horse and a bunch would go with shovels. They would break the roads wherever there was the smallest amount of snow. Sometimes the horses would get down and cut themselves and everything. Oh, some horses nearly bled to death. In winter people got around with a horse and sleigh, that’s the only way, or by train. Although the train come right through our farm, I was over twenty before I was ever on a train.

I’m over eighty now, so I survived. I am the luckiest person. I got to admit, I am lucky.