Ken Mac­Don­ald writes about his home vil­lage of Port Morien in his new col­umn.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ken Mac­Don­ald Ken Mac­Don­ald is a re­tired school teacher and ad­min­is­tra­tor, and a com­mu­nity vol­un­teer. His fam­ily can be traced back seven gen­er­a­tions in Port Morien, where he has lived al­most all his life. He can be reached at morien­bay@gmail.com.

Note to read­ers: This is my first Cape Bre­ton Post col­umn about my home vil­lage of Port Morien. It will ap­pear on a monthly ba­sis. It is a con­tin­u­a­tion of a Com­mu­nity Post col­umn that I had writ­ten since 2014. I ap­pre­ci­ate all of the pos­i­tive com­ments I have re­ceived dur­ing that time, and I look for­ward to con­tribut­ing to the Cape Bre­ton Post.

More than 75 years have passed since a gen­tle­man ar­rived in Port Morien to start a busi­ness; a busi­ness that would have a pro­found ef­fect on the com­mu­nity for decades.

On Oc­to­ber 1, 1941, Herb Hop­kins pur­chased the Aca­dia Prod­ucts lob­ster fac­tory from David Thomas Les­lie and set up H. Hop­kins Ltd.

Her­bert Hezekiah Hop­kins was born in Bear Point, Shel­burne County in 1905. He mar­ried Edith Ken­ney from Doctor’s Cove and they had eight chil­dren; one died in in­fancy. By 1941, Herb was operating a fish busi­ness in Woods Har­bour and a lob­ster can­nery in Mabou (which he bought at the age of 22). They were even­tu­ally sold so he could con­cen­trate on the Port Morien op­er­a­tion.

Herb ar­rived in Port Morien with two work­ers, Cleo D’En­tremont and Rus­sell Nick­er­son. They lived aboard their lob­ster smack, the boat used to col­lect lob­sters along the coast. Shortly af­ter, Pete Blades, Al­bert Newell and oth­ers ar­rived, and they lived in the old can shop un­til the cook­house was built. The cook­house had sleep­ing quar­ters for up to 10 work­ers, and a cook pre­pared meals for the work­ers and vis­i­tors. It also served as the com­pany of­fice and head­quar­ters. In the early days, Herb’s book­keep­ing con­sisted solely of a lit­tle black book that he car­ried in his back pocket.

Ex­pan­sion was in the works. Herb bought a fish plant in Louis­bourg in 1943, and started buy­ing sword­fish in Glace Bay. He even­tu­ally pur­chased the Lip­kus plant there in 1965. In 1962, he set up in New­found­land, first in Cow Head, headed by his sons Cliff and then Brad. He then went to Fred­er­ic­ton, and then to Arnold’s Cove, Pla­cen­tia Bay. That was run by Herb’s son, Glenn, and later by Ed­mund Quin­ton.

Herb needed large trucks to get his prod­uct to mar­ket, so Cliff, Brad and Glenn pro­vided these ser­vices. They op­er­ated from two garages in Port Morien and ran trac­tor trail­ers, and later ten wheel­ers to Bos­ton as well as other des­ti­na­tions.

Herb was in­deed gen­er­ous. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a good worker would need ad­e­quate hous­ing for his fam­ily. Herb would of­fer to buy him a house if the worker would agree to re­pay him by pay­roll de­duc­tion. Herb got a re­li­able em­ployee; the em­ployee be­came a home­owner with steady em­ploy­ment. My aunt Mary worked in the of­fice at the cook­house. She re­calls Herb qui­etly pay­ing for milk and gro­ceries for needy fam­i­lies, some­times even fi­nanc­ing needed house repairs. Herb would of­ten hire peo­ple solely be­cause he knew they ex­pe­ri­enced fam­ily fi­nan­cial hard­ship and knew that a job would be their life­line.

Herb died on February 1, 1974, at the age of 68. Sons Cliff, Brad and Glenn, and later Bill as­sumed op­er­a­tion of the com­pany. They, along with sib­lings Kather­ine, Louise, and Eddy be­came share­hold­ers. Herb had ini­ti­ated nu­mer­ous changes over the years. Bone­less salt cod be­came a spe­cialty sup­ply­ing the lo­cal, Cana­dian and Amer­i­can mar­kets. Dry, salt cod was also shipped to Por­tu­gal. Many other species of fish were bought and pro­cessed over the years.

The com­pany per­se­vered through the cod fish­ery col­lapse of the 1990s, but in a scaled down op­er­a­tion. Lob­sters sus­tained the op­er­a­tion, and they also bought other species, in­clud­ing crab.

In 2011, the Hop­kins fam­ily sold the com­pany to Rod Jef­frie. By then, Cliff and Glenn had worked for the com­pany for over 60 years. Mr. Jef­frie re­tained the com­pany name and con­tin­ues to op­er­ate the busi­ness. There is still a Hop­kins pres­ence at the plant as Cliff’s daugh­ter Joanne, and Brad’s daugh­ter Edie work in the of­fice at the same cook­house in Port Morien that Herb built.

Herb Hop­kins em­ployed hun­dreds of peo­ple over the years. Herb val­ued and re­spected his loyal work­ers and the fish­er­men who sold him their fish, and they re­spected him. In to­day’s face­less cor­po­rate econ­omy, many mil­lion­aire CEOs could take a page out of Herb’s book, maybe even his lit­tle black book.


Here are gen­er­a­tions of Hop­kins work­ers in 2009, in­clud­ing in the front, Glenn, Cliff, and Bill; and in the back, Alex MacKil­lop, Ian Hop­kins, and Glen Mac­Don­ald, Glenn’s grand­sons.

Hop­kins plant work­ers can be seen in this photo from 1956.

Herb Hop­kins is shown here in his younger years.

Herb Hop­kins is shown salt­ing fish, with John Met­calfe in the back­ground.

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