Trib­ute to lob­ster traps

Homeville man’s work can be seen through­out com­mu­nity

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - KEN MAC­DON­ALD news@cb­post.com @Cape­Bre­ton­Post 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.

Port Morien’s proud coal min­ing her­itage can be traced back to the first coal mine in Canada in 1720, but it is likely that min­ing was not the com­mu­nity’s first in­dus­try.

As far back as the 1500s, the French, Por­tuguese and Basque fished off Cape Bre­ton; re­turn­ing to their home coun­tries each win­ter. It is quite pos­si­ble that Port Morien was one of their sea­sonal fish­ing sta­tions.

Com­mer­cial fish­ing in Port Morien can be traced back to the 1850s. Cod, had­dock, mack­erel, her­ring and nu­mer­ous other species were fished un­til the col­lapse of the ground­fish stocks in the early 1990s.

Lob­ster be­came the main­stay of the lo­cal fish­ery, and in the past few years, has been quite lu­cra­tive. This is in stark con­trast to the days at the turn of the 20th cen­tury when lo­cal can­ner­ies of­fered four cents a pound.

The equip­ment used for lob­ster fish­ing has evolved over the years. Traps are a good ex­am­ple.

For decades, fish­er­men built their own wooden traps each win­ter, cut­ting the tree boughs and shap­ing them over an open fire. They got their bal­last from flat rocks on the shore­line and knit­ted their own head­ings.

In the past num­ber of years, some have opted to re­place these tra­di­tional rounded wooden traps with the rec­tan­gu­lar wire cage de­sign. Be­cause of this and some wooden traps be­com­ing dam­aged or un­us­able, fish­er­men had a stock­pile of older style traps in their back yards des­tined for a fire pit or the land­fill.

Homeville res­i­dent and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer Bill Mead­ows saw this as an op­por­tu­nity.

He ap­proached fish­er­men Don­ald and his son David Fer­gu­son, two friends who lived close by, to ask if they would be will­ing to do­nate some traps.

Don­ald Fer­gu­son knows about traps. He has been mak­ing them since he was a young­ster, and now in his 90s, he still fishes lob­ster each sea­son.

Mead­ows felt that the traps could eas­ily be trans­formed into planters, trel­lises, street ad­dress signs, and pa­tio trays, among other things. The Fer­gu­sons were happy to as­sist and Mead­ows was on his way to mak­ing some trap crafts to give to friends.

Mead­ows wasn’t fin­ished yet. While trav­el­ling through St. Peter’s, he no­ticed that bi­cy­cles were at­tached to light poles. They were spray painted and adorned with flow­ers. He had the idea of do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar in Port Morien with the lob­ster traps.

He asked good friends Bucky MacLeod and Richard Jer­rott to come on­board and they were pleased to help.

The Fer­gu­sons of­fered to do­nate more traps as well as ply­wood and some tools. The trio worked through the win­ter on the project, cop­ing with COVID-19 re­stric­tions af­ter midMarch. The project was com­pleted by late June.

The Port Morien De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, with Yvonne Kennedy as li­ai­son, cov­ered ex­penses for ma­te­ri­als that had to be pur­chased, such as the metal lob­sters.

Al­to­gether, they pro­duced three trap sets, each con­sist­ing of three per set, 16 traps with at­tached steel lob­sters, and 28 trap ends with ply­wood cut-outs of boats or lob­sters. They are painted in var­i­ous colours. They also made brack­ets for installati­on.

Installati­on on the her­itage light stan­dards took place on July 1.

Mead­ows, MacLeod and Jer­rott were as­sisted in the task by vol­un­teers Calvin Thomas, Katie O’Leary and Craig Thiel.

The trap sets were placed at the fire hall, the post of­fice and at the le­gion. The le­gion one in par­tic­u­lar has an im­pres­sive back­drop of Morien Bay. The other traps and trap ends were al­ter­nately at­tached to the stan­dards through­out the vil­lage.

The re­sult is an im­pres­sive dis­play that cel­e­brates our cen­turies-old Port Morien fish­ing her­itage.

It was truly a com­mu­nity project, from the do­na­tion of ma­te­ri­als to the con­struc­tion of the com­po­nents to the installati­on.

Be­sides beau­ti­fy­ing the main street of the com­mu­nity, the project gives an emo­tional lift to all of us who are liv­ing with COVID-19 re­stric­tions.

Mead­ows said that if he were asked to give the project a ti­tle, it would be “A trib­ute to lob­ster fish­ing and to the peo­ple who hand­crafted the lob­ster traps in the com­mu­nity over many decades.”

It is a fit­ting ti­tle and a fit­ting trib­ute in­deed.

CON­TRIB­UTED

A three-trap dis­play at the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion with Morien Bay as a back­drop. Bill Mead­ows has trans­formed lob­ster traps into planters, trel­lises, street ad­dress signs and pa­tio trays, among other things.

Trap ends with ply­wood boat and lob­ster cutouts. CON­TRIB­UTED

CON­TRIB­UTED

Bucky MacLeod, Bill Mead­ows and Richard Jer­rott take a break from in­stalling the trap dis­plays in Port Morien.

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