Honouring Eptek and Bedeque
Seacow Head Lighthouse is having a special Canada’s birthday weekend, July 28-31
For everything there is a season, like the old pocket watch frozen in time.
“That’s my grandfather’s,” said George Read, pointing to a faded gold watch resting on a logbook dating back to the early 19 century. “He was a captain on the S.S. Prince Edward Island.”
His grandfather, John Lefurgey Read, became the first captain of the vessel in 1917. It was the Island’s first rail car ferry, with space on board for 12 rail cars, measuring 285 feet long.
“They were always on the lookout for German submarines on the (Northumberland) Strait. Convoys would protect the (German) submarines, and Captain Read once broke out full speed (on the ferry) to get away,” recollected Read.
“There was not a lot of communication back then, so the people in Port Borden (today Borden-Carleton) had no idea what was going on, whether she sank, and then all of a sudden the ferry appeared.”
Kin Merriam was the last captain on the “Prince,” as it was affectionately known. Its final crossing was in 1968.
“I was a captain there for two or three years,” he noted. “The ferry was full all the time and I can tell you about one bad experience that happened on a Sunday night in winter…”
Stars were peppered across the sky as the ferry approached Port Borden around 1 a.m.
“It was a nice and clear night and I was backing the S.S. Prince Edward Island into Borden, and you had to go in and touch the pier and then turn the corner and work your way back. Next thing a car shoots out the stern. I couldn’t believe it.
“I hollered at the guy to get out of the car before it sank, so he got out and stood on top of the roof. There’s a ladder down on the deck and one of the seamen went quickly over to the stern and helped the man climb up the ladder, and he didn’t even get his feet wet.
“I was scared that he had a wife and kids in the car, but he was alone.”
The fatigued passenger had seen the flickering lights of Port Borden and, thinking the ferry had docked, hurriedly reversed his vehicle into the water.
“He took us to court because he smashed his car up,” reminisced Merriam.
An exhibition to mark the centenary of the first ferry crossing between Port Borden and Cape Tormentine, N.B., kicked off last weekend in conjunction with the opening day of Bedeque Historical Museum.
More than 80 people came to see The Borden Ferry – 100 exhibition.
Special guests included Lorne Cousins, aged 101, who captained one of the ferries, and his wife, Isabel, aged 94.
Tom Sherry, a board member of the Bedeque Area Historical Society, says it’s just amazing to sit down and listen to this man talk and the wisdom that he has.
“It gives you a different perspective on life.”
Sherry recounted a story that Cousins told him during a previous interview.
“When he was a young fellow he went into the Second World War and was a captain of a vessel. He was patrolling the Gulf of St. Lawrence when a German U-boat in the Gulf sunk a ship.
“Some of the people had survived and were in rescue boats, so he came on his vessel and was able to rescue the people. On one boat there were about a dozen women and he rescued all of them. And on one of those boats was his wife-to-be. It’s just amazing how that turned out,” grinned Sherry.
For 80 years the ferry was the principle means of transport to and from the mainland for Islanders.
The Bedeque exhibition features 10 poster boards telling the stories of the various vessels used in the crossing, as well as some of the workers.
It also displays collections and memorabilia from past ferry workers and major items from the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.
The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
More information is available at www.bedequemuseum.ca, on the Facebook page: Bedeque Area Historical Museum or by phone at 902-887-3009.
The Seacow Head Lighthouse is throwing its own Canada 150 party, July 28-31.
The Bedeque Are Historical Museum, in conjunction with the Friends of Seacow Head Lighthouse and the L.M. Montgomery Schoolhouse Museum at Lower Bedeque, is hosting a special weekend of activities.
A the centre of it all will be a large tent near the lighthouse with other events and displays taking place at the Bedeque Museum in Central Bedeque and the Lower Bedeque Schoolhouse.
The activities and displays will emphasize the traditional association with the Mi’kmaq people with the Bedeque Bay area. The name Bedeque comes from the Mi’kmaq name for the bay, Eptek, meaning the hot place.
Before and after the arrival of Europeans, the Mi’kmaq, in their movements back and forth from the mainland to P.E.I., used Bedeque Bay as a stopping-off point for their summer activities, including the harvesting of shellfish and other marine resources.
To mark this Mi’kmaq connection, the weekend will feature a demonstration of a variety of Mi’kmaq crafts and cultural ceremonies, including basket weaving, quill working and bread working. There will be an opportunity for people to have a first-hand and hands-on experience of these crafts.
Mi’kmaq dancers and musicians will also provide entertainment. There will be special activities for children on Saturday, July 29, 9:30-11:30 a.m., including games, both aboriginal and European, an animal petting zoo and a falconry demonstration.
Friday afternoon will see the recognition of the Bedeque area’s two recent appointees to the Order of Canada, Catherine Callbeck, the retired Canadian senator and former P.E.I. premier, and Georges Arsenault, the Acadian historian and folklorist, who resides in the area in the summer.
Monday night will feature a traditional lobster supper, serving dishes authentic to 1867, with guest speaker Gardner MacDougall.
For more information, go to bedequemuseum.ca or the Facebook page of the museum or call 902-887-3009.
A replica of the Abegweit ferry was positioned across the road from the Bedeque Historical Museum on opening day. For 80 years, the ferry was the principle means of transport to and from the mainland for Islanders.