The schooner Cather­ine Mary Hann

Pride of Merasheen

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Al­lan Stood­ley Down Mem­ory Lane SPE­CIAL TO THE SOUTH­ERN GAZETTE Al­lan Stood­ley is a long-time res­i­dent of Grand Bank. He can be reached at am­stood­ley@hot­mail.com

Merasheen, lo­cated on the south­west­ern tip of Merasheen Is­land in Pla­cen­tia Bay, was one of the larger and more pros­per­ous com­mu­ni­ties that re­set­tled under the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s Cen­tral­iza­tion Pro­gram, 1950s to 1970s.

The year 1926 had very spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for the nearly 400 peo­ple who lived in the iso­lated com­mu­nity be­cause it was dur­ing that win­ter that John Hann had the schooner Cather­ine M. Hann built. The ves­sel named af­ter his wife, mea­sured over 60 feet long and reg­is­tered at 30 tons, and was the largest to have ever been built at Merasheen.

In a let­ter to the Evening Telegram in 1972 Ernie En­nis stated, “As a young man it was a joy for me and all, young and old, to watch her build­ing. Much of the ma­te­rial used was from tim­ber cut on Merasheen Is­land. The work­men, with the ex­cep­tion of the mas­ter builder (Tom Duke of Fox Har­bour), were Merasheen men. We mar­veled at the fine wood, the crafts­man­ship, a boat, a West­ern Boat emerg­ing.”

The West­ern Boat was a class of schooner-rigged fish­ing ves­sels of 15 to 30 tons and nor­mally car­ry­ing two or three dories, com­pared to its cousin the much larger Lunen­burg type “banker” which fished fur­ther off-shore on the Grand Banks and would carry up to 12 dories.

Ap­par­ently the launch­ing of the Cather­ine Hann was chal­leng­ing to say the least, “down a rather steep grade to a pre­cip­i­tous drop between a store and cliff into the sea”, ac­cord­ing to let­ter writer En­nis.

That first year and for many fish­ing sea­sons af­ter the ves­sel was cap­tained by Den­nis P. Walsh de­scribed as be­ing “a proud and ca­pa­ble skip­per.”

With “Skip­per Walsh” at the wheel the lit­tle stur­dily built schooner proved her met­tle time and time again.

She rode out the first and sec­ond Au­gust Gales that wrecked fish­ing boats and took the lives of many Pla­cen­tia Bay fish­er­men in 1927 and 1935. In that 1935 storm alone six boats and about thirty lives were lost while en route back to their home ports from the fish­ing grounds off Cape St. Mary’s.

In 1967, as a per­sonal Cen­ten­nial Project, a Mr. Swan of Bri­tish Columbia bought the small schooner with the idea of sail­ing her to Van­cou­ver via the Panama Canal. He re­named the ves­sel the Cen­tury and he, his wife and fam­ily ac­com­pa­nied by a friend, left Merasheen.

Shortly af­ter leav­ing port the schooner ran aground and the Swans aban­doned the boat and their Cen­ten­nial Project and re­turned home.

The Cen­tury was sal­vaged and re­paired and in 1968 was pur­chased by Bud Fisher of New York. Fisher, who worked with the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Magazine, pro­posed to use her for char­ter pur­poses in the long Is­land Sound and to the Caribbean.

Fisher came to New­found­land to take the schooner back to the United States but it was not to be. The boat was tied up at Marys­town and Fisher was de­layed be­cause he was hav­ing trou­ble get­ting a crew.

Dur­ing this wait­ing pe­riod the Cen­tury caught fire, while tied up at the wharf. She went on dock at the ship­yard where she was again re­paired and new en­gines in­stalled.

For some un­known rea­son Fisher also aban­doned his project and the lo­cal Sea Cadet Corps came into pos­ses­sion of the ves­sel.

Dur­ing the fall of 1968 the once proud fish­ing craft was moored just above the Can­ning Bridge in Marys­town, which was well up into the har­bor.

How­ever, dur­ing a wind storm in Novem­ber she broke her moor­ings and drifted ashore. She ran aground and tipped over on her side where over the next sev­eral years she was slowly de­stroyed by the sea and tides of Mortier Bay.

Fi­nally in 1972 the Marys­town Fire Depart­ment, fear­ing for the safety of teenagers fre­quent­ing the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing derelict, set fire to what re­mained of the last “West­ern Boat” of Pla­cen­tia Bay.

As a post-script to the story of “The Pride of Merasheen”; lo­cal mu­si­cian/his­to­rian Con Fitz­patrick of Marys­town “res­cued what re­mained of the steer­ing wheel from the burned wreck the day af­ter the fire.

“I hung the wheel in a tree in my back yard, not re­al­iz­ing it was of any value,” he ex­plained. Then last year, 2016, the Hann fam­ily was dis­cussing the schooner on Face­book; so Fitz­patrick in­formed the fam­ily he had what was left of the steer­ing wheel from the Cather­ine M. Hann.

Today the wheel is dis­played proudly in Johnny Hann’s shed at Cre­ston South, Marys­town.

“It’s amaz­ing”, he ex­plains, “to think that I can touch the same wheel that my grand­fa­ther, John Hann, used to steer the Cather­ine Hann 90 years ago.”

AL­LAN STOOD­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

The schooner “Cather­ine Mary Hann” was built at Merasheen in 1926 by John Hann. Sadly, the last of the “West­ern Boats” of Pla­cen­tia Bay ended her days unglam­ourously washed up on the shore­line of Mortier Bay in Marys­town.

AL­LAN STOOD­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Johnny Hann of Marys­town is proud to have in his pos­ses­sion the steer­ing wheel from his grand­fa­ther’s schooner, the “Cather­ine Mary Hann”, built at Merasheen in 1926.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.