Thinking back to past years, I recall some of those Pictou Islanders I once knew. I think of Duncan and Verna Rankin. They lived about a quarter mile away and were our nearest neighbours to the east.
There was a hay field separating our homes and also was a place where Dad would plant our large vegetable garden. I remember Duncan as being a cheerful man and a practical joker. Besides being a fisherman as like most islanders, Duncan also was a farmer.
My father and Duncan as like most Pictou Islanders were very good friends. Many times my father and Duncan would get together to dip their sheep in a solution to rid them of ticks. I recall the many times when my father and Duncan would be in my dad’s boathouse discussing fishing, bending trap bows, planning lumber, working on a boat or whatever. Duncan was always one of the first to be at our place assisting my father when Dad would be constructing a new boat. Dad would call Duncan when it was time to take a new boat from the boathouse. Within a short time, Duncan would have many other islanders at our place to assist my father.
My memory has me recalling Thelma, Susan, Hughie, Skit and Captain John MacFarlane. They lived closer to the East End of the island. Hughie and Skit were also fishermen and their brother Captain John was know to us islanders as Buck. I very clearly recall Buck visiting and doing errands for other islanders. He would daily walk the islands only dirt road just to visit, chat and have a cup of tea with his island friends.
It seems like only yesterday that I would walk the two-plus miles east to Charlie Munro’s house with my guitar over my shoulder. Charlie, his wife Ida and children Shirley, Francie, Sandy and Beth were as many Pictou islanders, very musical inclined. They along with Vernie and Isabel Rankin would usually provide the music for many old time dances that were often held in the island hall. Shirley Munro taught me to play the guitar when I was 11 years old. I would walk past Vernie Rankin’s place on my way to my guitar lessons. Vernie’s residence was one of many properties on the island that was very picturesque. I recall the house being set back a ways from the road with a neatly cut lawn going right to the road. There was also a beautiful orchard on the east side of the house with the grass being neatly cut beneath the proud standing trees.
It has been almost 50 years but seems like only yesterday when I would walk up and visit with the Patterson family. They lived in a large farm house almost a mile east from us. My mind wonders back in time to recalls Tina, Ena, Sue, Jenny, Clara, Pinky, Punch, Heckie, Malkie and Dougie. I believe there might have been other Patterson’s but I remember only these. Dougie was a small man who was known as the Pictou Island barber. I don’t believe there was one Pictou Islander whose hair wasn’t at one time cut by Dougie. Many times when my father would race his boats, Dougie being small and light, would be with him as his throttle man.
Numerous times while walking on the island’s only dirt road, I would pass by the road grader being operated by John Angus MacMillan. John Angus would be hauling the road grader with his dozer while Neil (Pinky) Patterson would be manning the controls on the grader. There was a large wheel on the back of the grader that Pinky would use to raise or lower the scrapper. I can still hear Pinky yell in his high-pitched voice “helloooo Jimmie” as they passed by. I bring to mind Roy and Cassie MacCallum. Roy was a master of many things but I remember him as being the Pictou Island carpenter. Usually if a building was to be constructed, Roy would be one of the first to offer his services.
Howard MacLean and his wife Bertie were the Pictou Island postmasters. A two-seater plane was used to transport mail and passengers too and from the island. The plane would land in a hayfield behind Howard MacLean’s house. Many times the pilot would drop the mail in a burlap bag because weather conditions would not allow a safe landing.
These mentioned are only a few of the many people whom I have known on Pictou Island. Most of these people have passed on but their lives have created a memory that will remain forever.