Celebrations, picnics and boat races in 1955 …

Online First Pictou Island Memories

During past years, different communities around this area would host grand celebration each year. Some places that I recall these happenings being held were at Pictou Landing, Cape John and yes Pictou Island. These events usually drew thousands of people from various places much like the Pictou Lobster Carnival does today. Locals from such places as Pictou and New Glasgow areas, Tony River, Cape John, River John, Pugwash, Wallace, Pictou Landing, Big Island, Lismore, etc. and people from varies places in Prince Edward Island would attend.

One such celebration that I am a bit familiar with was on Pictou Island. Pictou Island’s last grand celebration was held on Wednesday, July 20, 1955. The area around the Island wharf was the focal point for this event. A wooden stage was built just east of the wharf light and remained there for many years afterward. Pipe bands, Highland dancers, local singers and other entertainers would perform on this stage. During those times, a large building was erected close to this stage. The Pictou Island women’s auxiliary would provide meals to the partygoers for a small fee in and around this structure. Two hay fields that were part of the farm belonging to William MacMillan are on either side of the wharf road. These fields which have since been densely overgrown with spruce trees would be filled with hundreds of partygoers.  These people would have blankets spread on the ground, picnic tables would be prepared and tents would be set up in numbers.

A ball game between the men from the mainland and the men from Pictou Island was one of the many highlights of the day. The concluding event of the day was a dance that was held at the island hall. Many excellent musicians from the island usually provided the music. One of the major attractions during this day’s celebration was the local lobster boat and dory races. These races were held directly off from the island wharf. Many boats filled with viewers would be anchored all around the wharf area. Other spectators would be lined shoulder to shoulder on the wooden and concrete wharves and all along the shore area.

During those years, lobster boats were always made from wide or narrow plank. There were no lighter plywood or fiberglass boats at that time. PEI fishermen favoured the V-bottom boat made with wide plank while fishermen on this side favoured the round or barrel bottom boat made with narrow plank. A number of fishermen built their own boats and took great pride in racing them. Even greater pride was shown if their boat was the fastest at the races. One-week prior on Wednesday, July 13, 1955, my father and Arnold MacMallian took their boats to boat races in Montigue, PEI. They beat everything at those races and now one week later, many PEI fishermen came to Pictou Island with hopes of settling the scores.

As seen by the race categories below, there were not many fishing boats that were over 34 feet in length during those years. The followings are the results of the 1955 PICTOU ISLAND LOBSTER BOAT RACES. This was the last year that a celebration of this magnitude was ever held on Pictou Island. My father raced the 30-footer that he built in 1951 and had named SLO-Mo-Shun, Arnold MacMillan raced the 35-footer named “Rocket”, which my father built for him in 1953.

6 CYL 28 to 32 feet

1st  Vincent Turple from Pictou Island

2nd  John Irving from Prince Edward Island

3rd  Logan MacDonald from Pictou Island

6 CYL 32 feet and over

1st  Buddy Haynes from Pictou Landing

2nd  Arnold MacMillan from Pictou Island

3rd  Jimmie MacDonald from Pictou Island


8 CYL 30 to 34 feet

1st   Dan Herring from Prince Edward Island

2nd  Howard MacCallum from Pictou Island


1st   Vincent Turple,  Pictou Island

2nd   John Irving,  Prince Edward Island

3rd   Dan Herring,  Prince Edward Island

My father having the fastest lobster boat won a boat stuffing box, pair of rubber boots, pair of nylons, box of chocolates, flower vase, and a thermos bottle.

DORY RACES were also a popular event with winners being

1st   Alvin MacLean from Pictou Island

2nd   Ronnie MacDonald from Pictou Island

3rd   Gorman Glover from Pictou Island