An ex-pat who comes home to visit every summer is drawn to the Ship Hector.
Every year, Doris (nee Jessinghouse) Arnold returns “home” from her residence in Owen Sound, Ont., and spends a couple of months at the Ship Hector site in Pictou. She visits almost daily and enjoys spending time with the volunteers and making friends with those who visit the site. And every year before she returns home she makes a monetary donation. She has her own name tag and “they all know me by name there,” she smiles.
This year, after more than a decade of visiting and donating, she made a $6,000 donation to the ship for upkeep and maintenance. It has been her largest contribution to date.
An only child, she grew up “right on the border between Stellarton and Westville. The house was in Stellarton, the land was in Westville,” she laughs.
Her grandfather had approximately 12 acres of land and ran a bakery.
“My parents divorced and my mother dragged me off to Ontario when I was approximately 12 years old,” she recalled.
She lived the rest of her life in various parts of Ontario, finishing university there, teaching school there and marrying there. A widow since 1992, Arnold finds that she is called back home, lured by the sea and salt air. She has been coming to stay at the Willow House.
“I’m drawn to water,” she smiles. “I could sit out here on the back deck every night — and we do if the weather’s good — and stare at the water. The water is fascinating, it’s always moving and changing colour,” she says while chatting comfortably in the drawing room of the Willow House.
“I missed that for all of the years I lived in Ontario.”
After she married, she and her husband bought an abandoned farm and reforested it. “He loved trees and I love trees,” she sighs. “We reforested it by hand and it was fun to do because we were doing it together.”
Now she’s alone and she enjoys her yearly visits to the Hector.
“I’ve been onboard a number of times and I’ve been below deck. I know if they don’t get enough financial support to take the ship out of the water for the winter it will only deteriorate further.”
Her love for the ship and desire to see it restored to glory days are what prompted her to make the sizable personal donation.
“My grandfather would have approved,” she smiles.
While he came to Nova Scotia long after the Ship Hector set sail, she tells the story of her grandfather coming from Scotland to begin a new life. He was an apprentice baker in his homeland but he injured his right hand in one of the machines.
“They wanted to amputate the hand and he said no, absolutely not. As he tells the story, he went to a deserted barn where there were lots of cobwebs, and he wrapped the injured hand in cobwebs — that was supposed to help keep away the germs. His hand recovered. He came to Nova Scotia, bought a bit of land, built a big house and a bakery right behind the house — A.B. Cameron bakery.”
It was at her grandfather’s knee — and in his bakery delivery truck — that Arnold learned valuable lessons about what was important in life, like loving your neighbours, sharing and giving to those in need.
“He taught me to read and write before I went to school. And I remember once — my grandmother was really angry at him — he had been at church and walked home and when he arrived my grandmother asked him where his nice jacket was. He calmly said, ‘While, on the road I met someone who needed it more than I did, so I gave it to him.’ That’s just the kind of man he was.”
Arnold hopes her philanthropy to the Ship Hector would please her grandfather.
“I just want them to use my donation to help fix up the ship. I’d be heart-broken if anything happened to that ship; it’s really important to me. And I gave a larger donation this year because of that. I just thought that I want to do what I can.”