The day the Charles A. Dunning ran aground

Online First Pictou Island Memories

October 5th 1951 was a grey, foggy ghostlike day. Pictou Island’s Spike MacDonald had returned from Caribou with his lobster boat and reported that the car ferry operating between Caribou and Prince Edward Island, the Charles A. Dunning, had run aground on the Gull Rock Reef. It was blowing a gale from the northeast the next day and the Charles Dunning was able to get free from the rocks. The ferryboat then headed directly into the Pictou Shipyard for repairs. There were 75 passengers and 15 cars on board at the time.

Now going back to Pictou Island. The fertile lands on the island’s south side were mostly cleared and farmed during those earlier years. Those fields were sown with hay and grain and would blow a golden yellow colour in the warm summer winds. Harvest time would see many Pictou island farmers all working together to assist each other. I am reading in Howard McCallum’s diary where numerous Pictou Islanders were thrashing grain at Ward McCollum’s on October 17th and at Howard McCallum’s the very next day.   Island cattle and sheep would roam freely on the cleared banks of the islands northern side during spring and summer. The animals would graze on this area until the harvest was taken in. The animals would return to the farms on the southern side when the weather became colder and the grasses begin to die.

It was more common 70-plus years ago for Pictou Islanders to sail and do business on Prince Edward Island then it was to sail over to the mainland. Ernie Rankin made a ferry run to Wood Islands on October 18th with 28 passengers. Eddie and Ona Glover were moving to Pictou for the winter months. Ernie transferred a load of their furniture to Pictou the next day. Jack Rankin with daughter Joan and granddaughter Lorina had returned from Pictou to Pictou Island that day and a raffle was held that night at Howard MacLean’s house.

It was blowing very hard from the northeast on November 2nd. Chester McCallum’s house burnt to the ground that very day. The ferryboat took a load of lumber back from Prince Edward Island on November 5th for Chester’s new house.

A dance was held at the hall on November 15th. Howard has stated that Lester Turple’s boys, Junior, Hughie, Leonard and Vernon were over and Callie McCollum and Ford and Dolina Kenoon were with them. First snowstorm occurred on November 20th and continued into the next day.

Howard and Jessie McCallum moved to 83 Denon Street in Pictou on November 9th for the winter months. Harold Bennett was newly married to Howard and Jessie’s daughter Beatrice. Both Howard and Bennett were able to gain employment in the Plate Shop at the Pictou Foundry that winter. Howard has written that eight men were laid of at the Foundry on December 10th and all workers walked off the job the next day December 11th. Settlement was reached on December 14th. Howard has written that Ken Ferguson had installed a hot water tank on their stove on November 26th.

Snow storm on December 15th and cold with drifting snow into the next day. The ferry boat Ashagola that ran between Pictou and Pictou Landing was stuck in the harbor ice on Monday December 17th 1951. The Lovat arrived in the harbor that afternoon and broke the Ashagola free.

Jessie had written in her diary that it was the last pay day at the Foundry before Christmas on December 21st. She goes on to say that there was an awful rush to the liquor storm the very next morning.

It is interesting to note that Jessie McCollum has written that a young Mackenzie boy was killed in Scotsburn on December 24th when he apparently fell into a hot tub of water. She also has written that there was a car accident in Toney River on December 25th and three men were drowned in that accident.