Lauchie Rankin

Online First Pictou Island Memories

Jack with his wife Mary Rankin raised a family of nine children on Pictou Island during the 1900s. There was Laura, Duncan, Dolina, Annie Mae, Lauchie, Vernie, Florence, Joan and one granddaughter Lorina.

The three Rankin boys, Lauchie, Vernie and Duncan married their Island sweethearts. Duncan married Verna who was the daughter of Billie and Annie Jane MacMillan. Vernie married Isabell who was the daughter of Lester and Bell Hooper and in 1940, Lauchie married his childhood sweetheart Rita MacLean. Rita was a daughter to Fraser MacLean and Gladys Turple MacLean.

Lauchie and his new bride moved to Lyons Brook in 1941. He was able to acquire a job working on a dairy farm owned by Emery Stevenson. The Stevenson farm was a small part of the property that Robert Blair and Dave Angus now operate a fish processing plant upon. Emery Stevenson was manually milking 23 dairy cows and kept over 30 feeder caves at any given time. Lauchie was hired on to help run that farm with payment of $17 per month. While on the farm, Lauchie and his wife Rita purchased and lived in the house that Glenn Demsey and family now reside in directly across from the community hall. During this time Laughie and Rita were blessed with their first son whom they named Peter.

Those were the war years and Lauchie became enlisted into the army. Rita’s mother, my aunt Gladys, became a widow when her husband Fraser MacLean was supposedly murdered at sea.

Fraser had been employed as a crewmember on board the steamer HURRY ON. The steamer had left Halifax on September 22, 1935 bound for Montreal. That was the last time that Fraser’s family had seen him alive. I grew up on Pictou Island with the story that his body was discovered a few days later in a battered and oarless lifeboat that washed upon the shore at Judique, Cape Breton. His throat had been slashed. Fraser’s suitcase was later found washed ashore north of Judique.

Now years later, Gladys owned and was living in a house on Barrington Street in Halifax. Rita with her new son Peter moved to Halifax and lived with her mother. Lauchie rented his house in Lyons Brook to George Baird from Caribou Island over the next few years.

Lauchie and Rita returned to Pictou Island after the war ended. Lauchie now looking for employment turned to lobster fishing. His brother’s Duncan and Vernie were already fishing for lobsters around Pictou Island so Lauchie decided to do the same. He built 300 new traps during his first winter back on the island. Vernie had been fishing with his big brother Duncan but decided to fish with Lauchie during the upcoming spring season. They put their money together and bought an old lobster boat from Lester Turple. My Uncle Lester had at that time a 35-year old boat that he sold to them for $75. There were a few leaks here and there throughout the weathered old wooden boat but nothing that the hand pump couldn’t keep up with. The old boat was also without a motor but George Baird quickly resolved that problem. It seems that George still owed Lauchie for some back rent for the house in Lyons Brook. George had an old six-cylinder engine that Lauchie could use for the newly acquired boat. The exchange motor for rent was made and Lauchie and Vernie were now ready to go fishing during the coming spring.

Those two Rankin boys lived with their wives on Pictou Island in the house that their Uncle Hughie Rankin had built just up from the island beach. They kept their boat anchored some distance from shore just below the house. One particular cold spring morning in 1946, Vernie and Lauchie had rowed out to their boat to go fishing. Lauchie proceeded to start the engine while Vernie prepared the bait. The engine was stubborn on that cold morning and didn’t show any indication of starting. It was equipped with a lowly installed down draft carburetor. I am informed that every time the starter turned over, the engine would suck gasoline into its base. After turning over and over numerous times, the motor finally backfired. This ignited the excessive gasoline built up and there was a loud whoosh and a ball of fire flared upwards.

Well, that boat was all that the two young men had in the line of employment and they weren’t about to let the old girl burn. They tore off their heavy coats and dipped them in the salty water. They continued to beat on the fire with their coats until the flames were out. They saved the old boat from a sure watery grave but now all the wires were burnt off their motor. We only missed a few days of fishing that time, says Lauchie. We were able to dig up wires from somewhere to fit the motor.

It was shortly after that when Lauchie and Vernie went their separate ways in fishing. They each acquired their own boat with Vernie going to the eastern end of Pictou Island and Lauchie going west. Lauchie recalls those earlier years when he would set some lobster traps at the West End reef. He tells me that there would be very little water under the boat. I could have jumped overboard and walked ashore but I thought I’d try a trawl there anyway. We came back the next day to haul and every trap was full of big lobsters. There were lobsters everywhere.

I, myself, can remember past years when Morris Holmes and Tommy Boyce smacked from the Pictou Island wharf in Tommy’s boat named Blue Angle. Morris has told me about one day when Cameron MacDonald had caught a large 12-pound lobster around the north side of Pictou Island. That, Morris says, was one big lobster. I have been told, however, that Lauchie Rankin had at one time caught a 14-pounder in one of his traps at the islands west end. The record for the largest lobster caught around Pictou Island however still stands at Pictou Islands East End. I recall being told about Anderson MacLean spying a big fellow in shallow water off the East End reef.  Anderson supposedly jumped over the side of the boat into about four feet of water and after wrestling for a few minutes, landed a 17-pound male lobster. I believe that may have been the same day that Anderson saw the phamton ship.

Jim Turple