It is a tribute fit for a king.
On the Toney River wharf stands a 20-foot tall Christmas tree constructed of lobster traps, yellow at the base. Move your eyes upward and the green traps climb higher and higher, and on the top sits an anchor with a heart in the middle. It was constructed in memory of a gentle giant of a man, Nicholas Falconer, to mark the one-year anniversary since his death at age 24.
The tree was lit on the evening of November 11, the date he passed in 2019, while working in Cheticamp for a marine survey company.
The tree, traps, anchor and lights are all symbolic of Nick and his family, who are at the heart of the fishing community, anchors in a storm. Nick grew up on the fishing boats of Toney River and always had a sparkle in his eye; when the lights are lit November 11, that sparkle will be back.
His parents, Catherine and Dwayne Falconer, created a Facebook post inviting the fishing community to remember their son: “On November 11 at 6:30 pm at the Toney River wharf we will be lighting a lobster trap Christmas tree in Nick’s memory to mark the one-year anniversary. We invite fishermen to hang a buoy to represent their boat or in memory of a loved one.”
Nick’s mom, Catherine, says she hopes it becomes a tradition.
“Last year at Christmas time I said to my husband’s family who were all here that I wanted to come up with something that could become a tradition that we would do in honour of Nick. Something we could do every year for Nick — something new for him.”
She thought about it over the year and decided on a Christmas tree.
“I remember seeing pictures of trees that have been done in the South Shore and Eastern Passage, so I Googled lobster trap Christmas trees one day and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
She and her husband Dwayne had plenty of traps, so with a little help from community members and friends, they created the giant tree.
“We just kind of winged it,” she chuckles. “It tuned out much nicer than I thought it would.”
This year, Catherine says, she wanted it to be just for Nick but in following years she is hoping it can become a way for the community to come together to remember and grieve for loved ones.
She is overwhelmed with the response from the community so far, a testament to the high esteem in which the community holds Nick and the family.
“We really didn’t know what to expect. We spread word to our wharf and our fishermen. And Dwayne is the president of the Northumberland Co-op which includes five other wharves, and he has a lot of friends and knows people who lost children that are fishermen at the Caribou wharf, and then Nick was friends with so many people … It kind of snowballed.”
The tree — complete with lights and buoys — will remain standing and lit until the new year.
The Falconers have also decided to start a bursary in Nick’s name at Northumberland Regional High School.
“People were wanting to give us money towards the Christmas lights and I really didn’t want it but we decided that if people wanted to give that a bursary was just another way to keep his memory alive,” says Catherine. “We were given money by friends and family when he passed away and I’m using that to start the bursary.”