Posted by: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic | July 25, 2013

Celebrate 75 Years! Canada’s Oldest Saltbank Schooner, Theresa E. Connor

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This year we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of our flagship, Theresa E. Connor, retired saltbank schooner.  Launched on December 14, 1938, from the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg, this vessel fished the banks of Newfoundland and Labrador until the mid-1960s.  In 1967, as Lunenburg’s Centennial of Confederation project, Theresa E. Connor was unveiled as the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum later to become an integral part of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic complex we know today.

This saltbank schooner remains a vital link to our heritage because it is representative of thousands of two-masted fishing schooners that worked along the Atlantic coast of Canada and the United States.  In turn, crew life aboard speaks to the lives of hundreds of thousands of fishermen who earned their livelihood fishing from dories in the great North Atlantic.

Built with an engine, unlike the strictly canvas predecessors, Theresa E. Connor fished year round. Carrying 12 dories and a crew of 28 men, fish were caught with baited trawl, and men brought the catch back to the mother schooner in dories. During spring and summer trips, the fish, mostly cod, were cleaned and then preserved in salt in the hold of the vessel.  The winter trips were for fresh fish.  These trips were much shorter, keeping the fish frozen on ice.

As a mix between an old-time schooner and a modern trawler, some might say that Theresa E. Connor was the solution to a fishing problem of the day, promising better quality fish, and the ability to employ more men. Others would argue that Theresa E. Connor was obsolete before its time, being launched in the age of steel trawlers. She certainly appeared out of place fishing alongside those trawlers, hauling their catch aboard vessels in huge nets, but she held her own, successfully completing a 25 year fishing career.

The fishing history of Theresa E. Connor ended on a bittersweet note. In May, 1963, Capt. Harry Oxner prepared the schooner for one final trip to the Banks.  With a few Lunenburg-area fishermen, he set sail for Fortune Bay, Nfld, to get the remainder of his crew.   Unfortunately, the steady march of progress and technology made it impossible for him to get additional crew members for the last salt fishing trip. No one was willing to undertake the danger and hard work of dory fishing, when they had the chance to earn their keep on modern trawlers.  Although the work was still hard and dangerous, they did not risk the danger of being lost in a dory.

Theresa E. Connor continued to fish, in a reduced capacity, for Zwicker and Company in Lunenburg until 1966.  The vessel was then sold to the Lunenburg Marine Museum Society, as a legacy gift to the town to celebrate Canada’s Centennial.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of visitors have been welcomed aboard the schooner by retired fishing captains who share their stories and work to keep this way of life as more than a distant memory for new generations.

Theresa E. Connor, a fixture on Lunenburg’s historic waterfront, is turning 75 this year, and remains in pristine condition.  With a new foremast stepped in last week, Theresa E. Connor has been restored to her former glory.

On Saturday July 27, and Sunday July 28 as a part of the Lunenburg Wooden Boat Reunion, we will be honouring Theresa E. Connor’s 75th Anniversary with a celebration on board! Enjoy the music, have a special tour of the vessel and stay for a mug-up!

We hope to see you there!

 

Ashlee Feener

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Responses

  1. Amazing boat history. I admire the craftmanship of the boat considering that it was built 3/4 of a century ago and it is still floating despite the many challenges that it endured before. Goes to show how durable old boats are and how excellent their craft masters and builders were.


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