Friday, August 29, 2008


by Bob Halliday

Below: "Tern" schooner Florence Swyers, 182 gross tons, built 1918 by Harry Swyers at Charlottetown, Bonavista Bay.

As fishing has been the lifeblood of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador, schooners were the mainstay of the fishery up to the mid-1900s. The role of these picturesque vessels, and their evolution in design, construction and use is a fascinating study. Bob Halliday tells that story in the pages that follow. Click on the links at left in sequence or individually to learn more about Newfoundland's Schooner Heritage. Additional content will be added as it becomes available.

Harry & Jennie, 50 gross tons, built 1935 at Musgrave Harbour.

(Photo courtesy Musgrave Harbour Museum)

They were beautiful, sturdy and very good at what they did. But the study of Newfoundland schooners goes well beyond an interest in traditional fishing vessels. An examination of the topic leads to an ever-enlightening discovery of many aspects of life in the traditional Newfoundland setting.

For example, the origin of schooner design traces a line to our European ancestry, and the changes and innovations over time reflect technological influences from Newfoundland's North American neighbours.

Schooner Crystal Stream nearing completion at Summerville.

(Photo courtesy Mrs. Lilly Hancock)

The building of Newfoundland schooners describes the community structure and tells of the hardships endured by a people whose survival depended more on ingenuity and intelligence than on academics.

The fishing activity of these vessels reveals details of the economic endeavours of individuals, families and communities in a struggling British colony. Also, the larger schooners designed and constructed for foreign trade highlight political challenges and changes in the coming of age of a society.

This is a study of history, heritage and culture.

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