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Seniors in Profile: Francis Patey recreates St. Anthony harbour


ST. ANTHONY, NL – Down in his basement, Francis Patey sits at his work station.

To his left is the beginning of a model of E. Strangemore Ltd’s wharf.

To his right sits a model of St. Anthony harbour itself, as it was many years ago in the days of the A.H. Murray and Company Ltd wharf.

Back in May, the Northern Pen reported that Patey, 82, had constructed a model of the old A.H. Murray wharf, which opened in St. Anthony in 1935 and closed in 1969.

Patey has substantially expanded his project since then, crafting a backboard depicting buildings from St. Anthony’s historic past.

Featured on the western side of the harbour, across from the A.H. Murray wharf, are buildings such as the clock tower, power plant, Grenfell house and hospital.

The backdrop features “Old Man’s Neck,” where fishermen’s wharves are peppered along the shore.

In the harbour, there are schooners, longliners, steam ships, paddle boats and more.

The A.H. Murray wharf itself is now populated with men, hard at work.

This St. Anthony of olden days is shown by Patey to be a hotbed of activity.

Patey hopes someday to find a place where his model will be put on display.

For now, it stays in its basement and there’s still work to be done.

Grenfell Mission and A.H. Murray wharf

Talking to the Northern Pen, Patey draws a connection between the Grenfell Mission on one side of the harbour and the A.H. Murray wharf on the other.

In June, he explains, schooners would enter St. Anthony harbour from all over the island on their way to Labrador to fish cod.

But according to Patey, the first thing they’d do is go up on the Grenfell dock and paint and repair their vessels.

Then they’d cross the harbour, load up full of salt and head out.

Patey can also remember years ago when there were no roads around St. Anthony.

Even after there were roads, there were almost no vehicles because most locals couldn’t afford them.

Boats were still an important means of travel within St. Anthony.

Patey explains that if anyone wanted to go to the hospital, which was (and is today) on the west side, the shortest distance across St. Anthony harbour was from A.H. Murray’s wharf to the Grenfell Mission wharf.

“A couple days before I was born even, my father took my mother from here (A.H. Murray wharf) to here (Grenfell Mission wharf) in a row boat,” he explained.

The same was true if you wanted to go to the co-op or anywhere else on the west side.

Adding the E. Strangemore wharf

Patey isn’t quite finished with his project yet.

He intends to add the E. Strangemore wharf to the model.

At that wharf, Patey has plenty of memories.

He can recall drying codfish for the fishermen when he was around 12 to 14 years old.

On the weekend and after school, he says, students would make a little bit of money by going down and packing fish.

The fish was put aboard a schooner and shipped out from St. Anthony.

Looking at the model Patey has constructed, it’s now easy to imagine what it all looked like.


RELATED STORY: Rebuilding an historic wharf

 

The Northern Pen’s recurring feature looks at the lives of seniors along the Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador. If you know a local senior with an interesting story to tell, email or call the Northern Pen.

 

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

 

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