A Northport Kitchen Table Interview

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Tape transcribed by Faye Pound - fayepound@hotmail.com

“A Northport Kitchen Table Interview: Reg MacLellan and Wilf Gaudin on Alberton and Rumrunning Times”

Transcribed from tape by Faye Pound

It is a wonderful thing to work in a store if you like to meet people. Two summers ago I was working at the Summerside Fishmart and got a visit from Reg MacLellan who lives on Convent Street in Summerside. He taped an interview of an older gentleman up near Alberton in the summer of 1987. He assured me I would find it entertaining and loaned it to me. I soon realized how nice a piece it would be for other people to read.

What follows is a lightly edited version of a visit between Wilf Gaudin, a fisherman who was also a keeper of the Alberton Lighthouse and Reg. They are talking about rumrunning days and old times. It’s just a pity you can’t hear the laughing and wonderful Acadian accent of Mr. Gaudin. Thanks Reg.

Reg: It’s July 1987. We went to Everett’s funeral this morning. There was a big turnout for it. I talked to Wilf the other night and we had a little chitchat and we agreed to get it down on tape. I’m sitting in Wilf’s kitchen down at the ‘Wharf’. I’ve known Wilf since I came to Alberton and that was about 1937. I grew up a lot with his children and knew them for years. I'd like to branch off on two different things on this interview; we'll go back in Wilf's history and also later on with George Mc/MacBeath.
Reg: How old are you Wilf?
Wilf: 84 years old. No, (laughing) forty – eight years old!
Reg: You’ve turned it around have you? Where were you born?
Wilf: Tignish
Reg: And your father’s name was Paul and your mother? Who was she now?
Wilf: She was Judith Richard.
Reg: And your father was a shoemaker by trade?
Wilf: he made shoes when they were making the big, long, leather shoes. He worked on them and then he came to Alberton about 1910. About 1910 because I figure I was about 8 years old when we came to Alberton. And I couldn’t talk English, oh well some but not very much. I can’t talk French now! (Laugh)
Reg: What was the first thing you remember about Alberton?
Wilf: The first thing I remember was going ‘up street’. We lived at the Green house. You know where Chester Smith lives? That was the Green house. There was a house attached to that and we lived in it. It belonged to old Abby Gaudet. The first thing I remember was going ‘up street’ and meeting Fred Loveitt drunk and I came home and wet myself. I was so scared. (Laughing all round) I can't forget that!
Reg: Did he call you ‘bone-crusher’ like he used to?
Wilf: No, I never knew him but I seen him coming all stooped over and going and half running. That’s the first thing I remember.
Reg: Then later on you moved down here to where I met you - in back of where Larter’s are now. How many was in your family?
Wilf: Alma was the oldest and Catherine was next. Anna Mae was next, I was next, and then Minnie - Marie now - and Claudia and Alyre - Alyre was the youngest. He was drowned.
Reg: That is the chap who drowned skating?
Wilf: Yes.
Reg: So, when did you take to the fishing or water?
Wilf: When I was about 14 years old. When I got through college! (Big laugh) The first fellow I went out with was Joe Gaudet. I fished with Joe. You remember Joe?
Reg: He ran the market later on, right?
Wilf: I fished with him. That was the first time; over on the sandhills (he pronounced it ‘sandals’) Slept on the sandhills. There was a big factory out there. Frank Fraser run a big factory out at the lighthouse sandhills. It belonged to John Agnew. There was a cookhouse there and a sleeping shanty and everything- a big long "raceway" and we fished from there. Joe Gaudet stayed there, too. I can remember a whole string of mackerel barrels, you know, and he was a big man. This Joe Gaudet was a big man. He'd jump into a mackerel barrel and jump from one to the other and out! Just one jump; out of one and into another.
Reg: You had a lot of years here in the ‘big house’ and I remember many a night when I was walking up the road here for the clam chowders and the fish dishes here. (Big laughs at the memory of it.) There were a lot of old-timers then- Bill Oulton, Frank Weeks, Frank McNeill and Hilton Barbour. There would be a stove back there and a hot time¦
Wilf: I remember one time I got home – it was the spring and Bill brought me home. Up comes Frank with this damn feed of lobsters. And Hilton came in and of course we started drinking and eating lobsters. Then we started arguing. He invited him out that time- to come outside! Hilton just laughed at him. (laughing) He was an aggravating man! Him and I got on fine but him and I fought all the time.
I remember the summer I went fishing with old man Hutt - Ainsley Hutt. We worked all summer- no engines- all sails. Oh, lots of times we’d be caught in the doldrums here. We couldn’t move and the fellow would get mad. He’d take his cap off and jump on his cap and curse. Old real old Dutch language. Oh, did he curse! I think we got as high as 10 cents a mackerel. No pounds then, it was all by count.
Reg: What year was that?
Wilf: Early 1920s- 1919 or 1920. We run rum!
Reg: Well tell us about that then?
Wilf: I bought some lobster gear and mackerel nets in the Spring of 1946. I had a little money coming to me from the Army. And then I went with George (MacBeath) again and Fred Loveitt and Alyre. Alyre was with us and we fished mackerel all summer. I don’t remember if I fished lobster that first season but the next 47 seasons I fished lobster and mackerel and then in 1955 I took sick with stones. I was in the hospital all summer.
We rum run!
Reg: Oh, tell us about that then.
Wilf: Well, anyway we went over one time with a small, little lobster boat. Smaller than ones they got today- a hell of a lot smaller- a ‘one-lunger’. We went over to Gaspe looking for a vessel in 1924. Anyway the vessel had been sunk for 2 years and she was in bad shape, so we didn’t take her.
So we came home, and on the way home we met a 3 master loaded with booze so we got what money we had – I had none but others did. We got some booze, oh 4 or 5 kegs of rum and brought them home. I just don’t know what happened to them.
But after that we went over a couple of times, over to Miscou (SP) and brought back booze and sold it. A keg went to Ed McRae and 2 kegs to Ed Wells, no 4 ten-gallon kegs to Ed Wells.
We took them on a Sunday evening- each fella’ with a horse and wagon and a buggy. That’s how we took them over to him. Clarence Morrissey go some and then what was left over went to Summerside.
I remember coming and Austin Mara – remember Austin had a Ford car- and they took a load to Summerside to MacNeill’s, I guess it was. They didn’t come back till the next day and they were both paralyzed drunk yeah, trouble drunk for a week after that. Yeah, that was rumrunning!
Reg: Can you talk to us about the ‘Grayson Lou’?
Wilf: It was May 1930 he (George) bought her. Just after he was born. (Pointed to his son in the kitchen) She was built in Gloucester. Yawl-rigged before the rumrunner got her, yawl-rigged before George got her, before the rumrunners got her and they 2 masts in her and a jib; 3 sails and 2 engines.
So they went on “Rum row’ and they were up to Bay Chaleur (SP) and they got caught. So she was up there for a year, two years I guess. Loggies bought her and then George got her from Loggies.
So we brought her down home here and the next year I think he re-built her. Put all new deck on her and built her from the water line up. And that’s where she parted when she went to pieces – at the water line.
She was all oak see, and the top of her was all Island spruce and hardwood. Anyways, in 1940 she went to pieces. Well I don’t know what made her. She might have stood in the water all right – but when she went aground, the top left the bottom - left the whole thing.
Reg: She had a chain on it. I remember as a kid going down to see it; wasn’t too much left of her. She went ashore right under the Bryden (SP) Smith’s there.
Wilf: That’s right and two engines was in her – one under each tuck. They were in her and all the sails. I had everything up. I stripped her before I enlisted and all that stuff was – like the halyards and the sails – it was all up at George’s place. So he sold all that to Carrigus (SP) a year or so after that.
Reg: I thought you were in the service then?
Wilf: I was – that was in October, yeah. I come home. For what? I forget now. Big business to attend to or something like that!
Reg: So, the vessel, just to back up a bit, the “Grayson Lou” was used quite a bit as I remember it, and perhaps you can fill me in there. It was freighting between here and the Mirimichi, eh? Taking potatoes over, right?
Wilf: O, a lot! Yeah, I remember.
Reg: And there was a drowning at one point in time. Do you wan to talk about that?
Wilf: I’d rather not.
Reg: Okay, then. Right, So that pretty well wraps things up.
Wilf: I think this should be ended, ended right now.
Reg: Well thanks very much Wilf (Gaudin) and we’ll see if Frank has something to say in a couple of minutes.
The end.

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