The replica of the Hector has been
drawing tourists to Pictou
The Hector's a go: How about the Marco
by Fred Hazel
They've been having
"a good season" at the Pictou, N. S., Hector Heritage Quay, which winds down
its tourism business this month. When I visited there in mid August, there
seemed to be plenty of strollers along the sun-splashed waterfront, brisk
business in the restaurants and bars and steady groups of visitors to the
three-storey Heritage Museum.
Centerpiece is the striking
"Hector" itself, a 110-foot long replica of the sailing ship which brought the
first wave of Scottish settlers to the area in 1773. The determination behind
this remarkable reconstruction project mirrors that of those hardy Scottish
emigrants who made the three-month Atlantic crossing to settle in the Pictou
They started the ambitious reconstruction in 1990,
under a unique program sparked by the Pictou Waterfront Development
Corporation, which succeeded in drawing federal, provincial and wide-scale
corporate support for the ship Hector foundation.
year, it was named winner of the Nova Scotia Provincial Tourism Attractions
And last month, they erected its massive masts,
towering 48 feet above the deck. It's an ongoing project.
For $4 (seniors' rate), Saint John's Fraser Campbell and I were able to tour
the sprawling complex, which includes a working boatyard, carpenter shop and
blacksmith forge - and of course a gift shop - on the ground
Upstairs in the neat wooden interpretive centre,
you walk through diorama and full-size displays, taking you through a dazzling
parade of Scottish history - from the 1746 Battle of Culloden to the 1773
voyage of the Hector, when Captain John Spiers brought 189 Scottish settlers to
the New World.
The third floor of the interpretive centre
outlines the construction of what is, described as a Dutch-designed "Boot
Ship," with its distinctive pear-shaped flat ends. Then you're down an outside
stairway to board the Hector itself.
Moored at dockside
and boarded by a short gangway, this strikes me as an impressive piece of
historical reconstruction. I measure out about seven strides across the planked
deck and 27 strides from end to end. There's an ornate boxed-in cabin at the
stern, and a grated hatch leads to the hold, where most of the passengers would
Seems like an incredibly tough way to
have crossed the Atlantic, in a 12-week voyage. But that's the way those hearty
Scottish - and our own Irish - did it in those days. The Hector's authentic,
and that's why the reconstruction is significant, both as a tourist attraction
and as a visible reminder to today's generations of the determination of their
They have a good setting. Across from the
Hector heritage Quay is the Visitors' Marina on Caladh Avenue with its 30 boat
moorings, the Pictou County Weekend market, with its foods and crafts, the
modern deCoste Entertainment Centre theatre facility, and a host of eateries
where diners and drinkers survey the scene from the decks of such lively places
as Relic's pub and the Salt Water Cafe.
We had an elegant
fish dinner at Fougere's Restaurant, run by Giovanna Sieber and Ian Urquhart,
overlooking Pictou Harbour. Then it was off to explore other attractions in the
New Glasgow, Pictou, Stellarton, Trenton and Westville communities, which
comprise this tight-knit district.
The area boasts a
surprising number of attractions: The nifty hands-on Museum of Industry in
Stellarton; the corporate headquarters of grocery giant Sobeys; the Albion
Shaft and Westray Mine Memorials; the sports heritage Hall of Fame at Trenton,
plus attractive parks and beaches.
Back to the Hector. The
set-up there, with its interpretive centre and ship replica, calls to mind the
Mayflower display that draws thousands of tourists to Plymouth,
And the question has to be asked: What about the
Marco Polo? Built in Saint John in 185 1, this famous clipper earned its
reputation as "the fastest ship in the world."
schoolteacher Barry Ogden, who has been promoting a reconstruction, now says:
"I sense in the community it's time to start. We've had a coin, a stamp, a film
and a novel about the Marco Polo - in fact the latest is that big mural on the
Pittsburgh Paint Building done by Rothesay High students.
"What we need now is a way to make it viable and tangible, maybe start it one
piece at a time. I'm encouraged by the new waterfront development plan. We just
need to get a piece of land and involve the community. When you empower people
they can make things happen. "
full-size replica of the Marco Polo floating on Saint John's waterfront in a
few years' time? Why not? It worked for the Hector.
Fred Hazel is a former
editor-in-chief of this newspaper who writes a weekly column for the Times
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