Article from "The Wanderer"
Written by Captain Harry C. Morrison, Englishtown
Torquil MacLean was my grandfather.  He was born at Wreck
Cove, Victoria 
County, in 1840.  He died at his home in Englishtown,
December 28th, 192181 
years of age.  He spent most of his early years as a
sailor.  His early 
years were on foreign ships and square riggers.  But most
of his life he 
operated the ferry between Englishtown and Jersey Cove. 
Torquil was married 
to Sarah MacLean from Middle River around 1875.  They lived
in Englishtown 
on a small farm and grew most of their own food.  There
were eleven in their 
family: six boys and five girls.  Torquil was short of
stature but built 
like a wrestler and strong as an ox.   He always wore a
heavy beard which 
made him look cross, but he was a good natured man, and had
a heart of gold. 
  He saw perhaps more than his share of suffering: His
brother cut himself 
in the woods and bled to death on Torquil's back as Torquil
carried him out; 
he lost one son, a lad of 19, in a coal mine in New
Waterford, and he lost 
another in a mine in Alberta; and one son went off after
returning from 
World War I, and was never heard of again. Yet Torquil
remained a strong and 
reliable ferryman whose home was always open to the
traveler in the storma 
job of low pay, and occasionally thankless.  During his
first years at the 
ferry, Torquil used a large row boat, as most of the
traffic was on foot.  
Sometimes the odd horse and sulky ( a two-wheeled carriage
) was ferried.  
The sulky would be taken on board the rowboat and the horse
would swim 
behind, a long rope attached to his halter and tied to the
stern or held by 
the passenger.  When they reached the other side, Torquil
often had to haul 
this large boat by himself.  He did not mind getting wet or
going up to his 
waist in the water.  He always wore heavy pantssummer and
leather boots that reached to his knees.  I often saw him
take his boots off 
after a ferry trip.   He'd empty them out, wring out his
woolen socks, put 
them back on and be ready for the next trip.  As traffic
was increasing, 
Torquil had to have a larger boat.. Well, there was only
one place he knew 
of to have one built, and that was at Wreck Cove where he
was born.  He knew 
he could get just the kind of boat he wanted built there by
two able 
Scotchmen and God-fearing men named Kenneth Morrison and
Alex Morrison.  
This boat was about twenty feet long and nine feet wide. 
It had a flat 
bottom and two thwarts in the bow to form seats for the two
rowing the oars 
or sweeps (which were fourteen feet long).  The bow was
sharp and the stern 
was square.  The boat was capable of carrying two horses
and one carriage at 
a time.  Sometimes Torquil had to row it himself.  As the
children grew, one 
of them would lend a hand.  This boat was known as the Old
Scow.  I believe 
Torquil had to pay for it himself.  And I think he got a
small subsidy from 
the government.  The fare was twenty cents for horse and
carriage, five 
cents for passengers.  The Old Scow had a launch-way made
of poles and a 
capstan was used to pull it out of the water.  The capstan
consisted of a 
heavy piece of log about six feet long with four holes
bored into it about 
two feet from the top.  Poles were inserted into these
holes.  A long piece 
of rope ran from the bow of the bow to the log post, and
one or more men 
would grip the poles and walk in a circle, wrapping the
rope around the log 
and drawing the Scow up the launch-way a few inches with
each turn.  When 
the tide was low, this was a long slow process but the boat
had to be hauled 
above high water mark.  And when a storm was threatening it
had to be hauled 
right up to the bank.  Torquil had several smaller rowboats
built on the 
North Shore by Kenneth Morrison and his son Sandy Kenny. 
These rowboats 
were used for passengers and mail during the Winter, after
the Harbour had 
frozen.  During 1919 and 1920 the rural mail came to
Englishtown from 
Baddeck at midnight.  It was sorted at the Englishtown Post
Office, then 
taken to the ferry on a two-wheeled carriage or rickshaw. 
There would only 
be one or two bags.  They were rowed across and transferred
to a horse and 
carriage for the ride to Wreck Cove. The Old Scow was
hauled and turned 
bottom-up to dry out, and the ice itself was used to
transport teams.  The 
crossing was tested by some reliable person and if a good
report was given, 
the way was marked from the Englishtown shore to Raymond's
Beach with about 
125 seven-foot spruce trees.  I used to help my father
"Bush the Ice".  Ice 
bushing gave the traveler a safe crossing in a snowstorm. 
He ha only to 
keep between the two rows of trees.  I have heard of horses
and sleds 
driving into open water and the horses drowning, but the
drivers somehow 
always managed to reach shore.  In early March Torquil
would start to repair 
the Old Scow.  There was no paint used n this type of boat.
 He would wait 
for a clear sunny day.  A fire would be built of driftwood
and a tar pot 
containing a goodly amount of pitch for hardener would be
held by a crane 
over the fire.  The crane would permit the tar pot to swing
clear of the 
fire.  Sometimes the tar would boil over and there would be
a rush for the 
wet burlap that was always kept on hand.  The hot tar was
applied to the 
bottom of the Scow with a tar mop on a four-foot stick. 
The job took about 
three hours, and before th tar set a fine sprinkling of
sand helped toughen 
the tar.  Then the Scow would be turned right side up and
the sheathing 
removed from the inside.  The sheathing was one inch boards
that made the 
Old Scow sturdier and protected the planks from the steel
horseshoes.  Loose 
tar and sand was removed, a coat of tar was applied and the
sheathing was 
put back.  New oars and sets of thole pins were made.  When
cars began to be 
ferried, two sets of planks were used, two inches by ten
inches by fourteen 
feet long.  One set was placed on board the Scow, one end
on the forward 
thwart and the other on the stern thwart, set wide enough
apart for the 
car-wheels.  The other set was used for loading and
unloading, and were set 
from the stern to the beach.  I don't remember Torquil
being sick until the 
time of his death.  A few days before he died he came to
our house and gave 
all the Morrisons a 25 cent paper bill (currency used at
that time).  I 
believe he gave my mother five dollars.  On December 28th
he made his last 
ferry crossing.  In the early afternoon he told Grandmaw he
was going to lie 
down for a spell, and retired to his rom just off the
kitchen.   He 
stretched upon the bed with his clothes on, as he very
often did.  A short 
time later he complained of heavy chest pains, and after a
few hours of 
severe suffering he passed away.  He is buried the
Englishtown Cemetery, the 
land for which he donated.  It overlooks the ferry
crossing.  My Uncle Allan 
MacLean took over the ferry in 1921.  In1920 he had
purchased a four 
horsepower motor launch to tow the Old Scow.  This required
another hand so 
my brother Neil was hired.  He received twenty-five dollars
a moth and 
stayed at the ferry almost two years.  The first government
ferry and ferry 
wharfs were built in that summer of 1921.  Two wharfs were
built on each 
side, one for high tide and the other for a low tide
landing.  The ferry 
boat was built at Bay St. Lawrence by a Fitzgerald.  She
was about 
thirty-five feet long and eleven feet wide, with a square
stern.  She was 
equipped with a double cylinder twelve horsepower Acadia
motor and a reverse 
gear.  She was paid for by the Provincial Government and
she was able to 
carry one car.  She was used from 1921 to 1936 and replaced
by one built by 
Best and Hussy at Ingonish, a boat that carried two to
three cars (three if 
they were small).  In 1952, the Highland Lass took over;
she was built in 
North Sydney.  And when the Seal Island Bridge opened, the
present ferry, 
the Gordon S. Harrington, came to Englishtown from New

Jo-Anne M. Wood, CPA
Utah Valley State College

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