Hector Heritage Quay

Historic Waterfront District

Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

September 6, 2001

Our next stop was along the northern coast of Nova Scotia to the picturesque town of Pictou. We have found few towns that have a more defined, or recorded history. As the tale is told, all that lay around us was the result of a decision made by one John Pagan, who just prior to 1773, had received a land grand in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, an undeveloped land inhabited by Indians. In order to make this land prosper and thus increase his own coffers, John took a bold step. He placed an advertisement in an Edinburgh paper announcing, free passage and free land plus one years worth of supplies for any Scotsman willing to immigrate to the new land. It was a hard time in Scotland, and only the English Nobles owned land, so the list of volunteers grew rapidly. They were an odd lot, mostly poor, men, women and children, families, bachelors, and spinsters. Just under two hundred of them, all told. To get to the new world with as little expense as was necessary, Pagan hired the services of a broken down old cargo ship, the "Hector". Designed and intended to carry stock, it had no facilities for a human cargo, and none would be forthcoming. Still the brave band of adventurers, narrowed down to 187 were loaded into the ship's hold which measured no more then 85 feet by 22 feet, and on a July morning of 1773, The good ship Hector left Lock Broom in the western highlands of Scotland, setting sail for the New World. It was a grueling trek to say the least. Within days, a gale blew the little ship so far off course that it would take weeks to recover the lost distance, then smallpox hit the passengers, leaving 18 dead in its wake. Food began to run short and water was rationed. Had it not been for the single piper who was aboard, spirits would have been dashed. Finally the long overdue arrival to the new land occurred on September 15 of 1733, some two months after their departure. With winter hard upon them, they dug in and begin a new life. Although the hardships were considerable, these people had never tasted the freedoms afforded them nor the ownership of land, so precious to their very existence. In time the winter would pass and the growing season would come. Soon word would get back to the old country and more ships would be leased and the immigration to the new world and Nova Scotia would become a steady stream. With the proud heritage, and formal arrival to the new land, became a celebrated part of the town's history, as early as 1923. On September 15th, re-enactors would row ashore in a long boat to commemorate the landing. Such activities always generated talk about re-creating the Hector herself. The idea was a good one but the project was massive. It would have to be authentic of course, built in the old time tradition wherever possible, and where could you find the craftsmen needed for such an undertaking. For years, the idea grew in popularity until in 1990, armed with an infusion of funds, and some of the finest antique ship builders to be had, the keel of the Hector was laid. Supporting this was the "Hector Heritage Quay", a museum complex and construction wharf that would be the workshop for years to come, for the good ship Hector would not be built in a day. Progress by design was slow, with each piece meticulously placed according to the original plans. Huge crowds gathered each time a definable point was reached in construction. Mini-celebrations were continuous and then on September 15, 2000, the ship slid down the pole ramp and splashed into the water, a floating replica of the ship that started it all. Still there was much to be done. The masts would have to be stepped and this would take another year. This year on, you guessed it, September 15, the masts will be set in place and the ship's rigging will began. We walked among the craftsmen and talked with them as they steamed and wrapped ash strips around the three large masts laying on the wharf in preparation to the coming stepping. There is a carpentry shop and a blacksmith shop set up on the Quay. Everything that can be made for the ship is made right there in front of all the spectators. One room holds the rigging which is being wound by hand. In the corner, a carver, Keith Matheson, diligently works on the figurehead and other figurines that will adorn the ship. We found out that Keith's ancestors came over on the Hector. The construction which will be taken up by the rigging and the making of the sails will go on for several more years before the ship is actually ready to sail in 2003. During the winter months she lay dormant as much of the work is done outdoors, then in the spring, the workers return and the adventure continues. It is quite a piece of art. A marvel of engineering and planning, to have been done by the little town of Pictou and its hardy inhabitants.

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!