There are the Liturgical calendars with their great feast days that we enthusiastically celebrate, and there are the calendars of the Land and the Sea, which are also a part of our Heritage. For me, the Opening of the Lobster Season is the crowning event of my Secular Calendar!
Every year, and just once a year, my great friend Trevor and I get together and indulge in a spectacular lobster celebration. With a very fine white wine and a side dish of potato salad and cucumber slices, we take apart these great crustaceans and, with cries of epicurean joy, feast on the delicious flesh.
Lobsters played an important role in Island history – and still do! At first, well into the Nineteenth Century, they were so plentiful that when they washed up on the shore after a storm, in the absence of imported lime, they were gathered and spread on the fields to sweeten them. As a boy I remember walking the ploughed fields in my bare feet and seeing vast numbers of lobster and clam shells worked into the ground by the horse-drawn plough.
With the invention of the canning process lobsters became a delicacy that could be shipped out all over North America. The fisheries developed special lobster and canning factories and this provided much-needed local employment. My grandfather was a fisherman all his life and my mother, no more than a child, was taken out of school and sent to work at the fish factory at Tignish Harbour and the one that Clarence Morrissey had at the Black Marsh.
Innumerable tins of canned lobster meat were shipped out of Tignish over the years. The Myricks, an American family that owned and controlled everything at Tignish Shore, even the people, capitalised on this for a hundred years.
Their early labels, of which a few survive, were gorgeous to look at.
Later, in the 1950s, when the Myrick empire collapsed, a local man, Jerry Buote, bought what was left of it, and for a few years, tried to make a go of it. But gone were the gorgeous labels.
LONG LIVE THE LOBSTER!!!!!
(Photos from the Tignish Arts Foundation Collection – see manuscript on right.)