Cardigan celebrates shipbuilding heritage

Steve Sharratt
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Jakob MacEwen, left, Lily Ann Creighan and Damian Shepard pose on the new hull display in Cardigan.

CARDIGAN — Cordelia Allie was a woman much loved.

At least in the eyes of John Mucklejohn.

The young man was so enamoured he jumped off a ship about 150 years ago in Cardigan Bay to be with her.

His shipbuilding father and brothers were leaving Prince Edward Island for a new life in New Zealand. But young John was smitten with Cordelia and didn’t want to go.

So in the middle of the night he dove into the cold waters and swam in the darkness towards land.

“That’s how the story goes,’’ says Len Matheson, a descendant of the Mucklejohn family who came all the way from New Zealand to join in the celebration here Saturday to honour the original shipbuilding families of this tiny village.

“I didn’t want to miss this event.”

The Cardigan Heritage Centre was the site of the unveiling of a schooner hull built by Joe McAskill of Charlottetown, who was commissioned by the Cardigan Area Heritage Association to build a half-scale replica of the famous Victory Chimes. The model frame was unveiled Saturday during Heritage Day as part of a 2014 funding project.

“Our legacy here in Cardigan is shipbuilding, which spanned a hundred years,” said Nora MacDonald of the association. “We want to pay tribute to all the shipwrights, the captains and the tradesmen.”

The event gathered descendants of more than a dozen families who were hands-on involved in the shipbuilding industry here during the 1850s to 1880s. The busiest site in the village was the Owen shipyard and the James E. Macdonald shipyard across the river.

Dr. Ed MacDonald of UPEI, and a native son, said shipbuilding was the backbone of commerce for the village of Cardigan during that 20-year heyday. The replica hull is on display in the village throughout the summer as part of the heritage work of the association.

And whatever happened to young Mucklejohn?

Len Matheson, heading on to a clan gathering in Scotland, said the loving couple, with two children, left P.E.I. three years later and sailed to New Zealand.

Organizations: Cardigan Heritage Centre, Cardigan Area Heritage Association

Geographic location: New Zealand, Prince Edward Island, Cardigan Bay Charlottetown Scotland

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