Preserving The Heritage

Forming a maritime heritage society

Just below this commentary is a piece published here over eight years ago about the crying need to promote and preserve the maritime heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sad to say, nothing much has happened since then to improve this situation.

A suggestion at that time was the formation of a maritime heritage society for this province — a group for anyone interested in our marine history to enjoy and explore that interest to their heart’s content. We have organizations dedicated to almost every other important activity in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, but nothing specific to the activities of the boats, ships and sailors that helped create our maritime culture by virtually sustaining human life along these coasts for centuries.

You are reading this page now, so you must have some interest in our maritime heritage. Would you like to join a society that feeds that interest of yours, adding to it through pictures and words, and helping you explore it further?

Eastwaters has recently undergone a change, part of which is to encourage everyone with this interest to collectively preserve and promote this province’s maritime heritage. Let’s start by getting opinions. Join the Forum by clicking here, or e-mail us with your thoughts about a maritime historical society for Newfoundland & Labrador. Our email address is


When this website was conceived back in 1998, the idea arose from discovering the wealth of fascinating marine lore that exists about Newfoundland and Labrador. It is disappointing, however, to see how this wonderful resource is sailing rudderless in a sea of confusion.

There is no shortage of enthusiasm, particularly about the province’s maritime heritage. The problem is, it is fragmented. People and institutions are doing their own things within their own sphere of interest but, it seems, in isolation. There is no co-ordinating body of government, or educators, or volunteers pulling all the individual efforts together, encouraging them, promoting their work, helping avoid duplication, steering them in useful directions and, most basic of all, simply ensuring this priceless heritage is preserved.

After preservation follows the equally important job of interpreting it as part of this province’s culture. We do it for historical buildings, places and events. We do it for archaeological sites. We do it for wildlife and the environment. We are now doing it for geology. Why can’t we do it for the maritime heritage that is such an intrinsic part of life here?

An example of one who is doing an incredible job researching and documenting Newfoundland schooners is Bob Halliday (click here to read more). With quiet determination and no fanfare, Halliday has amassed a wealth of information and painstaking detail about not just the schooners but the culture that depended upon them. He has been doing this for years as a hobby, entirely at his own expense. His work now has reached a point where it needs to be organized and documented for the historical record.

How many other Bob Hallidays there are out there doing; things that we, the public, would support but know nothing about because no one is co-ordinating and promoting their work? It is time for marine enthusiasts to put their heads together and see what can be done. Do we need some sort of marine heritage society, for example, or should we be pressuring a public institution to address the issue?

What is your opinion? Write us at: Following is one reader’s reply from 2001 to the above comments:

Dear Eastwaters:

Having just stumbled upon your site I sent a short note through your guestbook. After this I read further into your Food for Thought section and found the topic profoundly comparable to my own thoughts, as per the present status of Newfoundland’s documentation and representation of its rich maritime history.

I am presently residing in Spain and work in the yachting industry as a captain. I was raised in Brooklyn, Bonavista Bay. My family history is heavily rooted in the fishing industry. My grandfather was a shipbuilder and was ship’s carpenter aboard the Norma and Gladys, which to my knowledge I believe was the final attempt at preserving one of Newfoundland’s last traditional schooners.

Since leaving Newfoundland I have been sailing on various types of vessels but still maintain a keen interest in traditional schooners. For the past six years I have been gathering information and experience which I hope will assist me in my endeavour to build a traditional schooner which will sail the coastal waters of Newfoundland, revive some of Newfoundland’s history, and create a means of gaining Newfoundland international recognition for the seamanship and sailing abilities of her sons and daughters.

To date, I am fully aware of Newfoundland’s lack of organization pertaining to the preservation of its maritime history. From my point of view, such preservation could be instilled by the relevant government ministries, but this is not the case. I feel one solution could be establishing and developing a traditional Newfoundland schooner trust. This would be a non-profit organization to preserve and maintain Newfoundland maritime history. Presently, I am in the logistical stages of building such a schooner, where I have chosen a hull design and I am purchasing the necessary lumber and materials.

Your magazine is like a breath of fresh air. It shows me that there are many like minded individuals in Newfoundland who recognize Newfoundland’s diminishing maritime heritage and the urgency to revive it.

Any opinions or views would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to future correspondence.

Kind regards.

Capt. Kenny Douglas Ash (email: