NEW HARBOR — The photo captured a moment in time, but the players in that shutter-click instant probably had no idea that what they were doing would soon fade into history.
The May issue of The Working Waterfront featured one of the photographs from National Fisherman’s archives. Those photo archives were recently donated to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, and to mark the passage, the museum gathered some of the images for an exhibit at the Camden Public Library.
We hoped to print several of the photos, but space got tight, so we went with the one that included faces, fish and boats. (To view a nine-photo slideshow, see our website, workingwaterfront.com, and use the search terms “National Fisherman archives.”) The museum archivists had little in the way of caption information, so we asked readers to help out—and they did.
Three calls came through one morning, all from New Harbor.
Lynne Blank was very familiar with the photo. In fact, she could identify each of the men in the boat. From left, are: Caleb McLain, Levi Hupper, Donald Reilly, Lee Reilly and Harold “Biscuits” McFarland.
“I have the picture on the wall in my garage,” Blank said, and when her husband was reading The Working Waterfront and saw the same photo, he called her attention to it.
“I knew all these guys,” she said “Every one of them.” The photo was shot in June 1962 in Greenland Cove in New Harbor. The photograph was included in a recent pamphlet by Wendy Pieh of Bremen when she was running for the Legislature, which is the version Blank has hanging in her garage.
Linda Sicott, also of New Harbor, called to indentify her late father, “Biscuits” McFarland, as he was known. McFarland died in 1987, she said.
The haul of sardines—Atlantic herring—brought in 600 bushels, Blank said, which fetched $1.10 per bushel.
The process is known as “stop-seining,” explained Philip Conkling, Island Institute founder and president. A cove would be blocked off with a purse seine net across its mouth. The fish are trapped as they move in during the evening.
“It’s like a mobile weir,” he said, the fence-like nets that were once seen in many Maine coves.
The net would be hauled by hand, as seen in the photograph, aboard a dory, or a sardine carrier would maneuver near the net and pump the fish into its hold. A pipe is visible on top of the pilot house on the carrier in the photo and bags of salt are on the deck, ready for use.
This method of landing herring ended in the 1980s, Conkling said.
VOICE FROM THE PAST
All of this was interesting enough, but the photograph took on new meaning when one of the faces became a voice on the phone: Don Reilly of New Harbor, the man seen in the center of the group in the dory, hauling for all he is worth, called.
He remembers starting work in the cove in May, and “We were all done by the 18th of June.” Reilly, 85, has a copy of the photo. He said the photographer lived in nearby Bremen.
Reilly’s cousin, Lee, bent over to Don’s left, is the only other man in the photo believed to still be alive. Lee has operated a boat in Lousiana, then in Florida, Don’s son Neil said in a later phone call.
Caleb McLain died tragically in October 1973, several callers reported, when the fishing boat he was on apparently was struck by a ship off Monhegan Island. The boat, the Terry & Vicky, was never found.
The sardine carrier in the background, the Muriel, has a storied past of its own. Don Lord of Stonington called to tell us it was built in 1917 for the North Lubec Canning Company. Subsequent web research revealed it was built by Goudy & Stevens in Boothbay.
Lord’s father, Morton Lord, can be seen standing on the stern of the carrier near the dory filled with baskets. Lord’s brother, Paul, is seated. Don used to work on the boat as well.
Lord said a spin-off industry in the herring fishery came through the fish’s scales. Scale factories operated in North Lubec and Eastport in the 1940s, he said. A device would remove the scales by churning the fish, and the resulting material was used to create “pearl essence” which gave the iridescence to fingernail polish, combs, pen cases and even automobile paint, Lord said.
The 71-foot long, steel-hulled Muriel was retrofitted as the Amoretto by Joe Upton. In 1985, it was stolen and sunk off Owls Head.
The last piece of the picture came through email. Dorothy Davis wrote that the man standing in the dory near the carrier is Forrest Davis of Port Clyde. He apparently had a carrier called the Fannie H.
We’re grateful to have readers with such sharp eyes (and memories).