Anniversary of Saint John Pilot Boat sinking remembered
A solemn ceremony held Sunday in Saint John marked the 62nd anniversary of a Saint John Pilot Boat sinking in the Bay of Fundy.
One by one, seven candles were lit at the memorial service. Each candle in memory of one of the seven men who lost their lives in the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy nearly 62 years ago.
Bill Murray was just eight-years-old on January 14th, 1957, but says he remembers that morning as a bitterly cold day.
“We looked over the Bay of Fundy that day, and the water vapour was literally rising 300 feet, and the Arctic mist is quite a phenomenon,” says Murray.
Murray’s father was one of the seven men aboard Saint John Pilot Boat one, which was stationed in that thick sea smoke.
Just after 7:00 a.m., the boat was struck by the Fort Avalon, splitting it in two.
All seven men on the boat died, sending shockwaves through the city of Saint John and beyond.
“Children lost their fathers and wives lost their husbands. So to recover from that was just outstanding, what the people went through and how they recovered,” says Donald Duffy, co-author of a book on pilotage in Saint John.
“My mother was cousins with one of the pilots who passed away, his wife, and she told me when it happened that the whole city was just in gloom,” remembers Captain Denis Barry, of the Saint John Marine Pilots.
The Stella Maris Church was packed for Sunday’s ceremony. The annual memorial service was first held in 2007, marking the 50th anniversary of the disaster and has been held every year since.
Each of the candles were lit by family members of the seven men who died in the boat crash, a stark reminder that the devastation of this tragedy is still being felt to this day.
Captain Barry says as a harbour pilot, he and his colleagues have never forgotten what happened that terrible day.
“We’re climbing off a boat, up a rope ladder onto a ship, sometimes in thick fog, sometimes arctic vapour, sometimes it’s -30 degrees, so you never forget the past,” explains Captain Barry. “Just to honour the memory of the men and their families, that’s something we want to carry forward.”
A tragic chapter in Saint John history that won’t be forgotten, especially as the candles burn.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Lyall.