N.B. village excited over return of 146-year-old figurehead
A unique piece of Maritime history that sailed away from the region 146 years ago is now back where it belongs, thanks to the efforts of a New Brunswick community.
The ship’s figurehead is from the Prince Victor, a ship that was built in St. Martins, N.B. in 1870, and has sailed around the world 12 times.
The figurehead, carved out of white pine, had been in England since the ship sank in a river in 1887. It was recently restored and brought back to the Quaco Museum in St. Martins, where it will eventually be put on public display.
It currently sits in the back room of the museum, inside the massive shipping crate in which it arrived.
“In the restoration process, every bit of rotten wood has to be taken out, sealed and treated,” says Eric Bartlett of the St. Martins Historical Society, who finalized the plans to buy and ship the figurehead back to St. Martins.
The tiny village along the Bay of Fundy was a major shipbuilding centre when the figurehead was built.
“Very few tools to work with; this was all done by hand and these huge magnificent ships, all built with nothing more than hand tools, and it’s just mind-boggling,” says Bartlett.
The figurehead weighs between 600 and 700 pounds. The community raised roughly $45,000 to buy it and ship it back home.
Jackie Bartlett of the Quaco Museum says the figurehead is destined to be the centerpiece of the museum’s tribute to the bygone days of shipbuilding, and that any doubts about the project have long disappeared.
“It started out like, ‘You’re going to spend that much money on something like that?’ And now it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s such a big thing for this museum, this little museum,’” says Bartlett. “It’s a beautiful piece. It’s marine art history.”
There has been no shortage of interest in Prince Victor, with lots of curious visitors dropping by the museum, hoping to sneak a peek inside the crate.
The museum says the monument to the village’s shipbuilding will be on public display in the new year.
With files from CTV Atlantic's MIke Cameron