LOOKING BACK: St. Andrews, NB – Once the Center of a Coastal Community.

Many, many years ago I gave a presentation to the board of directors at Sunbury shores Art and Nature Center … a talk that explored the St. Andrews of the past, the St. Andrews at the time and the challenges for the future. The following text has been taken from that talk and updated somewhat.


As an amateur historian, I enjoy the old flashback photos that appear in our local newspapers. You know – the ones with the funny cars and folks with strange haircuts standing in front of somewhat familiar buildings. As some of you will appreciate, there comes a time when you realize, with great consternation, that you were there! Or worse still, that it’s you in the picture!

Well, with due apologies to those who were there and might be caught in the picture, I would like to present to you a brief snapshot and take you back to a totally different St. Andrews in the early 1960s. The Algonquin was still there and the Biological Station, but whale watching consisted of one little yellow fishing boat with Don Hurley and Bill Haddon in charge and the town was very much a fishing community and service center for the surrounding island communities.

While the town had tourists from “away” of course, it was still connected to the Islands by the Grand Manan Ferry. I remember going back and forth to Grand Manan where my mother’s folks live and I was doing some research. My Volkswagen Bug was lifted by a sling to the deck of the ferry and secured there with cables. Wheel alignment was pretty much destroyed until my last trip in the late fall when repairs took place. There was the smell of the sea mixed with odors from tar, rope, and the ripe bilges of working fishing boats. The people who were coming and going were from Eastport, Campobello, St. Stephen, St. Andrews, Deer Island … everywhere in Charlotte and Washington Counties and beyond. We were all tied together by the ferry system.

The waterfront was always buzzing. Fishing boats came and went delivering their catches to the huge Conleys building and other fish dealers along the shore. All were welcome to tie up at the public wharf. Folks from the islands parked there as well while they went uptown to shop for items they needed at home or for their boats. Everyone met and ate at the original Sea Breeze Restaurant and your friends, neighbours and family were everywhere

All of this has changed. The fishery has shrunken as a result of pollution and overfishing, the lights have been replaced with electronic devices, the tourists flock to Town and ride high speed boats to the whale grounds of West Isles, the weirs in the River are gone, the fish processors are gone, pollution levels have risen dramatically, and the pace has become …. what? …more frantic? … Or just different?

But, in spite of the changes and beneath the hustle and bustle, the work of a few visionaries from the sixties still influences the present in a positive and constructive way.

To mention just a few:

Dr. John Anderson’s pioneering efforts to establish the Huntsman Marine Science Centre has resulted in professional development for literally thousands of students and scientists. A remarkable institution that still exists today and now has global impacts.

Wilf Carter’s Atlantic Salmon Federation moved here and established its headquarters at Chamcook. Always involved in a proactive way with Atlantic salmon conservation, this organization is now active on the world stage.

Similar efforts were at play elsewhere as well. The collective efforts of Marion Eiseman and Keith Ingersoll led to the establishment of the Grand Manan Museum, a small local institution which is now a model for small communities everywhere.

Among all of these wonderful developments, the work of Dorothy Eidlitz stands out as the most unique and, in my view, the most vital to today’s needs. Her vision was to blend art and nature as interdependent sources of inspiration and challenge. This was a Zen Buddhist concept of harmony which became the corner stone of Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre when it was incorporated in 1964. Thousands of students have benefited from the many programs which Sunbury Shores presents annually.

So there it is … a brief look at the St. Andrews that was based on a presentation made many, many years ago. I hope you enjoyed this brief peek into the past!

Art MacKay

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