Photos and story from the “Capturing Collective Memories” Library – The following historical piece was written by Lee Darrach (1916-2000), son of Hector Alexander Darrach (1883-1971). It offers us insight on how farms along the Clyde River supplemented their income by fishing on the Clyde River and adjoining West River.

Hector Darrach Home (1)

Hector and Ina Darrach’s Farm, Clyde River Road

Hector Alexander Darrach was born on his father’s farm in Clyde River on September 8, 1883. (editor’s note: his father’s farm is currently owned by Sidney Poritz.) His great grandfather, Duncan Darrach emigrated from Scotland to this country and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, St. Catherines. His father, John Darrach and his grandfather, also called John, are buried in the Clyde River Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

The John Darrach Family

There were eleven children in this family: Florence Catherine, John Duncan, Neil Archibald, Frances Catherine, Daniel John, Lee Grant, Hector Alexander, Angus Fulford, Isobel Jane, Eldon J., Lillian May.

Florence married Samuel Ross, a building contractor and they settled in Dorchester, Mass. John married Beatrice MacDonald and they made their home in Quincy, Mass. Neil married Dicey MacLean and they settled on a farm in Clyde River. Frances married Frederick Beer and they made their home on the Bannockburn Road. Daniel never married and moved to Western Canada and worked on the railroad. Lee married Lottie Dixon from Bannockburn Road. He was a carpenter by trade. Hector married Ina Beer from Bannockburn Road and they made their home on a farm in Clyde River. Fulford was married twice, first to Ethel MacLaughlin from Clyde River and then to Ethel Berry from Nova Scotia. Eldon married Margaret MacPhee from New Haven and they made their home in Brandon, Manitoba. Isobel and Lillian died in their infancy.

Hector Darrach attended Clyde River school and as a young man purchased an adjoining farm to his father’s farm and married Ina Mary Beer, daughter of James Beer from Bannockburn Road.

The James Beer Family

There were six children in this family: Maggie Jane, Amy Ann, Saida Elizabeth, Frederick Boyd, Ina Mary and Mamie.

Maggie married William Younker and they made their home on a farm in Kingston. Amy married a Mr. Mayhew and they farmed in Clyde River. Saida married Wesley Hood and they settled on a farm in Cornwall. Frederick married Frances Darrach from Clyde River and they made their home in Bannockburn Road. Ina married Hector Darrach and they farmed in Clyde River. Mamie died at the age of two years in 1896. 

The Hector Darrach Family

Five children were born in this family: Hector ‘Ralph’, Margaret ‘Marie’, John James, Lee Daniel, and Amy ‘Joyce’.

Ralph was twice married, first to Jean MacLeod, from Milton and Della MacLeod from Long Creek. They farmed in St. Catherines. Marie married Wilfred Stretch from Long Creek and they made their home on a farm there. John married Marguerite Crosby and they farmed in Clyde River. Lee, the author of this biography, married Eleanor MacFadyen and they made their home in West Royalty. Lee worked for the Civil Service. Joyce married Norman MacKenzie from Long Creek and they settled on a farm there. Hector built a new house on his newly-acquired land and farmed there successfully for most of his life.


Growing up on this farm in the ‘twenties’ was little different from that experienced by others on adjacent farms. The completion of farm chores was required of us siblings. Weeding and harvesting of farm crops and caring for farm animals, all required hard and often tedious work.

If drudgery was a part of farm work during the summer, the autumn and winter months of the year were a far different story. The location of our farm at the confluence of the Clyde and West Rivers gave us the opportunity to participate in three off-farm activities that were of great interest to us as well as supplementing farm income. These activities were the oyster fishery, the smelt fishery and mud digging.


In the autumn of each year, oyster fishing dories would arrive at our shore to begin this annual fishery. Many farm owners and farm workers as well as fishers from as far away as Charlottetown participated. The Charlottetown fishers constructed shacks and ate and slept there during the fishing season that lasted for approximately two months.

Oysters were hand raked using oyster fishing tongues from and along the channels of the Clyde and West Rivers with the greatest effort being made during the low tides. At this time upwards to one hundred dories fishing these channels so close to each other that from a distance they appeared as a long black line.

At high tide the fishers could be observed at the shore culling their catches in their dories. What a delight it was on warm autumn days to watch these fishers work on their catches, to sample these delicious shellfish and to row a dory up and down the calm waters along the shore!

I particularly remember the Biso family from Charlottetown, Thomas and his two sons Wilfred and Peter.  Although Thomas was one of the older fishers, he could rake more oysters than most others despite a permanent injury to one of his hands.

Some Friday nights my father would drive the Biso family to their home on Riley’s Lane, Charlottetown. Sitting in the back seat of the Model T Ford on that trip to Charlottetown, despite the cold, was the most interesting time of the week. Mrs. Biso would have sausage sizzling on the coal fired stove and these along with “store bought” bread provided a welcome change to our usual humble fare of “home made” bread and potatoes.

Every week Charles Earl of Earl Fisheries from Charlottetown with his helper, a Mr. MacRae, would arrive at our farm yard with their truck to buy the oyster catches which were taken up from the shore in bags. The oysters were emptied into a “measuring” barrel provided by Mr. Earl.  Mr. MacRae who was a powerfully built man would shake the barrel as the oysters were being dumped in much to the displeasure of the fishers who could see their returns for their hard week’s work diminish with each shake of the barrel.  They received ten dollars for each barrel. Experienced fishers could rake in excess of one barrel of oysters each day.


The fishing of smelts was carried out on the Clyde and West Rivers commencing each season as soon as the ice formed – usually about Christmas time.

Each ”enterprise” laid claim to one or two of the same “berths” year after year and their claims were usually respected by the other “enterprises”. Each “enterprise” usually consisted of one fisher, two brothers, or a father and son. The spacing between each “berth” was laid down by “regulation”.

Disputes over “berths” were not uncommon. Clayton Shaw, the fishery officer from Charlottetown, would be summoned to arbitrate between disputing parties.

Smelt fishing nets were constructed of twine with a mesh size fine enough to retain the fish and were commonly referred to as  “bag” nets. The mouth of the net when open and held in place was rectangular in shape and measured approximately twenty feet by eight feet. The bag and trap extended back from the mouth some twenty to thirty feet. The far end of the trap could be opened to allow the catch to be removed from the net.

The net was held in position in the channel of the river by two large poles each fitted with two iron slip rings and sharpened on the large end of each. Two holes were then made in the ice the width of the net apart. The top and bottom of the mouth of the nets were fastened to the slip rings, the poles placed through the holes in the ice, and firmly anchored in the mud of the riverbed. Much smaller poles called “set” poles were then fastened to the bottom slip rings thus enabling the mouth of the net to be opened and closed from the surface of the ice. A narrow opening in the ice between the two poles was made to allow the net to be placed in the water and to be hauled out of the water to remove the fish from the trap of the net.

When the net was not “set”, the mouth was held closed by fastening the bottom slip ring to the top slip ring at either end of the net. To set the net, the set pole, which was fastened to each of the bottom slip rings, was pushed downward.

The net was set at low tide by opening the mouth of the net to fish the incoming tide. The mouth was left open for three to four hours and then closed by pulling up the set poles. The net was hauled out through the narrow opening in the ice and the catch removed from the trap. The net would then be placed back in the water and would be set again on the next tide.

Catches varied from a few pounds to a few hundred pounds. At our “enterprise” which involved two “berths”, the catch would be taken by horse and sleigh to the farmyard and spread on ice until frozen. They were then graded and packed into containers for shipment to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. Prices varied from five to ten cents per pound.

Because of the nature of tides, smelt fishing was carried on at various times of the day or night. During the nighttime, the sight of the fishers with their lanterns moving from their homes to their berths on the river to set or haul their nets was not easily forgotten.


During the latter months of the winter season when the ice was at its thickest the mud digger would be hauled out over the ice to the channel of the West River. A hole would be cut in the thick ice to allow the heavy iron “fork” to be lowered to the mussel bed at the bottom of the channel. By means of a capstan and cable, the fork with its load of mud would be raised to the surface of the ice and deposited into a waiting wood sleigh. Power to the capstein was supplied by horsepower. It was so interesting to watch the horse as he circled the capstan, cutting into the ice with his iron clad shoes making a circular path that became ever deeper as the work progressed.

The mud was transported by horse and sleigh to local farms as well as to farms miles away.

The bounty from the river provided provender to our household. The clam and oyster chowders and the pan-fried smelts made many delicious meals. Waterfowl were abundant during the autumn months on these rivers and creeks. These waterfowl afforded recreation as well as meat for the table. It is somewhat ironic that in our affluent society these foods, which were free for the taking, are now considered a luxury not affordable by people of average income.

Looking back over the years the memories of growing up on the Darrach farm are fading now but things will never be the same.  It is very unlikely that oyster and smelt fishing and mud digging will ever again be carried out on these rivers. But fond memories of these farm activities will still remain.

Many years have now passed and upon reflection I think the poet John Bannister Tabb expresses my feelings best in his poem entitled “Childhood”.


Old Sorrow, I shall meet again,
And Joy, perchance – but never, never,
Happy Childhood, shall we twain
See each other’s face forever!

And yet I would not call thee back
Dear Childhood, lest the sight of me,
Thine old companion, on the rack
Of Age, should sadden even thee.

- John Bannister Tabb (1845-1909)

Jon Darrach Collection 108

Aerial view of Hector and Ina Darrach’s farm – house and buildings are no longer there.


Clyde River Heritage Photo (1)

Ready for Winter

The Friends of Clyde River Historical Committee is hosting a Capturing Collective Memories Event tomorrow, Saturday, November 22, 2014, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Highlights of tomorrow’s event:

  • Slide show featuring select heritage photos where the audience can participate in our “Historical I-Spy” game.
  • Diary of a 16-year-old writing about her life in Clyde River in 1902-03 (Donald Hector MacKenzie collection)
  • Scenic photos of Clyde River from 1914 (Jean MacLean collection)
  • Photo of Gillespie’s blacksmith shop (CraigAnn Ummel collection)
  • Photo of Clyde River men who went west to farming expeditions (Donald Hector MacKenzie collection)
  • WW2 Navy photos (Jean MacLean and Beer Family collections)
  • Photo of passengers onboard the S.S. Harland (Jean MacLean collection)
  • Photos of working horses (Waller, MacKinnon, Boyle Family collections)
  • Christmas cards and letters from a WWI soldier (Jon Darrah collection)
  • Example of a heritage photo enlarged and transferred to canvas (CraigAnn Ummel Collection)
  • Digital photo frame featuring photos collected to date - over 1200 digitized so far.
  • Other heritage photos, artifacts, handcrafts, clothing, tools and trinkets that tomorrow’s attendees are invited take along to the event.

We want to make sure we have a good representation from all Clyde River families and those connected to Clyde River, so if you have not had a chance to contribute yet, please plan to attend.

Heritage photos could feature present or former Clyde River residents, scenic/architecture/community life, photos taken by Clyde River folks of other parts of PEI, Canada or other countries where they travelled.

Donations of artifacts are welcome, as we have three large display cabinets in the Riverview Community Centre where they can be featured. At the event, you can view the artifacts that have been collected so far.

For those who are unable to attend or part of our larger website audience living in other places, please send digital heritage photos, photo albums and artifacts to Vivian Beer. Contact her at vivian@eastlink.ca or 902-569-8665 to arrange.

This project, “Capturing Collective Memories from Seniors” is made possible with funding from New Horizons for Seniors Program, Government of Canada.

Refreshments will be served at this event.

It was a well-paced morning with families, friends and neighbours joining together for warm, delicious food and conversation. Compliments to the kitchen volunteers for a lovely breakfast featuring fluffy pancakes, sausages and baked beans. It’s great to see young people join in and be such great helpers. As Thelma said to them, “You are the next generation of hosts.” I would say they are receiving training from some of the best.

We are very thankful for the generous donations to Murchison Place Park. This is the third year for this breakfast which supports work at the park.

After being nourished, folks had a chance to view heritage photos on our new 18″ digital photo frame. We encouraged them to join the rest of the history enthusiasts next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for another “Capturing Collective Memories” event and to bring heritage photos/albums (for digitization) along with handcrafts, fashion, trinkets, and any other interesting items from the past. We will highlight some of the latest photos collected in a slide show for another rousing game of “historical i-spy”. It is a great way for the community to help each other identify information in old photos.

Click on any photo to advance through gallery.

Photo from last year's pancake breakfast

Photo from last year’s pancake breakfast

The annual Clyde River Pancake Breakfast will be held at Riverview Community Centre on Sunday, Nov. 16th, 8:30 am to 11:00 am.  It is sponsored by the Friends of Clyde River.  The Community Centre is located at 718 Clyde River Rd. just off the Trans Canada Highway in Clyde River.

Enjoy great community spirit, a tasty breakfast and visit with your friends and neighbours. There will be a free will donation at the door with proceeds going to Murchison Place Park. For more information, please call Jo-Ann at 902-675-4335. Please note, there will be a gluten-free option available.

war-monument-1.pngThe 2014 Remembrance Day service will be held at Clyde River Cenotaph and, if there is inclement weather, it will be held at East Wiltshire Junior High School. The order of service follows:

Remembrance Day Service, Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Master of Ceremonies: Comrade Eric MacArthur

10:40 a.m.     Parade Assembly: Parade Marshal Comrade Alan Crane

10:58 a.m.     O Canada:  East Wiltshire Junior High Band

11:00 a.m.     Last Post:  Trumpeter: Band Director Mr. Frank Nabuurs

The Silence

Act of Remembrance: Comrade Duane MacEwen

Reveille:  Trumpeter: Band Director Mr. Frank Nabuurs

Opening Prayer: Rev. Steven Stead

Reading of Honour Roll: Comrade John MacDougall

Laying of Wreaths:  Comrade Eric MacArthur

Hymn: Abide With Me: East Wiltshire Junior High Band

Benediction & Blessing:  Rev. James Brown

God Save The Queen:  East Wiltshire Junior High Band

March Past: Reviewing Officer: Comrade David Yeo

Remarks by: Comrade Duane MacEwen, PresidentKingston Branch No. 30

Dismissal: Parade Marshal Comrade Alan Crane

Reception to Follow at Legion Home New Haven

Special Thanks to East Wiltshire Junior High School Band.

Abide by Me

Abide with me!  Fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out lifes little day;

Change and decay in all around I see;

Earths joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,

Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;

Heavens morning breaks, and earths vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.  Amen

Like many other small municipalities across PEI, Clyde River held a Special Election meeting last Monday evening. Kudos to the hardy residents who turned out on a chilly and wet evening to select a Chairperson and Councillors. Doug Gillespie returns as Chairperson along with Hilda Colodey, Pearl MacEachern and Steven Stead, as councillors. Two new Councillors will join this trio, Mike Sider and Carolyn Wood.

This new Council will serve a 4-year term. It is worth noting that the new Clyde River Council has an equal representation of both men and women.

Councillors Mack Dixon and Wayne Gillespie decided not to run this time. Many thanks to both these gentleman for their community service.

More information on the Clyde River Municipal Council can be found here.


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