Christmas Eve. Boston Globe 1893 – HE KEPT HIS PROMISE. Loss of Ring Nearly Cost McAchen his Life. Adrift of the Banks, He Found It in the Belly of a Codfish. Arrived in Gloucester to Marry his Mollie

With a headline sounding like a poem or song, this memorable Gloucester Christmas eve tale by Tom Herbert was published in the Boston Globe in 1893. Local mentions: Main Street, Duncan Street, Western Banks, sch. Star of the East, Eastern Point lighthouse, Thacher’s Island, Ten Pound Island, and codfish.

A fun read aloud for Christmas eve.

“Such a dread as I have of your going away so late in the fall,” said pretty Mollie MacDonald to her lover. “And remember we are to be married Christmas eve.”

“Why it’s only a three weeks’ trip, Mollie, to the Western banks,” said mcAchen, “and you would not like to have me loafing around Gloucester and have my ‘chummies’ laughing at me. Then you know, too, I am shipped in the famous Star of the East and we will sail at daybreak.”

“But what about the engagement ring, Angus? All our friends know we are to marry and when you are 300 miles from Gloucester a little token, which I would war on my finger, would often remind me of you and remind me to pray for your safe return, for you know December is a treacherous month for fishermen.”

“I forgot that, Mollie, and now every store on Main Street is closed, but here is a silver band my mother wore,” said he, as he placed the ring on her finger.

“And here’s my mother’s engagement ring,” said Mollie: “a hoop of gold with two hearts. Don’t lose it, for I hold it as sacred as I do your love.”

“I’ll bring it back to you if I live to make the trip. But I must hurry, as most of the crew are on board and a dory will be sent ashore at 1 o’clock for the lads that stop to kiss the girls they love goodby, and I will do the same.”

So they parted, he going down Duncan Street, and on arriving

At the Steamboat Wharf

met a half dozen of his shipmates. Then all went on board and turned in.

That night it breezed up from the northwest. It grew colder, and as the barometer gave evidences of a coming storm, Capt. “Bill.” who skipped the craft, roused the “boys” out before daybreak to sight the anchor. Half an hour later the schooner passed Eastern point lighthouse.

Away scudded the schooner before the fast freshening gale under a single reefed foresail, the swash of the seas as they spurted in through the lee scuppers fast forming ice on the deck.

Once clear of Thacher’s island, all hands turned to fit new fishing gear, and the conversation started, turned to the prospects of the trip.

“Some of the ‘killers’ found fish plenty on the eastern edge,” said one, but Capt. Billy had planned his trip to fish in 90 fathoms of water, near the spot where he had “rafted” in a big trip the year before.

Angus was one of the “afterguards,” as the fishermen term those who bunk in the cabin, and while “fitting” his trawls he was very quiet and especially thoughtful when he revolved the gold band on his finger.

His usual buoyant manner had departed. He was ill at ease and very slow at tying on the hooks.

Once he dropped the lines to the floor and lifting his mattress took out a book as if to read, but he was gazing

On the Photograph

of pretty Mollie Macdonald.

The run to the banks was a quick one, and when the proper surroundings were found the anchor was let go and plenty of “scope” payed out.

That night all hands baited up their trawls which were set at daybreak, and the first haul resulted in a catch of 8000 pounds of cod, every dory coming alongside the schooner loaded to the gunwale.

Angus brightened up at the prospect of a quick trip and a big check.

During the second night on the fishing grounds something happened which later came near costing Angus his life.

All hands were in the gurry kids dressing the fish, and as it was a breezy time all hands worked with a will to get the fish below and batten down the hatches.

After supper extra strads were wound around the cable, the anchor light set on the forepeak halyards, the decks cleared and extra lashings placed on the dories.

When everything was made snug the watch took the deck to keep a bright lookout for vessels that might strike adrift and foul the schooner.

In the cabin sat Angus, who remarked that “it was going to be a nasty night,” and stepping to the after part of the cabin raised his hand to adjust the guide hand of the barometer when he noticed that the ring was gone.

Lantern in hand he rushed to the deck and searched, but no sign of the ring, and when he came down below great tears of sorrow coursed down his bronzed cheeks.

His shipmates looked but did not ask the cause of his sorrow, for Angus was a strong man and might take offense.

Kneeling beside the transom near his berth he

Reached for the Book,

and after gazing on the picture of Mollie for a moment turned and said:

“Boys, I’ve lost her ring, it was gold with two hearts; it was our engagement ring; she gave it to me the night we sailed from Gloucester and I promised her that if I lived I would bring back the ring, but now it is gone.”

That night the wind blew a gale; Angus turned in, but not to sleep.

Towards midnight he was seen going about the deck with the lantern looking for the ring, but he did not find it and had to be coaxed to go below by his shipmates. When he was called to his watch on deck he only raved about the lost ring.

At daybreak all hands were on deck awaiting the word of the skipper to go and haul their trawls, which were set a short distance from the vessel.

Two dories had been launched, and then the captain said, “Hoist those dories in, it is not a fit day to put a dog in a dory, let alone a man.”

While the starboard gang were busy getting their dory aboard, Angus asked his dorymate if he would go and haul trawls, and receiving a positive no, cast off the painter, jumped into his dory, and rowed for his flag buoy half a mile distant.

The seas ran high, and like a cockleshell the dory drifted to leeward on the crest of every wave.

The crew saw that he did not reach the windward end of the trawls, but later could discern him hauling from the lee ends.

Was he mad was the question with the crew, and would he live to haul the trawls and return to the schooner?

Being anchored, there was no possibility of the vessel rendering assistance unless to

Cut the Cable

and try and pick the frantic man up, but that would not do, especially when he took his life in his own hands without the consent of the skipper.

For an hour they watched him from the deck. Then came a snow squall which shut out their view and when it cleared the dory was not in sight.

Ten days later the Star of the East sailed into Gloucester with her flag at half-mast, and on the end of the Fort wharf stood Mollie. She looked paler and thinner than when Angus and she parted not quite three weeks before, and with lips parted she gazed at the incoming craft.

The ever anxious crowd had congregated, and as the schooner tacked in towards Ten Pound Island, an old wharf hand said: “Why, that’s the Star of the East! I wonder who she’s lost.”

That was sufficient for the poor girl to hear. She knew by the slow beating of her heart that Angus was not on board, so she sorrowfully wended her way homeward to find consolation in prayer.

When the sad news reached her she quietly said: “Angus must have lost my ring or he would be here and well.”

‘Twas the old story that the skipper told, “lost while attending the trawls.”

When the snow shut out the vessel from Angus’ view he began to realize his danger and hauled away like mad; then came a fastening on the bottom which would not give way to his strong arms and the trawl parted.

Oars were of no use except to keep the head of the dory up to the sea, and when the snow cleared off he was miles from the vessel.

He was hungry and thirsty, but he thought not of death; his one thought was of Mollie and the lost ring.

All that day he drifted before the gale that moderated at sundown, but no vessel could he see, look where he would.

That night he rowed to keep his blood in circulation, and at sunrise saw a sail five miles away.

Towards evening he was almost insane from thirst, but thinking a moment, he remembered having heard of men who found fresh water in the belly of a cod.

To rip open a codfish was but the work of a minute, then holding it so that not a drop of the precious fluid would escape, he drank.

It tasted brackish, but was better than none. Then he cut out the “poke” that he thought would be more palatable than the flesh.

What possessed him to cut it he never could tell, but when it was laid open with the knife there was

The Hoop of Gold

with two hearts, the ring he lost while dressing fish in the gurry kid on the vessel.

Clutching the ring he forgot his hunger and thirst, his only thoughts were of her who was his promised bride.

After kissing the cherished treasure again and again, he unbuttoned his oil jacket and in the top vest pocket over his heart he placed the ring.

“Now I will live, and, with the help of God, keep my promise,” he said.

The sea had gone down, and as no vessel was in sight, he lashed the flag of his buoy to an oar, and having lashed it in an upright position, he coiled himself up in the bow and was soon fast asleep.

How long he slept he knows not, but it must have been six hours, for he was suddenly awakened by the dory tossing about in a peculiar way.

Raising himself he saw a large steamer close by. The crew seemed to be making ready to lower boats, then he waved his sou’wester and got an answer in return.

Directly he was alongside of the ship and soon on board, where he was well cared for by the captain of the English freighter that had experienced heavy gales, was short of coal and was bound to Halifax to get a new supply.

In two days from that time, Angus was bound to Boston by rail, and after arriving took the evening train for Gloucester and sent a messenger to Mollie to say that he would fulfill his promise, marry her that same night, Christmas eve.

(The end.)

“Loss of a Ring Nearly Cost McAchen His Life. Adrift Off the Banks, He Found It In the Belly of a Codfish. Arrived in Gloucester in Season to Marry His Mollie Christmas Eve” by Tom Herbert, Boston Globe; Dec 25, 1893. On page 6, with obits and other news. Herbert published a similar read in 1890 which I’ll post Christmas day.

Sacred cod indeed!

The schooner Star of the East that fished out of Gloucester for years was built in 1867 in Boothbay Maine by Joseph Bearse. In 1882 the average number of vessels and tonnage enrolled: 483 vessels (423 to Gloucester- 353 schooners, 4 sloops, 1 yacht, 6 teamers and 59 boats) 17, 809.75 tonnage.

A few years later, a true Christmas eve event in Gloucester was reported in the Boston Globe 1898 Dec. 24

Fishermen’s Christmas: Good Cheer Provided in Gloucester for men Away From Home

Christmas was celebrated this evening at the Fishermen’s Institute on Duncan Street in a unique manner. Chaplain E. C. Charlton of the Institute invited the fishermen of the city away from home to become his guests, and to the number of several hundred they responded.

Men of all the northern nationalities were comprised in the audience, some wearing boiled shirts, others with their sea clothes on, but all were welcomed alike. There were two Christmas trees. A Short entertainment was given while Mrs. Charlton, wife of the chaplain, was busy at a table cutting cake which had been donated. This with hot coffee was passed around.

Comfort bags were donated by the King’s Daughters from all over the union were given every fishermen present and went into hands where they will be appreciated. They contain articles which will prove very useful to a sailor. Bags of confectionery, apples, etc were passed around, and altogether the fishermen’s Christmas was highly appreciated.

Deadline for the 2021 Bruce J Anderson Foundation funding opportunities

Don’t miss the Bruce J Anderson Foundation funding opportunity in the New Year! The foundation has helped many local organizations and initiatives annually. Good luck.

Bruce J Anderson Foundation 2020 grants were a who’s who of our community organizations and efforts in targeted areas of specialization: Arts (Cape Ann YMCA; Cape Ann Art Haven; GEF; Gloucester Stage Company); Environmental protection (Backyard Growers; Friends of Halibut State Park; Ocean Alliance); and Mental Health (Gloucester Writers Center; Pathways; Open Door). The family honors their brother and summer visits in Gloucester. The family foundation awarded grants to other communities and efforts, too.

Here’s the announcement from the TPI/Boston Foundation outreach for the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

We are pleased to announce the 2021 Request for Proposals for the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, a supporting organization of the Boston Foundation. The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation has been making grants on Cape Ann and in the Nashoba Valley for over 30 years. Please review the guidelines carefully and note that the application deadline is Monday, February 15, 2021. Grant announcements will be made in mid-June.

Applications must be submitted online. Please find the application and a list of prior grants made from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation here.

We hope you will consider taking advantage of this Bruce J. Anderson Foundation funding opportunity. Questions regarding program eligibility can be directed to the attention of Paola Villatoro at pvillatoro@tpi.org or 617-338-5898. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) | tpi.org

TPI merged with Boston Foundation in 2012

Heidi Dallin director youth acting

photo: on grounds at Ocean Alliance HQ, one repurposed shipping container now office/teaching module/lab – (and new on its exterior- Rocky Neck Art Colony Goetemann Artist Residency- Sophy Tuttle mural) Ocean Alliance received support from Bruce J Anderson in 2020

TODAY AT 8 PM EST Soul Rebel Project Live Stream Christmas Eve Online Event 12.24.2020

Today at 8 PM EST
 
Public · Hosted by Soul Rebel Project, Michael A Francis Jr. and 2 others
 
Online Event
 
Soul Rebel Project will be doing a special Christmas Eve livestream to spread some holiday cheer at 8pm 12/24/20. Tune in to the SRP Facebook page to attend. Happy holidays, see u then!

 

Gnomebody Knows

Gnomebody (ok, nobody) knows exactly what will speak to you while shopping local. I went into Audrey’s Flower Shop for some ornaments and, after paying and heading towards the door, saw this gnome that I simply couldn’t leave behind. I’m not sure I’ll have the heart to pack him away after Christmas. He might have to hang around all year long.

Check out Audrey’s here: https://www.audreysflorist.com/

Historic Follow Up on Almy, Bigelow & Washburn Gloucester Store

The Almy, Bigelow & Washburn ads I perused for the 1920 Christmas week stroll through the Gloucester Daily Times got me a bit intrigued about this establishment. I learned there were several branches opened in Essex County after the first branch opened in Salem in 1858. A pamphlet celebrating the 50th anniversary can be found and downloaded for free here.

My research quickly led me to the not-very-happy story of the February 1961 fire at Almy’s on Pleasant Street, apparently near or at the site of the current police station. Here’s a YouTube video of this unfortunate event. It’s not a very happy holiday follow up, but the magic of technology and sites like YouTube mean we will never forget.

A Little Peek Back to Christmas 1920

The Gloucester Daily Times provides us with a little peek at Christmas week 100 years ago here in Gloucester. Huge shout out to Sawyer Free Library’s Local History Librarian Jacklyn Linsky who hunted down and shared dozens of examples at my request so you could see them here today. I am SORELY missing researching at the library myself, but this is a wonderful service that helps fill in the gaps. Thank you Jacklyn for your efficient and able assistance!

Ads and articles from Christmas week 1920 in the Gloucester Daily Times reflect some very interesting trends. The Post Office was very busy in 1920, but the motorcyles helped immensely with delivery; Dodge Brothers “foresaw the rapid tendency toward closed cars” (thank you for that!); and Cape Ann Savings Bank used to have Saturday evening hours! Remember christmas Clubs? The front page of the Dec 24 1920 Gloucester Daily Times is included here along with a number of ads. Enjoy your 100 year old stroll.

WILLOWREST = HOLIDAY GIFTS!!

Willowrest is open until 4pm on Christmas eve. Ensuring the locals get delicious food and amazing gifts for the holiday! Everyone knows how amazing their gourmet food is. But, it’s their gift shop that’s turning heads as soon as you enter the door! Eye Candy!

Hand made, local & abroad.

Amazing gifts for any budget

Resources hand-made snuggle fish! Tons to choose from!

Textiles, Candles, jewelry, fine art!

EXCLUSIVE PRINTS!! You have to see to believe!

Thanks to Mellissa and her crew. Happy Holidays!!

Thanks for Keeping it local, folks!!!