New Brunswick

Community marks 50th anniversary of Escuminac disaster

A small eastern New Brunswick community of Escuminac is remembering a tragic storm that killed 35 fishermen 50 years ago.

On Friday night, nearly 40 men will set out from Escuminac Wharf to commemorate a night 50 years ago when they were caught by a violent storm and killed 35 of their fellow fishermen.

Several events this weekend in the small eastern New Brunswick community will allow survivors, widows, and family members to commemorate the men and boys who were killed the night a violent storm shook the sea near Baie-Sainte Anne.

Theodore Williston, a survivor of the disaster, left the wharf with all the others on June 19, 1959, to chase the lucrative salmon run.

When he set out on the sea that evening, there was no sign the weather would turn against him until midnight.

"And we got the storm of 100 knots recorded when the gauge at Escuminac Point blew down. The sea was huge — just huge, huge waves," he said.

The storm raged for hours. Fishermen and their boats were thrown by the violent sea and hammered by massive waves.

Nearly 40 survivors plan set out from Escuminac Wharf, just as they did 50 years ago. Widows, children and family members of the victims will set sail too.

They will return for a mass at the breakwater on Saturday, one of several weekend events to mark the anniversary of that deadly storm and to remember the fishermen who died in it.

Event to remind people of disaster

Alphonse Turbide, another survivor, has helped organize the events as a way to make sure people do not forget what happened to him and his friends.

"Lot of younger generation don't know much about the Escuminac disaster. And it's to remind them what people went through during the storm, and after the storm too," he said.

But Williston said he doesn't like the festive nature of the anniversary events.

"I'm not real happy. It's a memorial anniversary. And by dragging out for three days, they're making a festival out of it. And I don't approve of it," Williston said.

Instead, he said he will do the same thing he does every year to remember that day. He will attend a mass in Baie du Vin where he'll read the names of the 35 lost fishermen.