One of the most popular features in the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette is the That Was Then photograph adorning the editorial page. Astute readers will recall that over the years Thelma McCourt has furnished many of these photographs. Thelma McCourt, a lifelong resident of Hudson, has amassed a considerable collection of pictures of this area taken by herself, her relatives and neighbours. She also has an interesting visual record of her great-great-great-grandfather James Day, born in 1768 on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England. In 1791, after starting out in the Royal Navy, Day came to Paspebiac on the Bay des Chaleurs to work as a shipbuilder for Charles Robin. Robin was one of the legendary Channel Island entrepreneurs who made Gaspé an international cod-fishing, whaling and shipbuilding center. Many of the locals built schooners, to transport fish and other supplies to Quebec City, the Caribbean, and even to Europe. But these vessels were small. Robin needed larger ships to carry the large cargoes generated by his commercial empire. He turned to James Day to design and build ships of up to 249 tons burthen. The names of these vessels, such as the Seaflower, the Day, the Gaspee, and many others, still resonate on the Coast. These ships were subject to attack by the French navy during the Napoleonic Wars and by pirates and bad weather any time. Thelma McCourt can recount interesting stories about the fate of many boats in the Gaspé fleet. James Day went on to build a gristmill, become a Justice of the Peace, and assume the duties of a prominent citizen before he died in 1833. The name Day is well known in Hudson as well. Around 1948-50 James Day’s great-grandson, also a man of the sea, came to live in Hudson. Captain John Day quickly became a well-liked member of the Hudson community. Thelma recounts that he was a great friend of Hudson’s mayor, Dr. Runnells. Though the sailor had not driven a car in his life, when he and Runnells went out driving he would sometimes have to serve as navigator, telling the nonagenarian mayor when to hit the brakes! Thelma McCourt will be recounting the stories of these two men at the March meeting of the Hudson Historical Society. It goes without saying that her presentation will be amply illustrated. She will show pictures of her ancestor’s ships in their Gaspé and foreign settings, as well as photographs of Hudson a half-century ago. The March meeting of the Hudson Historical Society will take place at St. James Church Hall, 642 Main Road, Hudson on Monday March 12, 7:30 p.m.
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