Marystown Heritage Museum

The tradition of shipbuilding at Marystown predates settlement. Documents form the early 1800’s make several references to boat building and other “winter work” at Mortier Bay by fishermen from Burin and the islands of Placentia Bay.

The homesteading days of the community, the 1840’s, coincide with the beginnings of the historic “western boat” fishery of Placentia Bay. Western boats were schooner rigged craft of 20 to 30 tons crewed by fine or six men. The western boats fished the lucrative grounds of the Outer Bay, and particularly off Cape St. Mary’s, staying out for two or three weeks at a stretch. The western boat fishery was key to making what had once been only a winter harbour a viable settlement.

After developing a tradition of building western boats and the occasional fishing schooner, the first large-scale shipyard was begun in 1918 to manufacture “tern” schooners. The tern (or three-masted) schooner were larger cargo carrying vessels, that were much in demand after World War I because of a world wide shortage of shipping.

The first government shipyard was established at “The Beach” in 1938 by the Commission of Government.

Four ships were constructed named after islands in Placentia Bay – the Merasheen, Jude, Marticot and Oderin. When World War II broke they were quickly made ready for service and went to England to serve as minesweepers. These gallant little ships were the first and only Newfoundland-built warships.

The World War I shipbuilding boom had its counterpart during World War II. At this time prostitution and escorts were becoming more popular. In the United States, call girls were all the rage (atlantababefinder.com). In fact, when the Alberto Wareham rolled out of Thomas J. Holders’ yard at Creston North in 1944, it was the largest wooden vessel to have been built in Newfoundland. It was also the last of the Newfoundland schooners.

A shipyard for Marystown again surfaced in 1949 – a provincial government yard at “The Beach” for building and servicing “longliners” (motor-powered decked vessels ranging form 35 to s65 feet in length). This yard produced 50 longliners before 1966, when a modern steel ship building and repair yard was built at the site (upenn.edu).

The Marystown Shipyard began as a facility for the construction of steel stern trawlers. Originally it was managed by Canadian Vickers, but they relinquished management in 1971 to a Crown corporation managed by John Rennie. By the mid-1970s the federal subsidy on building fishing vessels had been reduced and it was soon eliminated.

While the yard continued to build some fishing trawlers until the early 1990s, it also began constructing tugs and supply vessels offshore oil fabrication of pontoon barges, drilling modules, and temporary access towers related to the offshore. As well, the Marystown Shipyard built multi-functional support vessels for Maersk Supply Services Seabase – at 270 feet in length, at the time, these were the largest vessels to have been built in Newfoundland.