Share Your True Colours: Historic Lobster Buoys

By Gordon HammondThea Wilson-Hammond, and Libby Dean 

The Eastern Shore Archives needs your help with an exciting new project to find and identiftraditional wooden lobster buoys used from Three Fathom Harbour to Ecum Secum. These buoys will serve as “models” for accurate replicas that will be displayed (together with a brief biography and a photograph of their makers) in a permanent exhibit at Memory Lane Heritage Village. 

The Heritage Village offers a window into the life-ways of the 1940s, and wooden lobster buoys are an important part of the Eastern Shore’s rich and colourful coastal heritage.  At the time of their use, wooden lobster buoys were kept brightly painted - not just for identification, but to make them float well.

Lobster fishing is an important part of the heritage of the Maritime provinces, once visible through the iconic stacks of wooden lobster traps on a wharf, and distinctly painted hand-made lobster buoys. These buoys identified who made and owned the lobster traps – and the haul of lobster within the traps!  

Traditional wooden lobster buoys were made by each fisherman from trees they usually felled themselves, which they then cut and shaped into a buoy and painted. The result was that they were not only different shapes and sizes, but also a combination of distinctive colours and patterns. Today, however, most lobster traps are made from vinyl-coated wire mesh, and buoys are commercially made from plastic foam (although they are still identified by their own distinctive combination of colours and markings). 

This project is funded by New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP), which is providing support for several seniors-oriented projects on the Eastern Shore this year. We will be working with local seniors to identify lobster buoys of the past, and to help produce the replicas, and we will also be reaching out to young people to get involved at all stages of the project 

Drop-In Events 

There will be a series of informal drop-in events where you can share your knowledge about buoys – how they were made, who made them and what colours and patterns they used. If you have any traditional buoys please bring them to one of the drop-ins so that we can collect information about the buoy (e.g. measure the shape and size, take photos of them) and the maker. We will be using this information to create the replicas for the exhibit. You can donate your old buoys to the Eastern Shore Archives, but we would prefer that they remain in their original homes, or with the maker’s family.  

Lobster Buoy Drop-in Events, all 11:00 am – 7:30pm: 

 4 July at Harbour Lites (167 Meaghers Grant Road in Musquodoboit Harbour 

6 July at St. James Hall (66 Dolby Hill Road at Head of Jeddore 

19 July at L’Acadie de Chezzetcook (79 Hill Road in West Chezzetcook) 

To learn more about the project and how to get involved, or to share what you know about “the colours of the past” - traditional wooden lobster buoys - please contact Libby Dean (902)818-0424 or ESbuoy@gmail.com 

The exhibit and other documentation will make the knowledge and skills of Eastern Shore lobstering families a permanent feature of Memory Lane Heritage Village for current and future residents, visitors, and scholars to see and learn from.  

Note: Gordon HammondProject Coordinator, Eastern Shore Traditional Wooden Lobster Buoy ProjectThea Wilson-Hammond, Eastern Shore ArchivesLibby Dean, Heritage Researcher, Eastern Shore Traditional Wooden Lobster Buoy Project. 

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