Pictured is Arichat's Main Street circa 1910.

ARICHAT: A local author has two new books available to the public.

In the late 1970s, Merrill Boudreau started indulging his interest in Isle Madame’s past with trips to the Nova Scotia Archives in Halifax and reading historical books to find any references to the island.

By the time he got a home computer, Boudreau started entering the specifications old ships, names of captains and records of owners all in a database.

“I continued to do that work and I said to my wife, ‘someday I’m going to write a book about Isle Madame,’” he recalled. “She said. ‘I’ve been hearing about that for years.’”

After six months of work, in 2012, Boudreau released his first book Ships, Seafarers and Sailings: A Story of the Isle Madame Sailing Vessels, Vol. 1 The Great Years, covering the century 1800-1900, a time when Arichat became one of the busiest ports in Nova Scotia.

“Arichat became a port of registry in 1842,” Boudreau noted. “But we knew there was a lot of activity, ownership activity in the area of the Isle Madame. I’ve always been interested in that history, having heard it from my grandfather and having spoken to a few historians, as well as Marshall Bourinot and Dr. [Charles A.] Herbin.”

When he brought copies of the book to Isle Madame in December, 2012, Boudreau was delighted to see great public interest.

“People were interested in finding out about the local history coming from the seafaring standpoint. I brought down some copies around Christmas, then word got out and Telile asked me to do a book signing, which I did,” he recalled. “I was swamped; people were coming to see me after my two hours were over. I was dishing out books from the trunk of my car.”

File photos
In addition to ship building, fishing helped build Isle Madame, as witnessed by these piles of cod along the shore in D’Escousse taken in 1900.

While continuing to promote, discuss and share his ideas about his first book, Boudreau continued to do more research. By 2018, he realized there was a need for a follow-up, but in the process of writing, he realized he would have to break it up into two more books.

“I had to prove the first one was no fluke, that I can actually produce a second book,” Boudreau noted. “I wanted to stop before World War II.”

The second book Isle Madame: The End of the Sailing Era, Vol. 2 The Last Years, covers from 1900-1939, and his third book Isle Madame: A Short While Ago, Vol. 3 A Glimpse Into the Past was released at the same time. The books include chapters on: unknown place names; communities in Isle Madame – like Rocky Bay and Crichton’s Island; notable ship owners, captains and vessels; famous Isle Madame residents; a lesson in Isle Madame geography; and a chapter recording tragedies and mishaps, among others. There is also a chapter on the occult and magic called “Treasures, Ghosts and Legends of Isle Madame.”

“Between the three different books, I have 56 chapters and no one chapter is the same. There’s approximately 1,172 pages between all three books so it’s extensive,” Boudreau stated. “I did have help from many resources. In my collection of information that I have on my computer there’s over 6,000 files in my historical file folder, 6,000 files. I conducted research everywhere imaginable through the Internet, in on-line libraries, archives and everything else. It took many, many hours to get to this point.”

This was the main wharf along Arichat’s Main Street.

Along with “careful research,” Boudreau said he published approximately 700 pictures in each installment in the trilogy which he returned home to promote last December.

“Sometimes a picture tells a story,” he said.

His first book is in the Special Collections section at the Nova Scotia Legislature Library in Halifax. Among the many people who purchased or ordered his books, Boudreau noted that a group in Montauk, New York recently discovered their connection to Isle Madame, and ordered copies of his books.

“It’s been sold all over the world,” Boudreau stated. “The second and third books are of great interest to the people who purchased the first.”

Despite the years of researching, writing and promoting, Boudreau added he was proud to be able to bring the story of his home community to the world.

“I just wanted to learn more about Isle Madame, and our people and all the wonderful things that they’ve done so we can be proud of our legacy as we go into the future,” he added. “If you know your past; the sacrifices that everybody’s made, it’s important, it’s empowering.”