The bulk of commercial business at McPherson House was provided by the mail couriers.
One of the most interesting and certainly the most colourful was one Matthew Maddock of Arichat, the original courier between Arichat and Plaister Cove. He began his service in 1823 and continued it for many years.
In the early years, the roads across Isle Madame and indeed between the ferry at Grandique and Ship Harbour presented numerous challenges. The most dangerous of these was Lennox Passage in winter when it froze over creating an unpredictable ice surface.
One wet and windy day in January 1836 Maddock encountered George Wood, the ferryman at the south shore of the passage, who warned Maddock that it would be risky to attempt an ice crossing. Not heeding the warning, Maddock set out only to shortly break through the ice into the frigid waters. A group of men rushed from Wood’s home and managed to rescue Maddock. His horse, however, was not so fortunate. Three times the animal was pulled on to the ice only to fall through once more. On the fourth attempt the animal was hauled to safety but by that time succumbed to exhaustion and the freezing conditions and died. Maddock estimated that the incident cost him 18 pounds.
This loss was a severe financial blow to Maddock and he petitioned the provincial government for assistance.
This, however, led to an outcry from the general population on his route who saw him as a victim of his own questionable service. One after another of the leading citizens came forward to claim he was remiss in his responsibility. George Woods claimed that Maddock was often so drunk when he arrived at the ferry that he could hardly walk or ride and left mail strewn across the shore. A week before Christmas in 1835, Woods continued, Maddock was so inebriated that he had to be dragged two-and-one-half miles by sled to the home of Farquhar McPherson.
Maddock had the last laugh though. His detractors’ protests fell on deaf ears and the province awarded him 10 pounds for the loss of his horse.
Another criticism was leveled at Maddock. It was alleged that at times his brother, James, substituted for him on the post ride. Added to this sin was the fact that brother James often fell victim to the bottle as well. On one occasion, Donald MacDonald of Ship Harbour found James drunk on a pile of wood by the side of the Ship Harbour road, while later Roderick Cameron and Alexander McLean discovered him riding upside down in the saddle, feet caught in the stirrups, head dragging on the ground and the mailbag lying some 100 yards behind.
Adventure or rather misadventure always seems to find characters like Matthew Maddock. In the spring of 1842, something happened which, in 20 years, had never before occurred. Forced to wait overnight and finding no accommodation, Maddock returned to Grandique Ferry and retained a young employee of McPherson House to deliver the mail to him there. Only later did Maddock learn that the mail included a letter containing 5 pounds.
By this time the young scoundrel had left the district. Maddock was docked for the full amount of the loss leaving him with only 2 pounds 10 shillings for three month’s work.