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Anglophone East Regional Heritage Fair (Hopewell Cape)
History of Saint John Shipbuilding
This project explores when shipbuilding started in Saint John and covers how it changed over the years. If also gives a glimpse of the Port of Saint John and how shipbuilding helped mold the city we see today. A few notable ships like the Marco Polo and the HMCS Sackville have been discussed.
What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?
An interesting fact that I learned while researching my project is that my great grandfather, Charlie Coakley, served on the HMCS Sackville as a stoker first class working in the engine rooms for the Navy. The Sackville was a warship constructed in Saint John during WWII. The Sackville is now a museum on the Halifax Waterfront which I look forward to visiting soon. I also found it interesting to learn that 143 ships were constructed at the at the Saint John Drydock during its 85 years in service including warships, ferries, tug boats, ice breakers and cargo ships.
What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?
Shipbuilding played an important role in the development and growth of Saint John. The prosperity of the shipbuilding industry helped invest in the creation of railways which also had a major impact on the growth of Canada east of the Maritimes. Shipbuilding is tied with the logging and manufacturing industries through construction, imports and exports helping bring the strengths of New Brunswick to the world. Although shipbuilding is not done in Saint John anymore, the Port is very vibrant with ships carrying diverse cargo and cruise ship passengers. The Port of Saint John is Eastern Canada's largest port by volume and is the 3rd largest in Canada.
How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?
Today the Saint John Drydock sits vacant and the buildings are used by J.D. Irving as a Wallboard Manufacturing Plant. The Drydock closed in 2003. Shipbuilding was a prosperous time and employed many people. After the Drydock closed many skilled labourers moved away to find work elsewhere. The port of Saint John is still busy today with cargo and cruise ship traffic which continues to help the Saint John economy. When shipbuilding was prominent, many people traveled by boats. Today this is less so with people choosing to travel by airplane across the Atlantic.