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Captain Angus Walters

Captain Angus Walters at the helm of Bluenose in 1936. Nova Scotia Archives / Clara Dennis


Angus Walters sailed into the world on June 9th, 1881 — born into a Lunenburg family where the sea ran deep in their blood.


Captain Elias Walters, Angus’ father, was the Master of his own schooner, Nyanza — where he was considered one of the best in the Lunenburg fishing fleet. Eager to get to The Banks (despite his parents wishes to keep him in school as long as possible), Angus made his first trip aboard his father’s schooner at just thirteen years of age, in 1895. Starting as a ‘throater’, by the beginning of his second season fishing, Angus had quickly proven himself and was promoted to a ‘doryman’ — meaning he would leave the schooner to haul trawl for cod in a dory.


Captain Angus Walters at the helm – 1922. Nova Scotia Archives / W.R. MacAskill


Angus’ dory Skipper was veteran fisherman Ben McLaughlin. Angus and his ‘dory mate’ set out from the schooner to begin their days work — but while they were out, the fog rolled up and they were unable to find their way back to the schooner — something that happened all too often to Banks fishermen. Often times, when the fog, or other weather would come up, the fishermen — alone with just their small dory compass and wit — would be unable to safely make their way back to the schooner, never to be seen again. But for Angus and Ben, by some stroke of luck, the fog eventually lifted, and Angus and his dory mate were able to safely navigate their way back to the schooner. They were the lucky ones — this time.


A few short years later, Angus, having proved himself as perfectly capable for life on The Banks, was promoted to Mate aboard his brother John’s schooner — when John got washed overboard. Quickly taking charge, Angus ordered a dory over the side and managed to safely bring his brother back aboard the vessel.


In less than ten years, Angus had faced nearly all the sea could throw at him — and it became clear that he was one of the best — by the age of just twenty-four he was already Master of the vessel Minnie M. Cook


Captain Angus Walters and Crew on the deck of Bluenose.


Based on his success with the Minnie M. Cook, Angus was able to secure financial backers to build his very own schooner, the Muriel B. Walters — and became ‘high liner’ — the highest honour awarded to the vessel and Captain with the largest catch in the Lunenburg fleet.


Angus had worked hard and had earned a reputation for being ‘a bugger for carrying sail’ and a ‘fish killer’ — he was a driver and working with him was no joke — but he was a safe Master who never lost a man, and therefore was very well respected and could always find a crew. 


By 1919 — still in his thirties — Angus Walters had already accomplished a lifetime of success. He had established a remarkable reputation at sea, had three children with his wife Maggie, whom he married in 1908, and had built a home for them overlooking the Lunenburg Harbour. He sold the Muriel B. Walters and purchased the schooner Donald Silver, before once again, having another schooner of his own built, the Gilbert B. Walters.


Captain Angus Walters photographed with his three sons.


In 1920, ahead of the first International Fishermen’s Race, Lunenburg held its elimination race to determine which vessel would represent Canada in the contest. Angus entered his vessel, the Gilbert B. Walters — and given his reputation was favoured to win — however during the race his fore topmast snapped and he came in six minutes after the other vessels. It was then decided that the winner of the elimination race, the Lunenburg schooner Delawana, under Captain Tommy Himmelman would represent Canada in the race. 


Angus knew that Tommy Himmelman was a great Skipper — but feared the Delawana would be no match against the American contender. As it turns out, what Angus had predicted came true, and the American schooner Esperanto out of Gloucester won the International Fishermen’s Cup.


It was only a matter of minutes after the American schooner won that it was decided Nova Scotia needed to build a new contender for the race the following year — and given his solid reputation — Captain Angus Walters was to be her Master. 


When Bluenose was launched in the spring of 1921, people knew she was going to be special — but nobody could have predicted the mark that the Bluenose and Captain Angus Walters would leave on Canadian history — nobody — not even Angus himself could have predicted the legacy they would leave behind. From fishing the Grand Banks for cod to representing an entire nation on the world stage — Captain Angus Walters went from ‘humble fisherman’ to ‘Canadian Icon’ almost overnight. 


Captain Angus Walters with the International Fishermen’s Cup on the deck of Bluenose – 1921. Nova Scotia Archives / W.R. MacAskill


Captain Angus Walters and Bluenose not only represented Canada in the International Fishermen’s Races — but due to the fanfare that these races were followed by, they also represented Canada at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, and again at The Silver Jubilee of King George V in England in 1935 — quite a prestigious honour for ‘just a humble fisherman from Lunenburg’ — but that’s what Angus was — a humble fisherman from Lunenburg who would roll up his sleeves and work alongside you. A humble fisherman who wanted to provide for his family, and ensure his crew could provide for their families as well. A humble fisherman who embodied what it meant to be Canadian in a nation still so young. Captain Angus Walters was a true Canadian Icon. 


Captain Angus Walters with King George V aboard the Royal Yacht in 1935. Captain Angus Walters is pictured in the front row, second from the right. Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic / The Times (London, UK).

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