PORT BICKERTON – The best thing about winning the St. Mary’s-wide competition to name the new Country Harbour ferry wasn’t knowing that everybody loved her choice.
Sure, seven-year-old Alivia Mansfield thought that was pretty cool. But, when local MLA and Minister of Transportation and Active Transit Lloyd Hines phoned her last week to congratulate her on dubbing the boat, “Theodore O’Hara”, in honour of Port Bickerton’s first lighthouse keeper, she was more interested in why Hines put “minister” in front of his name.
For the Grade 2 student at St. Mary’s Education Centre, who lives with her mom and dad Suanne and Gary in Port Bickerton, the best thing about beating 121 ballot submissions from her fellow pupils at every level was way more hands-on.
“I’m going to be the first one to go on the boat,” she says.
And so she will.
“Wow, she’s so bright, and talking to her was the highlight of my day,” Hines says. “I spent some time trying to explain why I was called the ‘minister.’ I think she got it right away. It’s great to see a young person like that come up with the winning name. And the name is so appropriate.”
That was the point of the exercise when Hines conceived of a contest to christen the new winch-ferry commissioned to replace the 40-year-old Stormont II and continue the decades-long service between Country Harbor and Port Bickerton. The vessel has been under construction at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River since May 2019.
“That’s where the school came in,” Hines says. “It was to give kids a civics lesson, give them a lesson in the importance of transportation, because that’s a very important link for the county. That ferry carries a tremendous amount of commerce that people might not be aware of. There are several industries and depend on that link.”
To that end, alone, the competition has succeeded, according to school officials.
“This initiative was certainly an exciting educational opportunity for St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy students to learn more about the citizens and history of their local community,” says Deanna Gillis, coordinator of communications for the Strait Regional Centre for Education. “I was very impressed to see and hear how students, families and staff embraced this contest. It was also an important and special opportunity for them to be involved in the legacy of naming a new ferry for the Province of Nova Scotia.”
Adds St. Mary’s Education Centre Principal Mike MacIssac: “We involved all of our students, but it doesn’t necessarily just involve our students, their families or relatives. What it does is bring that history back to the community. And regardless the age of our students, they’re able to really dig a little deeper into some of that history.”
Alivia, worked with her dad on the digging part.
“That was probably the most fun,” she says.
Together, they learned about the Port Bickerton lighthouse and its keepers, especially Theodore O’Hara. As the ferry service was also an integral part of the coastal community, the new vessel’s name just seemed perfect.
Says mom Suanne: “Gary sort of suggested to Alivia that it would be a good thing to name the ferry after somebody who was the first person to look over the waters and make sure everybody was safe.”
The panel of judges from the Transportation and Active Transit department and local community agreed. Now, all that remains is to take delivery of the Theodore O’Hara – which will have a capacity of 15 cars, compared with the Stormont II’s 12, and is expected to cost roughly $3.6 million.
“We’re just waiting for a critical part,” Hines says. “It’s the winch and it’s being manufactured in the U.S. It shouldn’t be long now.”
They’d better get a move on. Alivia Mansfield is waiting for her ride.
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal