For Acadian singer, deaths of New Brunswick fishermen evoke past tragedies

·3 min read

LAMÈQUE, N.B. — The deaths of two New Brunswick fishermen on the first day of the lobster season are evoking powerful memories of past tragedies on the water for a singer who lives on the Acadian peninsula.

Eugene Beaudin, 58, and his great-nephew, Normand Beaudin, 33, fell off their fishing boat on Saturday and died in the water off Miscou Island, N.B., which juts into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

After learning of their deaths, Sandra Le Couteur, a recording artist from Lamèque Island, N.B., just south of Miscou, posted a haunting, French ballad she recorded in 2020 about the loss of three other New Brunswick fishermen — an uncle and two nephews — in 1988. Their bodies, she said, are buried in the cemetery by the lighthouse on Miscou Island.

Titled "Le Detroit de Cabot," or "The Cabot Strait" in English, its lyrics describe a wife looking out a sea with her rosary in hand, awaiting the crew's return, "her heart in quarantine."

Reached by telephone at her home, Le Couteur said in an interview that, like many residents of the Acadian peninsula, she is deeply saddened by the loss of Eugene and Normand. Like Le Couteur, the two lobster fishermen lived on Lamèque Island.

"When I was small, when my father left for lobster fishing … we were always afraid that something would happen. When I heard the news (about the two men) I was really affected," she said in an interview Monday.

"It was just a huge shock.

"It’s hard for families to live with the dangers of fishing," she said. "It’s like a sword of Damocles over the heads of these families. And the majority of them fish."

The 66-year-old artist said the song was written for her by Wilfred LeBouthillier, a fisherman from the Acadian Peninsula who became a singer himself.

She said that on Lamèque Island everyone knows each other. In her instance, Eugene Beaudin is her sister's brother-in-law. "(Eugene) loved to fish. He was kind. He never bothered anyone. They were both good men," she said.

RCMP Cpl. Sylvain Bergeron said the captain of the boat, Robert Beaudin — who is related to the two dead men — survived the mishap and has spoken to the Mounties about what occurred, and while details of how the fishermen fell in the water remain unclear, "no foul play is suspected."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in a news release Monday it would deploy a team of investigators to assess whether an investigation would be held into the fatal incident on the Tracy Dawn boat.

Le Couteur said the fishing season continues, as the fishermen must set their traps and retrieve them before the arrival of the endangered right whales.

"It’s the early days of the fishing season. All the fishers go out and they have to do it quickly before the right whales arrive. Because when they do, they shut down the fishing season because the whales are near extinction. It’s a race against the clock," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2023.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax.

The Canadian Press