May 27, 1967
Held Mackerel Record
Highliner Capt. Firth Dies
Capt. Lemuel R. Firth, 87,
highline mackerel seining skipper out of Gloucester for many years, died unexpectedly
Friday. Suffering from a sudden pain after breakfast, he was taken from his Kent
Rd., West Gloucester home to the Addison Gilbert Hospital, and died there a few minutes
He was born in Jordan Ferry, N. S., Oct 19,
1879, son of Uriah and Margaret (Rapp) Firth. He
received a "fulltime education until 10 years of age, after that only winters"
he wrote in a reminiscence years ago. He went fishing as a boy and as a young man
received a master's license for steam and motor vessels.
In 1902, at the age of 22, he was master of
the North Star, out of Gloucester, where he had been fishing for
a year. At one time he held the record for the largest stock in the history of the
Gloucester mackerel fisheries, caught in the Mary F. Curtis in
1917. In 1924, he was the first man to convert a World War I submarine chaser into a
fishing vessel: The Three Sisters, which he used for seining
In 1946 he bought the 79-foot yacht, Taramina,
from rumrunner Bill McCoy and converted it to a fishing vessel, named the
Jean and Patricia. After he sold her to Frank Foote, he
retired from fishing, 15 years ago.
Other vessels he commanded included the Joseph
E. Garland, Puritan, Two Forty (pollock and deck fishing), Helen
G. Wells (his first mackerel seiner), Corsair, Catherine Burke,
Colonial, Independence, Arcadia, Claudia and Sylvania
(mackerel in the summer, herring in the winter).
In years when mackerel was abundant,
Gloucester vessels went as far south as Virginia to intercept the north-bound schools in
the spring and landed fish in large quantities, at Cape May, N. J., and New York City,
before returning to Gloucester. Later in the year the fleet went to the Cape Shore,
off Nova Scotia.
Capt. Firth was a director of
the independent Machine Shop, a director of the Gloucester National Bank, and its
successor, the Cape Ann Bank & Trust Co. For years president of the Fishing
Masters and Producers Association, he had ordered a wreath to place on Memorial Day
on behalf of the association.
Other affiliations included the Gloucester
Master Mariners Association, Chamber of Commerce and Gloucester Fishermen's Institute
director, and membership in Masonic organizations, including the Tyslan Lodge, AF A&M,
William Ferson Royal Arch Chapter, Bethlehem Commandery of Knights Templar, Martha
Washington Chapter of the Eastern Star and Salem Council of Royal Select Masters. He
attended the Wesley Methodist Church.
Surviving are his wife, Annabelle
(Stevenson), a former Riggs School teacher and former member of the Gloucester
School Committee, whom he married in 1924; five daughters, three by his marriage to Florence
Hiltz of Gloucester, who died in 1919: Gertrude, wife of Gardner
W. Oakes of Melrose, Mrs. Gladys V. Amero of Gloucester, Margaret
A., widow of John L. Sullivan of Beverly, Jean,
wife of Alphonse J. Swekla, principal of Central Grammar School, and Patricia,
wife of Harold E. Coleman of Gloucester; seven grandchildren, two
great-grandchildren and a sister, Gladys, wife of Joseph Fisher
The funeral will be held Monday at 2 p. m. in
Wesley Methodist Church with burial in Oak Grove Cemetery. Friends may pay their
respects at the Pike Funeral Home, Middle St., Gloucester, Sunday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9.