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Capt. John M. MacInnis

 

Old-time Skipper Dies at Age 86

Capt. John M. MacInnis of 100 Prospect street, one of the last of Gloucester skippers of sailing vessels, identified with the Gloucester fisheries for nearly 70 years, died at the Hillcrest Nursing Home last night.

John Murdock MacInnis was born at Malagawatch, Cape Breton, February 3, 1867, son of Kenneth and Belle (Ross) MacInnis.  He was a grandson of Murdock MacInnis, one of the original settlers in Malagawatch who came from Loch Aish, Scotland in 1830.

Capt. MacInnis came to Gloucester when he was 17 years old and went seining in the schooner Aberdeen, Capt. Fitz Thomas.  For two winters he was coasting in Virginia and Maryland waters.  Later he went as a member of the crew with his Uncle Murdock MacInnis in the schooner Polar Wave, hand-lining and trawling.  Captains Howard Blackburn and Harry Christensen were members of the crew of the Polar Wave.  Later he was trawling on George's Bank with Capt. Alex McEachern, familiarly called "Little Alex", in the schooner Maggie & May.   In 1892 he began his long career as skipper of the schooner Rebecca Bartlett, owned by Oakes and Foster.

Some years ago he gave up fishing and was employed by Gorton-Pew Fisheries Company.  He was in poor health for the last few years but was active until a very few months ago.

Capt. MacInnis was a long-time member of Acacia Lodge of Masons, and in recent months was presented with a medal for long service.  He was also a member of the Gloucester Master Mariners Association.

He is survived by his widow, Isabel (MacLeod) MacInnis of Marble Mountain,  Cape Breton, together with a nephew and several nieces living in Cape Breton.  He was a first cousin to Ex-Mayor William J. MacInnis and Murdock N. MacInnis of this city and Albert G. MacInnis of New York.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Trinity Congregational church.  Burial will be in St. Anne's, Cape Breton.

August 14, 1953

Capt. John MacInnis, affectionately known along the Atlantic coast as "Whipsaw", who passed away in Gloucester Wednesday evening at the age of 86, was a great mariner, a great fisherman, a "Builder of Gloucester's Prosperity."

I doubt if ever a tougher, more rugged man ever sailed the North Atlantic than "Whipsaw."  Books could be written on the exploits of this great skipper.  He was one of the last links with our glorious past of great vessels and great men.

Born in Malagawatch, Cape Breton, on February 3, 1867, he was the son of Kenneth and Belle (Ross) MacInnis.   He was the grandson of Murdock MacInnis, one of the original settlers in Malagawatch, who came from Scotland in 1820.  Capt. John came to Gloucester when he was 17 years old and made his first trip fishing in the sch. David M. Hilton from the firm of Pettingill and Cunningham.  He next sailed with his uncle, Capt. Murdock MacInnis, in the sch. Polar WaveHoward Blackburn, famous Gloucester hero, was also a member of the Polar Wave's crew at that time.

Capt. John began his career as a skipper in 1892, in the sch. Rebecca Bartlett, owned by Oakes and Foster.   Later he commanded vessels from the John F. Wonson firm, including the John W. Bray, Henry W. Longfellow, Effie M. Morrisey and Belle Franklin.

About the turn of the century, he joined the Cunningham-Thompson Co., and commanded the sch. Talisman, Independence II, Aloha (built for him in 1901), Laverna, of which he was part owner, and Norma.  He later commanded the Elizabeth Howard, which he lost off Halifax in 1923.

Some of his last commands were the Pilgrim, Columbia, Killarney, and Desire.  Capt. John was an expert in most branches of the fishery.

Records were broken by him which he sailed from the John F. Wonson and Cunningham-Thompson firms.  He was a man of great courage and determination.  No obstacle seemed too great for him.

Old fishermen still tell the tale when the sch. Aloha broker her bowsprit in 1906 and put into Rose Blanche, Nfld., for repairs.  At that port, Capt. MacInnis gave the broken stick to an old man.  The Aloha grounded when leaving port and broke her rudder post.  A little thing like this couldn't stop Capt. John, so he purchased his old bowsprit from the old man and made a new rudder post out of it.  Also while at Rose Blanche, he borrowed a fore topmast from the sch. Arhona to give his own vessel more sail and then proceeded on his trip.

There was nothing fancy about this man.   In fact he was very shy.  His fame was never gained by dangling himself before the public.  It was gained by his courageousness and knowledge and ability to lead his fellow man.

The great skippers. like the great vessels they proudly sailed are passing.  It will not be long before all will be gone.   The cold stormy waters of the North Atlantic will never see their like again.

 

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