But as locals have been reminded in recent weeks, ships sinking were a relatively common occurrence a century ago. One of the most famous ships that sank was the Melmerby on Oct. 12, 1890. A commemoration ceremony for the 125th sinking of that ship will be held this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the beach that bears its name.
The wreck happened off Roy’s Island near Melmerby.
The barque was sailing from Quebec, bound for Scotland loaded with pine timber that was six inches thick and 80 feet long when it ran into a storm and tried to head to the Pictou Harbour for shelter.
Some of the lifeboats had been damaged, so they only had one. Sixteen of the men piled into it and tried to make it to shore, but capsized. Only one man on the boat made it to shore.
Two other men swam to shore from the Melmerby and were saved with help from people who formed a human chain along the beach.
A local effort was raised to rescue the remaining few on the boat.
Glen Williams was instrumental in getting a plaque put up at Melmerby Beach with information about the ship for the 100th anniversary in 1990 and is helping to organize the event. He believes it’s important for people to know the history of the beach.
“You say you’re going to the Merb. It’s sort of an easy thing to say, but I don’t think a lot of people realize the history behind it.”
Prior to the sinking of the Melmerby, the beach was known as King’s Head Beach, he said.
There were actually three other ships that sank in the area before the Melmerby, but for whatever reason, that ship was the one that drew the most attention.
Williams is encouraging people who might have artifacts from the Melmerby to bring them down and they’ll have someone there who can examine them.
Sunday’s commemoration will take place at the Beach Core Facility at Melmerby Beach Provincial Park.