This Week in History


A One-of-A-Kind Captain

For the week of Monday June 4, 2007

On June 9, 1882, Angus J. Walters was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Captain of one of Canada’s most recognizable symbols, the Bluenose, Walters would come to represent the lives of the seafaring people of the East Coast.

"Captain Angus Walters, skipper of the schooner Bluenose, famous the world over"
"Captain Angus Walters, skipper of the schooner Bluenose, famous the world over"
© NSARM / NSIS / 14384
As one of 12 children, Walters began sailing at an early age with his father, Captain Elias Walters. His father, a well-seasoned captain, taught Walters much of what he knew about sailing. At age 13, his father hired him as a “throater” on board his fishing schooner, which sailed to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to fish every autumn. The “throater’s” job was to cut the throat of the fish before they were cleaned; it was one of the lowliest jobs on a fishing schooner. A few years later, Walters was hired as a doryman, setting and hauling the trawls, as well as taking his turn as a watchman. It was through these jobs that Walters learned the pleasures and dangers of working on the high seas.

Before age 30, Walters owned and skippered his own fishing schooner. Quickly, he gained a reputation as a skilled captain, returning to Lunenburg from the Grand Banks with record setting catches.

Schooner Bluenose crossing finish line
Schooner Bluenose crossing finish line
© W. R. MacAskill / Library and Archives Canada / PA-030802
In 1920, Walters agreed to become the captain of a new ship being built by local shipbuilders Smith and Rhuland. In November of the same year, construction began and on March 21, 1921, the schooner Bluenose was launched. The Bluenose had been especially constructed to race in the International Fisherman’s Series. To qualify, a schooner had to not only be quick, but also be a working vessel, making annual fishing trips to the Grand Banks and hauling back a substantial catch.

Walters raced Bluenose in the International Fisherman’s Series, held in Halifax for the first time in 1921. Racing against several American and Canadian ships, Bluenose easily won the series and won the trophy for Canada. He repeated this feat five consecutive times, defeating the Americans and creating a sense of national pride from coast to coast.

Walters continued fishing on the Bluenose until, reluctantly, he sold the ship in the early 1940s. Shortly after, he opened a dairy business in Lunenburg, where he oversaw everything from the collection to the delivery of the product. He ran this business until his passing in 1968.

Because of his abilities as a captain and fisherman, Captain Angus J. Walters was designated of National Historic Person in 2005.

For more information on the Bluenose, please visit This Week In History’s Archives.

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