Liverpool Packet sailing again

Nick Moase
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Liverpool's most famous privateering ship will soon sail again. A model of the ship is being restored as part of the War of 1812 commemorations being held in Queens County over the next two years.


Rick Gilbert stands next to the model of the Liverpool Packet he will soon start rebuilding. The Packet is being rebuilt as part of the War of 1812 commemorations being done in Liverpool to recognize the community’s role in the two-year war.

Liverpool played a significant role in the conflict, both as a Privateering Port and for the Liverpool Packet.

The model was originally designed as a replica of the Rover, which was also a successful privateering ship but sank in 1803. Since the funding from Heritage Canada is specific to the War of 1812, the model is being changed to the Liverpool Packet.

"Rather than leave that there and never do anything to it, we were able to secure funding to rebuild the Packet," says Brain Fralic, chair of the Privateer Days Commission.

The model started life as part of a float built by some of the workers at Thompson Brothers, later known as Stenpro, for the 200th anniversary of Liverpool in 1959. The boat made its debut in the Privateer Days Parade, before touring around the community.

It was housed in the tourist bureau for a short time, before ending up at the Liverpool High School, presently the South Queens Junior High School.

Owen Hamlin says it was there when he arrived as a teacher in the early 1960's, and was stored in the gymnasium. At first it was on the stage, which left it open to damage. It was moved the rafters above the stage for a while, but after that he isn't sure where it ended up.

The model didn't resurface until the early 2000's, when Hamlin took over as chair of the Privateer Days Commission. Jeff Inness, who had it stored in his garage, offered him the boat. Where it was for the 40 years between that is still a mystery.

Until now, little work has been done to repair the model. However as part of the War of 1812 commemorations, it will be rebuilt into the Packet and restored to its full glory by local builder Rick Gilbert.

Though not of the same class, the base of both the Rover and the Packet are similar enough that Gilbert says it won't take to much work to modify it. The masts aren't quite in the right position, and it has too many cannon ports to match the Rover.  

What will take time are all the other details that have long since gone missing. The hull and main masts are still intact, however nearly all of the accessories have gone missing through the years. Basically everything from the rigging to the brass canons has to be rebuilt.

The Packet pre-dates photography, however there are drawings and paintings for Gilbert to go by he says. He figures it will take him most of the winter and spring to rebuild the model.

Despite the work involved, Gilbert says he has a good starting point.

"Somebody went to a lot of work to build this," he says.

Though this is the first model boat Gilbert has constructed, he is no novice to boat building. He has built his own sailing boats, a 25-foot and 17-foot boat, and regularly builds sets for the Winds of Change.

Frailic says funding for the model rebuild and other 1812 projects came through a $10,000 grant from Heritage Canada and help from local MP Gerald Keddy's office. To get the grant, Fralic says there has to be an educational aspect to what they are doing as well. When the Packet does find a permanent home, it will have an information plaque explaining the significance the vessel played in the war.

The commission is also involved with a few other projects as well. Local folk artist Joe Winters is making three life-sized carvings of Simeon Perkins, Capt. Joseph Barss and Enos Collins. Last summer an 1812 themed geocaching event was held in Liverpool, and a commemorative coin is being produced with the Packet on it to use in future geocaches.

The Packet was originally an American slave ship, but was captured by the British in 1811. It was later sold to Enos Collins and other investors and used as a mail and passenger ship between Liverpool and Halifax.

When the War of 1812 broke out, the Packet was converted into a Privateering vessel captained by Joseph Barss Junior. In the first year alone, the crew captured 33 American vessels. By wars end, the Packet had captured 50 prizes, making it one of the most successful Privateering vessels to sail out of Canadian waters.

Once completed the model will make its debut for Privateer Days 2013. There is still the question of where it will go after that, but Fralic says he hopes to approach the Region of Queens to try and find a permanent home for the model. 

Organizations: Heritage Canada, Privateer Days Commission, Thompson Brothers Liverpool High School South Queens Junior High School

Geographic location: Liverpool, Halifax

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