The History of Long and Brier Islands

MV “Tryme” and Lawrence Elliott Sr.

by | Aug 24, 2021 | Lost at Sea, people, Tiverton | 0 comments

 In 1980 I was working in Tiverton for Small Bros. in their machine shop, as part of my job I would work on Small Bros. boats and this is where I met Lawrence Elliott Sr., one of the dragger captains.

One day Lawrence was in the machine shop and told me he had something to give me, but he said we will have to go up the road to get the “thing,” we went to one of the fish houses. He went inside and came out with a masthead light, then he explained that he was going to tell me what the light was all about.

          He told me this story, he said when he had finished school he had left home, the Great Depression was going on and not much work here on the Islands. The fishermen in Digby was having a klondike in the scallop fishing, mainly because of the new scallop rake that been invented a few years before. The scallop fishing was booming, he said he wanted to learn how to fish scallops. He moved to Digby and got on with Joe McDormand on Vicki M..

 He hadn’t been fishing all that long and one day they were out off Gullivers Head with some of the other scallop draggers, and they heard one of them in trouble. They went to see what they could do and found the crew of the Tryme all in the water. He said he threw a rope to Gerald (my uncle) and it had slipped out of his fingers and he couldn’t reach it. He threw it again and by this time Gerald was sinking in the water and couldn’t reach the rope. He said the last he seen of Gerald he was still staring at him, Lawrence said he has never been able to get this out of his mind. Lawrence knew all these men of the Tryme who was lost that day.

Shortly after this incident they did some work to make it safer on the Vicki M, one of the things that was done was change the running lights going from lantern type to electric running lights. Lawrence saved the masthead light for no particular reason, and after all these years he felt he should give me the masthead light off the boat he was on at the time of my uncle’s death.

I brought the light home, took out the wick burner that burned kerosene for the light, and changed it to a electric flicker light. I have had this light hanging on my wall since I received it in 1980.

I knew about my uncles drowning, I was told about it when I was younger. I had heard of Lawrence Elliott when we would go to Digby when I was a kid. It seemed everyone knew Lawrence in Digby as he lived there at one time. After Lawrence gave me this light I started collecting information on my uncles death.

Included is the information to go along with the light.

This is the Mast Head Light that Lawrence Elliott Sr. Gave me

Lawrence Wendall Elliott Sr. was 21 years old when this happened. Date of Birth was: Aug. 3, 1914

Gerald Stark Born; Aug. 29, 1914 21 years old at Death

Source: Digby Courier; Oct 17, 1935

Scallop Sloop “Tryme”

Capsizes and Sinks

 Three lives were claimed last night in the worst tragedy in the history of the Digby scallop fleet, when the dragger “Tryme No, 3” capsized about 4 miles off Gullivers Head, and plunge to the bottom in sixty fathoms water.

 The dead are:

 Capt. Charles Hayes Vantassel, age about 35 years, married, and survived by a wife and four daughters.

 Lee Clements of Eel Brook, Yarmouth County.

 Gerald Stark son of Luther Stark, Digby, age about 21.

 The fourth member of the crew, Lee Elliott, of Digby, age 55, was rescued.

As far as can be learn the tragedy occurred about 5:20 o’clock. The “Tryme” was hoisting in her five-net set of drags, heavily weighted with rocks and scallops from the bottom, when in some manner of the cables jumped the “nigger head” or winch drum, throwing the nets aloft, the weight capsizing the boat. The “Tryme” was the only open boat in the fleet of Digby scallop draggers.

 Joe McDormand, of the dragger Vicki M. Capt. John Tibbets, said the craft stayed afloat about fifteen minuites, before taken her final plunge to the bottom. According to McDormand, the Vicki M. the  Elizabeth M. (Capt. Ivan Mosher), the Freda and Blanche, Capt. Simms,  and the “Tryme” for all within a few hundred yards of each other. While the “Tryme” was hoisting, the other boats had their drags out, and were not aware that anything out of the ordinary had happened until they heard cries coming from the vicinity of the stricken boat.

 The boats, as soon as they could free their drags, went to the rescue. When the Vicki M. arrived within range, ropes were thrown to Elliott and Stark, the only two men who remained afloat.  Elliott, the oldest member of the crew and the only one who could not swim, caught the rope thrown by McDormand, and was hauled aboard. Stark was seen to reach for the rope thrown by Lawrence Elliott also of the Vicki M. and a nephew of the rescued man, but he missed it and went down never to come up to the surface again. Beside Capt. Tibbets and the two already mentioned, another member of the crew of the Vicki M. was Jack Deviller, roommate and pal of Clements, the Eel Brook man who lost his life.

Capsized by the weight of the heavily laden drags the craft first rolled over on his side, and settled into the water stern first. In this stern were three and a half barrels of shelled scallops and a large quantity of scallops in the shell. This added to the weight of the machinery, soon carried the boat to the bottom.

Captain VanTassel was seen to grab a piece of wreckage, said to be the engine box cover, and cling to it for a time, then he left it and swam back to the sinking boat and clung to it. When the craft took its final plunge, Elliott and Stark were seen to jump clear but the captain and Clements were dragged down with her. When the “Tryme” was cited by the Vicki M. her stern had settled in the water and her bow was standing upright about ten feet in the air. Other boats from the fleet joined those nearest the stricken craft and help all possible in the rescue work but in vain. The fleet cruised around in that semi-darkness in a search for the bodies but non were found.

          Elliott the sole survivor, perhaps owes his life to the fact that he succeeded in kicking off his heavy boots. Stark the youngest member of the crew was unable to free himself of his boots.

          Last night’s tragedy was the first of its kind in the history of the fleet. There was one fatality during the early years when a man named Holiday of Hillsburn,  Annapolis County was caught in a winch cable and crushed to death. Others have received serious injuries which have resulted in the and the loss of limbs. Garfield VanTassel brother of the captain who lost his life last night, lost a foot about two years ago as a result of catching it in the cable.

Scallop Rakes

Digby Courier; Oct. 25, 1935

This is a Poem my Grandmother wrote and had it Published in the Paper

Digby Courier; Nov. 1, 1935

Digby Courier; Jan. 29, 1937

Sometime between 1936 and 1942 Lawrence Elliott Sr. started being a Captain and operating a Scallop Boat for Small Bros., Tiverton

Scallop Boat the “Sadie L.” captained by Lawrence Elliott Sr. of Tiverton 1942 Tiverton

My Uncle Gerald’s remains have never shown up. My Grandfather walked the shores of Culloden for years watching for him to come ashore. I often think of Lawrence and what he had to go through all his life thinking about this. He must of wanted to talk about this or he would not of gave me this light. Thanks Lawrence.


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