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Island ship-building history created in newspaper and home-made glue

by Sue Gallant

Loretta Ross of Bideford proudly shows her papier-mache model of the Meteor, made in ten weeks at Ellerslie Community School Loretta Ross of Bideford proudly shows her papier-mache model of the Meteor, made in ten weeks at Ellerslie Community School this year.

Her name was the Meteor. She was one of the last, magnificent, wooden sailing ships to be built and launched from the Bideford wharf in Western PEI, in 1892.

The story of the Meteor, a three-masted brigantine, so touched the life of current Bideford resident Loretta Ross, that at Ellerslie Community School this year, Ross decided to embark upon building a model of the Meteor—out of newspaper, flour and water.

The demise of ship-building marked the end of an important and prosperous era for this region, known locally as Prince Edward Island’s Westcountry. The area was so called after the shipbuilding, Westcountry region of South West England, from whence many of Bideford’s then inhabitants came.

The Ross family had relatives who worked on building the original Meteor three generations previously; they also own a model of the Meteor acquired in the 1930s. The making of such models was apparently common practice for ship builders prior to producing the real thing. The Ross family have loaned their original Meteor model to the Bideford Parsonage Museum where it is now on permanent display.

Loretta Ross signed up for class instructor Deborah Kerr-Cook’s, papier-mache making class in January of this year. Over the period of the next ten weeks until mid-March, professional artist Kerr-Cook, guided Ross in the fascinating art of creating beautiful sculpture using torn scraps of newspaper layered together with gluppy bowls of homemade glue.

As Ross’s model of the Meteor began to take shape, she could be seen enlisting more and more assistance getting the thing out and in her vehicle in the school’s parking lot, at the beginning and end of each Wednesday evening class. The impressive finished model stands one metre thirty centimetres in length and one metre high.

When Ross agreed to a Buzz interview to showcase her handiwork, she disclosed two further twists to this story: husband Tim is a long-time, Prince County delivery driver for The Buzz. Ross also decided that after being asked to do the interview around week seven of the ten week community school project, it would only be fitting to use out-dated, surplus, Buzz magazines to finish the job—several layers in fact.

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