New Archives: Captain Allan Cabot, The Negrin Farm

Take a look in the digital archives to find two new articles by Brian Blood. Or save yourself the trip and read them here below.

 

Captain Allan Cabot of Lantzville

It is not surprising that a young man born in Wallasey, across the Mersey from Liverpool in 1908, would become a seafaring man. In the 101 years since his birth, Captain Allan Cabot has seen much of the world from the bridge of Blue Funnel Line ships.

Captain Cabot went to sea on a merchant ship at the age of 15 as an apprentice seaman. He spent his 16th birthday in the Indian Ocean on a return trip from China and Japan. He qualified for his 2nd Mate ticket in 1924 and received his Master’s papers in 1934. Blue Funnel operated a prestigious training facility in Birkenhead, adjacent to Wallasey. Before modern radar and GPS, navigation relied on celestial observation with manual instruments and Blue Funnel ships’ officers “shot the sun” manually at noon every day. Before WW2 Cabot made many trips from the UK to the Orient and Australia.

During WW2 the Admiralty assumed control of the British merchant fleets and Captain Cabot made six convoy crossings of the Atlantic. None of the ships he commanded were torpedoed but several ships nearby were sunk and his crew were involved in rescues.

Nearing the end of the war the British Admiralty had the former Blue Funnel ship Menethseus, which had been requisitioned for war service, converted at a shipyard in Vancouver to serve in the Far East as an “amenity” ship for Navy personnel stationed there. It didn’t sail until ’46 when the war was over. Captain Cabot was asked to serve as 1st officer. Indian independence and postwar demobilization curtailed the mission after 18 months but that short service is fondly remembered by the Captain. The Menethseus had a crew of 100 merchantmen and 180 Royal Navy personnel. It contained a 400 seat concert hall, a marine band and its own brewery. In its short service the Menethseus entertained 48,000 servicemen in locations that included Shanghai, Hong Kong, Trincomalee, Tokyo Bay and Kure, the closest serviceable port to Hiroshima which the Captain visited.

In 1948 Captain Cabot returned to merchant ships, sailing out of Vancouver for five years. He met and married Pat in Vancouver and they raised their two daughters in West Van and tended 18 acres at FortLangley. In 1953 the Captain came ashore to work for the next 20 years managing the docks for Canadian Stevedoring from an office at Lapointe Pier. His crackdown on lawlessness helped clean up the docks but gained him some enmity from the legendary miscreants on the waterfront. He led a sea cadet corps and was a founding member of the Master Mariners Association of Canada during his years in Vancouver

After Pat died Captain Cabot retired to his present home in Lantzville where he has enjoyed a long retirement  and where he celebrated his 100th birthday last October. The event was attended by family, old friends and colleagues from all over the world including his “sea cadets” now in their 60s.  Everyone connected with Captain Allan Cabot describes him as an honorable and ethical man who has always stood up for what was right.

A further interesting fact about Captain Cabot is his direct male-line descent from the 15th Century explorer Giovanni Caboto known as John Cabot in English. The Genoese born Venetian citizen sailed for Henry VII of England and discovered Newfoundland in 1497.  The French pronunciation of Cabot (silent t) used by the English and Canadian descendents of Giovanni derives from the residence of his widow on the then French speaking Island of Jersey after the death of the explorer on his second voyage to the New World.

Note: Captain Cabot died in 2010, several months after these interviews were done. The last interview was conducted at his bedside in Nanaimo Hospital.

B Blood

Lantzville Historical Society

 

 

The Negrin Farm

Giordano, the first child in his generation of the Negrin family, was born in the Veneto region of northern Italy in 1890.  His mother had three more sons before she was widowed and the landless and now fatherless family struggled to make ends meet, laboring for landowners in the village 40 miles north of Venice. In 1907 Giordano left for New York and in 1918 went on to WashingtonState and AlaskaTerritory where he worked in sawmills and goldmines. In 1920 he returned to Italy to visit his mother and while there met and married America Lazzarin. She was 30 and he was 33. In 1921 they came to Vancouver Island. Their son Bennie was born in Nanaimo on Oct 23, 1921. Bennie’s sister Alba was born in 1926. The family lived on Jinglepot Rd.  and Giordano, now known as Gordon outside the home, worked in the mines. He was injured at the Jinglepot Mine and was unable to work for four years during which time (1924 to 1927) they lived in Vancouver and Bennie started school at Strathcona Elementary. The family returned to the island and rented Marshall’s farm in the MillstoneValley where they began a dairy operation as well as raising chickens, pigs, calves and vegetables.  Bennie and Alba walked along a logging railway grade to attend East Wellington School.

The Negrins moved to Lantzville in 1935 when their lease was up at Marshall’s. They rented the Walter Auld farm property behind the current Lantzville business district. Bennie and Alba attended Lantzville School.

In 1938 Gordon and America bought the land on Lantzville Rd from the Thicke family that is known as the Negrin farm today.  They moved the dairy operation to the new location and the two generations managed a dairy herd for a total of 50 years.

Only a family can operate this kind of small dairy operation. Long hours of hard work, seven days a week, were part of the package.  35 dairy cows were milked by hand.

Bennie met Lorraine Dunbar from Pleasant Valley in 1943 and they were married in 1945. Bennie built the “little house” for them next to the original Thicke farmhouse where his parents were living. When their children were born (Danny 1947, Donald, 1949 and Diana, 1951) Bennie and Lorraine swapped houses with Bennie’s parents who lived out their days in the smaller house. True to his Italian heritage, Gordon had a one acre vineyard in a sunny location close to Lantzville Rd. for many years.

During the postwar era the Canadian family farm reached its peak and began a slow decline. The Lantzville area was no exception.  One by one the old farms went out of production as resource and town jobs lured workers away and prices of farm products fell as agribusiness and supermarkets came to dominate the food industry. The Negrins persevered and where Bennie had delivered milk by bicycle as a teenager they progressed to delivering to 150 customers a day by truck.  Surpluses went to the Nanaimo Dairy and later to Palm dairy. Other farms going out of production created an opportunity for Bennie to rent some of their fields for hay production. He rented the Dunbar farm from his in-laws for 35 years and also cut hay on the Doumont, Ecclestone, Gee, Petchauer and Blood properties and others over the years.  Even with this hay production they usually purchased 25 tons of alfalfa from Washington State annually which they mixed with their own hay to feed the cows. Bennie and Lorraine remember 1957 as a wet year when they lost much of their hay crop (3,000 bales on the Dunbar farm) and were forced to buy a second load of Washington alfalfa.

The farm property was extended several times.  The first parcel was purchased from Charlie Thicke in 1938. This was followed by an adjacent parcel purchased from Dave Thicke and another strip on the east side from Mr. Kelly which had originally been part of the Henry Doumont farm. These three pieces of land formed the nucleus of the farm and still do.  In 1968 the Negrins acquired the fields above Harby Rd. west at the bottom of what is now the golf course.  This rounded out the farm at its largest extent but was eventually sold off as were the portions of the original Thicke properties above the re-aligned Island Highway which had cut off direct access to the farm in 1959. Until then, Lantzville Rd. had been the highway.

Most of the farm work was done by the family but haying season required more labour when 10 to 12 local young people would be hired for a week to ten days. Corn and oats were also grown for cattle feed.  A vegetable garden and 600 chickens rounded out the long days work. Eggs were delivered along with the milk.

The farm always required a team of horses and one that made the move (and helped with it) from the Marshall property to the Aulds operation to the beginnings of the current farm was a mare named Enis, a standard workhorse weighing around 1300 lbs.

The postwar years saw some mechanization of farming and the Negrins bought their first tractor, a Cockshut, in 1948. This tractor proved too small and an Oliver was purchased in 1954 and eventually two English made Leylands. One of the latter may be familiar to local residents as the tractor Ken Spence still uses to tow the hay wagon at Minetown Day.  Automatic milking machines were introduced in 1949 and were upgraded several times over the years. Mechanized milking still required work but the whole operation took less time than milking 35 cows by hand into a pail. As well as working the farm Bennie took outside jobs in the area, especially in the late forties and early fifties in order to finance the transition to mechanized farming. On one of these jobs he drove a gravel truck for K B Fraser logging for $35 a week including the maintenance of the truck on Sundays.

In 1978 they closed the dairy business, sold the milk cows and raised 15 to 25 beef cattle each year.  While beef cattle still require daily feeding they are tougher than dairy cows, live out of doors year round and don’t require milking.  Beef prices vary a great deal however and in the first year the beef-on-the-hoof price fluctuated from $1.49 per lb to .79 cents. The Negrins fully retired in 2004 selling the last of their beef cattle.

Bennie and Lorraine made a trip to Italy in 1985. They visited some of the remaining relations and family connections there. Bennie, who had spoken Italian at home until he went to school, was still able to communicate in the language as it was spoken in his father’s generation.

Bennie says that in spite of the hard work and struggle of farming, he doesn’t regret having spent his life at it.  He and Lorraine are never lonely and often have a kitchen full of visitors. Farmers are always at home.

B Blood

Lantzville Historical Society

 

 

Brian Blood

Brian is old Lantzville. He gardens, walks his Aussies, reads about the Ottoman Empire and was an anarchist in his youth.

Posted in Editions, Historical Society, October 2013, Organizations

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