by Sally Cole email@example.com
Published by The Guardian on January 15, 2015
Catherine Hennessey holds one of the pieces that first piqued her curiosity in pottery 50 years ago. The Charlottetown historian has just published the Prince Edward island Pottery Company.
|©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE|
When Catherine Hennessey bought her first clay jug at a Charlottetown auction in 1965, she became curious.
“It looked like it had been made of Island clay, but nobody around could tell me anything about it,” says Hennessey, who purchased the piece to sell in her antique shop in Charlottetown.
She also wanted to be able to share any of that historical information with whomever might buy the jug.
Luckily, a chance meeting with George Leard, a Souris historian, gave her a push in the right direction.
“He told me he thought it was a piece of P.E.I. pottery. He didn’t know anything else,” she recalls.
Discovering that so little was known about the jug was distressing for her.
“It made me nervous,” says Hennessey, who realized she needed to learn more about the pottery, as well as the furniture she was selling.
So, she locked the shop and refused to sell another piece until she had finished her research.
“We didn’t know anything about anything. And (the pickers) were taking (antiques) off the Island by the truckload. And they didn’t know the stories behind the things they were collecting.”
As it turns out, the well-known Island historian never returned to the antique business, but she never left the business of historical research.
Fast-forward 50 years and Hennessey now has the answers to many of her pottery questions in her newly published book, Prince Edward Island Pottery Company. Filled with historical information and anecdotes, the 26-page publication includes colour and black and white photographs of pottery, as well as maps, illustrations and newspaper clippings.
“I’m so quietly happy about this little book. People have been telling me that it’s so important to put little packages of history together, like this. That’s because, if we don’t, these little bits of history will be lost,” says Hennessey, adding the company, Prince Edward Island Pottery, was started in 1880 by Frederick William Hyndman, after his career with the Royal Navy.
Upon moving home, he and his brother Charles, also an entrepreneur opened the business west of Mount Edward Road and south of what is now Belvedere Avenue.
“The site covered about eight acres and included the lily pond that is on the Experimental Farm today. It is said to have one of the sources of pottery clay,” writes Hennessey in the book.
The volume also provides details of the professional dig on the old pottery site conducted in 1970, under the direction of Donald Webster.
“We were really blessed that that man came from the Royal Ontario Museum to do the dig and we have his work, which I’ve quoted quite generously.”
Hyndman’s great-grandson, also named Fred Hyndman, is generous in his praise for the new publication.
“I’ve known that, for a long time, (Catherine) had a particular interest in P.E.I. pottery. She collected things over the years and she’s finally put it together. I think it’s wonderful that she’s done it and that the information is saved for posterity.”
The positive response Hennessey is receiving for the book is encouraging her to do more research on items she has come across in the past.
“What’s next? I am planning a book on Island furniture, an article on Helen Haszard, an artist, as well as something on Victoria Park.
“After all, why stop at one thing if you can do three more?”
AT A GLANCE
What: Prince Edward Island Pottery Company
Where: Pottery for the book is from the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation collection. Private collectors also loaned their collections.
The decorative tiles that surround the upper part of the chancel at St. Paul’s Church were created by the P.E.I. Pottery Company.
A section on the Spring Park Pottery, a forerunner to Prince Edward Island Pottery, is also included in the book.
Copies of the book: Available at Charlottetown at Details Past and Present, the Book Mark and Showcase, the Confederation Centre gift shop, in Charlottetown.