spacer spacer
Following Farley NEWS/CALENDAR         SPONSORS         FARLEY FACTS         CONTACT
Farley Boat Roofed House
Boat Roofed House

The double ender refers to the fact the hull is higher and pointed at both the bow and stern.

The hull is upside down so the bow and stern are lower, making it a difficult transition to shape with dry laid stone.

  Boat Roofed House

The boat roofed house would have had space open enough inside to live in.

Boat Roofed House

The boat will be filled with stones and rocks brought to the monument by friends of Farley and those paying tribute to Farley


An Explanation.

In Farley Mowat's book the Farfarers a seafaring people from the British Isles are depicted as having sailed over a thousand years ago to Arctic Canada in fragile skin covered double-ender boats in search of walrus skins. After a long season of hunting along the coastal regions of Labrador, Newfoundland and parts of northern Quebec, many of these Pre-Viking adventurers had to endure a long winter before returning home across the Atlantic.

What does all this have to do with Dry Stone Walling? There are some very intriguing archaeological stone structures that have been discovered in the areas where these early visitors to Canada hunted, which suggest that they may have supported their upside-down boats on curved dry stone walls, living in these 'boat-roofed houses' until they could sail back home in the spring. If this is so, these structures point to a heritage of dry stone walling here in Canada much earlier than anyone had imagined.

Members of the DSWAC and the DSWA of the UK reconstructed one of these ancient longboat houses during the Northumberland Dry Stone Wall Festival at the 20 Catherine Street site, three blocks from Hill and Dale Bed & Breakfast, Port Hope, where other dry stone walling festivals have been held.

Here in Ontario, places like Amherst Island, Prince Edward County, Balsam Lake, Caledon, and Queenston, have many fine examples of walls that have a proud, though for the most part, still undocumented history surrounding their construction. Many newer Canadian garden features, made of dry laid natural stone, point back to this heritage of dry stone walling, whether it be a past of clearing fields here in Canada or the memories of miles and miles of beautiful tightly stacked walls built longer ago, back across the Atlantic.

We used nearly 30 tons of random quarried chocolate limestone from the Madoc area ( generously supplied by Upper Canada Minerals) to simulate the stone that was collected and stacked together in order to build these early boat-shaped structures found in remote parts of Canada. The rocks we chose represented the type of sedimentary rocks found in Newfoundland, limestones formed between the Precambrian and the Palaeozoic period of Newfoundland's geological history which would have been gathered by these early 'Farfarers' to build structures (such as cairns and beacons) for marking important locations as well as (black-houses and boat-roofed houses) for protective dwellings.

On the Monday afternoon of the Festival, after the boat shaped walls had been completed to the specific dimensions of the hull, the 25 foot double-ender boat that DSWAC and Port Hope community members had prepared, was carefully lifted onto its new dry stone stone base.

On Saturday afternoon, October 28th 2006 at 3pm there was a special presentation and an unveiling of the plaque commemorating the completion of the dry stone representation of the boat-roofed house Farley describes in his book The Farfarers. This unusual dry stone structure will be a landmark and a point of interest for those visiting Port Hope, both in its value as an example of early dry stone walling in North America and as a monument honouring Port Hope as Farley Mowat's home. Farley and Claire Mowat will be there as well as other prominent dignitaries. In a way, this dry stone boat-roofed house installation not only synthesizes the long history of building with stone in Canada, but it also looks back over the career of Farley Mowat and stands as a monument to the many wonderful books he has written. While the Boat That Wouldn't Float (written by Farley in the 1980's), stands as an earlier bookmark to a long career of successful writing, this structure, taken from an idea in Farley's later writings, stands as a 'bookmark in stone' for his continued output in the new millennium. Seen in its new skin, creatively speaking, this structure may be just a different kind of 'boat that wouldn't float' !

Boat Roofed House
Unveiling of commemorative plaque at the Farley Mowat/DSWAC Ceremony in Port Hope Ontario Canada. Oct 18th 2006.

Many people gathered at Port Hope, as the rain clouds cleared and the sun came out, to see Canadian author Farley Mowat who was the guest of honour and main speaker, at the unveiling of the official bronze plaque mounted on a unique dry stone structure ( based on his book the Farfarers,) built over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The 'Ancient Music Trio' provided a wonderful musical contribution during much of the ceremony. Farley looking sprightly despite a bad cold, read a passage from his book, which delves into the mystery of these little-known archaeological structures, found in parts of Arctic Canada. He explained in more detail his connection to the boat-roofed house project and giving his approval , expressed gratitude for all the effort that went into actually bringing it to completion. He went on to explain about the importance of putting things in historical perspective and that people should "... always remember that in terms of human discovery, no one is ever the first."

Afterwards Stephen Smith ( whose property the monument was built on) spoke a few words and then Farley was invited to read the inscription on the plaque.

"Eight hundred years before Columbus sailed to the New World, seafaring walrus hunters and traders from Great Britain's Northern Isles are believed to have landed in north eastern Canada, even before the Vikings arrived. Venturing far from their homes, the adventurers sailed double-ended, open boats sheathed in walrus hides. As winter swept a hostile, treeless land, they flipped their light, translucent vessels on to dry stone foundations and used them as snug, boat-roofed houses. This small-scale replica was inspired by archaeologist Thomas Lee's excavations in Ungava, northern Quebec in the 1960s. It celebrates Canadian author and Port Hope resident Farley Mowat, who told the story of this long-forgotten people in The Farfarers."
--Port Hope Friends of Farley Mowat, 2006

The Farfarers ancient boat-stone shelter came about due to the good will, financial and professional support, hard work and enthusiasm of a large and diverse group of people drawn together for many reasons.

In the beginning it got " off the ground" due to the enormous affection and respect a great number of us feel in Canada for Farley and Claire Mowat, both their long contributions to Canadian literature and their connection of many years to Port Hope.

We came together to find the right boat, bring it to Port Hope, remaking it to play the part of an ancient walrus hide covered boat, strong enough to cross the north Atlantic.

Other people heard about the project and contributed the stone the site and the funding to make this thing happen.

Dry stone wallers, both professional craftsmen and women came together on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend over the three days of the festival. They came from many parts of the world to build the curve shaped dry stone foundation for the longhouse structure.

On the third day the boat hull was lifted on to its dry stone base and the entire structure was completed on schedule.

My hope is that this project will be a monument both to Farley Mowet , whose imagination and skill brought the story of Alban explorers back to life and a reminder to us of the vital role of imagination, creativity and inspired thinking (with which we are all blessed with ) plays in our lives together. It took a community of different skills to bring this thing to life.

Boat Roofed House

"It is difficult to know what to call the actual structure.

Just what is it exactly?

Hopefully it represents a variety of things to different people.

Perhaps the fact that it is a 'double-ender' is a clue to its importance and meaning for me.

The term 'double-ender' suggests looking at the sailing craft from two different angles, and thinking about being able to call either end the 'front' or 'bow'.

The shape itself suggests that those in the vessel have a 'choice' in the direction they choose to head. It is a structure that already has some adaptability to its shape.

Continuing this analogy, as a simple curved shaped craft itself it can in fact be adapted from a sea worthy sailing vessel to a safe shelter in a hostile land.

So too, the rocks along the hazardous coast of Arctic Canada, are perceived as not just something to be avoided but in fact, a useful building material.

The skills needed for sailing the craft are now readapted from those requiring 'seamanship' to those requiring a different kind of craftsmanship and ingenuity.

We all have this ability.

We all have a craft that we venture out on the sea of life in.

We have to 'go the distance' in our craft, whether it be a chosen craft or one we have more of less found ourselves 'out at sea' in. Like these early sea farers, we can't always turn back, we have to take our craft further and further, out of necessity, whether it be further across the Atlantic in search of walrus skins or just further along the course that somehow seems set for us.

Here in Canada I've found myself called to initiate and steer this dry stone walling organization/festival/craft thing to some sort of destination. It seems almost inevitable that I have to pursue projects of this type. ( dreaming up ideas and organizing the building of various massive stone structures)

Others are compelled to develop their 'craft' too. If nothing else it is a kind of natural development, and in this, it seems to me there are three important aspects, imagination, creativity and craftsmanship and they carry us all along the way.

And they often carry us past the safe waters of home, well beyond ordinary and predictable outcomes.

Life, (in our particular craft) involves taking risks and seeing a vision through to the end. At some point on this adventure, usually out of necessity, because we can't always return or at least, can't always go back when we want , at these landmark occasions, we have to look at our 'craft' in a totally different way.

We have to think outside the box, or think inside an upside-down boat!

We have to look at our boat as a resource more useful to us now as something that, for the time being anyway, 'wont be floating'

'The boat that wouldnt float' may, in fact , be a good thing Farley's actual boat that wouldnt float was the inspiration for a wonderful book. Almost certainly , as a book, in the long haul, it was more entertaining, gave more 'pleasure' and from Farley, was more a gift to others than it would have been, had he owned just an ordinary , uninteresting boat that did float!

'Our craft ', that sometimes looks like it wont float , or it isnt floating, may be the very thing it needs to be, or that very gift to others it needs to be. That upside-down-boat on that pile of what looks like useless rocks can be that very something too, that gets us through a season of harshness and coldness and bareness.

As a craft it is a 'Dual Purpose Object.' both, Vessel in uncharted sea, and Hospice through the winter of unknowing.

We are all craftsmen and women We all need to look at our crafts in different ways sometimes.

We need to be flexible, adaptive, try to welcome change, and we need to see the situation, ourselves, our surroundings, even the rocks around us and the boats tied up to them, - everything, in a different light."

John Shaw-Rimmington
President of Dry Stone Walling Across Canada
Boat Roofed House

Celebrating the Farley Mowat boat roofed house move to East Ganaraska Park in October 2016.

© 2016 Follwing Farley. All Rights Reserved.


Back to Top