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Who was Peggy of Peggy's Cove?

Updated on February 19, 2014
William deGarthe Sculpture
William deGarthe Sculpture | Source

There's one thing for sure that the thousands of folks who visit Peggy's Cove every year want to know, and that is, who was Peggy? Let me give you the facts and folklore behind Peggy of the Cove, Our Nova Scotia Heroine.

Bill (William) deGarthe was an artist, sculptor and writer who resided in Peggy's Cove every summer. His famous paintings captured the lifestyle of the seafaring community and the awesome moods of the sea. His most accomplished piece of work was the sculpture carved from the granite cliff located in his back yard. Peggy is the only lady in this scene, she's holding a basket, left of the center. (Many miss this magnificent piece of work because it's not marked. Park at the Visitor Information Center and keep going straight across the crosswalk from the parking lot, and you'll go directly to the sculpture.)

Peggy Shipwrecked (Illustrated by David Preston Smith)
Peggy Shipwrecked (Illustrated by David Preston Smith) | Source

In his little book, This is Peggy's Cove, Bill writes about the two possibilities of who was the Peggy of Peggy's Cove. One is the abbreviated name, Peggy, of Margaret as in St. Margaret's Bay. The cove is located at the eastern entrance of the bay. Visitors prefer the second possibility because of its romance and adventure. Here's the quote from his book.

The story goes that a schooner was wrecked on "Halibut Rock" off the Lighthouse Point, in a "Southeastern", in sleet and fog on a dark October night. The ship ran hard aground and with high waves washing her decks, some of her crew climbed to the masts, but the waves washed them into the boiling sea. Everyone on board was lost except a woman, who managed to survive the turbulent seas, swam ashore and was finally rescued by the people on the shore.

Her name was Margaret, and she married one of the eligible bachelors of the Cove. The people from near-by places used to come and visit Peggy of the Cove, and before long they began to call the place Peggy's Cove. How true this story is, no one knows, and there are no documents available to confirm or refute it.

Image: Peggy of the Cove
Image: Peggy of the Cove | Source

New Light About Peggy

Back in 1996, two ladies from North Dakota arrived at Peggy's Cove, claiming to be the great-granddaughters of Peggy. Bruce Nunn, Mr. Nova Scotia Know-it-all, interviewed and wrote their story in his book, Nova Scotia History with a Twist.

They said the little girl, who was the only survivor of the wreck, was too young to remember her name. The family that took her in, called her Peggy. Later she fell in love with one of the sons of the family that cared for her and they married, moved to Hamilton, Ontario and eventually took up residence in North Dakota. They even had a picture of Peggy as an adult. You may read the full story in Bruce's Book, published by Nimbus Publishing.

Image: Peggy in the Wave
Image: Peggy in the Wave | Source

Peggy in the Wave

Details of Peggy's life story remained dormant until Hurricane Josephine struck Nova Scotia in the autumn of 1996. The waves were awesome and I had to capture them on film. Two of my sixty pictures were exceptional, but I didn't see anything unusual. A gentleman staying at the Breakwater B&B pointed out the image of a woman standing erect in the middle of the crashing wave. Roger and Shelia Crooks of Peggy's Cove opened the B&B. I gave them free decorations of paintings and pictures; they gave me free sales. When Roger showed me what the visitor saw, I couldn't believe my eyes. Well, we know it really isn't Peggy, right! I titled it, Peggy in the Wave. I excitedly told myself, you've got to do something with that! So I did.

The Rescue of Peggy
The Rescue of Peggy | Source

The Painting

A painting! That's what I'll do, I thought and grabbed my canvas and brushes. It's titled, The Rescue of Peggy. .

The Song - Peggy of the Cove
The Song - Peggy of the Cove | Source

The Song

One day I came home and April (my wife) was busy writing a funny poem about her sister, RosaLee. I jumped right in, offering my two cents worth although I didn't have a clue how a poem was constructed. April clued me in. We had so much fun, we ended writing another poem about her other sister, Holly, and one for her mother.

Now that I had the hang of it, I decided to write a poem about April. It went well and was the inspiration to write a song about Peggy. I knew it needed a little tweaking. Evelyn Noble did a fine job at editing. Warren Robert wrote the music, Melony Ross performed the vocal and Christopher Mitchell did the mix. Thus was born the song, Peggy of the Cove.


The Books.

After completing the song, writing a book stuck in my mind, but since I didn't do well in school, especially in the essay area, attacking a book terrified me. However, storytelling came natural so I started gathering stories from friends and began writing. Barbara Webber, asked who my editor was. She was surprised when I told her I didn't know I needed an editor. She offered and I accepted. Peggy of the Cove, A legend brought to reality, was on the way. The first page was written in April 2004 and the book was on the market in time for Christmas. Being a commercial printer in my earlier years made it easy to self publish.

Remember, Bill deGarthe said Peggy was a young woman and the ladies from North Dakota claimed Peggy was too young to remember her name. I decided Peggy would be eight years old in my story and that she would be plagued with amnesia from the trauma of the shipwreck.

After publishing A legend brought to reality, I thought a series of books for children would be awesome. My inspiration for the layout came from reading the captions under beautiful images in the National Geographic. That was my kind of book. Lots of pictures and a little reading.

My problem was how to get the images. If you ever saw my figure illustrations, you'd see they leave a little to be desired, but David Preston Smith, now there's an illustrator. He agreed to help me out. I gave him the wording for each page and gave him the leeway to draw the scenes to match.The illustrations are out of this world. Thus began The Rescue of Peggy. David also helped with the editing. Brent designed the covers.

The video below will give you more details.

Cathleen MacDonald - Producer

Ivan's Childhood Home Museum
Ivan's Childhood Home Museum | Source

The Museum.

In the spring of 2005, I attended Saltscapes Expo to present Peggy of the Cove. Three tour guides stopped by (Thelma, Pauline and Charlene) and were blown away with Peggy. After discovering she and my grandmother, Janet, became best friends in my story, they wanted to visit and see the Peggy Room as I called it. The remainder of my childhood home was an art gallery. These ladies immediately saw the possibilities and asked if I would gather family artifacts and reinstate my home like it was while growing up. They convinced me people would love to meet the author of Peggy and hear her story first hand. And that my friends, is how Ivan's Childhood Home Museum developed.

Later, Barry Doucette and his wife, Marie, suggested I paint a mural to attract attention. I was out painting the next day. Was their prediction correct? I'd say so! Without a doubt, this is the most photographed house on the Peggy's Cove Road if not all of Nova Scotia. The video below goes into more detail about painting the mural.

Painting the Mural.

The Dolls.

Secretly, April started sculpting a Peggy doll. She wasn't satisfied with the outcome and put it away. One day I announced, "I'm going to sculpt a Peggy doll." Well, after a while, it was obvious I should have stuck to painting. After seeing my creation, April figured she better give it another whirl... still unknown to me. After reaching a satisfactory likeness, she unveiled her first Peggy sculpt. I was amazed. It took her three years to perfect the sculpt before starting to produce a limited edition of one hundred dolls. She then went on to complete the other three main characters: Janet, Rosa and Billy. Her skills are constantly improving. On the right is her newest Peggy doll which measures 18 inches high.

April's First and New Peggy of the Cove Dolls
April's First and New Peggy of the Cove Dolls

The Movie.

Cathleen MacDonald of Motion Picture Enterprises Inc. is my cousin. She asked for my first book with the intention of writing a script and producing a Peggy of the Cove movie. "There isn't enough to the story," she said. When I informed her there was more coming, she requested a copy of Secrets, the second book. I was distraught when she gently informed me I couldn't write another book filled with stories like A legend brought to reality.

"You must have structure. Describe your characters, the setting and have a plot." were her words. "A plot! What's that?" I asked. I heard the word before, but never really understood its meaning. Remember, I didn't do well in school. Reading wasn't my first love. Now if they would have let me create stuff like model boats, airplanes and paint like Hazel Herman let us do in grade four, I would have excelled.

The teachers back then didn't understand that left handers were creative smart, not book smart. They thought left handedness was evil or something and tried expelling the wretched whatever out of your hand by cracking our fingers with their pointer stick. After a few attempts, my teacher gave up. Maybe it was because she was a local and friend of the family or my comment about writing with my right hand. I informed her it was too hard and I wasn't doing it! I better stop rattling on, as April would say, and get back to Cathie and the second book.

Cathie said, "I'll help and teach you structure and edit your next book." Wow! I was ecstatic. I often wonder if she took on more than she bargained for. Writing was her field, and I must have tried her patients. I think she inherited them from Grammy Covey, Mom's mother... Cathie's great-grandmother.

Well, after three years and twelve drafts, Cathie finally had me whipped me into shape and gave permission to publish Secrets. It won the Bronze Independent Book Publishers Award in the US for Best Eastern Canada Fiction in 2009.

By using chapter one in A legend brought to reality and Peggy's journey in Secrets, Cathie wrote the script for the movie.

What's Next?

At present, the first draft of the third book, Betrayal or Kidnapped (am waiting for suggestions) is completed. Peggy is an early teen by now and the romance has started. The fourth will be the Romance.

Every year we add something new to the museum and or grounds. We have seventy acres so there's lots of expansion possibilities. We'd love to have you visit, have a little fun taking pictures with the props and fall in love with Peggy of the Cove, Our Nova Scotia Heroine. By the way, Admission is Free!

We'll update this post to keep you informed. Thanks for stopping by.

Peggy of the Cove and Peggy of Peggy's Cove are registered trademarks.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      An amazing look at this landmark.

    • profile image

      Fred Christiansen 3 years ago

      Ivan, when we knew each other back in Oshawa, I had no idea you were an artist. I really like your house. BTW, I still remember you taking me sailing on Lake Ontario -- a fond memory.