Nat Beaton & Art Giles

                        Nat Beaton & Art Giles 

(With thanks to the Boulardarie Island Historical Society)


I want to describe to you a gentleman who I always admired and still do. He pretty much came from nothing but had been instilled with a strong will, a patriotic passion in support of his family and friends and his country, an outstanding work ethic and an ability to survive. We can think of a number of people from the surrounding area who would fit this bill but today we will devote this article to a specific individual. These truly outstanding individuals set examples that we can strive for and only hope that we achieve a small amount of what they accomplished. One such individual I would like to introduce to you is Nat Beaton.


Nat Beaton was born March 13th, 1920. He has lived his near 90 year life as a resident of Point Aconi. Nat’s grandparents were the first of the Beaton’s to settle on Boularderie Island. He is one of twelve children. His parents, Rod and Annie (Forrester) Beaton, had very little in the way of worldly goods. Rod was a carpenter and fisherman and Annie a midwife and housewife.


Nat recalls his first years of school as a young boy. He attended a one room schoolhouse located where the Prince Mine stands today. When Nat learned he would walk two miles to be taught, he informed his father that he was not the owner of a pair of boots. To solve this dilemma Rod simply said, “wear mine.” Off to school Nat went lugging a pair of size nine boots with his size two feet – quite an experience for a five year old!


Nat’s education was short-lived since he began working at the ripe old age of nine. At the fish plant in Alder Point he canned lobster meat at four cents per pound. Oftentimes, after a hard day at work, Nat was lucky to have shelled on pound of meat. To earn extra money Nat and his father hauled coal by boat to Whycocomagh, Washabuck, and Baddeck. At age 11, Nat left the lobster-canning factory to work at another; the new Cooperative in Alder Point. By the age of thirteen he began to pursue what would become his life work; he began fishing.


Nat’s father, and brother Roddie, fished on their family-owned boat. When Rod began working for the Department of Highways, young Roddie continued to use the boat until it was what he thought, pig-pen material. Yes, Nat’s brother intended to dismantle his father’s boat to build a pig-pen with the boards. But, before his brother could destroy what was left of the boat, Nat decided to fix it himself. His father had purchased a motor from William Jessome for forty dollars and Nat would later reimburse him. To their dismay, the motor did not work. With some patience and skill the motor was brought to life and Nat came to own his very first boat at age fourteen. He smiles now as he remembers boating along the “gut” and impressing the young ladies on the shore with his fancy boat! Nat kept his boat running until he entered WWII where he served overseas as a Sapper in the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) for four years.


Nat remembers an incident when he was probably fifteen years of age fishing with his brother. A storm began to brew and as the Northwest wind picked up his brother hooked a jig in his hand which proceeded to tear into his palm. Nat was quick to think and filled the gash with tobacco and wrapped it tightly to stop the bleeding. The two realized seconds after – that the battery in their small boat was dead and without a miracle they would be left to the mind of the storm!


An elder once told Nat that a dead battery could be revived after punching it with two holes and pouring water through it. Nat always believed this to be a myth, but he prayed it would actually be true. He punched two holes in the deadened dry cell battery, doused it with water and sure enough the engine roared! If it had been a myth the two possibly would never have survived!


Ironically, many of Nat’s fellow fishermen never learned to swim. Nat learned to swim at an early age, and over the years has rescued several people. He recalls Eddie Leblanc’s young son falling into the “gut.” Nat was on his boat and like others, feared the boy was lost. “Everyone was mesmerized at the time and stood still. No one seemed to react – shock had set in…” The boy’s father spoke in desperation to everyone that watched, saying that he could not save his own son because he did not know how to swim. Nat had trouble getting his boots off and jumped in wearing them. He struggled as they filled with water, pulling him under. Somehow, Nat managed to grab the boy and save him – something he will never forget!


On two other occasions Nat held the fate of other’s lives in his hands. He once spotted a young girl wearing a white cap yelling frantically as she could not make it to shore. She was becoming tired from fighting to stay above the waves when Nat came along and pulled her out of the water. Nat took her to shore on his boat and seeing that she was okay resumed his work. To this day he recalls never knowing the little girl’s name! (Ed: it was Millie Theriault)


On another occasion, Nat had been in his shed looking for an axe handle. He couldn’t find it (which was unusual) and proceeded to the wharf to ask if anyone had borrowed it. Everyone he asked said ‘No’ to his inquiry, leaving him puzzled to its whereabouts. While at the wharf he saw his neighbor Jack Pattingale fall into the water. Jack could not swim and as Nat recalls, he was a large man – weighing in at around 400 pounds! Even though Nat’s size was small in comparison, he still managed to rescue Jack – to the amazement of the onlookers at the wharf. Mysteriously, on the same day when Nat returned to his shed the missing axe handle was in plain view. Nat never discovered anyone to have borrowed it, moved it from its location, or even saw it that day. The hairs on Nat Beaton’s neck still stand on end today when he thinks of this incident and wonders if there was a ‘larger purpose’ behind his trip to the wharf…other than looking for the missing handle to his axe!

 Nat Beaton056

(Nat as a WWII Sapper – RCE)

Nat and his wife Lillian celebrated fifty-five years of marriage December 31, 2001. This lovely lady who helped so many has since passed away. They raised a family of four girls and one boy and Nat always fished to support his family. Today at the age of 90 he enjoys good health and is alert and articulate and lives with his daughter Esther and son-in-law William Giles in quite naturally Point Aconi.

 Greetings Nat and all the very best of good health and good cheer to you.

(Portions extracted from “Along The Shores of Boularderie”)


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Edie MacQuarrie on January 28, 2010 at 15:35

    I am Nat Beaton’s oldest grand child. I wanted to thank you for this lovely story about my poppy!
    I enjoyed reading it very much. I was wondering if you would any other information or photo’s that may not have fit into the article? If you could pass them along to me I would love to have them and be able to tell my two girls more about their great grandfather. He now lives in a home in North Sydney. He will be 90 in March. I now feel I know more about this wonderful man then I ever did before. Thanks for giving me new things to chat with him about at my next visit.

    Edie MacQuarrie…
    A very happy grand daughter.


    • Morning Edie nice to hear from you. I checked yesterday and my brother in law jimmy broderick was out and visited Nat. He is in a room with an old friend from Alder Point creighton bungay. I am pleased to hear that because they have so much in common. war ii veterans and fishermen.
      I am sorry but I dont have any additional pics of your grandfather. I am sure Ester and Billy should have lots of information about him.
      You take care and as i said a pleasure to hear from you,


  2. Posted by Christopher Carey on February 4, 2010 at 20:55

    Thank You Caper.
    I am one of Nat’s Grandchildren and it is soo nice to read about My Grandfather. Not living in Nova Scotia means I dont get to enjoy the old stories as much.
    Thank You.


  3. Posted by Kathleen McGillivary on February 17, 2010 at 22:25

    I am one of Nat’s grandchildren to and I am so happy to see all the info about him i spent every march break at my nanny and poppy’s place and he is a great man i always had good time with them would wait for him to get home from fishing to see what was left in his lunch can that i could eat listen to his fiddle music and dance around the kitchen with him or watch the news with him play cards thanks for tell his store


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