Enroute to the Blessing of the Fleet – Dingwall

Dingwall is a coastal community of approximately 600 residents in Victoria County,   NS. It is situated just off the Cabot Trail,  northeast of county seat of Baddeck in the federal electrical riding of Sydney – Victoria.



Old Norse in origin, the name “Dingwall” comes from Ting (parliament) and Voir (valley).  Dingwall was originally known as “Young’s Cove” until 1883. Among the first settlers and grantees for land was Walter Young in 1827. Later, in the late 1870’s, a Mr. Robert Dingwall who owned the general store in town, made an application for a post office, and suggested to the government that the town be re-named Dingwall. By provincial statute, chapter 55 in 1883, the name of Young’s Cove was thus changed to Dingwall.

Located on northern Cape Breton Island, Dingwall has traditionally been a fishing community, which remains the town’s primary industry, along with tourism. Dingwall is home to a resort called the Markland Coastal Resort, which is a popular tourist destination during the summer months. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1901.

Day of Rest – Dingwall Harbour

Dingwall was once a somewhat booming industrial town in the 1940s and 50’s when it was home to a gypsum quarry, the remnants of which are still quite prominent within the town. Once the gypsum boom had run its course, many residents moved elsewhere to find employment, but Dingwall survived almost exclusively as a fishing community from that time until the present day. One of the town’s primary landmarks for decades were the large Irving Oil storage tanks situated on the harbour, which have since been disassembled and removed by the company.

The town was home to Dingwall Elementary School which closed in 2000 when a new school, North Highlands, was constructed in the neighboring community of Sugarloaf, housing the former students of both Dingwall Elementary and Highland Consolidated.

Swordfishing Fleet in Harbour – Dingwall

Dingwall is blessed with picturesque natural beauty. Located just north of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, it possesses lush forest areas and is framed by mountains to the north and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. In addition to the approximately 600 permanent residents, many seasonal residents come to Dingwall from the U.S. and Europe during the summer and leave during the winter.



  • Total Population 606
  • Total Dwellings 303
  • Total Land Area 85.3175 km

Swordfishing off Dingwall

Back in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s Dingwall was a great swordfishing spot and schooners and snapper boats from as far away as Yarmouth and even Boston came in there to overnight. The salient feature of the swordfish is the prolongation of its upper jaw into a long, flattened, sharp-edged[49] and pointed “sword” occupying nearly one-third the total length of the fish. This sword is of itself enough to identify the fish at a glance among all our northern fishes. On a fish 10 feet 10 inches long, which we harpooned on Georges Bank on the Grampus in July 1916, the sword was 42 inches long from its tip to the eyes.

Swordfish –  Mounted

The swordfish is moderately stout of body, only slightly flattened sidewise, deepest just behind the gill openings, and tapering rearward to a slender caudal peduncle, which bears a single strong longitudinal keel on either side. Apart from the sword the head is short; the lower jaw is pointed, and the mouth so wide that it gapes far back of the very large eyes, which are set close to the base of the sword. Swordfish (except young fry) are both toothless and scaleless. The first dorsal fin originates over the upper angle of the gill openings and is much higher than long with deeply concave rear margin. The pectorals are narrow, very long, scythe shaped, and set very low down on the sides below the first dorsal.

While all swordfish are dark above and whitish with silvery sheen below, the upper surface varies from purplish to a dull leaden blue or even to black. The eye has been described as blue. Very young swordfish, like very young tuna, are transversely barred, but none small enough to show this pattern has ever been found within the limits of the Gulf. The colors fade soon after death.

Swordfish grow to a great size. The heaviest definitely recorded from the Gulf of Maine was one caught on Georges Bank in the summer of 1921 by Capt. Irving King and landed at the Boston Fish Pier, that weighed 915 pounds dressed, hence, upwards of 1,100 pounds alive. This specimen was not measured, but the sword was more than 5 feet long, so that the total length of the fish must have approximated 15 feet, and 16 feet seems to be about the maximum length, though fish as long as this are very unusual. The heaviest landed in Massachusetts during 1922 weighed 637 pounds dressed; that is, upward of 750 pounds live weight, while the largest taken in 1931 weighed 644 pounds dressed and was 13 feet long including its sword, which measured 44 inches. One that weighed 925 pounds before it was dressed was landed in 1932; also one weighing 650 pounds dressed, which must have weighed 800 pounds alive; while one of 850 pounds (dressed?), brought in to Halifax, Nova Scotia, was said to have been the largest ever landed in that port. And several, weighing more than 500 pounds, dressed, are reported almost every year.

But the general run are much smaller. Thus the average dressed weights of sundry fares of fish landed in Portland, Boston, and Gloucester in the years 1883-1884, and 1893-1895 were between 200 pounds and 310 pounds, falling to 114-186 pounds for the years 1917, 1919, 1926, and 1929-1930. And general report has it that Block Island fish run smaller than Georges Bank and Cape Breton fish. A 7-foot fish weighs about 120 pounds; 10 to 11-foot fish about 250 pounds; fish of 13 to 13½ feet, about 600 to 700 pounds, as taken from the water.

Mackeral Fishing Off Dingwall

A Mess of Mackeral

Mackeral were and continue to be a staple catch of fishermen out of Dingwall. Atlantic Mackerel are members of a large family of marine fishes known as Scombridae, which inhabit temperate and tropical seas. This family includes members of the Mackerel, Jack, Bonito and Tuna species. They are also referred to as the Common, American or Boston mackerel, Maquereau Bleu(fr.), while immature or young fish are often called Tinkers.

The Atlantic Mackerel occurs on both sides of the North Atlantic. In the western North Atlantic the mackerel ranges from Labrador in the north to as far south as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In Canada it occurs seasonally over the continental shelf around Newfoundland and Labrador, the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Maine. It occurs less frequently in the Bay of Fundy due to colder seasonal water temperatures.

A Peaceful Scene  – Dingwall

Atlantic Mackerel are one of the smaller members of the Scombridae family, when compared to Blue Fin Tuna which reach sizes in excess of 454 kg (1000 lbs.).

Sizes can range from 25 – 40 cm (8-16 in) in length with the average size angled in Nova Scotia being 32 – 36 cm(12.5- 14 in). Reports of sizes up to 66 cm(23.5 in)have been recorded from the western North Atlantic. Average weights for this species range from 200 to 700 grams with fish more than 650 grams considered large.

The Mackerel have a streamlined body shaped for fast swimming in the open ocean. Large schools commonly travel at high speeds where some individuals can accelerate to 25-30 body lengths per second. The body is slightly compressed with a narrow caudal peduncle and deeply forked tail. There is a keel of small finlets directly behind both the soft dorsal and anal fins. The body colour is blue green on the back with 23-33 black stripes or bars along the sides from the back down to the lateral line. The undersides are silver grey to white with an iridescent sheen.

If Luckey You Might Catch a King Mackeral

Facts About Atlantic Mackerel

 Atlantic Mackerel have no swim bladder and must swim continuously to maintain buoyancy, however this lack of a swim bladder also allows them to change depths rapidly to feed or avoid predation.
 Mackerel can reach speeds in excess of 32 kph, which is necessary for survival because they are pursued by some of the fastest creatures in the sea such as porbeagle and mako sharks, porpoises, bluefin tuna, swordfish and harbour seals.
 Mackerel live up to the age of 14 years, however fish 20 years old have been caught in the North Sea off Europe.
 Mackerel are usually found near the surface but can be found at depths of up to 200 meters.


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