The folks at Isle au Haut gathered Sunday afternoon at the waterfront in Moore's Harbor to celebrate the fond memory of a well-loved fisherman. This was Phil Alley who spent most of his active life by these shores. Phil came here from Jonesport to share in a fish weir with Gordon Chapin.
Phil brought woodworking talent along with his fishing skills. His cabinetmaking remains in the local church, his half-hull dory windowboxes decorate local homes and his boat models are legendary. These models are the pride of many families who have acquired one.
Our gathering was hosted by Lloyd Bergeson, a ship designer and longtime summer resident. Lloyd called on the Rev. Hoskins to dedicate a tree, planted there at Moore's Harbor, to honor the memory of Phil. That nicely done, we listened to tributes and stories by many persons who wanted to share them.
Phil's daughters and granddaughters spoke lovingly of his paternal affections. Then Jenny Sawyer, a summer resident who followed Phil about, told us how as a little girl, she fell into the weir which was teeming with trapped fish and squid during the process of emptying it. Huey Jacobus told of the struggle to pull a 150 pound halibut into their dory as a thunderstorm approached. That catch provided a meal or more for almost everyone on the Island.
Lloyd interrupted from time to time, reminding us that refreshments were waiting. The crowd would have none of it and kept calling for more stories. So Lloyd shared his experience of first meeting Phil and Gordon, then convincing them that the old house that was "not for sale" at Moore's Harbor would be better with new ownership.
We were told of clam digging when Billy Barter thought he had filled his basket in record time only to look up to find Phil already finished and was cleaning up. We were told of a lunch at the Alley house during a work session in which Bill Stevens found a 2 1/2 pound lobster on his plate and was told there was another lobster waiting while at the same time Mrs. Alley brought a course of stuffed pork chops fron the kitchen.
Peg Dice told of filming a movie of the fish weir team as they went about their duties. She was surprised at the ease of these men before the cameras. She told of the time in which a small whale had become trapped in the weir and how the men had tied rocks to the tops of the nets, hoping the whale would escape at high tide without smashing their weir. It did!
We were reminded of the oral history by Phil Alley which was taped and transcribed by Barbara Brown of our Historical Society. A copy of that is in the local library and at the Maine Archives in Orono. Several told of their trips to Jonesport by car or by boat to see Phil in his retirement. Each felt rewarded by their visit with that special person.