Capt. Marty Welch

Captain Martin Leander Welch

Captain Martin Leander Welch was born December 16, 1864 in Digby, Nova Scotia. Marty began sailing at the age of 14, first as a fisherman and deck hand, then as mate, and eventually captain. Marty emigrated to the United States in 1881, and married Margaret Arnold in 1889. Marty was a captain for 33 years. His commands included the Lucille, Titania, Navahoe, Lucania, Benjamin A. Smith, Killarney, Esperanto, Elsie, and Thelma. In 1920, Capt. Welch won the first International Fishing Schooner Championship Race Series in Halifax, Nova Scotia. On April 4, 1927, Capt. Welch and the crew of the Thelma narrowly escaped death while anchored at night, in heavy fog, near Old Point Comfort, Norfolk, Virginia, when Thelma was struck by a barge under tow. Thelma's hull was ripped open, and she sank in minutes. The crew was saved, but crewmember John Brennan was injured. In 1928, the American painter Edward Hopper painted a watercolor entitled "Marty Welch's House" based on Capt. Welch's residence at 31 Cleveland Street, Gloucester. A newspaper article in the Digby Courier on Friday Oct. 16 1931 contained...

"MARTY" WELCH IN DETROIT PARADE Capt. Marty L. Welch, the Digby born skipper of the international fisherman's race fame, who sailed the Gloucester Schr. Elsie in the first race off Halifax with the schooner Bluenose was a prominent figure in the big parade of the American Legion following the 13th. National convention at Detroit. The Gloucester float in the parade was a big seine boat with "Marty" at the helm. Well along in years now he stood the grueling heat in a manner typical of his calling. When his float swung into line Marty and his crew of seven received a tremendous ovation from the thousands who had particularly gathered at that one spot, the corner of Grand Boulevard and Jefferson Ave. There was a band, too, from Gloucester aboard the boat to liven up matters. Mackerel was thrown, from the boat into the dense crowds. They were waved in the air and people shouted along the route. After the parade the float was given to the Detroit branch of the Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co.; for advertising purposes. The very day of the big time in Detroit, a sister of Marty's died suddenly in Gloucester, Mrs. Frances Jane Brooks, a widow, but Capt. Welch was not handed the telegram announcing her passing until the parade was over. Besides Marty deceased leaves another brother Wm. V. Welch of Gloucester. The three were born in Digby children of the late Martin and Harriett [Comeau] Welch. Their father was a seafaring man, years ago sailing out of Digby in command of vessels engaged in the West Indies trade.

Martin Leander Welch died on April 16, 1935 in Gloucester, and is buried at Calvary Cemetery, Eastern Avenue, Gloucester. Capt. Marty Welch was described as "fearless", "courageous", "daring, yet careful", "one of our greatest mariners", and "uncanny". A newspaper article in the Digby Courier Friday April 19 1935 contained...

CAPTAIN MARTY WELCH Captain Marty Welch has stood his last watch. The famous sailing master who won the first international fishermen's race, died peacefully at his home in Gloucester Mass. on Tuesday, when his 68-year old heart failed him. Capt. Welch was born in Digby. His father was a prominent resident of this town and was one of those instrumental in the erection of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church. While Captain Welch was still a young boy the family moved to Boston. His associations with the sea have made him a well known figure in practically all Nova Scotian ports.