I’ve been noticing in the medias that the King’s Wharf development on the Dartmouth waterfront is having an open house soon for a new building. This would not normally register but the new building is called The Killick and killicks are one of my favourite things! So this is an opportunity to show my few photographs of the traditional stone anchors called killicks.

The killicks I am familiar with came from St Margarets Bay and I believe they were used to anchor nets that made up mackerel traps. At least into the 80s you could see them piled on wharves.


I was attracted to them because they are beautiful objects: stones encased in a cage of saplings that are bound together at the top and attached to a wooden cross at the bottom. In these examples six or eight progressively smaller granite beach stones fill the cage. The south shore examples are particularly beautiful because  of the access to the round granite beach rocks. The fishermen would make use of what local geology provided. The Nova Scotia Archives has a photo from Portugese Cove where a single long stone is used.


Nova Scotia Archives, Robert Norwood, 1987-480 no. 421

I wonder if killicks are still made in the province; there would certainly be folks around who know how it was done. Wouldn’t a row of them look stunning in the lobby of The Killick? Or outside, a giant version made of those huge granite boulders that contractors love so much?

If you want to see the real thing, drop by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and look at the little display of anchors in the stairwell (or just look in the window from Water Street).


Post Script

  • One of the reasons that that I felt immediate affection for our killicks was because of a book on traditional Japanese packaging. Called How to Wrap 5 Eggs it was one of the most influential design books of the mid-1960s. Page after page of exquisite black and white photos that made us look more closely at the traditional crafts wherever they were found. Does the cover photo look a little familiar?

5 eggs

  • In the navy, leading seamen are called killicks and there is a Killick Road in the Dockyard.
  • Last fall I was excited to be parked behind this truck.


  • My teacher in grade 4 and 5 at LeMarchant School used to start every day with some rousing hymn singing. She had brought a 19th century pump organ into the classroom and she would play and lead us in Baptist hymns.  My family was United Church and I wasn’t accustomed to some of the spirited Baptist songs.  A favourite was Will Your Anchor Hold and I use a line in the Post Description. I’m grateful to Miss Lucas for helping my cultural literacy. The perfect first verse:

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain? 


About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.