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Large hooked mat unveiled in Grand Bank

A hooked mat, measuring 16 feet x 12 feet, was unveiled at the 200th anniversary of the Grand Bank United Church on Sunday.
A hooked mat, measuring 16 feet x 12 feet, was unveiled at the 200th anniversary of the Grand Bank United Church on Sunday.

One thing Kathleen Gorman really wanted to do all her life was hook mats.

When she retired from teaching after 32 years in the classroom, that was the interest she was determined to pursue. 

Gorman’s largest ever creation came to life this month at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the United Church congregation in Grand Bank.

When she retired from teaching after 32 years in the classroom, that was the interest she was determined to pursue. 

Gorman’s largest ever creation came to life this month at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the United Church congregation in Grand Bank.

Kathleen Gorman was introduced to mat hooking by her grandmother.

The 16 feet x 12 feet hooked mat, which showcases more than 100 Grand Bank buildings from both the past and the present, is believed to be the largest of its kind in Atlantic Canada. 

With the capable expertise of 12 local women, the mat was two years in the making with the last block measuring 2 feet x 3 feet, depicting the figure of Christ overlooking the town. It was unveiled during the anniversary church service on Sunday.

When she was a child, the now 76-year-old Nova Scotia native was introduced to the "plain style of mat hooking" by her grandmother.

Busy raising her family, combined with a teaching career, her hooking passion was kept on the backburner over the years. However, after retiring Gorman went to mat hooking classes in Nova Scotia and then pursued her passion in more depth by going to the United States and becoming a professional mat hooker.

Some years ago, after Gorman’s husband died and her children were gone away, she had some friends who were moving to Newfoundland so she did likewise. 

"I always wanted to be near salt water", she said, "so seven years ago my companion, George Rhyno, and I made the move to Grand Bank and we have felt very welcome here.”

In her words, "The people of Grand Bank accepted us and allowed us in." 

The couple bought an older home of the vintage style they were looking for and "they really have the ocean on their doorstep," living scant yards away from the lapping waves on the beach.

Gorman became very involved in the United Church as well as teaching many of the locals the craft that she loves. Rhyno, for several summers, used his musical talents at the Grand Bank Theatre as well as playing with a local band.

It is estimated that 700,000 loops went into the hooking of the large hooked mat presently hanging in the sanctuary of the United Church at Grand Bank.

 

A reason to celebrate

The United Church congregation of Grand Bank celebrated its 200th anniversary this past weekend.  

It was on Nov. 4 in 1816 that Rev. Richard Knight, the first Protestant missionary to Fortune Bay, arrived in that town and formed a Wesleyan Missionary Society, known as the Grand Bank Methodist Church. 

Herman Peach and Melita Riggs were invited to cut the anniversary cake.

The Methodist religion served the local congregation until 1925 when it became one of the founding religions of the United Church of Canada.

The three-day observance of the bicentennial kicked off with a ‘coffee shop’ on Friday evening hosted by the Friends of the United Church group. 

Some 200 people were in attendance and enjoyed great music and singing provided by well-known entertainers from the area as well as performances by some younger people.

A narrative dialogue, written by Joanne King with Margo Rideout providing the commentary, highlighted the anniversary banquet on Saturday. 

The church choir and the audience joined in enthusiastically singing "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky" as several dozen participants filed onstage to depict Grand Bank's history. A beach lady, a fisherman, a grieving widow, a boy scout and a nurse were just a few of the illustrations of the past and present.

Invited guests and members of the congregation totaling 240 people gave the presentation a standing ovation.

A large congregation was on hand for the Sunday morning church service. Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, executive secretary of the Newfoundland United Church Conference, was the guest speaker at the service.

Representatives from all the different churches in the area were in attendance.  

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