Mary Cope (née Allison)

Mary Cope was in her early teens when her family was forced from their riverside tourist resort on the outskirts of Morrisburg

“And then I made a second quilt and it was more like being out on that island. I showed a ship ‘cause that was the reason for the whole thing, was the ships, the large ships having to go down that river.

And I remember, after the flooding, ‘cause we lived right on the waterfront. But it was very deep because the canal was down – I don’t know how many, 10 feet down and then the canal – and there were fish, sunfish. Schools and schools and schools of sunfish. And they went up and down and up and down. I was a kid that was out on the water playing and fishing.

And I remember that they just went up and down, they were totally lost; they didn’t know where to go. And I think they were doing that probably for two and a half or three years until they found their own habitat.

And so in my quilt are these fish with words on their lateral line, which is their sensitive line. I put words like ‘destroyed.’ I can’t remember right now but all the feelings I had, about what I felt about the Seaway and what it had done to people and living things, living creatures.”

Mary Cope's Voice

Mary Cope (née Allison) Interview Audio Excerpts, Paris, Ontario, Canada. August 05, 2013

Quilt and sunfish that didn’t know where to go.

Historical loss. Remembers going past the battle field of Chrysler's Farm. Different now than being able to go over that land.

I did an ecological study of that island where you could see our land and  laneway. That was ten years later. And already there were things growing on that road.

My students just didn’t know that part of history happened. That someone could come along and take towns and land. People don’t even know what happened to all those people and that land.


Audio Excerpt: Mary Cope (née Allison) Interview, Paris, Ontario, Canada. August 05, 2013

In this audio clip, Mary Cope (née Allison) talks about the creation of her quilt showing ships and the sunfish that were disoriented for years after the construction of the Seaway.

The experience is a metaphor for the disorientation still felt by people to this day.


The Allison family had a long-standing riverside tourist camp resort on the St Lawrence River. Before the Inundation the tourist camp had a prime river front location along Highway 2 on the eastern outskirts of Morrisburg, Ontario. She was in her early teens when her family was forced to move.

Now retired, Mary Cope was a science teacher who conducted post-graduate scientific research into the environmental consequences of the disruptions caused by the Seaway.

She is also an artist. Some of her creative work draws on the disorientation and discombobulation inflicted on those, like her, who were forced from their homes and the parallel - both real and metaphorical - with the disruption to the River’s natural fauna and ecosystems.

Her family’s land now lies partly under water and on a small island still bisected by a strip of asphalt from the old highway. The foundations of their buildings are still visible in the shallow water (see above and 'Doran Point Buildings in November' and ‘Doran Point Buildings in May’ in this website's Gallery.