Filmmaker Ken Sargeant has compiled many of Henry's stories, including with footage from a filmed oral history interview, into "Tales from Henry's Hudson."
In 2013, Arts Westchester put together this short video of Henry, combining oral histories from the Hudson River Maritime Museum and film interviews by Ken Sargeant. You can watch more of Henry on film below:
For today's Media Monday, we thought we'd highlight one of the best storytellers on the Hudson River. Henry Gourdine, a commercial fisherman on the Hudson River since the 1920s, was a famous advocate for the river and its fishing heritage. Born on Croton Point on January 7, 1903, his reminiscences of growing up along the waterfront, defying his mother to spend time there, and his working life on the river, captured the imagination of the region at a time when commercial fishing was under threat from PCBs.
A boatbuilder, net knitter, and fisherman, as well as a storyteller, Gourdine helped preserve many of the fishing crafts. He taught boatbuilding and net knitting at South Street Seaport, recorded descriptions of many heritage fishing methods on tape, and would happily talk about the river and fishing to anyone who asked.
Henry Gourdine passed away October 17, 1997 at the age of 94. Read his New York Times obituary.
In 2006, the New York Times published a retrospective on the impact of Henry Gourdine on local communities throughout the valley.
Henry Gourdine on Film
Henry Gourdine Oral History
The Hudson River Maritime Museum has an extensive collection of oral history recordings of Hudson River commercial fishermen. Marguerite Holloway interviewed Henry Gourdine several times between 1989 and 1994, covering a whole host of fishing-related topics. Those oral histories now reside at the Hudson River Maritime Museum and have been digitized for your listening and research pleasure. Click the button below to take a listen!
Henry Gourdine's Fishing Shack
Built in 1927, Henry Gourdine's fishing shed stood for decades along the Ossining waterfront. But the days of the working waterfront were over, and Ossining sold the property to developers in the early 2000s. By 2006, work was set to begin, and Henry's shed was not part of the for condominiums overlooked the Hudson River. Despite pleas from local conservationists and the Gourdine family, including a temporary injunction from a court, the shed was ultimately demolished in May, 2006.
Henry's fishing equipment and two boats were salvaged from inside and saved by Arts Westchester and family members.
Preservationist and cataloger of ruins Rob Yasinsac cataloged the shed and its contents in April, 2006, before it was bulldozed. Read his account and see more pictures.
Sadly, the development soon stalled, and ground was not broken on the condos until 2014.
Henry Gourdine Park
Perhaps as an apology for the demolition, the condominium development known as Harbor Square created a waterfront park and named it Henry Gourdine Park in honor of the man who fished off its shores for nearly 80 years.
The park was opened in June, 2018. You can learn more about the park and its amenities and visit yourself.
Did you ever meet Henry Gourdine? Have you ever fished on the Hudson River? What's your favorite Henry Gourdine story? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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Recorded in the summer of 1976 in Woodstock, NY Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay: Hudson Valley Songs Old & New was released in October of that year. Designed to be a booster for the replica sloop Clearwater, as well as to tap into the national interest in history thanks to the bicentennial, the album includes a mixture of traditional songs and new songs. This album is a recording to songs relating to the Hudson River, which played a major role in the commercial life and early history of New York State, including the Revolutionary War. Folk singer Ed Renehan (born 1956), who was a member of the board of the Clearwater, sings and plays guitar along with Pete Seeger. William Gekle, who wrote the lyrics for five of the songs, also wrote the liner notes, which detail the context of each song and provide the lyrics. This booklet designed and the commentary written by William Gekle who also wrote the lyrics for: Fifty Sail, Moon in the Pear Tree, The Phoenix and the Rose, Old Ben and Sally B., and The Burning of Kingston.
Pete Seeger wrote a song for a friend, Ron Ingold, a shad fisherman on the Hudson River. Ingold is one of the new breed of Hudson River fishermen who is ready to fight for the environmental health of the River and, since he is on the River almost daily, he understands the importance of that delicate balance that must be maintained between Man and Nature. He understands this far better than the “half-blind scholars” who scarcely know which way the wind is blowing or which way the currents are flowing. https://folkways-media.si.edu/liner_notes/folkways/FW05257.pdf
Editor's Note: Hear interviews with Ron Ingold and other Hudson River commercial fishermen here: https://nyheritage.org/collections/oral-histories-hudson-river-commercial-fishermen
OF TIME AND RIVERS FLOWING - LYRICS
Of time and rivers flowing
The seasons make a song
And we who live beside her
Still try to sing along
Of rivers, fish, and men,
And the season’s still a’coming
When she’ll run clear again.
So many homeless sailors,
So many winds that blow,
I ask the half-blind scholars
Which way the currents flow.
So cast your nets below
And the gods of moving waters
Will tell us all they know.
The circles of the planets,
The circles of the moon,
The circles of the atoms
All play a marching tune
And we who would join in
Can stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin!
Thanks to HRMM volunteer Mark Heller for sharing his knowledge of Hudson River music history for this series.
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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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