27 years of ice cutting on Brome Lake

BCN Staff

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Town of Brome Lake, we asked the community to send in any historical photographs and history tidbits about the villages that make up Brome Lake. These villages are Knowlton, Foster, Bondville, West Brome, Iron Hill, and East Hill.

Resident of Knowlton, Audie Mullarkey, reached out to us and he shared some special photographs of his family cutting ice on Brome Lake; a popular activity before electric refrigerators and freezers  hit the scene.

Wilfrid Mullarkey, Mullarkey’s grandfather, with the help of other family members, including his sons, cut ice on Brome Lake from 1934 to 1961. He had an ice house across from what is now the Marina in Knowlton and sold ice throughout the village during the summer months. The ice was delivered by horse and wagon, and later on by truck.

The ice acted as a coolant for the villagers to keep their goods fresh. It also helped with the potential dangers of ice build-up on the lake. At the time, people had something called an ice box; the ice was put in the top of the box while the cool air made its way down to cool off whatever goods were being stored.

The Mullarkey family cut 6000 tons of ice every March for over two decades and 2000 tons was sold to Montreal.

Ice cutting was a popular activity in the Eastern Townships before modern appliances were created and it was considered an art in its own right. Horse-drawn sleds were used to first clear the waterbody of any snow to keep the ice as pure as possible. These sleds then made an outline of the size for each block of ice that was to later be cut. Handled or motorized saws were used for the cutting of the ice.


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