This Canadian Pumper Is a Man of Many Talents

Among other accomplishments, pumper David Thomson has played fiddle at the Olympic Games. Listen to him play in this online exclusive.

This Canadian Pumper Is a Man of Many Talents

David Thomson Jr. recalls first picking up a fiddle when he was 10 years old. Thomson, the 77-year-old owner of Thomson’s Septic Tank Service in Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island, is one of the more seasoned fiddle players on the island province. He’s played semiprofessionally at public performances, charitable events, dances and on radio and television programs over the years.

He not only plays like a dream (you’ll get to hear that for yourself below), he makes his own instruments from scratch.

“My grandfather was a fiddler, so it runs in the family,” he says. “I’ve made my own violin, my own mandolin, a copy of a Gibson F5 and a stand-up bass. But another fellow helped me with the bass. I’ve built three replicas of C.F. Martin guitars: one from scratch and two from a kit. I think the scratch guitar is the best of the three.”

The talent came naturally. Thomson initially built four miniature violins, with bows and cases, from scraps of wood. It took more than 150 hours to build the fiddle, which was made from western maple and Sitka spruce.

Thomson was first inspired to play the fiddle by listening to Don Messer and His Islanders on local radio. Messer was Canada’s most famous fiddler and a staple of Canadian broadcasts for a half-century.

As Thomson mastered the fiddle, he was eventually called as a young man to play on Messer’s radio program. He was enlisted twice to perform for his country: once at the Summer Olympics in Montreal in 1976 and again at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Alberta.

Get this, he also built replica ship

Thomson also spent three winters and about 800 hours carving and assembling a faithful scale model of the Marco Polo — a three-mast wooden clipper ship that launched in 1851 at St. John, New Brunswick, and ran aground off Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, in 1883. It was the fastest ship in the world at the time it was launched.

Thomson’s model ship boasts an additional level of accuracy.

“Some of the lumber used to build the ship was recovered in the 1950s and used as a main beam in a house,” he says. “When the house was sold, I was given a piece of that juniper wood, which I used to build my model. I contacted the New Brunswick Museum for copies of the blueprints and it just so happens they were 1/100th scale. That was the perfect size for the piece of wood I was given.”

In 2005, 150 people gathered for a ceremony honoring the Marco Polo. That included Tommy Gallant, who originally found the wreck while fishing lobster, and Elmer Gallant, the man who gave Thomson the wood from his former home.

“We sailed my little ship on the ocean off Cavendish, over the site of the wreck of the original Marco Polo,” Thomson says. “I’m happy to say it was seaworthy.”

As promised, here are two audio clips of Thomson playing the fiddle:


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