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A Pair of Grey Socks: Facts and Fancies by: Tryphena Soper Duley; Verses by Margaret Duley, 1894-1968.

St. John’s,Newfoundland: 1916.






Verses by Margaret Duley.


A Pair of Grey Socks

A BEAUTIFUL DAY in late September was drawing towards its close. Already the girls were beginning to gather on the white dusty roads, plentifully besprinkled with loose stones from the nearby beach, that wound its zig-zag course round the edge of the shore. This, in itself, heralded the approach of evening, for it was not the custom in Sweet Apple Cove for any one, above the age of childhood, to walk the streets otherwise than for business, until the work of the day was over. Then, and then only, the younger set dressed themselves smartly and foregathered as youthful nature wills. It had been what the inhabitants of Sweet Apple Cove called “A beautiful drying day,” and the salt scent of the fish, as they gathered it in piles for the night, was sweet to their nostrils. The bow of a late returning skiff grated against the wharf, and a tall, slim youth sprang ashore and fastened the boat to the gump head. A voice called, “Here, catch this!” and, turning, the lad deftly caught a string of small fish thrown him by one of the men, whose likeness to the boy proclaimed the relationship of father and son. Two or three women on a nearby flake straightened their backs as the last fish was placed on the pile, and looked at the boy as he slowly walked up from the shore. He was well worth looking at, tall and slim, with the lean strength that told of work outdoors, and of perfect physical condition. As he passed the women he looked up, and his blue eyes and wide, firm mouth smiled at one of them.

“Fine day, Aunt Jane,” he called. “Yes, grand, Jack. Any luck to-day?” “Yes, full. Is the mail in, Aunt Jane.” “No, boy; I think she’s coming now, though.” As the boy passed on, a tall comely woman on the other side of the stage half whispered, “Do you reckon he’ll go, Jane?” “I ‘lows he will, and my George, too. You heard what the minister said the other night, they wants all the boys, and his own son Jim is going. Oh, Betsy, I’m afraid” – the woman’s hands clasped themselves convulsively.

“Oh, don’t fret, Jane, he won’t be long away; the war will soon be over and the boys will see the world a bit,” was the comforting reply of the younger woman, whose own eldest child was only six; but both women as they stepped down from the flake and walked towards their homes spoke no other word. The boy they had spoken to had reached the road, and they saw him stop and look across the harbour towards the entrance to the cove. From over the hill was seen a long line of black smoke rolling lazily skywards in the still evening air. The boat was coming, bringing the weekly mail to Sweet Apple Cove. The boy’s eyes brightened and he caught his breath. This was the night for the news of the war; he would read of new victories, for of course there could be no reverses for the brave English. Didn’t his grandfather who had lived inEnglandtill he was a young man say so? And didn’t the old man often talk of the beauties of the country and the courage of the men? – and he – he was going to help them fight, if only his father would say “Yes”. His eyes glowed and his head went up. Oh, he was glad to be a man. Deep in his heart he feared it would be all over before he could get into it, and he wondered if it were wrong to hope it would not. The schoolmaster said it would be over in a few months, but the Minister, Mr. Hammond, whose son Jim was Jack’s greatest friend, and would also go with him, shook his head and looked grave when they discussed the duration of the war.

“Here, slow-coach, are you going to fry these fish on the rocks?” Jack turned, his sister was walking towards him. She had dressed for the evening after the fashion of Sweet Apple Cove. If the blue muslin frock that she wore was very old-fashioned, it was laundered as only skilful hands can, and the ribbon on her hair matched her eyes. In her hands she held what would be a man’s thick sock, and the walking in no way impeded the rapidity of her moving fingers. “Mary,” said the boy as they walked towards their home, “I’ll want some of those socks.” “Yes” – the quick understanding told of long confabs together. “We’ll know to-night, Mary.” “May be.” The answer was quiet, but the girl’s lips quivered.

When the evening meal had been cleared away in the Within househould. Jack entered with a bundle of papers in his arms. His mother’s face shadowed, for she knew what was in her boy’s heart; but the old man, who was still tall and straight, reached quickly forward. His own loved country was in trouble, and although he was fifty years out of it, it was still his home and he was eager to hear the news. A reverse was chronicled, he could hardly believe his eyes, but it was there.

While they were reading, two other boys entered the kitchen, and joined in the conversation. One was the Minister’s son, Jim Hammond. Finally he made the announcement, “Father says I can go.” There was perfect stillness in the room for a minute; then Jack looked at his father quickly and his eyes asked questions. The man rose from his chair and turned away his face, but he answered, “Yes, lad, we must do our part,” and left the room. He could not wait to see his wife drop her head in her arms on the table, nor hear her sobs. But the old man stood upright, and laying his hand on the lad’s head said, earnestly, “God bless you, my son; may you do your duty and fear God.” The boy turned and touched his mother’s shoulder. All a son’s love was in his voice when he said, “Mother, I’ll come back,” then he quickly followed his two companions into the street.

Later in the evening Mary Within came in from the street. “Mother,” she cried, in excited tones, “the new wool is come fromSt. John’s; Mrs. Hammond says we can begin the socks for the soldiers to-morrow.” “We must knit for Jack first.” The mother’s face was still pale, but her voice was quiet and steady. “But, mother, everything is given to them by the Government – they get socks and everything.” “How many pairs?” the voice had a touch of scorn in it. “Two, I think.” “Two!” there was no doubt whatever about the scorn now. “Two! and what kind are they, I’d like to know? Machine knit things – no good at all. No, if I give my boy to his country, please God I’ll ask no Government to keep him in clothes.” And that night a new skein of black and white wool was balled and Jack’s first soldier sock was put on the needles.

The next day at the W. P. A. meeting held in Mrs. Hammond’s house the new wool was given out; it was soft and thick, and to the knowing held glorious possibilities. In Jack’s mother’s mind entered the strong desire to knit some of that wool for her own boy. He was leaving home in two weeks and there was no time to get it from far-off St. John’s; but she was determined that by the time he left Newfoundland for England, and with the thought her hand went swiftly to her eyes, he should have them. So she herself knitted the black and white wool for Jack while Mary knitted the soft grey wool with the white stripe for the unknown soldier who was out for his country’s need. But by the time Jack was ready to leaveSt. John’sto cross the Atlantic six extra pairs of warm grey socks was added to his store, and in his kit bag were stored twelve pairs, good and warm.

He was gone, the house seemed very empty, but letters came that told them he had reachedScotland, of the wonders seen round the old historic city ofEdinburgh, and of the beauties of the early spring. During each reading of the letters Jack’s younger brother’s eyes glowed, and he wished – oh! how he wished he was a few years older and could follow, while Mary fingered the silk blouse length he had sent and wished she could see the glorious shops. The old grandfather saw again through his grandson’s eyes the daffodils and primroses in the hedges, and, bowing his white head, prayed that his country might be saved.

Jack’s father read the letter a second time, then straightened his back to bear the extra work, and said nothing. But the mother carried them over her heart and prayed for her boy night and day. In those first letters one thing alone held her thought, “Those grey socks, mother, that you sent me are grand for the long marches; they are like pads for my feet.” As her needles clicked through the winter evenings they seemed to reiterate “Pads for his feet! – pads for his feet!” and because of the work her heart was comforted. Her boy had grown to be a man and had shown himself worthy. Her tears fell but she was glad. Mary still knitted for the unknown soldiers. One day in the early spring she washed and put to dry her twenty-fifth pair. As she took them from the line and pulled them into shape, a girl friend entered. From a bag she drew a similar sock and began to knit. “Mary, how many is that?” she, asked. “Twenty-five pairs.” “You beat us all.” She paused a second and then continued, “Mary did you ever put your name in any of them?” “Oh, No!” “Kate does,” her friend went on. “She says she always does, and Mrs. Hammond told us to-day that lots of women inEnglandwrite little notes to the soldiers, just to cheer them up, you know. She says sometimes the soldiers write back. Put in a note, Mary, just for fun, I’m going to.” “Oh, I wouldn’t like to.” Mary’s tone showed dismay but her eyes shone mischievously. “Well, I’m going to,” and the girl rose to go. As she passed the table a small photo of Mary’s attracted her attention and she paused to pick it up. It was good of the girl and showed her sweet smile and fluffy hair to perfection. As she laid it down again she laughed and said, “You’d better put in this, Mary; he’d like it better than a letter, and perhaps it would keep a bullet off.”

That night as Mary prepared for bed, the parcel of socks pressed and ready to tie up lay on her bedroom table. Across her mind came her friend’s words, “Put in your photograph, Mary; he’ll like it better than a letter, and perhaps it will keep a bullet off.” She walked towards her bureau and pulled out a drawer. Her face flushed, and impatiently she pushed the drawer back to its place and turned away. “Nonsense,” she said to herself, “I’m cracked,” and kneeled to say her prayers. But the words rang in her head, and when she rose once more she pulled out the drawer and from the bottom took another copy of the photograph. “I had a mind I would,” she whispered. “Nobody would ever know.” Then she pulled a pen and ink well towards her and wrote on the back:–

“I’ve knitted these socks for you, just you,

And I’ve prayed that God might keep you true,

and make you brave right through and through,

In danger’s hour.”

MARY of Sweet Apple Cove.

As she wrote the name of the village she laughed, “He’ll never know where that is, anyhow,” and pushed the picture well down in one of the socks. Then she pulled it out again, the sock she had inadvertently chosen had a white stripe. She didn’t like small men. Then she pushed it into one bearing the red stripe, and, folding the parcel carefully, jumped into bed. All that night she dreamed of grey socks, with red stripes, worn by men surrounded by smoke. She could only see their forms, but in one sock she could see a flat form, as if there was a card inside, and she knew this man was wearing her photograph inside his sock, and something told her he had never found it. When she awoke in the morning she laughed at her dream and chided herself vigorously for being so foolish. “I’ll take that thing out the very minute after breakfast,” she resolved; “I must have been crazy.” But her mother sent her on an errand that morning and when she came back the parcel in her bedroom was gone. “Mother,” she inquired, “what did you do with the soldiers’ socks in my room?” “I took them up to Mrs. Hammond’s, she wants to send the box toSt.   John’sto-morrow; she was packing it when I got there and put yours right in. She said she needn’t open your socks, they were always right.”

* * * * * * * * * *

A bunch of men in khaki uniform lolled round on a hill aboveSuvlaBay. Most of them were smoking, but it was noticed that they smoked their cigarettes to the very last nib, and that one match was made to do duty for two or three boys, for smokes were getting short. One of the boys had off his boots and was ruefully surveying the holes in his last pair of socks. He twisted and turned another pair in his hand but could think of no way to mend them at all. “Darn it all,” he ejaculated, “I wish I had some of that footgear that’s down on the beach.” “What’s the matter, Ned?” a comrade asked. “Socks gone? Well, boy, we’re all alike there; but I got a needle from the Quartermaster yesterday and a few threads of wool. I’ll lend it to you and you can draw those holes together; but go easy, don’t waste any string. It’s all I’ve got and heaven knows when the new supply will get here. I’d give a good bit for a pair of mother’s good hand-knit socks now.” “Socks is it yere talkin’ about?” The new voice was Irish. The two Regiments, Newfoundlanders and Irish, were side by side. A tall man with face sunburnt almost to blackness strolled up. His uniform, like everybody else’s, was thickly coated with dirt, but his eyes were bright with content. “Sure they are bad indade. I don’t see but what you’ll be havin’ to sew the legs up and cut off the toes and turn them upside down. Sure now that would be a grand plan. ‘Tis quare I never thought of it before.” A tall black haired man strolled up here and joined the group. He surveyed the luckless boy who was diligently striving to draw the holes together in the grey socks. The badge on his arm showed him to be the Quartermaster. “I haven’t got a leg left, Ned,” he said, “not to talk of a whole pair, – and to think of all that stuff left behind is enough to make a saint swear.” “Sure now I’ll tell ye what I’ll do,” the Irishman spoke again. “Ye’ll have yere stuff soon and then ’twill be a dress parade ye’ll be havin’ and getting a fit-out forBuckinghamPalace. I’ve got a bran new pair of socks up in my bag and if ye’ll say ye’ll give me a pair of yours when they come, sure you can have that same pair.” Another sunburned man joined the group. “Bob,” he remonstrated, “you gave a pair to me yesterday, you’ll want them yourself.” “Sure now hould your tongue, Jack Within, who would I give them to if not to me chum – and it’s not givin’ them I am at all; sure ’tis a bargain I’m making. ‘Tis green with envy I am at your grey socks. ‘Tis tryin’ to get a pair of them I am, and not likely to only this way.” “Well,” said the Quartermaster, “I’ll remember when the stuff comes you’ll get a pair in return.” Irish Bob and Jack Within walked away to get the desired socks. Those two had been friends ever since the landing of the Newfoundland Regiment. Turkish snipers had been busy, and as Jack Within stepped from the small boat which had conveyed the men from the troopship, a bullet had sped across his head, leaving a thin red line on his cheek. From the shock he fell into the water, and knew nothing more till he heard a voice say, “Sure, do you think it’s drowned men were wantin’ here? That’s right, now,” the voice tenderly coaxed; “stand up, now, ’tis all right you are. Aye, I bet yere Irish for yere pluck,” and Jack straightened up and laughed weakly. “‘Tis only a scratch you got,” went on the voice. “Bedad it takes more than a Turkish bullet to kill an Englishman. ‘Tis as broad as a puncheon you’d need to be to be a target, they’re such bad hands at it. Sit still, now, and I’ll stop the blood, and ’twill be all right in the mornin’.” The scratch proved to be nothing but a scratch; but from that time Newfoundland Jack and Irish Bob were firm friends. They dug trenches within call of each other, their dug outs were side by side, they were together in the trenches, facing the vicious Turks, and often ducked heads together to escape the flying shells – and laughed.

It was some weeks later when word went round that the stuff had come for theNewfoundlandboys. “Not any too soon, Bob, for the socks you’re to get. Yours are bad enough now.” “Well, sure, ’tis well off I’ll be to-morrow with a new pair of them beauties.” The next day every boy had fresh clothing and good new socks. True to his promise the Quartermaster made good Bob’s loss, and also replaced the pair given to Jack. Late that night, as he sat in his dugout. Bob drew from his kit bag two pairs of grey socks. In one of them there was a flat card. “A billy doo,” said Bob with a chuckle, and drew out a small photograph. A girl’s sweet eyes smiled right into his, and her laughing lips seemed to say, “How do you do?” Bob looked at the picture again and again. The face was familiar, but nowhere could he place her. She was surely a stranger but certainly a friend, for it was only a friend that could look at him and say, “How do you do” in so sweet a manner. Bob had a foolish wish to kiss the half-parted lips. Certainly the girl’s picture had bewitched him. He raised the card half to his lips, and then suddenly lowered it – the eyes had changed suddenly and were looking reproachful, and the lips had ceased saying “How do you do?” “Bob, your sure daft,” he said to himself, and then turned the card over.

“I’ve knitted these socks for you, just you,

And I’ve prayed that God might keep you true,

and make you brave right through and through,

In danger’s hour.”

MARY of Sweet Apple Cove.

The name had a familiar sound, but he knew no place of that name. He turned to the face again. Yes, he fancied she would be just the kind of girl who would want a chap to be a man. She was once more smiling and her lips were again saying “How do you do?” Suddenly the voice of his chum sounded, “Well, old man, how are the socks?” Then quickly, “What’s that you’ve got?” But Bob had thrust the card into his pocket; not even to his chum would he show the eyes that smiled and the lips that said “How do you do?”

That night Bob, with his head on a lump of earth, dreamed that a girl came to him and smiled into his eyes and said:

“I’ve knitted these socks for you, just you,

And I’ve prayed that God might keep you true,

and make you brave right through and through,

In danger’s hour.”

And on many a night Bob dreamed that the girl came to him and smiled, and he carried the card inside his tunic, but he told no one, not even his chum.

* * * * * * * * *

In Sweet Apple Cove the women still knitted. In the Within household Mary sent many a pair to the unknown soldier, but never again did she write anything to put in them, and many a time her face flushed when she remembered the card she sent. It comforted her wholly to think no one would ever know, for the socks were sent here, there and everywhere, and she knew nobody that was fighting only the boys fromNewfoundland. Her mother, whose hair had added streaks of grey, and whose face was often sad, still knitted for her absent boy. He was fighting now and there was a casualty list nearly every day. Thank God she would not have to wait for the papers to learn of news from him. Mrs. Hammond had told her that the Minister would know first and tell the parents should anything happen. A cold day in the fall the two women sat in the cozy kitchen, each with a grey sock in their hands. Suddenly Mary spoke. “Mother, Mr. Hammond is coming down the street.” The mother’s face whitened. “Is he coming in here?” she gasped. A knock sounded and Mary answered the door; the Minister entered. “I thought I’d drop in, Mary, and tell your mother the news.” Mr. Hammond was smiling, but the mother in the room only heard the words. “News” meant to her something wrong with her boy. Unconsciously she rose to her feet and backed against the table. As the Minister entered the grey sock fell unheeded to her feet, and she gripped the table edge with tense fingers. The white stricken face turned with dumb anguish towards the visitor. Her lips moved but only one word escaped, “Jack!” She wondered why he was smiling; it was only of course to soften the blow. A moment of incomprehension, then Mr. Hammond understood. “Mrs. Within, Jack is all right and a hero.” In his anxiety to relieve her distress he almost shouted, “He is all right and well,” but he spoke to deaf ears, the mother had fainted.

An hour afterward the Minister walked slowly down the road. His head was bent, the past hour had shaken the soul of the sensitive man, for the first time he had faced his new responsibility. Now that the five boys belonging to Sweet Apple Cove were in the danger zone, was his coming to the homes of those boys to be a repetition of the scene this afternoon? Was a visit from him to herald to them only the breaking of bad news? He remembered how glad he had looked forward to telling of Jack’s achievements and promotion, but the sudden fear had clouded the joy. How would he do it if trouble did come? His own boy was among the soldiers; he would have to tell his own boy’s mother; would have it told to himself without any gentle breaking of sad news. His lips moved in prayer for added strength; God, it was hard to be minister and man.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Gee, but it’s dark; where are you. Bob?” “Here, boy,” and the two hands outstretched met each other and telephoned companionship, but no eyes could penetrate the inky blackness of the awful darkness on theGallipoliPeninsula. “I believe this is going to be a big rain.” and a big rain it was. One solid shoot of falling water fell on the thousands of men, British and Turks together. In half an hour the trenches were half full. “Jack, boy, we must jump out of this. ‘Tis as well to be shot as drowned.” Both Irishman and Newfoundlander jumped and were conscious of all around doing the same; but so dark was it that no forms were visible. Jack and Bob held together, each grasping his rifle in the other hand. They moved slowly away, thinking to get a dugout, but before they reached their own they knew that dugouts as well as trenches were full of water. Surely it would stop raining soon, but it did not. All through that awful night they moved slowly to and fro, afraid to move far during the inky darkness, and waiting for the flashes of lightning, the like of which they had never seen, to reveal their whereabouts and show them where to walk. When morning dawned it was a sodden crowd of boys that gathered round the cook house and drank hot tea. Tales of drowned Turks came to them from other regiments, but, thank God, not one of their own was missing; and in spite of their condition they tried to be cheerful. All that day and the next it rained and rained. It seemed a second deluge. Clothing, kit, food, everything was washed away by the awful flood, and it seemed as if nothing remained to complete their misery. But they were to be tried still further. The still pouring rain turned to sleet, then ceased, and an icy wind sprang up, and, growing colder and colder, turned their sodden clothing to a casing of frost. A lieutenant, well knowing the danger that threatened the men, came and forced them to march to and fro and dig new dugouts in the frozen earth. No food, no drink, paralyzed with cold, the men moved to and fro mechanically. Jack kept close to Bob, both feeling ready to give in and lie down; but the Newfoundlander well knew that that meant death, and when Bob pleaded to sleep. Jack realized he must fight for his friend. “Bob, you mustn’t.” Jack shook him and putting his arms around him dragged him to his feet and forced him to walk up and down. His own clothes cracked as he moved, but curiously his own feet did not feel cold. “I can’t. Jack; let me alone,” Bob pleaded, and fell to his knees. Terrified for his friend. Jack pulled him up with almost superhuman strength. “Get up. Bob; come on, you must,” but there was no response, only a moan, “Mary, Mary, Sweet Apple Cove.” Jack started, his friend’s mind wandered; he bent close down to his face and shouted, “Bob, Bob, stand up; I want you,” and he shook him lustily. Bob made an effort, and Jack, taking advantage of it, once more brought him to his feet. He knew if he let him fall once more he would never get him up, and the prospect of life without his friend menaced him. No, he would not let him die, he would not. Putting his arms around him he forced him to walk a short distance, then back again. He did not know that in doing this for his friend he was saving himself. For an hour he dragged Bob to and fro, now and then getting help from another comrade. Bob moaned pitifully and often muttered thickly, “She will never know now, she will never know now; and I am not a man, not a man,” and his voice trailed off into silence; but his limbs moved and Jack knew he still lived. As the cold gray dawn broke the black haired Quartermaster came up the slope; his clothes were frozen also but he bore in his hand a pail of steaming coffee. “Here, boys, drink quickly,” and the gallant boys who had borne it all heroically crowded round him. Jack took a cupful of the hot liquid and forced it between the clenched teeth of his friend. To his joy he swallowed it and then drank it all. A sob of relief rose in Jack’s throat. They were saved.

A month later they were side by side in aLondonHospital. They had at first been put in separate wards, but Jack had begged to be put beside his friend. For some time Bob was unable to talk, but gradually his mind cleared and both recovered their spirits sufficiently to recall the terrors of that awful night. “I’ll never forget it, Jack, and only for you I would have been dead.” “Nonsense, boy. Irishmen don’t die so easy. But say, Bob, don’t be vexed now and tell me to mind my own business. Who is that Mary you have so often talked about? Don’t tell me, old ‘chap, if you don’t want to.” Bob flushed and laughed. “You’ll think me an awful fool. Jack; I never saw her but I love her.” He put his hand under his pillow and drawing out a photograph handed it to Jack. For fully five minutes Jack gazed at the laughing eyes of his sister Mary. A curious jealousy at the prolonged gaze arose in the other man’s heart, and for the first time he was angry with his friend. “Give it to me, I know you’ll say I’m a fool,” he stormed. “But, man alive, where did you get it? It’s my sister Mary.” Both men gazed at each other, then Bob told how the picture had come into his possession. As he finished the tale he said, “And I love her. Jack; I love her. And now that I’ll be of no use to my country ever again, I’m going back with you to try and win her. You won’t hinder me, will you?” The hands of the two men met, “Bob, boy, I wish you luck.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Seven years later two tiny tots played in the attic of the Within household. The elder, a lusty boy, dragged from a dusty corner an old kit bag and began to pull out the contents. “Fader’s soldiers’ clothes; put ‘em on, Jackie,” the small blue-eyed maiden counselled. Jackie tried but failed, then gathered all in his arms and descended the stairs. “Mudder, put daddy’s clothes on me,” he demanded as he entered the kitchen. “Bless the child, what next! Where did you get those clothes?” As the boy crossed the floor he dropped from the bundle a pair of much worn grey socks. His father stooped and picked them up. “Here, young man, you ought to take more care of things; you’ve dropped the most valuable article of the lot.” “No, them’s old, old.” The child shook his head in rejection. “But they’re the most valuable in the lot for all that,” announced his father. His mother’s flushed countenance caught his eye and he paused in his manipulations of the old khaki coat and looked wonderfully. “Bob, put them in the stove,” she remonstrated; “I’m ashamed.” “You needn’t be, sweetheart,” and still holding the old grey socks Bob tenderly stooped and kissed her.


A Pair of Grey Socks

TWO well dressed women stood by the counter of one of ourWater Streetstores on a fine morning of a summer day in 1914. While they waited they wandered about inspecting here and there articles enticingly displayed for sale. At last they paused, wishing they could be served. Near by lay a huge pile of thick socks flung carelessly down. They were of black and white wool, with white toes and white tops to the legs. With a delicately gloved hand one of the women turned the socks over. “Who on earth wears these?” she asked; not really seeking information and speaking with indifference. “Oh!” answered her companion, “those socks are knitted in the outports, they say they are beautifully soft and warm. They use them hunting, you know, and fishing. George always buys a pair when he goes shooting; but they are awful things, aren’t they?” and then both turned away to select some pale shades of silk. The black and white socks and the well dressed shoppers were strangers to each other; there was no bond of affection between them, but there came a day when these same black and white socks held a place of intense importance in the lives of both women, for the trumpet of war had sounded, the Empire was threatened, and for the first time in the mother’s life she learned that the Empire claimed an ownership of her sons with herself, for when their country called they had instantly responded.

And when with gleaming eyes and laughing voice they bore home one day a huge bag which held their kit, they drew from it two pairs of black and white socks. Oh, it was no indifferent women that fingered those socks, and immediately their many deficiencies were criticized: They would not do for those precious boys, they were not soft enough; they would not wear long enough, there was not enough of them. Then at Government House a grey wool was discovered – it was soft, thick, would wear, and there was plenty of it. The grey wool, carded, woven and worsted by up-to-date machinery in huge mills, flouted its lowly cousin, spun and woven in humble homes, and leaped into popularity. During those first days of the W. P. A. at Government House some curious sights were seen. There were many who, like the shoppers on that July morning, had never knitted, but began to learn with almost feverish eagerness. Solicitude for the men behind the guns, far off inFrancefighting for them, kept their fingers almost glued to the knitting needles, and impelled them to persevere in the almost painful tasks. Slow and arduous was the work; one wondered sometimes how the soldiers would fare if they had to wait for those socks to be finished, and it was only the intense earnestness of the workers that kept one from smiling. It was almost funny to see a knitter, who loved to talk as well as work, try for the first time to knit and talk. Many were the times that the sock was unconsciously laid down and the tongue worked until suddenly the grey sock was caught up and the work renewed with conscience-stricken energy; and many were the stitches dropped. Others there were who could knit the leg only, and it was no unusual thing in a private house to see two sock legs on the needles waiting till some friend dropped in to round the heel or narrow off the toe. Others who used to knit years ago regarded the knitting of the grey sock as the revival of a lost art, took up the work and learned anew. I use the words “learned anew” advisedly, for there were many things that were excellences in the old style knitting that were condemned for our soldiers’ socks. Our grandmothers recommended that the knitting be firm and close so that it would wear better; that three fingers was a good measurement for the leg, and half a finger for the heel. These methods would not do for our soldiers’ socks, they must be knitted by rule, and there was a reason for every one of the directions. The needles must be No. 12 and the knitting loose, thereby making the socks soft for the marching feet. Twelve inches was all the length allowed from top of leg to heel, for the sock must not reach to the bend of the leg or it might hurt the wearer. Two inches only for a heel, for there must be no chance of a fold, which would be disastrous to comfort; while three full inches must be allowed for the toe, for it must not be narrowed too quickly, making the sock too short, nor too slowly, making it too long. The workers wondered at the minute directions, but the instructions had come from the War Office, and were the result of long experience. The men to wear these socks were to do great work and must in no way be hampered by incapability or carelessness at home.

Not only at Government House were busy fingers at work; the grey socks were inevitable wherever one went, they were found on table or work basket in every house, both in parlour and kitchen. They were found at bridge tables; dummy knitted while her partner played the hand. They accompanied the worker to committee meetings and social calls. Knitting parties became the fashion, and they have even been seen in the theatre, and now some knit them even on Sundays. A pair of grey socks is a never-failing source of conversation. The different qualities of the wool, the various shapes of the heels, the many ways of narrowing the toes, the numbers of pairs accomplished, and above everything, the excellencies and discrepancies of our neighbour’s knitting. They are a bond of unity between rich and poor, high and low, between all mothers who have sons at the war, between all women who knit. The grey sock has become the tie that binds.

A woman is knitting most all the day

A sock that shapes from a ball of grey,

Her fingers fly, and the needles click.

Fast grows the sock so soft and thick.

“Why do you knit at such a pace,

Dear woman, with patient face?

Is it for tireless little feet,

Or covering warm for the huntsman fleet?

“Or maybe for fisherman strong and bold,

Who fights the sea when the winds blow cold.

Or perhaps for the strong brave pioneer,

Who faces new worlds with dauntless air?”

“No, no, my child, ’tis for none of those

That I patiently knit in endless rows;

‘Tis for nearer and dearer” – then a broken pause,

“For those who are fighting their country’s cause.

“For those who sailed on the ocean wide,

To do their bit ‘gainst a lawless tribe.

Thus, I do for my country a woman’s part,

Who give the pride of their mother’s heart.”

“‘But what means the white row I see right here,

Is it a sign to make the pair?”

“No, that marks the socks for the slender youth,

Who does his part for the cause of truth.

“The red is the sign for the hardy man.

At the height of his strength in life’s short span;

But young and old alike do the same.

For life or death, for honour or fame.

“Blue in the sock is the medium size,

The color dear to the sailors’ wives,

So in the grey socks, red, white and blue

Form our colours so bright and true.

“And that is why all the livelong day,

I sit and knit in the same old way;

And into each sock I weave a prayer

That God keep our boys in His love and care.” M. D.


Presumed Drowned – retold by S.E. Schlosser

A Newfoundland Ghost Story

In 1914, the Newfoundland sailed up to the Ice with a crew of 250 men. On March 30th, seventy-seven men went out on the Ice to kill seals. A mighty storm came up while the men were out, that lasted two days, and the men could not make it back to the ship. When the storm ceased, other ships came and helped the crew of the Newfoundland search for the missing men. Seventy two were found dead, and five were missing and presumed drowned. The ship sailed home in sorrow and did not go to the Ice at all the next year. She was considered to be unlucky.

To break the curse, the ship was rebuilt and changed, so that she would drown no more men. Her new name was the San Blanford, and she was sent to the Ice two years after the terrible storm. On the thirtieth day of March, she met up with another ship called the Terra Nova. As dusk fell, a fog rolled in, and the crew of the San Blanford heard the Terra Nova blowing her whistle. This was a signal that she still had men out on the ice. As was customary, the crew of the San Blanford started blowing their whistle, and those above deck could hear voices calling out from the Ice and presumed they belonged to sailors from the Terra Nova. The two ships kept up their signals until 10 pm, when the voices ceased and all were presumed safely aboard ship.

The next morning, a sailor from the San Blanford boarded the Terra Nova to conduct some business. The captain of the ship immediately asked the sailor what time the members of the San Blanford crew had gotten aboard the previous night. The sailor was puzzled. “We didn’t have anyone out on the Ice, sir,” he told the captain. But the captain and his crew swore that they had seen several men board the San Blanford shortly before 10 pm.

When the sailor returned to the San Blanford, he reported the incident to his captain. The captain took him quietly aside and told him that the report was true. A few members of the night crew had seen five men climb aboard the San Blanford shortly before ten pm. The men were wearing tattered clothing that looked as if it had been ripped and worn out by the waves of the sea, and the crew could see right through their shining bodies. One of the sailors on duty that evening had been on the Newfoundland when she lost the seventy-seven men two years ago that very night. He had recognized the faces of the ghosts as those belonging to the five men who were presumed drowned. Their spirits had finally returned to the ship from which they had been lost and could now rest in peace.


The Vikings in North America – by Bruce Ricketts

Ah, the Vikings.  Those ruthless men and women who plundered far and wide.    Returning home to Norway only after their holds were filled with ill-gotten booty and damsels in distress.

Is this the way you understand the Vikings?  Would it surprise you to know that the Vikings were some of the best and most prolific explorers of their day?

Our story begins not in Norway but rather in Iceland in 982 AD.  A Norwegian-born settler (yes the Vikings were also farmers!), Eirik the Red, is involved in a feud with some neighbors and ends up killing two of the neighbours’ sons.    In 986 (4 years, so much for quick justice) he is banished from Iceland and sails off  to find new land.

Eventually he lands at a place, now called Eiriksfiord, in Greenland.  It is here that Eirik and his band of merry Vikings establish their community base.  With Eirik are his four children.  Of his brood, Leif, soon to be named Leif the Lucky, was bitten by the exploration bug.

At the same time as Eirik leaves Iceland, a young Viking named Bjarni Hejolfson sets sail, also from Iceland, to visit his father who already lives in Greenland.  Unfortunately, Bjarni is caught in a bad storm while at sea.  When the sky clears it is obvious to him that he isn’t in Greenland (psychologists now call this the “Dorothy-not-in-Kansas” revelation).

Rather than the great fiords and distant mountains and glaciers he was expecting, he sees a low-lying coast line covered with trees.  As any good son who is already late for Father’s Day would do, he left the area immediately (without exploring or even landing on the shore)  sailing north for two days past more coastline and trees.   He continued on for three more days ultimately running into mountains and glaciers, but no fiords.  Figuring that he must have overshot Greenland during  the storm, Bjarni sailed northeast for four more days and landed just in time for dinner with good old Dad.

He told the settlers of his trip and the new land he sighted.  Guess who listened in on the stories?  None other than – Leif Eirikson – aka: Leif the Lucky.

On or about 1001 AD, Leif, with Bjarni at the helm, set sail from Greenland to find the lands described by Bjarni, by back-tracing Bjarni’s steps.  On the first leg of the journey he found a location with flat stones and glaciers.  He called this Helluland , which meant “Land of Flat Stones”.   Historians now believe that this was the coast of Baffin Island.

He sailed south for three more days and came across a narrow white sandy beach which stretched to the horizon. Behind the beach lay forest-clad slopes.  He called this location Markland or “Land of Woods”.  This is believed to be the forty mile beach at Cape Porcupine on the coast of Labrador.

Following two more days, he sailed into a natural harbour and a land of gassy meadows.   He  found (what he believes to be) wild grapes in the vicinity and called the place Vinland.

Here in Vinland, Leif and his crew set up camp and eventually built a settlement.   Archeologists and historians are in general agreement that the site of Vinland is now called L’ans aux Meadows in northwestern Newfoundland.

Vinland was inhabited by a series of explorers, including the brothers and sister of Leif, for the next seven or eight years.

The story of the Vikings in Newfoundland is well documented and great reading.   The uncovered ruins of the Vinland community at L’ans aux Meadows can be visited near St Anthony (pronounced “Sane Ant knee” by the locals) at the tip of the Western Peninsula on Newfoundland.

One interesting note to this story is that the Vikings during their stay in Vinland were the first Europeans (don’t forget their roots to Norway) to meet the native peoples of North America.  It is not for sure but some historians believe that these natives were Beothuk Indians who are the subject of another Mystery of Canada.


The Valour of a Newfoundland Soldier

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Of all the acts of heroism during World War I, few can surpass that of a Newfoundland Regiment soldier, Lieut. Cyril Gardner. It happened one night when Allied troops had put the Germans into flight and were advancing over the enemy line. Gardner, than a company sergeant-major, leaped into a German trench and, unarmed, capture a company of 68 singlehanded . . . by disarming the first German he met and calling upon the remainder to surrender.

Although he didn’t disarm all the enemy company, he marched them back to Newfoundland trenches. However, as he was doing this, a British officer charged down on them and was about to open fire when Gardner ran up and stopped him. It is said that he told the officer if he shot one of the Germans he would be shot himself.

Seeing Gardner’s quick move, a German officer among the captured men took an Iron Cross from his tunic and pinned it on the gallant Newfoundlander. It is believed to be the first – and probably the last – time an Allied soldier received an enemy decoration for faithful performance of duty.

Both Cyril Gardner and his brother, Edward, were killed in the First World War, but the Iron Cross and other medals won by these two brave Newfoundlanders are still treasured by the Gardner family of Trinity and British Harbour.


Flag on the Hill

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

The flag had just gone up on the hill signifying a sailing vessel was off the narrows in need of a tug. the “hill” was Signal Hill, and the flag was usually a house flag of the firm or agent for the vessel and flown from Cabot Tower. It was the signal to the tug boats in the harbour that a vessel was due.

On board the double deck tug “Hugh D” tied up at the wharf, all was peaceful and quiet. The skipper, “Duke” Rose, better known as Capt. Duke, was in his cabin having forty winks when the call came from the mate, “Flag on the hill, cap’n”. Capt.. Duke jumped from his bunk and went out on deck, glasses in hand. Focusing them on the hill, he soon identified the flag as a signal from a “coaster”, a local two-master from the French shore.

“Cast off your lines, Wattie”, he ordered the mate. “Where are those two sons of mine? Tell them to stay put and out of the way”, he ordered as he went into the wheelhouse.

His two young sons – as it was Saturday, and no school – had been playing around the decks all day, and were now in the galley, nibbling on dipped in molasses, cribbed from a puncheon on a nearby wharf.

In no time the sound of the engine-room bells were heard, as the captain rang to go astern. Down the harbour the “John Green”, a rival tug with Jakie Button as master, was also backing out from the wharf. As the “Hugh D” swung out, the skipper rang for full speed ahead, and soon was racing down the harbour, the “John Green” in pursuit.

Rivalry between these two tugs was very keen, times being bad, and things very slow. Usually the old “Hugh D” would get there first, having been fitted a few years previously with a special type of double-blade propeller known as the Pike propeller. It afforded an extra knot or two, but was considered useful more for its ability to conserve fuel. However, she was now going all out, and soon passed through the narrows, belching flame and smoke from her funnel.

Behind her, in the “John Green” the fireman was burning everything he could lay his hands on, including a quantity of old crankcase oil, in an effort to get up a head of steam. Flames were shooting ten feet into the air, but the “Hugh D” soon left her far behind.

Beyond Freshwater Bay the skipper sighted the vessel “hanging off the Cape”. Cape Spear was about four miles from the narrows. If she needs a tug when she reaches the Cape, a coaster signals Cabot Tower by hoisting the “Jack” at half-mast in her standing rigging and lowering her mainsail (mizzen sail if she’s a three-master). then she waits until the tug arrives.

On this particular day, the wind was on the Cape. The master of the vessel kept all his sails on in an effort to keep off shore – nod did he lower his sails when he dighted the tug. Capt. Duke expected him to lower his mainsail, so came up on his windward side, the mate standing by with the heaving line, and the engines on slow. But the vessel sailed right on past, with no more room between them than you could row a dory through.

With a ripping curse Capt. Duke rang for full speed ahead, swung round in a circle, and gave chase. Coming up on her port side, the skipper grabbed the megaphone, and tore out through the wheelhouse door. “Lower your ______ _______ mains’l, you _________ fool”, he roared. “What the devil do you think you’re into, a ________ _______ _______ race?” he asked.

The coaster was the “Joan and June”, from Hare Bay, with a cargo of lumber. Her master failed to make a reply. His crew had lowered the mainsail just as the tug came up with her. She lost her way, her bow swung round, and her bowsprit crashed right into the starboard side of the tug’s wheelhouse. Before anyone could move, she raked her from her wheelhouse aft to her boat deck, tearing away about forty feet of her rails, and staving her lifeboat. Her “lifeboat” was no great loss, for it was an old dory, lashed to her top deck more to comply with regulations than with any thought of life-saving purposes. The whole crew knew she wouldn’t stay together in a one-knot breeze.

For five minutes the blistering insults from both sides were not enough to fog up the Sahara Desert three months in advance. Out of sight of both skippers, the crews wore wide grins. Among other things, the skipper of the tug accused the master of the “Joan and June” of being a stupid squid-jigging so-and-so of a bayman, who wasn’t fit to handle a dory on a Sunday afternoon in a pond.

The captain of the vessel wasn’t slow with his compliments, accusing the tug’s skipper of being a bull-headed jackass who had no business in coming so close to him in the first place, and especially on this wrong side. He reminded him he had left his wheel unattended.

“You’re going to pay for this damage, or stay out here all night”, yelled Capt. Duke.

“All right, all right, I’ll pay for the damage; only get me out of here, before you sink me”, yelled back the skipper of the vessel. “Throw me your line.”

The mate of the tug threw the heaving line aboard, and soon they had the tow line on her and made fast. As they steamed in through the narrows the skipper handed over the wheel to the mate while he surveyed the damage and made out his report.

As they came up the harbour the master of the “Joan and June” hailed him. “Come alongside, Capt. Duke, and put me in to the Spaniard’s wharf”. Capt. Duke hauled to port and stopped until the vessel came abreast and then tied on to her.

“Take the wheel a moment, Wattie, while I go aboard this vessel, and have a talk with the skipper”, called Capt. Duke as he left the wheelhouse and climbed over the “Joan and June’s” rail. The result of their talk was that the skipper of the vessel threw on the deck of the tug about twenty planks of good sound birch timber.

“To repair our rails with”, Capt.. Duke said as the crew looked askance at him. “We’ll do it ourselves, seeing as we were partly to blame, and they’ll do their own repairs. Besides, we have lost of spare time.”

So they tied up to their own wharf, and set to make repairs. His two young sons, who he had forgotten, sneaked ashore and went home. a lot of new words were still ringing in their ears, and they fully intended to try them out on their playmates if they didn’t get caught at it.


The Church

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

There is a small cove or in draught on the Bonaventure side of Bonaventure Head in Trinity Bay, a cove that until one hundred and forty years ago wasn’t important enough to be known by any name. It had perpendicular cliffs rising about one hundred and fifty feet on each side and it had an in draught of some twenty feet. To fishermen along the coast it was known as a good shelter for a small boat in a north-easterly gale and nothing more.

When Parson Bullock lived in Trinity and was clergyman, doctor, coroner, etc., etc., to people on both sides of Trinity Bay, two persons from Apsey Cove, Smiths Sound, decided to get married. They had to go to Trinity for parson to tie the knot. It was in early spring and as other folks in the place needed goods that could only be bought in Trinity at that time, a large open boat was fitted out and they took the bride and groom-elect as passengers to Trinity.

When they got there, Parson Bullock was visiting his flock in Bonaventure. They waited for awhile and since he did not return, the party from Apsey Cove decided to go back home. There was a strong north-easterly springing up at the time. Now at the same time the party left Trinity for Apsey Cove, Parson Bullock left Bonaventure to go to Trinity, but finding the wind too strong to go around the Head he sought shelter in this little cove. He had not been there long when the boat from Trinity came scudding along before the wind, keeping as near to shore as it was sage to do. When the bridal party came opposite the cove, they saw a boat there and were surprised to see Parson Bullock sitting alone in it.

The Skipper in charge of the Apsey Cove boat changed his course and went in alongside the other boat. He told the parson where they came from and asked him what they should do. Parson Bullock was equal to the requirements of any occasion and he replied, “Let us go ashore and I will marry them there.” The parson and his vestments were quickly landed and the bride and groom were not far behind. There on the rocky pavement of the beach, with the perpendicular cliffs towering high on either side of them, and the sky as a roof above them, and the screaming gulls as a choir – there in the quietude of the calm that was a marked contrast with the howling north-easterly outside, and with the two crews as witnesses – there the happy couple were officially declared man and wife together and the blessing of God was pronounced.

The cove remains the same today, but since that memorable marriage ceremony it has been known as “The Church”. It is no longer passed by as unworthy of notice. The fisherman sometimes lifts his cap as he passes it and the officers of the mail boats call the passengers’ attention to it and its interesting story.


Little Man with a Big Nerve

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Obadiah Robinson, our Uncle Obe, as he is usually called, packed his lunch, slung his powder horn and shot bag over his shoulder and picked up his ancient muzzle-loader shotgun. Then he headed for Skipins’ Ridge, some 10 miles west of Burlington, Green Bay. It was in the month of March, 1950. All his bottled meat had been consumed. With nothing left to make gravy, Uncle Obe, though a little man, hoped to bag a big moose.

After travelling from early morning until mid-afternoon, he was beginning to get tired when he came upon an old track. The snow had filled it in, and it was hard to tell what kind of animal had been that way.

Uncle Obe was sure of one thing; the track was big enough to be that of a moose. Nothing would hold the hunter back. Hungry as he was, and fond of hot tea, he didn’t wait to make a fire and cook a snack. Instead, he settled for a slice of bred and a cup of ice-cold water from a nearby brook.

After walking two miles he found himself at the Middle Arm. Near the side of a cliff he saw a hole in the snow that was almost large enough for him to walk into without stooping. Wise to the ways of the wilds, he knew now that he was not tracking a moose but a bear, and that he had come upon its den which was, to be truthful, a cave, the entrance of which had been covered by old boughs.

They had been freshly broken, so plainly the bear had come out of hibernation not long before, and, having seen his shadow, decided to hole up once again, a custom that bruins are supposed to observe.

Uncle Obe cocked his gun, and, pulling back the boughs, peered into the den. Unable to see the bear, he stepped back a few feet and shouted, “If you be in there come out. Or are you a coward?”

The bear ignoring this challenge, Uncle Obe proceeded to enter the den without an invitation.

After four short paces he noticed a side-opening in the cave, like a door into another room. The aperture was formed by two large, tapering boulders which met at the top and almost formed a gable roof, as you often see on a barn.

Holding a breath, Uncle Obe thought he heard the bear snoring. But he couldn’t be sure. there wasn’t any doubt, however, about the growl that suddenly shook the cave. And the beast’s angry eyes glowed like coals of fire as he sprang at Uncle Obe.

Soon as he caught sight of Mr. Bear’s snout Obe pulled the trigger. While the old three-quarter bore went off like a howltzer and knocked the bear flat, Obe couldn’t make out if he had really killed the beast or only wounded it.

Backing out of the cave, he charged up his gun for a second shot. When he crept into the den again, the bear lay quiet, then let out a growl, far worse than before the first shot was fired.

Having learned as a boy that a dying bear often comes to life long enough to claw his assailant, Uncle Obe decided to leave Mr. Bruin alone in the cave for the time being. And he didn’t call the critter a coward either.

Two days later he went back with his son. They found the bear had left the den. And around a birch tree where Uncle Obe had reloaded his gun, the bear had scratched and chewed a ring nearly an inch thick, perhaps as a warning about how he would treat the hunter if he called again.

Uncle Obe and the boy chased the bear for the rest of the day, then gave up, hoping as we do, that the bruin lived happily ever afterward.

And the day after that Uncle Obe went to the store and bought himself another case of bottled meat.


9-11 The Inspiring Story of Gander, Newfoundland

Taken from an excerpt from the Ahhhhh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader


Far Few People Know the heart-warming story about what happened in a small town on a remote island in the North Atlantic on September 11, 2001. Canadian air traffic controller (and BRI member) Terry Budden told us about it, and we decided to share it with you.


Gander is located in Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost province. The town is central to Newfoundland Island, and the home of Gander International Airport. The decision to build an airport on Gander was made in 1935 because aircraft couldn’t make the long flight from New York to London without stopping to refuel. Newfoundland falls on the Atlantic Ocean right under the flight path between these two points, making it the ideal stopover location. The town itself formed around the airport and was mostly populated by people who worked in support of the aviation industry. They referred to Gander as “the crossroads of the world.”

Today, of course, aircraft can fly farther without refuelling, making Gander an unnecessary stop. With the exception of local and cargo flights, very little international traffic stops there anymore. Gander has since become a quiet town. Until September 11, 2001.


Less than an hour after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 20001 the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights and closed their airspace for the first time in history. Transport Canada (Canada’s equivalent to the FAA) followed suit, ordering all aircraft to the ground. There were approximately five hundred planes arriving over the east coast of Canada with nowhere to go. Air traffic controllers quickly started directing these flights to the closest airports. Before long, 38 planes were parked wingtip to wingtip on Gander’s taxiways and runways – and more than 6,500 passengers and crew suddenly found themselves stranded.


Town officials and coordinators immediately scrambled to assess the situation thrust upon them, still reeling from the images on CNN. The emergency Coordination Center at the airport and the Emergency Operation s Center at the town hall were activated, and the situation was discussed. Gander has many contingency plans for all sorts of different situations – there is even a contingency plan for an emergency space-shuttle landing at the airport – but no plan for accommodating and feeding so many people for and undetermined amount of time. The town’s 500 hotel rooms were no match for the 6,500 unexpected visitors.

Des Dillon of the Canadian Red Cross was asked to round up beds. Major Ron Stuckless of the Salvation Army became the coordinator of a mass collection of food. Murray Osmond, the only Citizenship and Immigration officer on site, began the arduous task of processing thousands of passengers. “There was also the issue of security,” Osmond told reporters. “We didn’t know which planes out there might have individuals aboard like the ones who attacked the World Trade Center.” He worked with a planeload of U.S. soldiers who had arrived to help maintain order.

While airport officials made preparations to process everyone, the passengers had to remain on board – some for as long as 30 hours – worried, confused, and cut off from the outside world. They couldn’t see the attacks that kept the rest of the world glued to their televisions and still had no idea why they had been forced to land. Before long, though, passengers with cell phones and portable radios began spreading the word that the United States was under attack. If so, what would be the passenger’s fate? Were they war refugees? How long would it be until they saw home again?


When the passengers finally disembarked, they received a warm welcome. Although Newfoundland is the poorest province in Canada, everyone helped out:

•It was quickly decided that the majority of the rooms would go to the flight crews so they would be well rested and ready to travel on short notice. The decision as to where to house everyone else had to be faced next: the town of Gander, even with all its residents, churches, schools, and shelters opening their doors, could handle only about half of the stranded passengers. The rest would have to be transported to the surrounding communities of Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton, Glenwood, and Norris Arm. But transporting these people seemed to be a problem as well – the local bus drivers had been on strike for weeks. They weren’t for long: the striking bus drivers put down their picket signs and manned 60 buses to drive the passengers to their destinations.

•Families were kept together. Many places set up special rooms for families with babies and small children where portable cribs were assembled, and boxes were filled with toys and games. Diapers, bottles, and formula were provided, all free of charge.

•When calls went out for food and bedding, people emptied their cupboards, refrigerators, and closets and went to the airport. “They were there all night long, bringing food and standing at the tables, passing it out,” said Captain Beverly Bass from American Flight 49. Asked who was manning the tables, a passenger from Air France Flight 004 responded, “They were the grocer, the postman, the pastor – everyday citizens of Gander who just came out.”

•The passengers weren’t allowed to take their luggage of the flights; they were there with just the clothes on their backs. So, responding to radio announcements, the residents and businesses of Gander supplied deodorant, soap, blankets, spare underwear, offers of hot showers and guestrooms – even tokens for the local Laundromat and invitations to wash their clothes in people’s homes.

•A lot of quests didn’t speak English and had no idea what was happening. Locals and U.S. soldiers were put to work as translators.

•The local phone company set up phone banks so that all the passengers could call home. They strung wires and cables so those staying in schools, churches, and lodges would also have access to television and Internet. Passengers participated, too – those who had cell phones passed them around for others to make calls until the batteries ran dead.

•Hospitals added extra beds and sent doctors to the airport, just in case. Anyone with a medical background worked with the local doctors and pharmacists to tend to those with special needs. People in need of prescriptions received what they required at no cost.

•Residents of Twillingate, a tiny island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, prepared enough sandwiches and soup for at least 200 people, then delivered them to the mainland.

•To keep their spirits up, the passengers were given a choice of excursion trips, such as boat cruises of the lakes and harbors, while others went to see the local forests and memorials. Whale and iceberg watching were also popular activities. Newfoundlanders brought in entertainers who put on shows and grief counselors to talk to those who needed it.

After the airspace reopened, with the help of the Red Cross, the passengers were delivered to the airport right on time. Not a single person missed a flight. Many of the “plane people”, as they were sometimes called, were crying and sharing stories with each other. Many people exchanged phone numbers and addresses with newfound friends.


Many travelers have since shown their thanks with donations to local churches, libraries, and charitable organizations.

•Lufthansa Airlines was so moved by the townspeople’s reaction that they named one of their new aircraft after the town, an honor never before given to any place outside of Germany.

•The passengers from Delta Flight 15 started a scholarship fun and raised more than U.S. $30,000 for the school that housed them.

•The Rockefeller Foundation, which had used a small computer lab at a school in Lewisporte as the nerve center for their philanthropic activities, supplied the school with a brand new state-of-the-art computer lab.

•Gander Academy, which housed the passengers of Sabena Flight 539, Lufthansa Flight 416, and Virgin Flight 21, has received $27,000 in donations from the passengers that stayed there. The school is using the funds to finance a new six-year global peace awareness program.

• On the one-year anniversary, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien traveled to Gander to honor the townsfolk. “You did yourselves proud,” he told a crowd of 2,500 people how had gathered on the tarmac. “And you did Canada proud.”


Garden Parties – Newfoundland


Throughout Newfoundland, churches have held Garden Parties to raise funds for local parishes or for special projects. On some designated day, usually a Sunday when fewer people would be working, a day-long party is held outdoors, if the weather is fine, or in the church hall, if not. With wheels of fortune, and races in the afternoon, meals served at suppertime and a dance at night, the festivities would continue for hours. In recent years the organization of such community-wide parties has frequently devolved to town councils, and a weekday often in early August has been set aside. In some larger towns the garden party became a regatta – Harbour Grace, Placentia and St John’s are three examples. The St John’s Regatta is the largest of these garden-parties-become-regattas; on the first Wednesday in August (or the first fine day thereafter), the city stops working and attends the boating races on Quidi Vidi Lake. Upwards of 30,000 attend every year, with estimates in some years of over 50,000 people attending the day-long event.


Orangemen’s Day – Newfoundland


Orangemen’s Day, July 12th, commemorates the day in July 1690 when the forces of constitutionalism won out over the forces of anti-Parliamentarianism at the River Boyne in Ireland: King William of Orange, the Protestant King of England defeated former King James, a Catholic. The Orange Order was established a century after the Battle of the Boyne and steadily grew in the 19th century as a patriotic bulwark against what many Protestants saw as treasonous Catholicism. By the end of the 19th century Orangemen’s parades were commonplace in many Newfoundland communities. The parade was one part of a series of events through the day, culminating in a public dinner and dance (often called a “Time”).

However popular Orangemen’s Day has been, on the northeast coast mid-July is at the peak of the inshore cod-fishery. A single day parading and dancing might mean a loss of ten percent of a fisherman’s annual income. Thus many communities moved their Orange celebrations to the Christmas season, when no work was necessary. Thus we find Orangemen’s Times on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26th) and New Year’s Day, as well as other dates (cf. Hiscock 1997:129-134; 317-31


Memorial Day – Newfoundland


Memorial Day now conflicts with the celebration of Canada Day. It was established soon after the tragically destructive events of July 1st 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, when hundreds of Newfoundland soldiers lost their lives at the battle of Beaumont-Hamel. Each year since, commemorative parades and memorial services have been held on the Sunday nearest July 1st.


Midsummer’s Day – St John’s, Newfoundland


Midsummer’s Day can be traced back to European traditions before the advent of Christianity. One of its modern forms is St John’s Day, a thoroughly Christianized name. Now merely a municipal holiday in St John’s, it was formerly called Discovery Day, one of the national holidays of Newfoundland. Its roots go back through the bonfire celebrations that are still made on the Southern Shore of the Avalon Peninsula (as well as some other predominantly Irish-settled communities in Conception Bay). These fire customs are as old as, or even older than, the Guy Fawkes Night bonfires in early November. In the 1940s the Newfoundland Government instituted a holiday on June 24th to celebrate Newfoundland’s history. The day was removed from the calendar by the provincial government in the late-1980s.


Pancake Night – Newfoundland


Pancake Night, or Shrove Tuesday, is typical of Newfoundland calendar customs. Derived from widespread customs in European traditions, and shaped as much by religious beliefs as by traditional divinational activities, it is a mixture of traditions, evolving continuously. Shrove Tuesday (named for the religious practice of confessing one’s sins and being “shriven” or “shrove” by the priest immediately before Lent began) was a time to use up as many as possible of the foods banned during Lent: meat products in particular, including butter and eggs. Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part in a divinatory game as part of the meal. The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition: a coin means the person finding it will be rich; a pencil stub means he/she will be a teacher; a holy medal means they will join a religious order; a nail that they will be (or marry) a carpenter, and so on (cf. Hiscock 1990:9).


Candlemas Day – Newfoundland


Candlemas Day (February 2nd) is known as “La fête de la chandeleur” among the francophones of the West Coast of Newfoundland and is celebrated with a beribboned bachelor King visiting houses of eligible young women. Elsewhere in the province it is known as a day to watch for bears’ shadows in order to predict the weather. Candlemas Day is the same date as the American Groundhog Day but retains the old Christian calendar name, which derives from the tradition of blessing the annual supply of church candles on that day, the official end of the liturgical Christmas season. In older European traditions, bears step outside their hibernation caves to check the weather on February 2nd. If it is fine they will stay out for the remainder of the season. In Newfoundland this belief has remained more or less intact in the rhyme “If Candlemas Day be clear and fine, the rest of winter is left behind; If Candlemas Day be rough and grim, there’s more of winter left to come” (cf. Hiscock 1996:35).


Mummering -Dressing Up Mummers or Jannies

By Sharon Chubbs-Ransom

Call it whatever you will, it is a tradition that has been around a long time! Because of our English and Newfoundland heritage the Mummering tradition at Christmas came with the people who immigrated to the Quebec Lower North Shore. It was brought from England to Newfoundland has a tradition of Christmas festivities when they came to the New World. Some great figure in English literature once wrote, “I have honored Christmas in my heart and will try to keep it all year….” We aren’t sure who wrote it but usually give credit to Charles Dickens, whose writings, name and very personality we now associate in someway with Christmas.

Mummering is “the dressing up in disguise or costume” during Christmas. Mummers started on St. Stephen’s Day other wise known as Boxing Day or December 26th and carried on throughout the 12 days of Christmas to “Old Christmas” night. In by gone days it was entertainment that everyone looked forward to. For children it could be a little scary.  Though even young children looked forward to the day when they would be considered old enough to “dress up mummers” too.

Mummering is also referred to as “Jannying” by some “old timers”.  In La Tabatiere it was called “dressing up mummers” and “getting a rig”.  “Dressing up” and “rig” just meant finding a suitable costume. Rigs went from the elaborate to the simple. Some people stuffed themselves into bullet proof long johns with lots of bumps and lumps, pulled stockings up their legs, used odd gloves, mitts, socks and odd strange looking hats and scarves. Men put on their wives dresses over many other layers. Grotesque animal heads and faces that might scare even an adult let alone a child. Sometimes a bed sheet would be tacked around a “Carnation milk case”. The person then drew a face on the milk case with eye holes on the outside world. He stepped inside, closed the opening by holding it together and his lack of form, muscles, and curves, disguised who he or she was. You were only limited by your imagination. Some people were more creative then others. The idea was to conceal your identity. Many of the homemade “mask” or facial covers were flour bags, sugar sacks, brin bags or cardboard boxes with eyeholes cut appropriately. There were lots of Robin Hood flour bags used; today it would be seen as good advertising.

Then there was the “hobby horse”.  This contraption had the homemade head of a horse made from a junk of firewood. It had a hinged jaw, with nail teeth, that could be moved. Attached around would be a sail or some material cover that up to three people might be under. With hobbyhorses some people were known to park their hobbyhorse over a cellar hatch where they knew the owner of the house might keep his rum keg!

When mummers arrived at a house they knocked on the door with a split (piece of kindling). This too was unusual because in a community where everyone knew each other no one knocked. When the door was opened the mummers asked in a loud voice “if mummers were llowed”. The mummer’s voice or talk was achieved by sucking the air to the back of the throat or voice box, holding your breath, and then in a loud nasal throaty cry or talk, speaking, “Good night etc”. Some people were very good at this while others preferred to use gestures and signs or remain mute. When you were allowed inside there was a place to sit or crouch and then the fun for the whole household was trying to guess whom each mummer was. Only when your name was guessed correctly were you committed to remove “take up” your mask. Then the sack or cloth covering the face would be flipped back over the head. If you were using the milk case rig, you piled the sheet or blanket into the case and stuck it underneath your arm until you got to the next house. Sometimes the mummers had music, an accordion or a harmonica “mouth organ” skill or musical talent had little to do with it. Sometimes singing or recitation of “old songs or poems” were sung or read. These songs or recitations were mostly of local composition and content or had been specifically composed for the occasion.

At each house after the mummers were “guessed” and “unmasked” there usually was a treat, homemade candy, Christmas cake or cookies, a drink of some kind etc.  Sometimes with adults the drinks got strong and at the end of an evening of mummering some people were not in good shape and probably in worst shape the next day! All part of the fun!

For the most part this tradition and custom was fun and entertainment.  But, like everything sometimes it got out of hand and old grudges and nasty things were resurrected during mummering.  In fact in Newfoundland there was a time when it was against the law to “Mummer Up”.  The 1892 Consolidated Statutes of Newfoundland, p281 read. “Any person who shall be found at any Season of the year, in any town or settlement in this colony without a license from a Magistrate, dressed as a mummer, masked or otherwise disguised, shall be deemed guilty of a Public Nuisance”!

Years ago Aunt Clara Wellman and Aunt Laura Griffin loved to “Mummer Up” and had great fun doing it!  In more recent years Betty Rowsell kept the tradition alive. Today people like Georgina Ransom, “Mummer Up” every year; they refuse to let the tradition die out.  Lots of times the fun is in the personality of the person who gets “Mummered Up”!

Mummering began to die out on the Coast when people began putting in carpets. People didn’t want Mummers tramping in with wet snowy boots over their good carpets.  One time the kitchen was the center of entertainment and that is always where mummers went. A bit of water on the floor could be wiped up after without ill effect. The next day the question was, “did you go all around” or “how far did you get?”  It was a time when young and old looked forward to this entertainment and fun.

By the way this takes place on the mainland of Canada although our English Newfoundland ancestors brought the tradition.


The Great Newfoundland Storm of 1775

Detail from “North View of Grand Passage”, The Atlantic Neptune, Vol. 1, by J.f.W. Des Barres. Engraved by H. Ashby. Special Collections, Dalhousie University Libraries, Halifax, NS: William Inglis Morse Collection.

When Hurricane Juan hit Atlantic Canada in 2003, residents were well warned by satellite weather forecasts.

But imagine a sailor at sea two centuries ago. No satellites. No weather forecasters. No warning of the violent winds approaching on the other side of the horizon. That’s how thousands of fishermen around Newfoundland died in the Great Newfoundland Storm of 1775. Not even the sailors on two nearby British Navy schooners, bristling with cannons, could protect them from Atlantic Canada’s first recorded hurricane.

Hurricanes – tropical storms with 100 times more energy than thunderstorms – begin in the Atlantic off Africa when a series of thunderstorms begin to spiral around a patch of low air pressure. Fed by the heat of the warm waters near the Equator, the spiral grows, becoming more violent. The spiral then tracks in the general direction of the prevailing winds. In the northern hemisphere this track hits the Caribbean before branching off to either the United States, Mexico, Canada or the North Atlantic. At its height, a hurricane’s wind can pick up rocks and tip over trains.

Today we can watch hurricanes develop with detailed satellite pictures. In the days of wooden sailing ships, however, sailors would often be caught at sea in schooners like the one pictured here. No wonder some researchers believe that Newfoundland’s 1775 hurricane killed 4,000 people.

Newfoundland’s fisheries “received a very severe stroke from the violence of a storm of wind, which almost swept everything before it,” the colonial governor Robert Duff wrote shortly after it struck. “A considerable number of boats, with their crews, have been totally lost, several vessels wrecked on the shores,” he said. Ocean levels rose to heights “scarcely ever known before” and caused great devastation, Duff reported. There was some good news for Duff. Despite the wreck of his two armed schooners on the Grand Bank, only two sailors aboard were lost.

Most reports before 1775 of hurricanes and the people, who died in them, are lost to history. It is largely because Duff wrote a report to his superiors in England that we know so much about The Great Newfoundland Storm.



A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

Now, I personally can’t vouch for the truth of all of Grampa Walcott’s stories, on account of most of ’em happened before my time. All I can say is that Grampa is as truthful a man as you’ll find in Pigeon Inlet and that’s why today I don’t think I can do better than tell you Grampa’s story about the geese.

’Twas one fall’s day about sixty year ago, says Grampa, that he took his seven-eighths muzzle loader and went in on the barrens hoping to get a goose before they all left for the South’ard. Now, he didn’t see a thing until all at once he spotted this big black cloud rising in the Nor’west and headed straight for him. Thundercloud? No, ’twas geese, sure enough, but about two gunshots over his head. Anyway, he up gun, hoping he’d get a cripple or two, and fired.

Well, for the next few minutes, he said, there was a shower of geese falling on all sides of him. They were only stunned and the best he could do, he thought, was to secure as many of them as he could before they come to.

He had a ball of fishing line and he cut it into lengths and tied one end of each length to a goose’s neck and the other end to his belt, intending to finish ’em off when he got around to it. But he was too greedy. In all he had twenty-five of ’em fastened that way when they come to all at once and next thing Grampa knowed they were lifting him off the ground and flying away with him. In the excitement he dropped his knife so he couldn’t cut himself loose and in less time than it takes to tell it, there he was, up off the ground with twenty-five tow ropes stretched out ahead of him, headed for Florida, or Jamaica, or wherever it is geese go to spend their winters.

Now, Grampa says he personally got nothing against Florida, likewise Jamaica, but with forty quintals of fish in his stage at that time needing a few more hours sun, he just couldn’t afford the trip. So he started to figure a way to get down out of there. After all, a man who could handle his own schooner ought to able to steer a flock of geese. Grampa decided to take his bearings. He was flying face down, stretched as comfortable as on a feather bed and Red Indian Lake was just coming up on the skyline, so Grampa decided he’d try something.

Now, there was one big gander with a longer tow rope than the others so Grampa found the right string and give it a little jerk to starboard. Sure enough, the gander slewed and the others followed suit and a minute later Grampa was headed north straight for Pigeon Inlet. ’Twas only then, he says, that it dawned on him that here he was the first man ever to fly an airplane and if he could somehow turn it into a helicopter he might come through it alright.

He looked right down at his own house as he passed over Pigeon Inlet and there was Liz, Grandma she is now but they’d only been married a year or two then, and Liz was looking up at him making some kind of motions with her hands. Now, he was sure Liz was giving him some kind of signal, if only he could make out what it was. Well, by this time he was almost down off Belle Isle, so he twigged his gander hard aport and headed back towards Pigeon Inlet again.

Well now, by this time he was getting the hang of his steering gear, so he circled around a few times watching Liz until he made out her signal. She was making motions like ringing necks. Now, that was it. Why hadn’t he thought of it before. So he hauled in one goose by his painter and wrung his neck; then two more. Now there were only twenty-two tow ropes out ahead while he and the three dead ones were strung out behind and sure enough he was slowing down, a little bit, and dropping lower. Well, he kept circling around and looked down at Liz again and now he could make out a patch of something white on the ground right by her and he figured she had it there to guide him in making a landing. So he wrung more geese’s necks and kept circling lower and slower.

“At last,” says Grampa, “ I manouevered them until I was right fair over my house, then I wrung all their necks excepting three and there we hung. That old gander, what a bird, he and his two helpers were pointed straight up in the sky by this time and hardly holding up the weight of all the rest of us. I had one bad minute when Lige Bartle, seeing this strange thing up in the sky, started to come with his swiling gun. But Liz told him who it was.”

“Finally, I looked down again. The white patch was right below me. So I wrung the other two necks and me and that old gander fluttered down so gentle that I wouldn’t have cracked an egg if there’d been one on that white patch where my feet landed.”

“There I stood,” said Grampa, “chock to my waist in dead geese and glad to be back home again. ‘Liz, my dear,’ said I, ‘bless your heart for saving me.’ ‘Ben,’ said she, ‘take your dirty mucky boots off my clean tablecloth.’

‘But Liz,’ said I, ‘you did save me, you know, by advising me to wring their necks.’ ‘Ben,’ said she, ‘I was only telling you what I’d like to be doing to your neck, up there playing around with a lot of foolish geese. But,’ she said, ‘seeing as how you’re home again after all, wring that other one’s neck and let’s start picking ’em.’”

Well, Grampa untied the twenty-four geese from his belt and was just about to wring the gander’s neck too when something in that old bird’s expression made him change his mind. To hurt that bird, why it would be like hurting an old shipmate. So Grampa untied him and let him go. He circled around overhead a few times and then took off for Florida, or Jamaica, or wherever it is that geese go to spend their winters.

“And that,” said Grampa, “was my first and only helicopter trip. I was tempted to try it again,” he said, “more than once, ’cause that old gander used to pitch in front of my door every fall for years after with a length a string in his bill. But after eight or nine falls he give it up and I never seen him afterwards. Ah, but he was a wonderful, knowing bird.” Robinson Crusoe There’s no doubt about it, if Grampa Walcott had had a few years schooling when he was a boy, he’d have likely ended up a Senator or something. But he didn’t. The way he tells it, and there’s no one living old enough to contradict him, his schooling finished before it ever got started. He tells how one morning when he was six or seven year old, his poor old mother fitted him out and sent him off to school for the first and only time. He had a slate, a Primer and a slate pencil which was standard equipment in those days. But what ruined it all was that she made him take a little bottle of soapy water and a slate rag to clean his slate with; oh, an alright outfit for a girl but the boys in those days had a simpler way of cleaning their slates, not what we nowadays call sanitary and a bit hard on the elbows of your jacket. But still, there it was. Grampa knowed the other boys’d torment the life out of him if they seen his bottle and slate rag. So, half way through that morning, when his mother went up to the schoolhouse door to ask the teacher how he was getting on, the teacher said he hadn’t turned up to school at all.

Well, later that same morning they found him where he’d crawled right up in under the Nor’west corner of the school where the sills come flush down with the ground, and it took Grampa’s father and the schoolmaster all they could do with a flake longer each to prise him out of it. Next morning his father took him fishing. which he’s been at off and on ever since. But ten year ago when that adult teacher was here holding night school, Grampa went. He didn’t learn how to write, excepting his own name, but he did learn how to read, especially print, and he can read out the words now almost as fast as his forefinger can move across the page. Why, last spring he started to read his first book. He commenced it just after Easter and he finished it last week. Now Grandma didn’t approve. In the first place, she said, ’twas only a old novel, whereas a man his age should be reading nothing but the Blessed Scripture. And besides, she said, it kept him hanging around the house under her feet like a broody fowl. Besides, he missed two Lodge sessions and a meeting of the Fisherman’s Local. I suppose he’d a missed church too once or twice but that Grandma wouldn’t stand for. Anyway, he finished the book and last Sunday evening after prayers he told me about it. “Mose,” he said, “did you ever read any books?” “One or two,” I said. “Boy,” he said, “you ought to read the one about Robinson Crusoe.” Well now, I have read Robinson Crusoe, but I didn’t want to spoil the conversation by saying so, so I asked Grampa what the book was about. “’Tis not so much, me son, what the book is about,” said Grampa, “although to give him his due, Robinson Crusoe would’ve made a first rate Pigeon Inletter. But a book like that,” said Grampa, “broadens a man’s mind: gives him a bigger outlook. Take my own case,” he said. “Until I read that book, I used to think that the man with the biggest appetite in this world was Uncle Sol Noddy.

Uncle Sol was our cook on the Labrador one summer and one night he was cooking a feed of birds for our supper. We found out afterwards that while he was waiting to call us down into the foc’scle, he eat two turrs and a white winged diver and then had the gall to sit in with the rest of us and eat his regular supper. “But Uncle Sol,” said Grampa, “was a sparrow compared to these cannibals that Robinson Crusoe tells about. One day while Robinson was on this island by his self, he spotted a girt trap skiff full of these cannibals chasing this other poor fellow in his rodney and they chased him ashore right into the next cove to the one where Robinson was living. Robinson couldn’t understand what they were bawling about but he figured they must be awful mad with this poor fellow about something. “The book didn’t explain what they were mad with him about,” said Grampa, “ but it must have been something terrible. Perhaps he was a government official that was holding back their unemployment money, or perhaps he was a member of a Royal Commission. Anyway, what ever it was, they was going to make sure that what ever he’d done, he’d never do it again. “From where Robinson was hiding in his cove, he could hear a wonderful hullybaloo from the beach in the next cove so he went into his cave and got out his old swiling gun down off the rack. He crouchied down on his hands and knees and worked his way along to the bill of the point between the two coves and peeped over. Sure enough, they had this poor fellow caught and what do you think, Mose me son, they was getting ready to do to him?” “What?” said I. “They was getting ready to scoff ’un,” said Grampa, “Friday and all as it was. And I thought to myself,” said Grampa, “here’s where even Uncle Sol Noddy would a had to take back water.” “And did they scoff ’un, sure enough?” said I. “They would’ve,” said Grampa, “only just then Robinson let go with about seven fingers out of his old swiling gun, and these cannibals jumped aboard their trap skiff and made off, no doubt to catch theirselves a Friday fish dinner like they should a had in the first place. And that’s what I mean,” said Grampa, “about books broadening a man’s mind. I think,” said he, “next winter, I’ll read another one.”


John Cabot

A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

I’ve mentioned before how down here in Pigeon Inlet we’re trying to make a Canadian out of Pete Briggs, and Pete being the kind of man he is, tis not easy. But we’ve made a lot of progress and early last fall we nearly had ‘em won over. Skipper Joe swears that there at the school concert back in November, when we were all trying our best to sing Oh Canada, Pete’s lips were actually moving. Skipper Joe can’t swear if any words were coming out but, like we all agreed, the principle was the same, we’d made progress. Then to spoil it all come this unfortunate business about John Cabot.

The nerve of that schoolteacher, says Pete, to tell his youngster, in school, that perhaps John Cabot didn’t discover Newfoundland after all and that perhaps it was some place up on the Mainland he discovered instead. “What next”, says Pete. “We haven’t got much as it is but take away John Cabot from us and we’ll have nothing.” But I’m getting ahead of my story.

Most of the arguments Pete used to use two or three year ago were so foolish that even Pete could see it and had to give ‘em up and try new ones. He even used to say he intended to bide a Newfoundlander because he was born a Newfoundlander. Grandma Walcott answered that one for him. She could remember the night Pete was born and he might have been born a Newfoundlander alright she said but he was a awful scrawny one and he should thank his stars that he didn’t bide like that.

Now personally I don’t care whether John Cabot discovered Newfoundland or not. What I mean is, ‘twas his own business and whatever it was he did discover, there’s nothing we can do about it now. So as far as I’m concerned, if anybody else wants John Cabot, they can have him and welcome. Jethro Noddy feels the same way only Jethro says perhaps the mainland wants him so bad they’d be willing to pay a little something for him. Perhaps, he says, there should have been something about John Cabot put in Term 29. But I tell him tis kinda late to think about that now and besides, when I mentioned to Pete Briggs the possibility of selling John Cabot, it made him madder than ever.

Now the trouble started just before Christmas when Pete’s little girl, in doing her history exam, said naturally enough how John Cabot discovered Newfoundland in 1497. The teacher, she’s a young thing just out of college in St. John’s and right bursting with book learning, she put a question mark after it and next day Pete went up to the school and asked her what did she mean by questioning something that every Newfoundlander knowed as well as his own name. He says she tried to brazen it out by saying as how the history experts nowadays were beginning to figure that it wasn’t Newfoundland at all that John Cabot discovered but some place up on the mainland.

Well, Pete was fit to be tied. He asked her how stunned did they think John Cabot was not to discover Newfoundland when it was right there in his path. Or did they think he just said “Oh there’s Newfoundland. I got half a mind to discover it, but no on second thoughts, I think I’ll sail around the end of it and discover the mainland instead cause that’s bigger” Now Pete would’ve said more but right about then he choked up. Anyway he went back home vowing he’d never send his youngster to that teacher again, to get corrupted.

Now it puzzled me & Grampa and the rest of us as to just why Pete was so worked up. After all, Cabot is not a relation. As far as we know there’s no connection between the Brigg’s and the Cabot’s, not even by marriage. So I took it upon myself to find out.

“Pete,” I said to him one day, when there were just the two of us, “what odds about John Cabot.” He looked liked he wished he had hair on his head so’s it could bristle.

“What do you mean, Uncle Mose,” he said, “what odds about John Cabot?”

“Why,” said I, “let’s face it. If they want him up there on the mainland we can’t save him.”

“Uncle Mose,” he said, “John Cabot was the only bit of history I learned in school. There was another bit about a fellow named Jacques something or other but I never did get that straight. So if I loose the bit about John Cabot discovering Newfoundland in 1497 twill mean I made a complete waterhaul, and that’s hard to swallow.” And he’s still finding it hard, cause only last night when again we were doing our best to sing Oh Canada at the Women’s Association concert, I took good notice of Pete’s lips. There wasn’t a biver in ‘em. It looks like we got to start all over again.


The Bull Moose

A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

After hearing the unkind remarks that Grampa Walcott passed about the stupidity of such animals as the rabbit and the beaver, you might get the idea he’s a man with no respect for dumb animals at all. But don’t get him wrong. You should hear him talk about what he calls genuine animals, ones that any up and coming country like Canada might well be proud of to have as their national animal.

Take, for example, the dog hood. Now there’s an animal with character. Why a dog hood’ll sit there on a pan of ice all day long minding his own business. Leave him bide and he’ll do as much for you. But molest him and see what happens, that is if you live to tell about it. Grampa says he’s heard tell about animals in foreign parts that have been known to fight ’til they’re dead. But the dog hood is different. Why he’ll fight after he’s dead.

Skipper Lige Bartle, out swiling one morning years ago, shot and pelted one just after daylight and coming back that way late in the evening, the carcass of that old dog hood, he said, snapped at him and if Skipper Lige hadn’t been so yarry, he’d a lost a piece off his starboard leg.

Or take King David, that’s Jethro Noddy’s billygoat. He got his name from a clergyman that was here one time who watched that billygoat jumping fences and christened him King David after a character in the Psalms who used to be good at jumping over walls, and when you remember that clergyman went away from here during the First World War, it’ll give you some idea about King David’s age. Naturally, he’s through with jumping fences now and is what you might call past his labour, but what dignity! And even today if you throw something at him and then bend over with your back turned to ’im like Aunt Sophy did that time after King David took her best tablecloth off her clothesline and… but that’s a story in itself and is not the one I started to tell in the first place.

The noblest animal of ’em all, says Grampa, is the bull moose and to prove his point he tells the story about Skipper Jonathan Briggs, that’s Pete Briggs’ father, and the experience he had one time with a bull moose. Now, Grampa is not sure about the exact date. All he’s sure of is that there was no war on at the time ’cause the price of fish was low and times were bad, so he figures it was between forty five and fifty year ago, when Skipper Jonathan was in his prime, the spryest man with the longest legs that Pigeon Inlet ever produced.

Well this day, according to Grampa, Skipper Jonathan had an awful longing for meat. Naturally, of course, with times bad, there was only credit for flour and molasses and ’twas the wrong season for turrs. But he figured if he took his muzzle loader and walked the two mile across Gull Mash, into the low woods, he might spy a rabbit or something that might help keep body and soul together. So off he went, muzzle loader, powder horn, shot bag and all.

Now, as everybody knows, the shore to the nor’ard between here and Hartley’s Harbour is awful rugged, with cliffs about two hundred foot high and a sheer drop to the beach below. There’s not a tree to be seen all along that stretch of cliff except one old pine tree right on the edge about a mile to the nor’ard of here. Nowadays with the frost eating away the cliff every spring, that old tree is hanging out over the water and likely to fall anytime. But in those days ’twas standing straight up, right on the edge of that precipice, with the lowest limb about twenty feet off the ground.

Well, according to Grampa’s story, Skipper Jonathan left Pigeon Inlet that morning, followed the dog team trail along the edge of the cliff ’til he got to that old pine tree. Then taking his bearings from it, he turned off and headed straight across Gull Mash towards the woods, oh about two mile back. He stopped just before he got to the scrub timber and put about four fingers in his muzzle loader, just about the right load for a rabbit. He put a cap on the nipple and went in, about half a gunshot, when what should he almost bump into head on but this bull moose. For size the like he’d never seen before or even heard tell of and so close he could almost reach out and touch him with the muzzle of the gun. And then, as Skipper Jonathan often admitted afterwards, he got excited and lost his head. He up gun and fired right into that bull moose’s face although he should have known that four fingers’d have about the same effect on that animal as a handful of pepper.

Well, the moose shook his head, give a snort and took towards him and Skipper Jonathan scooted outta that clump of trees in a hurry and headed back across Gull Mash with the bull moose right on his heels. The mash was dry so Jonathan made good going, but so did the moose. Jonathan looked back once but what he saw didn’t look too pleasant so he hove away his gun and settled down to running. He said after that he remembered seeing a rabbit or two on the mash but they got out of the way to let somebody run as knowed how.

And then, Skipper Jonathan remembered an awful thing. He was headed straight for the cliff with a two hundred foot drop and sure death ahead of him and that bull moose, which was even worse, right behind him. But then he thought of something else – a hope. That old pine tree, straight ahead on the edge of the cliff. But the limb, the lowest one, twenty foot off the ground. Could he jump up to it? Well just then the moose snorted right down the back his neck so he opened his throttle, right to the last notch. The tree was just ahead. He judged his distance, not twenty foot from the edge of the cliff and he jumped with his hands above his head and his fingers stretched out, hoping to clutch that limb. Did he clutch it? says Grampa. No. Sad to say he missed it. Missed it on the way up that is but fortunately he grabbed it on the way down and that bull moose went through the air below ’im like he was shot from a gun and tumbled right down among the rocks in the landwash. And Skipper Jonathan worked his way along that limb to the trunk of the pine tree, got down on the ground and had that moose dressed and brought home to Pigeon Inlet in a boat before dark that evening.

That animal, said Grampa, dressed eleven hundred pounds and the authorities in St. John’s, when they heard it reported to ’em, wired Skipper Jonathan to distribute the meat among the poor families of Pigeon Inlet. Well, said Grampa, everyone is poor a time like that so ’twas cut and come again in every house in Pigeon Inlet for the next week or two. What a animal. Killed lawful too. Yes, said Grampa, if I had my way, the bull moose’d be the national animal of Canada and every Pigeon Inletter would be proud then to be a Canadian.


Algebra Slippers

A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

If there’s one sure proof that times are getting more civilized than they used to be ’tis the way business is carried on nowadays. Why years ago, according to Grampa Walcott, ’twas something awful. And to prove his point, a thing which Grampa is always ready and willing to do, he tells this story about how he got the pair of swileskin slippers that he’s been wearing now for nigh on thirty year. Of course, he’s had three new pair of soles and two new pair of uppers in ’em during that time, but they’re the same pair of slippers. And he likes to treasure ’em because, he says, they remind him of the one and only time he ever got the better of old Josiah Bartle, who was the merchant here thirty year ago. And even then, he said, he’d never a got ’em only for a thing called Algebra. When I asked him what in the world Algebra was, he said he didn’t know but it must be a wonderful fine thing sure enough to help a poor man like him get the better of a shrewd old bird like Josiah Bartle.

’Twas ’long about the middle of April in 1931, says Grampa, when Liz his Missus, that’s Grandma, told him the molasses keg was empty and he’d better go down to Josiah’s store and get some. Grampa wondered how he’d pay for it ’cause ’twas too early in the spring to get credit on next summer’s account and he certainly didn’t want to disturb the bit of gold he had in the sock and ’twas then Liz reminded him of his two swileskins. True, one of ’em had some shotholes in ’im but the other was perfect and between ’em they ought to fetch enough lassy to tide them over ’til credit time. So, taking his empty keg and the two swileskins, off he went.

Now Skipper Josiah, the merchant, was glad to see him, business being what it was that time of the year, and told Grampa how lassy was current price, a dollar a gallon. Likewise, swileskins was current price, a dollar a skin. Grampa asked him what about shotholes. Josiah told him they was current price too, ten cents off for every shothole. Well, Grampa didn’t need any learning to figure he ought to get a gallon for the good skin and a part of a gallon for the shotholey one. So when Josiah come back from the inside where he kept his swileskins and lassy and things like that and said right friendly-like “Here ya are, Ben. Here’s your keg with your half gallon of lassy,” Grampa was took aback and said it ought to be more than a half a gallon. Well, Josiah rubbed his hands, friendlier than ever, and said “No, a half a gallon was exactly right. You see,” he said, “two swileskins at a dollar each was two dollars. Then fifteen shotholes in one of ’em at ten cents a shothole, that was a dollar fifty. Take that off the two dollars and you had fifty cents left and with lassy a dollar a gallon, here was his half gallon.”

Now Grampa knowed there was something wrong. He said there was nar shothole at all in one of ’em and he asked Josiah to give him a gallon for that one and give him back the holey one, but Josiah explained that he couldn’t do that because the two skins went together in what was called in business “a package deal”, where the good points of the one had to offset the bad points of the other. Then Grampa wanted to call the whole thing off and go home again with the two skins and his empty keg. But Josiah said no, business was business and what was done couldn’t be undone, oh my the business world’d never know where it stood. Then Grampa made a remark but Josiah threatened the law on him for it so all there was left for him to do was go home.

Now when Liz his Missus, Grandma that is now, tipped up the keg that night to full the molassy dish, she noticed there wasn’t much in it so she wormed the story out of Grampa and give him twenty-four hours to go back to Josiah and get his rights or else she’d do it. Of course, a thing like that’d disgrace Grampa completely so he spent nearly all that night lying awake thinking up a scheme.

Next morning he had it and he went over to Uncle Phin Prior to get his help in carrying it out and Uncle Phin was only too glad to do it. And so the upshot was, late that evening Grampa visited Josiah’s store and Phin Prior with two or three more had just started an argument about the big profits merchants made. They asked Grampa’s opinion and he went even further than the rest and said yes, merchants often sold things for ten times what they paid for ’em. Well, Josiah got mad and he poked his snout right into the trap. He told Grampa he’d be glad to sell anything he had for ten times what he’d paid for it. “All right then,” said Grampa, “sell me back that swileskin that got the fifteen shotholes in it.”

Well, what a hullyballoo. Everybody wanted the particulars and they all agreed that Josiah hadn’t paid nothing for it. So being as how ten times nothing was nothing, Josiah was bound by his word of a man to give it back to Grampa for nothing. Now if Josiah’d give in right then he’d a been better off but he couldn’t bear to get the worst of it so he said he wouldn’t be guided by people with less book learning even than he had and then who should come in but the school master and they put the thing square up to him. And, says Grampa, ’twas the schoolmaster that brought up this business about Algebra.

According to Algebra, said the schoolmaster, Josiah hadn’t just paid nothing for the swileskin with the holes, he’d paid fifty cents less than nothing, because he’d took off fifty cents from the good one on account of it. Now Algebra called that a minus fifty cents and ten times that was a minus five dollars which again, according to Algebra, meant that Josiah had to give Grampa back the skin and five dollars besides. Well, Josiah was fit to be tied and he said that, mark his words, Algebra someday’d be the ruination of business. But he give Grampa back the skin and the five dollars besides and Grampa went home happy. Liz wasn’t so happy though. She said if that was what Algebra was like, ’twas no better than Bingo and she made Grampa give the five dollars to the Church Organ Fund. But she let him keep the swileskin and that’s what he made the pair of slippers out of that he wears to this very day. He calls ’em his Algebra Slippers and he says that , whatever Algebra is, there’s no doubt about it, ’tis a true friend to the poor man.


The Hockey Game

A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

Whatever trouble we might have making a Canadian out of Pete Briggs, the same can’t be said about Skipper Joe Irwin. Why even before Confederation, Skipper Joe used to say how ’twould be a good thing even though he never seemed sure what’d be good about it. And after we got it, he figured that the higher taxes on his ’baccy and fishing supplies was just about offset by the Family Allowances for his two youngest, and for that he said he was thankful.

But he wanted to be more than just thankful; he wanted to be proud. He’s that kind of a man. I’ll never forget the day when Skipper Joe first found something to be proud of in his new citizenship. Almost four year ago it was, a Sunday afternoon. We were sitting in my kitchen, just the two of us, me being a bachelor he says he loves to come here to get away from the women and the youngsters, to find a bit of what he calls peace and quiet. He was in his stocking feet ’cause his Sunday shoes pinched and I happened to turn on the radio, expecting to hear a word of prayer or perhaps a hymn, when what should we hear, Sunday and all as it was, but this hockey game, with a fellow all worked up telling us all about it and a lot of people in the background almost as excited as he was. Yes, a hockey game.

Well in spite of it being Sunday, I didn’t like to switch it off while Skipper Joe appeared interested so we listened. And the game was between a crowd of Russians and a crowd of Canadians from British Columbia. Well, I said that as far as I was concerned, Russia and British Columbia was about the same distance from Pigeon Inlet but Skipper Joe reminded me that ’twas Canada we joined up with four years before, so we kept on listening.

And before long we found another reason for siding with the Canadians. Why, even their names sounded homelike, like our own. Now the Russians, they had outlandish names, like Boboff and Knockemoff and Pushemoff, things like that, whereas the Canadians – why there was one fellow there named Warwick; spry too, and Skipper Joe said he be bound, why he’d bet his compass, that fellow was related to Uncle Tom Warwick from Rumble Cove, just down the shore. Uncle Tom had a brother that went away to the harvest fields forty year ago and Uncle Tom is still expecting him back as soon as he saves up his passage money. But now, with his boy playing on this hockey team, it looks like he’ll bide up there after all.

Anyway, me and Skipper Joe found ourselves getting excited and cheering for Canada and, of course, for Rumble Cove whenever this Warwick did somthing smart. Then they stopped to take a spell and I said to Skipper Joe how perhaps we ought to call out to Grampa Walcott to come over and hear the game. Grampa lives just across the road. He was 83 at the time and Saturday night hockey is past his bedtime. So Skipper Joe said no, Grampa wouldn’t understand it anyway.

You see, Grampa is an authority on local matters like fish and weather and prices, but since Confederation there’s so much crowding in on him at once, he gets confused over what he hears from foreign parts. Like one blowy evening the fall before, he’d heard something on the radio and he went all around Pigeon Inlet saying how polio was spreading something awful up in the United States ’cause he just heard forty thousand people screeching their poor heads off, barred up in a place called the polio grounds. So we decided not to disturb Grampa and me and Skipper Joe listened by ourselves ’til it was over.

And the Canadians got the best of it, five to nothing I think it was, and Skipper Joe said how at last after four or five year, he’d found something to make him downright proud to be a Canadian.

But just then the door opened and who should come in but Grampa Walcott, all out of breath, trying to tell us what a wonderful thing he’d just heard on the radio and how the Roosians, as he called ’em, had given the Canadians an awful beating. Now we tried to explain to him that it was the other way around.

“And Grampa,” said Skipper Joe, “sure didn’t you hear the announcer telling about young Warwick, Uncle Tom Warwick’s nephew from Rumble Cove?”

“Yes,” said Grampa, “ ’deed I did. And a spry young fellow he was too, most as spry as Uncle Tom was in his prime. But,” said Grampa, “he wasn’t half as spry as that Roosian fellow.”

“What Russian fellow?” said I.

“Can’t recall his name,” said Grampa. “’Twas an outlandish name anyhow.”

“Was it Boboff?” said I.

“No, not he,” said Grampa. Well then we tried him with Pushemoff and Kickemoff but he shook his head. Then, “Ah,” he said. “Now I remember.”

“Who?” said I.

“Faceoff,” said Grampa.“That was his name, Faceoff. Why,” said Grampa, “he was ten times spryer than young Warwick. Why one minute Faceoff’d be down in one end, the next minute he’d be down in the other end and before you could blink, there’d be Faceoff smack out in the middle. And another thing,” said Grampa. “He had good wind, this Faceoff. The others’d have to stop every few minutes to take a spell but he bided out there all the time.”

Well there was no use trying to explain hockey to Grampa at his age so we contented ourselves with telling him how it was his duty as a Canadian to cheer for his own side. He agreed, a bit dubiously though, and he hoped the Canadians had managed to convert Faceoff and get him to be a Canadian too. He said, “ ’cause if they kept on playing this hockey, the time’d come when they’d surely need ’im.”


Stealin’ the Holes

A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

In all the years that Skipper Bob Killick was Magistrate along this shore, the shrewdest piece of courtwork he had to handle was the time when Uncle Sol Noddy stole the two holes from Skipper Lige Bartle.

Now what good, you might say, is two holes? Not much nowadays since most people give up keeping dogs. But years ago, well how else can a man set a herring net under the ice? You cut two holes, eight or ten feet apart, tie a rope to one end of a flake longer, poke it down through one hole and hook it up through the other with a hand gaff. Oh yes, if you want to set a bigger net, you cut three holes, or even four.

But two holes was enough to serve Skipper Lige Bartle’s purpose that evening he was coming home down the Arm on dogteam from his rabbit slips. He chopped his two holes, then hurried home to get his net and a flake longer so as to have it set and home again before night overtook him. He didn’t even stop for a bite to eat. Just grabbed a pair of dry cuffs and was off again, a spry man.

But spry as he was, Uncle Sol Noddy was spryer. Uncle Sol was already there and had just finished setting his net in Lige’s holes. Well, Lige ordered Sol to take that net out of his holes. Sol said they was his ’cause he’d found them. Lige said they was his ’cause he chopped them. Well, Sol said, be that as it might, he owned them now ’cause possession was nine points of the law.

Skipper Lige was a younger man than Uncle Sol, and a bigger man. And if he hadn’t been a church going man besides, he said after as how he’d a tied Uncle Sol to his own rope and reeved him down one hole and up through the other. As it was, he went home and he wired Skipper Bob Killick, the Magistrate, to come immediately, or a bit quicker than that if ’twas possible. Skipper Bob wired back that he’d come and have courtwork in May, when navigation opened.

Public opinion was one-sided. Skipper Lige was a respectable man whereas Uncle Sol was the worse miserable hangashore on the coast. And to make matters worse, Uncle Sol was doing real well with the herring and even offered Skipper Lige a meal for his Good Friday dinner. I can’t repeat Skipper Lige’s answer but it made him feel so low that he didn’t have the face to go to church on Easter Sunday.

Well, Pigeon Inlet School was packed for courtwork when Skipper Bob Killick come on his rounds in May and he read out the charge how Uncle Sol had stolen the property of Skipper Lige: namely and to wit, two holes.

Then Uncle Sol, instead of having the common decency to confess what he done and take what was coming, had the impudence to look the Magistrate right square in the face and say he didn’t know whether he was guilty or not, and what he would like to know was, “What was the law concerning holes?” Well, Skipper Bob was took right aback for a minute and he said he allowed the law concerning holes was like the law concerning anything else: you mustn’t steal them. Then Uncle Sol, brazener than ever, asked, “How could you steal a hole anyway?” And when Skipper Bob said what did he mean how could you steal a hole, Uncle Sol said ’cause a hole, well a hole was nothing, only a hole.

All this time poor Skipper Lige was sitting there saying nothing but swelling up like a gurnet, ready to bust. Then he said as how a hole might be nothing to the hangashore that stole it but ’twas something to the man that had to chop it. But Skipper Bob called him to order so Lige kept quiet but he swelled bigger, if that was possible, until Skipper Bob ruled that on his first point, Uncle Sol had lost out and a hole was something.

“Alright then,” said Uncle Sol, “I only borrowed the use of his holes, never intending to keep them, and now he can have them back again.” Skipper Lige said the holes was drove out the Bay when the ice went out, but Sol maintained that holes was only fresh air and water and they were still up there in the Arm and Lige could have them and ten thousand welcomes.

Well, Skipper Bob had to call a fifteen minute recess on that, but after it was over he come back and he ruled as how Uncle Sol was wrong on account of how, in what he called the common law, a hole couldn’t be a hole unless there was an edge around it.

Then Uncle Sol tried his last dodge. He said as how a man couldn’t steal anything without shifting it from where he’d found it in the first place and that he hadn’t shifted these holes an inch. Skipper Lige said no, Sol hadn’t shifted ’em, not ’cause he wouldn’t but ‘cause he couldn’t and if he could’ve he’d a slung the two holes over his back quick enough and gone off with them. Sol said be that as it might, the fact was he hadn’t shifted them and on that point, Skipper Bob Killick the Magistrate had to agree with him.

He give his verdict that, although Uncle Sol hadn’t actually stolen the holes, he had trespassed on them and he asked Uncle Sol what he had to say before sentence was passed. Well, Uncle Sol said, right cheerful-like, that if all he’d done was trespass against Skipper Lige, then no doubt Skipper Lige, as a churchgoing man, would be only too ready to forgive those, including Uncle Sol, who had trespassed against him. And Skipper Lige bust right out then for sure and he said he’d forgive Uncle Sol when Uncle Sol give him back his holes, edges and all, and with that, Skipper Bob delivered his judgement.

He ordered Uncle Sol to cut two holes the following winter, in the same place, for Skipper Lige to set his herring net in and that was the end of it as far as the law was concerned. Of course, Uncle Sol got the best of it in the long run but that’s another story, and like Skipper Bob his own self said the following summer, after he’d heard the outcome, he doubted very much if even the Supreme Court could do much to cure a hangashore like Uncle Sol Noddy, ’cause he was one miserable hangashore if ever there was one.



A Pigeon Inlet Story by Ted Russell

Of all the jobs I’ve ever done in this world, the one I never want to do again is babysittin’. Yes, I had a good dorymate, Grampa Walcott, and we come through safe and sound, but when I think back on it… never again.

Grampa was stuck that night good and proper. Now, Grandma and her daughter Aunt Sophy and her daughter Soose, who was here visiting from Corner Brook with her six months old baby, had all been invited out to this special party the Women’s Association were giving on account of there being three generations of members being here at the one time. Of course, they could’ve got Liz Noddy, Jethro’s daughter, to babysit, but Liz would’ve chewed bubble gum all night and brought along her graffaphone records, the ones Grampa can’t stand, and he said a night like that would’ve drove him cracked. So that evening he asked me if I’d take a berth with him babysittin’ and I signed on.

Well from now on whatever babysittin’ there is in Pigeon Inlet can be done by Liz Noddy, with her bubble gum, and her “All Shook Up” and her “Jailhouse Rock” and all the rest of it. The women had gone when I got there, the baby was sound asleep upstairs and Grampa had the cribbage board all set up on the kitchen table. I asked him did he have any instructions what to do if the baby woke. He said no. Soose had made some funny remark about a formula being somewhere. But, being as how the only formula he knew about was the one for finding the number of cords of wood in a pile of pulpwood, we figured, well that had no connection with the baby, so we started our game of cribbage.

The women had said they’d be home before ten, but being women, there was no sign of them at half past, when the baby started to bawl. Well, we waited to see if the squall’d die down but it got so bad ’twas likely to frighten all the neighbours so Grampa went up and brought him down.

Well when that baby grows up, it won’t cost him much in soap to wash his face. All he’ll have to do is open his mouth and there’ll be no face left to wash. Grampa had him wrong end up when he brought him down, but even after he up-ended him right, he bawled harder than ever. I made signs to Grampa, there wasn’t much sense trying to talk, that there must be a pin sticking in him somewhere. So Grampa held him up, sort of as you might say, by the crosstrees, while I examined among his rigging. Next thing I knew the whole outfit tumbled to the kitchen floor and there he was in his bare poles, bawling, if ’twas possible, harder than ever.

Well, Grampa screeched out something to me about getting the canvas back on him quick, but like I told him, anybody with one eye, or for that matter with nar eye at all, could tell we weren’t supposed to put that back on. He agreed, the only thing to do was to poke that into the kitchen stove and look in the sail locker for a new outfit.

Well, we located the sail locker on top of the sewing machine and, after an argument as to whether we should put a jib on him or a foresail, we put both on. Like Grampa said, ’twas best to play safe. The trouble was he only bawled more than ever. “Well, there’s only one salvation,” said Grampa. “Grub. ’Twould’ve been better,” said he, “if Soose had told us what to feed him instead of talking about cords of pulpwood.”

But what could we feed a young fellow that age. Oh, there was cold moose meat in the pantry but, like Grampa said, the rough edges of a piece of that might choke him. Something smooth we wanted, but what? Well there was only one thing, made to order you might say – fat pork. So I took him while Grampa headed for the pork barrel in the back room and come back with a lovely little chunk, about a half of an inch each way.

But I had misgivings. Oh, there was no question about the fat pork as to smoothness or even nourishment. But, with no teeth to chew it, supposin’ it gave him indigestion. Grampa had the answer to that. Tie a string to it. Then, after he’d gone to sleep on it, well if it hurt him, we had the where-with-all to get it back. And that’s what we did.

Well he swallowed that hunk of salt port like a real Northshoreman and before Grampa had him halfway up the stairs, why he was nearly asleep and quiet as a mouse. ’Twas then the horrible thought struck me. Supposing he swallowed the string and all? But when Grampa got back downstairs he said as how he’d thought of that very danger so he belayed the other end of the string to the baby’s big toe.

“But,” said I, “when you laid him down, didn’t he stick his legs up and slacken the string?” “Yes,” said Grampa, “he did. And then, I tied a shipshank in it to tighten it. Then, when he dozes off and straightens his legs, up ’twill come, easy as anything.”

And five minutes later by Grampa’s clock, he creeped up again and there was the youngster, sound asleep with his legs straightened out. Well, Grampa untied the string from his toe, picked up the other end off the pillow and we had both that string and the fat pork in the kitchen stove, on top of that other thing, just as we heard the women coming back from the party.


The Last Duel


St. John’s, Newfoundland

What was stated to be the last duel every fought in St. John’s Newfoundland still haunts the town of St. John’s. The spirit of the duel loser is said to still roam the area possibly looking for a rematch. The young man’s name is Ensign John Philpot of the Royal Veteran Companies. He was classed as a very good officer and perfect gentlemen. The story goes that both Philpot and his dueling partner Captain Mark Rudkin were adversaries for some time and they were both fighting for attention from a lady named Colleen, the daughter of a prominent citizen of St. John’s. One night at a gathering the men begin to argue over the ownership of a pot containing a few dollars from a card game. The men exchanged nasty words and then Philpot threw water in Rudkin’s face. Rudkin did try to take the high road out of the fight but eventually gave in and challenged Philpot. In the early afternoon on March 30th, 1826 they headed to a site about a mile from St. John’s at West’s Farm near Brine’s Tavern at the foot of Robinson’s Hill. Both men used Pistols. When the signal came to start the duel, Philpot’s shot missed his intended target. Rudkin had fired aimlessly into the air in hopes to settle this disagreement but Philpot refused and prepared the second round. The second shot proved to be fatal for Philpot who was wounded and died a short time after. However this duel still carries on and at night you may be able to catch a glimpse of the battle. The loser in this case came out the most memorable of the two and continues to be a legend in St. John’s.


Bell Island Hag


Bell Island, Newfoundland

Newfoundland’s Bell Island is not only a beautiful piece of land but a mysterious one too. Many visitors or island dwellers have carried on what some locals try to downplay as folklore, a story about the Bell Island Hag. The legend begins at Dobbin’s garden and leads to the nearby marshes. The banshee which is a female spirit appointed to inform family members of someones impending death. She shows herself in two forms: beautiful woman in white and a deformed old hag. The lore goes that men will travel into the marsh and come out days later with no recollection of what happened or why they were gone, some are not even aware that they were missing for days. The one thing that all the men have experienced and can recall is the horrible smell and an ugly old woman in tattered clothing that pulled them into the ground with the smell of death as their last memory of the experience. Over the years the tales, the legends, the folklore continue to grow.


Chez Briann


In St. John’s Newfoundland, there is a bistro named Chez Briann, a somewhat new establishment in the area, with a history land it was built on. Once home to a funeral parlour, it is believed that the property the bistro was built on is haunted by those who once entered the funeral parlor, dead or alive. A lady sleeping in what could have been at the time an apartment or an inn before it was the bistro, claims she woke up to a man floating above her. She was unable to move and felt paralyzed. As she lay there the spirit then proceeded to put coins over her eyes. He seemed to be preparing her body for a burial. Other witnesses have come across the spirit of a woman wandering the hallways. She has a long jagged scar running down her torso as if she had gone through an autopsy. She walks around unaware that anything has happened. And for Chez Briann bistro they too have experienced the spirits with many accounts of strange things happening to both guests and employees. You are sure to have a very enjoyable and entertaining meal.


Amelia Earhart

Story submitted by George Corbett

Newfoundland‘s First Female Aviator Pioneer

There is little doubt that Newfoundland’s unique geographic proximity to Europe (3025 km or 1880 mi) was the primary reason that it frequently functioned as the land and sea base for aviation endeavors and was thus propelled to the forefront of aviation history. Likely than not, when such an historical event occurred, the setting was a small community located in Conception Bay North called Harbour Grace. In fact, from 1927 to 1936, this community figured prominently in the history of dozens of successful and not so successful attempts by aviators of several nationalities to tame the skies. It was against such a backdrop of several aviation firsts that Amelia Earhart – Putnam’s daring exploit on May 20, 1932, took place.

Born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1898, the origins of her obsession to fly solo across the Atlantic may be traced to her childhood passionate interest in aviation and her practice of keeping a scrapbook of the unique accomplishments of women.

Aware that history was about to be made, onlookers were anxious to touch the plane or get close enough to Amelia to speak to her. Indeed, expectations ran high around the world, for Amelia had already demonstrated on numerous occasions that she was an accomplished pilot. One of these accomplishments took place in Newfoundland. In 1928, she accompanied William S. Stultz and Lew Cordon when they took off from Trepassey, Newfoundland, in their bid to cross the Atlantic non-stop by hydroplane. On that occasion, she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane. Now her goal was to be the first woman pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic.

At 7:30 pm Amelia lifted off to the sound of cheering crowds from Harbour Grace and neighboring towns. Despite the weight of extra fuel, her single Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine enabled her red and gold Lockheed Vega monoplane to lift off with ease, head straight out over the harbour, and fly into the sunset. She landed safely in a cow pasture at Culmore near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, having travelled 2,026 miles in 14 hours and 54 minutes. Although she had not reached her intended destination of Paris, France she had accomplished her goal of crossing the Atlantic. This earned her the distinction of being the third person in history to make this trip alone and warranted a place in her scrap book of outstanding achievements for being the first woman to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic from West to East. She also claimed the honour of being the first woman to fly a plane in Newfoundland.

Amelia and her crew of two, Bernt Balchen and Eddie Gorski, who accompanied her on the. New Jersey – Newfoundland leg of the trip, arrived in Harbour Grace at 2 pm that day. While her crew completed the final mechanical check, Amelia retired to a local establishment called Archibald’s Hotel for a brief rest, returning to her plane at 6:30 with a thermos of Rose Archibald’s soup.

At lift off, the weather was fair. For several hours, her flight was routine. She cruised in the moonlight at twelve thousand feet, no doubt looking forward to success. After four hours, however, her serenity was shattered by rain, lightning, and strong variable winds. Suddenly the plane’s engine exhaust manifold broke. For the next ten hours, the flames from the vent constantly evoked fear that the Vega might catch fire. Amelia knew that if she were forced to ditch her plane in the ocean, there would be little hope of rescue. To make matters worse, several hundred miles from the coast of Ireland, the plane’s altimeter broke. Now she had no way to know the true altitude.

In an attempt to escape the worsening weather and poor visibility, as well as to make certain that she was flying high enough, she would spend the next half hour gaining altitude. Unfortunately, however, she did not notice quickly enough that the plane was icing up as she gained height. The plane went into a spin and was only able to regain control when the warmth of the lower altitude melted the ice. The barograph showed that she had fallen three thousand feet. Fortunately she was able to regain sufficient altitude to enable her to continue her crossing of the Atlantic.

Although the condition of her plane and her physical fatigue dictated that she land in Ireland instead of her intended destination of Paris, France, Amelia’s accomplishment elicited both fame and glory. No woman before her had ever achieved such a victory. The response of the world to her success was similar to that which Charles Lindbergh received when he landed in Paris five years earlier after completing the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic. She was praised by the heads of state from around the world. Upon her return to the US, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour.

Amelia of course was not content to hang up her goggles and retire. By 1937, she had completed plans to fly across the Pacific in a bid to circle the globe from west to east. Accompanied by navigator Frederick J. Noonan, they took off from Oakland, California in the United States. They flew over the South Atlantic, Africa, and the Indian ocean before reaching New Guinea to begin the Pacific leg of the trip. However, before reaching tiny Howland island, their next planned stop-over, they disappeared. Despite the fact that the United States Government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, mounted a $4 million, sixteen day sea and air rescue mission involving four thousand men, ten ships and sixty-five planes combing two hundred and fifty thousand square miles of the Pacific, no trace of the crew or plane was found.

Several theories eventually emerged to explain their disappearance. The official explanation was that they ran out of fuel, crashed into the ocean and broke up on impact. Another theory suggested that they had not died but had been captured by the Japanese and held as spies. The Japanese claimed that Amelia’s true mission had been to fly over the then Japanese held Marshall islands and gather information on its future war plans.

When the war ended, the theory continues, they were released and an embarrassed U.S. Government secretly transported them home, provided them with new identities and homes in New Jersey. A deputy examiner of foreign service applicants lent credence to this theory when she reported that she discovered an unsigned telegram in the National Archives sent at the end of the Second World War from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China. It was addressed to Amelia’s husband, George Putnam and said: “Camp Liberated. All Well. Volumes to Tell. Love to Mother.”

A variation of this theory held that they were executed by the Japanese because of their U2-style spy mission. This version drew support from the account of an eleven year old girl who claimed to have seen an American woman and man in Saipan in 1937 being led away by soldiers. She reported that she heard shots and saw the soldiers return alone.

Despite the fact that no definitive proof was ever presented to support the official explanation for the crash, Amelia’s sister declared that the spy hypothesis was ridiculous. Aviation historian Carol Osborne has also stated that all documentation shows that Amelia was merely someone striving to set a record and simply ran out of fuel and crashed. President Roosevelt also denied the spy assertion.

It is unfortunate that the saga of Amelia Earhart-Putnam ended in her premature death in July 2, 1937, as she attempted to fly around the world. However, one may take comfort in the words she penned to her mother in a note written in June, 1928, before that first flight out of Newfoundland with William Stultz and Lou Gordon. “My life has been happy and I don’t mind contemplating its end in the midst of it.”

If we were to harbour any regrets for Amelia, it would be that she did not live to see the tremendous heights to which her first great love would soar in such a few short years. If she were here today, she would surely marvel at how her accomplishments and those of Charles Lindbergh, Herman Keohl , Willy Post, Harold Gatty, William Stulta, Alcock and Brown and other aviation pioneers laid the groundwork for jets, concords, and flights to the moon. She would no doubt be eagerly anticipating even greater aviation triumphs in space as she diligently added to her scrapbook more stories of the unique accomplishments of women.


The Haunted Teapot of Table Bay

By  Dale Jarvis

Table Bay, Labrador, is located about 30 km east of Cartwright. The place draws its name from a flat-topped local landmark, Table Hill, which is visible for some distance out to sea. The head of Table Bay formerly had a small year-round population, dating back as early as 1820. In 1856 the population was recorded at 29.

The south side of the bay was once dotted with winter houses at places such as Lugs Cove, Otter Brook, Burdett’s Brook, Leddies (or Luddy’s) Brook, Big Bight and Old Cove, and there were also several small fishing stations on the north side, including Table Bay Point and Mullins Cove. According to D.W. Prowse’s history of Newfoundland, Table Bay Point had the grand population of seven in 1891.

Historically, Table Bay was populated by families with names like Reeves, Macdonald, Pardy, Burdett, Heffler and Davis. In the twentieth century, the Davis family had a two storey house in Table Bay that was possessed of a well known reputation for being haunted.

The story of the Davis house was recorded for posterity in the pages of Them Days magazine in 1977, and from the account of the haunting, the house’s ghosts were quite active. They were apparently fond of pulling chairs out from underneath people as they sat down, and were also quite a social lot, keeping visitors awake all night with the sound of ghostly talking in the kitchen.

While these activities are fairly common for phantoms, the Davis house was also home to some truly unusual paranormal activity. One winter, a couple by the name of Pardy were staying in the house while the Davis family wintered elsewhere.

One night, as Mrs. Pardy extinguished the lamp, the room was filled with a bright glowing light that shot across the floor like lightning. Much to the woman’s amazement, the light was emanating from a rabbit bounding across the floor. The radiant rabbit hopped this way and that, then bolted across the room and vanished. When the hare disappeared, so did the light.

Another very strange event was witnessed by John Davis and Tommy Curl one night after brewing up a pot of tea in a old, big, blue enamel teapot. When they were finished Curl straightened up for the night, while Davis put the teapot, still with a bit of tea in it, back on the top of the stove.

No more than five minutes later, Davis headed for the stairs to the upper storey. The staircase was constructed without a handrail, but with banister rails or spindles that went from each step straight up to the ceiling.

As he began to ascend the stairs, Davis was startled to meet the teapot coming down. Somehow, the pot had moved from the top of the stove to the top of the stairs. Exactly how it did this was something of a mystery. The two men were the only ones present, and the teapot itself was too large to fit between the spindles.

The teapot bounced down over the steps, clattering as it fell. When it reached the bottom of the staircase, the teapot struck the floor with a bang, and the remaining tea splattered over the door. Neither man could figure out how the teapot had transported itself from one place to another.

Try as they might, they could not get the tea stain off the door.

Eventually, the constant strange occurrences became too much for the Davis family. They dismantled the house completely, moved the pieces to nearby Leddies Brook, and rebuilt it as it had been before. After that, the family lived in the house for years, and were never troubled by ghosts again.


Phantom Fires in St. John’s


Running off Gower Street in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada is Willicott’s Lane, one of the oldest lanes in St. John’s.  If you had stood on this lane in the early 1800′s, you would be smack in the middle of an area known as Tanrahan’s Town.  A maze of tightly packed, poorly constructed houses, garbage filled ditches and open sewers, the area produced a particularly dreadful stench, often offending the delicate nostrils of those attending Sunday service in all their finery at the Cathedral.  Named after a local slum landlord, the neighbourhood saw some 1500 souls crammed into about 200 houses, all of which burned to the ground in the Tanrahan’s Town fire of 1855. The neighbourhood was rebuilt from the ashes, only to be destroyed completely  a mere 37 years later in the Great Fire of 1892.

With its history of destructive fires, it is fitting that one of the more unique hauntings in Newfoundland occurs within the limits of what was once Tanrahan’s Town.  This haunting involves a house which backs onto Willicott’s Lane.  The building was constructed slightly after the Great Fire of 1892.  For most of the middle part of this century the house was occupied by an old woman who lived alone in the house, and who eventually died within its walls.  The house stood empty for a while before it passed on to new owners who began to notice a very strange phenomenon.  A second floor room on the back of the house contains not the ghost of a person or animal, but rather of a ghostly fire.  Different people have reported seeing a fire burning in the fireplace, but upon closer examination, the fire has disappeared, and a hand placed within the grate has felt no heat, the stones cold to the touch.

In the 1980s, as a tenant lay in his bed in a different room on the same floor, his door swung open.  Looking from his bed out into the hall, the man saw the flickering of firelight reflected on the walls.  Knowing himself alone in the house, he left his bed to investigate, and found nothing.  He closed the door, and returned to bed.  Once in bed, the door swung open again, revealing the same strange light.  He got up to check, and again found nothing, the light disappearing as he left his room.  A third time he returned to bed, and again, just as he was drifting off to sleep, the door swung wide, the firelight flickering on the opposite wall.

While this type of haunting is rare it is not unique.  A similar spirit fire was reported in a small sea-side community on the south coast of Ireland by John D. Seymour in 1911. According to reports a large family house in the community was known to be haunted by a variety of spirits. Two sisters occupied one of the upstairs rooms, where they shared a bed. The two girls on numerous occasions awoke to find the floorboards of the room engulfed in flames, flames which produced neither smell nor heat. The first time this happened, the girls ran from the room, convinced, as one very well might be, that the room underneath was ablaze.  This fire would be witnessed two or three nights in a row, and then would disappear for some time before suddenly blazing forth once more.  While it was witnessed on occasion in other parts of the house, it occurred chiefly in the room where the two girls slept.


The Headless Ghost of Queen’s Road, St. John’s


Sleepy Hollow is not the only location to boast a headless ghost. Tales of headless horsemen and other headless phantoms can be found all over the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada are no exception to this. Travelling along Labrador’s northeast coast in 1995, I was told stories of a strange man without a face who haunted the now abandoned community of Hebron, Labrador.  Other headless phantoms have been reported in various other parts of the island of Newfoundland.

One of the oldest recorded stories of a haunting for St. John’s, Newfoundland, involves a headless captain.  And unlike Washington Irving’s tale, the St. John’s legend (dating to the year 1745) is reportedly true. It involves one Samuel Pettyham, a St. John’s man who rented a small house on the fringe area of town, at the end of a small lane off Queen’s Road.  The man found a housekeeper to come in during the days to cook and clean, and who would then leave at night.  The woman expressed some concern about Pettyham remaining alone in the house at night, but he dismissed her worries.

As the legend goes, Pettyham had been visiting a friend in the west end of town.  As it was late, his host offered to drive Pettyham home in his carriage. As the horse drew near to the laneway to Pettyham’s house, it stopped suddenly, and refused to move an inch further forward.  Pettyham as a result offered to walk the rest of the way.  The laneway to the little house was quite dark, and overgrown with trees.  Pettyham walked on, and saw in front of him a glowing light.  Thinking it was from a lantern of some kind carried by another person, Pettyham quickened his step.

About twenty yards further on, the figure stepped out into the moonlight immediately in front of Pettyham’s house, and then turned and faced Pettyham.  Mr. Pettyham took one look at the scene in front of him, and turned and fled in absolute horror.  The figure he had seen was that of a very tall man, a man with his head cut completely off, close to the shoulders. Pettyham raced back up along Queen’s Road, bursting into a boarding house and begging for shelter for the night, swearing he would never spend another night in his house.

The headless man he had seen was the spectre of a well known captain of a ship that plied its trade between England and Newfoundland.  The captain had been the companion of a beautiful lady, who dwelt within the house.  Whenever he was in St. John’s, the two were always seen together, but while he was out to sea, she showered her affections on a local man.  Apparently, the captain’s nearness to the lady was too much for the local man, who decided to do away with his competition.  One night, just as the captain said goodbye to the lady, and had stepped out onto the narrow pathway, the jealous lover leaped forward with an exceptionally sharp sword, and severed the captain’s head, close to the shoulders.  The man who committed the deed was never convicted, although all signs of guilt seemed to point to him.  The soul of the headless captain, it is believed, still wanders, doomed to haunt the location of his hideous decapitation, forever in search of his unpunished murderer.


Spirits of Chance Cove

Chance Cove, on the southern shore of Newfoundland, is infamous in Newfoundland history as a place where many ships were wrecked and hundreds of lives were lost. In 1869, the Anglo Saxon suffered the same fate, with all souls aboard losing their lives. Within 5 years of the disaster, stories spread of unearthly screams and terrifying apparitions experienced in the town. A sudden exodus occurred one night, on the anniversary of the disaster, and Chance Cove became a ghost town. The ghostly cries and spectral noises erupted in the silence of the night and as the men ran to the beach to see if another boat had suffered the fate of the Anglo Saxon, the noises stopped, only to resume with terrifying intensity when the beach was once again quiet. All inhabitants inexplicably left, leaving homes and farms suddenly deserted. Twenty-five years later, a group of fishermen used the town for shelter one night, taking refuge in the vacant homes. They, too, left quickly, but not before burning the frightening community to the ground.

If these stories aren’t enough, here are a few more short ones to think about, just to appease your curiosity:

* Many years ago, a number of makeshift coffins containing the bodies of men, women, and children were found in the mud under some homes in Mockbeggar, Bonavista Bay. The coffins were of a wood not from Newfoundland and the bodies were dressed in clothing unfamiliar to the inhabitants of the community. On stormy nights, singing in foreign voices can be heard in the area…

*A creature tried to climb aboard a dory in St. John’s Narrows during 1912. It resembled a beautiful woman, had blue streaks of a hair-like substance on its head, and was 15 feet long with its fish-like tail. 150 years earlier, a similar creature was seen in St. John’s Harbour and was believed to be a mermaid…

*Bay Bulls Road in St. John’s, 1910, became the scene of a terrifying event. T group in fishermen took refuge from a storm in a vacant house in the area when a flaming, aggressive phantom appeared in front of the house, passed through the walls and disappeared out through the other side, leaving the house shaking in its wake…

*His history of piracy haunted the thoughts of a dying man at Indian Harbour, Labrador. As he lay in his death bed, clouds surrounded the house and a square-rigged ship appeared in the sky. The room was filled with the sounds of waves and breakers and the house shook as the old man’s spirit left his body to board the phantom ship, doomed to sail the seven seas for all eternity…

*Mysterious flames broke out in a home in Flatrock, Baie Verte, during 1954. The flames first appeared in November and burned a dictionary in a wood box but not the wood. The flames appeared to burn various objects throughout the house various times, including a box of holy literature and a doll. Each time nothing else near the objects was unharmed and the flames disappeared as soon as they were touched. The flames were never explained, but have been attributed to the work of a poltergeist…

*Blood poured from the sky over the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in February, 1890. The shower of blood rained from a dark sky onto the ships out on the calm, eerie sea. The frightening rain covered the decks and masts, later drying to the color of a dusty, pale red and was never explained…

*Fifty years earlier, on Good Friday, March 25th, 1892, the skies over St. John’s turned a fiery red and a crimson rainbow appeared in the eastern sky at sunset. The sky remained shades of red for two days and the weather stayed just above freezing, leading many to believe it was the end of the world…

Newfoundland is wrought with tales of terror and mystery. Told over campfires and to young children by elders to warn them of the dangers of the unknown, these Newfoundland legends and myths will undoubtedly continue to amaze and terrify anyone to whom they are told. Just as in Bunny Quoyle’s own imagination and terror of her wild white dog, these horrifying stories never cease to leave a cold, gnawing feeling of fear in even the strongest and bravest of hearts, especially those of us that live here…


Sea Serpent

Told to St. John’s newspapers by Thomas Grant, owner of the Augusta

Being a culture that is surrounded by, and arguably dependent upon, the sea, Newfoundland abounds with stories of monsters of the deep. On August 11th, 1888, one of these monsters attacked the schooner Augusta off the southeast coast of the island. Six dories were sent out from the schooner and one of them was chased back to the Augusta by a huge, monstrous creature that emerged from the water and chased the dory to the schooner, only to the submerge again. The monster undulated through the water at great speeds, not unlike an eel or snake, and was close to 100 feet long. Its head, which rose above the water for 15 to 20 feet, was huge and lizard-like with immense eyes. Its body was brown with stripes, about 20 feet thick with a huge fin. The creature reappeared later as the dories went out to get their trawls and chased another of the six dories. It attempted to wrap itself into coils around the boat but lost its speed, only to later catch up and smash at the dory with its deadly tail. The schooner captain shot at the beast as it sank into the sea. The Augusta returned to St. John’s where the story appeared in local papers. Some believe that the creature was a giant squid, similar to ones seen in various places around the world but the experienced fishermen of Newfoundland know it was a sea serpent, and is still out there, hidden deep in the waters, waiting.

*In July of 1874, a giant squid attacked the 150-ton schooner, the Peril, south of Newfoundland. The monster attacked the schooner after the captain fired at it. It wrapped its huge tentacles around the masts, pulled its immense body aboard, and then slipped over the side, capsizing the schooner with its strength. The story was told throughout various American newspapers in 1874, warning the world to watch the seas.*


Newfoundland Giant

Told by Jame’s B. Howley in The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland

During the late 18th century, residents living in Old Perlican were tormented by a group of Beothuk Indians that constantly raided the community while the men were gone to the fishing grounds. The Indians would never harm anyone, only coming to steal the inhabitants’ possessions. On one raid, the fishermen returned  early and chased the Beothuks into the wilderness until nightfall. When all was quiet the fishermen attacked and killed seven of the group, including an immense Beothuk Indian who stood in excess of over 7 feet tall. The giant took three shots to bring down and then only fell to the ground to bleed to death. The fishermen, proud of themselves, decided to bring the giant Indian back to Old Perlican to put on display. They tied rope to his body and dragged it back behind their boat, only to be forced to cut it free during a great storm at sea. The body floated ashore at Lance Cove Head only to return to sea during a later windstorm. The inhabitants of Old Perlican still wonder if the Beothuk giant’s spirit may one day return to have his revenge on the community…or if others like him are watching them.


The Devil’s Stairway

On the Southern Shore, near Cape Broyle Head, there is a sheer cliff that was once the scene of a bizarre scene. A quick-tempered sea captain stranded his boat in there many years ago. In his fit of rage, he cursed the crew and screamed to the devil to take the vessel, cargo, and all hands aboard. Without warning, an unseen force slammed the ship into the top of the cliff and many people believe the devil fulfilled the old captain’s desire. For years, timber from the ship was seen atop that same cliff and the devil himself left his footprints on the sheer stone there, etched in the hard cliff wall. Never tempt the devil.


The Cry

William Welsh lived in 18th century St. John’s, Newfoundland with his wife and three sons. Like many Newfoundlanders at the time, the Welsh family had strong ties to the old land. Welsh’s ancestors came from Ireland and had a strong belief in Irish traditions and folklore, as did William’s wife and sons, although the businessman himself did not. One night, Mrs. Welsh was sitting in bed when she became frozen in fear of what she heard. It was a unearthly wail that came slowly closer to the window until it sounded like it was right outside. Then the wail became a wild shriek, dying away in a horrifying sobbing. William Welsh never heard a thing and dismissed it as her imagination, until his son cut an artery the next day and came close to dying. The  unnatural cry was never mentioned again until many years later, at William Welsh’s 60th birthday party which boasted some of the most important citizens of St. John’s. Suddenly the door burst open and Welsh’s eldest son stood there, a look of horror on his face. He asked his father if he was okay, saying he heard the cry once again, leaving the other guests standing around in wonder. William Welsh laughed it off as silly superstition, telling the guests the story of his Irish tradition and continued with his party. William Welsh suddenly died at breakfast the next day, finally believing in the mournful cry of the Banshee.


The Knocking of Foran’s Hotel

During one cold dark winter night, the guests of Foran’s Hotel in downtown St. John’s were awakened to a incessant knocking coming from an upstairs room. Upon entering the room, the loud knocking suddenly ceased and although two men searched the room, they could find no explanation for the noise. The noise resumed each night and would continue until someone entered the room. Word of the strange knocking spread quickly through the community and people believed the old hotel to be haunted. This occurred until six months after the initial event when a stranger came one night and was given the haunted room. Not knowing of the strange knocking, the stranger entered the room and all was quiet until midnight when the noise began again, louder and more horrifying than before. The knocking filled the building until the door to the room was finally opened, only to reveal the stranger lying dead on the floor, a look of total terror covering his face. The knocking occurred for the last time while the body was being removed from the room. The old Foran’s Hotel has been torn down since then, being replaced by the General Post Office on Water Street but people are still wary of being alone there after dark, afraid the knocking may once more be heard.


The Mystery of the Resolven

The British gunboat, the Mallard, found the Resolven floating on the open sea near Catalina, Newfoundland in 1884. The Resolven had left Harbour Grace, Newfoundland bound for labrador with a cargo of salt and four Newfoundland passengers only a few days earlier, on August 27, 1884. When the crew of the Mallard signalled the other boat, they received no response and so proceeded to board her. What the British sailors found there was a complete mystery. The Resolven held no passengers. Clothing and other personal items were found undisturbed on the ship and there was absolutely no sign of trouble. The galley held a set table ready for a meal and a fire still burned in the stove. The surrounding water was searched but no sign of the crew or passengers was ever to be found.


Springheel Jack

The being known as Springheel  Jack baffled the inhabitants of St. John’s for two months in 1929. Always showing up on Merry meeting Road, the strange fellow was the object of much speculation and mystery for the people of the area. The slim man, if he was that, was over 6 feet tall, dressed in knee-high boots and a black helmet or hat. His features were gaunt and pale green and a black cape hung from his shoulders. The being, who was later nicknamed “Springheel Jack” by those that saw him, never said a word but instead only laughed from the rooftops above those that saw him. Many St. John’s people, mainly women and children, feared this Springheel Jack although with each report, the being never actually committed any acts toward his victims. Rather the story of what Jack might be terrorized the populace. Believed to be an escaped, homicidal mental patient, people feared that they may be the one that Springheel Jack caught and showed his apparent madness to. Springheel Jack was never caught; each time simply laughing at anyone who saw him, jumping effortlessly from the rooftop on which he perched, and bounding hysterically away in 15 foot leaps, his insane laughter echoing through the streets and in the minds of those that witnessed the being named Springheel Jack…

 * Another account exists of a “Spring-heeled Jack” which terrorized England from 1837 to 1904. Unlike the latter Spingheel Jack, this version was thought to be some sort of demon who actually attacked those that saw him. He haunted the rooftops and leapt down to assault his victims with his icy-cold, claw-like hands, only to bound impossibly away, laughing wildly as he disappeared into the darkness. This Jack had a hideous face, glowing eyes and vomited blue and white flame and was apparently unharmed by bullets, simply laughing at them. The being known as Spring-heeled Jack eluded capture as well, always escaping into the darkness from whence he came.*


The Pirate Treasure of Torbay

Told by Captain Jack Dodd, Torbay

Like many Newfoundland communities today, the small place near Torbay known as Tapper’s Cove once had a different name. Originally called Treasure Cove, the stream found there was allegedly built by pirates. The stream had a wooden bottom which hid the gold that the pirates had stolen form other pirates who plundered it from a Spanish galleon in the 17th century The pirates who had originally stolen the gold were attacked and driven into the hills of Torbay by the second lot, who then built the stream to hid the gold. To protect their treasure, the pirates kidnapped a young boy and his Newfoundland dog from Torbay and killed them, believing their ghosts would guard their hidden treasure. To this day, people steer clear of Tapper’s Cove after dark, afraid of meeting the ghosts of the headless boy and his spectral Newfoundland dog who restlessly guard their charges.


Devil’s Hand

The small town of Fortune Harbour, Notre dame Bay, was once the scene of a very bizarre card game. A man named Kincheler loved his game dearly and he often bragged how nothing could sway him from a game of cards. One night Kincheler walked three miles to play a game, boasting to his fellows there that he would have a game of cards with the devil himself. After the game was over and Kincheler left to walk home, he met up with a stranger who struck up a conversation with Kincheler. The mysterious man said he, too, loved cards and challenged Kincheler to a game, and of course, the eager man agreed. The two played for hours and as the mysterious stranger began to become visibly angry, Kincheler noticed a twitching tail coming from under the coat of the now fuming stranger. Kincheler laid his winning card and with that the stranger slammed his last card down upon the rock on which they were playing. Kincheler won his card game but the hand print of that mysterious man is still seen on that rock today. The devil hates to lose…


Strange Creatures of Bonavista Bay

Told to Otto Kelland by Charlie Blackwood, St. John’s

Two cousins, Charlie and David Blackwood, went on a bird hunting trip in Bonavista Bay in 1971 but were unprepared for what they experienced. A heavy fog rolled in a few short hours after they left land in their boat and they became disoriented by the lack of visibility. After half an hour of trying to find land again, they came upon a small island and proceeded to steer for the shore. Before they could reach it, however, the two cousins beheld a sight that quickly changed their minds. There, on top of a cliff that ran the length of the small island, stood two strange creatures unlike anything the men had ever seen before. A little over four feet tall, the creatures were covered in gray fur and possessed no visible eyes, nose or neck, with very short arms and legs and two big monkey-like ears. The silent creatures stood atop the cliff facing the mens’ direction for a few seconds then effortlessly descended the cliff and disappeared beneath the sea. The two cousins floated off the shore for the rest of the night, too afraid to go aground or even sleep. The things  were never seen by the men again but the two cousins cannot forget the strange creatures of Bonavista Bay.


Grandfather’s Encounter

Story by Glenn Sheppard, Spaniard’s Bay

One day my Grandfather was chopping wood near his home. When he finished, he carried the wood to a nearby shed. Load after load he carried until the shed was full. Then he walked towards his house. To his amazement he found the chopped wood still lying on the ground.  He ran back to the shed only to find it still full. Then he heard laughter coming from the woods near his house. Thinking it was a few of his friends playing tricks on him, he ran over to share laughter with them. Imagine his surprise when he saw instead a group of little people, dancing in a circle and singing the most beautiful song he had ever heard. He sat down and listened enchanted by  their sweet voices. When they finished, they motioned for him to follow and unthinking, he did as  they wished. They were leading him to the edge of a cliff. An old woman was strolling through the woods. She saw what was happening and came to his rescue. The old woman put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Listen to me, concentrate on my voice only. Do not look at them. Just take  my hand and follow me.” My Grandfather in a state of confusion did as he was told and returned  home safely. He often wonders what would have happened if that old woman had decided to stay home that night, and he was left to the fairies…


The Great Tidal Wave of 1929

Posted with the permission of the descendents of Ern Cheeseman

The following letter arrived at St. John’s November 21, 1929 from Mr. Ern CHEESEMAN of Port au Bras, appraising his brother Jack of the terrible tidal wave disaster a day or so before.

Port Au Bras

Nov. 20, 1929

Dear Jack,

Just a scribble to advise you of the terrible time we have had here. We wired you yesterday but most likely you will receive this first.

I hardly know how to begin but here is the gist of what happened Monday evening at 5:20. We had an earth tremor, all the houses and ground shook for about five minutes. This put everyone in a panic. Women screaming and praying and men stood silent and scared. But we were just trying and hand finally succeeding in quieting the women we had a tidal wave of the worse kind. Enormous waves twenty feet high swept into the harbour on the other side. The waves seemed to begin at Charlie CLARKE’S, the Bellaventure was anchored outside and did not move with the first wave. This proves it mounted its force inside of her but passed underneath her.

Charlie CLARKE’S store went first taking Henry DIBBONS’ with it into the pond taking everything as it came with a thunderous roar. It swept around by Ambrose’s up to Jack BENNETT’S out our way bringing all the houses and stores that stood in its way.

Then all the boats went made, came in on Jim CHEESEMAN’s place, swept everything of ours up to father’s front door. The harbour was cleared out by the first wave. Then the second one came and brought it all in again. Such noise and scrunching you never heard. By this time we had all fled to the hills, the highest places we could find from where he watched the third wave come and go.

You could hear the poor humans who were caught, screaming, women and men praying out loud. Oh God, Jack, it was terrible.

Anyway, the harbour today is clean of every store and eleven dwelling houses with a loss of seven souls. The houses destroyed were W.H. CLARK’S, George J. ABBOTT’s, William FUDGE’s, Henry DIBBONS’ (bottom), John S. DIBBONS’, Thomas BENTON’s, T.W. CHEESEMAN’s, Joseph CHEESEMAN’s and Jenny CHEESEMAN’s.

Lives lost were Mrs. (Capt.) Sam BENNETT, her brother Henry DIBBONS, Mrs. Thomas FUDGE and three daughters, and old Mrs. William ALLEN. To date the following bodies have been recovered, Mrs. Sam Bennett under the Government Wharf, Mrs. W. ALLEN under Tommy CLARKE’S and Mrs. FUDGE and one daughter, the second oldest picked up by Thomas SHAVE’s in Path End. Everybody is miserable, nervous wrecks, and in need of help immediately. All people who had food for the winter lost it in their stores. We must have flour, sugar, tea, molasses, beef and pork immediately. The Government will have to send relief soon as possible. Everything we have is gone and we are ruined. What we have in the shop the law has ordered us to give out in relief which is only clothes and groceries.

The two freaks of the whole things was the following: Henry DIBBONS arrived in the Bellaventure in the evening, anchored outside, the first wave did not bring her in, the second one did, and she came in with her riding lights burning; twice in and out about ten knots an hour, a man could not steer her better. The last time she went out she anchored herself where she was when it began.

And you could not moor her better. He windlass is out and she leaks some but sailed to Burin yesterday under her own power and foresail. How she escaped is a miracle, but how HYNES’ little boat escaped is a greater one. She was about the worse here. She was tied to the “Jane” was never seen until today, her mast appeared out from Burdge Cove.

All boats from the harbour were lost except Ambrose’s and George’s. Ambrose’s was badly damaged. George was unhurt except a broken main boom. The first dory was hooked by a cod jigger thrown by Charlie CLARKE. Today everything is dismaland breaks ones heart to look at the harbour and then think of what it was like fifteen minutes before this terrible calamity.

I think I have told you the most but you know I could not have given you the many details that remains to be told. When you receive this write and tell us what we are to do. We won’t get no more bills paid, all we had is gone and we cannot pay.

Father and I have fifty dollars each, not a bit of port or beef or any coal. Excuse this scribble but we are not over the shock yet. Every move one hears one jumps expecting the same to happen again.

I suppose we must thank God we escaped with our lives, before the first wave came only about two minutes before I was going on the wharf to see how the boats were. Maud called for me not to go and this alone accounts for me being alive. No human had a chance in such raging, roaring seas.

Tomorrow we have four funerals.

Yours sincerely,


**the schooner mentioned in this letter is not to be confused with the steamer “Bellaventure”.


The Wake

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

A pale gold moon arose in the darkening blue of the sky, as the evening star twinkled in the coming of night. Uncle Joe Brown leaned on his garden gate, his heart heavy in this year 1900. Tonight he would be with his old friend Paddy Brennan for the last time. No more would they sit around the little bogie in the woodshed to talk of old times together, of the days when they were young on the schooner, the fishing on the Labrador, the trips to the ice, the good times and the bad, the jokes they’d shared. Joe smiles, remembering how Paddy had said he allowed he’d have to be first to go so as to try and talk St. Peter into letting Joe in when he came, there being no Protestants allowed in Heaven. Joe had retorted by saying he guessed the first thing he’d have to do when he got there was to try and get a pardon for one Paddy Brennan from the bad place, as Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven at all without his old friend.

“Time to be getting up to the wake, Joe” Martha, his wife, called from the doorway. “Tell Mary I’ll be expecting her and Timmy down to bide the night.”

“Yes, Martha. I’ll be dodging along now,” answered Joe, as he douted his pipe and stuffed it down his jacket pocket. How Paddy had happened to fall and strike his head on that rock yesterday, Joe didn’t know. they were up in their hide-away making up a bit of stuff for Christmas when he’d tripped on the path coming down.

Poor Timmy. He still couldn’t understand why his beloved grandfather was dead. His parents had died with the fever in ’96, and since then he was Paddy’s and Joe’s boy for sure.

Timmy met his Uncle Joe now at the door. There were no tears in his eyes, and his bright red hair was neatly combed. “Me and grandma been waiting for you, Uncle Joe; the people are here,” he said, holding tight to Joe’s hand. The people were there, among them Sid Badcock with his accordion. there was a bottle of store-bought whisky on the table, and a pot of rabbit stew boiling on the stove. Paddy’s wife, Mary, followed their old friend to the parlor where Paddy lay.

“I’ll cry tomorrow, Joe,” she said, “When he’s put away. Tonight Paddy’s goin’ to have a wake like he always talked about; like his father had before him.”

The night wore on, Timmy fell asleep, and woke again. The whisky and rabbit stew was gone. Everyone, thought Timmy, is having a good time except grandfather. He put on his shoes, took his jacket from the back porch, and stole out into the night, up the path he knew so well, and to the hide-away where he carefully lifted a jar from the shelf. It was the first he had brewed alone, and grandpa was supposed to taste it this very day. He brought it down to the cottage and set the jar on the kitchen table.

“I made this myself, everyone,” he was saying, “and I want grandpa to have it for his wake.” Timmy watched as it disappeared, everyone saying it was the best moonshine they had ever tasted. When only a little remained in the jar, Timmy poured it into a cup and carried it into the parlor, taking care that no one was looking.

“You, grandpa, I made it just like you showed me. Here,” Jimmy was saying, as he poured the fiery liquid down the slightly open mouth of his grandfather.

“What are ye up to, Timmy?” Uncle Joe had followed the boy but stopped and stared now in disbelief. Color was coming into Paddy’s face. He blinked and opened his eyes, then tried to sit up.

“What I be doin’ here in this box in the cold, Joe? Is you and Mary trying too make me catch my death?”

It was said afterward in the village that Paddy had once remarked the worst thing about being dead was having to miss your own wake until the best of it was drunk up, but he sure was glad he’d come to before they’d got him underground.

For days it was all the talk in the village how they had nearly buried poor Paddy Brennan while he was still unconscious from a blow on the head. The doctor summoned from the town gave them a lecture, and it seemed the only one who didn’t believe him was Joe Brown.

“It’s like this, Paddy Boy,” he told his friend later that fall in the woodshed, “You and me been seein’ and buryin’ dead people all our lives and I’m telling ye now, ye were deader than a doornail. It was the stuff that little Timmy made that brought ye back to life, and we’ve got to find it.” Over and over again they made the little boy repeat what he had put in his jar, and always he told them the same, until his head ached, and granny would come to fetch him and declare she wasn’t putting up with this nonsense any longer.

The winter passed, and with the coming of summer the two old men began their search in earnest. “If we find it, Timmy Boy,” Uncle Joe told him as the two old men were getting ready their boat to find a special sea-weed Paddy thought might be the secret ingredient, “If we find it, it will be a bigger thing than them new steam engines, bigger even than anything in the world.” But they never found it. That day they capsized, and the two old friends were drowned.

Although the little town was saddened by their loss, most folks agreed with Mike Delaney when he said, “The Lord must have intended them to go together, same as they lived.”

They were buried the same day, Paddy in the Catholic cemetery in the morning, and Joe in the Protestant in the afternoon. To the day of her death, Maggie Coombs maintained that when the minister at Joe’s graveside had said, “although their bodies were buried apart, God must have their souls together in Heaven,” the Catholic priest had added a fervent “Amen”.

The years passed, it is September 1960, and the late afternoon sun filters softly through the turning leaves of the maple trees at the old hide-away and onto the head of a old man, whose bright red hair has turned silver. His hands are busy, and the little boy at his side watches attentively.

“Remember, Joey,” he says, “The secret is in the formula, That much I know.”

“If we find it, grandpa,” asks the boy, “will it be bigger than the rockets to the moon they’re building now?”

“Bigger,” says his grandfather. “It will be just as big now as it was in your great, great grandfather Paddy’s, and your great, great Uncle Joe’s time. It will be life itself.”

Douted – To put out, as a fire.


The Scissors Cove Fire

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

The sun had risen in all its splendour and shone for miles around our little village of Scissors Cove, at Notre Dame Bay. It shone over the fertile land gleaming with all its greenness – its evergreens, its stalwart pines that rose as giant flowers in the virgin forest which spread for miles east, south and west of our homes. The year was 1912 – the date, May 28.

The lambs were bleating; the cattle lowing; the singing of the birds told the glory of spring. But at sunset, what a contrast! All that was lovely in the morning was a burning inferno as far as the eye could see.

It began about seven o’clock.

Someone at Norris Arm was burning brush. Somehow it got out of control and a forest fire started windward of us. Fanned by the southwest wind, the fire travelled through the dry bush. By five o’clock it had spread over an area of 175 square miles, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Only a few animals, domestic and wild, were left alive, and many of these died from the after effects of smoke inhalation. I saw 17 sheep and lambs burned to death in a shed where they had taken refuge. Someone dropped one burning lamb in the salt water. It managed ashore somehow but carried the mark all summer where the wool had been burned off.

Other livestock – cows, horses, pigs, hens and goats – were in the way of the fire; nothing could be cone. One could only try to save oneself. In all there were about 25 families, half or more burned out – practically all property, a life’s savings, including food, gone.

Some of the families took shelter on the small islands just off the mainland while others sought refuge on a long point with water on either side. My father saved some of the household effects of a friend whose husband and son were away by burying them in the garden and putting some on a point in the harbour. The house burned a few minutes later.

We did everything possible around our own home by removing a few sections of fencing so the fire would not travel along. This proved effective later as the fire burned to the end of the port and died there.

After our family was evacuated to the point with the other families where two of three men were left to care for the women and children, I stood by our home. My father went to the stage where our schooner sailed, and cod trap was stored (our “fixing” at that time) to try and save them. I was around 19 then.

While the fire was passing over, our house caught fire three times. I was exhausted trying to put the flames out and had to run into the house to get my breath. Once I had to lie down with my face towards the ground to breathe more easily – but we saved the home and stage.

During those worst minutes the only life I was aware of was the panic-stricken cries of the women and children on the point – and the wild rabbits scurrying by. (Some of the rabbits ran out onto a boom of saw logs we had in the cove.)

There was a tense moment when we thought the schooner was on fire as she rode at anchor by the woody island – but she came through it with only a few minor scars on her deck from falling sparks.

Scissors Cove has been renamed Stanhope, and when visiting it this Fall I found it reforested and looking lovely again – the woody island a panorama of bushy green.


Story of Tragedy

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

On Sunday night, November 10, 1940, while passengers on board M.S.Maneco were waiting for the lines to be cast off on the homeward trip to Bell Island, the news was quickly circulated that a motor boat was on fire in the tickle. A telephone call to this effect had been received from the island. Capt. Saunders of the Maneco lost no time in leaving the wharf to assist the distressed craft. Coming across the tickle a sharp lookout was kept for the burning boat, but although the surface was brightly lighted nothing of that nature could be seen. There was nothing to indicate the horrible tragedy that had occurred while the Maneco was tied up at Portugal Cove. And it was only when the ferry reached the tramway wharf that the first real details of the disaster were learned.

Instead of a boat on fire, the unbelievable news was that a collision had occurred between the other two ferry boats plying on the tickle – the M.Y.W. Garland, and the little Golden Dawn.

Earlier persons on the wharf and along the beach heard a resounding crash outside the point of beach. Terrified screams for help had come from the direction of the crash, and then an outburst of fire, on the Golden Dawn. Those who heard and saw the terrible drama of death on that memorable night will always remember it.

By the time the Maneco docked a small boat owned by Walter Dicks and manned by him, Ned Snow and James O’Rielly, put out and rowed to the scene of the tragedy. There it picked up the four persons who were sole survivors of that carefree company of 26 souls who had sailed on the Garland from Portugal Cove earlier that evening, entirely unaware of danger. William Shanes and Mark Butler were also on the scene in another boat and helped in the rescue. The four survivors were Norman Ash, owner of the Garland, Harbour Grace, Gerald Tucker of St. Philips and two brothers, John and James Quilty of St. Thomas’.

A snow squall which swept over the tickle shortly before six o’clock has been described as the cause of the collision. The two vessels were travelling in opposite directions at their regular rate of speed. The Golden Dawn had left the Beach Trading Company’s wharf about 5.45 without passengers, after returning from a trip in the bay. She had turned and was heading for Portugal Cove when her captain sighted a masthead light approaching and altered course to clear the oncoming vessel. then a sudden snow squall blinded him. As it passed, he was startled by a white shape looming up on the starboard side, and in the next instant the stem of the Garland plunged into the side of the Dawn amidships with terrific force. The men on the Dawn shouted to those on the Garland to keep her engine running and hold her “nose” in the hole, but the engine of the Dawn had stopped. She was swung about by the Garland, and the two vessels lost contact. All this happened in less time than it takes to tell it.

The Dawn, helpless, drifted away. And it was then that engineer Rose showed his presence of mind by soaking his overcoat with kerosene and setting fire to it on the top of the wheel-house. The light attracted attention on the beach. An eye witness said that the Garland continued on her course without reduction of speed, heading straight for land. However, with her bows stove in, she quickly sank, taking the majority of those on board to their doom. She was only 600 feet from the point of beach.

An empty cask was bobbing on the surface over the grave of the Garland, as well as a hatch and to these two floating objects the four survivors clung until rescue reached them from the shore. Sad to relate, the others who were on board had no such means of surviving in the deep water.

Early next morning search began for the 22 bodies lying in the cold depths off the beach. Altogether, thirteen bodies were recovered.


Act of Kindness

By Stephanie LaLand

A steamer ran aground off the coast of Newfoundland. The waters were rough and the ship was coming apart at the seams. Panic swept over the passengers and it seemed they would all drown. The people on the shore could only watch helplessly because the waters seemed too rough to even attempt a rescue.

“But one of the men on shore had a Newfoundland dog and he attached a line to the dog’s neck. The great Newfoundland dove into the icy, turbulent waters and, following the directions of the man, swam to the ship. A lifeline was established and a conveyor device was sent along the line to the ship.

“One by one the ninety-two passengers aboard got into the conveyor and were pulled to safety. One time the conveyor reached shore with a mailbag inside. It contained a baby. The conveyor went out again and again, as the ship broke apart, until there was only one man left aboard. The rescuers were surprised when they pulled the conveyor in to find, not a man in it, but the Newfoundland dog. The last man had decided to take his chances on the crumbling ship and make sure the hero dog was saved. The conveyor went out one last time and all ninety-two passengers were saved. The dog was later awarded a medal of honor.”


Peter Easton the Pirate

By Newfie June

Newfoundland is full of ghost stories and pirate tales. ‘Tis said, for example, that Peter Easton, the Pirate, sailed to small inlets around the coast and hid the treasures that he had reaped on the high seas.

Now, I have to admit that the average Newfie gets a great bit ‘o fun from yankin’ the chain of some of you Mainlanders, but I swear to you that’s not what I’m about here. Newfoundland joined Confederation to provide a little culture to what would have been a Canada of rather straight-laced rabble.

I grew up hearing the wonderful tales of buried treasure and of ghosts who would lead you to them (whether you wanted to go or not!)

My Mother, God rest her soul, was quite superstitious and her Mother before her sounds like she may have been a practicing witch, for cryin’ out loud. In fact, I’m bloody lucky they didn’t burn her at the stake because then I wouldn’t be able to tell you these tales at all! It’s a good thing we lived in Newfoundland and not Salem, that’s all I can say!

My Grandmother, Selina, loved to read tea leaves and tell your fortune from the shapes in the clouds. She, supposedly, could divine water and would have strange dreams that would “come true.” Nowadays, we’d have her on anti-psychotic medications, but back in the good old days she was revered. If “Aunt Lene” told you to beware of spooks, ghost, goblins, or Mainlanders, you darn well listened and heeded her insight into the underworld.

One night, Selina went off to sleep and dreamed that she was walking up through the fields that spread out at the back of the old homestead for probably close to a half a mile. This was their “garden” where they planted the potatoes, cabbage, turnips and carrots that would be stored in the underground root cellar for the winter months. Now, she was trudging through the planted rows in this dream, when she heard the fence, off to her right, creak. She turned towards the sound and there, climbing the fence to come towards her, was a little man with the face of a monkey. He spoke to her and said that he was going to show her where there was a treasure buried. He led the way farther up the garden until they came to a grassy spot near a fence post. Here, he dug his hand down through the sod and the soil underneath looked white and floury. The little man dug down almost to his little elbow and pulled out a large brass key. He told her to note the location of the key and that he would come back to her the next day and show where the chest, that the key fit, was located.

The next day, on waking, Selina she rushed up through the gardens and got to the place where the little man had instructed her to dig for the key. Everything was as it had been in her dream. She tore back some sod by the fence post and there was the white, floury “soil.” She sifted her fingers through the stuff and sure enough she felt something hard and pulled up a big brass key! She was astounded! She never really thought she would find this. It was actually quite unnerving. Selina rushed back home and couldn’t wait to show the key to her husband (my Grandfather), to see what he made of it. He insisted that it not be kept in the house, as he was afraid that it was evil. He took it out and hid it away in the barn.

That night Selina had a hard time falling asleep. Part of her couldn’t wait for the next installment of the dream. Another part of her was scared silly by the whole thing and she was starting to really be afraid that my Grandfather was right and some dark, evil forces may be at work.

Finally, she could keep her eyelids open no more and she drifted off.

Nothing happened! She saw neither hide nor hair of the little monkey-faced man. In fact she didn’t remember dreaming that night all.

Several nights passed and Selina figured she wasn’t going to get to see the finale of the dream. Of course, that was too good to be true. A week later, she drifted off to sleep one night and the little man appeared to her again. He was not quite so benign looking this time and he didn’t speak. He motioned for her to follow him and took her on a journey to a different spot in the garden. He pointed to an indentation in the ground near a big bush and motioned that this was the place where she was to dig to find the treasure.

The next day was terribly stormy and a gale of wind off the North Atlantic blew fierce for nigh on three days. When the storm finally abated, the garden was too wet and soggy for man or beast to tread upon. Selina waited patiently until things firmed up a bit and then out she set, shovel in hand. She was determined that if there was treasure to be found she was going to get it. It was the 1920′s and times were hard. A bit of silver coin would go far to help out the family, after all. She got to the place in the garden where the little man had met up with her but he was nowhere to be seen. Selina picked her way across the uneven earth for more than an hour until she came to the place she thought was the one the little man had pointed out. She poised her shovel and, just as she was going to make her first cut into the sod, the fence behind her creaked loudly and she heard a strange sound. Selina straightened up quickly but, paralyzed with fear, she did not turn around. Again she heard a strange noise and… fainted dead away.

A while later she came to with no idea how long she had been out. There was no sign of anyone about, but she couldn’t carry through with her mission. Selina was now determined that there was evil attached to this treasure and she wanted no part of it. She raced back to the house and vowed that she didn’t care how much loot was there, she would never go back to hunt for it. Nor would she pass on the knowledge on to anyone else with enough accuracy so that they could try to find it for themselves.

For years that old brass key hung on a nail on the wall of the old barn. My Uncle John inherited the homestead and never removed the key, but loved to retell the story. The barn is long since torn down. Grandmother Selina, my own mother, and Uncle John are long gone too, but the stories of “Aunt Lene’s” adventures with fairies and ghosts and dreams prevail on The Rock.

Maybe I’ll tell you where the key is now. Perhaps a little later, if we can afford a few swigs of Screech together after ‘Squar’n up time.’


History of Newfoundland


The History of Newfoundland and Labrador has moulded the Province’s Culture and Heritage.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the first human beings to arrive in Newfoundland and Labrador were of Palaeo-Indian Descent. These people relied heavily on the sea and are referred to by archaeologists as Maritime Archaic Indians. The Maritime Archaic people lived by hunting, fishing and gathering. They moved around constantly from place to place and it is probably their descendants that were in Newfoundland at the time of the arrival of the Europeans. They were known as the Beothuks, as well as other groups such as the Mik`mag and Eskimo. The last Beothuk to die was Shanawdithit, who died in 1929.

The first known European settlers in Newfoundland go back to the year 1001 when the Vikings came from Iceland to Greenland and then to Baffn Island, Labrador and Newfoundland. They called the land “Markland” or “Land of Forest” and settled in L’Anse aux Meadows. This site probably only lasted for a few years

In 1497, John Cabot arrived in Newfoundland and made landfall at Bonavista. Here he set up the flag of England and claimed the land as a British colony for his leader Henry VIII.

“In the years following Cabot’s voyage the Corte-Reals from Portugal visited Newfoundland and probably left a legacy of place-names on the east coast from Cape Race north to Notre Dame Bay.”(1) In 1534 Jacques Cartier circumnavigated the Island; and in 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert reaffirmed the ownership of Britain when he claimed Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I.

The first colony in Newfoundland was the one established at Cupids in 1610 by a company of London and Bristol merchants which had received a royal charter for this purpose.  John Guy was its first governor.

A significant factor in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador was the abundance of fish that was available on the Grand Banks. Fishing and trading ships routinely came from Portugal, Spain, France and England in the spring of the year and returned in the fall with large cargoes of fish.

The European immigrants who settled in Newfoundland brought their knowledge, beliefs, loyalties and prejudices with them, but the society they built in the New World was unlike the ones they had left, and different from the ones other immigrants would build on the American mainland. As a fish-exporting society, Newfoundland was in contact with many places around the Atlantic rim, but its geographic location and political distinctiveness also isolated it from its closest neighbours in Canada and the United States. Internally, most of its population was spread widely around a rugged coastline in small outport settlements, many of them a long distance from larger centers of population and isolated for long periods by winter ice or bad weather. These conditions had an effect on the culture the immigrants had brought with them and generated new ways of thinking and acting, giving the history of Newfoundland and Labrador a wide variety of distinctive customs, beliefs, stories, songs, and dialect.

The First World War had a powerful and lasting effect on the society and on the History of Newfoundland and Labrador. From a population of about a quarter of a million, 5,482 men went overseas. Nearly 1,500 were killed and 2,300 wounded. On July 1, 1916, at Beaumont-Hamel, France, 753 men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went over the top of a trench. The casualties were staggering; the next morning, only 68 men answered the roll-call. Even now, when the rest of Canada celebrates the founding of the country on July 1, many Newfoundlanders take part in solemn ceremonies of remembrance.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the youngest province in Canada, enjoying the status of a country until 1949. That year, the population voted by a narrow margin to join Canada, whose history, economy, culture and political institutions were significantly different.

The History of Newfoundland and Labrador has been one of struggle and hardship, but also one of courage and happiness. Early settlers found a land of beauty and freedom and one that they were proud of.


The Headless Ghost of Queen’s Road, St. John’s


Sleepy Hollow is not the only location to boast a headless ghost. Tales of headless horsemen and other headless phantoms can be found all over the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada are no exception to this. Travelling along Labrador’s northeast coast in 1995, I was told stories of a strange man without a face who haunted the now abandoned community of Hebron, Labrador.  Other headless phantoms have been reported in various other parts of the island of Newfoundland.

One of the oldest recorded stories of a haunting for St. John’s, Newfoundland, involves a headless captain.  And unlike Washington Irving’s tale, the St. John’s legend (dating to the year 1745) is reportedly true. It involves one Samuel Pettyham, a St. John’s man who rented a small house on the fringe area of town, at the end of a small lane off Queen’s Road.  The man found a housekeeper to come in during the days to cook and clean, and who would then leave at night.  The woman expressed some concern about Pettyham remaining alone in the house at night, but he dismissed her worries.

As the legend goes, Pettyham had been visiting a friend in the west end of town.  As it was late, his host offered to drive Pettyham home in his carriage. As the horse drew near to the laneway to Pettyham’s house, it stopped suddenly, and refused to move an inch further forward.  Pettyham as a result offered to walk the rest of the way.  The laneway to the little house was quite dark, and overgrown with trees.  Pettyham walked on, and saw in front of him a glowing light.  Thinking it was from a lantern of some kind carried by another person, Pettyham quickened his step.

About twenty yards further on, the figure stepped out into the moonlight immediately in front of Pettyham’s house, and then turned and faced Pettyham.  Mr. Pettyham took one look at the scene in front of him, and turned and fled in absolute horror.  The figure he had seen was that of a very tall man, a man with his head cut completely off, close to the shoulders. Pettyham raced back up along Queen’s Road, bursting into a boarding house and begging for shelter for the night, swearing he would never spend another night in his house.

The headless man he had seen was the spectre of a well known captain of a ship that plied its trade between England and Newfoundland.  The captain had been the companion of a beautiful lady, who dwelt within the house.  Whenever he was in St. John’s, the two were always seen together, but while he was out to sea, she showered her affections on a local man.  Apparently, the captain’s nearness to the lady was too much for the local man, who decided to do away with his competition.  One night, just as the captain said goodbye to the lady, and had stepped out onto the narrow pathway, the jealous lover leaped forward with an exceptionally sharp sword, and severed the captain’s head, close to the shoulders.  The man who committed the deed was never convicted, although all signs of guilt seemed to point to him.  The soul of the headless captain, it is believed, still wanders, doomed to haunt the location of his hideous decapitation, forever in search of his unpunished murderer.


Adrift in an Open Dory

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

A notable story of bravery and endurance is that of George Robert May and Charles Williams, two fishermen of two little Newfoundland outports, Point Rosie and Peal’s Cove, both in Fortune Bay.

They were members of the crew of the banking vessel “Donald R. Creaser”, sailing from Fortune Bay to the banks in spring of 1927. She carried seven dories and nineteen fishermen. Of these men, George Robert May was slightly built and forty-nine years of age, while Charles Williams was a powerfully-built man, more than six feet tall. The two were dory-mates and inseparable friends.

On June 17th they put off from the vessel’s side in their dory, sailing about a mile away to set their trawls and returning with a dory-load of fish. they threw it upon the schooner’s deck and at three o’clock that afternoon left to haul their trawls a second time. They had not gone more than a few hundred yards from the vessel when the fog, with the suddenness for which it is noted on the banks, closed down upon them. Bank fishermen are well-accustomed to thick fog, however. May and Williams continued on their way toward the trawls. They were unable to find them, though they spent an hour searching where they thought them to be. They decided to return to the ship, which was to prove as elusive as the trawls. For five hours they rowed and sailed, but never a sign or sound of her greeted them. The dreaded realization dawned in their minds that they were, for the time being at least, quite hopelessly lost.

Brave fishermen that they were, they remained cool, lowered their sails and lay down on the floor of their dory to have a night’s rest, in the hope that daylight would find the weather clearer and enable them to locate their ship. The only food they had in the dory was twenty biscuits, and there was not a drop of drinking water. Imagine their bitter disappointment when daylight broke next morning to find the weather just as thick and the fog as dense as before. They had a small compass with them, and realizing that they might spend many days searching without finding the “Donald R. Creaser”, they made up their minds to head the dory toward St. John’s.

They felt encouraged because a favourable wind blew all day, and though the outlook was still dismally uncertain, they worried little as they lowered sails at dusk and prepared to have another night’s rest. Near-disaster befell them that night, for the wind freshened considerably, causing a violent sea. One wave larger than the others boarded the dory and carried off two of their oars. Fearing now that the wind might rise to a storm, they decided to make for the nearest land. The fog was still as thick as the proverbial soup in spite of the continuing breeze and heavy sea. That night they lowered sails again and stretched out on the bottom of the dory to snatch a few hour’s sleep.

By the end of the third day they came to the unpleasant conclusion that if they were headed right they should have reached land long ago. On the fourth day the fog was thick as ever, but the sea had moderated a little.

By now both men were suffering agonies from thirst and were weakening rapidly under the continued exposure.

It was now five days since they had tasted a drop of water and there are few physical tortures worse than being long deprived of this lift-sustaining fluid. On the very next day their joyous eyes suddenly beheld, looming up majestically out of the fog, a great iceberg. Feverishly they headed the dory toward their mountain of floating ice. Thankfully they broke off lumps of ice, which they sucked until their lips were numb with the cold. Having slaked their mad thirst, they filled a tin can with additional ice. Considerably refreshed, they pushed away from the iceberg and continued their weary journey toward they knew not what.

Two days after they had filled the can with ice, the last drop of water was gone and it was to be another four or five days before they got their next drink, a drink which came suddenly with a downpour of rain. It was just in time.

For eleven days and three hours these two gallant fishermen battled for their lives in that little sixteen-foot dory. The biscuits through strict rationing, had lasted them for many days, but now at last, ass the remaining crumbs disappeared, their physical strength ebbed away. Only the constant exercise and a powerful will to live kept them alive to the end of that eleventh day.

It would be quite impossible, without going through the same experience, to appreciate the voiceless gratitude of the two weary fishermen when the steamship “Albuera” appeared suddenly on the horizon and seemed to be coming towards them. Fully 374 miles from where they had last seen their vessel, this steamship picked them up and carried them to Tilbury in England. There they were treated with the kindness to which all fishermen and mariners are so richly entitled.

Wherever they may be, such is the indomitable spirit of the typical Newfoundland fisherman that it is all but needless to add that six months later George Robert May and Charles Williams were headed once more to the sea as member of another vessel, fishing on the banks of Newfoundland.


The Year of the Ice

From The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

During the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century when the fishery, especially the Labrador fishery, was our chief source of a livelihood, the first signs of spring brought much to the settlements of Port Rexton, Champney’s and English Harbour, as the different schooners, forty or fifty in number, were being made ready for another voyage.

At a time set by the captain of each schooner, all the men who had procured a berth for the summer would start to work each day, usually returning to their own home each night. Their work would consist of painting, tarring traps, cleaning, loading supplies and numerous other chores necessary so that nothing would be left out once they set sail. The home of the captain was a busy place these days, too, as the men were fed there every day until the boat was ready. Yes, many a tasty meal was dished out day after day on a long table in the biggest room in the house, which was usually the kitchen.

Sometimes the girl who was to cook on the schooner for the summer would be called in to help the captain’s wife and get some experience which would help her later when she was alone. This preparation usually took about two or three weeks during which time a short trip had to be made to St. John’s to load provisions and salt and everything needed. When all was in readiness, the hired men (or shore men as they were called) would bring their duffle bags packed with their belongings neat and clean, pick out their berth and set everything in order.

It was usually around the 20th of June, and all else being set, a wind in the right direction was all that was needed. This waiting period was uncertain, as no one knew when the wind would change to the direction needed, but everyone watched, and at the first sign of the awaited wind, morning, noon or night everyone would be astir. Crews would assemble, sails would be hoisted, farewells exchanged, and away they would sail, watched by all the loved ones left behind, with a prayer from every heart to God for all to go well for a safe return with a full load of fish. Thus on one voyage in particular, forty or more schooners were sailing out from all parts of the by, very happy and hopeful.

They had all reached the Straits of Belle Isle and, as the weather glasses were forecasting a storm, their only hope was to make a good run across the straits and take shelter in one of the many safe harbours on the Labrador chore. This they did, and all were anchored and safe from the wind, so that the captains weren’t much concerned, but after the wind had been blowing for some hours they saw that it was beginning to drift ice along with it. It blew until the harbour was packed with ice and then the wind dropped, and there they were jammed in a field of ice. It was a magnificent sight – the schooners painted different colours, the white sails, the land behind then and the ice in front. At first no one seemed very much concerned because they all expected that any hour the wind would change in another direction and carry the ice away, allowing them to proceed down to coast to their respective fishing grounds. But as day after day passed and eventually two weeks passed with every day clear and fine and warmer, and still the field of ice remained, everyone began to realize what could happen. Outside their harbour, other schooners were passing, and being early at the fishing grounds meant securing the best berths for the season. Besides, the trap fishery was only short at its best, and here they were getting nowhere. All in all the situation looked grim.

Some thought of the coming winter, with no food and clothing for their families; other thought of their sweethearts at home whom they planned to marry in the fall. So much depended on that load of fish.

It was Sunday again, a beautiful day, and, as was the custom in every harbour where schooners were anchored, on whatever boat there was a layman or Sunday school superintendent, or anyone talented and serving the lord, a service was held. The call to worship was given by hoisting a flag, and everyone understood what it meant. In a short time quite a number were wending their way to the chapel on the sea, some walking over the ice where it was packed, others manoeuvring their way in small boats among the ice cakes, so that after a time there was a good congregation.

The preacher they found was a Salvation Army soldier from some corps in the bay, so the service began with lively singing, prayer, and more singing which was joined in by all present. Then came the testimony trial when the preacher asked anyone and everyone who wanted to tell what the Lord had done for them to do so. One elderly man arose, and after saying a few words he suggested that they all get down on their knees and ask the Good Lord out of the depth of their souls to help them in their sad plight which by now was becoming almost unbearable. It was agreed unanimously that everyone would kneel and one brother would make their wants known unto God. So there in the beautiful July Sunday evening everyone knelt, some Methodist, some Church of England, some Catholic, some of other faith, but all making their wants known unto God.

After the prayers ceased, the meeting closed and all wended their way back to their boats for another night, hoping and believing that their prayer would be answered. By dark all lights were out and everyone had retired for the night. Only a few hours and it would be daylight. As the dawn broke, one of the skippers arose as usual to look around and lo! to his utter amazement, the ice was loosening up. Quite a lot of it had disappeared, so much so that he shouted with all his might. “The ice is gone!” In a few seconds everyone was astir, sails were hoisted, and one by one the schooners sailed through the open space in the ice out into the bay and away down the coast to their respective fishing grounds, where many of them got bumper trips.

This is just one of many stories told by Newfoundland fishermen proving their faith in God’s promise to answer their prayers.


The Legend of Piper’s Hole – A Famous Legend of Rural Newfoundland

By: Moses Ingram

British ships were a common sight off the coast of Newfoundland in the 1800’s and from time to time would have to enter one of the numerous inlets that littered the barren coastline, to replenish their supply of drinking water. On one such ship was a young man who was very adept at playing the bagpipes and during many long nights he would entertain his fellow shipmates with the music of bonnie Scotland.

One day the ship lay at anchor in a tiny passage at the foot of Placentia Bay. The piper and another sailor asked for and received permission to spend the afternoon exploring the nearby hills. The terrain was difficult, and at some point in the afternoon they suddenly came upon a steep cliff, the piper lost his footing and fell to his death. The other sailor returned to the ship but being afraid he might be accused of playing some part in the piper’s death, decided not to tell the true story. He explained instead, that they had become separated and after searching for more than an hour, he had returned to the ship, hoping that his friend may have done the same. The following day a search was carried out but without success, and the ship left, eventually returning to England, without finding the piper’s body.

Around that same time visitors to that area of Placentia Bay began to report hearing music coming from the nearby hills, as the strains of the bagpipes were carried over the winds. The stories continued for years and the tiny inlet became known as Piper’s Hole. Many ships refused to anchor there, but gave the area a wide berth.

More years passed and the piper’s companion, now an old man, lay at the point of death in a London hospital. The old man desperately wanted to tell someone the truth about what happened that long ago afternoon at Piper’s Hole. Clasping the hand of the visiting clergyman, he poured out his story – this time the truth, and passed away with a burden that had followed him for years, finally lifted.

Meanwhile far across the Atlantic, in Piper’s Hole, the bagpipes fell silent, never to be heard again.


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