” deep in silent grief”
April 6, 1914
On April 6, 1914 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported:
“Yesterday, there was a wave of sympathy on every street and in every home in St. John’s. The Grenfell Hall or temporary mortuary room, where the bodies were brought for identification was filled all day with sorrowing relatives and friends of the deceased brethren.”
The bodies were those of the 77 sealers from the sealing vessel the S.S. Newfoundland who had perished on the ice on March 31 – April 2. The Grenfell Hall was also known as the King George V Seamen’s Institute. The frozen bodies of dead sealers were thawed in vats of hot water in the basement of the building.
The Telegram continued:
“Standing outside the Hall all day was a multitude deep in silent grief. The solemnity of the occasion will be remembered for generations to come.
At 5’ o’clock all the bodies were identified. Thirty eight bodies were sent home by special train. The corpses were taken away from the hall in sleighs. In the entire procession thousands of men and boys took part.
One body was drawn on the gun carriage of the H.M.S. Caypso, the departed sealer being a member of the Naval Reserve. The bodies numbering 25, belonging to outports where there are no direct train communication, were hermetically sealed and brought to the morgue last night and will be sent home by steamer.”
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the Sealers Crew Agreement and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross is also included on this collection.
Recommended Reading: PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents. More than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents illustrate this amazing book.
Recommended Film:The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, uses animation, survivor testimony and archival footage view the short film from your own home: https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours
Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/