Tag Archives: sealing

Do you know about Patrick’s Pot?

imagesCAF5JTEEArchival Moment

March 17 (Tradition)
One of the earliest and best accounts of daily life at the Labrador fishery can be found in Nicholas Smith’s book ‘Fifty-two Years at the Labrador Fishery’. In his book he makes reference to a  Newfoundland, St. Patrick’s Day tradition,  that is no more.

Smith writes:

“The ice was very heavy and in large sheets; consequently slow progress was made for the first few days, but on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, Captain William  …  called everybody at daylight to get out to their ‘Patrick’s Pot’ as we were among the seals, and plenty of them.”

In Newfoundland and Labrador a ‘Patrick’s Pot’  suggests a ‘windfall’ in terms of sealing jargon it referred to a seal herd spotted on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17). When spotted especially on St. Patrick’s Day there would be much excitement.

St. Patrick’s Day would have been early in the  ‘sealing season’ and a good omen. The herd would represent a portion of the sealers salary for the year.

Patrick’s Pot or Paddy’s Pot had another meaning for children, when visiting relatives on St. Patrick’s Day silver coins were traditionally given to children, the coins given were referred to as Paddy’s Pot. In the Folk and Language Archive at Memorial University is found reference to this tradition in interviews that were conducted with informants.   One gentleman reported when giving a coin to a child the person typically said:  “and here’s a Paddy’s Pot for ye, me little colleens.’

Wishing you the very best on St. Patrick’s Day. May you find your pot?

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read the journal of Dr. William Waddell (MG 1006.1). The journal documents a typical sealing voyage including a description of the vessel and role of the crew.

Recommended Reading: Fifty-two Years at the Labrador Fishery (London: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1936.

Recommended Activities: The Irish Newfoundland Association as part of their 40th Annual Irish Week Celebrations are proud to work with other organizations to celebrate our Irish culture.   Click here for an UPDATED calendar of Irish related events: http://archivalmoments.ca/2017/03/irish-week-events-calendar-2017/

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Archival Moment

April 7, 1914

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

On April 7, 1914, the St. John’s daily newspaper the Evening telegram reported:

 “Much anxiety and grave concern is being felt for the Southern Cross. Her non arrival is causing universal alarm but there is no reason why hope should be abandoned.

Exactly a week ago (April 2, 1914)  this forenoon Captain T. Connors  of the Coastal S.S. Portia  passed the Southern Cross five miles W.S.W.  of Cape Pine. That same afternoon the fatal blizzard came in and it is believed the Southern Cross was driven off to sea a couple of hundred miles and since then has not been able to reach the land.

Ever since it was reported by Captain Connors relatives and friends of loved ones on board have been besieging  the telegraph offices  in the city and outports and the eager information “Have you any news of the Southern Cross”  is sought for but unfortunately the reply is always in the negative.

However the Southern Cross is only a week overdue and this is not considered long by nautical men as the records will show.  The crew of the Southern Cross whose names have already been published  belong to St. John’s, Conception Harbour, Brigus, Clarke’s Beach, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace , Spaniards bay and St. Vincent’s.

On April 6 the absence of the Southern Cross was discussed by the Executive Government (Cabinet) and it was decided to send the revenue cruiser Flona to assist the Kyle and the U.S. Scout  ship Seneca in searching for the overdue vessel. The unanimous hope is that the “Cross” will turn up all right.”

The whole of the country of Newfoundland was mourning.  All were aware of the 78 sealers who had died on the S.S. Newfoundland.  The bodies of many of these men had been placed on special trains to be sent home.  Those that were not along the train route were being sent home by coastal vessels.

Among those that were on their way home to be buried was the body of Patrick Corbett, age 22, lost on the S.S. Newfoundland.   Joseph Corbett the head of the household was now waiting for news on his 18 year old son Joseph Jr.  a sealer on the S.S. Southern Cross.

The Parish Priest in Clarke’s Beach, Reverend Whelan observed that it was a difficult time on the family “Joseph the father is subject to heart trouble, he depends on the assistance of these two young men for the support of his now helpless family. I greatly fear that he will not last much longer …”

It would be thirteen more days before the S.S. Southern Cross was declared lost with her whole crew.

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.

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/

Father and son embrace.

Archival Moment

March 31, 1914

Sealing DIn 1911, Reuben Crewe was one of a handful of sealers who swam to safety when their vessel sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Afterwards Reuben’s wife, Mary, insisted that he give up sealing. She could no longer bear the sleepless nights of worry for his safety.

It was a rite of passage for the young men of Newfoundland to try and find a berth on one of the sealing vessels going to the ice to prosecute the seal fishery.  In March 1914, Albert John Crewe  had just turned 16 and he was determined that he was going to go.

His mother refused to listen to her young son. The boy insisted, he was determined go.  Finally she relented but she insisted he would only go if his father took him under his wing.

Ruben Crewe agreed. He and his son signed up on the S.S. Newfoundland with a group of other men from Ellision on March 4, 1914.

On March 30th, 1914,   Ruben and his son John Albert with another 164 men left the SS Newfoundland and headed towards the SS Stephano seven miles away. For the next two days they were lost in a vicious blizzard; the captain of each ship assuming the men had found refuge on the other.  78 men were to freeze to death, including Ruben and Albert.

Cassie Brown in her book ‘Death on The Ice’ wrote about the father and son.  They had struggled for hours to stay alive, the father encouraging his son to walk to move.

“But now, father and son were unable to encourage each other any further. Albert lay on the ice to die, and his father lay beside him, drawing his son’s head up under his fishermen’s guernsey in a last gesture of protection.  They clasped in each other arms, they died together.”

Rescuers from the S.S. Bellaventure found Reuben and Albert John frozen in an embrace, the father attempting to shield his teenage son from the elements.

Mary, the wife and mother, recounted later that she was awakened the night of the disaster to see Reuben and Albert John kneeling at her bed and that she was struck by the look of peace on their faces.

The embrace of father and son has been immortalized in a statue that was created by renowned bronze sculptor and visual artist Morgan MacDonald. The statue was erected in Elliston, Newfoundland commemorating those lost in the tragedy.

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 Film:   The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, uses animation, survivor testimony and archival footage to create the story of the Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.  View this  short film from your own home at 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/

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers a unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.

 

The harbour is quiet, no slides for the children.

Archival Moment

March 6, 1907

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 - 148. James Vey Collection

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 – 148. James Vey Collection

The first week in March month in St. John’s traditionally saw the population grow by the hundreds as the “men from the bay” began to arrive in the city hoping for a berth on the sealing vessels going out to prosecute fishery.

The city, especially the waterfront, would be busy with activity. Many of the men would be looking for lodgings as they awaited news of a berth on one of the vessels, some consumed a little too much and  there were the inevitable rows between the ‘bay men’ and ‘the townies’ looking for the same work.

The Gambo Slide

It was not only St. John’s that was a hub of activity the other hub was the town a Gambo. In the first week of March, 1907 the St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News reported:

“Last night there were 100 men at Gambo, who had walked from Wesleyville and vicinity, to take the train. About 200 more are expected there, this morning, which will be the last coming from that section.”

The Gambo train station was the terminus for just about all of the sealers who would walk the trek from Wesleyville to the train station in Gambo, “an unpleasant tramp” that took from 24 – 32 hours.

However, there would be much excitement in Gambo, especially among the children. The children would be waiting for the Gambo slide.

The Gambo slide was a small lightweight sled that was constructed by the men of Wesleyville and area, that they used to pull their sealing gear and clothes.  As the men of Wesleyville, now exhausted from walking, approached Gambo, the children of the town would be on the outskirts to help them pull their slide for the last few miles.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John's.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John’s.

The children knew once they pulled the “Gambo slide” to the train station, the sealers would board the train for St. John’s and the slides would be theirs!

It was not only the men from Wesleyville that were walking into Gambo to catch the train, the Daily News reported on March 6, 1907:

“Eight hundred men will leave Greenspond, Newtown, Pools Island and neighboring places, this morning and will walk over the ice to Gambo, and come into St. John’s by train.”

Walking in the unpredictable weather especially in March month,  the slides not only served to lighten the loads of what the fishermen had to carry, if the weather “turned on them”, they could always burn the slides and use the  wood as a heat source.

One story goes that upon arrival in Gambo  a small group of young men  from Greenspond, Bonavista  Bay had hours to wait for the train.

“So to keep the fire going we broke up our slides which we had used to drag our suitcases or clothes bags on. This kept the fire going for two or three hours … I was some glad when the train finally came, and, I had never been on a train before in my life.”

With the loss of markets for seal products, the hustle and bustle that came with the preparations for outfitting the boats and signing on the crews in St. John’s is no more.

The first week of March on the St. John’s waterfront is now quiet.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read the journal of Dr. William Waddell (MG 1006.1). The journal documents a typical sealing voyage including a description of the vessel and role of the crew.

Recommended Reading: The Last of the Ice Hunters: An Oral History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt  edited by Shannon Ryan, Flanker Press,St. John’s, NL.

Recommended Reading: Perished: The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster  by Jenny Higgins.  Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove Conception Bay, NL.

 

Southern Cross Reported

Archival Moment

March 31, 1914

Southern Cross ReportedOn March  31 or the early morning  April 1,  1914, the SS Southern Cross sank while returning to Newfoundland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, taking with it 173 men.

The last sighting of the sealing vessel was made by the crew of the coastal steamer SS Portia, passing the Southern Cross near Cape Pine, off the southern Avalon Peninsula. Although the Portia was headed for St. Mary’s Bay to wait out a worsening blizzard, the Southern Cross, low in the water with its large cargo of seal pelts, seemed headed for Cape Race. The steamer was not seen again, and because no wireless equipment was on board, communication with other vessels was impossible.

The Captain of the S.S. Portia, Captain Connors  did have the Marconi wireless and on spotting the Southern Cross  wired the owners of the vessel Messrs Bowring Brothers  stating:

“Passed the Southern Cross, 5 miles W.N.W.  of Cape Pine, at 11:00 a.m. yesterday (March 31, 1914) . It is supposed that she ran into St.  Mary’s Bay and harbored at North Harbor.”

Captain George Clarke of the Southern Cross did not run into St. Mary’s Bay as supposed it is likely he pressed through the storm because he was anxious for the recognition and the small prize traditionally awarded to the first arrival back from the seal hunt.

The theory is that in the height of the storm   the ship’s heavy cargo may have shifted capsizing the steamer.

Whatever the cause, the sinking of the Southern Cross resulted in more deaths than any other single disaster in Newfoundland and Labrador sealing history.

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, Boulder Press, St. John’s.  (2014)  offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.

Home from the Sea Memorial, Elliston:  Learn more about “Home from The Sea, Sealers Memorial” in Elliston, Trinity Bay http://www.homefromthesea.ca/

 

Exiles in Boston join in the sorrow of thousands of Newfoundlanders

Archival Moment

April 12, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50 . Bodies of sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50 . Bodies of sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

The news of the death of the 78 sealers who died during the sealing campaign March 31 – April 2,  1914 made international headlines.  Messages of sympathy were being sent to the local government and local newspapers from throughout the world.

The people of the Boston area responded not only with letters of condolence but also with offers of financial assistance to help the families who had lost a loved one.

P.A. Buckey, a Newfoundlander who had emmigrated to Lynn, Massachusetts wrote:

It is with the deepest regret that the Newfoundlanders who reside in Boston have heard of the terrible calamity that has befallen our Island home. The first news received in itself was terrifying but when later messages announced the possible loss of the Southern Cross with 173 souls on board, the Newfoundlanders of Boston assembled decided to take immediate action in making necessary arrangements to help the bereaved so a public meeting of all Newfoundlanders was called for shall now business transacted.”

Buckey reported that on April 12, 1914:

  “a masss meeting of Newfoundlanders in Boston, ladies included assembled in the Paine Memorial Hall, Appleton Street to devise any means of providing a relief fund to help the families of our stricken countrymen at home.  Fully 500 Newfoundlanders were present which showed the sympathy expressed for our loved ones. Upon entering the hall each one was eagerly scanning at each other, either to form an acquaintance or to meet a friend that they have not seen but known since childhood days.  A reunion of Newfoundlanders such as it was never seen in Boston before, and the one topic of discussion was the dreadful tragedy that left so many homeless, destitute and fatherless.”

The meeting was chaired by another Newfoundlander who had emigrated to the Boston area James P. McCormack  of East Cambridge.  The aim of the gathering he explained was for the Committee to raise at least $20,000 that would be given over to the Newfoundland Marine Disaster Fund.

$20,000.00 in 1914 had the same buying power as $466,098.00 in 2014.

Among the ex-patriot Newfoundlanders attending the meeting were FitzGerald’s, Mansfield’s, Curley’s,  Power’s, Cantwell’s, Somerville’s, Hogan’s, Mulcathy’s, Molloy’s Kelly’s, O’Rourke’s, Halleran’s, Puddister’s, Williams, and O’Connell’s.  Also among the crowd were Bemister’s of Carbonear; Moulton’s  of the West Coast; Farrell’s  of Ferryland and Vinnicombe’s of St. John’s.

Newfoundland has had a long relationship with the Boston States.  Although Newfoundland and Labrador people moved to other countries for a wide range of reasons emigration occurred on the largest scale during the last two decades of the century when the cod fishery fell into severe decline and caused widespread economic hardship.

The largest concentrations of emigrants were going to Boston and other Massachusetts cities. Between 1885 and 1905, the number of Newfoundland and Labrador people living in Massachusetts jumped from 2,851 to 10,583.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts  census for 1915  reports that  there were 13, 269 Newfoundlanders in the Boston area.

Many of the men and women who attended the meeting on April 12,  1914 were  new emigrants to the Boston States. Newfoundlanders who were living in the Boston area but their hearts were in Newfoundland.  Before the meeting adjourned $560.00 was raised ($560.00 in 1914 has the same buying power as $13,050.74 in 2014) for the disaster fund.

Mr Buckely wrote:

  “We exiles in Boston join in the sorrow of thousands of Newfoundlander both at home and abroad.”

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.  A first for the Newfoundland and Labrador publishing industry, as readers turn the pages of Perished they’ll find maps, log book entries, telegrams, a sealer’s ticket for the SS Newfoundland, and more that can be pulled out and examined.  These are the primary source materials that ignite the imagination of history buffs and students alike and are among more than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents that illustrate this amazing book. (NEW PUBLICATION)

Recommended Exhibit:  Death on the Front:  The Sealing Disaster 1914.  March 26 – November 16 – Level 3 Museum Alcove. This small display features artifacts from the Rooms Provincial Museum and archival imagery from The Rooms Provincial Archives connected to these tragedies. One of the artifacts featured is a  flag that was once flown on the Southern Cross. The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, using animation, survivor testimony and archival footage will be running as part of the Death at the Front exhibition. You can also view the short film from your own home at 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/

“Tears stood on the cheeks of men …”

Archival Moments

April 2, 2014

Photo Credit: the rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50.  Bodies of the frozen sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

Photo Credit: the rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50. Bodies of the frozen sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

On April 2, 1914 news about the disaster on the icefields that would claim the lives of 78 men of the sealing vessel the S.S. Newfoundland began t reach St. John’s. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported:

“The waiting rooms of the Postal Telegram Offices were thronged with anxious mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, who made heart rendering entreaties of the clerks for the lists of the dead.

At 9:30 p.m. the clerk of the Postal Telegraphs amid a breathless silence posted up another message that was forwarded on from the Fogo Station.  After a short silence, the following was read:

On Board the Bellaventure are fifty eight dead and thirty five survivors, on board the Florizel, five dead. On board the Stephano, one dead and two survivors.

Tears stood on the cheeks of men who had often trod the frozen pans and knew well the nature of the experience of a night on the ice, particularly during such as blizzard as we had on Tuesday. Woman gave expression to their grief by weeping and could only with great difficulty be consoled at all.

Shortly after the forgoing message was read it was reported that the steamers Bellaventure, Stephano and Florizel were passing Cape St. Francis and would arrive here (St. John’s) about midnight. Hundreds wended their way to the waterfront, regardless of the weather conditions and for several hours patiently waited for the coming of the ships.”

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.  A first for the Newfoundland and Labrador publishing industry, as readers turn the pages of Perished they’ll find maps, log book entries, telegrams, a sealer’s ticket for the SS Newfoundland, and more that can be pulled out and examined.  These are the primary source materials that ignite the imagination of history buffs and students alike and are among more than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents that illustrate this amazing book. (NEW PUBLICATION)

Recommended Exhibit:  Death on the Front:  The Sealing Disaster 1914.  March 26 – November 16 – Level 3 Museum Alcove. This small display features artifacts from the Rooms Provincial Museum and archival imagery from The Rooms Provincial Archives connected to these tragedies. One of the artifacts featured is a  flag that was once flown on the Southern Cross. The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, using animation, survivor testimony and archival footage will be running as part of the Death at the Front exhibition. You can also view the short film from your own home at 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/