“EMILY, YOU HAVE NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN … ”
July 18, 1912
Little is known about Emily Day other than she was a domestic servant working in the community of Tilt Cove on the Baie Verte peninsula for the William Cunningham Family. William held a number of positions in the community including serving as Justice of the Peace, the telegrapher and customs officer.
On March 11, 1912 an avalanche struck two houses in Tilt Cove built at the head of the cove at the foot of a steep slope, one belonging to Mr. Francis Williams, manager of the Cape Copper Company, and the other belonging to a Mr. William Cunningham.
The Cunningham house was swept off its foundation and Emily Day the family servant was thrown across the kitchen. She had three year-old Edward Cunningham in her arms, protecting him against the weight of the snow. Unfortunately she was buried, jammed against the hot kitchen stove, by the time she was dug out, two hours later, she was very severely burnt. Edward was only slightly injured with minor burns. Her loving embrace had saved his life.
Emily was sent to the St. John’s General Hospital under the care of Dr. Knight where she succumbed to her injuries and died on July 18. Her act of heroism to save the child garnered her some public attention in the last few months of her life. The Girl’s Friendly Society (GFS) an organization of domestic servants in the city were so impressed that upon her death they commissioned the erection of a headstone on her grave in the Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road, St. John’s. It headstone reads:
“Erected by the Girl’s Friendly Society and others to the memory of Emily Day, aged 29 years who died July 18, 1912 from injuries received while saving the life of a child in the Tilt Cove Avalanche. Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”
On the 100th Anniversary of her death Judy Powell of Calgary (her maternal grandfather, Cecil Cunningham was 15 at the time of the avalanche, it was his younger brother Edward who was saved) arranged for a wreath to be placed at the grave to remember, the woman who gave up her life to embrace the life of a child.
“I just wanted to make a gesture on behalf of our families to show that she is not forgotten, I’ve just never been able to get her out of my mind. This is a small gesture of remembrance from our families. ” Powell said.
Powell never knew her great-uncle, but has an idea how her grandfather would view the wreath-laying.
A card on the wreath laid one hundred years to the day of Emily’s death read:
“Emily you have not been forgotten by the family whose child you saved – Edward Cunningham. Ever remembered by the Cunningham’s, Powell’s, and Goodman’s.
Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms is home to a number of photographs detailing life in the mining community of Tilt Cove and images of the avalanche.
Recommended Reading: Killer Snow, Avalanches in Newfoundland by David Liverman., Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2007.