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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cod Fishing Grounds - Resettlement Part 3

Jim and Ellen Leonard's "front yard"

Here's more from Pat and Joe Byrne's song "The Government Game" to ponder while taking a closer look at the bounty that the families of St. Kyran's left behind.


My home was St. Kyran's a heavenly place

It thrived on the fishing of a good hearty race

But now it will never again be the same

Since they made it a pawn in the government game

Hickey's Island a haven for lichen

Sure the government paid us for moving away

And leaving our birthplace for a better day's pay

They said that our poor lives would ne'er be the same

Once we took part in the government game

Now St. Kyran's lies there all empty as hell

Except for the graveyards where our dead parents dwell

The lives of their children are buried in shame

They lost out while playing the government game

To a place called Placentia well some of them went

And in finding a new home their allowances spent

So for jobs they went looking but they looked all in vain

For the roof had caved in on the government game

It's surely a sad sight their moving around

Wishing they still lived by the cod fishing grounds

But there's no going back now there's nothing to gain

Now that they've played in the government game

underside of Northern Sea Star

They tell me our young ones the benefits will see

But I don't believe it oh how can that be

They'll never know nothing but sorrow and shame

For their fathers were part of the government game

stranded jellyfish - we saw many jellies sailing into harbor

And when my soul leaves me for the heavens above

Take me back to St. Kyran's the place that I love

And there on my gravestone right next to my name

Just say I died playing the government game

Northern rock barnacles

The staple here was cod, and while the stock has been increasing for a number of years, there has again been concerns over decline. Estimates of mortality are really high with the spawning stock in decline so fish aren't surviving to spawn a whole lot of times.  Total mortality has been increasing since 1997, and reached an average of 48 per cent between 2012 and 2014. Speaking of fishing grounds, the scallop shell I found was so big that it made me hungry.

Not surprising was the find of a Green Sea Urchin whose spines and tube feet snare large pieces of food that are moved to the mouth. Here they are chopped into small pieces by 5 sharp pointed teeth held by complex set of jaws.

Donnie found a little piece of pottery on shore.  Old or newer?  From here or just washed up from farther away?  Another food staple here is potatoes, cabbage and carrots.  Not just for St. Patrick's day up this way, I've had it three times in the past week!  And many cups of tea have been poured as well.

As nice as it was where we were, we had to get back into the zodiac and head over to the Church of the Assumption for the time was ticking by and we only had the afternoon to see it all...

If you missed the previous posts in this series here are the links:

The Whittles Lived Here - Resettlement Part 2

If you want to listen to "The Government Game" here is the YouTube video which is a compilation of actual photographs from the outports, mostly Merasheen which is enjoying their reunion this week!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Whittles Lived Here - Resettlement Part 2

From St. Anne's we sailed in to St. Kyran's harbor, past the Church of the Assumption which is decaying gracefully.  I turned to our Captain and said, "we're going back to the church, right??"  My grandmother and Wayne's mother were baptized in that church...that church was the prime destination as far as I was concerned!

What remains of  the  Church of the Assumption in St. Kyran's 

But we'll leave that for another day.  For now we talk about the town itself, where the Whittles lived and even Wayne's parents lived after they got married.  Wayne's brother, Jim, told stories of his early years living in St. Kyran's; he was born out here, as were 3 more of Wayne's siblings before the family moved to Placentia.

Government wharf where we eventually moored

Imagine my surprise when I showed the pictures to my Nan and she said, that's where our house was!  In the picture below their home would have been just to the right of the cellar visible in the center of the photograph.  This is why you have to just keep pressing that shutter button!

Where little Annie Whittle lived

I'm trying to do a little genealogy homework and as I pulled up the census records I was surprised to discover that my Nan's mother, Hannah Mae, was actually from the outport of South East Bight.  How did she end up married to Jack Whittle in St. Kyran's? It would be a 4 hour walk according to Google maps...but there might not have been a direct route in 1925.

More of St. Kyran's harbor - this is where the Leonard's house was located

Sadly, Hannah Mae died young at the age of 24 from pulmonary tuberculosis, leaving behind 3 children.  When I checked the death certificates for the area and time period a large percentage of deaths were attributed to that disease which was highly contagious (a bacterium in the lungs that now can be cured with antibiotics).  Imagine sitting in church and the coughing you hear now could be a disease that they had no cure for at that time. 

lone cabin 

Her husband remarried as he needed someone to watch those children while he was out working across the bay.  Annie Whittle, my grandmother, was only 5 years old when her mother died and has no memory of her.  Hannah Whittle died three months after her youngest was born, having never left her bed after giving birth according to my grandmother.  No one alive remembers anything about her and there are no photographs, but maybe I will try to find her people out in South East Bight and see what I can discover.

Land at last!

I discovered on this trip that those who had left BEFORE Resettlement still retained their land as they did not sell it to the government as part of their leaving agreement.  Jack Whittle took his home apart and sailed it across Placentia Bay before Resettlement, something I cannot even imagine after making the journey.  (I neglected to mention in the previous post that I was actually quite seasick on the boat over, perhaps I was trying to forget?  The motion was only part of the problem, the diesel fumes and noise aggravated everything and on top of it all I was very cold as I stayed outside to try to get fresh air.)  Anyway, many floated their home still assembled, but if I have the correct information my great-grandfather Jack Whittle took their home apart and re-assembled it.

The house that Jack built - unoccupied but still standing

Once moored we boarded the orange zodiac we had towed behind us to explore the Leonard homesite.

I put my pack on before my life vest,
a mistake I didn't make on our return trip

Notice everyone is wearing their life vest except for me.

John Judge stayed behind to mind the Royal Breeze.

Are we there yet?

Wayne finally out to St. Kyran's

Thank goodness we had "Young Tommy" along with us to haul us up on shore, although he was quick to remind us that he really isn't young anymore as he is closer to 40 than 30 these days.

The tide was low which gave us room to move around since the area is grown in with trees where there used to be homes.  A spring flowed through the property, and Jim told us the story of how he remembers watching a house across the way burn to the ground when he was 10 years old.

House jutted out over the water, resting on those wooden supports on bottom left of photo

He also had a picture with him from when he was small and efforts were made to recreate the scene.

"Jimmy" age 70

Jimmy age 3 or 4 

I missed all the details and had to ask later because I was too busy wandering around...I'll share some close-ups in the next post!

Hickey Island - their view from the house that used to be there

If you missed the first post in this series catch the link below

Crossing the Bay - Resettlement Part 1

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Crossing the Bay - Resettlement Part 1

All these years and neither Wayne nor I had ever gone out "across the Bay" to where our families originally lived in the outports.  We were determined and we finally made it happen, with some help from his brother, Jim.

Brother Jim in the doorway, Nephew Tom in the camo gear

Placentia Bay has been renowned for fishing since the earliest European settlements in North America.  Once there were many outport communities scattered around the bay, established by Basque, French, Irish, and English fishermen. These small communities were what our ancestors called home before the government encouraged them to move to "growth centers".

Our destination was St. Kyran's - across Placentia to the west past Red Island and Merasheen

If you consult the map above, you can get an idea of where we departed which was basically that red dot. Placentia is Wayne's family's current hometown, Freshwater is my family's current hometown.  Between Freshwater and Fox Harbour lies Argentia which I've discussed often on my blog, the town where my grandfather's family originated before the land was leased to the Americans for a U.S. Naval base during WWII and where I was born when my father was stationed there.

Cormorants hanging out at the old airfield as we left Argentia

Crossing the Bay takes a little over 3 hours, at least it does when your Captain is Davey Maher and you are aboard the Royal Breeze.  He was a close friend to Wayne's brother, Martin, and was happy to be our guide for the day.

I think this is Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis)

Leaving Argentia we saw The Isaacs, Fox Island and Fox Harbour - the area where Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in 1941 to draft the Atlantic Charter Declaration.  The policy  defined the Allied goals for the post-war world, and later all the Allies of World War II confirmed it.  Yes, that happened in Newfoundland, probably a mile or so from where my great-grandmother was living.

Captain Dave and Brother Jim have a chat - The Isaacs lie ahead

But, let's move away from Argentia history and back to the story of the outports.   The Placentia Bay area provided rich fishing resources and excellent harbours, many with flat rocky beaches that facilitated drying fish.  The French and the British fought for years over Placentia, as a matter of fact, something you can learn all about if you visit Castle Hill National Historic Site.   It became a French settlement by the late 17th century although conflict with the English continued and the area was granted to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

John Judge was our other crew member

By the late 18th century Placentia had a population of 1500-2000 people and rivaled St. John’s in importance.  As time went on though, the lack of services as well as the modernization of the fishery led most residents to accept planned resettlement during Prime Minister Smallwood's years, moving to the town of Placentia or other nearby centralized communities. Many were attracted by promises of work at the nearby American navy base (1941-44) in Argentia or other job opportunities.

Beautiful Red Island

Newfoundland did not become part of Canada until 1949.  Prior to that time it was a British Dominion, self-governing since 1855.  As a matter of fact, my mother is the only one of her siblings to be born a "Newfoundlander" and not a Canadian!  Joseph Smallwood was the first Prime Mininster of Newfoundland after Confederation which brought unemployment insurance and the baby bonus, helping struggling outport families survive.  But it still could not alter the fact that the provincial government could not afford to deliver the same quality of services to rural Newfoundland and Labrador as it could to the rest of the province. This was an issue that became an integral part of Joseph Smallwood’s platform to diversify, industrialize, and modernize the provincial economy. 

Jim's wife Donnie is originally from Red Island and was so happy to see it!
From Heritage Canada's website: Three different types of Government-sponsored resettlement programmes took place. The first one, Centralization, was introduced in 1954 and offered voluntary resettlers small sums of money to relocate to larger, more accessible areas of their choosing. As a community-focused venture government required a unanimous vote from all community members to resettle. This programme was plagued with issues and resulted in numerous families moving back to their original communities. 

Ten years after the first programme, a Federal-Provincial partnership was established and the Fisheries Household Resettlement Programme began. Unlike its predecessor, the second programme was clearly tied to the fishery and had slightly different criteria than the first. Under this agreement resettlers were encouraged to move to destinations chosen by Government as growth centres, which were defined as communities believed to be economically viable. The chosen communities usually had fish plants and the area often held heavy investment by both levels of government. This programme also had its share of flaws. 

Newfies call bottlenose dolphins "Jumpers"

In spite of the problems, Government felt the resettlement programmes were fairly successful and the Federal-Provincial partnership was renewed in 1970. Growth centres were replaced with special areas meaning a community in need of funding to enhance regional economic support. More money was allocated for resettlers than in the previous two programmes, but many of the social issues remained the same.

Bald Eagle guarding the harbour

It is difficult to weigh out the benefits of resettlement versus the trauma associated with uprooting entire communities.  Wayne's parents had left voluntarily before the issue came to St. Leonard's, following work and moving to Placentia, but many other family members remained until Resettlement happened.  I remember as a child many of the households that I visited spoke of where they came from and how they missed their home, whether it was an outport rousted by Resettlement or those who had to leave Argentia when the Americans came. Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent history pivots around this controversial issue.

entrance to Presque's harbor

If a community wished to resettle it had to have approval from 90% of the households and the petition to the government had to include to name of the community that they intended to move to.  After approval each household received $1000 with an extra $200 for each family member.  Up to an additional $3000 was paid to cover the cost of moving, including moving the family home itself but only after the move was completed and the receipts were turned in for reimbursement.

Images of homes floating across the Bay are something I grew up with.  The reality was that those who moved had difficulty finding work as many only had skills in fishing and those jobs were already taken in the communities they moved to.  With the decline of cod and in later years the Moratorium on fishing, it was an unfortunate necessity that would have happened at some point.

St. Anne's Harbor

Wayne's father was actually born in St. Ann's, just a few miles from St. Leonard's where his future wife resided.  We stopped there first for a look, noting the abandoned graveyard on the hill to the left in the photo which is now overrun with trees.

James Leonard Sr.'s home was located at the spot above where the tree is growing out of the rock in the center of photo

A popular song in Newfoundland is Joe Byrne's "The Government Game".  To me, it always told the story well.  It starts ... 

Come all you young fellows and list' while I tell,

Of the terrible misfortune that upon me befell;

Centralization they say was the name,

But me, I just calls it the government game.

Someone comes here to catch lobster...but doesn't live here 

My name it don't matter, I'm not young anymore,

But in all of my days I'd never been poor;

I'd lived the right good life and not felt no shame,

Till they made me take part in the government game.

view looking back out of the charter boat as we made for St. Kyran's

More from Joe Byrne's song and the outports of St. Kyran's and St. Leonard's in my upcoming posts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MUN Botanical Garden

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was walk around the MUN Botanical Garden, so when Wayne came to get me in Mt. Pearl I convinced him to go. 

Wayne thinks these were Dogberry branches

How did I accomplish that?  Asking my second cousin Allison to meet us there made it hard for him to say no!
Me and Allison were wowed by the large hostas

I haven't seen Allison in at least 30 years, but thanks to Facebook it's easy to keep tabs on those distant relatives now!  Hanging out with her led to lots of interesting information on events coming up in the area like the George Street Festival which Wayne is definitely attending.

Green Frog - click here for info and to hear Green Frog call

I like things a little quieter than a festival.  I will probably drop him off and head for the East Coast Trail instead.  We've both decided that this trip is an opportunity to get out there and collect some new experiences.

More than 100 years ago, Queen Victoria chose the pitcher plant
to be engraved on a newly minted Newfoundland penny

The Botanical Garden had a small greenhouse, a vegetable garden, and various other flower beds but it also had a trail system that winds through its 110 acres.

Cinnamon fern?

The Yetman Trail took us through the woods and across a fen to see some native plants but unfortunately most of those were not labeled like the ones in the flower beds were.


You don't have to go to the Botanical Garden if you want to see wild roses, they are everywhere in Newfoundland.

But if you want to see Gnome doors and houses, the garden is your best bet.

Also at the Garden is Oxen Pond where quite a few American Black Ducks were swimming around hoping for some handouts.

I'm guessing the Gnomes don't feed them, but who knows what goes on there at night?

With all these ladies swimming around there should be some youngsters around...

Male in the middle? ID info says pale brown head and yellow bill

Sure enough, they were all snuggled up on a rock having their afternoon nap.

There was a rather large loon on the pond as well, but he was a bit far off to get a good look.  So I settled for a picture of this instead.

A hosta with water droplets made for a good photography subject, but most of my flower shots the color was off so I'm guessing my settings were off.  Oh well, it's not always about the photos I bring home and this was a nice place to visit for $9 and we didn't even get bit by mosquitoes!