Letters from our Readers
Lil Charmers, Then and Now
Dear Downhome; We buy your magazine every month at our son's pharmacy and enjoy it from cover to cover. Several years ago I sent my aunt in Ontario a subscription. She loves it! I renew it every year for her April birthday.
Aunt Clemmie has lived in Ontario for more than 50 years, but Wesleyville, Newfoundland is still home; her frequent visits here are full of love, joy and laughter. As small children my sister Joy and I were her constant companions. In 1945 or '46 the three of us had a picture taken together, standing in our neighbour's garden and holding hands. In October 2007 we visited Aunt Clemmie and took another picture in that same order holding hands. I haven't told her about sending you the photos, but I know if they are included in an issue it would be a sure thrill!
Doris Kean (nee Sturge)
Thanks for your letter, Doris. Here are the photos of you and Joy with your Aunt Clemmie - then and now. As part of our 20th anniversary, Downhome is on the hunt for recent photos of any "Lil Charmers" we published in our early years. We're asking readers to submit photo duos like this, showing youngsters in one picture and grown-up versions of the same folks in another. If you or someone you know was featured in the magazine as a "Lil Charmer," send us a picture of them now, along with the original photo published in Downhome and the date (month and year) they first appeared in the magazine.
Alphabet Fleet Memories
Dear Ron; The story about the Alphabet Fleet in the March 2008 issue of Downhome brings back memories of a very important part of our culture. Growing up in Fogo we were well-acquainted with the Clyde and the Home through their weekly visits to bring mail, passengers and freight. Later on, the Glencoe took up this route.
The ship I was most familiar with was the Kyle. In 1943, after completing high school in June, I was assigned the position of teacher at Boat Harbour in the Straits of Bell Isle (I was 16). At that time, the Kyle called at two or three ports on the Newfoundland coast on her way to the north coast of Labrador. One of these ports was Twillingate.
I travelled to Twillingate by trap skiff, and there joined the Kyle for the trip to St. Anthony. The most memorable part of the trip was the complete blackout on the ship during the night crossing. In the "smoke room" that night, the blinds were drawn so that not a flicker of light could be seen. We arrived safely in St. Anthony the next morning, where I was relegated once more to a trap skiff for the voyage to Cook's Harbour.
Thanks again for the article, which is so important at this time when our outport culture is in such decline. Keep up the good work!
Clarke's Head, Newfoundland
Thanks for your letter, Hubert. Indeed we've received dozens of letters from readers about our Alphabet Fleet story many of them sharing memories of encounters on those ships. Read on for a selection of extra letters about this story.
More on the Bruce II and the Lintrose
Dear Ron; In the March 2008 issue of Downhome, your article on the
famous Reid Newfoundland's Alphabet Fleet made reference to there being little known about the Bruce II or the Lintrose after their sale to Russia in 1915. I was able to find the following information on these two vessels on the Miramar Ship Index site at www.miramarshipindex.org.nz, which you and your readers may find interesting.
Vessel: SS Bruce
Year of Build: 1912
Builder: Napier and Miller
Location of Yard: Old Kilpatrick
Length of vessel: 76.3 m
Beam: 11.0 m
Registered tons: 1553 (note this is tons, not tonnes)
Identification number: 1129921
Although sold to the Russian Government in 1915, the vessel appears to have kept the name Bruce until 1920 when it was changed to Solovey Boudimirovich. In 1922 the name was changed again, this time to Malygin. The Malygin was wrecked off Cape Nizhny, Kamchatka on the Pacific side of Siberia on October 27, 1940.
Vessel: SS Lintrose
Year of Build: 1913
Builder: Swan Hunter
Location of Yard: Low Walker
Length of vessel: 77.7 m
Beam: 11.4 m
Registered tons: 1616
Identification number: 1133527
When this vessel was sold to the Russian government in 1915, the name was changed to Sadko. The Sadko was wrecked off Franz Josef Land on September 11, 1941. Franz Josef Land is a group of 191 ice-covered, largely uninhabited islands in the Barents Sea, northeast of Spitzbergen and only 560 statute miles from the North Pole.
Also, I know you were referring to Mount Pearl when you made reference to streets named after these vessels but, to my knowledge, the first street named in honour of one of these vessels was Argyle Street in St. John's.
Thanks for sharing these interesting facts about the Bruce II and the
Lintrose with our readers, Wayne.
Fleet Wrapped up in Family History
Dear Downhome: Imagine the excitement of picking up a magazine
and finding yourself with personal connections to not one, but two articles in it. That's what happened to me when I received the March issue of Downhome! First, I was born in Burin some 80 years ago (see the March 2008 Downhome Traveller, which focuses on the Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas). Then, I was most excited to see the story of the Alphabet Fleet, as one of its vessels, the Glencoe, was the first ship my father, Capt. Maxwell Blandford, captained. He took over that position from my grandfather, Capt. Archibald Blandford. An enlarged photo of the Glencoe hangs on a wall in my home. Many of the ships shown were familiar to me by name, because I'd heard of them over the years. Missing from the story were the Portia and the last one, the Baccalieu. My father brought the latter ship out from Glasgow in March or April of 1940.
Jean E.M. Blandford-Smith
Thanks for your letter, Jean. We're always happy to hear about stories in Downhome hitting a personal chord with readers. The vessels you mentioned as missing from the Alphabet Fleet story, the Portia and the Baccalieu, are certainly well known in this province for their service as coastal boats. However, these vessels were not members of Reid's Alphabet Fleet; perhaps we'll address the history of various other coastal boats in future issues of Downhome. If any of our readers have interesting stories or memories they'd like to share about the coastal boats that serviced Newfoundland or Labrador, feel free to contact us by mail at 43 James Lane, St. John's, NL A1E 3H3 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
A Scary Sail Home
Dear Downhome; I really enjoyed the article on the Kyle. When I was
little, one set of my grandparents lived in Badger's Quay, and the other set lived in Raleigh. Each summer, my brother and I were sent to one community or the other. Boats were our only means of transportation, and thus we had many trips on the Northern Ranger, the Kyle and the Glencoe.
One summer during the war, we were sent to our Uncle Alph's in
Cook's Harbour, Newfoundland. Our dad had come out to our uncle's place to escort us back home; the day before we left for St. John's, someone came to the house and told us the Germans had sunk a ship at the mouth of the harbour. My brother was six and I was five. We were so brave; I remember he had his baseball bat and I had my skipping rope. Only when I became an adult did I realize what Dad must have felt to take his children on a boat for four or five days during such a dangerous time. We arrived safely, but it was several years before we went north again.
Shirley MacDonald (Knee)
Fredericton, New Brunswick
The Second World War was indeed an uncertain time when travelling the Atlantic by ship. Thanks for sharing your childhood memory with us, Shirley. Stories like this one make us stop and think about the relative safety we enjoy in the waters around our province today.