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Dennis Flynn takes us on an adventurous romp around Newfoundland and Labrador, chasing down leads on pirates and rumours of their buried treasure. The road from Deadmanâs Bay is behind me and a stiff breeze blows cartwheels of green sea foam that kiss the strand before retreating to the ocean. It is a wild old day when I run into the legendary Cat Cove pirate Billy Murrin, who was most famous in what is now the Cape Freels and Lumsden area of Newfoundland and Labrador. He regards me with cold eyes beneath a hat that would make Long John Silver proud; a brace of ornate daggers and a menacing pistol adorn a belt crossing his chest. His ruby-hilted sword stuck into a treasure chest at his foot punctuates the premise that whatever loot he plundered he intends to keep, so come near at your peril.Fortunately, heâs only a lifelike statue in the overly romanticized style of piracy popularized in Hollywood movies, placed outside Richâs Convenience Plus by shopkeeper Richard Parsons. The legend of pirate Billy Murrin has been told in Richardâs family for generations, and he and his wife recently decided to give him more of a profile in town. âOf course, this statue looks a bit more like a Captain Morgan ad or something from the movies than the real Billy Murrin, but we wanted something to be a symbol,â says Richard, who explains they bought the statue from a seller in Kensington, PEI. âThe story is that nobody knows where the real Billy Murrin came from sometime in the mid-1880s, and he was a quite a mystery as a bit of drinker and a salver [an old expression for one who salvages ships], and was supposed to have a large treasure of some kind, perhaps taken from fellow pirates, hidden somewhere. One of the local folks who looked after Billy in later years, perhaps hoping for some financial reward before he died, was chatting with him one evening and Billy asked her, âCan you keep a secret?â She grew very excited, thinking he was about to reveal the location of the treasure, and said, âYes, I can keep a secret, Mr. Murrin!â To which Billy replied, âAye, and so can I.â So whatever the treasure was, he never told and it is still here to be found. There were so many shipwrecks in the Lumsden area, with all the storms and shifting sandbars and hidden reefs, so who knows what the sea may reveal in the future.âThis holds true all over the province. Go into almost any outport and linger for a day or so chatting with locals. They may share a story of shipwrecks or salvation from the sea, or lost travellers taken or legendary tasks tendered, but there can be no more fantastic and captivating tales than those with a hint of pirate treasure. The enormous popularity of books, movies and even the History Channel TV series âThe Curse of Oak Islandâ (now in its seventh season) attests to the universal appeal of the search for hidden riches. While âThe Curse of Oak Islandâ follows brothers Rick and Marty Lagina as they attempt to crack the Oak Island mystery that has puzzled adventurers for over two centuries and reach a treasure believed to be buried on the small island off the coast of Nova Scotia, similar lesser-known tales abound in Newfoundland and Labrador.Most hard evidence of any pirate-related treasure in the province is lost to time and there are rules related to such hunts. So enjoy these sites of local legends shared with me and others, but take their tales of treasure with more than a grain of sea salt. The real undiscovered treasure is not coins or currency of any kind, but spectacular scenery, sensational stories, and an excuse to safely explore for fun these places through which pirates are said to have passed.Eastonâs treasure in Harbour GraceThe best-known Newfoundland pirate was perhaps Peter Easton, and his story can be explored at the Conception Bay Regional Museum in Harbour Grace.Local historian and author Patrick Collins says, âAccording to writings by Governor Mason and found in Prowseâs History of Newfoundland, we know that Peter Easton was here by 1612, and fortified somewhere in this area,â he says, indicating a section of coastline running from Point of Beach, passing near the former 1870 brick Customs House that is now the museum building, and ending near Ugly Head. âThere are all kinds of stories about how Easton came here and one is that Queen Elizabeth I requisitioned him to come as part of the navy, but while he was here the war ended with France. So finding he had nothing to do, he realized a lot more could be made by building his own army of fishermen and attacking the French and Spanish and Basques.âHe adds, âNow a lot of this is lore and canât be proven historically without much more archeological research, but we do know that Easton captured Sir Richard Whitbourne and kept him prisoner for 11 weeks, attempting to get him to join him in piracy. Whitbourne refused, but did eventually manage to help get Easton a pardon.âThere is another great folklore story of Easton sailing into Harbour Grace harbour with the captured Spanish vessel San Sebastian in tow. Easton saw that the flags on his fort were in the wrong order and realized his stronghold had been captured. Five Basque ships sailed across the mouth of the harbour to blockade him, but Easton knew the harbour and the winds better and was able to escape. In the process he fired on and sank the Basque ship St. Malo somewhere near Easton [also called âEasterâ or âEasternâ] Rock close to the Harbour Grace islands. Somewhere ashore it was said 47 pirates were buried in a mass unmarked grave, but the exact location remains a mystery.â Other local legends claim that after Easton left Newfoundland for good in 1618, he captured treasure ships en route to Europe, got his pardon, and retired a very wealthy man in France with the title of Marquis of Savoy. Some say he buried treasure somewhere in Newfoundland, perhaps Harbour Grace or surrounding islands (or the Southern Shore, by some accounts), before departing, but owing to his great fortune later in life, he never returned to claim it. Plunder plot in Port de GraveThe Green Point lighthouse area near Port de Grave has been the site of much speculation about buried pirate treasure -âin particular, the Peter Easton plunder he supposedly hid before attempting to break a blockade of ships at nearby Harbour Grace. The short trail to the iron tower of the 1883 Green Point lighthouse at the very tip of the Port de Grave peninsula is a favourite site for berry pickers and hikers.Where there are ships, is there treasure?Happy Adventure, near Eastport, shares its name with Peter Eastonâs flagship (a model of his vessel Happy Adventure is on display in the Harbour Grace museum). For this reason, the community has made the list of possible Easton hiding places. Oderin, an island in Placentia Bay, sometimes also gets named as a hiding spot for pirate treasure, as bits and pieces of non-native woods were said to be found there - perhaps from ship building or repairs more so than hidden chests, but who knows for sure?Unnamed and unclaimedAn area of Sandy Cove (also near Eastport) was supposedly called âSilver Buckleâ after an unspecified pirate who buried his treasure there. Close by, tiny St. Chadâs (near Salvage) was once supposedly known as âDamnable,â since a pirate ship in hiding there was captured when the shipâs bell accidentally rang out, alerting the enemy, to which the pirate captain allegedly said, âDamn the bell!â Further afield, likewise in the category of unnamed pirates, somewhere on the South Coast between Boxey and Deadmanâs Bight there is said to be hidden pirate treasure. As well, Baccalieu Island and Old Perlican islands are claimed to hold their own unfound and unspecified pirate treasures. Bounty in Conception BayKellyâs Island in Conception Bay, said to be the base of Irish pirate John Kelly, has a number of treasure and ghost stories associated with it - as do nearby Bell Island and Little Bell Island. As is par for the course, details are scanty, but pro diver Rick Stanley of Ocean Quest Adventure Resort in Conception Bay South keeps an open mind. âJust because it hasnât turned up yet doesnât mean it wonât,â he says. I joined Rick and other scuba divers, kayakers and more volunteers to clean up the main beaches on Kellyâs Island in June 2008. And while there may not be much remaining hard evidence of John Kelly himself, there is a very distinctive bum-shaped rock along the edge of the island that has gotten the nickname of âKellyâs Arse.â Divers and adventurers sometimes go ashore to have a good-natured photo with it. Even a pirate can be the butt of a joke now and then.In James Cove (an abandoned section of the community of Colliers), ghosts are said to guard Captain Kiddâs treasure. Local prospectors ran into some troubles hunting for it 50-70 years ago and it resulted in an anonymous humorous recitation called âCaptain Kiddâs Treasure.â There is no evidence that the Scottish privateer-turned-pirate William Kidd (1645-1701) ever made it to this location or elsewhere in the province. Itâs a fanciful tale, adopting a well-known pirate name, to warn adventurers against the dangers of strange expeditions late at night.Turkâs Gut (in present-day Marysvale) is named for an encounter with a Turkish pirate. There is even an outdoor pirate mural and a âTurkish Spring Waterâ fresh water spring near the Heritage House. On the right days and in calm seas, caves and arches come into evidence from the ocean side. And if you know where to look, so does a turbaned pirate head in the cliff face, making this a favoured location for experienced and prepared sea kayakers.What remains in Red BayHauntingly beautiful in its starkness, Red Bay, Labrador has a wonderful hiking trail that leads to a pond atop Tracey Hill. This spot is said to hide Captain Kiddâs pirate treasure andis supposedly guarded by a ghostly protector.Hiding in the HumberJust outside Corner Brook near Marble Mountain Ski Resort, a buried treasure is said to rest on Shellbird Island in the Humber River. âThe Old Man in the Mountain,â a natural, scowling face in the cliff looking down on the island, is said to be a marker for the treasure. An information board at the exit off the Trans-Canada Highway will help you find the âOld Manâ as he stares down from the confines of Breakfast Mountain.- by Dennis FlynnListen to the Downhome podcast episode that accompanies this story here.
Did the Ryan family have a date with fate?Sometimes two tragic family events, alienated by a multiple of years, can have an eerie connection to one another. Johanna Ryan Guy knows all too well that spine-chilling feeling when highly improb-able events show up in the family tree. While immersed in researching the Ryan family surname, information from her cousin, Mike Ryan, in Halifax, NS, caused her to catch her breath. âWhen I opened the email, I was shocked at the news that there was another tragedy at sea in the Ryan family line,â she says. Johanna, an author and business woman from Bonavista, NL, is well-known across the province in association with a vessel tragedy 15 years ago that claimed two of her family members. As she recently found out, that was the second such tragedy to befall her family. The first one happened 158 years earlier - to the day.The Tragedy of the Ryanâs CommanderIn 2004, Johannaâs two brothers, David (Dave) and Joseph (June) died off Cape Bonavista after their four-month-old ship, the Ryanâs Commander,capsized in heavy seas. The $1.8-million, 65-foot longliner wrecked off Spillars Cove after offloading shrimp at Bay de Verde. While four other crewmembers survived, Dave and June, aged 47 and 42 respectively, perished.The tragedy devastated the close-knit family. Their hometown of St. Brendanâs, a small fishing island in Bonavista Bay, as well as the whole province helped bear the Ryan familyâs unspeakable sorrow. Their heart-wrenching story and their mourning also made national and international headlines. A few years later, a federal report concluded that the vessel design and lack of a full stability assessment were factors contributing to the fatal sinking of the fishing boat. In part to spur changes in the industry and to pay tribute to her brothers, Johanna published a best-selling book about her intimate loss in 2008. Ryanâs Commander: The Boat That Should Not Have Sailed has been described as a gripping and essential read for anyone interested in the shipping industry and fishing safety culture. âOther than burying my brothers, writing this book was probably one of the hardest things Iâve ever had to do in my life,â Johanna confesses. The project helped her face the painful reality that the men were not coming back, and it gave her a mission as an advocate going forward. âI couldnât stop trying to make others understand how it all happened, how it should not have happened, and how it should never happen again. It was as if I had to ensure their deaths made a difference; if not, it would all be for nothing.âThe Ancestral Ryans It was last year that Johanna first received information that her Ryan ancestors were also involved in a boating disaster. She was naturally awestruck by this new thread in her ancestral fabric, especially as a more bone-chilling connection would be revealed. Historical data shows that in September 1846, a great gale swept up the US seaboard and ravaged eastern Newfoundland. According to another cousin Michael (who has since passed away), Johannaâs great-great-great grandfather Patrickâs two sons, William James and John, were caught in its grip. Returning from a fishing trip, the crewmem-bers of what is believed to be the Lavinia were making a hasty retreat towards land. The massive storm, causing high tides, descended upon the region before the crew was able to reach port in St. Johnâs. Their fish-filled schooner wrestled against the hurricane-strength winds, but apparently capsized outside the Narrows. All hands drowned.âI understand that, under siege by the storm, the schooner cut towards the boat basin. Then when she cut back towards Chain Rock, they lost her; and she went ashore on the head, right under Cabot Tower,â Johanna says.The âGreat Gale of 1846â also struck the Grand Banks of Newfoundland with horrendous force, causing widespread damage and a great loss of life. Before the storm finally passed, 65 men and 11 boats were lost.Onshore, multiple fishing stages and wharves were destroyed by the high winds and heavy rainfall. (As it was, St. Johnâs was still recovering from the Great Fire of 1846, which ravaged the city three months earlier, on June 9. In fact, a brother and sister were killed instantly when a spacious unfinished building affording shelter to some displaced by the fire was flattened by the gale.) The Grand Banks Genealogy website, a popular resource for tracing family trees in this province, contains a photo of the headstone of the original Patrick Ryan from Ireland in the King Cove Catholic cemetery. Below his date of death (February 25, 1856) it reads, âAlso his sons, William James and John, who drowned at St. Johnâs Narrows.â The date of their deaths is listed as September 19, 1846. The same day in September that their descendants, brothers Dave and June Ryan, drowned in a fishing vessel sinking, in a storm, in 2004.Johanna recalls her reaction to this shocking revelation. âThe drowning tragedy linkage was one thing, but when I got to the part about the date, I was floored.âOn the same date, but 158 years apart, two fishing boats went to sea seeking its riches. Both tried to outrace a storm back to port. The two vessels capsized and two sets of brothers in a family line drowned. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung pointed such coincidences toward unus mundus - the idea of one world connecting everything and everyone. Jung coined the word âsynchronicity,â a causal connecting principle, to describe the unexplainable. For Johanna, this real life twin tragedy in her family across time and space will forever haunt her thoughts. âThis possible date with fate of the two family drownings158 years apart still leaves me bewildered,â she says. âI mean, what are the chances?â-By Kim Ploughman
This unique Ottawa choir sings the praises of the East CoastItâs Sunday afternoon and the audience of 300 or so are settled into the pews of Centretown United Church in Ottawa. Thereâs rustling and murmuring through the crowd as the choir theyâve come to hear file to the front, close to 80 of them in their white shirts, and black pants and skirts. As they take their places, facing the audience, familiar patterns come into view: tartans displayed on neckties and scarves, specific to the province each member chose to represent: Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Taking her place with them is Margaree, a Newfoundland dog. The choir begins the first notes and for the next while, the singers fill the room with the sometimes haunting, sometimes joyful sounds that evoke the spirit of the East Coast. They are, after all, Atlantic Voices: The Newfoundland and Labrador Choir of Ottawa.Founded in 2002 by soprano Kristina Curren, who was looking for a musical way to connect to her Newfoundland and Labrador roots, Atlantic Voices has enjoyed 17 years of success in the nationâs capital. âThere were people from the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador who are just away from home, and they wanted to get back to that. And one way to do it was to start singing that type of music,â explains Atlantic Voices president Winston Babin, whoâs been with the choir since 2007. He and his wife are both from New Brunswick and moved to Ottawa in 1988.âIâm not a trained singer, and a lot of our members are the same. We are not trained singers, but everyone loves to sing,â Winston says. âI always enjoyed singing and when I was asked to join this choir by a former Newfoundlander, who was a friend, I was really not too sure about it. So I joined in September and I told the director, well, weâll see how this is going because I had no idea about music, I couldnât read music. Since then, Iâve learned so much. And itâs such a joy to be able to get up there and sing and see all these people really enjoying it. It really makes all the work of preparing for it really worthwhile. And I would expect you would get that same reaction from most of our members.âThere is no audition process for this community choir. Anyone can apply, though currently the choirâs ranks are full and there is a waiting list of about a dozen people. âThey just donât leave. They keep coming back. And we were really, really surprised by that,â Winston says of the current members. âThereâs usually a turnover. In the last three years or so, they all come back. So I think theyâre all enjoying it very much.âOnce in, choir members pay dues to help with costs, which include the tartan neckties for the men and scarves for the women. They meet every Tuesday night at the Riverside Churches of Ottawa (a muti-denominational facility) for practice, led by choir director Scott Richardson (a Nova Scotian) and accompanist Theresa Clarke. âThey are just the most fantastic people; we call them our dynamic duo,â Winston says. âAnd we have so much fun. Our rehearsals are so much fun. Itâs so great to be able to learn something in an atmosphere like that.âTheir âmatriarchâ is Hannie Fitzgerald, a âvery proud Labrador-ian,â Winston says. Sheâs involved in every aspect of the choir. âWithout her Iâm not sure what weâd do.âSheâs also a longstanding member of the choirâs house band, the Fumblinâ Fingers. âThey play before each one of our concerts. They basically warm the crowd up for us,â Winston explains.Another crowd pleaser at their shows, and a regular at their rehearsals, is a Newfoundland dog. In their 17 years, there have been three Newf mascots: Tiika, who passed away in 2015; Splash who recently passed; and now Margaree - a fitting outport name for a Newfoundland dog. âMargaree is at every rehearsal with her handler, sits there and enjoys the music,â Winston says. And the audiences are thrilled to see her at the concerts. âShe steals the show every time.âAtlantic Voices puts off two big concerts a year, on the last Sunday in January and the last Sunday in May. They also perform at special events, such as July 1 Beaumont-Hamel memorial services. Theyâve produced 29 albums of their music to date, which they sell during their concerts. Itâs one way they raise a bit of money; another is an annual yard sale. They also have a silent auction, which is held after each concert in combination with another very downhome thing they do - a scoff. âItâs quite something, We get 300 people and they come down[stairs] and have a look at all the stuff and bid on them, and then we have a lunch served to them - sandwiches, sweets, that sort of thing, tea. Itâs quite large,â Winston says. âWe try to make each show more like a kitchen party idea. It almost feels like family instead of just the choir doing something. Thatâs a big part of it.âAtlantic Voices attracts not only East Coast expat singers, but also anyone with a love of choral music and the Atlantic provinces. Same goes for the audience, which Winston says includes a large contingent from Atlantic Canada, but also folks from all over. The choir is also a hit at local seniors homes, where they often perform between concerts. They have an extensive library of music, Winston says, and the director draws upon that to create a theme for each concert. âLike our last show [January 2019] was âMusic from the Big Land,â which is Labrador. So it was all Labrador music, which was really interesting because weâve gone for so long that we didnât have enough music for a show strictly on Labrador. But it turns out that some very interesting people - like Kathleen Allen, for instance, who is a Newfoundlander - theyâ¦ arrange music so that it can be sung by a four part choir,â Winston explains.Their next concert is coming up on May 26. Its theme is âWakes, Weddings and Whiskey: A Downhome Kitchen Party.â Says Winston, âThe idea is celebration and the things that go along with celebrations... We usually have about 14 selections that we do.â (And while it may not be in this yearâs lineup, Winston says, yes, they have performed âThe Night That Paddy Murphy Died.â)There is a healthy choral commu-nity in Ottawa, with plenty of choirs, but there are none like AtlanticVoices. As far as Winston knows, theirs is the only choir that concentrates on one geographical region. âThe other concerts, of course, have the choice of doing any kind of music they want, but we donât because weâre restricted to what our repertoire is, which is Atlantic and Celtic music,â Winston says.And that niche, it seems, has been hitting all the right notes.-by Janice Stuckless
One Man's Emotional Search For His Birth ParentsIt started out as a typical outport childhood for Wallace (Wally) Collett. Growing up in the isolated (now abandoned) community of Harbour Buffett on Long Island in Placentia Bay in the 1940s, he recalls hours spent as a young lad spreading fish on flakes to dry, digging into Sunday dinners of corned beef and cabbage, and playing by the ocean.For him and others, excitement in the remote harbour was triggered by the arrival of the coastal boat. âHalf the community would gather on the wharf that night, usually it was after supper, dark in the evenings, when the boat would come in,â remembers Wally, now 81, speaking over the phone from his home in New Brunswick. The coastal boat delivered vital supplies, mail and passengers. On one unforgettable occasion, the vessel brought with it a mystery that would confound Wally for much of his young life.Once a year, a trunk arrived for his family. It contained clothing of all styles and sizes, plus toys for the children. His Aunt Gladys Collett - beloved by Wally and his siblings - sent the gently used items from Montreal, where she worked for a wealthy family. âIt was kind of like Christmas in the middle of the summer,â Wally fondly recalls. The most memorable of all the gifts he received from his aunt in this manner, he says, was his first teddy bear, which he proudly showed off around the tiny cove. âAn old lady down there was always hanging out her kitchen window in the summer to see and hear what she couldâ¦I show her the teddy bear and she asks who gave it to me. âOh, my Aunt Glad,â I told her, whereupon she tells me, âOh my dear, that is not your Aunt Glad. That is your mother.ââFor young Wally, the brash admission was understandably jarring, but not far-fetched. From a young age, heâd wondered why his parents and siblings (Holletts) didnât share his last name (Collett) - a point that got him taunted at school. But could his cherished aunt really be his mother? Finding out wouldnât be easy.âIn those days it seemed that it was an accepted thing that a child is not told about his or her background,â says Wally. âNo matter how many questions I asked, no answers were forthcoming.â As Wally got older, he grew more desperate to know the truth about his past. His own sleuthing eventually uncovered his biological fatherâs name (Ted Baker), which he found as a teenager on documents hidden in his familyâs home.âI decided to keep it all inside me and somewhere, somehow, someday I would get to the bottom of it all,â says Wally. Years later, he finally did - and not a moment too soon.The Search for the TruthWally left Newfoundland as a young man in the mid-1950s for a career with the RCMP. Training took him to Ottawa, near where his Aunt Gladys still lived in Montreal. During his many visits to see her, Gladys confirmed she was, in fact, his birth mother. Wally revelled in those opportunities to bond with her and learn all he could about his past.â[Those visits] were beautiful, they were emotional, because we really went back to the day I was born and talked about the whole thing,â says Wally.Upon his birth in 1937, Gladys was a young, unwed woman living in St. Johnâs, where his father, Ted, worked as a policeman, she told him. The couple parted for religious reasons (an all too familiar tale in those days in Newfoundland). Told by a priest that she must renounce her Protestant family before marrying Ted, a Catholic, she refused; the pair split before Wally was born. Gladys initially had a friend babysit her newborn son while she worked. When that was no longer an option, Gladys asked the hospital where Wally was born to care for him until she could make other arrangements. âShe would go in and visit me all the time, and this one particular day she went in and I wasnât thereâ¦ she was totally devastated,â says Wally, retelling the sad story as Gladys (whoâs since passed away) told it to him years ago. Without her knowledge, hospital staff had arranged to transfer the care of Wally to herfamily in Harbour Buffett. Gladysâ newlywed sister, Susan Hollett, offered to raise him (though he was never formally adopted). With few options, and comforted that her son would be reared by family, Gladys agreed to keep his origins a secret. âI think she was always haunted by it,â says Wally. âOne thing she told me, she said she had several opportunities to marry, and she said she promised herself she would never marry until I was settled down, I was married and had a home of my own,â says Wally. True to her word, six months after Wally was wed, Gladys finally tied the knot as well. Wally would remain her only natural-born son.Putting the Past to RestHaving finally established a relationship with his birth mother, Wally set his sights on finding his biological father. âI really got obsessed with it. I would spend nights on patrol in the police car and I would be thinking about it,â remembers Wally. Eventually he wrote the Chief of Police in St. Johnâs, hoping for any lead on Ted Baker, a former member of the Newfoundland Constabulary.âA short while later I got a reply, and in it was all the information I could ever have hoped for,â says Wally. The response included a current address for Ted in Philadelphia, USA. Wally nervously mailed a letter. He received a reply from his birth father within days. âThe letter was very pleasant. He said, âI know who you are and I want to see you.â I cried,â remembers Wally. Months later, Ted travelled to visit Wally in New Brunswick.âEven when I talk about it now I get all choked up,â says Wally, recalling the 10 days in 1963 that he spent getting to know the man who had fathered him.âWe just talked and shared about everything under the sun.â Sadly, within a year of their meeting, Ted passed away. Wally attended his funeral in Philadelphia, where he met Tedâs siblings and children. Suddenly, Wallyâs already large family became even larger, with the addition of several aunts, an uncle and siblings. Shortly after Ted passed, Wally and his wife had their third son, whom they named Christopher Baker Collett in honour of his birth father.Wally keeps in contact with that branch of his family, and in recent years he paid a visit to Tedâs birthplace, Conception Harbour, NL. âI found the old family homestead, where he was brought up. The house is not there; it was left abandoned and fell down. I walked through the area and I found the remnants of an old wood and coal stove. I picked up one of those round cast-iron covers off the stove, and I brought it back to New Brunswick with me,â says Wally. Heâs since painted a scene on the piece, which he displays in his home in a nod to his roots.Fortunately, Wally had more time to bond with his birth mother, who lived to be 88. He eventually made arrangements for Gladys to live near him in New Brunswick, where he could care for her in her final years.âI was so very, very blessed to have had the chance to do that for her, especially since she was not able to really care for me in my growing up years,â says Wally. She passed away in 2003, and Wally - who eventually retired from policing and became an ordained minister - gave the sermon at her funeral. As he looks back on the long and interesting life heâs led so far, Wally holds no grudges for the secrets that were kept. He is, however, full of gratitude for having had the chance to connect with each of his birth parents in a meaningful way, and for the Holletts, who took him in and raised him as one of their own.âIf I hadnât been able to find my roots I think I would still be a very frustrated person,â says Wally. âIt made me feel that much more whole.â- by Ashley Miller
Along the banks of the Exploits River, the Lion Max SImms Memorial Camp is helping people of all ages and abilities make memories to last a lifetime. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the smile on Evan Alexanderâs face speaks volumes. Itâs hard not to feel his excitement and pure happiness as the bright-eyed boy looks into the camera.For the past six years, Evan, 14, (pictured right) has been attending Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp with his grandparents, Junior and Josephine Humphries of Labrador City. Spread across 25 acres of land along the banks of the Exploits River, just outside of Bishopâs Falls, the fully accessible facility gives Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with varying physical and mental abilities a true camp experience. Whether itâs the occasional horseback ride, roasting marshmallows and singing songs by the campfire, or just playing games with friends, Junior says itâs an experience that Evan, who was born with cerebral palsy, very much looks forward to. âWhen we turn off the Bay DâEspoir Highway there, he gets all excited, he starts squealing. Heâs like that until we get to camp,â Junior says. âAnd they all know each otherâ¦ the camaraderie there is unreal. Theyâre so friendly, theyâve always got a smile, nothing upsets them. Itâs so great.â A Fitting Tribute Officially opened in 1981, the Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to unwind, experience the great outdoors, meet up with old friends and make new ones. It is named after the late Max Simms, a member of the Corner Brook Lions Club and the last International Councillor of Lions International, who embodied the very spirit of volunteerism, charity and community that the organization embraces. Simms (who passed away in 1977) had diabetes and heart trouble, but even after losing both of his legs and his vision later in life, he remained an active member, attending meetings in his wheelchair. âHe was determined to continue on living his life as he had always lived it, and he didnât let his disabilityhinder him from doing the things he wanted to do,â says Corinna Burton, camp manager. The first campers to break in the grounds 38 years ago were 55 members of the CNIB. Since then,Corinna says, they have regularly hosted camps for a number of groups throughout the summer months, including the provincial chapters of the Autism Society, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Canadian Hemophilia Society and Special Olympics. This year, she says, they hope to host their first paediatric cancer camp. They also host four open camps each summer for any individual or group with special needs.The camp is open year-round and is a truly inclusive and welcoming space, consisting of 38 rooms (which can accommodate 96 people), a staffed commercial kitchen and dining room, three common rooms, a gymnasium and a games room. The facility, nestled among spruce, fir and pine trees, is housed under one roof with wide corridors to accommodate those with mobility issues. There are also accessible showers, as well as lifts and a small number of medical beds for those who might need them. Outside, campers can enjoy a swimming pool, wheelchair accessible hiking trails, campfires, fishing and rides in a pontoon boat on the Exploits River, just to name a few of the summer amenities. âEverythingâs wheelchair access-ible, so we take their chairs right onto the boat. And when you look at something so simple as going for a boat ride, some of these campers... have never ever been on a boat. We take them out onto the Exploits River and we go out and we have a little ride with them,â Corinna says. âAnd thatâs what the camp is all about, is being able to give them an experience that they wouldnât normally have in their own community.â It Takes a VillageRunning a facility like the Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp (the only camp of its kind in Atlantic Canada) is no small feat, and without the support of the provincial Lions Clubs and the wider community, Corinna says, it wouldnât exist. The camp is governed by a board of directors consisting of 10 Lions members from around the province; the camp manager, program director and summer students run the programs. Since it receives no government assistance (aside from the Canada Summer Jobs program to hire staff), most of the funding for the camp and its activities comes from the volunteer fundraising efforts of the Lions Clubs of Newfoundland and Labrador. âThey put thousands of dollars into the camp each year, just for upkeep. And they fundraise for any bigger purchases that the camp might need,â Corinna says, like the new $200,000 fully accessible playground (which was matched by an ACOA Canada 150 grant), as well as the wheelchair accessible trail that was recently developed around the campâs perimeter.The public also helps support the facility by renting it for private events (from September to mid-June), with all the rental money going back into the operations side of the camp. In addition to raising money for the facility, the Lions also sponsor campers and cover their fees and sometimes, if theyâre able, their transportation costs. âEvery year since weâve been going now, the Lions Club of Labrador City has been paying our registration, which is fantastic,â says Junior, whoâs been a member of the Lions Club for almost 40 years. âAnd the people there that are running it... theyâre fantastic. They go out of their way. Theyâre above and beyond what they do. Even the cooks that provide the meals, they know just about every person there by first name and theyâre always out talking to them. Itâs wonderful.â One for All During a typical summer season, the facility hosts anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 campers, who range in age from several months to 90 years. People attend from all over the province (and as far away as Nova Scotia), and the friendships and bonds that form are unbreakable. One couple that met at camp even ended up getting married.âWeâve got a group from the Goulds who have been coming for years upon years to our open camp, and they only get to see their friends from Burgeo at that camp every year. So it brings them together from across the province,â Corinna says.Itâs not just the campers who benefit from the facility, she adds, but the parents, chaperones and summer students as well. âWeâll take the campers and work alongside them for crafts and activities during the afternoons. And that kind of gives the parents and the escorts a little bit of a break and gives them a little bit of social time to be able to interactâ¦ itâs a big network that gets created,â Corinna says. âOur student staff, when they leave here after the summer, they come to appreciate things in their own lives that probably they just took for granted and [it] gives them a clear insight. Weâve had so many students who have come through our programs here that have become nurses and social workers and that kind of thing.âAside from the fun and games and friendships, perhaps the campâs greatest power lies in its ability to be an equalizer. Thereâs no judging or staring or pointing fingers, just freedom, support and a strong sense of community. âI always mention the young man that came to camp. He stood up when he was getting ready to leave and he said, âI just love this camp... I donât ever want to leave. It makes me feel like a real person,ââ Corinna recalls. âAnd that stuck with me right from that day, because thatâs what itâs all about.â -by Linda Browne
On March 31, Newfoundland and Labrador marked the 70th anniversary of joining Canada. Writer Edward Riche gets inside the psyche of the youngest province now living the senior life.Happy 70th birthday to Canadaâs âHappy Province.â Youâve been a âseniorâ for five years. There is no denying it: you are officially getting long in the tooth. âElderlyâ sounds like an affliction, so letâs go with calling you an âelder,â which has a ring of prestige,connotes respect. You have to go to the doctor more often than youâd like to now. You went to see her about Burnt Head. But she says that it was nothing to worry about, and the good news is that youâre Heartâs Content. She thinks your latitude is a little high for someone your age. You know it - you really feel the damp and cold these days, your isthmuses ache and you think you might be developing Bull Arm. No wonder. You have worked long and hard: in the fishery for a time, as a nurse on the South Coast, in St. Johnâs chained to a desk, and with the cousin, Alberta, for a patch. The doctor is on about your diet. Admit it; you werenât completely honest about the quantity of salt meat you are still eating. Or salt pork or salt fish. You are going to have to watch the salt. You were skin and bones before Confederation, half starved on the dole during Commission of Government. Have to admit you are a little big now. Youâre going to have to limit Mary Brownâs to special occasions. But 70 years old or not, there is no way you are denying yourself a fi and chi with dr and gr from Leoâs when you are in town on business. What would be the point of living? You never go on a tear like you used to (there was many a time!); you canât take the punishment the next morning and you donât sleep well at the best of times. But you still enjoy the occasional nip and cannot resist singing songs long into the night. For whatever reason, the one thing you never forget, even as you get more forgetful, are the words to all the old tunes. The younger crowd are always impressed when you belt out the âWhen blinding storm gusts fret thy shore / And wild waves lash thy strand / Throâ spindrift swirl and tempest roarâ verse of the Ode, or sing to them that âJim Brine, Din Ryan, Flipper Smith and Carolineâ were also at The Kelligrews Soiree. In a moment of youthful exuberance, you did the Upper Churchill project and overlooked some of the contractual details; never thought of the long-term consequences. But in 1969 you were just 20, and what 20-year-old thinks about their future? The Sprung Greenhouse, that was a mid-life crisis; you see that now. You were flush with oil money, so you spent too much on Muskrat Falls. Live and learn.Couples like Newfoundland and Labrador always have their troubles, but youâve managed to work through them. Thereâs been the occasional row, but you each have to admit that there is no one who would understand either of you better than the other. Face it: you are both a little weird.And what a brood you two produced! Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them, most of them gone off on their own now. Cousin Ontario needed the extra hands and imagination, so you didnât try to stop the youngsters from going upalong to lend assistance. Your kids have done well there. Thatâs the problem with having children: you raise them to be interesting, independent people, capable of fending for themselves, and they go off and have their own interesting lives. And the grandchildren, alas, they are more Canadians than Newfoundlanders. Thatâs the way it goes. The place seems so big and empty with them gone that youâre wise to be taking people in. And the crowd from the Philippines and Syria have turned out to be best kind, so you hope they will stick around to have their own families, the next generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.With age comes wisdom, the greatest of which is gratitude for all you have. You finally see that. All along, you were looking for something you already had. You tried being like other Canadian provinces, you carried on like Florida for a brief interval, but now, at 70, you know who you are and all your blessings. You can stand on a mountain up north, black spruce in an eternity of white, and hear not a sound, nothing, pure silence. You know the bliss of a boil-up in the country after a day picking berries. Another day youâre up early to go out for a few fish and the sun is rising over the water of the bay and you can smell the sea. Until youâve seen enough of them, you donât realize that every dawn breaks anew, that every sunrise is unique. You are 70 and thereâs nothing you want. You realize you have it all.A writer for the page, stage and screen Edward Riche was born in Botwood, on the beautiful Bay of Exploits. He now resides in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Forest For The Trees - how to know your juniper from your snotty varMany of us head into the woods during all seasons on snowmobiles or snowshoes, hiking or biking, and encounter many types of trees. However, beyond being able to tell a birch from a spruce, what do you know about them? The relatively small, primarily coniferous forests of Newfoundland and Labrador form the eastern edge of the Boreal Forest Region of North America. Black spruce forms about one-third of the forests on the island and two-thirds of the trees in Labrador. The west coast of Newfoundland, in particular, is dominated by pure stands of balsam fir. Conditions are not generally favourable for large stands of hardwood species, but white birch and trembling aspen are significant components of mixed wood and hardwood stands in the province. There are 21 native species and 16 introduced species of trees populating Newfoundland and Labrador. The following is a brief guide to the seven most commonly found native species, including some helpful tips to identify each one. White SprucePicea glauca a.k.a. Skunk spruce, Canadian spruce, cat spruce, pasture spruce, field spruceID Tip: When crushed, the needles emit an unpleasant, skunky odour.White spruce is a common evergreen coniferous tree in Newfoundland and Labrador, though less common than balsam fir or black spruce. It can attain a height of 25 m, but usually reaches less than 15 m in this province. The bark of younger trees is light reddish-brown, turning greyish-brown, rough and scaly with age. The yellowish-green to bluish-green needles are shiny and stiff with sharp points. They are spirally arranged on the twig and twisted upwards to crowd the upper side. The oblong, cylindrical cones are 3-5 cm long. These are green tinged with red at first, then turn pale brown as they mature.Habitat: White spruce is found throughout Newfoundland and as far north as 60â° latitude in Labrador. Itâs more common along the coast than inland as it prefers moist, well-drained sites, but it also grows in abandoned fields and on coastal headlands. It is particularly plentiful as tuckamore on the Avalon and Burin peninsulas.Uses: White spruce is used in the production of wood pulp and lumber, and frequently planted for landscaping and forestry pur-poses. The young shoot tips have antiseptic properties and are often used to treat respiratory infections. Black SprucePicea mariana a.k.a. swamp spruce, bog spruceID Tip: The needles have a pleasant resinous or menthol scent.This slow-growing wetland tree usually grows to 12 m, but can be as tall as 18 m. The upper part of the crown is often oddly shaped, very dense and heavily laden with cones. The stiff, straight, pale bluish-green needles often have white stripes and blunt tips. The reddish-brown or greyish-brown bark is scaly or shredded when young, becoming darker with larger scales as it ages. The 1-4 cm long cones are oval, blunt-tipped and purplish-green at first, turning brown as they mature. They often stay on the tree for many years.Habitat: Found throughout Newfoundland and north to about 57â° latitude in Labrador, the black spruce is, in fact, the most abundant tree in Labrador (it is featured on the Labrador flag). It occurs mostly on poorly drained soils and wet, boggy sites. This species actually benefits from forest fires because the intense heat opens the cones, releasing seed to naturally regenerate burnt-over areas.Uses: Traditionally residents have used it to make spruce beer. It has antiseptic properties and has been used in the treatment of many respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis. The wood is considered one of the best firewood species and is commonly used as a source of lumber and pulpwood. It is also used in the manufacturing of soundboards for musical instruments including guitars, violins and pianos. Balsam FirAbies balsmaneaa.k.a. Canada balsam, vir, var, snotty varID Tip: When crushed, the needles have a strong pine scent.Fir can tower to 25 m, but it doesnât often exceed 15 m in height in this province. The needles have rounded or notched tips and are shiny dark green on the upper surface and paler underneath with 10-12 lines of white dots. The bronze to purplish bark has many resin blisters that turn grey and somewhat scaly on older trees. The oblong cones are cylindrical, erect, 5-8 cm long and green at first, then purplish, and then rusty brown as they mature, usually with resin droplets on the surface.âSnotty varâ is a Newfoundland term for an old fir tree with resin clotted on the bark. It is considered too greasy to be good for burning because all the sap (turpentine) comes out of it, making it very sticky. Habitat: Fir is found throughout Newfoundland and north to about 54â° latitude in Labrador. It is very adaptable, occurring in a variety of habitats including moist, acidic soils; organic soils; swamps and mountains. It is the most common tree of insular Newfoundland and in windswept tuckamore along the coast. Uses: It is favoured as a Christmas tree and for making wreaths. The hardened sap is used in optical and microscope products. The tree is a common source of lumber, firewood and pulp. The needles and twigs are used as a moth repellent. Parts of the fir have also been used as an effective antiseptic and healing agent for cuts, burns, sore throats, coughs, headaches and toothaches.White PinePinus strobusa.k.a. Northern white pine, eastern white pineID Tip: White pine is the only native pine with clusters of five needles.Once a common tree in Newfoundland, it was almost completely wiped out due to major pine harvesting that began in 1890. Additionally, in the early 1900s, a lethal parasitic fungus called white pine blister rust devastated much of the remaining mature pine.Often growing in stunted form in bleaker habitats, this tree can reach a height of 25 m. The straight, slender, bluish-green needles measure 4-8.5 cm, are soft and flexible with finely toothed edges and grow spirally on the twig in clusters of five or, rarely, three. The bark is smooth and greyish-green on younger trees, but looks darker and deeply furrowed with broad, scaly ridges on older trunks. The brown cones are elongated, 7-15 cm long, and drop from the tree during fall and winter after the seeds have shed. Habitat: White pine is found throughout most of Newfoundland but is absent from the Northern Peninsula and Labrador. It is most common in western and central regions of the island. Inhabiting a variety of sites, from rocky ridges to sphagnum bogs, it actually thrives in moist, sandy, acidic or loamy soils and cool upland forests with full sunlight.Uses: This is the most valuable softwood lumber in Eastern Canada. Its silver-tinted needles make it a handsome ornamental tree, and it is an important source of food and shelter for wildlife. Larch Larix laricina a.k.a. Tamarack, Eastern larch, juniperID Tip: Its top usually leans northeast (a sort of natural compass if youâre lost in the woods).Commonly called juniper in this province, larch is the only native coniferous tree that loses its needles in the fall. This small-to-medium sized deciduous conifer is rarely more than 15 m high and in exposed habitats may grow flat along the ground. The pale bluish-green needles are slender, soft and flexible, growing in clusters of 12-30, and turning yellow and dropping by early November. The bark is smooth and grey when young, turning reddish-brown and scaly as it ages. The cones are erect, often egg-shaped and about 1.5 cm long. They are reddish at first, but light brown when mature, and on short, curved stalks.Habitat: Larch occurs throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in various habitats including bogs, fens, heaths, serpentine barrens, hilltops and forests.Uses: Larch trees produce a heavy, durable wood used mainly as a firewood due to its fairly high heat value, but also as pulpwood and in making snowshoes, utility poles, posts, boats and boxes. The resin can be chewed to relieve indigestion. Tea made from the bark is used in home remedies to treat jaundice, anemia, rheumatism, colds, sore throats and skin ailments such as sores, swellings and burns.Yellow BirchBetula alleghaniensisa.k.a. Witch HazelID Tip: Identifying the various birch species can be a challenge. Yellow birch can be distinguished by the distinctive wintergreen smell of the broken twigs.Yellow birch is the largest of the eastern birches, often reaching heights of up to 23 m. Its coarsely toothed leaves are oval or oblong, gradually tapering from the middle to the tip, with a heart-shaped base. Leaves are dark green and hairless on top, but paler and usually hairy underneath. Young bark is dark reddish, becoming yellowish and peeling into thin, papery curls that give it a ragged appearance. Older trees have darker bark that is broken into plate-like scales. Habitat: It occurs mostly in southern Newfoundland south of Deer Lake, in the Bay DâEspoir area and in sheltered parts of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas. It is absent from northeastern sections, the Northern Peninsula and Labrador. Yellow birch prefers rich, moist woodlands. Uses: The wood is used to make furniture, cabinetwork, flooring, doors and veneer, and itâs an important source of hardwood lumber. It has a high heat value and, therefore, makes excellent firewood. Extract from its bark and twigs produces commercial wintergreen flavouring.White BirchBetula papyriferaa.k.a. Paper BirchID Tip: Look for the white papery bark, for which it is named, which peels easily and sheds in narrow bands, exposing an orange or pinkish inner bark.White birch, our most common hardwood species, can grow to a height of 20 m. The coarsely, irregularly toothed leaves are ovate, tapering at the tip with a wedge-shaped or broadly rounded base. Leaves are dark green and hairless on top, and paler with hairs near the base underneath. Each leaf has, on average, 23 teeth per side. The bark of younger trees is reddish-brown with transverse whitish lenticels (raised pores on the bark). Mature bark is chalk white or cream coloured and peels easily into horizontal strips.Habitat: White birch occurs throughout Newfoundland and north to about 57â° latitude in Labrador. Itâs more plentiful in central and western Newfoundland, found in various habitats from mixed forests, open woods, and cutover areas, to hillsides and exposed coastal barrens.Uses: White birch has a high heat value, making it excellent for firewood. Other uses include craftwork, pulpwood, tongue depressors, high-end furniture, canoes, ornaments and skateboards. The sap appears in beer, syrup, wine or vinegar. The dried inner bark can be added to soups as a thickener or added to flour. A tea can be made from the bark and young leaves.DID YOU KNOW?The mountain alder and the speckled alder can be used in treating a sore throat, diarrhea, sore eyes and inflammation. It can also be used to induce circulation and as a therapeutic foot bath. Alder chips also are great for smoking salmon, fish and meats, and for barbecuing.DID YOU ALSO KNOW?Newfoundlanders and Labradorians generally call the larch âjuniper,â even though there is a real and very different juniper plant. Common juniper (Juniperus communis) and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) are both native to this province and are actually trunkless shrubs with many long branches that creep along the ground with upturned ends. The common juniper is the source of juniper berries that are often used as flavouring in cooking.- by Todd HollettTodd Hollett is a wildlife conservation officer who lives on the Burin Peninsula. He writes about science and nature for Downhome.
So, have you heard of Marie Kondo? If not, maybe youâre buried under all the stuff in your house and canât find the TV or a clear spot to watch Netflix. Maybe her books are among the dozens youâve bought over the years and put on a shelf but never got around to reading.OK, enough teasing. For those who havenât been taken up by the household craze of 2019, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and author of several books on how to declutter your life, organize your stuff and keep only the things that bring you joy. In January, Netflix dropped a season of âTidying Up with Marie Kondo,â and everybody and their dogsitter are gutting closets, emptying shelves and repacking all their drawers. Meantime, with everyone ridding themselves of stuff they donât need, hopefully theyâll think of others in dire need, for whom new and previously loved things could bring them joy. Here are some places in Newfoundland and Labrador where you could rehome some of the things that no longer have a home with you. You can also scan Facebook and make some calls in your neighbourhood to see who you could help nearest you.EyeglassesAre you still hanging on to old prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses? Pack them up and deliver them to your local Lions chapter. They collect used eyeglasses, make any repairs, sterilize them and distribute them to needy folks in many countries. Also, check with your eye clinic - Vogue Optical and LasikMD are two local businesses that collect eyeglasses for the Lions program.FootwearGently used (or never worn!) shoes, boots and sneakers are welcome at secondhand stores as well as charitable organizations like The Gathering Place in St. Johnâs. Call other neighbourhood groups, such as Single Parent Association of NL or Association for New Canadians, who might be running a drive for particular items, including footwear.Formal WearLooking to rehome a prom dress, bridesmaid gown or cocktail dress? Or a suit, dress shoes or jewelry? Any of these would look good in a thrift shop, but they could also be used to help make high school graduations more affordable for families. Single Parent Association of NL runs a Prom Dreams campaign, and Holy Heart high school in St. Johnâs hosts a free prom dress drive. Alyssaâs Attic (on Facebook) is run by the Sunshine Squad, a goodwill group founded in memory of teenager Alyssa Davis, who was killed in a car crash in Conception Bay South, NL, in 2015. Alyssaâs Attic collects gently used grad dresses (and shoes and jewelry) to help ease the financial burden of prom on some families.Towels and BlanketsClean towels and blankets can be put to good use at animal shelters, helping to create a warm bed or post-bath comfort to cats and dogs (and other furry critters) who are in need of kindness. CellphonesThe CNIB operates a Phone It Forward program, where it matches your old smartphone with a new and grateful owner, for free. Smartphone access can be a matter of safety, independence and enablement to someone who is blind or partially sighted.ToolsYou can donate your old, usable tools (not broken or unsafe ones) to thrift stores or to more specialized centres, such as Habitat for Humanity Restore or the St. Johnâs Tool Library.BicyclesMemorial University accepts used bicycles for its Bikeshare ânâ Repair program. It rents out bikes and helmets to MUN students and members of the general public in St. Johnâs.ToysChildren often outgrow their toys before they wear them out; these toys still have joy to give. Single Parents Association of NL is one group that accepts toy donations (no plush toys) as well as books (except textbooks), housewares and small appliances. And in a special recent callout, The Fluvarium in St. Johnâs was looking for leftover Lego blocks for their childrenâs programming. They may have enough now, but you could call local daycares, doctorâs offices etc. where childrenâs toys are often provided for their little clients.