Downhome Magazine

Rock Harbour Memories

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By Arabella (Brown) Lewis

I remember Aggie Dowden visiting Rock Harbour, Placentia Bay during the summer months when I was a very young girl. Aggie was a very pleasant lady with dark hair and ringlets. She visited all her friends and always made a stop at the graveyard.

I experienced much the same childhood indeed; growing up on Honey's Hill as we called it, not knowing the hill was called after a Mrs. Honey who once lived there. Our house was built on a flat space among the large rocks and it too was my playground. I climbed among the rocks every day.

During the summer, towards the back of the hill, I searched and picked what we called blackberries, a very small round berry that grew on delicate like bushes close to the ground .It was, on occasion, used in making a blackberry pudding, a white flour pudding wrapped in a piece of cloth and tied with a string and cooked in the broth among the vegetables and salt beef.

I also searched for another berry that grew very close to the ground, called the tee berry. It too was very small, oval shaped like an egg and pure white in colour. It had a unique, pleasant, almost creamy taste. While visiting in 2015, the berries still grew there, in small quantities as I searched and found a few.

Recently I tried to contact Aggie living in St. John's. I wanted to tell her about her poem I had found at my Mom's home in Rock Harbour many years ago. I had kept it after my Mom passed, again coming across it here at my Condo in Kemptville, Ontario a few weeks ago. To my disappointment I found she had passed away in St. John's in May 2014. I had visited Aggie in St. John's, sometime between 1967-1970 while I was training for a nurse at the Grace General Hospital in St. John's and do not remember seeing her since that time.

The following is Aggie's Poem:

Come all my friends and neighbours
Hear what I have to say
Concerning this little village
Rock Harbour, Placentia Bay.

This quaint and picturesque little place
To most artists still unknown
To me it is a treasure spot
As to a King, a throne.

We in our little home
With our few possessions in life
The little girl that took my place
Is now a Bishop's wife.

It was on a cold December morning
One day before Christmas Eve
When I said goodbye to all my friends
And then I had to leave.

I can't describe my feelings
For it would give me much pain today
We took up residence again
In Creston, Mortier Bay

That rugged little fishing coast
With it's beauty so discreet
The count of the houses ends thirty-three
With not even one main street.

I played around the rocks and wharves
and was as happy as could be
There were no playgrounds or swimming pools
Yet I had fun and swam in the sea.

Time has passed and years have changed
Many memories I hold today
For the only sister I ever had
Sleeps there beneath the clay.

We had a little one room school
In the back of our church
The only heat was a pot bellied stove
Filled up with junks of wood.

I remember how I berry picked
When the summers were quite hot
Every time there was a shower of rain
I'd run under Jacob's Rock.

I baited my hook with a piece of pork
I fished and played in the sea
The harbour was filled with flakes and wharves
There was only one fir tree.

The controversy, I can hear it now
over that old fir tree
One lady claimed it belonged to her
My aunt said "No, that tree belongs to me."

Whomever owned that old fir tree
was no concern of mine
I climbed it every other day
And came down filled with turpentine.

I usually visit once a year
There's a spot in my heart still warm
Like the rabbit said about the brier patch
It's home the place where I was born.

Such beaches since I have not seen
With the prettiest rocks and the finest sand
A more beautiful site you could not find
Elsewhere in Newfoundland.

And there was Deadman's Island
Just a few yards across the way
A perfect private little spot
For only a child to play.

It was somewhat an oval shape
About one hundred yards wide
Many a time I got stranded there
With the rising of the tide.

I liked to walk around the shore
Where once I gathered shells
Folks wondered why I take covers off
And looked down into their wells.

One last place but no means least
Surely you can see my footprints still
On those enormous rocks where once
I played house on Mrs. Honey's Hill.

Although I've left so many years
I still hold that proof today
For on my Birth Certificate it says
Birthplace: Rock Harbour, Placentia Bay.

Aggie Dowden printed her signature in the right hand corner, at the end of the poem.

I am attaching a photo of myself taken among the rocks on Mrs. Honey's Hill approximately 1953.

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