Bonavista Bay ~ Bonavista North District
Rev. Julian Moreton
| LIFE AND WORK |
REMINISCENCES OF THIRTEEN YEARS
REV. JULIAN MORETON,
COLONIAL CHAPLAIN AT LABUAN
LATE MISSIONARY AT GREENSPOND, NEWFOUNDLAND
"Christians Are some in name, and some in earnest, strong desire, And some their Christian birthright to redeem, with cost aspire; 'A people ready for the Lord' - will not hid Advent shine, Through some courageous stewards of His grace and love divine?" Verses for 1851
RIVINGTONS, WATERLOO PLACE
TO THE VENERABLE
ARCHDEACON GRANT, D.C.L.
CANON OF ROCHESTER, VICAR OF AYLESFORD,
AND LATE VICAR OF ROMFORD,
THIS LITTLE BOOK IS OFFERED,
IN TOKEN OF WARM, GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE
AND DEEP RESPECT.
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . vII
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . xIII
Newfoundland. Its Climate &c . . . . . . . . 1
Greenspond . . . . . . . . . . 16
Words and Phrases peculiar to Newfoundland . . . . . .29
The Missionary and his Flock . . . . . . . .52
Missionary Visits and Adventures . . . . . . . . 75
Appendix A . . . . . . . . . . 102
Appendix B . . . . . . . . . . 103
Appendix C . . . . . . . . . . 104
The Author of this little work being unable to superintend its publication, I, as his friend, undertook the task, although with great diffidence; but soon found it comparatively easy one. The book itself contains such a plain, unvarnished account of facts, such a humble and truthful picture of the difficulties and the encouragements of a devoted missionary, that there was nothing to be done on the way of revision, even had I felt at all competent to try my hand at such work. A few words, however, as to the Author may now be unacceptable.
The entire break-down of his own health, and the weak constitution of one of his children, determined Mr. Moreton, for a time at least, to give up missionary work in the trying climate of Newfoundland, where he had been engaged for upwards of thirteen years. Shortly after his arrival in England, he was offered duty at Romford by Archdeacon Grant, then vicar of that place. He joined us in our work in that parish on Christmas Day, 1861, and remained with us until he again left England. Very shortly after taking up his residence in Romford, he was offered by the Duke of Newcastle, at the recommendation of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Colonial Chaplaincy on the Island of Labuan. This, after mature consideration, he, to our regret, accepted. His duty there is to act as Chaplain to the English troops in that colony, and to perform occasional services for the benefit of the men employed in the coal mines at the further end of the Island. After remaining with us for about six months, he stared with his wife and children for Labuan in the month of May. Previous to his departure, he was presented by some friends at Romford, who in this short time had learnt to respect and esteem him, with a parting gift of some divinity books, a handsome service of communion plate, and an aneroid barometer. Of this last he speaks in a letter written to me while on the voyage, and posted at Singapore. He says: "you will be glad to know my pretty aneroid barometer has been very interesting and useful all the voyage. Used together with a mercurial barometer, its superiority is very evident. It has given longer warning of the gales, and sooner shown their abatement. Its reading is easier and more accurate at sea."
Letters since received from Mr. Moreton from Labuan are full of gratitude for his safe arrival, and hope for the success of his present work. He was received most cordially by the Governor, whose guest he was to be until he could find accommodation for himself and family, or, as he seemed to think he would have to do, until he could build himself a house.
The contents of this little book were (as will be seen by the Introduction) first delivered as an Address in several parishes in England. At Romford, I know that it made a deep, and I trust lasting impression on all the hearers. That such was the case in other parishes there is no reason to doubt. The difficulties and hardships of a missionary's life, so apparent, and yet so humbly related, as compared with those of the clergy at home, made us all think more lightly of our own labours and difficulties. The account of the sad deprivation of the Church's rites and ordinances, which Mr. Moreton describes as being so deeply felt by some of his flock, must have made, and, I know, did make many of his hearers feel a higher appreciation of those blessings which, from the fact of their being always at hand, are liable to be lightly regarded. The faith and trust on the Providence and directing hand of God which carried him through all difficulties, and made him take a cheerful view of the future success of missionary labour, must teach us all a lesson of faith and perseverance, reminding us that we are not to be discouraged, even though we can see no apparent fruit of our labours.
The map and other illustrations, as well as the MS., were begun and completed by Mr. Moreton while at sea, and this fact would afford sufficient apology (were it needed) for any defects in style or delineation, the stormy latitudes south of the Cape not being conductive to the steadiness for the accurate performance of such designs.
In my frequent conversations with Mr. Moreton, before his sailing for Labuan, he often spoke of the comfort it had been to him, and would always be, if when abroad he could think of his brother Churchmen in England, offering up the same prayers of our beautiful liturgy at the same time, to the same God, as he and his flock were doing in a distant land. This thought he has still uppermost in his mind, as will be seen from the following passage from one of his letters: "When (please God we get safe to the end) I write you from Labuan, I will tell you my times for service. It will always be as it has been on the voyage, of deep interest to me, to consider the ties of yours in England. There will be seven hours and forty minutes' difference on our time, and judging by Mrs. McDougall's account of Sarawak, it is likely we shall be at our evening prayers, when you are at 11 a.m. service on Sunday."
I will add no further remarks of my own either upon the book or the Author, but commend it on its own merits to the regard of the reading public generally, and particularly to that of the large, and happily fast increasing class, who take a lively and practical interest in affairs of the Church abroad.
S. W. P.
The narrative and observations presented in this little book are an extension of an Address delivered at St. James's, Piccadilly, at Hursley, at St. Peter's, Rochester, and on several occasions in the parish of Romford, Essex.
The kindness with which the Address was received, and the interest it excited, have suggested to me the design of putting it into writing and offering it for general perusal. I do so in the hope of supplying information concerning missionary work in an English colony, of a different character from that given in the Reports of Societies, but at the same time such as will show something of what is being effected through one of them, and what need there is of their continued and extended agency. Indeed, I will confess, it is my hope that this little book may contribute something to satisfy the reasonable requirement of those supporters of the Church's Missions whose feeling was very ably expressed in an editorial article of the "Times" newspaper more than a year ago.
Being now in no way connected with any society, further that as a contributor to the funds of one, my testimony will be accepted as independent, and, I trust, faithful; and the more so because it is prepared and published without any notice of my intention having been given to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, whose work in the mission once committed to my care is here related.
Much apology should be offered for the faults of my composition. They may, I fear, be deemed the result of carelessness. These pages were begun and completed for the press amid the discomforts and interruptions of a voyage at sea. Respect for my readers, and (if I may mention it) regard for my own ease, would have required me to wait for the convenience of writing on shore, but that it seems likely that my work in Labuan, whither I am now proceeding, will not for a long time afford me leisure for such an occupation.
If the facts here narrated are not of sufficient value to be accepted and regarded for their own sake, I can only beg to be pardoned in consideration of my purpose.
Barque "Eleanor Dixon,"
Indian Ocean, lat.40 degrees S, long.69 degrees E.
LIFE AND WORK
NEWFOUNDLAND. ITS CLIMATE, &c.
The extreme cold and almost perpetual fogs of Newfoundland are the most known, and to very many persons in England almost the only known, particulars respecting that country. Some reason for them both may be required, especially for the former, when it is observed that Newfoundland lies in a more southern latitude than much warmer countries in Europe. Greenspond, the chief place of my experience and work, is nearly 125 miles south of the parallel of London, yet there a winter in which the thermometer does not descend below zero is very unusual, and in my experience it has been sometimes as low as 22 degrees, and once, I believe, 24 degrees. Eight degrees below zero is a depth often reached. St. John's, the capital, is more than 100 miles yet further south, and still there the cold of winter is often near the same extreme.
There are concurring causes for this rigour of climate. A chief one which presents itself to my own observation, and is, perhaps, alone sufficient to account for it, is the flow of the southerly current from Baffin's Sea, along the Labrador shore, and by the coast of Newfoundland, and still southward, till augmented by another current from the Greenland shore, it meets the warm "gulf stream", which is thus diverted from its northerly tendency and turned westward, to benefit our many ways more favoured England.
I believe it is the meeting of these opposing hot and cold streams which disengages from the waters so much vapour, as to keep at least a part of Newfoundland enveloped in continual fog. It will be anticipated from this account that the southern parts of the country suffer most from the chill fog blast. In St. John's, a wind from sea does not fail to bring in volumes of vapour, which often hang for long seasons over the whole place, totally obscuring the sun and making the aspect every where gloomy, till, when the cheerful sunlight re-appears, it is matter of quite earnest congratulation. The discomfort of this foggy gloom, depressing the spirits, and relaxing the whole human system, can be readily imagined. Its dangers to the mariner are almost as manifest, and need not be dwelt upon here. But it is an error to think of the whole Island as thus mantled with vapour. In Greenspond, comparatively little inconvenience is found from it, and one must suppose that the more remote a place is situated from the meeting of the waters, the freer it will be from the fog blast. Long-continued wind from the south will bring the fog to any part of that coast in due time, but it has seemed to me less dense, and certainly less frequent, and less enduring, in his visits to Greenspond than to other parts of the Island. Throughout the brief summer this cold vapour is present a short distance off the coast, and frequently rolling in upon the southern shores. In winter it is of course condensed, and it comes to land in form of snow, hail, or rain.
The heat of summer is often very great. Once I saw the mercury rise to 136 degrees in the sun, and at some other times when I had not opportunity to observe the thermometer, the heat I experienced must have been about the same degree. When the wind blows from the land, flows often come down the bays so warm as to be felt scorching and oppressive. These are but a few minutes' duration. But within an hour the extreme of heat is exchanged for raw damp cold, requiring the use of a great coat out of doors, and a fire within if the wind veer in from seaward. I have been sailing in some small boat to distant parts of my mission, when the heat and glowing sunshine during the first half of the day have swelled and blistered my face, and the sultry air has impelled the fisherman who were with me to lie down on the ballast rocks or in the cuddy to sleep, leaving the care of the boat upon my hands, and almost suddenly the cold sea breeze has reached us, bringing with it the never-failing mist, and my little company at once were glad to don their heavy reefers' jackets, and be stirring in any possible way to recover their lost warmth. Under some circumstances this change proves peculiarly trying. An instance from one of my journals will suffice. Having one day been called to visit a station in my mission, comprising five nearly adjacent Islands, I avail myself, as usually I did on such occasions, of the opportunity to visit most of the families there, and to hold service on their church. This was necessary, for, as will be seen hereafter, the mission being very large and scattered, my visits to each station were sadly few, and therefore every opportunity was the more precious, and to be made the most of both by the flock and by myself. At this time, then, on a day of great heat, I sculled myself in a punt alone from shore to shore of the several Islands, visiting many families while the congregation was assembling in their church. Heated and tired I went to the little building, and said the full Morning Service, with several Baptisms, a Sermon, and the Holy Communion. From the church I crossed the water to another Island to get a very hurried dinner in a very small hot room, and in the same room to give private Baptism to two infants, and the Holy Communion to an infirm person with her friends. Direct from these duties, while feeling both fatigue and heat, I was hurried into a small open boat to sail through the raw south-cast wind and fog, a two hours' passage to Greenspond, experiencing a sudden change from too great exertion to complete inaction, and a fall of about 40 degrees in the temperature.
Yet fine days in Newfoundland, both in summer and winter, are fine indeed, and for the time truly healthful and exhilarating. The land breezes of the former season are sweet with the odours of the woods. The air then and in the frosts of winter is dry and clear, and the skies appear most beautiful blue. The starry heavens seen through so clear an atmosphere are exceedingly magnificent, and very often there is also the splendour of the aurora borealis. Even the fog often occasions appearances of peculiar beauty on mock suns and solar haloes of many combinations by day, and lunar rainbows and haloes by night.
The severity of the winter frosts will best be appreciated from a account of some of its effects as I have experienced it.
All the ground freezes far below the surface, so that when late in May I began to dig my garden, the spade would turn up blocks of ice at a little more than half a spade's depth. This freezing of the earth uplifts the shores upon which the largest buildings rest, and thus the floors are thrown out of the level, and often the doors cannot be closed until they have been hung afresh or otherwise altered. On very cold nights the shrinking of all the timbers on wooden houses causes a succession of reports like the booming of heavy gums, often continued for several hours. I remember well the alarm I suffered when first I heard this in my own house. It was very late, and I was alone, with two or three hours' work in writing before me, which I was anxious to finish. Suddenly the dead silence of my room was broken by a heavy thump, as of a large timber thrown against the wall before me. I got up and looked out. It was a splendid night, the moon shone brightly above, and the snow and ice spread every where below, making every thing as visible as in the day.
All was still, and almost awfully quiet. In those clear cold night you conceive that if a pin were dropped a hundred feet distant you must hear it. I returned within doors and resumed my writing, and at once the thump against the opposite wall was repeated; then one came by my side; two on the other side , or behind me; a volley; silence for a time, and then again one. I knew no cause for such sounds, and my nerves were so shaken that I could write no more. I went to bed, but not to sleep, for the cannonade continued. At last, words recurred to my mind which a neighbour had used lately, that "on frosty nights the house would snap like guns." It was then, I knew, a natural effect of the frost which had thus disturbed me, and thankful for the recollection I sank to sleep.
Often the cold renders it almost impossible to sleep. Many such nights have I lain in more than semi-consciousness throughout; my feet aching; my nose positively smarting In spite, or perhaps rather in consequence, of frequent rubbings. Your breadth congeals In a thin casing of ice upon your sheet and pillow, and upon any change of your position this dabs most uncomfortably upon your cheeks. A remedy which I sometimes used, and always found effectual, was to rise from bed and run twice or thrice with bare feet upon the still colder floor. This excites circulation, and soon a glow of warmth is felt which enables you to sleep.
When writing it was necessary for me to keep my ink glass constantly upon the hob or in the fender; and the ink in my pen would freeze so as to oblige me at every second line or oftener to hold it to thaw by the fire.
No kinds of food can be kept from frost, except in cellars, which are built with earthen walls four feet in thickness. This, in a place like Greenspond where no butcher's meat could be brought in winter, was in one respect rather a convenience, for it was usual to get beef from St.John's by the latest vessel before winter, and hanging it in some store or outhouse, where it would continue nearly uniformly frozen, to cleave or saw off a joint as we wanted it. Meat and bone alike required the saw and the hatchet.
The freezing of bread is as inconvenient as can be supposed, and many expedients are used to prevent it. The cellars are not suitable for this purpose because of their moldy atmosphere. My first discovery of one very common mode of obviating this inconvenience was unpleasant enough. I was travelling to visit some of the many stations of my mission, and on my way stopped at a small island to hold divine service in a fisherman's house, for himself and his neighbours. After the service his mother asked me to take some tea before I went on my journey, and I gladly agreed to do so. While cutting bread and butter for me, my hostess complained of the difficulty of keeping the bread thawed, "and yet," she said, "I put the loaf in the bed, and wrap it up close as soon as ever the boys turn out ." Alas for a weak stomach ! However it was `that' food or none for me then, and I had to overcome all qualms. Little did I suspect that in my own house any such mode was used. One night, however, near the same time my brother, who had lately come to me from England, wanted supper in my absence. The two servant girls were gone to bed, and upon searching the pantry for himself he found no bread. In the morning plenty was on the breakfast table, and he asked how it was that none was to found the night before. The girl's reply was, "O, sir, we always wrap up the bread and place it in the foot of our bed at night."
I believe it is a common practice of the fisherman's wives to keep their leaven tied in a small bag in the bed all the winter.
Another circumstance which came under my notice will also serve to illustrate the extreme severity of the cold. There was in my parlour a brick-built closet, adjoining both the parlour and kitchen fire-places, and supposed to be warmed by them. In this closet was the wine for Holy Communion. One Sunday morning I looked to see whether the wine was put out ready for use that day, and found it then in proper condition. An hour after, when I went to take it thence to the church, it was so frozen as thick as fruit jelly, and could not be poured out.
Milk freezes solid, and we commonly cut it into pieces in the jug for use at the table.
If any coffee overflow your cup, it will quickly freeze in the saucer; so that upon raising the cup to drink its saucer is lifted with it.
The door handles, fire-irons, and all other metal that you touch cling to your hand, and will tear off the skin if you too quickly relax your hold. The grasp must be continued till some warmth is communicated from your hand to the frozen metal.
The horses at work on the roads have icicles many inches long pendent from the hair on their nostrils; and something approaching to the same inconvenience often happens very unpleasantly, and even painfully, to human travellers.
The worst effect of frost is frost-burning of the features, the limbs, or, as it sometimes happens, the whole person. The last case is fatal. Few persons that live much out of doors in Newfoundland wholly escape this evil. A few moments' exposure sometimes suffices to produce a burn of slight character; as to myself, it has happened, my hands have been burnt in the brief act of tying my cap. My ears were many times burnt. In such a case the affected part soon recovers feeling, becomes tender for a day or two, then sheds the skin, and no mark is left. A schoolmaster at one of my stations had lost great part of both hands and feet, owing to his being overtaken and out wearied in a storm. Aged people, having but languid circulation, are liable to frost-burning in their beds. A very distressing case of this kind lately came under my own observation. It is not usual for people to travel alone, from fear of this burning. The affection is attended by no sensation informing the sufferer what has happened. Your nose perhaps, or another feature, becomes suddenly tallowy white. If you have a companion, he tells you of your misfortune, and by proper means you restore circulation. But if no one sees the mischief, it proceeds, and soon after you recover warmth you will lose the affected feature by sloughing; and though nature after long suffering will skin over the maimed member, it will not restore the lost portion. A frost-burn seems more difficult of healing than any other sore. My own infant child was for many months a sufferer in this way, though happily with no worse consequence than a scar on her foot. A few years ago, in the month of April, two men and two boys went out from Greenspond in a punt to shoot birds and seals. The drift-ice was then floating near the shore. An offshore breeze in the evening kept these poor man out, and drove them away with the ice. One of the men, who was aged, and the two boys after at time, sank exhausted and benumbed to sleep, and in sleep their spirits passed away, for their companion, upon their not awakening, discovered that they were dead . He kept his energy better, and when, after (I think) three days' and nights' exposure, he was near succumbing, he had the good fortune to see a sleeping seal, which he managed to reach and kill. He sucked its warm blood, and was reinvigorated. For a week he remained out in horrible loneliness, keeping his punt under the lee of the ice for shelter from sea and wind. At the end of that time a vessel picked him up and carried him to St.John's. His feet were burnt, and he suffered long and severely, till a surgeon cut them both off near the instep. he still lives, and walks and works with much less inconvenience that would be supposed.
A crew of eight men, wrecked in an English vessel by meeting a strip of ice near the Newfoundland coast, were brought into Greenspond in 1852 after eight days' exposure. All were burnt, and six of them had to lose limbs or parts of limbs. I was engaged in assisting the doctor in operating upon the worst sufferer, who had to lose by the knife all his fingers, one thumb, and both his legs.
Both the fog and the frost then, as well as many other circumstances of life in Newfoundland, are sufficiently disagreeable. Some things narrated hereafter may seem to those who love ease more formidable discouragements than all that has yet been told. Yet young and healthy men, fond of work and eager for adventure, will not complain of a few years spent in such a country. Most men know the pleasure if voluntarily enduring hardship and braving danger, and they who in such a spirit come to Newfoundland find positive enjoyment for a time. Sportsmen and men of science visit the country, and in their respective pursuits necessarily bear rough living and face danger, and are far from complaining of it afterwards. The minister of Christ in such a field has, all men know, much more to impel and to sustain him; and may hope, when he retires, to have a far more delightful retrospect. `Too long continuance' in hard living and heavy labour in my own case truly made duty become toilsome, and I may almost say life wearisome. But I look back and remember, that at first, in fighting against the peculiar hardships of climate, I found delight, such as perhaps the young mariner knows in battling with the breeze and stormy seas: in multifarious (such as God granted me) which longed to be employed: in travelling through strange and wild scenes, and mingling at times familiarly with people scarcely less strange and uncultivated, my love for adventure was gratified. And if this were all that could be said, it were enough to forbid one's complaining of an abode there, if its duration were not protracted too long, for natural powers. I say nothing of the bliss of loving and being loved, of ministering good things and seeing them effectual, only because of this I cannot speak adequately.
The mission of Greenspond, to which I was appointed in October 1849, was in most particulars the largest mission in the diocese of Newfoundland1. Extending along seventy miles of coast, and requiring a journey or voyage of about two hundred miles to visit all its stations in one circuit, commenced and ended at the missionary's house on Greenspond Island, it comprised twenty-three distinct places, each needing distinct visits and ministrations, and containing a population of 3700 persons, of whom more than 3200 were my own flock. A friend to whom I lately described the mission fitly named it a little diocese. It is strangely, if I may not say happily, appropriate that a charge, which so overtaxes the missionary's energies, has for its remotest station in one direction Bloody Bay, and at its opposite extremity Deadman's Point. With only two of three exceptions, each of its several stations was a cluster of islands; and the people, all save some half-dozen persons in its principal place, were fisherman and their families. The fisherman prefer to live upon any barely habitable rock near the fishing grounds2, rather than upon more pleasant, and in many respects more desirable spots on the main shore. This chosen convenience for fishing involves inconvenience for almost every other purpose. The soil, which but in part covers these rock islands, is swampy turf. No trees grow upon them either to adorn the scene, to shelter the dwellings, or to supply fuel. The gardens are potato and cabbage grounds only. Upon many of them no water can be got but that which drains from the swamps, coloured like tea. In Greenspond and other places the water from this source at times becomes scarce, or even altogether fails. People then gather carefully all the water which can be found in the hollows of rocks after rain, which is named "white water;" and when in summer an iceberg grounds near the land, the smaller fragments are fetched ashore to be thawed, and the water is much valued. On these occasions a bucketful of this Arctic water was often sent to the clergyman by some poor neighbour, and it was counted by both giver and receiver no mean gift. Once when returning from a visit to my brother at King's Cove, where water was good, I brought with me to Greenspond a two-gallon jar full, and so much was this treat valued, that, by doling out a measured draught to Mrs. Moreton and myself daily, it was made to last us three weeks. In winter, unless there is an early fall of snow to keep the ground from frost, the supply of swamp water if stopped, and ice or snow has to be melted for all domestic uses.
Scarcely any one of the many inconveniences which arise to the inhabitants of such places is more painful, than the want of ground of sufficient extent and suitable for the burial of the dead. An old graveyard in Greenspond, now no longer used, had certainly sufficient depth of swamp for the purpose, but it was upon the water's edge, and the ice, which in winter formed upon its banks, foundered in large masses in the spring every year, and carried with it into the sea portions of the soil, till at length many graves were wholly lost. I have seen there three coffins open at one time, their mouldering contents being washed away by the tide. My Pre-decessor in the mission made much effort to correct, as far as possible, this sad and painful outrage on human feeling by procuring a new burial ground, the best, I believe, that could be got. But where this had little depth, the graves when dug were in very short time nearly filled with water. The water was baled out when at the time of the funeral the corpse was brought to the grave, but I have seen the coffin of an adult person float and careen before the prayers were ended. Where the ground was dry it was shoal, or was bare rock only, and sods of turf had to be brought in to build a grave above the natural surface. Once I remembered burying a corpse, by laying it upon a rock above ground to be thus walled in and covered. It was not very uncommon for a dug grave to be less in depth than the coffin.
There are yet worse evils attaching to these ill-situated habitations. It is manifest that neither doctors, schoolmasters, nor clergymen can be maintained in sufficient number to supply the needs of all these places. And the labour of one person who in either the first or last-named capacity has the whole care of them, is immensely more toilsome and burdensome than the charge of the same number of persons in one town would be. The simultaneous calls and requirements of widely-separated places in my mission were often most perplexing and painful to me; so much so, that I sometimes should meet persons then in Greenspond on some business, who would entreat me to go forthwith, or name a time for going, a voyage to their distant places, while my duties in other stations were claiming my presence.
The visits of a clergyman are really and earnestly desired and valued by the poor secluded dwellers upon these isolated places, and their words of regret, and sometimes reproach, for the infrequency of my visits were truly touching and hard to be borne. No less affecting was the gentleness and consideration of some who in every way proved their value for my ministrations; and for such meager services as I could render them were truly thankful, and cheerfully forward to serve me in return. None but occupations could well know what manifold cares and occupations my charge imposed upon me, and one fears it must have seemed in the sight of the flock a scant and unloving regard which brought me to some of my stations but thrice or twice, or even once, in twelve months. Some places, alas! remained even longer unvisited.
The missionary's residence is rightly fixed on Greenspond Island, that being the largest and principal place in his mission, and nearly central. For the purposes of trade this place is the capital of a very extended circuit. Here are two large branch houses of London and Poole merchants, to which the people of all parts of the neighbouring shore resort for supplies of every kind. Every want of the fisherman's life is here anticipated and provided for, and though some men prefer to go yearly to St.John's for their chief purchases, yet for small or casual needs they all frequently come to Greenspond. Here therefore the clergyman has opportunity for some intercourse with all his flock, and by this means he may obtain and keep a hold upon the affections even of those people whom he careth for their souls, and receive thankfully any word of counsel and instruction. They truly value the ordinances of the Church: perhaps the very infrequency of their opportunities tends to bring out this feeling in some minds. My ministrations at the several stations away from Greenspond were almost always upon working days, yet the people did not fail to attend the services well except when they happened at some time of usual pressure of work. The inhabitants of places I could not visit came, often with great inconvenience to themselves, long distances by water, bringing their babies with sponsors to me for Baptism.
Greenspond is also well-known and much used harbour of refuge, and not seldom the clergyman finds occasion for very interesting and important communication with the many strangers who, with their vessels, remain here often for days together waiting for favourable winds. Sometimes the people availed themselves of the daily prayers at the church, and some received books and tracts from me. It seemed uncommon feeling with them that in a strange place they might reckon upon finding the clergyman concerned for them, and ready to bid them God speed. By these means I have had the people of some places far remote from any mission of the Church, and never, as far as I could learn, visited by any clergyman.
In Greenspond alone there are a few persons in position and education superior to the fishermen. There are the merchant's agents, the collector of the customs, the doctor, and the schoolmaster. All the people throughout the mission, except the Romanists, are English, or descendants of English settlers, mostly from Hampshire and Dorsetshire. Coming, when they where yet boys, from farm labour at home, they brought little learning with them, and some who once could read and write soon lost their knowledge. Schools supported by the local government, and by the Newfoundland School Society, give instruction to the young for a very small payment, and without payment if required; but the register of marriages, a fair test, shows that still very few persons are able to write their names compared with the number of those who, either as principals or witnesses, make their x3
From many causes the people generally are much altered in temper and bearing from the class in England to which they belong. They have not the benefit of living near, and depending upon, persons of higher birth, wealth, and education. The three of our persons of superior position and education in the principal settlement, are there in consequence of the presence of the fisherman upon the shore, and expressly for his purposes; and he well knows, for no concealment of the fact is or need to be made, that they are there only for the sake of salary of fees, and would greatly prefer to live elsewhere. It is to be expected, then, that the fishermen will be largely possessed with a feeling of his own importance. Indeed, he regards these persons as directly or indirectly maintained by himself. The clergyman too is known to be receiving a salary from the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel for his living among and serving them, and it is not to be wondered at, if unrefined minds do not conceive, or cannot appreciate a higher motive for his doing so. It is very generally thought of him that he would never leave England to dwell among them if it were not "worth his while," i.e. if the situation did not confer some worldly gain to attract him. Protesting against this notion is of very little avail in correcting it, and the clergyman acts unwisely in appearing too much concerned about it. It is part of his cross, and so to be borne patiently. One might think that the fact of the smallness of his salary from the Society4, being well known, would be sufficient to exclude this mean thought; but experience has proved the contrary. A further mischievous conceit of this matter is still prevalent with many of the people in spite of much effort that has been made to remove it: namely, that the Society is but a branch of the national government, and its funds derived from the taxes. Hence some men of my flock have plainly told me that they indirectly maintained the clergymen, though they were never contributors to his yearly collection of dues. These causes will account for the clergyman's position also being very different from that held by his brethren in England.
The fisherman's business engaging him in much bargaining and large money transactions, is a sore trial for his honesty, and even when that stands the proof, a hard and greedy spirit, the "love of money," an unlovely and unloving temper, is the too sure consequence. Men who in England would be receiving daily, or at most weekly, wages of only too easy calculation, are in Newfoundland at one time taking upon credit from a merchant a whole summer's or winter's supplies at once; at another time arranging with him the terms upon which he receives from them the whole produce of that season's labour. It can easily be supposed how much room there is here for the practice of low cunning and petty scheming, and what an influence this has upon the poor people's general character5
Having complete command of their time, these people are of a strange imperturbable habit. Unaccustomed to move at other men's bidding, they are hardly to be excited to action unless impelled by their own perception of need. "When I see my own time," is a phrase continually in their mouths. Their very look betrays this feeling; and unless when for the moment they are eager after some advantage, their gait and every action seems possessed with a dignity, which would be ludicrous if it were not the token of so hurtful a temper. This is a chief obstacle to the missionary's work amongst them. Nothing is more painfully imprinted in my remembrance than the long-continued effort it cost me to surmount this, before the accomplishment of any work for their good.
Closely allied with this, indeed another indication of the same tone of mind, is a studied independent bearing, which appears upon almost all occasions. A poor man whom you hire for high wages will say when you engage him, that he will do the work "to oblige you."
Free and intrusive manners are very general and very unpleasant, but are seldom meant to be offensive. Men will enter your house unasked to light their pipes at your kitchen fire, and perhaps sit down to smoke and spit. Once Mrs. Moreton was surprised by a man thus entering her parlour, where she was sitting alone. he said no word, but coolly lit his pipe at the fire, and walked out again smoking it6. This degree of boldness, however, is not usual, and the persons mostly guilty of it were not members of my flock, but strangers in the harbour.
I have now named some of the most prominent faults developed by circumstances in the character of these quondam Dorsetshire and Hampshire labourers. I have dwelt upon them very unwilling, and only for the purpose of showing with what manner of people the missionary has to work, let me turn to subjects freer from painful thought.
WORDS AND PHRASES PECULIAR TO NEWFOUNDLAND
It may be interesting to my readers to note some words and phrases commonly used by my people, which are either obsolete in England or of Newfoundland Origin. Some pure Saxon words will be found in my list, and some easily traceable corruptions or misapplications; but for others it would be hard to account. I have placed the meaning after each word, with sometimes a further illustration of its use.
Ballicadoes. Barricades. The banks of ice which form upon all water-washed rocks and shores in winter.
Accommodation. Recommendation. A person of any bad repute is said to have a bad accommodation.
Gulch. A mountain Gorge, or ravine; also any small fissure or crevice among rocks.
Dwigh. A short shower or storm, whether of rain, hail, or snow.
Spell. A time of continuance at labour, or a time of rest. Short distances are in common speech measured by spells: thus, "two shoulder spells" is the distance a man would ordinarily carry a burden on his shoulders, resting once in the midst.
Turn. A burden, As much as a man will carry at one time.
Charm. Pronounces cherm. A chant or song.
Pinbone. The hip-bone.
Kechhorn. The swallow. Eve's apple.
Soil. A mispronunciation of seal.
Ructions. An insurrection. Any popular disturbance.
Reerah. Any uproarious noise.
Illumination. A display of flags.
Ram. A male cat. The male sheep is called a buck. A person speaking to me of her cat, regretted that she could keep none of her kittens, "because Uncle Joe's ram always eats them." As sheep were kept there, I understood the kitten-eater to be one of them, and felt due disgust for ram-mutton, especially of Uncle Joe's rearing.
Human cry. Hue and cry.
Cause. Used for consequence, and vice versa. A person lamenting some adverse state of things will say, "I don't know what will be the cause of it," i.e. what will come of it.
Rock. Any stone of whatever size. The boyish trick of throwing stones, is called "shying rocks." A friend of mine found his servant with spectacles on, closely searching through some currants, which he was preparing for a pudding, to get out the minute peddles found among them, and complaining loudly that he had been "best part of an hour picking out the rocks.
More. A root.
Tucken-mores. Small low-grown shrubs and creeping plants. I beg to offer a conjecture of this word's proper spelling and original use. I suppose it to be "tugging-more;" so named as capable of being cleared off the land by pulling up, or tugging with the hand; while the larger mores of trees have to be got out by digging and much labour.
Obedience. Obeisance. Children are enjoined to "make their obedience," which they do by making a bow. Crabbed. Precociously knowing.
Horrid. Wonderful, but not necessarily horrid in the usual acceptation. A man, after whose "crabbed" little girl I was inquiring, replied to my question, whether the child grew fast, "Grows, sir! Oh, she grows horrid."
Suant. Well continued, without irregularities. Spoken of any work or building in which the lines are true and unbroken.
Airsome. Cold, fresh and bracing.
Clever. Large, stout. A "clever man' is a large strong man. So a baby, a house, a boat, a cow, any thing animate or inanimate is called clever.
Roach. Coarse. Of large gross growth. Spoken of timber, it seems generally to be meant in disparagement, signifying that it is too free and open grained to be long serviceable: a stunted growth producing harder wood. To whatever it is applied, coarseness of quality is usually intended.
Brough, of brow. Apt to break, as rotten timber.
Breakle, breakly, brockly. Brittle.
Slatterty-sling. Perhaps meaning slatternly sling. An expressive nautical substitute from the English "sixes and sevens," or hither and thither."
Idle. Full of mischievous tricks. It never is used as meaning simply without occupation.
Droll. Odd, unusual. The idea of humour is not attached to the word. A sick person describing his feelings will say, "I seems terrible droll." When trying to show a servant some proper method of doing work, she will tell you she is "not used to them droll ways." One of these people, if brought to London, would sat it seemed "a shocking droll place."
Terrible, shocking. Words used as superlatives, as, "a shocking fine day," "a terrible kind man." A man whom I did not happen to meet for a long time after my taking the mission, came one night to a house where I was staying, on purpose to see the new parson. He was noted for much talk, and what is commonly called "spinning yarns." I sat with him till his talking tired me, and I asked to go to bed. When I had gone to my room I heard him tell people of the house, "Well, the parson's a shocking man to talk, it's no use." The last phrase meaning, "it can't be denied."
Loggy. Saturated and heavy with moisture. Often applied in reproachful metaphor to a dull slow person.
Stunned. Dull of apprehension, stupid.
Randevoo. Rendezvous. Any house which is ill regulated, and open to disorderly visitors, is called a Randevoo-house.
Moral. Model. As the model upon which a ship is built.
Ichuly. Puling, weakly.
Dangerous. In danger. When a sick person seems past recovery, he is said to be dangerous; which does not all mean that his sickness is dangerous to his attendants.
Froppish. Fretful. Usually spoken of babes when they are troublesome.
Biddering. Sobbing, and making noise with the lips in crying.
Snackering. Chattering with the teeth.
Venomous. Vehement. To go eagerly and determined to work is to be venomous. So also when wind blows strongly, and seems likely to last ans increase, it is said to "blow venomous." Bloodthirsty. Hot-tempered. Persons will confess themselves bloodthirsty, who would shrink from thoughts of malice and revenge.
Schram'd. Cramped, and clammy cold.
Fraw, hard a fraw. Frozen, hard frozen.
Livier. An inhabitant or liver. One who lives in any place. It is said of any uninhabited place that there are no liviers in it.
Nish. Tender, delicate.
Leary. Sinking with hunger and exhaustion. The feeling of a traveller who needs refreshment.
Proper. Used adverbially, in the sense of really, truly. A very estimable old person, who used to receive and lodge me in her house very kindly when I was travelling in her neighbourhood, came to Greenspond soon after my marriage. After attending Evening Prayer she waited at the door of the church for my coming out. Mrs. Moreton was the last of the congregation to leave the church, and upon her coming to the door my good friend who was about to address her seemed suddenly taken aback, and exclaimed, to my wife's great amusement, "Well, the parson have got a jolly wife to be sure! You'm a proper jolly women, you be."
Numerous. Filled with a large number; as "the room is numerous with people;" "the pantry is numerous with flies."
Number. Much. "I have suffered a number," i.e. I have suffered much (pain).
To Ray. To array. To ray a child is the common for to dress it.
To resolve. To answer. "I cannot resolve you," i.e. I cannot tell you.
Behave, Behave your works, knock off your works, what works! Addressed to noisy children.
To chastise. To rebuke, to admonish. It never means to punish.
Show. (Imperative) Give.
The Women. The usual term for a wife, applied with no disrespectful intention. It certainly sounded displeasing, but was kindly meant, when I was asked by most people, "How d'ye do sir? How's the woman?" In like manner, it was not unfrequently asked of Mrs. Moreton, " Is your man at home?" or, "How's your master?" or, "the master,"
To Heft. To try the weight of any thing.
To Quat. To squat, crush.
To Stud. To think or meditate. "I can't tell, and I can't think, and I can't stud whatever I've done with it.
To Bream; pronounced brim. A nautical term of correct use. To bream a boat is to broom or brush its bottom.
Th is mostly changed to t, or d; and f to v. In foggy weather it is said to be "tick o'vog." "T'vog is dat tick dat you may cut it wid a knife."
S, terminal after a consonant, is changed to a syllable es; as askés, ghostés, priestés, hand-wristés. Frequently t before s is dropped, as topmases, for topmasts.
Sp, terminal, or in the midst of a word, is always transposed. Clasp become claps; hasp, haps; aspen, apsy; crisp, crispey; and so in similar words. Curds are cruds, and curdly is cridly.
Many surnames are altered by an added s. Young becomes Youngs, and the family is called Youngses. So the names Hill, Moore, and others. Edgar is made Egdar.
A certain one, a scattered one, a very nod one. One here and there , few and far between. "A nod one" seems to be an odd one. "Very nod" is a frequent phrase.
I’ll ‘low. I’ll allow. Used as in England we say, “I dare say,” or “I suppose.”
To step aside. To die, depart from life here.
A jacket colder. A very intelligent reading of the thermometer. The climate of the lower end of Greenspond harbour was said to be “a jacket colder” than the upper end, being more exposed. It was common, also, to indicate the degree of a change in weather by this phrase.
Very pretty pastime. A noticeable phrase, on account of its frequently strange application. A man getting a Prayer Book from me to use in his house, in a place where no reader held service and the clergyman’s visits were sadly infrequent, said he was very glad to get it, because “reading the Prayer Book was very pretty pastime on Sundays.” As the saying is. A phrase continually recurring in conversation, when no current saying is quoted or referred to.1
With all the veins of my heart. A profession of cordial willingness.
Alsó. A laconic mode of saying that the speaker’s feeling or opinion is the same as that just before expressed by another person. Probably a low Americanism.
To-morrow or the next day. Any time not far distant2
Nautical phrases are in general use. Gaining any advantage over a man is called “getting to windward of him;” to be in declining circumstances is to be “going to leeward;” prospering is “making headway;” getting any work or business into order for progress is “getting under way;” to live meanly and parsimoniously is to “go very near the wind.”
I have heard but very few proverbs in use amongst the fisherman of Newfoundland. One which I think is very expressive and characteristic I have already cited3 It was generally spoken with sufficiently pertinent application. There was a proverb more often used than any other, of which I must either believe it spoilt by misquotation, or else confess myself too dull to perceive its force: “We must live in hopes, supposing we die in despair.” We have in Newfoundland a saying equivalent to the English one, “He robs Peter to pay Paul,” and the Scotch, “He rives (tears) the kirk to theik (thatch) the choir.” It is, “He sits in one end to the tilt and burns the other.” This could only originate with people accustomed to live in wooden houses, and admirable expresses to their apprehension the folly of shiftless expedients. I once saw the literal fulfilment of this proverb. A poor thriftless family, too lazy to work, actually, while living in the forest, burned parts of one end of their house to warm themselves sitting at the other. Dean Ramsey, in his interesting “Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character,” gives two interpretations of his countrymen’s proverb, “Ruse (praise) the fair day at e’em.” The Dean reads it, “Give thanks at evening for the mercies of the past day;” while a friend whom he cites applies it thus: “Do not praise the day (or the season) till you have seen it closed.” This has reminded me of a saying repeated to me in Newfoundland, which may be equally approved with Dr. Ramsey’s quotation as he gracefully interprets it, and is far superior to the latter application. It is, “Always praise the bridge that carried you safe over,” The beautiful words of Mr. Keble seem to me at once to interpret this proverb by paraphrase, and to improve its spirit:
“Ready t o give thanks and live
On the least that Heaven may give.”
A fisherman noted for industry and fair success, speaking to me with regret about a friend’s slovenliness and neglect in business, said of himself and his sons, “We only keep above water by dint of stupidity and hard work, and how can he expect to thrive?” The words in italics, thought I have not heard them since or before, cling to my memory as expressing with the pithy curtness of a proverb the means of many a dull plodding man’s success, – not ready wit, but a principle which effects wonders in spite of natural deficiency, – honest industry.
Another very thrifty fisherman used often to say in reproof of profitless talk which hindered work, “Words fill no bags.”
These few proverbs, not, I believe, generally known, seem to me worth noting here for the reason urged by one who a few years since collected the proverbial sayings of his country 4. “If they are not registered, it is possible that they might have died with the tongue from which you took them, and so have been lost for ever.”
A good deal of ready wit and clever repartee is common. An amusing case of the biter bit occurs to me as an instance. It was more innocent of any ill-feeling than sharp retorts are generally. A merchant whom I knew, very fond of joke and banter, heard one of my people name his eldest son’s age, upon which he remarked, “It is possible he is no older? Why, he must have been a great rogue to be so grey-haired already.” The old fisherman, with scarcely so much changed expression as an arch look, quietly replied, “Well, I can hardly think that, or you’d have been grey yourself long years ago.”
Many an amusing anecdote might be told of dull apprehension, which is so like perverse misapprehension and clever evasion, that you cannot be sure of which kind it is. I was told of one of my predecessors in Greenspond, that in trying which much earnestness and labour to correct the sordid temper of an aged parishioner, he cited as an exemplar the martyr Cranmer. “He might have saved his life, John, if he would. All he need do to save himself from the fire would have cost him nothing, but he would not do wrong for any gain. It was only to write his name on a piece of paper, and he would not.” The old man, much interested, exclaimed, “Why, he must have been a proper fool!”
Alas, how often are our words spent to as little purpose! I was once labouring to impress upon a man the duty of the flock to maintain its church and minister, and his won duty in particular to contribute to my yearly collection of dues. He replied that the Society (for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts) maintained me, and that if my salary were not sufficient, the Society was to blame for having reduced it. To exculpate the Society, I asserted the ability of the flock, and showed how much the Society had done in wholly maintaining the mission for so many years, and in that time no less a sum than so much. I now forget the times and sum. My argument resulted only in the man’s astonished exclamation, “My! there’s a sight of money the parsons had.” I had but confirmed him in the common and most unreasonable notion that the parson is a rich man.
My brother, who held the mission of King’s Cove, took a young woman from my flock to be his servant. She was a fair specimen of her class; sufficiently ready and active art work, but very dull to apprehend any instruction in higher things, and very little desirous of learning. My brother took much pains to improve her, chiefly by reading to her and catechizing her before the evening prayers of his family. Her seeming incapacity or indifference, it was hard to say which, was very discouraging, till one evening she said, “If you please, sir, there’s one thing you rad at prayers that I want to ask about.” Delighted at the sawn of intelligence, mu brother inquired her difficulty, but was soon disappointed in learning that her curiosity sought no more than an explanation of the “droll saying” in one of the Psalms, “there is little Benjamin.”
Mu own hopes have sometimes been excited by a request for information, usually prefaced with many apologies for making it: “I hope it’s no harm what I’m going to ask, sir, but I said I’d ask you. Excuse my boldness.” Then came some question about a passage of Scripture. Too commonly it proved to be only an idle inquisitiveness upon some point which could have no bearing upon their faith and practice. I have been taken aside from a journey, and detained in a house by the way, solely to satisfy an inquiry as to who were those sons of God that allied themselves with the daughters of men. One day, while on a journey in my last mission, I saw a woman sitting outside her house, looking very thoughtful over a book which I had lately given her. I stayed to talk to her, and she told me that she was in perplexity about the subject on which she was reading. “I know it’s very stupid of me, sir; but I’m thinking and stud’ing, and I can’t make it out. And I’ve asked Aunt Rachel too, and she’s a very knowledgeable woman, but she can’t resolve me.” The difficulty was first that she could not discover who was the mother of the Blessed Virgin. When I had helped her out of this trouble, she told me next that she could not find out to what tribe and family the Virgin belonged. I said, “The tribe of Judah, and in the house of David.” “Yes sir, I know it’s said she was of the house and the lashens 5 of David, but what I can’t find out is which of Judah’s sons she came of.” It was now time to point out to her the unprofitableness of such inquires, and direct her to more useful thoughts, which ended our conversation.
The class of “knowledgeable persons” to which Aunt Rachel belonged is a numerous and troublesome one. She, poor woman, was one of the least offensive. I dare say there is one or more of such persons in every flock. Not one of the many little communities in my mission was free from them; and too often they are the “dead flies (which) cause the ointment of the apothecary to stink.” Their intention is not always mischievous, but their action is invariably such. Generally they are persons who can read a little, and perhaps write, and are largely possessed with self-conceit. With little sense of modesty and meekness they proclaim on every side their superior knowledge and perception, and are often valued at their own estimation by their more humble-minded neighbours. Such persons make it their especial province to interpret Scripture; and if their view differ from an exposition given by their clergyman, this difference does but show their skull and capacity to teach. A person of this character once boosted to me of an opportunity he had lately taken to show himself vastly better informed than a neighbour whom I fear he despised. He had convinced his ill-taught friend that there was in the Bible such a name for a boy as Brazilian. I did not gratify the man by declaring that I knew no such name, but satisfied myself that he had misread the name Barzillai.
The practice of choosing unusual names for children from Holy Scriptures, or from other books, is well known amongst the poor every where. My people in Newfoundland were much given to it, and often my upmost power of conjecture or invention was tried to find and give the proper names to infants at their baptism. The word spoken by the sponsors was often unlike any known name, and when with difficulty I discovered what it was intended for, it sometimes proved so objectionable as to oblige me to require a substitute. I was asked to name one child Lo Ruhamah 6, and its mother was much displeased that I disliked her choice. In her family there had been both this name and Lo Ammi. Jerusha, Abi, Keren-Happuch, and other equally unusual names from Scripture were often given. The names of evil characters were as much in request as those of holy persons, and it may be supposed the parents could not appreciate the feeling which objected to them. The choice made from other sources was sometimes more puzzling. Idhn_a was the name appointed by one man to be given to his child. The mother rightly hesitated to reject his choice in his absence, so I taxed my memory to find the name intended, and after much conjecture adopted Eugenia. For one child I changed Hemmony to Hermione. Pertilda was a mis-pronunciation of Matilda, and Familia of Pamela. Diana, a very frequent choice, I rejected as heathen, and substituted Dinah. A woman whom I names Bertha was married years before as Bathsheba, while the register of her baptism gave the name Beershba. Once when entering a baptism, the babe’s mother gave her own name for entry as Blizer. Much puzzled I asked her to spell it. “Well, sir,” she replied “it’s strange that you don’t know it. Why that’s not all my name. I’m Anna Bliza.” This gave me a clue, and I entered her name Annabella Eliza. The process of contraction had been first, Bell Liza and Bliza. One woman asked me to name her child Eeplet, and I discovered the intention to ne Hypolite. The choice was her husband’s, and he was a Frenchman.
Once I found a child bearing the hateful name of Cain. The poor child’s story is painfully interesting. Born of evil parents, it’s father disowned, and its mother abandoned it. The father’s sister took in the outcast and adopted it, and for some times asked me to baptize it. Upon putting the usual question whether the child were already baptized, I discovered first by the hesitation of the sponsors that something was wrong, and then by their plain confession that its grandmother had baptized it, and in fancied appropriateness to its outcast condition named it Cain. But the foster-mother begged that I would neither regard that baptism nor retain the odious name, for the grandmother has acted in an outburst of ill-temper, and the profanity of her act was so gros that the young woman would fain regard it as null. I did as she desired, using the hypothetical form of Baptism, and giving the child a name which was free from objection.
Irregular baptism ministered by all sorts of persons, though rarely by women, is very generally practised amongst the poor people in remote places, which seldom receive a clergyman’s visit and ministeries. The children so baptized are always brought to the missionary when next he comes amongst them, and almost invariably the parents ask him to baptize them. I Have, however, found a very few parents who felt satisfied with the baptism already received, and desired only the reception into the Church.
At services held in dwelling-houses, where no church or school is in being, strange interruptions often arise, not only from the necessary presence of the younger members of the family, and the continuance during the service of some culinary processes, but also from the fact of the poor people’s being unaccustomed to religious assembling, and not being under the peculiar solemn feeling which the very appearance of a scared building before beginning a service I have been disturbed by a woman near me, who intended no offensive familiarity, lifting my surplice to examine it, and remarking aloud upon it. My predecessor was once interrupted in, the midst of his sermon I believe, by the mistress of the house exclaiming to her grandchildren, “Lotte, hook out the lamp7. Jack drive out the dog.”
A poor man in my mission, whilst once reading the Church prayers, and a sermon was appointed, was similarly annoyed by an old woman ones, “My gracious, girls, I’ve forgot the loaf. Julia, go out to the next house and hang on the bakepot.”
THE MISSIONARY AND HIS FLOCK
The Clergyman’s rebuke of an erring parishioner is more often cleverly evaded than rudely or angrily rejected. One is often sent away sad and discomfited by the too ready and matter-of-course sort of assent given to all you say, your words seeming not to touch the sinner with any real feeling. They are not lost, assuredly; but oh, shall they reclaim the soul you love? However, the first case I now relate was not one of intentional repulse. A poor, very untaught young woman had been guilty of an offense for which it as needed that I should rebuke her. Long time passed before I got the opportunity to do so, and she lived among persons who would, I feared, only lead her to think lightly of her fault. At last I did speak to her, and she met my rebuke in a manner which was at once touching from its artless simplicity, and such as to disarm me: dropping a short curtsey, she said, “Yes, sir, bad thing I was to do it, sir, wasn’t I?”
There was a man in my flock, whose general conduct was unsatisfactory and often needing rebuke, and who, though most respectful in manner, seemed in no way corrected by any admonition. I was one day standing by him at his work and speaking upon some common subject, when one of his customary oaths escaped him. Instantly he forestalled the expected rebuke by shaking his head remorsefully, and striking it a revengeful thump with his fist; At the same time interspersing his discourse to me with words of self-reproach, “Bad man, Bill (thump)! What did you say that bad word for (thump)? Bad man!”
The free intercourse and intimacy which must be between the missionary and his people, when he has to spend days and nights as a guest in their houses, often place him in a very strange positions, and bring out some amusing traits of character 1. In the house of a family which always received and lodged me in my journeys to one extremity of my mission, was a very aged woman, the great-grandmother of the children there. She was a strangely taciturn person, and for a very long time I found no way to draw her into conversation. Occupied only in nursing a baby, and uttering almost continually a droning sound to lull her noisy charge to sleep or quietness, she seemed insensible to all that passed, hardly conscious of my presence, and, as far as I could judge, totally indifferent to the services which at each visit I held in the house. At length she proved that she had been so altogether unobservant and regardless.
During one of my visits, bing left alone with me, she broke silence, and here is our conversation, from which there sprang a gratifying, and, I trust, profitable intimacy. “I say, father, how old are you?” “I am twenty-nine.” (She was centenarian.) “Father, have you got any friends?”
“Yes, I’ve a brother, the missionary at King’s Cove.” “Yes, yes, but haven’t you got any friends in England?” “Yes, I have many kind friends in England.” “But do they ever send you any thing?” “O yes, they write letters to me.” “Ah, but don’t they never send you nothing?” her daughter and granddaughter had now come in, and were standing astounded at the poor woman’s loquacity, and shocked at the character of her questions. They tried to silence her, but she protested, “Now it’s no harm what I’m saying, is it, father?” “No, indeed, it’s not.” I begged them not to interrupt her, and she resumed, “Well, now, people’s friends does send ‘em things sometimes, don’t ‘em?” Thus the dialogue proceeded for a little time, greatly amusing me. But more than that, it was the beginning of a free intercourse which enabled me to discover the poor woman’s growing religious feeling and capacity for instruction. At a visit some time after I felt able with much thankfulness to receive her to the Holy Communion.
Very commonly two or three generations of a fisherman’s family are dwelling under one roof. In the summer time, during the fishing season, servant men and women, and sharemen are there also. There were some houses in my mission in which two or three and thirty individuals thus lived together. One fisherman’s house which I often visited, and in which I usually lodged for a night and day or longer, had, among its numerous inmates, five young married women and their children, and I think it was nothing unusual in that house for four cradled to be in requisition at the same time. The oldest inmate was a great-great-grandmother; four generations of her descendants being in the house with her, and her granddaughter’s grandchildren in another house close by2. As all the women and grown children in a fisherman’s household must be almost continually out of doors curing fish in the season, the care of the infants devolves greatly on the aged people who are past labour. It is a hard, not to say cruel tax upon their failing energies, and they have sometimes complained to me very movingly of the worry and distress it caused them. It is said, indeed, to see the evening of life thus disturbed. This was the case both of aged woman I have just now mentioned, and of her whose conversation I have related above. I was once both pained, and yet at the same time provoked to laugh at the efforts I saw this person making to quiet a baby who was squalling vigorously. The poor old nurse sat alone in the sun, rocking her chair vehemently, or in Newfoundland parlance, “venomously,” and with ludicrously brief alternations, was coaxing the squaller, and denuding and flogging it.
Much unaffected simplicity of manner ans childlike teachableness marked the character of some of the best among my people. A very fine old man. From Christchurch in Hampshire, who always seemed to rejoice in an hour’s talk with his minister, one day rose from his seat in the schoolroom of the place where he lived, – that the room was both the church and the school there, – and coming to the deck where I was preparing to read the prayers, began to talk of his knowledge of the New Version of the Psalms. Seeming quite unconscious of heedless of the presence of the assembling congregation, he placed his hands behind him like a boy in class, and repeated to me the whole of the Ninetieth Psalm in verse. In the tenth stanza the sense is incomplete without the following one. The old man, however, made the usual cadence at the words “to eighty we arrive.” without suspension of the incompleteness.
I have spoken of the love of money as an evil too generally prevalent in my flock at Greenspond; but I ever felt in dealing with this evil that they had more sore temptation to it than most men in England experience. Persons of this class at home, and like them little raised by education, are not used to the possession of any store. Most men of wealth in England inherited much, and the increase of their possessions is almost a natural process; parsimony is therefore in them in error, very different in degree from the closeness and hoarding of my fisherman, whose little hoard is the fruit of their own hard labour and scant living. The converse holds equally true. The liberality of most monied men at home is a far easier virtue than that of these poor Newfoundlandmen, and may be in some cases only an exemplification of the proverb that “what easily comes easily goes.” With this consideration in mind be produced of cheerful giving to good used on the part of my late flock, and I would beg my readers to take into account the faults of habit and education which must in their case have been overcome, which I relate to them some of the efforts which have been made by the flock at Greenspond.
The mission owes its establishment, and its maintenance since the appointment of the first clergyman in 1830, to the bounty of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel 3. But twenty years before this there was a strong effort and a large outlay of money on the part of the then small population to obtain and secure to themselves and their children whose religious privileges which had been lost to them by their emigration from England to this desolate country. It is now about fifty years since the people of Greenspond Island agreed together to build a church there, and many of their brethren on the neighbouring small islands helped them 4. They very soon erected a church, a not very suitable building certainly, but very creditable to the religious feeling of those who were thus seeking again the God of their fathers. I say seeking Him Again, for by their own statement it is sadly evident that the whole people were fearfully immoral, and it might be said of them very generally that God was not in all their thoughts. Sunday was observed only as a day for putting in order all the fishing gear used in the previous week or required for the week ensuing. The merchant’ stores were open till mid-day, and the fisherman then took their salt and made other purchases. The clergyman who first had charge of this mission, the Rev. N. A. Caster, had to entreat the master-fishermen to allow their servants time to attend church; and as a proof of how little the honour due to God in His house was felt, I may mention that the run-bottle was passed from hand to hand in the upper gallery of the church during the time of Divine Service.
As various times since this first willing offering, the people of Greenspond have had occasion to spend money for religious uses in large proportion to their means. That first church was twice or three times altered and enlarged, and a rearrangement and improvement of the interior, which was effected by the zeal of the first missionary, was very expensive to the people. Lastly, in the time of my holding of the mission, that church was demolished, and a large and handsome one built at a cost of several hundred pounds, contributed chiefly by the fisherman of the place 5.
But these were, it may be said, only spasmodic efforts, the temporary result of excitement. It is more important to show the existence of a regular systematic self-taxation by the people for their Church’s support. This, I am happy to say, I can do. The clergymen who were my predecessors received a full and sufficient maintenance from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and therefore had not occasion to demand such a large general contributions from their flock as became necessary when on my appointment I received only half the stipend which had been previously provided from the Society 6. Still, from the first, a yearly collection was made by those clergyman, in addition to payments made to the churchwardens for the expenses of the public services in church. As nearly as I could ascertain, the people’s usual and regular contribution were about 45l yearly. In my own time their payments gradually became larger and more general, and the recognition of the duty of the flock to maintain its pastor, slowly and with difficulty, but progressively, gained a hold upon the people’s mind and will. Owing to the heavy expense incurred by them in building their new church, and by reason of a large part of the collection being appropriated by the Diocesan Church Society to the annual payment of readers in my mission, the average of my own receipts in augmentation of my stipend during ten years was but 20l per annum. Upon the completion of the church, however, an immediate effort was made by the flock to correct this deficiency of my stipend, and an additional quarterly collection for charitable uses was willingly undertaken 7. At length, upon the appointment of my successor in the mission in June 1860, the people voluntarily accepted the entire burden of their clergyman’s maintenance, and released the venerable Society from any longer continuance of its bounty to them 8. The history of the several small churches built in other stations of the mission is in many particulars similar to what I have related of that on Greenspond Island. They were the smaller offerings to God’s glory of smaller flocks; but I doubt not they were as large in proportion to the means of the builders, and were the fruits and evidence of a like spirit.
On Pinchard’s Islands the first church was a store, purchased and dedicated by the people to its sacred use. It was consecrated, I believe, by the late Bishop Inglis of Nova Scotia. Old and unsuitable from the first period of its adaption, it had become, when I saw it, almost a ruin. The building of a handsome and substantial new church for this flock was the first work of it kind committed to me. One fishing crew gave more than 70l towards it; anther 50l, and the rest in like proportion to their means. Among the contributors was one man, now no more on earth, whom I have reason especially to remember as a bright example of faith and good deeds. He, with his sons, purchased a large vessel for the sealing voyage and the Labrador fishery, and this for some time afterwards obliged him to practise very careful economy. He had already given money freely to assist the building. Upon my first seeing him after his purchase he promised to give 10l more, if the vessel were successful on her first voyage. Meeting me again a few days after, he referred to his recent promise, and retracted the terms; “For,” said he, “I have the 10l now by me, and if I keep it, and our vessel does badly, I shall certainly be tempted to spend it, and let the church go short. You shall therefore have it now at once.”
The story of the origin of the church at Swaine’s Island, is to me the most interesting of all.
The original settlers on this very small place were two Englishmen in great poverty, and with large families to maintain.. Each kept a fishing-boat, manned by hired servants or sharemen, their own sons being too young for work 9. For a long time their struggle for life was a hard one, and their success was not at the first equal. The man whose crew first began to prosper was from Ringwood in Hampshire. He left home young without knowledge of writing and reading. But despite his ignorance ans long separation from good associations his heart yearned for the church-going habits of his childhood, and his were not idle yearnings 10. One of his fishing crew was an Englishman already advanced in years, who could read fairly. My friend – for in his old age I knew him, and as a friend I love to remember him – my friend said to this servant man, “John, thee canst read. It seems a sad unchristian way for my boys to grow up without learning. Do thee stop ashore and teach the children and I’ll pay thee thy wages as thof 11 thee went in the boat.” John agreed, and undertook also at his master’s desire to read the Church’s prayers in his house every Sunday. The benefit of this teaching and reading was cheerfully extended to the neighbour’s family. When this had ben some time continued, the author of the arrangement became discontented, and consulted for an improvement with John and his neighbour, who was now to be a partner with him in good work.
The frequent disturbance of the Sunday services in the house, caused by domestic matters, and the presence of fretful infants, determined them to get timber from the forests and build a small church. This was effected, and the building was a few years afterwards visited and consecrated by the Bishop of Nova Scotia, and the Reader was by him duly licensed. Before I left Greenspond this church, grown old and decayed, was taken down, and a new one for larger and better was being erected by the flock, and I believe it is now completed and consecrated.
The person whose endeavours for God’s service and his brethren’s good I have been dwelling upon, is not unjustly reputed a keen and careful dealer, of perhaps too saving habits. Being such, his acts of devotion to God and liberality to man must have cost him the greater effort, and prove the nobler victory over self. I have been privy to many unostentatious acts of charity, which were probably unknown to those who noted and condemned his parsimony. Let me be excused for digressing now and again from this narrative of the history of the Churches, while I adduce one or two instances of his and other such poor men’s benevolence.
An Italian man once visited my mission, seeking help under very distressing circumstances. Some persons gave him a rude rebuff, which he may perhaps have deserved, but which they were not justified in offering. My own impression, after careful consideration, was that his tale was true, and he deserving. By this as it may, the conduct of my aged friend at Swaine’s Island claims admiration. The stranger came to him and offered credentials for examination. The old man could not read them. No person was near with whom he could consult. He reasoned, therefore, with himself thus: “If I give to this man I may help an imposter. My money was earned by hard work, and he may be a worthless vagabond. But again, I have no way to prove his tale false, and know nothing against him but my own suspicion. If I give to him and he is false, I do it innocently, and the sin is wholly his. If I sent him empty away, I may grieve at the greatest day for not feeding the hungry nor caring for the stranger. Yet if I give to jim, and my neighbours discover it, some will not fail to laugh and say that fools and their money are easily parted. Shall I regard God or man? This is, as nearly as I can give it, the sure.” This is, as nearly as I can give it, the old man’s own account to me of his reasoning on the case. He was about to give four dollars (20s) to the stranger, but considering that the money was for use of a traveller, he substituted a sovereign (24s) “because English gold would pass any where.”
A more affecting instance of the same virtue was shown by a poorer and a less instructed man, in a very trying situation. He lived in Cat Harbour, a place which was visited by ne and my predecessors seldom oftener than twice a year. Between those visits no man read any prayers, or attempted any public religious observance of the Lord’s day. In truth, no one there could read sufficiently well to do so. The man whose conduct I am to relate, had gone through a peculiarly hard struggle for life. His family had been a very large one, of which only two children were sons, and able when they grew up to help him. Many a tale of want and labour cheerfully endured has he told me with no word of repining. In his old age he had attained to comfort, and independence, but possessed no store laid by, or as he would express it, he was nothing beforehand. His house lay in the path of all travellers on the shore to and from the northward of my mission, and it was the patriarch of the place, his visitors were many and his hospitality was unfailing. In 1852 his charity was severely tested. About sixty vessels on the sealing voyage, carrying crews averaging about forty men in each vessel, were wrecked or abandoned on the coast of my mission. Many of these crews came ashore to the northward of his dwelling, and making their way overland towards Greenspond, stayed by the way at any house which would receive them and afford refreshment. Several troops of men were entertained at the old man’s house. Still they came, and his wife feared with reason that her household would soon be sorely straitened bu providing food for so many strangers. One crew more came in, and she looked despairingly at her husband. The wrecked party assured her they were the last company coming up the shore; but so others also had spoken, and now she doubted them. She appealed to the old man; “Matthew, what be we to do?” His reply was, “Hang on the kettle, and get some more bread.” The poor women went to their little stock, and returned with five pounds’ weight of bread in her apron – just half of all that remained to her house – and gave it to the strangers, little knowing when her family could get a fresh supply. The Arctic drift-ice was on the coast, close set in buy the east wind; it had been so far weeks past, and might remain for any length of time to come, forbidding all communication with other places. Greenspond and the other settlements near were all equally distressed, having in them more than two thousand strangers, to be supported out of the small store provided for own population only. Happily the good old man and his family were not suffered to want; relief was sent in time, and he has since gone to his reward.
Before I left Greenspond mission, a very good school-house was built in Cat harbour, a the joint expense of the people and the Government Board of Education. The school was in operation and well attended, and the master read divine service publicly in the school-room every Sunday. A happy change this in the circumstances of the place, and in this, I think, no one felt more real and deep satisfaction than the worthy old man I have named. It had been for long years the desire of his heart to see this work carried out, and his pleasure at its completion was something beautiful to observe, though he was now so crippled by hard labour, and enfeebled by age, that he could not even once attend the service. The part performed by the people of Cat Harbour in getting their school-house built, may serve well to show their forwardness to do according to their power for their souls’ good, and to illustrate some of the difficulties which impede missionary work as well as all other labour upon a coast like this.
In October 1855, sixteen men, being one person from every household on Cat harbour, took the two largest boats in the place for a voyage of more than sixty miles to get timber for their proposed school-house. Within a week they cut and conveyed on board the boats more than 180 timbers. Then came bad weather, with strong wind against them on their homeward course, and a very heavy sea off Cape Freels, which they must pass. Three times they attempted to get home, and as often had to bear up and wait. At length, after more that three weeks’ delay, they had to discharge their cargo of timber and lay up their boats in Greenspond for the winter, thus submitting to twelve months’ postponement of the building. The disappointment and difficulty did not spoil their temper, or cool their zeal. At the same time the next year, which was their first season of leisure, they again went after the timber, and on this occasion they succeeded in conveying it to its destination.
In that same season of disasters when the strangers in distress were so charitably entertained out of the scanty store of that good man at Cat Harbour 12, a person a Fair Island as aged as he, but less infirm, performed a labour of brotherly kindness for the relief of two perishing men which deserves to be recorded. The drift-ice, then close set in upon it great numbers of seals, and men, women, and boys from all the settlements upon the shore went out to take them. One day, when very many people from Greenspond were at this work, the wind veered off the shore, and driving away the ice, made it hardly possible for them to return to land. Several persons remained for great part of the night following upon some rocks in much distress, and with great difficulty reached them and brought them home. Two men who had been out since five o’clock the morning previous, altogether failed of getting to any land, and to ward off that fatal lethargy which overtakes persons exposed to extreme cold, they were obliged to continue walking upon the ice throughout the night. They has taken with them in the morning only a little biscuit 13, which was eaten early in the day. In the night they strove to stay their craving stomachs by gnawing ice. For thirty-one hours these two men were upon the ice before their deliverer found them. In the day they had been labouring to get seals, in the night they were enduring the terrors of imminent death. At the end of this time the old man whose kindness I am to speak came upon them lying exhausted upon the ice. They were nearer to Fair Island than to Greenspond, so he determined to get them to his own home. Taking one man upon his back, he carried him a short distance, and setting him down, returned for the other. In this way he continued to carry them for four hours, till finding his strength as well as the daylight failing, he sent home a little boy who was with him to get help. Happily, some young men had at that time returned to Fair island from their day’s work, and they at once launched a punt into a lake of water formed by the separation of the ice from part of the shore, which reached nearly to the place where reached nearly to the place where the poor man were now lying. They came and carried one of the suffers on board their punt and then returned for the other, but just as they came to him hi life departed. Fearing to get themselves into danger by longer delay, the young men left his corpse upon the ice. The aged man who had so laboured to save two fellow-men from perishing, seemed afterwards quite unconscious of having done any thing worthy of notice. Doubtless his deed is therefore more precious in the sight of his Father which seeth in secret 14.
MISSIONARY VISITS AND ADVENTURES
There were a few families in my mission whose position claims peculiar sympathy. They were salmon-fishers, living, by necessity of their occupation each family apart form all neighbours, and secluded more than all other from the Church’s ministrations of grace. A salmon-catcher hires or purchases the exclusive right of fishing, at some brook far up the county, from the merchant who first took possession of it. And there he lives alone, in summer catching and pickling salmon, in winter setting and tending traps for foxes, martens, otters, bears, and other animals whose fur is valuable. If he can, he may, and probably does read the Church’s prayers with his family on Sunday; but so unwearied and dull is life in such isolation, that one of these men who did do observe his religious duties told me he once lost count of the days’, and was for a long time in uncertainly whether he were observing Sunday or another day. One family in which no one was able to read kept the weekly day of rest with pious exactness, but they lamented to me very movingly the wearisomeness of a day in which they would fain be religiously occupied, but could only eat, drink, and sleep, and wish it past. I visited these families as often as I could, but, alas, far too seldom for their need; in some summers once, not at all in winter. No where was my visit more highly valued, and perhaps no where was there more manifest improvement made by the little opportunity afforded. Truly
“Scantness is aye Heaven’s might.”
One of these families consisted only of a man and his wife, both getting aged, and a young man, the women’s son by a former marriage. This couple had married late in like, and had one only child, a daughter; how dear to them in the wilderness, the parents of an only child in an ordinary station of life cannot judge! They could not read, but she was more to them than learning, more than all other society could be. At eight years old she fell sick and died, I believe without the presence of a doctor, and no minister was there to pray with her and console the bereaved parents. This was some years before my first visit to them, but that sore grief was yet very fresh in their hearts, and it was my office to console and instruct them. The affliction was fruitful of good. The father became after a few visits from me a Communicant, and to the last of my acquaintance with him his behaviour seemed to be that of a consistent and earnest Christian.
At my first visit to the house of another salmon-fisher, I formed acquaintance with a venerable man whom I shall ever love to remember. He was an Englishman, father of the fisherman, and was nearly eighty years old, but still very active. His wife, though several years younger, was much more feeble. When I knew them well, the mutual affection of the aged couple, and the reverence and love which the whole family showed towards them, was something beautiful to see. After a respectful greeting at my entrance on his first visit, the old man quietly regarded me awhile, and then exclaimed, “Thank God, I see a Minister in my house once more. It is twelve years since I saw one here.” We talked together, and he soon asked me whether I was in Priests; Orders, and could give him the Lord’s Supper 1. I replied in the affirmative to both questions, and again he thanked God. “For,” said he, “twelve years ago Parson -------- was here, and I wished then to receive it, but he was a deacon and could not give it. Twelve years I’ve waited, sir. But I shall receive it now.” I inquired, with surprise, how he with no instruction had learnt to desire it; and he replied, “I’ve a good instructor her, sir,” showing me a large Common Prayer Book published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. I found that it was his habit every day to retire for an hour or longer to his bedroom with his Bible and Prayer Book, and not merely to read but to really study them. And the Church’s exhortations in the Communion Office had been, under God’s direction, a sufficient guide to the desire and the preparation for the Lord’s table . He seemed to regard the Sacrament truly as a help and means to holy living; not as a mere figurative representation, nor yet a cloak for unrepented sin. He had, as might be expected, taken care to instruct his wife, and she too was prepared to receive her first Communion, and did so with him the next day. I visited these people many times afterwards, and usually found the old man prepared with some questions upon the chapters he had recently read in his Bible. They were ever profitable questions, affecting faith and duty. I had not to complain of him as of some, that he was curious about things of no importance to his eternal good.
A short account of a summer passage to those two last-named stations made in a boat in 1854, will afford a very fair notion in the difficulties which commonly attend the clergyman’s work. I had gone to the home of the former family with the intention of returning thence to Greenspond, but some business brought the salmon-fisher of the latter station to the same place, and I was very glad to go with him to his home, upon promising to carry me to Greenspond after. These two stations were far separated, but I hoped to go from one to the other in a day. There was, however, a fresh and increasing breeze nearly ahead, and after a day’s beating against it we were yet far from our destination. Fearing more wind, and not liking to overstrain the boat, which was very old and leaky, the fisherman proposed to me to run into a small bay near us, and come to anchor for the night. We did so, and as we were lowering sail heard a gun, and looking about saw a punt with two persons rowing away from us round a point of land. It was a pleasing surprise to find some one near us where we knew of no neighbour, and we at once determined to seek out these people on the shore, and get better quarters for the night than our boat afforded. With a little trouble we found the party, consisting of a man and his wife and a little boy from Fair Islands, who had come up the bay looking for birds, seals, or any thing else that could be shot, fish being scarce on the outside. Their only shelter for night was a shed, such as is called a back-tilt, made of a punt’s sail strained along the ground on one side, and supported at an angle of about forty-five degrees from the ground by stakes. The ends are walled in with boughs, and the whole front is open; whence its name, being a back shelter only. In front of the tilt there was a fire burning, with a kettle hung over it to boil. We were kindly and gladly welcomed, and I was not sorry to see the boiling kettle and preparations for a meal. The gun we had heard, was fired at a seal, which our host got by walking up to his armpits into the water. The inner parts of the seal were cooked for supper, and I was very thankful for a share. I had at that time tasted no unsalted meat for about two months. After supper and a brief evening service we made preparations for rest. The man and his two sons who were my own party had to dispose themselves on the earth outside the tilt, and lie subject to be attacked by nippers, musquitos, and the other vermin during the night, and to a frost in the morning. Room was cheerfully spared for me inside the little tent, which afforded only just sufficient space for my entertainers and myself to lie down. The bed was of boughs, and my pillow was a sealskin filled with biscuit, commonly and rightly named hard bread. I left these kind people, without arousing them, at daybreak, and easily finished the passage to the salmon-brook that day. I turned in to lie down in the cuddy of the boat, but the noppers and musquitos were so busy at me that sleep was not possible, and I soon turned out again, and took charge of the helm for the remainder of the night to keep myself from dropping to sleep in the damp night air.
Many families leave their usual dwellings in the fall of the year, and remove for the winter into the woods far up the country, where they remain till nearly the end of May. Their purpose is to fell and square timber, saw board, cleave cooper’s staves, make birch hoops for casks, or build boats. Their houses in the woods, named winter tilts, and required only to serve for one winter’s use, are of vary simple construction. A small space is cleared of all wood except two opposite trees, growing at such distance apart as is a suitable length for the house. A longer 2 is extended from one to the other of these trees, and seized to them at the proper height for the roof ridge. The four walls are made of the trunks of trees set close together perpendicularly. Slender young trees are used for rafters, and these are covered with fir rinds to form a roof. The floor is made of longers, a flat rock forms the hearth, and the chimney is simply a square left uncovered in one end of the roof. No window is made of needed, the chimney admitting sufficient light. Two chicks between the sticks of which the walls are made are caulked, or as these people say, chintzed, with moss. No labour is spent in dressing any timber in the tilt; even the rind is kept on; only the longers of the floor are dubbed flat with an adze. One end of the interior is partitioned off by a punt’s sails. Or some other simple contrivance, and serves the family for bed-chambers.
Commonly two or three families settle their winter habitations near together for the sake of society, but it is not suitable for many to be in company, because each party of workmen needs a large range of forest to get the timbers they require. The winter settlements therefore are small, numerous, and widely scattered. No roads or paths connect them, but the traveller who would visit them must make his way, sometimes upon the ice by the shore, sometimes through the wild unbroken forest, penetrable only in winter, when musquitos are gone, when the morass is frozen, and the scrubby undergrowth in the woods is buried in deep snow.
A special equipment is necessary for such a journey. Its chief particulars are strong coarse cloth trousers and a reefer jacket, a fur cap with laps to cover the ears, blanketing cuffs in lieu of gloves for the hands, gaiters of the same material, mocassins, which are a kind of leather sock, in lieu of shoes, and Indian raquets, or snow shoes, which, by their covering a large surface as you tread, enable you to walk on soft deep snow without sinking. Added to this dress there should be a sealskin bag hung by slings upon the shoulders, and containing a change of clothing and some food – if the traveller be a missionary, some books also and wine for the Holy Communion 3; – a rug for lying upon at night; a gun, with powder-flask and shot-belt, for killing partridges, and sometimes other game; a spiked stick to try the thickness and strength of ice; and a hatchet slung to the waist to cut wood for firing, if ever the traveller should be obliged to bivouac in the forest for a night.
In such guise I twice made a tour of my people’s winter settlements, and it would be well if the clergyman of such a mission could do this every winter. My own health so thoroughly broke sown that I could not continue the practice. The journey, with only a day and a night’s tarry at each station, occupied three weeks, and was attended with great fatigue and hardship. The people in their winter quarters have much less ability to lodge a guest than in their more convenient permanent dwellings; and that I might not deprive women of their proper rest, I habitually refused the bed they offered me, and lay at night upon the longers by the fireside.
A narrative of one of these journeys may be interesting. It will not be necessary to detail mu proceedings at each place of my tarrying. Of course in each I read the services of the Church, and preached; always addressing these small congregations extempore; and I also celebrated the Lord’s Supper.
My journey was begun from Greenspond on the 2nd of February, when the surface of the water for many miles off the coast was frozen, so that it was possible to walk from island to island, and thence in to the main shore, in almost any part of my mission. Beginning with visiting two or three of the most northern stations on the shore, I proceeded from thence across the country inside the coast, to the winter settlements westward, and thence returned down the shore to Greenspond. My first real difficulty was likely to be fatal to the lives of myself and two young men who were with me. They had kindly volunteered to accompany me from Pinchard’s Island to Deadman’s Bay and back again to their starting-place. In Seal Cove, below Cat harbour, we all three together broke through some deceitful ice, and had some difficulty in getting out again. My companions were more thoroughly wet than I was. Our outside clothes froze stiff and hard upon us as soon as they were exposed to the wind, and my companion’s boots had water in them. This misadventure did not deter us from proceeding to cross Deadman’s Bay upon the ice, which was there firm and good. Halfway across the Bay the ice proved thinner, and still thinner, the further we went onwards. The young men thought the fatigue of returning more that we could bear in our half-frozen condition, and so nothing was before us but the dangerous attempt to reach the opposite land, over ice which proved weaker, and bent more alarmingly, under our feet at every step 4. We walked apart to disperse our weight upon its surface. Soon it became too weak for walking, and we crept upon hands and knees, and to our horror we saw that between us and the shore was open water, with only here and there a loose piece of hard ice afloat on it. A breeze blowing towards us forbad all hope of our voices being heard ashore, and there was not even a dog about who might perhaps see us, and barking at us, give warning of our approach. One of my companions, now summoning courage for a bold venture, rose to his feet, and first bidding me expect his return with help, he bound swiftly and lightly over the little skim of ice till he could leap to one of the floating pieces, and by thus jumping from one of these to another, he gained the land. From one of the houses he got two pieces of board, and with them returned to fetch us. One board he laid upon the ice, and upon it he crept along carrying the other. Thus using the boards by turns he reached us, and in the same mode we got to land. The people of the shore did their utmost to welcome and refresh us, but they were in sad poverty, and had no change of clothes to lend my young men, and no other food than tea and molasses, and bread without butter. We thawed and dried our clothes as we stood in them. The people told us that where we had been walking was open water the day before. After I read the Evening Prayers, and preached with the few neighbours who had assembled in the house, the poor man and his wife who had received us insisted upon my accepting their own and only bed for the night. Extreme cold, and the wretchedness of the bed soon, however, obliged me to rise, and I spent the night sitting with them by the fire. When we departed the next morning the ice was become firm, and we travelled without difficulty.
It may be asked, why need a visit to this place made a t such a season of difficulty and danger? The reason was that I could never but once get a passage thither by water in the summer, and then I was obliged to spend a night by the way in a boat at anchor off Cape Freels. The boat was so small as to afford absolutely no shelter, and I slept on the gang-boards 5, wrapt up in the foresail. My detention for the night was caused by failure of the wind. The journey to Deadman’s Bay on foot round the shore was so toilsome, that with no better lodging and refreshment than could be afforded there it was scarcely to be thought of, especially by the missionary, who had afterwards many days of fatigue and privation to pass before he could reach home and rest. One chief impediment to a journey by land between Cape Freels and Deadman’s Bay was the several wide brooks that must be crossed. These I usually waded. One of the largest of these was in the way of my visits to Cat Harbour, and sometimes after travelling so far, I have had to return with my purpose defeated, and the poor people denied a visit which they expected, and would have greatly valued. I remember being once sadly disappointed in this way, and longing to let my poor flock know that they were not uncared for, I took a card from my pocket, and wrote upon it a brief notice of my defeated attempt. The card was fixed to the top of a stake by the brook side, and was soon afterwards observed by one of the people, as I hoped it might be. After the winter visit to Deadman’s Bay related above, I was obliged to neglect that place, and did not go thither agin for six years. If a missionary resided nearer to them, say at Pinchard’s Island, with only the northern part of the present Greenspond Mission in his care, the journey or water passage to these places would be in his case a far less trying duty. My purpose now, however, is not to advocate the peculiar requirements of this mission, so much as to show what is the nature and difficulty of missionary work in such places generally.
To resume my narrative. Having returned as far as Pinchard’s Island, where my companions were to leave me, I found two men about tp travel to Indian Bay, and with them I took my journey up the country, and visited houses in Indian Bay, Trinity Bay, Locker’s Bay, and six separate places in Freshwater Bay. In each place I found some man cheerfully willing to leave his work for a day or longer, and be my escort to the next settlement. There was much of interesting incident throughout the journey, but I fear to be too prolix in the relation.
At one house I found two families so poorly provided with food, that they could offer me only the coarsest quality of sailor’s bread and boiled tea with molasses. Of course I accepted it with the feeling and expression of gratitude, knowing it to be the best and only food they had. On my return a few days later I called again to see these poor people, intending only to speak a few words of kindness, and at once pass on. They pressed me to take refreshment, and quickly spread their table with good bread and butter, tea and sugar. I accepted the kindness without remark upon the change, but wondered much how it had been managed. From some of their neighbours afterwards I learnt, that in expectation of my return the poor woman had travelled several miles to another house to borrow or beg better food for me.
At a home in Freshwater Bay I found an aged man whom I had long been visiting in Greenspond, now become very weak and bedridden. As soon as he heard my voice in the house, he said to his wife, “Thank God, Mr. Moreton’s come. I hope I shall die before he goes again.” He was eager to see me, and I went to his bedside and prayed with him. I spoke of the Lord’s Supper, of which he had often before conversed, and he expressed a desire for it. “In the morning,” said I, “you shall receive it.” I left him for the night to pray and prepare himself, and at six o’clock the next morning we found that he was gone where Sacraments are not needed. I remained three days at his home for the old man’s burial.
From Freshwater Bay I started with a man for my guide and companion to walk to Bloody Bay. Travelling had now become very difficult from an unusual cause. Many successive days of mild, or, as it is expressively called, soft weather, had thawed away all the snow upon barrens and spare-grown woods, and small brooks or rivulets were running in all directions. My guide was a man soon cowed by difficulty, and this day he was also unwell. We journeyed over some thick-wooded mountain-ridges into a large open country, over which we proceeded a few miles till we came to a wide brook. By walking some distance along its bank we found a large tree uprooted by wind, lying across and bridging the brook. Upon this tree we crept over. Some way further on a second brook, gave us trouble. The ice upon this was not wholly gone, but was broken from its banks. We got over this too with difficulty. A third brook quite open was too much for my guide’s almost exhausted spirits. I desired him therefore to turn back with me, that we might at least get to the woods for shelter. We walked on our return till the night was grown too dark for seeing our way, and then we halted and set about making the best quarters we could for a night’s rest. Our back-tilt was made with my bearskin rug strained for its back and roof, and sides were made as usual with boughs. Fronting the open part we made a large fire, and under the shelter we laid a bed of spruce twigs. Two partridges which I had shot in the day where cooked for our supper, helped by a little rill of good water which I found close by. Owing to the smallness of its covering out tilt would only receive our heads and shoulders, while our legs lay outside. In that night the weather changed. First a slight frost skinned over the little brooks with thin ice, and then a very heavy fall of snow covered the ground to a depth of three feet in the quiet woods, and eighteen inches in the open places where the wind beat and hardened it. The heat of our fire melted the now as it fell in our neighbourhood, and that which lay upon the tilt leaking in through the boughed ends made us thoroughly wet and uncomfortable. In the morning we found that our halting-place was in a spot which we knew to be about two miles from some houses, but so difficult was the travelling now become that we were nearly four hours getting over that short distance, The snow having concealed every thing upon the ground, we could not avoid the rivulets, and when we happened to step on the place underneath which one of them ran, the ice at once broke in, and we sank deep in snow and water.
A laughable adventure which I will here relate befell me near the end of my journey homewards. When I reached Locker’s Bay several young men at that place were preparing to start for Greenspond and join their vessels for the ice voyage, and they proposed to travel in the company with me the next day. In the morning of our departure they determined to save time and toil, by first going a mile or so to a part of the shore where there was no ice, and launch a punt with sails. By this means we hoped to accomplish great part of the distance by water, and to rest at Fair Islands for the night. At noon we had our punt under way, with two sails set, and a fine fair wind blowing fresh. The four oars were also put out to help our boat along. But the cold was extreme, and ice made upon the water so fast that in five hours we only proceeded four miles. It was then getting dark, and we consulted how to get shelter for the night. We were far from any woody land, but a high cliff was under our lee, and a rocky shore beneath the cliff. Here we determined to haul up our punt, and turn it over so as to form a shelter for us during the night. After we got ashore one of our party remembered that an Irishman had a tilt about a mile distant from us, but he supposed I would not like to take refuge there, because the family were not members of my flock 6. Of course I overruled this objection, and thither we went to ask for a lodging. We found the tilt a very small one, and the family which occupied it very large. There were the father and mother, three stout adult sons, some daughters, a women servant, and a man of remarkable and very unprepossessing appearance, whom they called “Uncle Billy.” It was not surprising that these many occupants of a little house looked distressed at the intrusion of eight men seeking quarters. They soon, however, made my companions sufficiently welcome, seating them round the fire and talking freely. Of me they took no notice, and no place was left for me on the bench and boxes which were the only seas. Pressed by necessity, I determined to get a better welcome, and tried to force myself upon these people’s notice by joining in their conversation. This could not long continue without some remark on their part, so the master of the house at length asked aloud of one of the company, “Who is that man?” He was told, and then he professed his pleasure in receiving me, and sorrow that he could do so in a better style. “Little did I think ever to have the honour of receiving a juntleman like your riverence in this poor place. May be your riverence wouldn’t take a pipe?” I was not a habitual smoker, but it seemed so sure a way to win the man’s heart that I at once said I would. I had no thought that one only pipe served the family, or I would have refused the offer. The man asked his sons, “Boys, have yez a pipe?” They sullenly answered, “No.” “Uncle Billy, have ye e’er one?” “I’ve no pipes,” replied Uncle Billy, very surlily, who seemed of the whole party least inclined to like me. The man then offered me the little black dudeen which he was himself smoking, and to avoid offense I used it for two or three minutes with the best grace I could; and now I was installed by the fire with every mark of respect. This family had been cruelly robbed of the best storehouse by the shore, and were much straitened by their loss; but they gave me the best supper they could, and were really kind. By and by I heard a whispering about the minister’s bed, and I protested at once against taking one, expressing my determination to lie by the fireside as I had already done for many nights. This could not be allowed, and Uncle Billy’s bed was got for me. It was a cabin in a very small lean-to by the side of the house. In proper time I retired to the bed I had unwillingly accepted, and exhausted with the day’s work soon sank to sleep between the blankets which seemed to have been in Uncle Billy’s use without sheets for many months. Soon I was aroused by some one feeling about the foot of the bed, and looked up I recognized by the firelight, which shone into the little chamber, the head of Uncle Billy, and at once I guessed his purpose. He turned up the blankets, and got in at the foot of the bed he had plainly grudged to resign to me, and there he lay with his feet in most unpleasant nearness to my head. As soon as it was sufficiently broad day for me with decency to arise, I did so, and took my departure. I believe the master of the house did not have sanctioned it; but I am sorry to add, to the discredit of his hospitality, that he made me pay extravagantly for my night’s lodging. Coming to me at my house in Greenspond shortly afterwards, he borrowed of me, on pretext of the robbery he had suffered, the price of a hundredweight of bread and several gallons of molasses, and this he never attempted to repay, though he had both opportunity and ability to do so many times.
In all my journeyings through my mission, I observed a rule suggested to me by a senior brother missionary, in Newfoundland, at the beginning of my work there; that in each place, on each separate visit. I resorted for lodging and refreshment to the same house which first received me. The only exception to this rule would be, either in the case of my entertainers proving of immoral and incorrigible character; or of their becoming and declaring themselves too poor to afford me any longer the temporary maintenance. The former case, I am thankful to say, never happened to me, and the latter occurred but once.
It will probably be observed, by many readers, that the missionary’s possession of a boat is essential to the proper service of such a mission as I have now described. The expense of this most valuable adjunct is however far beyond far beyond his means. Besides the first cost, there must be an annual outlay for the hire and maintenance of a man servant, and for renewal and repair of the boat and her gear.
Including my account of the mode of serving my late mission, I may mention a practice which I ever found a means of winning the regard of my people, and which gave me many opportunities of profitable influence. It was the making composer and writer of letters for every one who chose to ask that service of me. This office often takes time that can very ill be spared from other business; but it is always worthy of ready attention. One person for whom a letter is written tells others, and they seek the same help when they have occasion for it, till at last the clergyman finds that he has incurred the care of keeping up a really large amount of correspondence. Many of my people had friends in England, with whom they regularly exchange letters; and I was always asked to read those they received, and to reply to them, very little of the contents of a letter will be dictated by the sender. Commonly he says, “O, sir, you know what to say much better than I can tell you.” And so a clergyman really does know. He is acquainted with the state of each family; he knows the changes by sickness, death, or loss of property, which have affected them. He understands their hopes and fears for the future nearly as fully as they do, or at least as fully as they would care to make them known; and these things he can express in language more readily and better than they can, and he may always use the opportunity to add such reflections as are suitable and instructive both to the sender and receiver of the letter.
My little book must be soon closed. I will trespass no further now upon my reader’s attention than to transcribe in conclusion the words of the venerable Bishop 7, none gone to his rest, to the accuracy and wisdom of whose remarks upon the Church’s work in Newfoundland, I would humbly add such testimony as my experience in that work may have qualified me to give.
“There are peculiar circumstances at Newfoundland which increase the difficulties of providing for the instruction of the public. Their settlements are greatly scattered; always difficult of access, and often inaccessible. During the short fishing season every one is wholly engaged in the fishery, on which they depend for support; and in the winter it is a frequent practice to remove to the forest for shelter, fuel, and employment in preparing lumber. These difficulties however may be successfully met by becoming earnestness and zeal. Sometimes it will be desirable for the schoolmasters to move with the people, and tilt (as it is called) in the woods. The clergyman also must be ready, with a pure missionary spirit, to visit occasionally these temporary lodgments in the forest; and during the busiest seasons they will always find the general inclination of the people leaning towards the Church. Pressed as they often are by the hurry of the fishing season, they will always be ready for instructions, even then, on the Sabbath, which is seldom violated by Protestants here. But a personal intercourse must be kept up, though every difficulty, between the clergy and all the members of their flocks, or their influence will not be such as it ought to be.
“A missionary without missionary zeal can do nothing here. He will often have formidable difficulties to contend with; but if he be earnest in the great cause un which he us embarked, he will not be left without much comfort and encouragement in his arduous course. A large increase of the clergy and schoolmasters is immediately required, and under tight direction, and with a blessing upon their labours, their services cannot fail to be of the highest value 8. The means for defraying the necessary expense, would not long be withheld by those who have power to supply them. If they could witness the great spiritual wants, and the worthiness of the objects which require their benevolent regard and assistance.
Let me adopt as my own the final words of the good Bishop whom I have been citing: –
“I have only to commend the whole week to the great Shepherd of the Christian Fold, and earnestly improve His blessing upon every endeavour to promote the salvation of His numerous flock.”
It will interest many readers to know the cost of building and furnishing a substantial and sufficiently handsome wooden church in Newfoundland. The following account is a summary of the expense of the new church in Greenspond.
£ s. d.
Wages of carpenters and labourers . . . . 430 17 7
Lumber . . . . . . . 254 13 4
Nails, hinges, locks, and iron-work . . . . 43 8 6
Paint, oil, putty, tar, and pitch . . . . 20 14 9
Windows . . . . . . 44 8 6
Bell (2 cwt.), with black stock and wheel . . . 30 0 0
Altar-cloth . . . . . . 9 1 1
Carpets . . . . . . . 18 0 0
Stoves . . . . . . . 14 0 0
Books, holy table, chancel and font-rails, pulpit,
prayer-desk, stove-funnels and fittings . . 59 19 6
Newfoundland Currency £925 3 5
English money £771 0 0
This money, made before the accounts were finally closed, may be slightly in error, but is sufficiently correct for the present purpose. The flock contributed in money and money’s worth about 750l., and the remaining 175l. was given by the Bishop, the Diocesan Church Society, and other friends. The church will conveniently receive a congregation of 700 persons.
I am firmly convinced that this must be an exception to the case of the greater number of the missions in Newfoundland. Few places in that country are so prosperous as Greenspond long has been, chiefly by reason of its position. No other mission has so large a number of Church members. By my own two years’ experience of another mission, and my full knowledge of one held by my late brother for six years, and by the testimony of several of my brother clergy respecting their flocks, it is to me certain that the Church of Newfoundland will ever need the charitable aid of Churchmen at home. At the same time it may be truly said of most of these people, that they do much, very much, for their Church’s maintenance.
In my last mission, persons who had no food but potatoes gave money to a fund for building a parsonage, and some who through poverty were drinking their tea, without molasses, paid me their year’s dues. The contribution was very general, and in large proportion to the means of most of the contributions, yet from a flock of 2700 Church members the dues paid did not amount to 70l. currency, or 58l. English, and from that sum 13l. had to be paid to readers.
After that sad “spring of the wrecks,” a prayer, which is an adaptation of one in the appointed “Form of Prayers to be Used at Sea,” was printed and circulated throughout Greenspond Mission with very happy effort. In hope that it may be further useful the prayer is here given: —
“A Prayer for the use of Persons at Sea, Daily.
“O Eternal Lord God. Who alone spreadest out the heavens and rulest the raging of the sea; Who hast compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end; be pleased to receive into Thy almighty and most gracious protection the persons of us Thy servants and the vessel in which we sail. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea, and grant us in peace and quietness to serve Thee our God, and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land with the fruits of our labours, and with a thankful remembrance of Thy mercy to praise and glorify Thy holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Prevent us, O Lord, in all our dwellings,”
For the families on shore this was altered by changing the person and substituting for “us Thy servants,” “all Thy servants engaged in the sealing voyage, especially A, B.”
The sealing voyage, with its peculiar dangers, was a matter of such anxious concern to the whole flock, that few slighted prayer in this behalf when they were guided to it. Persons who could not read learned it from those who could; and I remember especially one poor woman, whose life had been worse than careless, teaching her sick child to say this prayer in behalf of his absent father. It is obvious how great a step was thus gained towards farming the habit of prayer.
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