The ghosts of the Kyle
The year is 1939. Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell ( 1865-1940) is in the area where the Kyle docks. On Sunday, he is invited aboard, to hold a service on the deck. All hands go to the meeting. The fishermen appreciate it, because often they are away from home for weeks and months at a time.
Fast forward to the early 1960s. My late father, a pastor in Twillingate, has just boarded the Kyle, en route to a conference. He trips on the first step of the passageway and tumbles headfirst. The impact breaks his arm. He is treated at the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital by the curmudgeon, John McKee Olds (1906-85), the American doctor. However, Dad never regains the full use of his arm.
Finally, 1984. Muriel Way of Happy Valley expresses her love for the old vessel in a poem:
Oh, the tales they told as the night grew old,
And the cards once more they’d stack.
Your legs moved slow as you went below When ‘twas time to hit the sack. You slept like a log or a tired old dog ‘ Til the steward rang the bell. For a moment there you could almost swear
And wish that feller in hell.
The shrill honking of a horn interrupts my reverie. Sherry, my wife, is staring at me from inside the car. Shaking my head to clear my mind, I take one last wistful look at the Kyle and reluctantly return to the car.
A classic elegance
I glance through an issue of Them Days magazine, devoted to the Kyle, on the dash.
“ The Kyle,” I read, “was built in an era of grandeur and, no matter what her age or circumstances, she carried with her a classic elegance.”
Little if any of that “classic elegance” remains. The Kyle’s once glorious sailing days are long past; the once stately vessel is now a derelict. In 2013, she will celebrate the dubious honour of her centennial. The rusty hulk will eventually disintegrate, the victim of neglect and the ravages of time and tide. The grass that is overgrowing her once proud deck will choke her. She is denuded of all fixin’s; devoid of any of her original delicate and graceful workmanship. She is leaning precariously. I am witnessing the sad demise of a once dignified lady. My heart is heavy.
According to Jack Harrington of Milltown, “many old seamen and fishermen in the area are of the opinion that the Kyle was led to where she is now by what is known as the ‘ Seaman’s Ghost.’ They feel that the Kyle wasn’t meant to go under water, especially after her long and adventurous life.”
Which is precisely why the Kyle continues to be the object of such love and devotion of spectators onshore. Even after the vessel succumbs to the elements, the many fond memories of her varied accomplishments will live on in the hearts and minds and eyes of those who have the slightest connection to her.