The ghosts of the Kyle

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

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