Diary of a Labrador trapper
Jerrett married Ruth Michelin. In his diary, he writes about “the fun that a wedding generally creates. I don’t feel none too firm on my feet.”
When his children were young, Jerrett used to talk about Labrador. “ He just loved the Labrador,” George recalls. “I can tell by the things he wrote in his diary.”
At some point, a family member donated Jerrett’s original diary to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. The manuscript was rediscovered in the move to The Rooms. Archivists then copied the diary for George.
“It’s so interesting,” the son says with obvious pride in his father’s literary accomplishment.
Excerpts from Jerrett’s diary follow.
Excerpt 1: “All is silent, save for the occasional cry of some of the winged creatures of the woods, and a pretty scene presents itself.
“Paddling silently and swiftly up the river in the shadow of the overhanging trees are seen several canoes. Natives or Indians, curious to know who has come from the land outside, and what news they bring.
“Little knots of trappers lying idly in the grass and sunshine, smoking and also eyeing the newcomers. For this is Sunday and nobody does much on Mondays at this time of the year, much less on Sunday. And so we go on shore and join the groups and talk, smoke and laugh; and so the day passes happily.”
Excerpt 2: “On shore at daybreak to see if we cannot get some game to help swell the pantry’s now-depleted stock. Am lucky enough to secure three black ducks when we again reach Pack’s Harbour at 10 p.m. Clear cold night.”
Excerpt 3: “ Wednesday morning. Blowing very strong from north, very cold. Cutting wood all morning. Wind moderates about noon and we see the Hudson’s Bay Company’s boat starting off, also bound for Rigolet. Leaving North West River at 3 o’clock in the afternoon we head down the bay. Calm and clear, so decide to run all night. Down to Mulligan Point by dark.
“ Wondering where the H.B.C. boat is tonight as we have not seen her and we are anxious to catch her as they have boasted somewhat of the speed and seagoing qualities of their boat, so more or less a race has started.”
Excerpt 4: “ Up at dawn, eager to be off, afraid that the other boat might steal away in the early morning hours, but on coming out in the open bay see no sign of her either ahead or astern. This is a fine day at last and, after a few hours uneventful run, we arrive at North West River. Find the other boat is not yet there.
“ We are met at the landing by over half the population of the place plying us with questions as to how we fare and where the other boat had got to as there was quite a bit of anxiety felt for us seeing there was such a continuance of stormy weather.”
Frances Lawrence, herself a diarist, writes: “ There is something very special about reading an old diary and being transported back in time to a long forgotten moment. Each entry is a tiny time capsule.”
Lawrence’s observation is no less true than in Jerrett’s diary. His is a significant document that is worthy of being published as a standalone book. The sense of immediacy draws the reader back to a past long since gone, attempting to recreate for posterity’s sake a moment in the diarist’s life.
Ruth and Ernest Jerrett. While living in Labrador, Ernest kept a diary of his trapping activities.