The man who helped span a con­ti­nent


I have a fair idea of who W.J. An­thony was, but I won­der if more can be learned.

Ac­cord­ing to a tribute, writ­ten by Harry Rowe and pub­lished in the “At­lantic Guardian” in Fe­bru­ary 1952, An­thony “ helped span a con­ti­nent.”

In Rowe’s opin­ion, the “ build­ing of a transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­way across Canada was an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to strength­en­ing the bonds of Con­fed­er­a­tion in its early years.”

A band of 100 New­found­lan­ders helped lay the rails for the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way (CPR). All of them, Rowe adds, “can claim their right­ful place in Cana­dian his­tory.” Can their names be re­trieved from the dust­bin of his­tory at this late re­move?

In the early 1950s, An­thony was liv­ing at 1602 Bathurst Street in Toronto, Ont. He cel­e­brated his 80th birth­day on Feb. 2, 1952.

He earned dis­tinc­tion by help­ing to lay the last CPR rails around Crow’s Nest Pass, a moun­tain pass across the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide of the Cana­dian Rock­ies on the Al­berta/Bri­tish Columbia bor­der.

How­ever, that was only one of the many high­lights of An­thony’s event­ful and colour­ful ca­reer.

He was born in 1872. As for his birth­place, all I know is he was born in Con­cep­tion Bay. Per­haps read­ers can add a town name.

An­thony went seal­ing as a young man. His first voy­age, at the age of 18, was aboard the “Nep­tune,” a wooden whal­ing and seal­ing ship un­der the com­mand of Cap­tain Sa­muel Bland­ford.

One of the pas­sen­gers was Wil­fred T. Gren­fell, the English med­i­cal mis­sion­ary to New­found­land and Labrador.

On the last day of the voy­age, Gren­fell told Bland­ford, “I would like to get a car­cass.”

“Go ahead,” the skip­per in­structed An­thony.

The teenager re­turned with eight, one of which he gave to Gren­fell.

Bland­ford, im­pressed by An­thony’s suc­cess at seal­ing, gave his full-fledged seal­ers a dress­ing down.

“ This boy got eight seals in 10 min­utes, and he will get a man’s share for a man’s work,” the skip­per said.

Though hired on for half a share, An­thony was paid $45, the amount an ex­pe­ri­enced sealer re­ceived.

The next year, An­thony went seal- ing in the “Nim­rod,” which was one of the first wooden steam­ers build ex­pressly for the New­found­land seal fish­ery. Cap­tain Jim Bland­ford was in charge.

Rowe writes that An­thony’s “clothes al­most caught fire while he was sleep­ing. The ves­sel was jammed so full of seals that the men slept wher­ever they could find a place. Mr. An­thony lay down on a grate early in the morn­ing, af­ter be­ing re­lieved at the wheel, and awoke to find a pail of wa­ter be­ing poured over him. He was wear­ing a greasy moose-skin jacket, which smoked so much on con­tact with the heat that a pass­ing sea­man had sprung into ac­tion!”

At 80, An­thony’s mem­ory was be­gin­ning to fade. How­ever, he had no dif­fi­culty dat­ing his stint with the CPR. He sim­ply re­called the well-known “Green­land” disas­ter of 1898.

“ It was a thrilling ad­ven­ture for th e young men who went west with Mr. An­thony,” Rowe writ e s . dren and grand­chil­dren, now do­ing the dirty work of a pow­er­ful lobby group who have robbed from out­port peo­ple the right to have a salmon for their chil­dren.

Out­port peo­ple should be ashamed of hav­ing bro­ken faith with those who died for the free­doms that they knew.

I could list them, but just take a mo­ment to re­flect on the free­doms that your fa­ther and grand­fa­ther en­joyed as a mat­ter of be­ing an out­port per­son — daily tasks that were yours to en­gage in would would place you in front of a Judge. A judge prob­a­bly go­ing to spend this week­end on the river prac­tic­ing catch and re­lease.

We have be­come sad ex­cuse for the proud, fight­ing New­found­lan­der. David Boyd Twill­ingate “Af­ter work, they spent their time in the rail­road cars, but they also en­joyed the delights of scoop­ing up fish with their hands in nearby moun­tain streams.

“ Some of the men suc­cumbed to moun­tain sick­ness, of which he him­self was a vic­tim, but re­cov­ered.

“ Meals were all that could be de­sired and board cost $5 a month. They re­ceived 50 cents an hour.”

An­thony worked there from the sum­mer un­til shortly be­fore Christ­mas.

“ The men had to walk 75 miles through wild moun­tain­ous coun­try to get home af­ter lay­ing the last rail. Trains did not travel the road un­til a year later. Speed was vi­tal in their work and, when one of the gangs wa­gered a gal­lon of rum that Mr. An­thony’s team could not lay 10 cars of rails in five hours, the men pro­ceeded to do just that, with a good mar­gin to spare.”

Af­ter serv­ing in the Sec­ond Boer War, which was fought from 18991902, An­thony re­turned to Canada and was em­ployed in struc­tural steel­work for the rest of his work­ing ca­reer.

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