Car­bon­ear mu­se­ums

The Compass - - CIATHE S -

Shore­lines and fish flakes are a big part of the “Balanc­ing the Scales” ex­hibit at the old John Rorke premises, just a stone’s throw down Wa­ter Street from the Rail­way Mu­seum.

“Balanc­ing the Scales” in­car­nates in ar­ti­facts, pho­tos, and tes­ti­monies an older New­found­land, when en­ter­pris­ing mer­chant fam­i­lies sup­plied and teamed with the sta­tion­ers mi­grat­ing to Labrador from May to Novem­ber.

Whole fam­i­lies left from here, my own in­cluded, to pur­sue the wily cod.

John Rorke & Sons, who set up in Car­bon­ear in 1838, were known for ship­build­ing, sail-mak­ing, cooper­ing, and im­port­ing coal.

The Rorke ex­hibit, with its as­sorted smells and dimly lit at­mos­phere for au­then­tic­ity, evokes a cat­alytic mo­ment in out his­tory — the last stand of the salted cod fish­ery that dom­i­nated 19th cen­tury New­found­land.

Fish store

The “fish store” is an in­sti­tu­tion that en­dured well into liv­ing mem­ory as I can at­test from my sum­mers at Earle Freight­ing Ser­vice from 1962-65. A yaf­fle of salt cod on a hand bar­row high­lights the me­chan­ics of the econ­omy that made New­found­land and Labrador a main­stay of the fish ex­port­ing in­dus­try up against such wor­thies as Spain, Por­tu­gal and New Eng­land.

A pho­to­graph taken in 1948 fea­tures three lo­cal lasses, Ina Pow­ell, Ros­alie For­ward and Betty Pike, dressed in their Sun­day fin­ery out on the ice framed against the prow of the leg­endary S.S. Kyle. The Bull­dog of the North had been trapped in the ice off St. An­thony for 17 days.

Sea­man’s mu­seum

The Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety is pre­serv­ing the town’s orig­i­nal ex­hibit, “Go­ing For­eign,” in the Old Post Of­fice on the cor­ner of Mus­grave and Wa­ter Street.

Ac­cord­ing to Bert Par­sons, vice-pres­i­dent of the Her­itage So­ci­ety, this has been a trav­el­ling ex­hibit, well re­ceived “ by thou­sands of peo­ple” in Grand Bank last sum­mer.

Loyal in­ter­preter Nancy Reid agrees with me that “Go­ing For­eign” cap­tures the very soul and spirit of some of New­found­land’s most ac­com­plished sailors. When you walk up the steps and open the door, you see right away a pic­ture of Cap­tain Guy Earle (1917-1968) at the wheel of the Thomas S. Gor­ton. The text makes the bold state­ment: “More for­eign-go­ing sea cap­tains came from Car­bon­ear than any other out­port of New­found­land.”

What could be called “the Sea­man’s Mu­seum” in­cludes such un­canny in­ci­dents as the death of Cap­tain Steve Dow­den the very night in 1971 his main charge, the Lila B. Boutel­lier, ran aground in Car­bon­ear har­bour.

All three mu­se­ums tell the story of the peo­ple we knew and worked with and how they made their liv­ing on the land and sea.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.