The ‘August Gale’ remembered
A fierce storm, reported to have been the worst in 36 years, roared up the eastern seaboard and made landfall in southeastern Newfoundland during the afternoon of Aug. 25, 1935.
According to Environment Canada “Many ships were damaged and many homes lost their roofs. An estimated 34-49 people died on schooners off the coast of Newfoundland.”
The ‘ Daily News’, one of the newspapers of the day, reported 31 people were killed in the gale and resulted in thousands of dollars of property damage.
A year ago American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and magazine columnist Barbara Walsh published an excellent book entitled ‘ August Gale: A Father and Daughters Journey into the Storm’.
The book not only deals with the hurricane that took so many lives of Placentia Bay fishermen, but it also superbly tells the personal story of her own family with its secrets, bitterness and finally personal reconciliation.
In that 1935 storm, 12 Marystown fishermen and two boys lost their lives. At the time the community only had a population of 300 souls.
In Barbara Walsh’s words “every home lost a dad, an uncle, a brother or a son.”
••• In 1970, I interviewed retired sea captain 81-year-old Patrick Dober of Marystown. Despite his advanced years, Capt. Dober still had a sharp memory and said he could remember back to when he was very young, to the year of the ‘ September Gale’, which also took the lives of many Placentia Bay schooner fishermen.
It was probably the year 1897 he was referring to when at the time he would have been only eight years old. Similar to the 1935 August Gale a hurricane also made landfall in this area Sept. 24-25 of that year (1897).
At that time Capt. Dober said his brother, Tom, who built the 40-foot keel ‘rudder-out-ofdoors’ vessel named ‘ Mary Joe’ was fishing in her out of BeauBois. He and his crew were caught off Cape St. Mary’s in the September storm and Captain Tom was washed overboard.
However, luckily he became entangled in the vessel’s rigging and was hauled back onboard.
The ‘ Mary Joe’s’ cross-trees were touching the water and the heavy seas swept everything off her deck.
According to Capt. Dober, it was in the same September wind storm Captain Patrick Burton and his seven-man crew of Boat Harbour lost their lives while anchored in their fishing vessel off Cape St. Mary’s. There were also several other Placentia Bay fishermen washed overboard and drowned during that gale.
Captain Patrick Dober died Mar. 7, 1974.
Albert J. Dober, retired educator, noted historian, volunteer and long time resident of Marystown is the son of the late Captain Dober.
Sunday afternoon, the Knights of Columbus, Ville Marie Council in Marystown, dedicated a Mariners Memorial on the grounds of the Marystown Municipal Centre to recall the 1935 August Gales and other sea disasters.
Captain Patrick Dober