The ‘Au­gust Gale’ re­mem­bered

The Southern Gazette - - NEWS - BY AL­LAN STOOD­LEY SPE­CIAL TO THE GAZETTE Al­lan Stood­ley is a well-known long time res­i­dent of Grand Bank and a for­mer re­porter with the St. John’s Evening Tele­gram. He can be reached at ‘am­stood­[email protected]­mail.com’.

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.

Al­lan Stood­ley Pho­tog­ra­phy

Cap­tain Pa­trick Dober

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