By Benson Hewitt
In my piece last week I included a letter written by someone from Joe Batt’s Arm describing the visit of William Ford Coaker to that community in 1912. The next day he motored in his boat to Tilting Harbour, and this week I am going to include a letter written by several men from Tilting describing that visit.
First, though, another brief bio of Mr. Coaker. He was born in St. John’s on Oct. 26, 1871, and was a union leader and politician and founder of the Fishermen’s Protective Union and the Fishermen’s Union Trading Company. (There was a time, incidentally, when there were four branches of the latter on Fogo Island.)
Mr. Coaker organized the first local of the FPU co-operative in 1908, and took it into politics in 1912. He was elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly in 1913, and served in the cabinet during World War I and from 1919 until 1924 was Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
In 1923 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The letter that I included last week, and the one in this piece, were both taken from “The Fishermen’s Advocate”, Vol. 03, #30, (27 July, 1912):
Tilting, July 23rd, 1912
The man we are proud to honour visited us on Saturday. He arrived just before the burial of an old and respected lady, and the outward demonstrations of our appreciation were deferred until the evening when the harbour belched forth volleys of musketry equal to cannons to show that hearts at Tilting were true towards our leader and the great friends of the Sons of Toil in this country of ours. Long will we remember the visit. The President is not a ‘jinker’, for our best days real trapping this year came with him, and many of us were very busy. He remained and held a meeting Saturday night. Every Union man in Tilting gave up their work to listen to the man who has accomplished so much for us during the last three years. His speech ended at midnight, he having spoken for two and a half hours! The speaker received an ovation as he arose to speak, that shook the Parish Hall. He was continuously applauded, and as he sat down the audience showed their approval by rounds of applause and cheers. Tilting intends to do its part when voting day comes. We are solid Union men, determined to mark our ballots and transfer real political power from “get rich” politicians to the shoulders of the people’s own selected candidates. Coaker will be supported and Union men we intend to remain. The President visited the Union Store which is being erected and which we hope to complete the coming fall. Guns fired at Joe Batt’s Arm and Joe Batt’s Arm on Friday night and Saturday morning as the President left were heard here. The District is stirred up and the Union fire is brighter than we ever thought it could be by the President’s visit. Long may he remain to uphold the rights of the Sons of Toil. The President left for Coakerville in his motor boat accompanied by several friends who accompanied him to Joe Batt’s Arm. Now what do the “Chronicle”, “Plaindealer”, “Guardian”, “Star”, and the Governor think of the People’s Union and their universal approval of their leader’s actions. Will they continue to be blind?
On behalf of the Tilting Council,
Patrick Greene, Chairman
Daniel Foley, Secretary