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The last farewell


Mike Bridgeman, clad only in his white underwear, clawed his way up the ladder. How many sailors, I wonder, like Mike Bridgeman, scantily clad in their underwear, have, in the dead of night, dashed terrified to the deck of a foundering ship? My grandfather once told me a story of his first trip to sea as a boy of 15. On the return trip from Portugal, loaded down with salt, the schooner struck the rocks off Cappahayden. I went overboard, Grandfather said, wearing only the worsted drawers mother knit me before I sailed. Gary Collins The Last Farewell is the story of the loss of the schooner Edith Collett. To say loss is euphemistic, a bit of an understatement. The Collett was rammed at full speed and cut down by the steamship Silver City. The small schooner was rent asunder, splintered

Mike Bridgeman, clad only in his white underwear, clawed his way up the ladder. How many sailors, I wonder, like Mike Bridgeman, scantily clad in their underwear, have, in the dead of night, dashed terrified to the deck of a foundering ship?

My grandfather once told me a story of his first trip to sea as a boy of 15. On the return trip from Portugal, loaded down with salt, the schooner struck the rocks off Cappahayden.

I went overboard, Grandfather said, wearing only the worsted drawers mother knit me before I sailed.

Gary Collins The Last Farewell is the story of the loss of the schooner Edith Collett. To say loss is euphemistic, a bit of an understatement.

The Collett was rammed at full speed and cut down by the steamship Silver City. The small schooner was rent asunder, splintered by the much larger steamer. The Colletts five-man crew perished in the frigid North Atlantic off Torbay, Newfoundland.

In early June of 1934 the Collett, a two-masted coastal schooner, sailed from Lockers Bay loaded on deck and below with newly sawn lumber. She can I still say she without having gender specific rocks hove at me? sailed to Spaniards Bay, off-loaded her cargo and proceeded to Harbour Grace to pick up ballast for the voyage to St. Johns, a port she never reached. Struck by the Silver City, she went to the bottom on a night the powers that be wanted to rid the night of any beauty, human or otherwise.

Newfoundlands history is filled with tragic sea stories, of vessels and loved ones lost, of grieving widows and children, of families whose lives were forever altered by the capricious nature of the sea, the mother of tears.

Such tales are too sad to talk about, so Im not going to talk about them anymore.

Im going to talk about the pleasant things in Collins book, of the rich details and scraps of lore that he has crammed into the book like tasty figs in an otherwise doughy duff.

Here I am at page eight again watching the sawyers at Lockers Bay feeding logs to the four-foot-diameter mill saw and hearing the shriek of the saw as it rips knotty slabs from the sticky green logs. The sawyers hands are blackened with myrrh. Cant you just smell that scene? Go on, climb aboard your Time Machine brain and sniff a moment of the past.

At St. Brendans remember this is at a time when caplin were bountiful the dark overturned soil in the vegetable gardens glistened with the small shiny fish. Only picture that, no need to smell it.

Collins details of local colour are so plentiful that they seem to be straining to burst from the books pages, kinda like peas plimmed up in a too-tight pudding bag.

Behold what spills out when the pudding bag is opened. Puffins and stearns, and an osprey with a large flatfish wriggling for life in its claws. Newfoundland ponies and draft horses half the size of elephants. Accordion music and soul-stirring hymns. Tales within tales Al Capone at St. Pierre, Amelia Earhart at Harbour Grace, 19-year-old Joey Smallwood at the Moonshine Rebellion.

Oh, and good ol Newfoundland omens and premonitions.

Jack Sydney, the cook, leaves the Collett in Lockers Bay because of an ominous event; Uncle Billy Bridgeman sees his drowning sons token.

I knew a lady once who was familiar with spirits and token. She walked among them, sorta. Those paranormal beings were so commonplace in her world almost like casual friends that her marriage nearly crumbled when her husband he of little ghostly faith drove over a token on the highway. Well, you should have seen him, she grumbled like Walter Mittys nagging wife.

Theres all of this and so much more in Collins short book. Like the peas once freed from the confines of the pudding bag, it cant be stuffed back in, it can only be eaten up.

Read The Last Farewell not only because its a moving historical tale of needless tragedy but also because its a book enriched with abundant details of Newfoundland life not so widespread anymore.

Have some pease-pudding while youre at it.

Thank you for reading.

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