A Fella from Fortune
I love spending time at the wharf. I thought that it would be interesting to get a life story from one of the fellas from Fortune, so I set up some time to talk. I asked Gib if he minded me recording the interview and he said it would be “Okay, as long as I ain’t got to hear mesself talk.”
I laughed and said he didn’t. “It’s just a personal project.”
Gib’s place was easy to find . Even though it was rather nondescript, it was like most of the others in the outport. It had a gigantic white flagpole with the Pink White and Green flag of native Newfoundland. Inside the house showed that he had been a prosperous fisher: the latest appliances graced the kitchen counters. I had been offered a mug up in the living room where the settee was covered in rich velour.
How long have you been fishing here?
“I’ve been fishing me whole life. I was about six the first time me da took me out. Me ma was some furious and said I couldn’t go til I was 12. So he taught me to fish from the stage right over there. It’s been rebuilt about 4 times since.”
What do you like about this community?
“Well, it’s the only community I know. It’s not the same community it was when I was a young lad, mind.”
“The harbour used to be filled with schooners. They were local, built right here by my grandfather and the boys of the harbour. Every spring they were fitted out to fish down the Labrador. The local merchants didn’t get paid their share of the catch until the fall when and if the schooner came back with it’s holds filled with salt cod. Do you understand me fine, Miss?”
I understand you just fine, Gib, and what I don’t understand, I’ll look up in my copy of “The Newfoundland Tongue”. I want to understand more about ‘relocation’. I have a keen interest in Newfoundland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Was your community affected by Joey Smallwood’s plan to resettle outports that were too expensive to build services to?
“Yis, maid, that was some time ago, the sixties. You’ve done your homework. He wanted all residents to have access to government services, electricity, and health care. There were outports with ‘no great future’, Joey said. The plan was to move the people to more urban centers, but they were cheated out of their homes. Folks from Wild Bight, Snook’s Arm, Mouse Point and Indian Burying place all ended up here and we had to build new stages, more boardwalks, and storage sheds. A few of their saltbox homes were towed here from ‘round the bay but building their new homes was a distraction for the some of the fishers were losing fishing grounds to the longliners.
I had some specific questions I wanted answers to, so I made sure that he understood why I was asking.
I should have taken a camera to catch some of his crazy expressions. Gib was a great interview and there is definitely enough material for something more.
Plan for extra time because you never know where it’s going to go and what you are going to learn.