A Place in Time

During the last couple of weeks in Witless Bay, I have had the opportunity to speak with people about many different aspects of their daily life. What seems to keep popping up in our conversations is the changes in the cod fishery and fishing in general, since the moratorium.

Witless Bay, at one time was a thriving fishing community. The beaches were lined with stages and fish flakes ladened with salt fish. The landscape is very different now. A government wharf and another that has seen the effects of the sea’s bashing waves against its timbers, are all that remain along the coastline of Witless Bay.

I still remember the day John Crosbie announced the closure. Although I myself was not reliant on the fishery, I had felt as if a God given right had been stripped away. I remember feeling numb about this decision. It didn’t seem fair. How were people going to get by?

It’s been 22 years since that fateful day. Still, Witless Bay and many other communities are managing. The resilience of the residents plays an important role in recognizing how the community has adapted to this change. Fishing still goes on, mostly a food fishery that takes place over several weeks in the summer and fall. People like Joey Yard, one of the last inshore fishermen in Witless Bay, have managed to keep fishing despite altered market demands and  allotted quotas that don’t add up to an amount the larger markets require. Basically an inshore fisherman has just enough quota to feed his family and if he’s lucky, a little extra to sell from time to time.

I was fortunate to meet Thomas Yard, Joey’s brother and he showed me pictures he had of their old stage and another one, once perched on the North Coast of Witless Bay. Neither stand anymore but they are evidence that fishing was once an industry here.

Yard’s Fish Stage Photo taken by Thomas Yard.

Yard’s Fish Stage Photo taken by Thomas Yard.

Another Stage Just West of Yard’s Stage. Photo by: Thomas Yard

Another Stage Just West of Yard’s Stage. Photo by: Thomas Yard

Thomas and Joey’s father and grandfather are also in two pictures posted below. Henry and Tom Yard, in one picture are cleaning fish in a large pan. In the second photo they are carrying the fish from the flakes in a handle-barrow.

Washing Fish, Henry and Tom Yard  Photo thanks: Thomas Yard

Washing Fish, Henry and Tom Yard
Photo thanks: Thomas Yard

Carrying Fish, Tom and Henry Yard, Photo Thanks: Thomas Yard

Carrying Fish, Tom and Henry Yard, Photo Thanks: Thomas Yard

What is evident in all these pictures is how fishing evolved through father and son through the generations. We see in these pictures Joey Yard’s father and grand-father making fish on the same land Joey and his son James use.

No doubt many coastal communities relied on the fishery for their livelihood. Will it ever come back? Nobody knows for sure, although they tell me there’s lots of fish out there. In Joey Yard’s words,”Only time will tell”.

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Reflection

It’s hard to believe that our three weeks are nearing the end. I remember coming to Witless Bay as a teenager with my friends, and staying in one of my friend’s cabin down by Ragged Beach. We would come here on weekends when her parents weren’t using the place. I have fond memories.

Today I took a drive down Gallows Cove Road and shot a couple of pictures. I realized as I do oftentimes, how beautiful the seashore landscape is. If you look out over the horizon, the curvature of the earth is visible, something I take for granted.

My first photo I thought was a good description of the curves in the shoreline complimenting the horizon line.

Dawn at Ragged Beach Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Dawn at Ragged Beach
Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

One of our tasks during the Field School experience, was to draw a floor plan of an older building/shed. If these old buildings could talk, the many stories they would tell. How they were constructed, who built them, where did the lumber come from and what went on inside. Were they for work, or leisure? The following are a couple of older buildings that catch my eye every time I drive this road. I also included my floor plan drawing of Joey Yard’s shed.

Small Shed Photo By: Jacquey Ryan

Small Shed Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Old Sheds of Gallows Cove Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Old Sheds of Gallows Cove Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

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Floor plan for Joey Yard’s Shed Photo b:y Jacquey Ryan

One element I really like about the landscape is texture. It is everywhere. I really enjoy the texture placed there by people. The items constructed out of necessity or for leisure, add another layer to an already rich background. I took a couple of pictures of fences. Fences intrigue me. Witless Bay has a large variety of fencing along its landscape. I counted at least thirty varieties and there are still others I haven’t seen. Fences serve a variety of purposes not always as obvious as it may appear. Some are decorative, some strictly marking boundaries; others might keep animals in or out. Whatever the reason for constructing a fence, texture is evident in the construction. The first picture is an interesting fence made of longers vertically intertwined over horizontal boards. Great texture! The second is a rock wall perhaps constructed for support of the ground behind or as marking for the driveway. Both only assumptions to the many reasons it could have been place there.

Wrigglin Fence Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Wiggle Rod Fence Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Rock Wall Photo by: jacquey Ryan

Rock Wall Photo by: jacquey Ryan

My last picture I took from the Irish Loop Coffee House veranda – fishermen coming in with their morning catch. I am told there is a lot of fish out in the bay here. We have had several great meals with cod. One of our meals was baked cod and another was cod tacos. They were delicious. Tonight we are planning to cook cod stew and fried cod cheeks.

Coming in with Morning Catch Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

Coming in with Morning Catch Photo by: Jacquey Ryan

The people of Witless Bay, have offered me a rich experience. I have learned so much in such a short time. When you come to a community seeking information and stories you realize the rich culture that is buried beneath the layers of everyday life. This experience and the fond memories will stay with me.

Friday Night Bonfire

Friday night’s supper was a little different than usual. Sharna and Terra decided we would have a bonfire on Ragged Beach, located at the end of Gallows Cove Road, and cook our food in and over a bonfire. We had a great time and the food was delicious.

Building the Fire Photo Credit by: Jacquey Ryan

Building the Fire Photo Credit by: Jacquey Ryan

The menu included roasted sausages and wieners, corn on the cob rolled in foil and then placed around the coals and potatoes prepared in the same fashion.

Sharna Roasting Sausages,  Photo credit: Jacquey Ryan

Sharna, Emma and Saede Roasting Sausages,
Photo credit: Jacquey Ryan

 

Gathering Around the Fire Photo Credit: Jacquey Ryan

Gathering Around the Fire
Photo Credit: Jacquey Ryan

Then a real treat for our desert, we had banana boats. I had never had these before. First we scored the bananas on the flat side from top to bottom on both sides being careful not to remove the peel entirely. Then a portion of the banana was scooped out and chocolate chips and marshmallows inserted in the cavity. We replaced the peel over the marshmallow and chocolate chip mixture, wrapped the banana in foil and placed it on the coals for about 5 minutes. A taste sensation!

Friday Night Bonfire Photo Credit: Jacquey Ryan

Friday Night Bonfire
Photo Credit: Jacquey Ryan

Hopefully we will get a chance to do this again.

 

 

O’Connors Fifty Plus Club’s Craft Night

A wonderful experience! Upon entering the Witless Bay Community Centre Monday evening, colourful visual textiles caught my eyes. It might be safe to say I felt like a kid in a candy shop. The ladies of the O’Connors Fifty’s Plus Club had all sorts of Art/Craft projects on the go. Several worked on quilts, others, hooked rugs and they exchanged ideas, patterns and projects for future evenings. Some even brought sewing machines.

A Passionate Discussion - Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

A Passionate Discussion – Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

In anticipation of our arrival, the women had set up samples of their work on a display table for us to see. We received a warm welcome and were escorted off in different directions to eye the various projects on the go.

Finished Works - Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Finished Works – Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

One of the participants was knitting a scarf in an interesting pattern and generously shared her instructions with me.

Scarf Pattern - Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Scarf Pattern – Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

I sat down with Mrs. Crocker, the senior of the group. She informed me she would be 85 in December. She moved to Witless Bay in 1969, and raised nine children on her own. She hadn’t brought anything to do this particular evening. She said she would bring her knitting along next week.

Repairs to Mat - Photo taken by Jacquey Ryan

Pat Lundrigan repairs her Mat – Photo taken by Jacquey Ryan

The above photo shows Pat Lundrigan repairing her mat. Apparently she took the mat off her wall, vacuuming it to remove dust, when a piece of cloth from the mat was suctioned into the vacuum, removing the clouds in the mat from the sky background..

Coffee, tea and delightful treats were available throughout the evening. Marilyn O’Dea had quilt pieces and she approached some of the students to arrange the pieces in different color and pattern sequences. Her plan was to take the finished layout, and sew it up. Below is a picture of the completed pattern.

Final Layout - Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Final Layout – Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Sis, another of the ladies, showed me a quilt she had created from fabric squares. I didn’t get a picture but did make plans to visit her and take photos of her other quilts. She sometimes works on them with Genevieve Dunphy seen below at her sewing machine.

Genevieve Dunphy sewing together pieces of her quilt. Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Genevieve Dunphy sewing together pieces of her quilt. Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

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Pat’s Quilt Pieces. Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Genevieve’s Quilt Pieces. Photo taken by: Jacquey Ryan

It was a fun-filled evening shared with women who are truly passionate about their skills and willing to share with all who come to visit.

Stay tuned for a picture of Sis’s quilt/s in the days to come.

Work and Pray

When you visit coastal communities in Newfoundland, you realize the beauty our province bestows upon our eyes. Not meaning to paint the picture through rose covered glasses, certainly a cold rainy day with a hurricane wind might change your feelings and if you were one who resided here making your living by the sea, you might think differently. When visiting Joey and his store on Thursday, learning camera techniques with Brian Ricks, I noticed a grey bin of fish on the floor. It had been immersed in salt and particles of black could be vaguely seen through the thick crusts of white. My first photograph, “Making Fish”, is a photograph of the bin of fish, probably Joey’s catch for the day. I met Joey’s wife Marguerite also and Marguerite told me about her times fishing with Joey in his boat.

Making Fish

I am hoping to speak with Marguerite again.

My next photo, “Convent Entrance” consists of an arrangement of coloured glass displaying symmetry in its design. It stands at the foot of the stairs in the convent where we are residing for three weeks. When the sun appears in front of the building the rays of light reflect throughout the porch casting the colours that appear in the window. spectacular!

Taken by: Jacquey Ryan

Taken by: Jacquey Ryan

These pictures tell me something of early rural living in Witless Bay. The fish portrays a way of life near extinction now and the convent, a way of faith/religious practice also fading. The early ways of life are changing.

Yard’s Fishing Store in Witless Bay

One of the last structures of its kind, this outbuilding also called a store, graces the Witless Bay coastline. A door at the front and back, provided fishermen the opportunity to offload fish from their boats and upload the catch through one door (beach entrance) into the store, where the gutting and cleaning took place. The cleaned fish were then taken out the back door and placed on flakes to dry. The flakes consisted of longers and spruce bows intricately intertwined to hold the fish.

Joey Yard's Fishing Store

Joey Yard’s Fishing Store

At one time these structures would have been visible all around the harbour of Witless Bay, a pattern of wharves, stores and flakes extending from the beach into the landscape. This store, owned by Joey Yard, has been in his family for many years. Joey and his son James, the last two fishermen in Witless Bay, still use the store and clean their fish on the splitting table.

Splitting Table Inside Joey Yard's Store

Splitting Table Inside Joey Yard’s Store

In the photo of the store, an image appears in the doorway. Could it be an apparition?