Recollections of a Teacher (Excerpt #3)

by Miss Day

We sailed on the 20th of December 1911 on a beautiful day. It was so warm that we decided to pack all my winter clothing, such as high gaiters, fur and muff in my trunk. We had information that the boat tied up at the wharf in Westport, and my boarding house was just a short distance away, so the clothing I wore and going aboard would be ample for going ashore. We little dreamed that the weather would change so rapidly, soon after we had started, and the heavy winter weather was upon us.

Captain A. Kean, and everybody else on board tried in every way to persuade me to return with them, as he had no thought of reaching Westport, as it was so far up the bay. Meantime, we were having a jolly time with everyone humming and singing Christmas carols. Every minute captain Kean could spare was spent in the salon where he sang all the old songs, such as Clementine, sweet Genevieve and lots of sea shanties.

One morning Captain Kean said to me, “Tomorrow will tell the tale as to how near we are going to get to Westport”. He certainly hadn't much confidence in reaching there, as he said the ice was very thick and heavy and would be far worse as we moved up the bay. I said, “In the event you cannot reach there, what becomes of the mail?”. He replied, “I will send ashore the mailman with it”. “Well,” I said, “What's to hinder me from going with him?”. And no amount of persuasion and the prayers of Captain Kean or anybody else would make me change my plans. He got stuck in the ice, so was obliged to stop. We were then about two to three miles from shore at Westport.

The hardest part of this trip to me, was when we were obliged to descend from a high ladder down the side of the ship, with so many men around. Too bad I hadn't a pair of jeans or something as the young people wear today. However, after being muffled up with Captain Kean’s home-knit woollen scarf and mitts (on top of my own), I descended without any mishap. When I reached Terra Firma, nothing daunted, we headed for the shore, the mailman and me. It was alright walking on the snow and ice till we came to the shore. The ice then was quarried up forming huge mounds, which the mailman called “Ballecathers”. I fell several times walking over them. I would not accept any help from the mailman however, as I felt he had quite enough to do to carry the mail.

It was a big adventure for me and I was enjoying every minute of it. When we arrived in Westport, we were met by most of the men and boys as well as Reverend Wood. He saw the boat in the distance through his binoculars, and kept track of us most of the way in. He took me to his home, the Parsonage, where I met Mrs. Wood, and they were both extremely kind to me.

The mailman had a couple of fingers frostbitten, as well as one ear; but I never felt better. I guess I was kept warm with enthusiasm and adventure plus Captain Kean’s woolies. Even now I get a feeling of exhilaration when writing this. The following day I started off to meet with my prospective pupils.

Reprinted with permission of the NLTA