Ralph Clarence Smith

Reprinted with permission from Hodge’s Cove by Eric C. Stringer, 2011

Ralph Clarence Smith

Ralph Clarence Smith was born in Hodge’s Cove on January 7th, 1895.  He was the oldest son of Jacob & Maria Smith.  He had one brother & three sisters.  He married Patience (nee Stringer) in 1943 and they raised five children, two sons and three daughters.

He loved the ocean and as a young boy spent many a summer’s day fishing with his father.  He secured berths (jobs) on ships going to the fishing grounds on the Labrador and worked many years on numerous ships honing his skills.

In his early 40’s he attended the old ‘trades school’ on Topsail Road in St John’s where he earned his Captain’s Ticket. Ironically he could not swim a stroke.  I’m sure there must be some very important prerequisites for survival skills that you must have today to earn your ticket or master any kind of ship!

During the second world war (being too old to join the military) he volunteered for the Merchant Marines carrying supplies across the Atlantic Ocean.  He received little training and faced constant threat from enemy submarines!

After the war ended he worked for many years for Bowring Brothers in St John’s where he commanded their ships the Terra Nova & Algerine to the Ice Fields.  I remember the post mistress of Hodge’s Cove telling us that during the upcoming sealing season he would receive up to as many as 40-50 telegrams a day from men asking to secure a berth ‘to the ice’.  He always made sure he hired the locals before he went too far out of the local communities.  He was a mentor to many a young lad from Hodge’s Cove…namely Norman Langdon & Leander Stringer. I believe that they both chose lifelong careers at sea!

During the summer months he sailed to the ports of Halifax, Montreal, Boston and New York with frozen foods and supplies to businesses (this was before the trucking industry).

He retired in the early 1960’s where he spent his days fishing, woodcutting and spinning many a yarn to his numerous visitors.  He passed away in 1982!

Submitted by daughter Marion Spurrell to Hodge’s Cove by Eric C. Stringer