Richard James Whalen

Reprinted from The Packet, September 11, 1980
By Lorraine Hynes

Focus on Seniors

Life started out being normal for Richard James Whale of Queen’s Cove, but it wasn’t meant to last for very long. At the age of seven he went to bed one night feeling fine. He recalls, “My mother covered me up at night and the next morning I was stiff in bed.” Something had strickened him in the left hip and he was unable to move.

The only doctor in the area was an English doctor at Britannia, but this being January, the bay was completely frozen in and his parents were unable to carry him there for … A man from Hodge’s Cove by the name of John Peddle had spent sometime with a medical book so he was called on to see if he could determine the problem. He used a … of linseed meal on his hip, and to this day Mr. Whalen says, “I contribute my life to him.”

When navigation opened in April, his parents carried him to the doctor at Britannia and he couldn’t determine what the problem might be. He made two more such visits in May and June and finally the doctor put his leg in a cast from his hip to his ankle. For six months he wore the cast before it was removed. He was crippled for the next three years and was unable to attend school.

He had started school at the age of five and his first teacher was Miss Maud Frost from Hillview. However, he only completed Grade … when he became cripple. The schoolhouse was a one room structure and he, as did the other children, carried his share of firewood to school to burn in the stove which heated the school.

He was born on April 16, 1901 at the small community of Caplin Cove, Trinity Bay. The son of a fisherman by the name of Edmund and his mother was the former Mariah Goobie from Queen’s Cove. He was the third child of eight born to his parents. He had one brother and six sisters; his brother Cecil resides at New York and two of his sisters; Mrs. Florence Snow and Mrs. Elsie Maud Burton also live there. Three of his sisters are deceased and his youngest sister, Deliah (Mrs. Nelson Howse) is living at Queen’s Cove with whom Mr. Whalen resides.

In 1912 his family moved from Caplin Cove to Goobies where his father operated a sawmill for the next six years. He was still unable to get around without being carried and during that time there was no school at Goobies for him to attend even if he could walk.

Once again they moved. In 1918 they moved to Queen’s Cove to care for grandfather Newman Goobie. By now he was getting around with the aid of a walking stick so he decided to go back to school. He started in Grade three at Queen’s Cove and after three years he had completed Grade nine. He then attended school at Hillview to study Grade ten. The only means of transportation he had was by rowboat. He and Chesley Benson, a friend from Queen’s Cove who was also attending school there, rowed to Hillview each morning to further their education. That year he passed his Grade ten with honors.

In the fall of 1926 he began teaching kindergarten to primary at Caplin Cove earning the salary of $35 a month of which he paid $13 for board. The following February he went to Loreburn teaching. That fall he attended the Methodist School at Long’s Hill, St. John’s and spent the next ten months studying Grade eleven.

After completing school at St. John’s, he taught school at Queen’s Cove, North West Brook, Little Burnt Bay and Happy Adventure. While teaching 35 pupils, five days a week, at Happy Adventure, he also conducted church services three times every Sunday for the salary of $20 a month of which it cost $14 a month for board. This was during the depression years and the teaching salary had been lowered. At the end of the year he arrived home with a mere 25 cents in his pocket.

Altogether, he spent ten years in the teaching profession in Trinity, Bonavista and Notre Dame Bay’s, but now his mother was ill, so he decided to stay home. The next seven years he spent in the woods making barrel hoops which he sold twenty-four for the 10 cents and cutting round junks which he sold for 17 cents a hundred. This was very hard work for him and aside from that, the pay was very low. During this time his doctor diagnosed him as having polio in his hip.

In the spring of 1940 he became postmaster of Queen’s Cove with a salary of $3.00 a month. The hours were very long but the office was located in part of his father’s house so he didn’t have to go outside to work. Aside from the handling of the mail, he also operated the telegraphy office and was responsible for the news being published for the public to read.

Mr. Whalen was one of the supporters of confederation and was asked by his good friend, former Premier Joey Smallwood to campaign for him. This he did and was thrilled to play a small part in telling people how confederation would benefit Newfoundland and its people.

Five years later he and his sister, Deliah, started a drygoods and grocery store, and being the only store in the “cove” they were very successful. He continued as postmaster for twenty-two years and in 1962 on the advice of his doctor who confirmed his crippling as polio, he had to retire from all outside activities.

He received a small pension from the post office and was also aided by the department of welfare until the age of 67 when he received his old age pension.

His handicap has never kept him from being involved in his community. He has been an active member of the United Church and the Loyal Orange Association for many years. He served as layman for approximately twenty years and served as secretary and treasurer. For thirty years he was secretary of the lodge and served two years as master and two years as chaplain.

In 1975 he became ill and had to give up his social activities as well as work. In 1977 he spent one and a half months in the General Hospital and since then he has been under the medical care of Dr. Fowlow who he regards with very high esteem. He is very happy living with his sister, Deliah and her husband Nelson, and really enjoys their grandson Mitchell. Most of his time is spent reading. He watches television to keep informed of the daily news and occasionally he watches comedy programs. Mostly though he looks forward to family and friends who visit him for a chat.

“Uncle Dick” as he is commonly known is a credit to our society. His determination and bravery to face every day and never give up is a lesson to each and every one of us.


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, March 2018

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.