Richard Seward/Seaward (1902-1989)

by H. Joseph Seward, February 2019


Uncle Dick, was born on 16th October 1902, in Gooseberry Cove, Newfoundland. He was the first of seven children of Peter and Amelia, Dodge, Seward. He attended the Church of England school for his elementary education and fished with his father, Peter Seward. In his teens he started fishing in Labrador and other areas of Newfoundland. On 3 May 1928, he married Julia Penny (1900-1934), of English Harbour, they lived in Gooseberry Cove. They had two children, Margaret (November 17, 1929 – March 4, 2000) and Ruby (December 29, 1931 – December 25, 2004).

In the early days the of summer 1934, Uncle Dick left Julia, who was pregnant with their third child, and joined a schooner crew for the codfishing season in Labrador. There was no means of communication between the schooner’s crew and the families back home.

When the fishing season ended in August, Uncle Dick returned home expecting to see Julia and their new born baby.

On his return he was met by members of his family who informed him that Julia, and their baby son, Benjamin, had died in childbirth on 24 July 1934. They are buried in the old Anglican Cemetry in Gooseberry Cove. Margaret and Ruby went to live with their grandparents, Benjamin and Mary Ann Penny in English Harbour.

On 20 November 1936, Uncle Dick married Sarah Blanche Martin, (September 8, 1908 – February 28, 1980). Margaret and Ruby returned to Gooseberry Cove to live with their father and his new wife. Dick and Sarah had six children: Julia, Patience (1942-1993), Caleb (1944-1944), Annie, Esther, and Richard (Rick).

When Margaret was ten years old, she went and lived with her Uncle Benjamin Penny in St. John’s. She came home to Southport in the mid 1940’s. The Christmas Seal visited Southport and everyone went onboard for x-ray’s. When the results came back, mine was on white paper, meaning I did not have TB. Margaret’s came back on yellow paper, meaning she had TB. She spent the next three years in the Sanatorium in St. John’s, and came home to Clarenville three days before I left to join the military.

In his younger days, Uncle Dick was known as a bit of a scrapper. On one occasion while traveling to Clarenville in his open motorboat, a schooner passed him going in the same direction, one of the schooners crew threw a potato at him. The potato missed him but hit, and broke the igniter, which provide the spark that ignites the gasoline on the cylinder head. The skipper of the schooner threw him a line and towed him to Clarenville. On his arrival Uncle Dick, because he was upset, called out the potato thrower who threatened to come down on the dock and beat him up. Another crew member said to the potato thrower, “If I were you I would not do that. First, I do not think you could take him, and second look who is standing on the other dock.” Uncle Dick’s brothers, Ron and Martin, were watching what was going on. Nothing more happened and things soon returned to normal.

One spring day his brother Ron came and asked him to go duck hunting. They took grandfather’s newly launched rodney and rowed out to a small rock which was only accessible at low tide. When they arrived and crawled out on the rock, Uncle Dick asked Ron to fasten the boat to his leg using the painter, a mooring line. After about an hour Ron got up to stretch, Uncle Dick noticed the boat was not secured. He looked out, and in the distance saw the rodney drifting west towards Bald Head. They worried that no one would see them before the tide came in. Thankfully one of the local fishermen was looking out from a lookoff and saw them, he alerted others who went out and rescued them. Grandfather’s new rodney was never seen again. It is not known if they shot any ducks.

On another occasion grandfather and Uncle Dick were out seal hunting among the ice that came into the bay. Not noticing how packed the ice was becoming, they found their boat locked in the ice field and drifting west. Several hours later, after dark, they managed to haul the boat out of the ice at Round Harbour. They walked through the snow-covered forest floor until they reached Little Hearts Ease. After a warm meal at the home of a friend, they walked home to Gooseberry Cove, non the worst from their odyssey.

On 17th April 1941, Uncle Dick enlisted in the Merchant Navy, his registration number was 630. He sailed with Captain Ralph Smith of Hodge’s Cove. One night, while sailing without lights, it was war-time so blackout was the order of the day, their ship collided with another ship. The crews of both ships were rescued safely. Uncle Dick was in his long johns, he stepped unto the deck of the rescue boat. (I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to discover the whole story of his history while in the merchant navy.)

In 1944, Uncle Dick bought, and co-owned with his brother Martin, a small schooner The Banquet. They fished on the southern shore around Renews. The following year 1945, they sold the schooner. For the next few years Uncle Dick fished from home.

What I remember most about Uncle Dick was his love and concern for his extended family. During the death of my siblings he came to our home every evening after supper. He would stay late and at times would stay the whole night. He showed his concern for people all his life.

In my youth Uncle Dick would, on many occasions, take me with him to Heart’s Ease Beach. It was during those sojourns that he would point out the location of the wharf that he remembered from his own youth. As we would walk among the beach rooks, made smooth by millennium of years of waves washing over its shores, to the pond at the far end. He would captivate me with tales of treasures buried beneath its surface. Onward to the island at the end of the beach, where he would point out the location of an old cemetery. Over the past decades wave deterioration of the island’s banks has removed any sign of the cemetery ever being there.

It was during those walks with Uncle Dick that I learned of and fell in love with this beautiful place. I would daydream of days long gone when ships loaded with codfish, to be salted and cured on the rocks of Heart’s Ease Beach, would arrive. The stories of the treasures buried beneath the surface of the pond and the pirates looting the early settlers, stirred my youthful imagination.

In 1974, while on vacation, Marie and I planned a visit to Heart’s Ease Beach. Uncle Dick accompanied us. (Marie fell in love with the beach on her first visit there in 1958.) Visiting Heart’s Ease Beach was always on our must do list whenever we visited Gooseberry Cove and Southport. We spent about an hour on the beach before heading back up the narrow trail to the Crossroads. Uncle Dick was leading the way, he was 75 years old. Marie, a little concerned that he may be getting tired, asked him if he wanted to rest. He turned toward her and said, “Tired! Tired! Maid, what have I done to make me tired?”

After 1950 Uncle Dick became active in his church, the Anglican Church, and served for many years as it’s caretaker. We continued to visited Uncle Dick and Aunt Sarah whenever we came on vacation. The last time we saw him, in 1985, he was living with his daughter Annie and her husband Dave Mulley, in Pouch Cove. He was suffering from dementia and we were told he may not know us. Accompanied by Marie, our daughter Jennifer, brother Ron and his wife Margaret we arrived and were met by Annie who took us into their living room. Uncle Dick was sitting on the sofa looking out in the distance. As emotions welded up inside me, he looked up and said, “Joe where did you come from?” I rushed acrossed the room and gave him a huge and long hug.

With Jennifer sitting on one side of him and I on the other, Marie took our picture. A few moments later Annie called me out to the kitchen and when we returned to the living room, Uncle Dick looked at me and said, “Martin (my father who had died eight years earlier) when did you come out?”

After a couple of hours, we left and never saw him again. Uncle Dick died on 12th May 1989, he was 86 years old.