William Smith

Reprinted from The Packet, July 3, 1980
By Lorraine Hynes

Focus on Seniors

William Smith was born at Island Cove, Trinity Bay on February 19, 1892. He was the oldest of five children born to the late Albert Smith of Island Cove and the former Phoebe Froude of Upper Island Cove. He had two brothers and two sisters, but the only living member of his family is his brother Tom who resides at Long Beach.

When asked how far he went in school he replied, “I didn’t care much about it, if I’d took it in hands I’d been number one and got my learning.” However, he attended school until he completed Grade Five and walked the two mile walk to Hodge’s Cove every day with his school friends carrying his lunch with him. He recalls, “There were times when it was “pretty” stormy but we made it.”

His father, who was a fisherman, died when he was fourteen and he had to take over his job and support his mother, brothers and sisters. He began fishing with William Vey from Long Beach who employed a crew of six men on his fishing schooner. And so began his trips to Labrador where they went fishing every summer.

In 1910 he went to St. John’s and enlisted in the Navy and began his training aboard The Britain. On November 5, 1914 he and approximately five hundred Newfoundlanders arrived at Liverpool, England. From there he went to the South of England to Portsmouth, where he spent one month at gunnery school and was commissioned to a ship just three days before Christmas and went to sea where the ships were doing the block-ade.

He spent three years aboard ship and was sent home on leave for one month. From there he went to Halifax then on to Montreal and France. While on one of the block-ades his ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland at 3 o’clock in the morning. He recalls he was in the “bunk” when the cry went out. He ended up with two boots for the same foot and his trousers were backwards. They were aboard life rafts for three hours before they were picked up and taken to England. All their possessions were lost and so was his money which was very scarce during war times. When the war was over he returned home sometime in January.

Following his return he picked up a job wherever he could find one. He still continued fishing on the Labrador and altogether he spent twenty-five summers there. He worked in the woods when work was available, working at Terra Nova, Grand Falls, Glenwood, Corner Brook, etc. and claims he made a lot of money with the bucksaw. He also worked on the railroad with the Reid Newfoundland Company on the extra gang.

On June 3, 1925 he married Sarah Baker from North West Brook at the Anglican Church, Long Beach. They lived for a while at his mother’s until he built his own house. They had seven children: Mildred (Mrs. Frank Whalen), St. John’s, Phillip at Toronto, Jacob at Terra Nova, Clara (Mrs. William Baldwin, St. John’s, Leona (Mrs. Claude Hall), Toronto, Eugene at North West Brook and one deceased daughter. They have nineteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The first nine years they were married they lived at Island Cove but then Mr. Smith built a house at North West Brook where they have resided since then. He continued fishing for a living until he reached the age of sixty when he received his pension. However he’s still up every morning and goes out in his boat to tend to his nets. Upon learning this one couldn’t help but think of the song, “Grandfather’s Motorboat.”

When the Packet went to visit Uncle Bill at his house he wasn’t home. After a few minutes he came through the gate from where he was across the street helping a neighbour with a little advise on his carpentry. He is in excellent health but at times complains about a little arthritis. Nevertheless that doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he cares to do during the day.

Best wishes to Mr. Smith for many more years of continued good health and good fishing.

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, March 2018

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