The years before Confederation

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photograph from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Albert and Meta Stoyles, 1986

Albert and Meta Stoyles have been living in Hillview for over half a century. Meta is from Ireland’s Eye on Random Sound, but Albert was born in Northern Bight before the community changed its name to Hillview. All of Albert’s family have moved— two brothers are in British Columbia and one is in Windsor, Newfoundland. In a few years Albert and Meta expect to move to St. John’s, but only for better services.

“I have a cousin living in Scunthorpe, England,” Meta tells us. “She met an Englishman on the boat over and got married. It was 50 years before she returned home. When she came over six years ago she loved it and has been back three times since. She says she’ll be back here to live and to collect her pension because she was born here. And we know of another Englishman who has a daughter living in St. Jones. He worked at Come by Chance and has been back every other year since the refinery closed. He wants to retire here.”

Hillview has always been bigger than St. Jones but the latter is smaller now than it was in the first half of the century. The road went in about 20 years ago, and Albert jokes that it might be 20 more years before it gets pavement. When he was growing up the only transportation was by boat. He pauses to count the vessels leaving in those days for the Labrador from Southwest Arm.

“Around 20 or 22 with Little Hearts Ease one of the busiest communities,” concludes Albert, who was himself very active in the fishery. “There hasn’t been an inshore fishery here for years, but we used to catch fish in the summertime a long time ago. Uncle William Knowles had one of two traps in Northwest Brook before I started in 1917, at the age of 11, and went to the Labrador until the fishery ended. I fished with my father most all the time. We had no particular place to fish, but we never went down the Straits Shore because we didn’t know our way down there. Sometimes all the schooners from this area fished together, but more times than not we came home with not too much. We would leave around June 20th and get back around September 5th, or the last of August if we had a full load.”

Albert fondly remembers those days, but he doubts that today’s fishermen would put up with the problems they encountered.

“People won’t go now unless they can make a good dollar,” he suggests. “There were lots of fish in the 1930s, but you only got $2 a quintal, and you never knew the price they sold your fish for. They’d have a cull of fish with five or six piles of different grades. When it was packed to go away, you weren’t allowed in the building. It probably all went together. If you were independent and went to St. John’s to buy your salt and your supplies for the summer instead of buying from the local merchant, when you came home with your fish no one would buy it.

“Not everyone took advantage of the fishermen, but many merchants made their money off them and stopped buying after Confederation. We dealt with A.H. Smalley until he went out of business, then we went to Baine Johnston for two years, and finally to W.J. Moores in Carbonear and they were fine fellows. Many schooners were built here. John and Walt Greene had one built called the Lewis Gordon around 1920. The shipbuilding carried on during the Commission of Government when two boats were built. My father, David Stoyles, built one and James Vey built the other in 1935.”

While fishing was the major activity, there was other work to be done.  “Some years we’d go in the lumberwoods in the fall, while other years we’d be coursing in a schooner, carrying lumber and returning loaded with groceries and supplies,” recalls Albert. “Our schooner was the 68-ton W. J. Ellison, named after my two [three] brothers, William [Weldon] and John [and Ellison], and she could carry a good load. I worked for the A.N.D. Company in Terra Nova and Badger in the years we weren’t coursing.”  As we listen to Albert and Meta’s recollections of the quieter times, the sound of a backhoe reawakens us to the noisy realities of the 1980s. The Hillview road is being upgraded and ditches are being dug to replace the old culverts. Who knows? Albert’s predictions

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, January 2019

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