A mother’s wish to keep a son safe from harm

Reprinted from The Packet, November 6, 2015
by Lester Green


Isaac Joseph Smith was born in Gooseberry Cove on July 29, 1899, son of Moses and Dinah Piddle.

His parents were living in Heart’s Content but returned to Gooseberry Cove because his mother had developed consumption (tuberculosis).

In 1909, when Isaac was nine, his mother died. Two years later, in January of 1911, his father also passed away.

Isaac had lived with his grandparents during his parents’ sickness and from the age of 12  became a guardian of Martha and Joseph Smith. They always considered him one of their sons and this feeling must have been also felt by Isaac.

When he joined the Royal Navy on May 3, 1918 he identified Martha and Joseph on his engagement papers as his parents.

According  to family oral history, Martha was very distraught when Isaac signed up for duty with the Navy.

She had already given one son and three others were enlisted. She was so distressed that she wrote the Navy and requested that Isaac be assigned to sail the waters of Newfoundland, which she felt was safer compared to international waters.

His military papers indicate that he was assigned to the H.M.S Briton, after he completed his basic training. He was never assigned to any overseas naval bases.

Isaac spent the rest of the war with the H.M.S  Briton patrolling the waters of Newfoundland. He couldn’t understand why he was never posted overseas and was made aware of the truth around the time of his grandmother’s death.

Some family members say his grandmother took this secret to her grave and others say she confessed on her deathbed. She had kept the secret because she felt that he would be very angry and upset with her if he had known.

Isaac was demobilized from the Navy on March 24, 1919. He had served his country for 327 days.

He returned to Gooseberry Cove and on June 12, 1920, married Rosanah Breaker from Brigus, who was a servant at Gooseberry Cove.

They had three children and lived for a period of time in Heart’s Content before moving to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. He died there on May 21, 1965.