The Journey Begins

by Joseph Seward, February 2022

Gooseberry Cove, c1940s

In the early hours of Sunday, May 26th, 1935, Martin Seward stepped out of his home’s comfort in Gooseberry Cove, Newfoundland, into the chilly 10°c morning temperature. It was raining as he walked the short distance to the residence of Joseph Smith. He returned a few minutes later, accompanied by Olga Seward Smith, the village midwife.

Olga went upstairs to the bedroom, where Martin’s wife, Rebecca, was ready to give birth to their third child. Rebecca was under considerable stress. Just one year earlier, she had given birth to stillborn twin boys. She did not want this to happen again. Unfortunately, except for Olga, a well-trained midwife, there were no trained medical staff or facilities.

On Monday, April 30th, 1906, Martin Joseph Seward was born at Gooseberry Cove, Newfoundland; he died on Thursday, February 24th, 1977, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He was the second son of Peter Seward (1874-1953) and Amelia Dodge (1876-1913).

Rebecca Ivany was born Sunday, September 26th, 1915, in Southport, Newfoundland. She died at 5:30 pm, Sunday, March 8th, 1964, at Clarenville; she was the third daughter of Caleb Ivany (1881-1957) and Liza Jane Langer (1885-1924).

Martin Joseph Seward and Rebecca Ivany

Dad and Mom met and started dating in 1932. In the spring of 1933, Dad crewed on a fishing schooner to the Labrador fishery. Dad knew fishing skippers in Little Heart’s Ease, and he probably sailed from there. Mom wanted to accompany Dad, but there was no opening on his ship for a female cook, so she joined another crew whose schooner was sailing to the same destination. They saw each other only on Sundays, which was a day of rest for the crew. Dad would row over to visit Mom, where they would be together until late afternoon when he would row back to his schooner.

When the fishing season was finished, the codfish cured, and the crew were paid, Mom and Dad decided to get married. Mom paid $5.00 for the material and made her wedding dress. On November 3rd, 1933, they were wed in St. Alban’s Anglican Church at Gooseberry Cove, Newfoundland. Reverend C. D. Sparshott officiated; Mom’s sister, Mae Balsom, was the honour maid, and Joseph Edward Smith attended the groom. Thus, Mom and Dad were the first couples married in the new St. Alban’s Church.

When Dad’s mother, Amelia Dodge (1876-1913), died, Dad went to live with his grandmother Louisa Hobbs (1846-1924) and his uncle, Joseph Seward. When Mom and Dad married, Mom moved in with Dad and Great Uncle Joe, who would live with us until he died in 1958.

On Sunday, May 26th, 1935, I came into the world as a heavyweight, weighing in at an astounding three-and-one-half pounds. Some concerns were raised that I might not live. Unfortunately, the nearest medical facilities and trained personnel were over a day’s journey to St. John’s by schooner.

Midwife Olga Smith

Olga Smith, a well-trained midwife[1], pulled a chest of drawers over to Mom’s bedside and removed its contents from the top drawer. She lined it with blankets, and I had my first sleeping accommodations.

Later that day, a few local women came to visit Mom and see the new baby. One of the ladies, who was known for her frank expressions, looked at me and said, “Oh my, what a pretty boy, too bad he will not live.” On hearing this and not wanting Mom to be upset, Olga said, “don’t worry, son, someday you will be a man.” This story was told to me by Mom and was known around the community. As I grew older, I found that lady to be a kind and loving person.[2]

My earliest memory was my brother Garfield’s birth on January 3rd, 1939; I was three years and seven months old. On February 17th, 1937, my sister Gladys Marie was born, a welcome addition to our family. I do not know if I was proud or just a little jealous.

Another early memory is Dad coming in from his fish stage for lunch and telling Mom and Great Uncle Joe[3] that a friend had drowned at Battle Harbour, Labrador. On my fourth birthday, I went outside to play with Edwin Smith and his cousin Victor Smith. When I told them I was four years old, one of them said to the other, “I guess he has caught up to us now.” They were each a little older than me.

In September 1940, I started school at the Church of England school at Gooseberry Cove. The one-room all grades school was built in the 1880s. Students were required to bring a piece of firewood to school each morning and after lunch to heat the room. Older students lit and maintained the fire during school hours[4].

My first teacher was Miss Marguerite Ralph (1921-). She came from Glovertown. The day always started with a prayer and the singing of God save the King. Another ritual was that students were required to stand for morning inspection. The teacher would inspect each person for cleanliness. On my first day of classes, I stood with other students waiting for my turn to be checked. When she reached me, I turned my hand’s palm down. I had dirty fingernails. On my first day of school and before my first class, I received the only strapping I would ever get. I do not remember telling my parents, but I never again went to school with dirty fingernails.

My home was constructed in 1839/1840 by my great, great grandfather, Robert Seward after his wife Mary Ann Emberley arrived from New Perlican. As I remember, it was a sizable four-bedroom home needed to accommodate the prominent families of those times. Robert and Mary Ann had eleven children.

We lived there until the summer of 1941; The old house needed significant renovations; Mom owned property at Southport, about two kilometers from Gooseberry Cove, a port with safe anchorage, Gooseberry Cove, however, faced the sometimes-stormy waters of Trinity Bay. So, we moved to Southport.

After our move to Southport, our family increased by three. On February 19th, 1943, Ronald was born, followed on August 24th, 1945, by William Caleb’s birth, and on April 3rd, 1947, Leonie Mae was born.


[1] Olga delivered over four hundred babies.

[2] Mom told me, and others, this story many times before I left Newfoundland.

[3] See chapter four. Great uncle, Joe.

[4] The heat was provided using a large pot-bellied, wood-burning stove.