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2 - Capt. Ben Tavenor's Achievement

 

 

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Enroute from Old Orchard, Me., to Rome, an American monoplane, bearing the name of Old Glory, was lost in the Atlantic in September of 1927 with a crew of three.

They were attempting to improve on the non-stop record set by Charles Lindberg, the U.S. air mail pilot on his New York - Paris crossing the previous May.

A Newfoundland skipper, Capt. Ben Tavenor discovered the wreckage from the Old Glory almost in mid-ocean. This, in itself, was unusual as no one had the slightest idea where the monoplane went down. More amazing the captain acted on a hunch. Members of his crew confirmed that he seemed endowed with a sixth sense.

The Evening Telegram of St. John's, Nfld., received this cable from the New York Daily Mirror: "We wish to know more about the man who performed the remarkable feat of going half way across the Atlantic and finding the Old Glory."

The Telegram recalled that as a boy Tavenor had run away to sea on a foreign vessel. After many adventures in various parts of the world, he won his master's certificate. Even as a child his life was far from dull.

The family lived in Trinity. At the age of seven Ben startled the neighbors by telling them about a mysterious occurance at Christmas time.

Shortly after he went to bed at 8 o'clock, and before he dozed off to sleep, he claimed, he had a vision. In it an old lady who lived some distance from his home, left her house. Though there was much snow on the ground, she wore only a thin cotton dress of bright colors. Plodding through the snow she headed for the sea-shore. After reaching a fishing stage, she suddenly toppled into the icy water.

Suspecting that none of his elders would believe him if he told this fantastic story, the boy went to sleep. Next morning the family was awakened by several men who tossed stones on the roof of their house while one called out in a loud voice: "Is Mrs. ______ at your home?"

Informed that the family had not seen the old lady, the men explained that she had disappeared. They were afraid she had fallen over a cliff while on her way to visit friends, as her sight was poor.

Ben, who heard them talking, cried, "I know where Mrs. _____ is. If you go down to the shore you will find her in the water near the fishing stage."

Ben's parents reproved him for talking in such a way, and sent him back to bed. But one of the men went to the fishing stage, and, to his horror, bound the old lady's lifeless body.

The story of the boy's "vision" spread like wildfire. Soon a policeman was at Ben's home. His mother called him but he recognized the constable's voice, and, being a shy lad, he kept to his room.

Finally the policeman promised to give him 10 cents if he would tell what he knew of Mrs _____'s death. The boy repeated his story and offered to go and show the lady's footprints in the snow. The policeman found them quickly enough. And if Ben's mother had not assured the constable that her son had not been out of the house since 6 o'clock the previous evening, he would have been subjected to more rigid examination by the local magistrate.

With regard to Old Glory, I am told that nobody on the captain's ship knew the plane had crashed. Tavenor, on knocking off watch that September afternoon, called his first mate and told him, "I'm going to lie down for an hour or so. But if you happen to see something like a sea gull floating around, I want you to call me."

Sure enough, half an hour later, the wheelsman reported seeing "something that looks like a giant gull" being tossed on the waves in the distance.

That turned out to be the wreckage of Old Glory.

 

 

Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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