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Bluff Head Cove - Part 1

James Ivany

(from The Fisherman's Advocate, January 29, 1965



At long last I have come to the business of writing my story on Bluff Head Cove, but in one way I have sometimes wished I hadn't changed the name from "Vanished People", for doing so has cost me a little money, mental strain, and many befuddled headaches.

In another way I am glad because if another man should be added to the list of "the self-educated", I am he. For indeed was my backward drift into the unknown world of one individual an educational boon. and if anyone should doubt my statement, I would like for the unbeliever to come in now and see the pile of printed material before me as I write.

In the pile there are family history books, biology books, newspapers and newspaper clippings, a big stack of letters and, visible among all are three "coats of arms" of three different clans, but of the same name.

However, as I promised to do in a previous writing called "a written chit-chat", to begin my story proper I am going to take up now where I left-off then. But first let me give this warning: if anyone is expecting to read something excitable or out of the ordinary, please banish the thought. For when this story was provoked I was thinking only of a man who left a discontented home in Marwickshire, England, and sought refuge in a tiny, solitary, silent cove in a newly discovered land as much as 2000 miles away. But then I didn't know where he came from or of what descent his ancestors, and that's what caused the wide and complicated search.

And now going back to where I left off in "a written chit-chat", I want to ask one thing - that readers will give me pardon for writing a rambling story, but that's the kind of story this has to be; so come on with me and ramble.

The gleam of hope I spoke of came from a man who is best known in the carpentry trade as "Uncle Joe". (He is retired now or, at least, is old enough to be retired. But like most Newfoundlanders who grow old, he can't stand being idle. His given name is Joseph Barrett and he was born and lived a long time in Bay Roberts, Conception Bay.)

I met and talked with Uncle Joe several times before. But this special time we sat side by side in the Carpenter's Union Hall where members wait to be sent out on different jobs.

Apparently Uncle Joe is fairly well read in Newfoundland history, for it was he who brought up the subject of Kelly's Island, the rendezvous home of a noted pirate about three centuries ago.

As I was never on the island and he was, I asked him if the historical statement is true that embedded in the beach on the east side, there is a large anchor where the bold Kelly careened his ships and refitted them for further pirate raids. Also if he knew anything of the fabulous hoard hidden by the fierce rover of former days.

"Yes," he replied, "the anchor is there. I have sat on it. But the story of the hidden treasure is doubtful. For all that some people believe it, even to this day. but being superstitious they won't attempt to find it because they think it is being protected by Kelly's ghost or the ghosts of his men."

Veering off on another point, he told me of a marble headstone that was brought over from England and placed as a monument by the grave of one William Earle of Brigus. This William Earle, it seems, was alive in 1762 and was noted for scheming to deceive the French in their last attacks on Conception Bay settlements in the same year.

To verify his story, he called along a man by the name of Mark Earle. But he seemed to be such a nervous happy-go-constant that he didn't stay as long as I wished he had.

However, with the story of "Bluff Head Cove" in the back of my mind, I pounced on the chance to ask my companion if he knew anything about his own ancestors. Where did they come from?

"Yes," he said, "I do." And surprisingly enough he took me back to William the Conqueror who came over from Normandy, France, and conquered England at the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066.

"Believe it or not," he continued, "the name Barrett was on the list of those who came with William from Normandy, and I can show you, in black and white, that this was the beginning of the Barretts in England, who afterwards went to Ireland, and four hundred years afterwards spread out to Newfoundland. And so all the Barretts in Newfoundland, whether they are in Trinity Bay, Bonavista Bay, or elsewhere, came from Ireland, but their origin is French."

There is more to Uncle Joe's story and I must tell it because, as you will see later, it has a bearing on my own. But the rest is in my own words.

With what I was just told, the idea of my story was bolstered to high pitch and the hope of finding the origin of the man I wanted was also high. Therefore I pressed my talkative friend to loan me whatever it was he had in black and white to study on my own.

Within the next couple of days I received the desired document together with the Barrett coat of arms, and, after satisfying myself that this was not a lot of "hanky-panky" - as they say in Ireland - but the real gospel, I turned to my own books of study for further verification.

Sure enough, the name Barrett is French and is spelled in Norman Teutonic language as "Berwald".

The "coat of arms" was presented to Barrett by King William himself for a valiant deed he did in the Hastings' battle and for which he also received a large parcel of land. This elevated him to a distinguished position, but in 1170 he relinquished his possession and went to Cork in Ireland. There he secured another tract of land and called it "Barrett's Country".

By the middle part of the sixteenth century or 400 years later the Barretts had multiplied by hundreds, and when fishing ships from England touched in at Cork for supplies, which they couldn't obtain at home, they took on board men as well. And this is how the Barretts came to Newfoundland.

But after I had studied all this my brain was tired and my eyes weary, so I pushed my papers and books to one side and off to bed to rest and wait for another time.

(To be continued)


Return to Bluff Head Cove Index

Page Transcribed by James Butler 1998
Page Revised: July 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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