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45 - The Story of Billy Philpott's Hole



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

Billy Philpott came from a long line of robust Newfoundland fishermen, and quite naturally, as the young Billy grew up in a world of fishing and fishermen who had never considered any other occupation, he became a fisherman also. He was born in the nineteenth century at Tickle Cove (A village where one of our oldest Newfoundland folk-songs originated) and became really proficient at his one steady employment, because he had somme of the best fishermen living on the island to teach him. Twice a year, Billy travelled to Labrador, in the summer to fish, and in the spring to hunt seals. One year, during the summer fishery, he and two friends discovered the partly decayed skull of an Eskimo woman. Paying no attention to the half-fearful scoffs of his friends, Billy kept it as a piggin, for he was an enterprising man.

On his return to Tickle Cove after that summer's fishing, Billy saw a mysterious figure flitting from deck to deck of the boat, and told his companions of this strange occurrence. This was not generally believed except by some superstitious souls who had firm faith in all ghosts and their counterparts.

Billy kept his punt in Otter Gulch, where it was conveniently close for fishing purposes. A strange Eskimo curse again showed its power during Billy's frequent trips to the nearby settlements of King's Cove and Keels. On his return, Billy often remarked on a phantom figure he had seen beckoning to him from a hole in the cliff near his home. At the first appearance of the apparition, Billy had thought that it was his mother coming to greet him, but had learned upon arrival that his mother had spent all the day at Tickle Cove.

One fine spring day, Billy set out for King's Cove to see if he could secure a berth for the ice. Having paid his berth money, Billy, disregarding the warnings of more cautious friends who saw signs of a severe storm, took his package of sugar and tea, and began the long, hard tramp towards Tickle Cove.

Then the storm began. Is snowed intermittently for days, each fresh blizzard worse than the last. When the snow finally ceased, several of Billy's friends organized a search party and set out to look for him. Nearing Tickle Cove, they noted with amazement that Billy's boat and piggin had disappeared and only a pair of borrowed oars lay on the ice. After hours of futile searching, Billy's package was discovered, tied to a tree. The searchers grew more hopeful, but then, as if signifying a bad omen a dark cloud hovered above their heads, and someone stumbled over his body, lying face down in the snow.

The village people will tell you of a strange occurrence that supposedly happened that night. Some persons saw a red ball of fire ascending to the heavens, two ghostlike figures clinging to it.

And to this day, that dark hole in the cliff where Billy's vision appeared is called "Billy Philpott's Hole."

Piggin - a home-made wooden "dipper" used for bailing water out of a boat.



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

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

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