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The Storm of 1892
The Trinity Bay Disaster
Saturday, February 27, 1892, dawned warm and sunny. Weather conditions near the mouth of Trinity Bay were excellent. The bay was full of loose ice and, to the delight of the population of Ship Cove, Robin Hood, Champney's, English Harbour and surrounding communities, this ice provided an area for numerous seals to bask in the warming winter sun. Word of the possibility of getting an early supply of fresh seal meat spread rapidly through the communities and everyone who was available prepared "to go to the ice". Fooled by the unusually warm temperatures for that time of year, however, many prospective sealers were ill-prepared for the events that followed.
Local newspapers of era and later historical accounts, present a detailed account of this tragedy. First, from The Weekly Record, published in Trinity at the time, comes three articles. The black-edged detailed "eye witness" account of the tragic event as published on March 5, 1892: with follow-up statements, published on March 19, by the captain of the rescue vessel Richard Fowlow and one of the men on the ice, William Day. These reports form the core of all other articles on this tragedy.
A St. John's newspaper, The Hearld stated that the government was tardy in responding to the disaster, by sending out the vessel Labrador on Monday, the third day following the disaster. The Weekly Record, however, was quick to come to the government's defence, stating that everything possible was done to rescue those in trouble. In that same issue the Record noted that a Relief Fund started in the city was steadily increasing.
In the July 2 issue of The Weekly Record was published a notice of bravery recorded during the events of late February and noted that several people received awards for bravery.
In 1976, R. W. Hayter published, in The Clarenville Packet a detailed account of the Trinity Bay Disaster, using as a source the articles published in The Weekly Record 84 years earlier.
Michael Harrington published, for many years, a column in The Evening Telegram entitled Offbeat History. In 1979 he dedicated two of his columns to the Trinity Bay Disaster. The first, published on February 26, 1979, was a detailed summary of the event, similar to the article published by Hayter a few years before. The second, published on May 2, 1979, dealt with the public subsrciption which was initiated by the Government following the 1892 disaster. This, second, article was sparked by correspondence Mr. Harrington had received from Clarence Dewling, an avid reader and historian in his own right. Mr. Dewling had supplied Harrington with details of the public subscription and distribution of the funds among the surviving relatives of those lost in the disaster. It is, with his kind permission, included here.
Again, in 1988, Don Morris published in his History column in the Sunday Express, an article entitled The Angel of Death Rode on Icy Blast. The same article from The Weekly Record was used as a source.
For those who have had the pleasure of visiting the historic community of Trinity in recent years, a highlight of such a visit is an afternoon at The Trinity Pageant. This pageant depicts the history of not only the community of Trinity, but also the surrounding areas. Two scenes of the pageant take place in the vicinity of St. Paul's Anglican Church and are dedicated to the Trinity Bay Disaster of 1892. The initial scene takes place in the churchyard and reminisces about the disaster. The second scene is conducted inside St. Paul's Church and is a memorial service for those lost in the disaster. Both scenes are very moving for all who attend, but particularly so for those who have family ties to this disaster. In July, 1999, the churchyard scene incorporated a song, written by Clarence Dewling, about the disaster. The song tells the story of the disaster through the eyes of an elderly resident of the community. Thanks to Clarence, the song is included in this collection of information on the Trinity Bay Disaster.
Transcribed by James Butler, 2000
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