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Edward (Ned) T. Allen, Topsail
(Source: The Daily News, St. John's, NFLD, Thursday, March 22, 1962, Vol. 69. No. 68)
(Author: Miss Phoebe Florence Miller)
All his friends are asking "Aren't you going to write anything about Ned?"
I had hoped that some other pen than mine would write this article, as, from mine, it can only read like a "Readers' Digest" feature "My Unforgettable Character" for that is what he was to a great many beside mine and me. In life he was our dearest friend, and in death he is our greatest lack. Colorful, salty, versatile - no string of adjectives could adequately describe his vibrant personality. When my sister and I were small children, Ned and his cousin, George, were grown up, and our house was their second home. And as we listened with a fearful joy to their ghost-stories, tales of their escapades and hair's breadth escapes, they were real heroes to us. When both were suddenly gone from our little world, Topsail seemed a dull place without them.
George married and settled in Grand Falls, where, in due time, he became the father of Clifford Allen, Newfoundland's most celebrated and bet-loved actor. Ned's father died, and the family moved to Boston where he married, and lived for a number of years.
But, as Mr. Russell says, "You can take the man out of the Bay, but you cannot take the Bay out of the man."
Even with a good job and the teeming life of Boston all around him, Topsail was so entwined with the very fibers of his being, that he thought of it by day, and dreamed of it by night - the Bay, the beach, the ponds, but, most of all, the woods. So he came back, with his sweet American wife and several small children, and settled on the old soil. He slipped back easily into all the old skills - taught his son in those days "to make a man of him." He could plow a straight furrow; cut a field of hay with a scythe; build a fence, a shed or a farm-vehicle; mend tools, and many others. Beside all these he could shoe a horse, and was particularly skillful with sick animals. Then he could catch a fish, mesh a net, cast capelin - any number of things that boys of today are not being taught to do.
Between whiles he helped to build electric lines, which, in season, took him to many parts of the country, where, I have no doubt, he is still well remembered.
So very virile and youthful in physique, and mentally alert and witty was he, he used to delight in being taken for one of his own sons. He was simply "Ned" to everybody all up and down the shore.
Having lived so long in the U.S.A., the word, "inequality" was not in his vocabulary. The man on the street and the highest dignitary in the land were of equal consequence in his eyes, and he had a healthy disdain for all who toadied to those whom they thought better than themselves.
After he retired from outside active work he was still busy about the place. He had a beautiful spirited chestnut named Frank which he raised from a foal. He kept his coat like shining satin, and he was his pride and joy. How often he would hitch Frank to the box cart and fill it up with small children, just to see the glee on their faces. The littlest one held in the crook of his arm, with his chubby hands on the reins! They will forget many things, but the memory of rides in Ned's box cart will glow for many a year. For he had a peculiar attraction for children. When he returned from the States we had grown up. But there was a second generation all ready to fall under his spell. Our children would put their little hands in his and go with him to the ends of the earth. Even as they grew up "to go off with Ned for a day" was a coveted joy. The brave little feet never faltered, the square little shoulders never sagged. For the magic names in Ned's vocabulary - Grassy Gullies, Reef of Rocks, Arm Pond, Horse Shoe Curve, The Bald Rock, were music to which their young feet walked.
Both Russell and Graham Strong lived long enough to impart to their young sons, in the stories they loved best to hear, the magic of Topsail and Ned. To those, and the boys who survive, Ned will always remain a Golden Legend.
Ned and Frank were as much a part of our landscape as the trees and the hills. He loved our old place with us, and took a special pride in the great trees, birches, sycamores and chestnuts, and I think he watched with us every flower that opened in the garden. He used to say fondly when it was all planted and shined up for spring "You know, there's no place like this anywhere!"
Being one of Canon Colley's Catechism Class of earlier days, he was a devout Anglican. He was also an ardent politician. He took his religion and his politics very seriously, and he had an almost uncanny knowledge of the feelings of the ill and the dying. Otherwise he was as sunny as a summer day. Having to retire from my office work years ahead of time, because of ill-health, I shall always remember the joy of working side by side with Ned in the Big Outdoors, as, aided and abetted by him, I worked myself back to health. Watching him plow the fields, planting and harvesting with him - seeing him lift great sacks of vegetables as if they were feathers. Taking down dead trees, making the white chips fly, carrying great logs as if they were pencils. He had a fund of stories about the old Worthies of an earlier day which only he could tell, and all work-hours were leavened with his laughter and good humor. My father used to say "There is only one Ned!" And, in truth, there was!
Who else would sit up all night with our dying, keeping the house perfectly quiet so that no sound should disturb the passing soul? Or stay on afterwards to help with the last sad offices for the dead? Who but Ned would come through a thunderstorm, because he knew that his presence would allay the fears of an invalid? Or in a power-failure to see that we had all we wanted for light and living? Or after a blizzard to see if we could get out? And all this not only to us as a family. He was that kind of a friend and neighbor to all the homes around him. He would share the vigil, night after night, caring for a sick man who lived alone. There are not many left like him.
In his everyday life he lived for others. He was the cheerful mailman for all the homes around him - bringing their mail, and taking it. Nobody had to bother, with Ned around. When he had time on his hands he would do their shopping, or any other messages. It was all simply a matter of course with him. He brought us the first capelin, at their finest. The first berries that ripened. A flipper if he got some. And little bits of news that he thought we should like to hear.
One thinks that such a warm rich background to life can last forever. Then suddenly, we realize that it is gone - never to return. And Heaven takes a different dimension, because he is there. Strange whimsy thoughts are ours. For instance - what does a busy doctor do in Heaven where nobody ever is sick? An electrician - in a City that is lit by The Light of The World? Gardeners, perhaps. Musicians, maybe. Little children who play in the Golden Streets. Preachers, singers, saints. But for ordinary people like myself whose feet kiss the very sod on which they walk, whose dearest scenes in life hold the sea, a sunset, and an evening star how to make it fit?
Ned had a dear little beagle dog named Barney who was his shadow. A few years ago when he went on a trip to Seattle, Barney went everywhere looking for him, and when he could not find him, he crept into Frank's stall and died of a broken heart. John Wesley believed that animals go to Heaven. And I do, too.
Frank went on to the Green Pastures a few months ahead of Ned. He was 27 years old, and Ned grieved for him deeply. "Faithful unto death" who would deny a little dog like Barney a "crown of life?" Or Frank a share in the "rest that remained?"
Our Russell and Graham Strong also went on ahead of Ned, by a few years. What a joy to them just to see Ned coming! For, surely, in a land of which the best things of earth are said to be only the "shadow and the dream" there must be some glorified "Grassy Gullies," some shining "Reef of Rocks," some far-off pond, glimmering like a silver coin in the midst of the greenery, where friends foregather to recall the magic hours spent on earth!
Ned was very human and he had lots of faults, but he was big enough to hold them all. Weaknesses, too. But with a will of iron he came off victorious to the very end.
His wife, presently on a visit to Brooklyn, N.Y., and four sons and a daughter are left to mourn Ted and Doug of the C.N.R.; Mac with Ayres Ltd., and Gerald in Toronto. And a daughter, Lorraine. A son, Wilbur, predeceased him a few years ago at Brooklyn, N.Y. And a beautiful daughter - Mrs. Wilfred Hancock of Brooklyn, B.B. - the bride of only a year, some years earlier. He also leaves a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Ned was seventy-eight when he died, but nobody thought of him as an old man. Rising at dawn, he worked until the sun went down each day, and gloried in it. To those of us who had lost so many of our men-folk he was like a strong band, holding our little world together.
Life will go on. Mr. Smallwood will have another landslide but Ned will not be here to cheer; the S.U.F. will parade to the strains of the Band he loved, but Ned will not come to boast of walking every step to Manuel's Bridge and back, and minding it a bit! Friends will visit from far and near, but Ned will not be here to welcome them.
Born at Topsail in 1883 to Edward and Jane Allen, he was a grandson of the pioneer teacher and scholar, Master James Allen, who taught an amalgamated school for all the children of the first settlers Catholic and Protestant alike in a little building which, up to about thirty years ago, was still in use as a C. of E. school, when it was replaced by a new one on the same site, now sold to Mr. Trickett for the Power House, and converted into a dwelling. The warmth and affection that radiated from Master Allen's school shed their beams down through the years, welding a bond of love, loyalty and respect that time could not outwear. Handed on from father to son, Ned came in for a full share of it all, and he reciprocated it warmly.
Ned - a little name to mean so much to so many!
I hope that Frank's low whicker of recognition, as he neared the Green Pastures and Barney's exuberant welcome at the Golden Gates went far to ease his homesickness before he pressed on to the Realms of Rest.
The prospect of the first Springtime without him is very bleak. But death is so permanent! This time he will not come back. F.M.
Transcribed by Jennifer Nash
Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)
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