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from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961
The man who almost succeeded in getting a free-port in Newfoundland.
Henry C. Thompson was born in 1856, in India where his English father held an important position in the government. When Henry was nine years old he and his parents left India to return to England. His mother died enroute and was buried at sea. At Cambridge University in England he studied to become a lawyer.
Mr. Thompson made the first of six trips to Newfoundland when he was fifty years old. His objective was to establish a storage and transhipment port, commonly known as a free-port. It was necessary to establish farming and fishing near to create employment, to supply the port and have meat and fish for export.
Between the years 1914-1920 he endeavored to found this port on the northeast coast, either in Notre Dame Bay or in White Bay. Both were fog-free. However ice conditions prevented his doing so.
In 1921 Mr. Thompson visited Mortier Bay and studied harbour conditions and the surrounding countryside. He decided that Mortier Bay was an ideal place for the free-port and also for fishing and farming.
After his return to England a complete harbour survey was undertaken, and the harbour, as well as the approach to the harbour, was accurately charted by Lloyds of London. Those charts are now in Ottawa. The main part of the port was to be constructed at Spanish Room. It would be well to note that the cost of this survey, some $200,00, was largely paid by Mr. Thompson personally.
Following this survey Mr. Thompson obtained permission to build the port. He succeeded in interesting many Canadian and American businessmen in the venture.
In 1939 Mr. Thompson visited Newfoundland again to finalize matters. As he prepared to sail back on the S.S. Geraldine Marie, he was advised against it by his friends at Marystown, especially Dr. and Mrs. Harris. Thompson replied that since his mother died at sea he often hoped he would die at sea also. Ironically enough, his wish was realized when the S.S. Geraldine Marie was torpedoed on this voyage.
A Canadian promoter has since reviewed the free-port idea under the Mortier Bay Development Company. This company is using Mr. Thompson's plans and charts. The community library at Marystown which has recently been made a regional library, is to be named "The Thompson Memorial Library" in his honour.
This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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