Newfoundland Fishing Village.
Newfoundland Fishing Village.

Sailing ships beset in fog and icebergs,
Irish immigrants welcomed freshening
Breeze, wind-taught sails and lines, west-
Sailing towards Newfoundland, away from
Famine and subservient existence, hope
Of opportunity upon the glacier-scarred
Rock. As native Newfoundlander, we
Watched towering icebergs drag bottom
In fishing bays, pushed by cold Labrador
Current, fracturing and rolling, new-found
Home, spring flowers, short summers,
Long winters, deep, windblown snow.

Family NL Photo.
Family NL Photo.

My Irish family arrived in first waves,
Enough money before screw-steamers
Left Cork, pregnant mothers, babies in
Arms, clothes on their backs, no food,
No place to sleep, only doze. For destitute,
Newfoundland was salvation, act of
Faith on rough North Atlantic seas,
And the final challenge, navigating
Icebergs, bergy bits, and growlers,
Bobbing chunks of ice, lost in foggy six-
Foot chop, crushing hulls, schooners,
Packet boats, wood or foundry steel.

Family NL photo.
Family NL photo.

Summer shipwrecks frequent, how do
I know? Because mother whisked brother
And I from high-sloped pebbled beaches
To our home, men running ashore, dories
Pushed to sea, bodies washed up on
Broad beaches, pale-cold lifeless forms,
To young eyes, seemed like life-size dolls,
Surf-flowing henna hair, dresses blues,
Greens, many with no shoes, children
Amongst adults, few breathless survivors
Found, then flotsam, chests and broken
Wood, enough to build or repair boats.

Family NL photo.
Family NL photo.

Our mother walked us to nearby cliff,
Overlooking bodies lining rocky shores,
She wanted us to witness what God and
Good weather spared us. “Mary, Mother
Of Sorrows,” she pleaded, making Catholic
Cross, she cried and prayed on bended
Knee, as did we, unable to fathom what
Tear-blurred eyes had seen. Soon after,
We moved to Carbonear, shelter of cod-
Fishing bays, names in family Bibles,
Struggles of Irish immigrants recounted
On this Newfoundland Canada Day.

For information on Irish migration and immigration to
Newfoundland-Labrador, see this link: 

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