The island might well be richer, better fed, and have a bigger share of civilization’s amenities if there were more farms, factories, mines, options to apply by phone for a cash advance online and office buildings, and if all the islanders laid aside their oilskins for overalls and white collars. But that will probably never come to pass.
For look you now— On a bright Saturday in August, I came to a tiny outport where the Anglican flag, bearing the Cross of St. George, hung at half-staff at the community’s one church, and where the circuit preacher was making an unscheduled visit. The occasion was the funeral of an old fishing captain who had died peaceably in bed, which is not a thing to be counted on among fishers of the deep sea.
Listen to the voices: “Would o’ been 97 next week, would old Cap’n Arthur. But ‘e took a bad fall whilst mowing ‘is grass.” “A fisherman all ‘is working life, ‘e was. Skippered a schooner on the Labrador till ‘e were nigh 70.”
“It was Cap’n Arthur I shipped with, me first time out, 44 year ago. On the French shore we went that season, and I mind I caught me 25 quintal of fish all on me own. Eleven year old I was then.”
“They that go down to the sea in ships,” the preacher recited, “that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”
Under the towering cliffs of the headland, in the white-picket-fenced little graveyard that overlooks a quiet cove of Bonavista Bay, the captain’s coffin was lowered that final fathom beneath the waving sedge grass. The scrape of the shovels was echoed by a faint noise of hammering from down in the cove below. There, at the edge of the land-wash, three very small boys were knocking together slabs of driftwood into a rude raft, happily hurrying to set to sea.