Showing posts with label bell island. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bell island. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Remembering 1942 - An account of the U-boat torpedoing at Bell Island

SS Saganaga

"Running to my sister's bedroom window which overlooked the eastern portion of the tickle, I arrived there before the debris flung in the air had settled back upon the water. The Rose Castle, deeply laden with her heavy cargo of iron ore was mortally wounded, but after only a few seconds she was hit by a second torpedo, tearing her apart in a blinding flash, and with bow and stern sticking almost vertically in the air she quickly vanished beneath the surface." 
- Lloyd C. Rees 

New on our website is a first-hand account of the torpedoing of the ore carriers S.S. Saganaga and the S.S. Lord Strathcona by U-boat 513 in the waters off Lance Cove, Sept. 5, 1942, and the similar dispatching of the PLM 27 and the S.S. Rose Castle by U-518 in the same location the following November 2nd.  It was written by the late Lloyd C. Rees, and we've been working with his daughter Catherine Rees to get it ready for re-publication. It has originally been posted online in 1999, but a few pages were missing. We've added it to our Field Notes series, and included a new introduction by Catherine, placing the work of her father in context.

You can read the full account here.

Or  download the pdf.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Memory Mug Up - Bell Island U-boat Attacks & Sinkings, July 20

The two German U-boat attacks in 1942 sank four ore ships off Bell Island and left 70 sailors dead. Do you have memories or family stories you can share of the attacks or the sinkings? Or of the care of the survivors or the funerals for the dead? If so, then we would like to invite you to a Memory Mug Up at the Bell Island Community Museum on Friday, July 20 at 7:00 p.m.

The Memory Mug Up is an informal story-sharing session, where people gather, have a cup of tea, and share memories. The goal of the program is to help participants (especially seniors) share and preserve their stories.

Join folklorist Dale Jarvis of the NL Heritage Foundation and members of the Bell Island Heritage Society for an evening of memories. This event is part of a larger project which the Bell Island Heritage Society is working on with the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland & Labrador, to create a new website on the WWII sinkings and how they affected Bell Islanders.

To register for the Memory Mug Up, please call Teresita McCarthy at 709-488-2880 or email

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Entrance to Mine on Bell Island, 1954. #Folklorephoto

One of the Bell Island Mine entrances taken in 1954. This photograph is part of the Allen and Pearl Squires Fonds from the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Archives. To see other photographs from this collection visit MUN's Digital Archives.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Some Thousand Miles Apart, and a War On." The WWII Letters of Allen Squires and Pearl Morcombe, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's

Allen Squires in uniform (028.02.02).  Detail of one of the many letters he wrote to Pearl Morcombe.

In April I had the pleasure to work on a collection for the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, organizing the Allen and Pearl Squires fonds. The couple made a financial donation to the town in the 1980's to establish the community library, and with that donation came a box with some of the couples possessions, 35mm slides, war medals, and stacks of letters written during the second world war. When I first opened up the box, the stacks of beautifully handwritten letters, immediately peaked my interests.

Stacks of correspondence from the Allen and Pearl Squires Fonds, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's

The letters were all sent to Pearl Morcombe of Melrose, Massachusetts during the Second World War. Pearl corresponded with fifteen different people, family and friends who talked about their own lives and life during WW2. A large portion of the correspondence is from Allen Squires of St. Philip's, who had known Pearl years before, and had reconnected as penpals when Allen's sister Edna Tucker sent Pearl his address. Pearls mother was from St. Philip's, so Pearl already had some connection with the area, and Allan often wrote about the area, telling Pearl she should visit. They wrote about the war and their homes and families. He often talks about everyday life at war, the food they ate, where they slept, and their entertainment. While stationed in England, Allen wrote in a letter on March 13th 1941:

Souvenir sent by Allen to Pearl, Sept. 15, 1940 
"If Hitler thinks he will brake the moral of the British people, he is making a big mistake. There's a little girl drives a van in every morning about 10 o'clock, with coffee and buns for the boys. The other morning she came in and told me she was up all night. I asked her what the trouble was, and she said there was about thirty fire bombs dropped in her back yard that night. So she said she worked on them all night with the men and helped to put them out, and still she was on the job at nine in the morning with her little van, with buns and coffee for the boys. I told her she ought to get a medal and she just laughed about it. I never saw people with such wonderful pluck. They are really marvelous. If there is any holes in our socks, they will take them and darn them, or if we want anything done, they are quiet willing to do it. They post all our letters. I don't think I shall ever forget them."
Through out his letters, Allen often talks about the women he meets at war, and tells Pearl she should find herself a boyfriend. As they continue to write to each other, and their relationship grows, Allen's writing becomes more romantic and he talks of their future together. On April 24th 1942 Allen wrote:
"I am living in hopes that some day I will be able to make you my little wife and we can live happy for the remainder of our life. That may sound funny. Some thousand miles apart, and a war on, but such things can happen." 
028.02.01 Allen and Emma Squires. Courtesy of
the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Archives.
Pearl also receives letters from other people, including those related to Allen and from Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. She writes to Allen's sister Edna Tucker, and his brother Leslie Squires who moved to the USA for work. There are letters from Edna's son Jacob J. Tucker who first writes when he is 16 and a member of the 1st St. Philip's Troop Boy Scouts and leader of the Boy Scouts orchestra in St. Philip's. He eventually goes to live with Pearl in Massachusetts for his health and seeking opportunity. Allen's mother Emma Squires writes to Pearl, primarily when she has not heard from her son and to ask if Pearl has received any letters. Emma Squires emotional letters are those of a worried mother, wondering if the war will ever end, and her sadness over the death of her husband Gus Squires. Most of her letters are steeped in melancholy, including one letter from September 26th 1944:

"Just as I am writing this I look [through] my window at such a lovely sunset, I never saw before. Just like a picture as it shined on the church just by my house, its red roof and all white. It made me feel so sad. And when I see anything looking so lovely it makes me think of things very sad. Well Dear, what do you think of the dread full time is going on now. I suppose this is the finishing of most of our Dear ones. I am thinking there isn't many of them going to be left by the time it's finished. I guess they will be most all thru with it all. I was in hopes of my Dear boy coming some time, but since this hard time have started I am feeling pretty bad at it all."

In one of the last letters, a August 14th 1945 letter forwarded to Pearl from Leslie Squires, Emma Squires writes about the end of the war and news that Allen is returning home to Newfoundland. She once again describes the view out her window, but this time with the joy and relief:
"The church bell is ringing now and Bell Island is all a light guns firing." 
028.03.201 View of St. Philip's Church and Bell Island. Taken by Allen and Pearl Squires August 10th 1962
Photograph courtesy of the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Archives.
For more information on the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Archives, contact the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Heritage Programs and Services Coordinator Julie Pomeroy.

~ Kelly

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep073 Memories of Wabana

Gail (Hussey) Weir is the author of The Miners of Wabana, published by Breakwater Books in 1989 and 2006. Her latest publication is a chapter on the history of Company Housing on Bell Island in the book Company Houses, Company Towns: Heritage and Conservation, published by Cape Breton University Press in 2016. A former archivist with Memorial University Library’s Archives & Special Collections, she is spending her retirement years constructing a website on Bell Island’s history and culture at

In this podcast, we talk about the history of mining on Bell Island, company housing and building styles, and Gail’s memories of growing up on the island.

The photo above is from Gail's website, and shows the building of the abutment at Scotia Pier c. 1950 at the time that Euclid trucks were replacing ore cars for transport of iron ore from the mines to the piers. The house in the left of the picture was the accountant's house. On the far right of the background can be seen the partial top storey of the Manager's House. Photo courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, MUN Library.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween - Ghost Stories and Urban Legends

In celebration of Halloween, today I've pulled together some audio clips recorded in the Newman Wine Vaults from the Young Folklorist Program in May 2011. The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador ran this program as a part of the enrichment program for Junior High students. The clips include an urban legend, a terrifying story of a Bell Island hag, and a story of a ghostly nun.
Recording of an urban legend told by Emma Burry, a Grade 9 student at Leary's Brook Junior High. Emma writes, "I heard this story from one of the counsellors at the summer camp I went to one year. It takes place at Sunshine Park in the summertime, approximately 20 years ago. It has to do with the actual camp I went to and one of the events that they do every year."

Photo of local craftperson Janet Peter's old hag dolls. 
Recording of a ghost story told by Nicole Doyle, a Grade 9 student at St. Michael's Regional High. Nicole writes, "This story takes place on Bell Island, Newfoundland. It is a very small island with very big mysteries. The island is a very woodsy area and it has been told that there are hags, fairies, witches and more in the woods. I never believed that i would be a victim of one of these ghostly encounters. Though, one night I wanted to walk home through the woods, and saw the scare of my life! I had witnesses, so I know that I wasn't just seeing things. I went back to make sure that it was not just an illusion. Well, it was definitely not an illusion!"

Recording of a ghost story told by Jordan Moss, a Grade 9 student at Leary's Brook Junior High. Jordan writes, "My mother told me this story about how she was on her way to work and a nun looked at her and she had no face or feet."

~Terra Barrett

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep048 Bell Island Museum and Memories

Teresita E. McCarthy is a retired educator. She taught for thirty-three years in the classrooms in her native community of Bell Island, NL. Teresita also taught three programs for older workers under a WISE sponsored program on Bell Island. She is currently manager of the Bell Island Community Museum and #2 Mine Tour. She is a founding member of the Bell Island Heritage Society Inc. and Tourism Bell Island Inc. and has also served as Vice President of the Museum Association of NL, President and is currently immediate past President and Treasurer of this association. We discuss the history of Bell Island and importance of the mine, effects of World War Two on Bell Island, the closure of the mine, Bell Island Community Museum and #2 mine tour, diving tours in the mine and partnership with Ocean Quest, and the museum expansion.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo

"The Miner", depicting miner Billy Parsons, is one of a series of murals commemorating Bell Island's heritage. The iron ore mines were once the largest in the British Empire, extending more than 5 kilometres under Conception Bay. The abandoned #2 Mine was designated as a heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo

Despite its fairly small size, Bell Island has at least 12 different cemeteries. Some of these are considered new, while others are historic, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The cemetery pictured here is by far the smallest--it has a single headstone, carefully fenced off, on the side of a hill. It can be seen from the road when you are  driving onto the island from the ferry. One can't help but speculate as to why it is up there all alone. This single grave site surely has a story. Who is buried here? Why is this grave in this location? While I've heard a few stories about the person buried here, I'd be interested to hear your version. So, if you know anything about this little hillside graveyard, please email: I look forward to hearing from you, and I'll be sure to write another post sharing people's answers to this query.


This information was provided by Ed Kirby who has roots on Bell Island. This is an interesting account, and it also points towards a mystery around the actual burial site connected to this headstone (pictured above).

"It’s that of Greg Normore, who supposedly was the first permanent resident of Bell Island, settling there around 1740. The headstone was moved to its current location in the late 1950s or early 1960s. I think it had previously been somewhere else on the hill, possibly in the old Anglican graveyard on the east hand side of the Beach Hill Road, or near the tram track to the west of the road. The tram, which was located between the road and the cemetery, moved people up and down the steep hill to the Beach ferry before Beach Hill Road was built. My mother’s family – both sides of it – were from Bell Island, and there was some skepticism that the site from where the headstone was moved was actually his burial site. The adults in the family said Normore’s actual burial site was unknown, and that the headstone was erected in an arbitrary spot overlooking the bay. The current site of the headstone is near the Catholic cemetery where the ground is about half rock and half clay, fit only for grazing and burying."