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  • Writer's pictureJan Redford

Isobel in L'Anse au Loup June 25 - June 28, 1915

Updated: Feb 4, 2018

Friday, June 25, 1915

Here I am in my little room at Mrs. Linstead’s. I won’t try to describe either her or my room, but I am going to have pictures of them. Mrs. Wakefield is asleep on the feather-bed. I am writing at the foot of it. She is pretty well tired out. The window of our room at the Lighthouse would not open and we nearly perished. We drove from the Lighthouse to Schooner Cove. The excitement of the other road was nothing to this one. The last part of the way was sheer precipice. Mrs. Wakefield got out and walked but I stayed in for pure “divilment.” I really didn’t expect to reach the bottom without upsetting. It was fun watching the horse. He was doubled up every which way in his efforts not to roll head over heels down the hill. It was sport and Mrs. Wakefield was sorry she had missed it when we got to the bottom.

Mrs. Wakefield in Isobel's tent

Geoff and Mr. Hardy, another of the Marconi operators, borrowed a boat at Schooner’s Cover and rowed us across to Loup. There were several ice-bergs – huge ones – near the horizon, and one in the bay itself. The water was clear as crystal. I could see seaweed and mussel shells on the bottom, and the water was twenty feet deep, anyway, they said. The boat rolled on the deep swell and made our positions balancing on the edge of the trap-boat quite precarious. I saw Battery head and must get a picture of it. The mountains are great round her. They are covered with tuckamore, moss, lichen, and patches of snow.

We have just seen an eight-foot shark that one of the fishermen caught trawling. Geoff came up to take us to see it as he thought we would be interested. It was a wicked looking brute, still alive, quivering, though it was sawn in half.

Lunch was funny. We had caplin, that we were expected to eat with our fingers, bread and stale soda biscuits. We used some of my Oxo instead of the tea, boiled and sweetened with molasses that was offered to us. We had towels instead of napkins. I am glad too that I brought soap, for what Mrs. Linstead had to offer was a bar of laundry soap. Poor people – they have certainly touched rock bottom and they are the best people in the village. How I hope the fishing is good this season.

And do you know what they do with the toys they get – hang them up on the wall as curios. The children go without. I have no less than four dolls hanging round my mirror, besides x-mas cards and a framed collection of cracker mottoes. I have to laugh, everything is so funny, but how in the world I am going to do any good I don’t see.

Saturday, June 26, 1915

Well I am alone now for the summer. I felt rather badly as I waved good-bye to Allie and Mrs. Wakefield but I got eight fat letters and they rather cheered me up. This afternoon, with the aid of Parson Richards, I got all my things in the school-house and my pictures hung. I also made a little advance into the Linstead’s confidence, at least if confiding trouble is any sign. I showed some of the little boys how to play ball too. I am rather nervous about Monday but I don’t need to rely only on myself. I hope none of the parents come though.

Some of the Linstead’s friends are building platforms, somewhat in the style of a fish-stage, outside my window. It is a queer looking affair raised about two feet to protect me from dogs and the dampness of the ground. It is two feet from my window so I can crawl through. I hope I get enough air in that way.

Piercy Linstead in front of Isobel's tent

I had a walk to-night past the village round the bay. A growler had turned turtle and the bay is full of the floating debris. I just wish I had an ice cream freezer now to give the Linsteads a treat, as are any number of pieces just the right size washed up on the beach. It is rather wonderful watching a wave, gleaming and alive with the silver bodies of caplin, break on the rocks. It would make a wonderful picture if you could get it clearly. I guess it is not possible though.

I felt quite the patriarchal school-marm walking home through the village, all the strange youths, maidens, and ancient mariners saying “good-evening, miss.” I wish I were older, then I’d be quite the high muck-a-muck. I feel crawly to-night. I hope it is only imagination. You have no idea how hard it is to understand the people, they talk to quickly, and in such a queer way that I can only smile fatuously and say yes and no on spec. Let us hope I get on better very soon.

The people Mrs. Wakefield and I saw last night were very nice. Mrs. Linstead decked in her best – black full skirt trailing in the sand; black silk blouse, the effect rather spoilt by a common pin fastening the collarless collar; red shawl and pea-cap; took us around to see all those who were suffering. There were cases of berri-berri, eczema, varicose veins and incipient consumption. Poor souls. I was sorry for them. Mrs. Wakefield diagnosed like a veteran and dispensed advice and lectures in a truly admirable manner. I sat and posed as the new teacher. I wonder if I made a hit. Why of course, young Millen, what else. Oh dear. I am sleepy and tired. Bed will feel good to-night.

Mrs. Jessie Linstead & Piercy, her youngest child

Sunday afternoon

A woman sent for me to come and see the sores on her children’s faces. So after I had been to the post-office with Marion (the post-master is a dear) Mrs. Linstead took me over. Their faces were bad indeed, poor little kids, of course I don’t know what has caused them but I can see that they are very contagious. I am going over after church to wash them with disinfectant and put salve on. I got a dissertation on the family history from Ma Linstead but I couldn’t make out much except that they were very shiftless people. Poor soul. I pity a shiftless woman here. Mrs. Linstead says they have not any more “varmin” than is natural in children. That is how they regard such things here. I answered all the mail I received yesterday, this morning. For dinner I had beans, potatoes and cabbage that they grow themselves and preserve in salt. It is dark green and rather bitter. I had rice for dessert and I ate a little of it. I’ll be able to tackle anything when I get home.

Mrs. John Ryland (Maria O'Brien) with Stanley (1912-2004), Augustus (1910-1986), Georgina (1914-2006), unknown woman, Fred (1909-1999)

Later on

I have just come back from seeing Mrs. Ryland’s children. I fixed them up pretty well I hope, and am going to-night with some soap. The only dish they had to put disinfectant in was a cracked wash-bowl and it was filthy. I could see that the children are dears under their sores. I hope I get them well. I had to dry my hands on an apron, no towels to be had.

I don't think they aught to have Church of England services in the country. The tawdriness of it tends toward Roman Catholicism. Parson Richards looked so funny trying to get into his cotton surplice. It reminded me for all the world of a nightgown. Then trying to look unconcerned while he strode from tiny pulpit to tinier reading desk, was an obvious effort. He had to lead the singing too and until well into the second line of each verse I was the only one who helped him. When the others joined in it was funny. They all have Salvation Army voices and the more you quaver and tremolo and shout the better you sing. The pronunciation of the words is a source of joy. You may not think from these criticisms that I enjoyed the service. Parson Richards is only a rough coast man who had educated himself. He rather loved to use big words and then explain them to his listeners, but apart from that his service was very fitting.

I see my supper getting ready. I don’t allow myself to think of how my meals are cooked and served, nor of how the dishes are washed for that might make me less hungry. I like eating supper cause I can have a chocolate after. Did you ever try to eat with a fork whose three prongs are perfectly straight? I do that three times a day.

The Meigle has just steamed out of sight. She brought news that the ice was at Henley. If this wind keeps up we will be blockaded in two days. It will mean ruin for the poor people.

Monday, June 28, 1915

Well the wind has changed but it is another horrid day. Cold and raw. I am going to open the can of soup that Marjorie Watson gave me and have something substantial for dinner.

I opened school this morning, but did little except grade the children and give them their books. Twenty-one turned up, as far as I can make out only five more are expecting to come. I have only two above eleven – a boy and a girl of fifteen. Cyril has berry-berri and so can’t help with the fishing; he seems quite bright. Janie O’Brien is I am afraid, a bit dull. My infant class is appalling; ten children from four to six and two more expected. I am going to spend this afternoon planning my time-table. But how in the world I am going to manage those infants and the older ones I don’t see. If I find I can’t, I shall send the four year olds home. They ought not to be confined at that age anyway. If I only had some kindergarten supplies!

Parson Richards and I last night composed a service, which I might use on Sunday evenings without offending His Fussiness the Bishop. It is composed of prayers and readings and hymns from the Prayer Book. I am getting anxious about the organ. Can it have gone astray? A service without it would be ghastly to say the least. Parson Richards called me a gracious young lady last night.

Monday night

The sunset tonight is too wonderful for words. Just before he sank the sun blazed forth, turning the sky, where the dark green hills behind L’Anse au Loup, meet the molten gold and reflecting in paler glory on the ice-bergs in the bay. Even yet the old rose hue of the sky and the deep blue of the water is a wonderful sight. How very good God is to share with us such beauty.

I spent a pleasant half-hour with a crab this afternoon while on my walk. I had seen a number of skeletons belonging to his friends and relations, but he was the first live one I had seen. He was of a reddish-brown except for the tips of his pincers. He has a little trap-door into his insides underneath with two little grasping feelers that protrude to draw food in. he really looked quite wicked, squirming around in vain endeavor to reach my grasping hand. After I put him into the water he spent quite a time seemingly feeling his head to see if I had hurt him, then he backed away sideways and was soon lost to view among the dead caplin.

L'Anse au Loup - 1915

On my way back a woman called to me to look at a rash on her baby’s feet. She was another Mrs. Ryland, there are seven in all. I don't know what ails the fat little thing but I brought some salve with me after I had paid a visit to the children with the sores. They, thank goodness, are improving. Then when I got home still another Ryland man came over with sore eyes. I gave him some glycol-thermoline and an eye bath. I guess it will fix him up. Also I made friends with some new people. You know I can’t help but laugh at myself as I go around, playing the doctor and advising on subjects I know nothing whatever about. When I get to my room I start giggling. It really is too funny. There is nothing like bluff and at least I am doing no harm.

1,310 views5 comments


Natasha Gordon
Natasha Gordon
Feb 07, 2018

The picture of Little Jane is my grandfather's sister (dad's dad, Thomas O'Brien). She married John Beals and moved to Curling, Newfoundland (near Corner Brook). I am thoroughly enjoying reading these diaries and I hope there are many more to come as I absolutely love Isobel's writings. Thank you for sharing her personal journal.


Feb 03, 2018

My comment i said i heard about, i did not hear about growing up in Lance Au Clair.


Feb 03, 2018

Love reading your Journal, great history i did hear about growing up in Lance Au Clair.


Jan Redford
Jan Redford
Feb 02, 2018

harrisonbarney, Working on the book now! More details to come....


Feb 01, 2018

where would i be able to buy this book, Isobel in Labrador

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