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  • Writer's pictureJan Redford

Isobel the School Marm of L'Anse au Loup July 7 - July 13, 1915

Updated: Feb 13, 2018

Wednesday afternoon July 7, 1915

What do you think! Just as we were settling after recess this morning, the Meigle’s whistle blew. Well it didn’t take me two minutes to dismiss the school and be down at the wharf. So unexpected it was, just when I had made up my mind for the wait till Sunday. I got my organ and everything on her all right. Also eighteen letters and two postcards – five of them were from the other side and forwarded by Mother. How very glad I was to get them, though I missed one from Kylie and Elsie. It will be another week before the Meigle reaches us again, but I can possess my soul in patience this time. I have just been playing on the organ, which is quite undamaged. The men had quite a time in landing and unpacking her. All the male population of the village helped. I guess I shall have quite an audience to-night when I play her. Cyril and Leo are calling at our stage in a few minutes to take me for a row. Jolly nice of them I think. I shall try to get some pictures.

Thursday, July 8, 1915

I have just come home from the first lecture. Every woman but the sick one was there. And I talked for half an hour straight and quickly, and never did I imagine I could do so well. I feel so thankful that I was able to, and how I hope it will do some lasting good. I think I made some advance into their confidence too; some of them stayed an hour and a half afterwards talking. I feel to-night as if I had really done something and I am so happy. If only now I do as well on Sunday. It has given me new heart to try anyway.

It has been very warm to-day except for one short hour when the wind changed to the east. The sudden change was so odd – almost the same wind that made our faces hot, fanned them cold again. And the change from the cool wind to the warm again was just as sudden. It was awfully funny this afternoon when a man poked his head into the school-room window and bawled to his wife to come home, he had caught some fish. Rude thing, he interrupted me right in the middle of my eloquence.


Mr. Ryland came running to school in his stocking feet this morning to get me up to his house for a few minutes “and bring your sketch-box. I want you to take a sketch.” I guessed why he wanted me so I got Mrs. Linstead to come with me. There were two little babies, which they said were dying and which they were doing nothing to save. I had to take their picture. That is these people and their morbid helplessness all over. One of the tiny things looked as if it could be saved but I did not dare interfere with my little knowledge. And it is just as well anyway for existence in that house is worse than awful. Anyway there was a woman there from Pinware.

Caption: Just Half an Hour Ago (the Ryland twins)

Funeral for one of the twins

I had such fun in school to-day. I was making up stories about the letters to see if the children would learn them any better and we all started laughing so hard it was difficult to stop. F was Mrs. F with a drooping feather in her hat – one day she got caught in the rain and her feather drooped so she looked liked this F. I was her little boy and J his big sister with her skirts trailing in the sand, when the wind came along it blew off their hats like this j. One man q had a big load on his back so heavy that when he got to the top of the hill he sat down and his mouth with his tongue sticking out looked like this Q. O was a fat little boy who always said “oh” to everything you told him. Mr. S is short for Mr. Snake who makes a sound like S and looks like it too. S. I tried to relate the small letter and the capital every time. My it is fun imagining once you start, and easy too. And the kiddies liked it.

Janie O’Brien took me to see a bird’s nest this afternoon. It was up by the river bank and there was just one wee egg left. It is very foggy and the strong wind blew the sand stingingly in our faces and made us run to keep up with our skirts. Janie took me to see her mother’s grave too, and we had a real intimate talk afterwards. She is the older girl of fifteen, you know and I hadn’t thought before that she liked me very much.

I closed school with a concert to-day. Chiefly I must own for my own amusement. Everybody except Ed sang or recited. I made out about two sentences all told, but I had a lovely time it was all so funny. They enjoyed themselves too. I had to restrain the too exuberant applause. The floral offerings to-day were almost too huge a bunch to carry home. Those darling kiddies. I just love trying to teach them. I had a serious fight on my hands this morning. Owen punched Jack so that his nose bled really badly and I had to apply first aid. It was a hard case to judge fairly but I wasn’t too severe. I am trying to make little gentlemen of the boys but it is an uphill struggle. Owen is an awfully bright little boy with eager eyes and a pugnacious disposition. Jack is a comical little beggar. He swears he loves doing his lessons, and never knows them. He looks just like a peanut doll. I love little boys who fight. They don’t think I do though.

Every meal-time I am favoured with an acrobatic performance. All the little boys show-off in front of my window. How I should love to go and be one of them. It reminds me of the happy days of my tom-boyhood.

Later – going to bed

We had some fine talks around the kitchen fire to-night. The men drop in and sit on the benches, Mrs. Linstead sets her bread, Violet rocks the baby and we all talk in the gathering dusk – on the war and many other topics. To-night we were discussing Sabbath-keeping and Confirmation. The men think quite deeply and they say what they think. I really enjoyed myself and was glad I didn’t stay selfishly writing in my room.

Saturday, July 10, 1915 $.76 for stamps

I had some fine old visits to-day – at the Cabats and the Barneys. The Cabats are Roman Catholics but I think they are the finest people here. Will Cabat is the post master. We had a long talk on conditions on this coast and as the views of one of the fisherman themselves, what he had to say interested me intensely. He does some deep thinking that man.

Back: Lawrence (far left), Leo, Mrs. Margaret O'Brien, Ellen.

Front: Bridget, Ruby, Mary

All the little boys met me coming home from there. They had been in for a swim. They asked me out sailing and I wanted to go like everything, but I decided that I ought to prepare for to-morrow’s services instead. It was after supper that I went to the Barney’s. Mrs. Barney didn’t take long to get me off into a room by myself and there I heard more than ever I could remember of deaths and sickness and doctors and troubles. She is a garrulous old soul.

Sunday, July 11, 1915

The lay reader has just passed and now I won’t have to take the service to-night. Oh, how glad I am. I know I am an awful coward but it is nice to put it off for another Sunday. I guess I am rather discouraged because the Confirmation Class and Sunday School did not turn out as well as I had hoped. Only five came to Confirmation class and it was hard talking to them as they sat scattered about the school-house.

In Sunday-School Fred Ryland was so bad that I had to send him home. Half the youngsters were crying. Such a cruel face he has – that child. I can’t get it out of my mind. Then hardly any of them knew any hymn and teaching them is very slow, stupid work. And not one of the younger children could answer any questions on the lesson. You can’t blame them because they are stupid, but it does make you feel rather discouraged all the same.

Bob and Mr. Hardy paid me a short visit, which I very much appreciated. They had walked from the Lighthouse in two hours. Mr. Hardy who is very fat, thought that some going.

Monday night

I love to watch the little fishing boats sailing home on a still blue night. They seem like white winged birds skimming over the rippling water. To-day was a red-letter day because I received twenty-seven letters and a picture of Laddie. I was sheer daft with joy it took me an hour and ten minutes to get a faint idea of what was in all but five. Those last five I tried to savour while eating my dinner and I was so excited that I didn’t know where my food was going. I don’t think much of it reached its proper destination. Till just this minute from school time I have been answering the more important ones and my eyes are sore with the strained attention. The sea is like a pearly grey oyster shell to-night and one glossy white pearl – a small ice-berg – is reflecting in its placid surface. The sky above is a faint shell pink. I don’t think you would notice how beautiful it all is unless you looked very closely. That points a sort of a moral, doesn’t it?

This is my grandmother's beloved brother, Laddie (John Ernest Lysle Millen) who was only 19 years old and fighting in France in WW I while his sister, Isobel, older by one year, was in L'Anse au Loup. He died seven months later in the trenches at age 20, a single shot in the head by a German sniper. His death devastated his parents and five siblings.


I went for a breath of air before turning in and Jane ran after me. My she loves me, Janie does, it makes me feel humble. They have a hen and she goes without her egg to save it up for the time I come. She has three saved now. And she took a shell hair-pin out of her hair and gave it to me. I know it must have been the cherished possession of a girl of her age. And she said as many nice things. When the others are around she is quiet. I guess they can’t help but love anyone who is kind to them. And I can’t help but be kind to any one who loves me. How very demonstrative they are. If I can’t influence them when God has made it so easy how I shall despise myself.

Tuesday night, July 13, 1915

I woke up before four this morning, disturbed by the huskies. And the mosquitoes kept me awake after that. What an agonizing moment it is when the mosquitoes stops singing and you wait for the prick of his sting!It has rained all day. I asked the girls to come after school and learn to play jacks. We had heaps of fun. How laughably clumsy they were, but how good-natured over it all! And terribly keen to learn! I want to get them quite good at jacks before I leave as I intend sending them sets for Christmas. It would be such a good game during the long winters.

You know, I feel sorry for the women here. Their lot seems so hopeless. They are nothing but slaves. Sunday night is the only time they ever rest. The men do the fishing and the wood hauling but nothing else. For example, to-day it rained and the men were at home because there was no fishing. Mrs. Linstead went out and chopped the wood just the same while her husband and two big boys lolled in the kitchen. It made me mad. Yet she would never think of protesting. When the men work they do work hard, but their work stops – the woman’s never does. After the multitudinous children are put to bed she sits down and strains her eyes over some garment needing repair, or sets the bread for the morrow. She is the first up and the last to bed. What a lifetime of drudgery, and but seldom enabled by love. Sometimes work here seems so futile, for you are powerless to change the fundamental things that cause the conditions on this coast. But then of course, nothing goes for naught. That is comforting.

"A Typical Family, in looks if not in number" (my grandmother doesn't give the names) This family could be from Forteau or L'Anse au Loup

Mr. John (Jack) Linstead and George Barney

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