Elliston memorial to honour sealers
Some of the most influential and well-known business people and politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador are fronting a campaign to build a memorial to remember those who froze to death during the 1914 Newfoundland sealing disaster.
The Elliston Heritage Committee and Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, patron of the sealers memorial campaign, will kick off fundraising Friday for the construction of a statue and interpretation centre in Elliston, a community on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula.
The infamous sealing disaster of 1914 claimed the life of 78 men who froze to death on the ice fields off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.
Eight of the men that died, including Reuben Crewe and his son Albert John, were from Elliston. Crewe was 49-years-old and his son, 16, when they froze to death on the ice wrapped up in each other's arms.
Crewe's granddaughter Margaret Gough, 91, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor was born seven years after the disaster and still remembers her mother describing the horror of seeing the bodies of her father and brother at the local Orange Hall.
"I heard mom say her father was put in the lodge when they brought him home and she went to see them and she said it was terrible, just terrible, you know ... At that time all she said was 'What am I going to do now?'" Gough told CBC News.
Gough's brother Melvin Cole, who lives in Springdale, said he is proud that the disaster and the people who lost their lives in it, including his grandfather, are being acknowledged by the project.
"I think it's beautiful," said Cole.
"I got grandchildren and I got children and I can't picture myself out on the ice going through what they went through and nobody, but nobody, will ever know what they went through in a situation like that, you know."
As part of the project, a large bronze statue of the father and son cuddled up together in death is slated to go up this spring near a rocky coastline overlooking Elliston in time to mark 100 years since the sealing disaster.
Myrtle Stagg, the chairperson of the Elliston Heritage Foundation, said the statue and interpretation centre will create awareness about the 1914 sealing disaster and other sealing tragedies that took place in waters off Newfoundland and Labrador's coast.
"You're going to look out at the beautiful bay where people faced the dangers and the challenges and [now can] look toward their hopes for the future," Stagg told CBC News.
"It's going to be a place where you can understand and reflect and learn and then, of course, there's the interpretation centre."
The project not only aims to recognize the importance of sealing as part of the province's heritage, there are also hopes that the project will polish the image of a tarnished industry.
"In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have always made our home from the sea. It's the story of our relationship with the sea that's the key to understanding who we have become and who we will remain. In recent years, the central thread of our story has become distorted," said John Crosbie, wearing a sealskin vest, in a promotional video for the asking people to donate to the $2 million project.
"We intend to bring the true story of the seal fishery into the light."