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Sailors remember countrymen lost in Florizel disaster

A group of Spanish sailors made a special visit to a St. John's cemetery, to remember 15 of their comrades who were buried at the site almost 100 years ago.
The Spanish have been coming to Newfoundland and Labrador for centuries. For whales, and for cod, but during the Thanksgiving weekend, a group gathered to remember 15 Spanish seamen who died in the 1918 S.S. Florizel tragedy. (CBC)

A group of Spanish sailors made a special visit to a St. John's cemetery during the Thanksgiving weekend. 

The group gathered at Mount Carmel Cemetery to visit the site where more than a dozen of their countrymen were buried almost 100 years ago.

The name of the doomed passenger ship is on the front, but less obvious, on the back of the stone are the names of the Spanish sailors who died in the wreck. (CBC)

Ninety-four died when the S.S. Florizel sank near Cappahayden in 1918, 15 of whom were Spanish crew members and a ship steward. The crew were firemen who stoked the steamship's coal engine. One fireman survived the disaster.

Carlos Garros is commander of the Spanish navy patrol vessel, Arnomendi.

He explained why he and his crew made the decision to visit the cemetery this weekend.

"To pay tribute and memory to 14 Spanish sailors that perished onboard the Florizel 95 years ago," Garros said.

Archivist brought attention to Florizel monument

The sailors have come to Canada to patrol international fishing activity, but they visited the cemetery because of the work of local archivist Larry Dohey.

It was Dohey who brought the Florizel monument to the attention of Spanish authorities. 

"I'm pretty thrilled ... you know it was a monument that was just sitting there, that had no connection, that no one was visiting — and now these people are making it an annual visit," said Dohey.

As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Florizel approaches, Dohey hopes the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the city of St. John's and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese will honour the event by restoring and repairing monuments that commemorate the tragedy.

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