Friday, February 24, 2012


                         "SCHOONERS LOST ON SILVER FOX ISLAND"
                                                               By Samuel Button

This story was related to me by Mr. Elias Collins, formerly of New Harbour, now residing at Hare Bay who witnessed the loss of the schooner, “Grace” at the southeast corner of Silver Fox Island. It happened on November 10, 1929. The schooner, about 80 tons (more or less), was en route to St. John’s to ports in the Green Bay and maybe further north. She had a load of general cargo. Elias Collins saw a schooner about one mile south of Newport (New Harbour) with just one sail on it (foresail). About 12 o’clock in the day, Robert Keats, a relative of his, was with a skipper named Robert Best of Wesleyville. He had a feeling that this maybe the schooner with Mrs. Keats onboard. He mentioned to his father, John Collins about the schooner he saw, so his father decided that they would go and investigate. Don Collins went along with them.
On the way to the schooner they saw a small motorboat leave and went in the direction of Greenspond. There was a big sea running at the time. The schooner had a double reef foresail left up, and she was heading in the direction of Shag Rock Tickle. The schooner was too near the dangerous shoals to board her at the time, but after she passed through Shag Rock Tickle, they managed to board her. Her wheel was lashed at the time. The schooner was heading for land near the Pigeon Cluff about 1500 feet more or less west of the south east corner of Silver Fox Island. Elias dropped one of her anchors just before she struck the land, but the schooner finally went ashore. On investigation he noticed that the front part of the ship, “the forecastle” was filled with water, but the main hold was free of water at the time. He went down the cabin and noticed that water poured in the stern and it looked like that the rudder case was broken. He smelled rum in the cabin but he didn’t find any. They finally took off the hatches and noticed that there was a lot of hay onboard, as well as, general cargo. Collins was interested in the hay, as he had a horse and he had no food to feed it at the time. They tried to get some bundles of hay, but when they got it near the top of the hatch way the bundles would fall apart. They finally directed their attention to food items such as cheese, butter, biscuits, raisins, dried apple and apricots.
His father, John Collins was onboard their motorboat and keeping the boat from breaking up by the side of the wreck. He urged his son, Elias and Daniel Collins to hurry up and get clear of the schooner, because he feared that the schooner was going to crash on its side.
They obtained nearly a load of general cargo and were just leaving the wreck when she finally fell over on her side. At the same time the foremast came out of her. By this time, some people from Silver Fox Island and Fair Island were there, but they only obtained a few items that floated on the water, like salt pork and butter. Other boats came from Greenspond which include the crew of the schooner. Collins was talking to the skipper and crew. The skipper said that they had a stormy night with a NE wind and snow and they were hoved to many hours during the night in Bonavista Bay and finally left the schoner for no apparent reason. He said, he didn’t know too much about the land in the area. Collins says that there was no water in the schooner before she drifted through Shag Rock Tickle, but she struck bottom on the way through the tickle which damaged the front of the ship and beat the rudder case out of it. The anchor belonging to the “Grace” was obtained by my father (Joseph Button), Thomas Button, Edwin Feltham and one or two others and was later sold by Edgar John Brown of Fair Island, who used it as a main anchor for the E. L. Nadiney. Edgar Collins of Newport secured the foremast. The Garfield Rogers of Paul's Island stopped the mainmast down. Later he sawed it into lumber and used it for steps in his house. (Mr. Rogers died November 30, 1982 just 10 days after I interviewed him). (Sam Button)
Mr. Collins said, that, if they were able to board the schooner before she drifted through Shag Rock Tickle, it was possible that they could have salvaged the schooner, as it was abandoned at the time. There was no evidence of any damage to the ship before she drifted through Shag Rock Tickle. She struck bottom as there are three underwater shoals there, which are dangerous in a heavy sea. Another schooner about 35 tons, named “Nellie M.” by Mr. Ned Green of Newtown, was lost near the same place where the schooner “Grace” went ashore. This schooner was coming down from the western part of Bonavista Bay with a load of firewood onboard when it drifted ashore. The crew got out in a small boat and arrived safely at Silver Fox Island. This happened before the year 1929. There was a big sea running at the time and it became calm. The crew left the schooner near New Harbour, but somehow she drifted on Silver Fox Island near the same place the “Grace” was lost. She was a total loss.

Submitted by
Roderick Brentnall