Slavery in Newfoundland

Did you know that a form of slavery once existed in the magnificently beautiful province of NL ?

The island’s economy was built on the backs of poor fishermen, who rowed small white boats onto the cold waters of the North Atlantic. The men did not know how to swim, and had no life jackets. Many never returned home from a day’s fishing. Commercial fishing is one of the world’s most dangerous occupations.

The fishermen did not receive cash for their fish. Instead, they brought their fish to a few powerful wealthy merchants , who gave them basic food stuffs and supplies to repair their nets. Without cash, ‘getting ahead’ was impossible for fishermen.

200 steps from our house stands Walter’s ‘ fishing room’. He started fishing at age 12. The fish he caught were stored in the little wooden building. Then, his wife and children were responsible for what was called ‘making the fish’, that is, splitting the cod fish, salting them, and allowing them to dry on the adjoining platform called a fish flake. The wealthy merchants then shipped the salt cod to markets in the Caribbean, and Europe, at huge profits.

Walter’s fishing flake is crumbling now, as you can see. My husband and I have been lobbying the government to restore the fishing room and fish flake, so that future generations can see what fishing was like in rural NL. It is unlikely to happen, however. It is probable that the government would rather allow such a symbol of exploitation to crumble and disappear. Perhaps it embarasses them.

I walk past Walter’s fishing room almost every day.

As I do, I pray for all exploited workers, and I also pray for those who choose to exploit others.

20 thoughts on “Slavery in Newfoundland

  1. What a sad but beautiful piece of history you have brought for us to learn about. It is sad to hear about people who were exploited that way but it is sadder still that it is not preserved for future generations to learn about. Learning the good and the not so good bits of history is important.
    Thanks Sally.

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    1. Thanks so much for this kind comment. Walter, the man who’s fishing room I pictured , was a kind, humble , brave man who passed away recently at age 95. He told us about the times he fished, often going 9 miles out to sea. We will keep lobbying the government to restore this important part of our province’s history. πŸ€—

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    1. Yes, I believe those statistics are true. All slavery is dreadful, but spiritual slavery is tragic also. Let us also pray for those who do not yet know the freedom that comes from faith in Christ. πŸ€—

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    1. Yes, for sure. We will keep trying to get the fishing room restored. We knew Walter, the man who brought his fish there. He was a beautiful, kind and humble man. Having fishermen friends helps me to understand why Jesus called Fishermen to be his first disciples. They are brave men. Thanks for your comment. πŸ€—

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  2. Thanks for the interesting post, Sally. I’m an old history buff and appreciated this legacy of Walter and the other fisherman who worked so hard under perilous conditions. Yes, there is slavery, both temporal and spiritual.

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    1. Yes, Tom, I was also thinking about the spiritual aspects of slavery , and how our eyes are opened spiritually once we know Jesus. I agree, history is fascinating. We knew Walter, the fisherman. He was a kind and humble man, and so brave. πŸ€—

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      1. Today my wife and I visited an area along the Erie Canal where there existed a small, unusual community even 40 years ago. No sign of it today except for a few telephone/power line poles. A future post.

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      2. I look forward to that post. Remember in the Bible Jesus said that Capernaum would not prosper ? We visited there, and sure enough, it is pretty much a pile of stones. When the Lord says something, we know it is true. πŸ€—

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    1. That is very kind of you! I appreciate this honour so much, especially coming from you, since your blog posts also encourage me so much. Let us keep on encouraging others. Barnabas is one of my favourite people in the Bible. πŸ€—

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  3. Of course they want that stuff swept away under the rug of history…. modernity promises that we’re so much better now!

    We’re as worse now as history….

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  4. Thanks for the post. Unfortunately, this corruption exists at all levels even in democracies and republics. Any institution can be filled and corrupted, unless guided by the principles of the Ten Commandments. If you look outside the window you can see God is cleaning much of this up before His second coming.

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