Friday, 23 September 2011

Bell Island

I have been blessed to have not one but two mothers-in-law in my almost 20 years of marriage.  I've written about the first one, Irmgard (Neumann) Jonasson, in an entry entitled "To the Memory of My Mother-in-law" (May 27).  The second one, Doris (O'Brien) Jonasson, is also a kind and loving woman whom I'd like to write about today.

Bell Island is composed of sandstone and shale and was frequented by European fishermen and pirates as early as the 16th century.  It's first permanent settlements came in the 1700's attracted by the rich fertile soil and the fish from the Atlantic.  Iron ore was discovered in the 1800's which attracted even more people to the town.  Bell Island was not untouched by the Second World War; on the contrary, its pier was torpedoed by a German U-boat, due to its supply of iron ore to build war ships, and 69 Newfoundlanders lost their lives. 

Doris, born in 1944, grew up on the shores of Bell Island, Newfoundland, a 9 by 3 kilometre island in Conception Bay.  Isolated from the mainland, Bell Island had no cows and therefore my mother-in-law remembers drinking only canned milk; to this day she hates milk!  As one of 11 children who survived infancy, Doris learned at an early age how to cook and clean to help care for her brothers and sisters.  She remembers opening her front door and seeing the magnificent view of icebergs jutting out of the Atlantic in the Spring which did not melt until June or July.  Doris grew up and married a fellow Newfoundlander and by the mid 1960's they moved west to Ontario.

It was at the same time that the iron ore mines closed in Bell Island and many residents moved to the mainland.  There is a photo in the History of Canada book series of a row boat towing an entire house from an outer Newfoundland port into the mainland, a frequent occurence in the sixties.  Bell Island, which had swelled to 12,000 in 1961, shrunk to a mere 4,000 by 1996.    Tourists to the island can now visit a museum honouring the ore miners who worked so hard.  So take a trip to the tenth province (Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949).  They say that Newfoundlanders are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet and my mother-in-law is definitely one of them.

This post is dedicated to my mother-in-law, Doris Jonasson.

Photo courtesy

No comments:

Post a Comment