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Extracts from the Journal of a Voyage to the Labrador in the Church Ship "Lavrock" in 1872.

By the Coadjutor Bishop of Newfoundland [James Butler Knill Kelly]

From Mission Life, Vol. IV (1873), pages 68-77.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, 2006



ST. JOHN BAPTIST'S DAY, Monday.--After morning prayer and Holy Communion at the cathedral the Bishop and his companions went on board the Church ship Lavrock, then riding in the bay all ready for sea. She carried, besides the Bishop, the Rev. G. Hutchinson, who had once spent more than a dozen years on the Labrador, and is now the clergyman at Topsail, and Mr. Massiah, a student of the Theological College [68/69] at St. John's. Her captain was Mr. W. Blyth, R.N.R., and her crew consists of a mate, two able seamen, and a cook.

At 3 p.m. the Lavrock left her moorings, and after some little detention from baffling winds in the Narrows, found a fair wind outside. A thick fog soon obscured the shore, and lasted until about 8 p.m., when we found ourselves crossing Conception Bay, Cape St. Francis and Banelieu being both clearly visible. During the night the wind freshened.

Thursday, June 27.--We were off the Grey Islands. The weather now became very thick with heavy squalls from the N.W. We rounded the Grey Islands and stood in for Ireland in Hare Bay. But just as we were near enough to make out the shore, a sudden squall came up from the north with rain. We then took counsel as to the best harbour to make for, and decided upon trying to get into Goose Cove, a very good harbour when a ship is once well inside, but with a very narrow and shoal entrance. We accomplished this happily in safety, and soon found ourselves in a snug cove completely land-locked. The change to the perfect stillness after our tossing all the morning was very grateful. Soon after dinner the Bishop and his companions went on shore and called upon several of the residents, and made arrangements for service in one of the houses in the evening. About 7 p.m. some twenty persons assembled in the most convenient house, and Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Temple shared the evening prayers between them, the Bishop preaching from St. Matthew xxv. This was the first service of the present Visitation Voyage.

Friday, June 28th, Ireland Bight, Hare Bay.--About 9.30 a.m. the steam launch being reported all ready, the Bishop, accompanied by Mr. Temple, Mr. H., and the student, went to Ireland for the purpose of consecrating a burial ground which had been formed for some time and used, but never yet consecrated. The steam launch answered admirably, taking the large party, six in all, more than six miles against a head wind and "lop" in an hour and twenty minutes. Upon arriving at Ireland we found a trader whose coming had been anxiously expected, as he brought salt, without which it was useless to catch fish. All the men were on board making their arrangements for selling their fish and oil, and taking in exchange whatever they might happen to want for themselves or their families. After waiting some little time, about twenty-five people assembled in an unfinished house, and the Litany was said by Mr. Hutchinson. When this was ended the Bishop, followed by the clergy and people, went to the burial ground, which was consecrated in the usual manner, an address being made on the spot by the Bishop to a very attentive congregation. On our return (without [69/70] Mr. Temple, whom we left behind to recommence his Missionary life, he having been brought in the Lavrock from Portsmouth to Ireland in Hare Bay, and thus set down in the very midst of his work) we found that the wind had changed, and was still ahead with heavy sea. Nevertheless the launch did her work well, and we reached Goose Cove about 3 p.m. After dinner the Bishop and Mr. H. called upon some of the people. At one house the little daughter of the mistress of the house was asked to repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The latter she managed to say, though not very accurately. He mother said "She can say he too," meaning the Creed, "only she be shamed." But what can be expected where there is no school, and but one annual visit from a clergyman, who is quite unable to stay long enough to teach the children, being obliged to hurry through his vast Mission in order to give each place even that one visit. It would be a blessing indeed to the poor residents on this part of the coast if the Mission of White Bay could be divided so that the clergyman's visits might be made more frequent, and the many children now growing up in ignorance might be taught at least the Catechism. In the evening we had service again at Mr. Gordon's house, and found once more an attentive congregation. The Bishop read the prayers, and Mr. Hutchinson preached.

June 30th, Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Battle Harbour, Labrador.--This was a lovely day, the sun bright and warm, though the air was keen in consequence of the immense number of icebergs all round the harbour, more than have been known for many years. Even this, surely one of the most barren spots on the wild rocky shore of Labrador, looked almost cheerful, lit up by a brilliant sunshine, and the view of St. Louis Bay, with its deep blue water contrasted with the glittering fleet of icebergs borne upon its bosom, had a beauty all its own. The morning service in the little church, which, as well as the parsonage, we found clean and cared for, was at 11 o'clock a.m. A good congregation from the harbour and the neighbouring coves assembled, and Mr. H. said the prayers, the Bishop preaching from the Gospel, a fisherman's Gospel indeed, and celebrating. There were only ten communicants, a thing more to be regretted than wondered at, as the Missionary in charge is only in Deacon's orders, and the opportunities very few in consequence. Our arrival, too, was altogether unexpected, and as we only came in late last evening, there were probably some at a distance who had not heard of it. In the afternoon service was at 3.30, the Bishop saying the prayers and Mr. H. addressing his former flock and receiving a child into the Church.

When we landed we called upon the residents, among them some [70/71] Esquimaux who had evidently taken great pains to teach their children, since they could read and say the Catechism very nicely. One of the Esquimaux women had formerly been a servant of Mr. Hutchinson's at Battle Harbour, and the instruction then received was now bearing fruit after many years. We had service in one of the largest houses in the Cove, at which about twenty-five persons assembled on very short notice. There was an old Englishman present who has lived alone for more than twenty years, in the summer in this little cove, and in the winter in the woods at the head of the bay. He did not seem to feel his loneliness, and said that he always found plenty of occupation. He brought his Prayer-book with him to service, and repeated the responses, so that we may hope that the study of this and of his Bible are part at least of his occupation during the seven long months of winter.

Friday, July 5th, St. Francis Harbour Bight.--We left our anchorage this morning with some little difficulty in getting out of the harbour as an iceberg had found its way into the narrow channel, leaving barely room for the Church Ship to pass. A tug from the launch was of service here, and we happily got clear without touching either the rocks or the ice. We made for St. Francis' Harbour, Bight, in preference to our old anchorage as being much easier to get out of. After dinner the steam-launch was again put in requisition, and we went to Fishing Ship Harbour to see a sick man, a Wesleyan from Carbonear, who had sent to us at Spear Harbour. We found him lying in a sort of hammock in a miserable tilt, which, through many chinks and crannies, admitted the air freely. He was evidently very ill, but spoke of being relieved by the medicine sent him. After prayers with him we returned against a strong breeze, and dropped Mr. H. at Williams' Harbour to give notice of service at St. Francis' Harbour Church in the evening. At the time appointed the Bishop and student mounted the steep hills and descended into the harbour, where a small congregation soon assembled. The notice was so short that many were still on the fishing ground. Mr. H. read prayers and the Bishop preached from one of the evening Psalms. We had several applications for medicines on our return to the ship, and it was late before the work of dispensing them was over.

Thursday, July 11th, Gready.--In the afternoon the Bishop and Mr. H. went on shore and called upon several of the people to give them notice of the service in the evening. Applications, as usual, were made for medicine. The houses, or rather huts, at this place are the worst on the Labrador, being built of sods with, sometimes, the staves of an old barrel set up for a chimney in one corner. It is hard at any distance to distinguish them from the steep hill side on [71/72] which they are built, and in such places it must be almost impossible to make provision for ordinary decency, comfort being quite out of the question. Yet here numbers of Newfoundland families live for the three or four months of the summer, willingly enduring such discomforts, as well as the hardships of the voyage for more than 500 miles in crowded vessels for the chance of a remunerative catch of fish. This year it is to be feared that their hopes will be doomed to disappointment, for wherever the Church Ship has as yet touched north of Spear Harbour, it is the same story "no fish," "no salmon."

In the evening the store of the Messrs. Hunt, which had been converted into a very tidy room by means of flags and oilcloths, was well filled by a very attentive congregation from all parts of the harbour. May the seed sown not be in vain!

Saturday, July 13th, Cartwright and Earl Island.--To-day proved wet and foggy, but having got the steam-launch ready, we brought out our water proofs and started soon after breakfast from the Church Ship. It is for such excursions as this that the launch is eminently useful. In smooth water she can steam from five to six knots, and the saving of time and labour is great indeed. Last time the Bishop visited Earl Island he and the student were nearly nine hours pulling in the gig against a strong tide, and at times a head wind, and they reached the Star in the evening quite exhausted, having suffered much from the attacks of mosquitoes and sand flies. We ran the same distance to-day in about four hours. Our first place of call was at the hut of an old Indian woman who seemed alarmed at the unwonted sight of the steam-launch, and left her boat hastily, and went into her house, shutting the door carefully behind her. We found that she could not speak English, so that it was in vain to try to hold communication with her except by signs. She is living alone at her salmon post, and must be solitary indeed.

In the Neal Cove, a few miles further on, we found an establishment, now deserted, of Messrs. Hunt for putting up salmon in tins. Most of this is usually taken for the London market by Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell, but some cargoes have been sent direct to Australia. This year, however, nothing is being done, the scarcity of salmon having compelled the agent to remove his crew. We found one family named Grant living here, and his son-in-law in a little cove round a headland. He and his wife were soon summoned, and we had a short noonday service, the Bishop explaining simply one of the second lessons for the day. They had had no service since the Bishop's visit two years ago, and seemed glad and thankful to avail themselves of this, one of their [72/73] scanty opportunities. We informed them of the hours of Divine service at Cartwright on Sunday, which they promised to attend if the weather should permit. In the afternoon the weather became very thick, so that we could see but a very little way ahead. On our return we saw a boat pulling off towards us, and found that it contained an old Englishman named Winter, who has married an Esquimaux wife and settled in the bay for more than fifty years. We were on our way to look for him, and as the fog was growing denser, were glad to see him coming off to us. We gave him information about the services on Sunday, and he promised to bring some grandchildren to be received into the Church.

Tuesday, July 16th, Indian Harbour, Huntingdon Island, and Pack's Harbour.--This morning steam was got up in the launch, and the Bishop proceeded with his companions to Pack's Harbour, about two miles distant, where medical assistance seemed to be much in requisition. After prescribing for one or two cases, notice was given of service at 7 p.m. in one of the largest houses in the place, and the Bishop then proceeded to Indian Harbour, in Huntingdon Island, to visit a family named Williams, the old patriarch of which had met the Bishop at Cartwright, and asked for a visit that two of his grandchildren might be baptised. We saw the old man returning from his salmon nets, and while he went to summon his daughter-in-law who lived at some little distance, we all enjoyed a ramble on the shore of the soft springy turf or moss with which most of the island is covered. We saw here an evidence of the hard struggle which vegetable life has for existence during the long hard winter. Some stunted larch finding it impossible to hold up their heads beneath the weight of snow, had extended their branches laterally on the ground quite close to the surface, and in this unnatural position were putting out new shoots most vigorously. The party meanwhile arriving, the much desired service was performed, and the two little ones admitted into the fold of Christ's flock.

Wednesday, July 17th, Dumpling. This was a dies non, a thick fog, with cold north-east wind, keeping us prisoners on board ship and in the harbour. There were three vessels at anchor near us, and in the afternoon as the weather seemed likely to clear, the Bishop rowed to them, and gave notice of service on board the Church ship at seven o'clock. At this time about thirty persons assembled, and we had again one of those pleasant little services all the more enjoyable because unexpected. The cabin of the Lavrock, which has been most carefully and thoughtfully arranged for Divine Service by the generous donor, was really church-like with its handsome fittings, and the hearty "God bless you" which accompanied [73/74] the "good night" of some of our departing guests, showed that they at least appreciated the opportunity thus afforded them.

Tuesday, July 23rd, At sea and Indian Harbour.--To-day we were able to accomplish our long-attempted run to Indian Islands, about forty-five miles from Dumpling, though not without some anxiety. The approach to Indian Harbour is through a perfect labyrinth of small rocky islands, and a thick fog which settled down upon the sea in the afternoon made the navigation, intricate enough at all times, very anxious work. The captain, however, had laid his course well and accurately, and as the wind did not fail us, we made the entrance of the harbour about 5 p.m. In going in through what we were informed was not the usual entrance, the ship just touched the point of a sandy shoal, but scraped along without stopping her headway, and went clear. It was thought, however, best to anchor until the fog should clear, so as to enable us to get inside the harbour, which was crowded with fishing vessels, more conveniently. The Bishop, however, happened to notice that the glass was rapidly falling, and suggested the expediency of trying to warp in at once. This was accordingly done, and we were hardly anchored before the first gust premonitory of the coming gale was felt. It blew hard all night, and was what the sailors call a dirty night. This is the only place on the Labrador coast which we have yet visited where the fish were abundant and the catch consequently large. Some of the seines had already taken 800 quintals, and the line fishery was also very successful. Many of the vessels from the southern parts of the shore had crowded down to this and the adjacent coves, so that there was quite a forest of masts in some of them. We were very thankful that there was a prospect of a paying voyage for many who had hitherto only experienced disappointment.

Friday, July 26th, Indian Harbour, At sea, and Gready.--This morning opened thick and foggy, and Mr. Norman advised us that it was no time to attempt to go up Esquimaux Bay, the navigation being intricate, and the tides very strong. Accordingly the Bishop, though reluctantly, felt himself, in consideration of the work already before him, obliged to give the order to return. Twelve days had already been spent in the attempt to get into Esquimaux Bay without success, and though all on board were anxious to find out something of the residents and their condition, spiritual and temporal, yet the Church Ship having now been nearly five weeks out from St. John's, and much yet remaining to be done, the Bishop felt that in justice to those who had even stronger claims upon his services than the poor scattered sheep in Esquimaux Bay, he could not attempt to go further to the northward. We weighed anchor about 9 a.m., and after a somewhat tedious run arrived safely in Gready about 9 p.m., about sixty-two miles.

[75] Sunday, August 4th, 10th Sunday after Trinity.--A light breeze sprang up which enabled us to make headway against the tide, and to reach the entrance of the southern tribe about 10 a.m. The small boat was lowered, and Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Bishop pulled ashore to give notice of service at 11.30 a.m. The Church Ship went round the island and came in by the usual entrance, and the Bishop hastening on shore joined the rest of his party in Church, having put on his robes in the porch. Mr. H. and the Missionary shared in Morning Prayer, and the Bishop took the Communion Service and Sermon. In the afternoon Mr. Hutchinson addressed once more his old flock, for which he had cared for thirteen years. There was a very large congregation. Notice was given of the Ordination next Sunday, and Mr. Bishop's "Si Quis" was read.

Monday, August 5th, Battle Harbour, and to Saturday, August 10th.--This week has been spent in the examination of the candidate for priest's orders who has now been in charge as a deacon of this large Mission for more than a year. He is the son of a very worthy schoolmaster in the diocese, who has given two sons to the Ministry, both of whom received their education at the little Theological College in St. John's, and both, it is to be hoped, doing good service to the Church in their several Missions.

Saturday, August 10th, was spent with the Missionary and in preparation for his Ordination on the morrow. Morning and Evening Prayer as usual in the Church.

Sunday, August 11th, 11th Sunday after Trinity, Battle Harbour.--This morning proved bright and clear, with just enough wind to enable the boats from Cape Charles on one side, and Fox Harbour from the other side, across St. Lewis' Bay, to make their way to Battle Harbour in time for morning service. The Ordination of their Missionary to the priesthood was an occasion of great interest to his flock, and long before the hour of service the Church was filled to overflowing. Perhaps the largest congregation which has ever been known in Battle Harbour assembled to-day, and many could not find room so much as about the door. Mr. Hutchinson, the former Missionary, said Morning Prayer and presented the candidate. The Bishop preached, and tried to explain to the people as directed by the Church the office and work of the priesthood, and the estimation in which it ought to be held. Many more than usual remained to the Holy Communion, and we may hope and trust that the earnest prayer then made at the first Ordination, it is believed, ever held on the Labrador will be heard and answered for the newly ordained priest and the flock committed to his charge. Evensong was said at 4 p.m., when the Bishop baptised three children, and Mr. Hutchinson preached. It was matter for [75/76] thankfulness that the day continued fine throughout, so that the large and crowded boats were enabled to reach their homes in safety and comfort.

Tuesday, August 13th, at sea.--At 4 a.m. this morning the Bishop called the crew, as there was a fair wind, and the Lavrock spread her white wings for her final flight from the Labrador. The wind gradually became lighter and less fair, until at evening it died away altogether, leaving us drifting about off Cape Bauld, on the Newfoundland shore, in a dead calm, which continued for the greater part of the night, with occasional light airs.

Wednesday, August 14th, at sea and Guildyal.--About 6 a.m. this morning a breeze from the NE. came up, which gradually freshened, and continued all day, with, however, an uncomfortable sea. At 8 a.m. we were off the northern of the Grey Islands, and about 7.30 p.m. we came to anchor in the harbour of Twillingate, having made the run of more than 100 miles in less than twelve hours. Very glad we were to be in harbour and out of the rough tumbling sea which a NE. wind always causes on this shore. The kind and hospitable Missionary, the Rev. T. Boone, was soon on board with his friendly greetings and welcome, and arrangements were made for service on the morrow. The appearance of Twillingate, always refreshing after the barren shores of Labrador, lacked none of its usual brightness, and the weather was more summer-like than we had as yet experienced.

August 13th-20th were spent in the Mission of Twillingate, which was made a centre, from which the Bishop and his companions, with favouring weather, visited many outposts.

Tuesday, August 20th, at sea and Fogo.--This morning broke stormy, with a strong wind and heavy sea, notwithstanding which we got under weigh about 7 a.m. for Fogo, which we reached in about four hours. The Missionary, Mr. Meek, had joined us in Twillingate on Monday morning, and with two others was a passenger to Fogo. Just as we came to anchor we touched a rock in the harbour, but so slightly that no damage ensued. We anchored this year in a different part of the harbour, thinking that it would be more sheltered than our former anchorage, and did not sufficiently take into account this rock, which was covered at low water. After dinner the Bishop went to visit a young person who had been in St. John's during the winter for medical advice, and whom he had frequently visited there. She was evidently dying, and passed away the same evening, very soon after a second visit which the Bishop paid to her after Church. It had been her strong wish that she might be spared to see him once more.

Friday, August 23rd, at sea.--We left the harbour this morning and [76/77] were clear of the headlands about 8.30 a.m. We then had a fine run with a fresh breeze off shore until we reached the Wadhams about 10.30 a.m. After this the wind grew lighter, and when we were fairly in Bonavista Bay came ahead. We stood out to sea for some hours, and then stood in again, making Bonavista light in the morning of

Saturday, August 24th, St. Bartholomew.--During the whole of this day there was a heavy head sea, and but little wind. In the evening we were off Cape St. Francis when the wind fell and it became calm. This continued all night until about 4 a.m. of

Sunday, August 25th, 13th Sunday after Trinity, when a light breeze enabled us to reach St. John's and to anchor about 6 a.m. This was the anniversary of the Bishop's Consecration Day, and he was thankful to be able to spend it in the Cathedral, and to return thanks there for the preservation of himself and his companions from the perils of the sea. The Royal Alfred, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Fanshawe, together with the Eclipse and the Lapwing, were in harbour. The Admiral was present with the Governor at morning service in the Cathedral and 100 men from the Eclipse and Lapwing.

The good Church Ship, after being overhauled, had yet another month's work before her. On August 30th she started for Placentia Bay. Space alone forbids our chronicling the doings of the Bishop in this part of the diocese. We can find room for only one more extract from this journal.

"Saturday, September 21st, St. Matthew's Day, at sea.--When the fog cleared away this morning, we found ourselves off the high lands between Cape Pine and Cape Race, and we rounded Cape Race about 10 a.m. The wind then dropped until it became at times nearly calm, and we were left rolling upon the heavy swell caused by last night's gale. This was one of the most trying days of the whole voyage, more damage being done to the ship's gear than at any other time, and we were very thankful when on the morning of

Sunday, September 22nd, 17th Sunday after Trinity.--We were able to make the harbour of S. John's in time to join in morning prayer at the Cathedral, and in the great Feast of Thanksgiving. It was a late celebration in consequence of its being the Ordination Day of the Rev. John Bishop, Missionary at Belleoram. The Psalm for the day, the cviith., seemed specially appropriate, and we could well take to ourselves the verse: "Then are they glad, because they are at rest; and so He bringeth them unto the haven they would be."

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