As with many preservation or restoration projects, it is expected that some will face the negative attitudes of those who do not share the ideology that yes, some things are worth preserving. Here are my thoughts on why the S.S. Kyle should be one of those things.
It is the first of a long line of Newfoundland ferries, carrying passengers, freight and a doctor to otherwise inaccessible outports all around the island and to Labrador, tending on the needs of the ill.
The S.S. Kyle also carried many of Newfoundland’s own troops to WWI and WWII in defence of the then colony of Newfoundland, later the country of Newfoundland under Responsible Government, and to the aid of the British Commonwealth during WWII.
The S.S. Kyle was an important part of the lives of many people of this region. For example, when the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation, the Bay Roberts 50+ Club and Ascension Collegiate conducted interviews with seniors for the “Holdin’ Ground Project” (which was supported by New Horizons Canada), we found that the Kyle had played a pivotal role in many of their lives. An interview with Cecil Greenland (104 at the time) is available online at http://holdingroundproject.com/interviews.htm.
Many of Newfoundland men also sailed on the S.S. Kyle and indeed moved their entire families to Labrador for fishing during the summers.
To say that the S.S. Kyle is not worth saving is an insult to all those who have sailed in her and a slap in the face to all who may have lost family members on board during her sailings.
The S.S. Kyle carried men to and from the annual seal hunt, a dangerous undertaking to be sure. It regularly endured minor scrapes and bruises on such expeditions until that fateful hit in 1967, when the ship struck a berg. It left a gash in her above the waterline and the old girl was able to make it back to port in Harbour Grace.
During a violent storm, the S.S. Kyle broke free of its moorings. Everyone says it was not meant for the gallant old girl to go to a watery grave. According to stories told by some, it is said that the Kyle was actually guided to its resting place in Riverhead by the seamen’s ghost never to be forgotten. My own father, before he died, swore that the ghost of Captain Guy Earle so guided her to Riverhead. The illustrious Captain and his brother knew that to repair her would be costly, so they decided to let her be where she drifted.
If the Town of Harbour Grace, then Mayor Don Coombs, Bonavista-Trinity-Conception MP Fred Mifflin, and Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Arthur Reid believed in the restoration of the Kyle a few years ago, then it should be an ongoing priority to preserve it today.
It is my belief and the belief of many others that through the preservation of the S.S. Kyle, we can add to the beauty of the area, not to mention the Kyle’s becoming a tourist attraction, a focus on a festival for the area and a sense of pride for Conception Bay North towns and indeed all of Newfoundland.
Wanda White writes from Broad Cove