If you were born with an interest in exploring, you might have tried to imagine what it would have been like to have participated in some of the Western world’s historic adventures. Adventures like Leif Ericson’s (970-1020) 11th Century discovery of North America; Christopher Columbus’ (1451-1506) initiation of Europe’s uninterrupted invasion of this continent; Captain Cook’s (1728-79) navigation and mapping of uncharted territory; Meriwether Lewis (1784-1809) and William Clark’s (1770-1838) Corps of Discovery; Robert E. Peary’s (1856-1920) pursuit of the North Pole; Robert Falcon Scott’s (1868-1912) and Ernest Shackleton’s (1874-1922) respective Antarctic expeditions; Jacques Cousteau’s (1910-97) exploration of the Earth’s oceans; Edmund Hillary’s (1919-2008) climbing of Everest; and Neil Armstrong’s (1930-present) moonwalk, to name a few.
Of all those adventures, the one that I best identify with is Lewis and Clark’s transcontinental crossing of America to the Pacific Ocean. It might have something to do with my landlubber backstory but I can actually picture myself potentially being part of Lewis and Clark’s remarkable team, more so than any of the ocean expeditions I’ve noted above. My mainland tendencies are comparable to those of Newfoundlanders who better identify with Brigus’ Bob Bartlett (1875-1946) and his incredible Arctic Ocean explorations than they do, say, Florida’s Nik Wallenda (1979-present) who recently walked across Niagara Falls tethered to a tightrope.
But if there was one wonderful and amazing Newfoundland adventure I wish I could have been part of, it is the 1965 journey to beat down, pick up, and bring back, from the abandoned isolated outport called Cape La Hune, what today is McCallum’s St. Peter’s Anglican Church. To have been part of the planning, preparation, and eventual application of such an expedition, would have been an event of enormous significance not only for those involved but, for all McCallum residents.
To assemble a team willing to take on such a task, arrange for the loan of a local schooner (Wilson Riggs’ ‘Stewart Rose’), and make the cold winter trek westward in wicked weather on open water – on behalf of their neighbour’s wishes to worship their god - was community-minded, generous, and brave. So to have been able to travel on that lengthy journey with George Wellman (1917–95), Lloyd Riggs (1928-90), Hartland Wellman (1937–present), Clarence Riggs (1937-2006), Hayward Durnford (1938-present), George Chapman (1942-present), and George Feaver (1948-present), would have been a big thrill for me.
It’s true that the relocation of homes and other buildings was in those times, in Newfoundland, not uncommon. But I believe it is important to recognize the participants of such proceedings as being of no less courage and conviction than the people who today receive praise, publicity, recognition and other rewards, for taking comparable risk for far more self-centered reasons. No sir, such an act as travelling a long distance in winter weather to dismantle and move a big building, on behalf of an entire community, is no less warranting of praise than those explorations conducted by other great adventurers of years gone by.
That’s why Newfoundlanders owe it to many of their outport ancestors to see them as no less daring than Cook, Columbus, Cousteau, Clark, Lewis, Ericson, Peary, Scott, Shackleton, Hillary, Armstrong, and Bartlett. And that’s why, because they had far less to gain personally by such exploration, I see our ancestors as being equally as courageous, and far less selfish, than those other men and women we today hail as heroes.
McCallum’s feller-from-way, David can be reached at email@example.com