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Leaving Merasheen THE 50th ANNIVERSARY

IN THE 1950"S POLITICAL LEADERS AND EXPERT BUREAUCRATS SET OUT TO REHABILITATE OUTPORT NEWFOUNDLAND BY MOVING THE PEOPLE INTO A MORE INDUSTRIALIZED URBAN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THEY WOULD DEVELOP "APPROPRIATE HABITS OF MIND" THAT WOULD ENABLE THEM TO BECOME PRODUCTIVE CITIZENS.

THE FOREGOING STATEMENT IS FROM THE REPORT, ENGINEERING DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE: STATE-ASSISTED RESETTLEMENT OF NEWFOUNDLAND INSHORE FISHING COMMUNITIES IN THE SMALLWOOD ERA. [BY GEORGE WITHERS, IN 2012].

DURING THE YEARS 1965-1975, 20656 PEOPLE WERE RELOCATED FROM THEIR HOMES IN OUTPORT NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR. IT HAS BEEN CALLED, "THE GREATEST PEACE-TIME MIGRATION IN THE HISTORY OF CANADA".

THE HANN FAMILY OF MERASHEEN, WAS THE LAST TO LEAVE THEIR COMMUNITY ON OCTOBER 9, 1968.

THE SEMICENTENNIAL OF THAT SAD EVENT IS A GOOD TIME TO SHARE THEIR STORY.

WRITING NOTES IN THE FAMILY BIBLE MARKING MILESTONES AND SPECIAL OCCASIONS WAS A TRADITION FOR MANY OUTPORT NEWFOUNDLAND FAMILIES.

SHORTLY AFTER ARRIVING AT HER NEW HOME IN MARYSTOWN, MY MOTHER MADE THE FOLLOWING NOTE ON A BACK PAGE IN THE FAMILY BIBLE.

WE LEFT DEAR OLD MERASHEEN ON OCT 9, 1968. ARRIVED IN MARYSTOWN AROUND 1:30, I WAS HEARTSICK. PADDY SPLIT LAST FISH IN PLANT THURSDAY AUGUST 29th,THEN WENT TO ISLE VALEN FOR A SACK OF FLOUR. POST OFFICE CLOSED AUGUST 28th, BRANCH TAKEN DOWN OUT OF CHURCH BY PADDY AND RAYMOND AND PACKED AUGUST 28th.

MARRIED LIFE FOR THE NEWLY WED PATRICK AND MARY HANN BEGAN 1945 IN THE LITTLE BUNGALOW, WITH THE DORMER WINDOWS AND THE WHITE PICKET FENCE, IN THE BACKGROUND.
BY SPRING 1950 THE BUNGALOW HAD BECOME TOO SMALL FOR THE RAPIDLY GROWING FAMILY AND THE HANN HOME WAS EXPANDED.

THE PICTURE ABOVE IS FROM 1965. THAT SAME YEAR THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS PASSED THE FIRST RESETTLEMENT AGREEMENT, THE FISHERIES HOUSEHOLD RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM (FHRP). THE PROGRAM WOULD BE THE DEATH KNELL FOR MERASHEEN AND MOST COMMUNITIES IN PLACENTIA BAY.

The Report of the South Coast Commission of 1957, classified many settlements between Cape Ray and Arnold's Cove in Placentia Bay as demoralized and unviable. J.T. Cheeseman, the chair of the Commission and future Provincial fisheries minister, believed there was no option except to move people from the most demoralized settlements where rehabilitation of the population appeared unlikely into one of several South Coast ports with fish plants. He felt money spent in declining communities merely slowed the abandonment of settlements and prolonged their existence in extreme poverty.

Placentia Bay was referred to in the Report as District IX. In 1956 the population was 6,821 living in 47 different communities and the population had increased by six percent from 1951 to 1956. The Commission stated, "fishing in Placentia Bay was relatively remunerative and the area had some possibility of further improvement".

MAP OF PLACENTIA BAY FROM THE REPORT OF THE SOUTH COAST COMMISSION 1957

Placentia Bay has a long human history going back thousands of years. It is well known that the three pre-contact cultures of the island of Newfoundland, the Maritime Archaic, Palaeo-Eskimo and the Recent Indian frequented Placentia Bay, with the first people being the MAI about 5500 years ago around 3000 BC. [https://nlarchaeology.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/beothuk-facts/]

The European migratory fishery to Placentia Bay, chiefly conducted by the Basques and French was established by the mid-16th century, with Merasheen being one of the major fishing stations. Captain Taverner in his report of 1718 stated on his visit to Merishon he found one inhabitant, a Frenchman who had already taken the oath of allegiance. M. Louis Movell, buried in the old French Cemetry and the first settler of Merasheen was in all probability that man. Louis may have sworn allegiance to the Crown but died affirming himself to be a Frenchman.

M. [Monsieur] Louis Movell Native of France Who Departed this life June 24th, 1723. Aged 51 Years

LOUIS MOVELL'S RESTING PLACE IN THE OLD FRENCH CEMETRY IN LITTLE MERASHEEN
GOVERNMENT HAD PLANS FOR MERASHEEN TO BECOME ONE OF THE RECEPTION CENTRES FOR THE REGION. A SALT/FRESH FISH PLANT WAS CONSTRUCTED, GOVERNMENT FUNDS WERE INVESTED IN DEVELOPING THE COMMUNITY INCLUDING THE PROVISION OF DIESEL POWERED ELECTRIFICATION. MERASHEEN WAS SLATED TO SURVIVE, AND IN FACT EVEN GROW. WHAT HAPPENED?

George Withers in his report of 2012 states, "The socially vibrant communities of Tack's Beach, Harbour Buffett and Merasheen which had shown no inclination to resettle, disappeared within a few months of the petition being taken up and in the headlong rush to the mainland, Merasheen was forgotten".

"Between 1965 and 1969 thirty communities disappeared from the Islands and the West side of Placentia Bay. In 1970, Woody Island was the only remaining settled Island in Placentia Bay".

In their report in 1957 the SOUTH COAST COMMISSION cautioned Government. "The Commission feels that it is unrealistic to suggest a movement of people of such magnitude. Some re-location is desirable and essential, but steps must be taken to improve conditions in the fisheries so that many people will be able to remain in that occupation". The Commission realized moving large numbers of fisherman out of the fishery would create extreme hardship. "A positive programme of providing employment must be combined with a policy of paying the costs of re-location. It should be emphasized that employment opportunities must be available, and must precede the granting of financial assistance if a relocation policy is to be successful".

SOCIOLOGIST DR. RALPH MATTHEWS, CONTENDS THAT THE PEOPLE IN THE GRIP OF "MOVING FEVER" PANICKED. HE DESCRIBES THE RELOCATION OF PEOPLE, AS THE GREATEST PEACETIME MIGRATION IN THE HISTORY OF CANADA, AND IT HAD A TRAMAUTIC EFFECT ON RE-SETTLERS. HE COMPARED IT TO THE TRAUMA EXPERIENCED BY SURVIVORS OF A NATURAL DISASTER, SUCH AS AN EARTHQUAKE OR TSUNAMI.
DR. MATTHEWS ALSO SUGGESTED THE FAILURE OF OFFICIALS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION ALLOWED RUMORS TO TAKE HOLD INSTILLING FEAR AND PANIC IN THE COMMUNITIES. IN MERASHEEN THE HASTY EXIT OF SETTLERS CONFIRMED THE FEAR FELT BY ALL; THEY WERE ON THEIR OWN, AFRAID TO BE LEFT BY THEMSELVES.
IN 1967, AS PEOPLE STARTED TO LEAVE MY FATHER IN HIS ROLE AS CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMUNITY COUNCIL MADE A PLEA ON BEHALF OF THE COMMUNITY AND A WAY OF LIFE.

WHY LEAVE, HOW WILL THAT MAKE OUR LIVES BETTER?

THE GREAT FEAR OF ENDING UP WORSE OFF WAS WELL FOUNDED.

The people of Merasheen were not totally opposed to the Scheme, my father made the following statement in his letter. "Strictly speaking, we are not opposed to Centralization as such, and would like to improve our way of living, our means of support and our environment in general, but under the present centralization system such improvements are impossible."

"Merasheen is, and always was, one place in Placentia Bay where a man who is willing to work can earn a comfortable living for his family and live quite independently. We may not have all the necessities of life, but at least we have what it takes to live happy and contented lives."

The following year just eight short months after leaving their homes and a way of life, men were going back to Merasheen to fish, to continue to do what they had done for a lifetime, on fishing grounds they knew. The promise of a better way of life died quickly; families suffered as fathers and husbands prosecuted a fishery from homes and wharves now twenty five miles from the fishing grounds instead of what had only been a few miles. Lives were lost as a result; the pain, sacrifice and the price paid by some families leave bitter and painful memories for people from Merasheen.

At the outset, the resolve of the community was firm. If the residents of Merasheen were going to move, they would leave together. "We must be either left in a position, or put in a position where we can earn a living and live independently as we have done in the past." P. J. Hann's letter of June 6, 1967. Letters were written to several different communities, exploring the possibilities of moving collectively to maintain a sense of community and a way of life.

THEN

On June 28, 1967, Father Valentine Power announced to the community, he would be leaving Merasheen for Placentia to become assistant parish priest. The announcement came as a great shock to the community, the people were left reeling and stunned by the pronouncement.

On the following day, the feast day of St. Peter and St Paul every adult in the in the Harbour gathered at a meeting to show solidarity for their community, and to make a plea to their bishop.

FATHER POWER'S NOTICE OF APPOINTMENT FROM ARCHBISHOP SKINNER
FATHER POWER'S RESPONSE TO THE BISHOP
CRIS DE COEUR AFTER COMMUNITY MEETING ON JUNE 29, 1967.

In an earlier time on this feast day, it was a tradition in Merasheen that fishermen donate their catch of the day to the church. This day Mother Church was turning her back.

In July 1967, there were still thirty families left in the Harbour. Archbishop Skinner's decision to move Father Power at this critical time was a real punch in the gut to the community.

"We just cannot see Merasheen without a priest stationed here", my father wrote. "We feel that everything is lost to us if we lose our priest, the man on whom we so much depend."

The plea from the people to please leave Father Power in Merasheen for at least another year, fell on deaf ears.

THE SHEPARD'S RESPONSE

PATERNAL SOLICITUDE AND A BLESSING WAS UNSATISFACTORY, A SHEPHERD NEVER ABANDONS HIS FLOCK. JOHN 10:11

Residents of Merasheen were a people of strong faith. The letter from Archbishop Skinner in early August, 1967 was the final nail in the coffin. His comment, "a further consideration is the whole movement of centralization and the major work of providing the best possible educational opportunities for our children", adds to the suspicion of collusion between church and state. That comment, plus his refusal to support the people of Merasheen's reasonable request, implies he supported the Scheme.

FATHER MOAKLER'S LETTER TO THE BISHOP

This last paragraph of Father Moakler's letter illustrates where the people of Merasheen fit in the overall plan by their church. Their spiritual needs had not even been considered, they were completely cut adrift by the church.

MEANWHILE, THE EFFORT TO OBTAIN A BETTER RESULT CONTINUED

AND MOVING TOGETHER WAS STILL THE PLAN

THE FOLLOWING PRESS RELEASE FROM MY FATHER'S TELEGRAM COPY BOOK DESCRIBES THE EFFORT. THERE WAS STILL HOPE EVEN AS THE END WAS NEAR IN AUGUST, 1968.

STILL HOPING - MORE PROMISES

FIGHTING TO MAINTAIN A WAY OF LIFE

THE FINAL CRY FROM A DYING COMMUNITY.

With the community almost deserted, time was rapidly running out. Hope was fading fast for the remaining residents of Merasheen. Summer was advancing, soon school would be reopening. The few families who remained, many with school age children, had no choice but to leave. By early September the Hann family of twelve souls was alone in the Harbour.

A FULL LOAD CIRCA 1940

THE BEST AND FULFORD HOMESTEADS

BLESSING OF THE BOATS 1963

BUSY DAY IN THE HARBOUR

A once strong and vibrant community had been gutted. My father still struggled, trying to decide where to move, despite having eight children who should be in school. My brother and I made many trips across the Bay in our skiff to purchase food. I looked after the power-plant and ran the smallest of the diesel generators to provide power for our house only, twenty four hours a day.

SAINT JOSEPH'S CHURCH CONSTRUCTION STARTED 1916

My brother Tony and I spent several weeks in the church packing artifacts. At our father's direction we packed box after box, and lugged them to the Government wharf to be shipped to the Parish in Placentia. I recall wondering why are we worrying about this? However, dad was "a good church man" and this very important task could not be overlooked. There were some things that just could not be left behind.

The final job at the church was removing the Branch. This famous Brass Chandelier was made in Waterford, Ireland in the 1800's specifically for St. Joseph's Church, Merasheen and was so inscribed. We lowered it from the ceiling over the sanctuary for the last time, packed it well and took it with us when we departed. It was in my father's possession until Monsignor Denis Walsh moved to Marystown as Parish Priest. He installed it there, sadly it was destroyed when the church burned to the ground in 1976.

We spent the last week moving our belongings from the house to the stage and store loft for loading on the boat. One of our last tasks was moving stoves up and down the meadow; we worked like dogs. In the early 1960s we had installed a new oil stove in the kitchen; our old Hillcrest was taken to the store loft and used there to provide heat in the Winter. Taking the new stove down for departure was easy. Lugging the old heavy Hillcrest stove back up the meadow, then reinstalling it in the kitchen was a backbreaking job that took us a long time.

Why we did these things I am not sure; in hindsight it was pure folly. Had we torched everything we owned prior to our departure it would have been less heartbreaking. It was not our role to question or challenge anything; dad was the boss. Every single task had to be completed at his direction, according to his plan. The kitchen was set up just as if we were going to be there. A bed was prepared in an upstairs bedroom, and a nightstand was placed nearby with a lamp filled with oil. On the second last day we were there, I helped my father complete the following task:

USE BUT PLEASE DO NOT ABUSE P.J. HANN

In my mind's eye I see the sign as it were yesterday, USE BUT PLEASE DO NOT ABUSE signed by our father. The three quarter round which made the eight by ten inch frame was painted, and mitered on the corners. I held the poly in place over the handmade sign as Dad drove in the finishing nails on the outside of our entry door to hold the sign in place and waterproof it, so that it would last. The door was left unlocked when we departed; just the latch was engaged on the storm door.

PROOF OF THE INJUSTICE OF THE SCHEME.

For a lifetime's work my father was eligible for a basic Resettlement Grant of $3400, because he moved to Marystown where there was an approved land assembly; he was also eligible for a grant of up to $3000 towards a building lot.

Early in the morning of October 9, 1968 I shut off the power in the community, closed--but didn't lock the powerhouse door, went to the wharf with my family to leave. I was a young man, 18 years, 6 months, 2 days old; the memory is still vivid. With my family aboard the MV Bertha Joyce ready to leave, I remained on the wharf to untie the mooring lines. I was the last to board for departure. It had to be that way.

THE M. V. BERTHA JOYCE

My father was not an emotional man but leaving Merasheen on that morning long ago conjures a painful memory for each and everyone of my siblings. Even the youngest, not quite six years old at the time, recall my parents weeping as we left the wharf. Our proud father cried his heart out as we sailed out the Harbour to a new beginning, away from the only life he had ever known. Leaving Merasheen and abandoning their home, ripped the heart and soul right out of my parents.

A FINE SUMMER DAY IN AN EARLIER TIME.

THE COMMUNITY, LOCATED AT THE SOUTHWESTERN TIP OF MERASHEEN ISLAND, WINDSWEPT, RUGGED, BLESSED WITH A SAFE HARBOUR HAD PROVIDED SUSTENANCE AND A WAY OF LIFE FOR CENTURIES. SADLY, IT WOULD BE NO MORE.

THE AIM OF RESETTLEMENT WAS TO RELOCATE SMALL COMMUNITIES TO LARGER CENTERS WHERE THEY WOULD FIND BETTER JOB OPPORTUNITIES AND PUBLIC FACILITIES SUCH AS HOSPITALS.

HOWEVER NOBLE IN CONCEPT- THE EXECUTION OF THE SCHEME WAS CRIMINAL.

FRIENDS AND FAMILIES WERE SCATTERED, PEOPLE LEFT BEHIND THEIR HOMES AND FISHING PREMISES WHICH HAD TAKEN THEM A LIFETIME TO BUILD, WHICH THEY OWNED FREE AND CLEAR FOR A PITTANCE.

THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE WHOLE, THAT THEY WERE NOT WAS THE GREATEST CRIME OF THE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM.

ADVISING FUTURE CALLINGS UNNECESSARY

FROM P. J. HANN'S TELEGRAM BOOK

The coastal boat, M V Petite Forte had continued to make Merasheen a port of call as long as people remained; the Captain had requested my father notify him when we departed. On October 10, 1968 the day after he arrived in Marystown, he sent the telegram (see copy above) to The Captain "Advising that the last settlers of Merasheen have been forced to capitulate, future callings unnecessary."

POSTSCRIPT

RETURNING SEVEN MONTHS LATER

HEARTBREAK ON RETURNING SEVEN MONTHS LATER

The postscript to the story is more painful than leaving, if in fact that is possible. Above are my father's handwritten notes detailing the damage and destruction we discovered on returning in May, 1969.

When we departed Merasheen in October we left with our household belongings only. Our house was left unlocked ready for use by anyone inclined to do so. One of the last tasks was to make and place a sign on the entry door stating, USE BUT PLEASE DO NOT ABUSE. It was my father's intention to move our house the following year, after obtaining a building lot in Marystown; sadly that dream was shattered by what we discovered. My father's written account detailing what we encountered that Spring hardly does justice to the scope of the damage and destruction we found upon entering our house; the image is frozen in my memory. His handwritten account references the door, lockset and the large window in the kitchen, but makes no mention of the cupboards torn off the wall, the window smashed in the living room door, the table broken in pieces, and the missing furniture. The kitchen was gutted and destroyed; doors were either left open or completely gone.

While going throughout the house, we soon discovered the plundering wasn’t just limited to the kitchen. Windows were wantonly broken throughout the house on both levels. In the bathroom the sink and toilet were gone, the room completely gutted. There is one particular image that sticks in my mind, an image that I still have great difficulty in accepting. How could a human being be so cheap and destructive? Our bathroom wall had four inch square ceramic tiles all the way around to a height of about four feet, which had been removed one by one, and taken away. The perpetrators and culprits were cheap but energetic, having expended great effort to dig up several lengths of sewer pipe in the meadow.

Every building we owned had been broken into and ransacked, Stage, Store Loft, Little Store Loft, Little Store, Shop and our House. Much of the fishing gear which had all been left behind was stolen. The sign, USE BUT PLEASE DO NOT ABUSE and signed by my father sadly meant nothing. I believe it may have served to fan the rage and resentment of the people who came to plunder and pillage soon after we left. Despite repeated requests from my father to the RCMP to investigate the crime, none was ever carried out. That the destruction and theft were done by people from our own community make it difficult to accept and understand, even fifty years later.

At long last, a sympathetic ear.

ID EST QUOD EST.

Fifty years on, it is still a painful memory. My father was bitter, but because he was a man of strong Christian principles, with a philosophy of "thy necessity is greater than mine," this finally permitted him to slack away the rope of bitterness and let go of the end.

My mother though, never forgot nor forgave. She carried the pain and loss with her constantly, unforgiving to the end of her memory, when once again she lived, in Merasheen.

To ensure there was no doubt how she felt, she made another note in the family bible some time later in the intervening years.

Left Home Merasheen, Hann's wharf around 9:30, October 9, 1968 on Bertha Joyce for Marystown. My heart was heavy. I was so sick, upset over it all. I never got any better, over the years. I still love Home, Merasheen.

My father's life was not defined by the pain and loss of Resettlement. Always a good community man he worked hard to adapt in his chosen home. On arriving he immediately went to work at the fish plant in Marystown, helping process and pack fish for export until he discovered the plant was putting out a product for food he wouldn't have even used for lobster bait in a previous life.

At the age of 59, Paddy went back to school, got a trade, and started a new career. He died with his boots on, still working in his sixty eighth year less than ten years after leaving Merasheen. He made a contribution in his new home, serving on the Executive of the Marine Workers Federation Union, Local 20 at the Marystown Shipyard where he was employed.

Mere months before he died, he fulfilled his dream, of having his own house in his new, chosen hometown. He built and moved his family into a new bungalow, in Marystown. The pittance he received for relocating covered less than 15% of the cost.

Mary lived to be 92 and died in 2014. She returned to Merasheen, every Summer with her two sisters, for almost thirty years. She so loved going back that she turned down a trip to Rome from her son, Father William. Imagine his surprise, with her ticket bought when she said, "William honey, I can't go to Rome, you knows I have to go home to Merasheen for the Summer." And go home to Merasheen is what she did.

The Rocks Of Merasheen to my mother were living stones. Merasheen was her home, her anchor. She collected rocks everywhere she went, but the rocks she had from "out home" were prized. One of the final acts of love for each of us was to place one in her casket as we said our last farewell.

50 Years LATER

MERASHEEN IS STILL A VIBRANT COMMUNITY.

PEOPLE WHO LEFT YEARS AGO ARE COMING BACK IN THEIR GOLDEN YEARS RECLAIMING THEIR ROOTS.

YOUNGER GENERATIONS ARE BUILDING CABINS WHERE THEIR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS DROVE DOWN ROOTS YEARS BEFORE.

AND MAGICAL MERASHEEN LIVES ON IN THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF PEOPLE WHO WILL ALWAYS CALL IT HOME.

WE REMEMBER THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE PEOPLE BEFORE US. A MEMORIAL OF HONOUR PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY. A MEMORIAL OF MEMORY IS DEDICATED TO ALL BURIED HERE OR ELSEWHERE WHO CALL THIS PLACE HOME.

WE REMEMBER.......... MERASHEEN WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.

HOMECOMING

PLAN ON ATTENDING ONE OF THE SOCIAL EVENTS OF THE YEAR IN NEWFOUNDLAND.

RETURNING

HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN YOUR FOND WISH TO WALK AGAIN ON THE ROCKS OF MERASHEEN?

MERASHEEN MAY HAVE BEEN RESETTLED IN THE MINDS OF SOME PEOPLE, HOWEVER SHE HAS NEVER BEEN ABANDONED IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE WHO WILL ALWAYS CALL IT HOME.

ON THE SEMICENTENNIAL OF LEAVING, PEOPLE WILL FLOCK HOME THIS SUMMER, TO CELEBRATE MERASHEEN. YOU COME TOO AND YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY.

YOU WILL BE HAPPY YOU DID.

THE ICONIC HARBOUR THAT HAS PROVIDED SANCTUARY FOR CENTURIES.
SPECTACULR VISTAS AND BLISSFUL SOLITUDE
Splendid Sunrises
Spectacular Sunsets

Our love and longing for Merasheen is hard to explain and possibly quite difficult for many to comprehend. The anthem, "Merasheen Sings to me" written by my brother Pat in 2001, will help you understand and appreciate why Merasheen is so near and dear to the hearts of all of us who call it home.

MERASHEEN SINGS TO ME

There is a place that I call home. It's a place I have come to know intimately and to love. Away from this place, away from the beauty and power that is Merasheen there is always something missing from my "self". Merasheen sings to me!

It sings soft lullabies. It sings historical ballads. It sings sea shanties. It sings rousing songs of revolution. It sings of joy, sorrow, regret and loss. It sings of gifts passed down. It sings of faith, hope and love. The voices are English, Irish, French, Basque and perhaps earlier still, Beothuk.

It sings to me of the joys of arriving and the sadness of departing, of coastal steamers and a crowded government wharf, of leaving home too soon, of being away too long, of my twin brother Gerard ( who died an infant- but there's two of me in many of my dreams), of family and friends now scattered, of ancestors in the graveyards, of early rites of manhood, of the importance of memory, of a fierce pride of place.

Merasheen sings to me of mad storms, of warm breezes, of sunsets, of soft twilight, of the dawn-breaking cry of a gull, of complaining crows, of the flash of a hawk, of high hills with black cliffs down to the sea, of sweet meadows, of traces and fragments of memory, of the evocative smells of wood smoke, old classrooms, newly mown hay, the store loft.

It sings to me of the secret places of childhood, of childhood games, of playmates’ laughter, of days too short, of wonder and surprise, of sadness and disillusionment, of moonlit nights, muffled foggy mornings, of back coves spongy with capelin spawn, of the Big Rock, the Middle Rock, the Long Rock, the Net Rock, the Chain Rock and the Fish Rock.

Merasheen sings to me of hills and ponds and features named for and by people long since gone but remembered in Gallivan's Hill, Murray's Pond, Larkin's Garden and Tommy Yeo's Point. It sings to me of sea and wharves and boats overflowing with cod, of busy harbor, of talk of weather and the fish, of store loft stories, of the wisdom of old people, of softhard women and hardsoft men, of the quest for learning and understanding self, of the silence of an empty church, of garden parties, of the wild "round the house", of concerts and skits, of journeys "in over" the hills, of a co-operative spirit and action, of duty, responsibility and work, of Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Easter and Lady Day Celebrations of community.

Merasheen sings to me of eagles, ospreys and loons, of sea otters and whales, of flatfish, conners, tomcods and jellyfish, of beautiful sculpins and darting terns, of the endless summers of childhood. It sings to me of trap berths and fishing grounds, of good bottom and clear marks, of dory, punt, skiff (Mary Maureen) and schooner (Catherine M. Hann), of the Wild Cove, the Big Shoal, the Pond Head, the Dirty Rocks, of Breakheart Point and the Fox Point, of Iron Skull and the White Sail.

Merasheen sings to me of hidden shoals, of a welcoming light, of a secure harbor inside the frothing "narrows", of a forever restless sea, of the meeting of land, sea and sky, of peace and solitude, of being alone but not lonely, of knowing who I am, of being connected and rooted.

Merasheen sings to me of yesterday, today and tomorrow. A deep connection to place can’t always be understood or explained. It is a commitment, a deep and abiding attachment. It is a part of every aspect of my life, every belief and thought. It is a part of instinct, of primal memory.

Without my yearly journeys home, I'm not fulfilled.

I await my next journey home.

Merasheen sings to me!

Patrick J. Hann, March 15, 2001

Some of the photographs in this presentation are old, I am unsure of the origin and cannot give credit. Many though are from the archives of Ernie Walsh, which he has shared with me over the years. Thank-you Ernie, for keeping the History of Merasheen alive. Some of the photos are from the public domain. The letters and documents are from records and documents belonging to my father, Patrick J. Hann. A few of the pieces of correspondence are from the archives of the archdiocese. There are many quotes from the Report Engineering Demographic Change, by George Withers in 2012. Thank you to my brother Paddy for his assistance. To comment please contact me at rayngail@yahoo.ca

BY RAY HANN 2017

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