Documents relating to Ferryland: 1597 to 1726
1663; James Yonge
Original manuscript in possesion of the Plymouth Athenaeum, Plymouth, England. Published in F.N.L. Poynter, ed., The Journal of James Yonge (1647-1721): Plymouth Surgeon (London: Longman, Green & Co. Ltd., ©1963) 53-60. Revised by P.E. Pope.
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Subjects: cod, fisheries, ships, rooms, boats, servants, health, planters, brandy, wildlife, food, material culture.
 ...In February, my father shipped me to go surgeon of the REFORMATION, Mr William Cock, commander, 70 men, 3 guns, 100 ton, bound for Newfoundland, to make a voyage. I were glad of the voyage, but so sorrowfully provided for it as is scarce credible. I had not the common necessaries that every sailor had. I had few and ill clothes, few and common medicines and utensils, 6 quarts of brandy, a small pot of butter, and books I had picked up, a few. My comfort was I should be under no one, neither my father nor a Robinson, and that Mr. Cock was a kind man. [Yonge was then 15 years old]. Before I proceed to relate this voyage I will finish all the maps belonging to the foregoing relation.
1663. February the 24th we went from Plymouth and got as far west as the Lizard when the wind, proving contrary, we returned for Plymouth and in going up Catwater run aground under Mount Batten, but took no hurt. Here we remained 8 days more and then, in company of the old Mr James Cuttiford in the WELFARE, we sailed away. In 22 days we came on the false bank of Newfoundland, where it was intolerable cold. At last we, apprehending ourselves shot well in, had a desperate storm at east, which put us from all our sail. It lasted almost a day but that night it lunned and continued at east, though it were foggy. Those mad Newfoundland men are so greedy of a good place they ventured in strangely. Next morning we saw many great islands of ice [icebergs], of divers shapes, and many smaller pieces of different forms, as these here figured.
This ice thawed is altogether fresh, arguing that salt water doth not congeal. These islands of ice infest the coast in the beginning of February, and last till June and sometimes later. They are caused by the ice breaking out of the northwest passage, which grounding on the banks do there accumulate and by the snow and rain increase. Sometimes whole lands of ice are seen that men have sailed 80 leagues by. Here are divers particular animals which I saw, as a noddy, a bird by which they know they are near Newfoundland. It's less than a gull, of a blunt head and short bill. They have a pretty way of catching them thus: they take a round piece of cork as big as a trencher, and fasten a piece of lead to it, and with a fishing line let it swim off; to the edges of this cork are fastened divers small hooks with some bait, as pork flesh, etc. This the noddies swallow and are drawn in. They are good meat and eat but a little fishy. Here are also strange coloured gulls, penguins: a bird with a great bill and no wings but such as goslings have [Great Auks]. They cannot fly but, when pursued, take their young on their back. (Penguin is ill figured by Mr Willoughby in his Ornithology I, fig. 65; his bill much too small for those of Terra Nova.) Here are also seals, an amphibious animal like a dog. I have seen them abundantly on the ice, 30 leagues off the shore.
Monday morning, the third of April, we saw the land, it being clear morning, wind at N.W., the sea full of great islands of ice, and very cold. I suppose we might be 8 leagues off and not seeing the shore, or land near the sea, our people could not readily tell where we were. The land we saw was two hommitts [hummocks] or craggy hills which (before the land near the sea appeared) seemed like islands, and these they call the Butter Pots. At last, drawing near the shore, we saw Cape Race (a low point, the southmost of all the islands) to appear; and we fell in directly with Cape Bollard [Cape Ballard], which lies 4 leagues north from Cape Race and 4 leagues to south of Renews. Coming near the shore we saw a large cove, called Glam Cove, a little kind of harbour where the Renews boats, when put to leeward, use to shelter. We tacked and turned up to the northward, where we saw several ships.
The next morning we came before Renews and, the wind being north, we entered the harbour and anchored, found no ship there but divers possessors. We presently hired a sloop from a planter and sent the mate with divers men along shore to get possessions, as they call it. The manner is thus: they put a man on shore at every harbour and at last, according to their turns, they take the best place they can of all their possessions. There were 4 at Renews before us. Only one stuck there, which was Mr Thomas Waymouth of Dartmouth, who kept 18 boats, in the DORCAS, so our master resolved to be his viceadmiral. Besides us, there fished:
Mr Francis Martin of Plymouth, 4 boats
and Mr Scott of Barnstaple, 6 boats.
The planters were:
Richard Pooly, 1 boat
Richard Codner, one boat
Mrs. Gilder, 3 boats
and James Kelling, a two-man boat.
Mr Waymouth, (who is admiral and always wore a flag-staff, Sundays a flag, and is called my Lord, the vice-admiral my Lady) had a surgeon. Now the manner of this country is, for those that have no surgeon to agree with one, and give 18d., 20d., or 2s. per man for the season to look after their men, which the masters pay in fish at the end of the summer. This surgeon of Mr Waymouth, named Edward Cutt, had been formerly in the country and knew the way better than I did. We two agreed to share profits and made a bargain with all the planters and the ships, and not only so, but went over to Fermeuse, a harbour 4 little mile from that wherein we were. It happened there fished 7 Barnstaple men [i.e., 7 ships] and no surgeon; with those we agreed at 2s per man, and to come over twice a week, Sundays and Wednesdays. If any great occasion, they were to send the men to us.
Every week I went over once, and my companion once. The walk was through the woods and two marshes. I used to leave a bottle of brandy hid behind a tree, which I would mark, and take a dram in my way. Sometimes I should get company, but usually had a dog and a gun, because of the wolves and bears (besides the foxes) wherewith this country abounds. I forbear to describe the harbours because the maps I shall draw of them will do that sufficient. The harbour we were in was very much esteemed for a good fishing place - the Barnstaple men prefer it above any - yet we had poor fishing and made not above 130 quintals per boat and £ 3. 5s a share. At the head of this river are many salmon; we caught abundance and our master saved several hogsheads and dried abundance in the smoke. As soon as we resolve to fish here, the ship is all unrigged, and in the snow and cold all the men go into the woods to cut timber, fir, spruce, and birch, being here plentiful. With this they build stages, flakes, cookroom, and houses. The houses are made of a frythe of boughs, sealed inside with rinds [balsam fir bark], which look like planed deal, and covered with the same, and turfs of earth upon, to keep the sun from raning them. These are begun on the edge of the shore, and built out into the sea, a floor of round timber, supported with posts, and shores of great timber. The boats lie at the head of them, as at a key, and throw up their fish, which is split, salted, etc. They throw away the heads and sound bones. The form of a stage is this. [There is a sketch in the original.]
The complement of men to a boat are 5, that is 3 for to catch the fish, two to save it. Those 3 are the boat's master, midshipman, and foreshipman. The boat is 3 or 4 tons and will carry 1000 or 1200 cod, but these three men will row these great boats a long way. The boat's master he rows at the stem, against the other two, who row one side. He belays against them and so not only rows but steers the boat. The boats' masters, generally, are able men, the midshipman next and the foreshipmen are generally strippings. They bring the fish at the stage head, the foreshipman goes to boil their kettle, the other two throw up the fish on the stage head by pears [pews], that is, a staff with a prong of iron in him, which they stick in the fish and throw them up. Then a boy takes them and lays them on a table in the stage, on one side of which stands a header, who opens the belly, takes out the liver, and twines off the head and guts (which fall through the stage into the sea) with notable dexterity and suddenness. The liver runs through a hole in the table, into a cool or great tub, which is thrown into the train vat. A train vat is a great square chest the corners of which are frythed [woven] athwart. The liver is thrown into the middle, which melting, the train leaks through this frythe and is by tap drawn out and put into cask. When the header has done his work, he thrusts the fish to the other side of the table, where sits a splitter, or splitter, who with a strong knife splits it abroad, and with a back stroke cuts off the bone, which falls through a hole into the sea. There are some that will split incredibly swift, 24 score in half an hour. When the fish is split, he falls into a drooge barrow [hand barrow], which, when full, is drawn to one side of the stage, where boys lay it one on top of another. The alter comes with salt on a wooden shovel and with a little brush strews the salt on it. When a pile is about 3 foot high they begin with another. A alter is a skillful officer, for too much salt burns the fish and makes it break, and wet, too little makes it red shanks, that is, look red when dried, and so is not merchantable.
The fish, being salted, lies 3 or 4 days, sometimes (if bad weather) 8 or 10 days, and is then washed by the boys in salt or fresh water and laid in a pile skin upward on a platt [platform] of beach stones, which they call a horse. After a day or thereabout, it's laid abroad on flakes (vide E on the last figure), that is, boughs thinly laid upon a frame, like that of a table, and here the fish dries. By night, or in wet weather, it's made up in faggots (as they call it), that is, 4 or five fishes with the skin upward, and a broad fish on top. When well dried, it's made up into pressed pile, where it sweats; that is, the salt sweats out, and corning, makes the fish look white. After it's so done, it's dried one day on the ground and then put up in dry pile, as they call it, that is a pile bigger than the pressed pile by 3 times. There it lies till shipped off, when it's dried part of a day, then weighed, carried on board, laid, and pressed snug with great stones.
The men in these voyages have no wages but are paid after this manner: the owners have two thirds and the men one third. This one third is divided into so many shares as there are men in the ship. Now, though some men have money above the share from the master, yet others have much less, so that I believe in our ship the master might have 9 shares clear, the mate 2 shares and 40 d, splitters 1 share and £ 3 or 4, header 1 share 20 d, salter £ 5, sometimes less, boat's master 1 share and £ 6 or 7, midshipman 1 share and twenty or 50 shillings, foreshipman £ 3, or half a share and ten shillings, boys, lurgens [hands] and such: 20 d, 30 d, or 40 d.
The manner of paying the surgeon is this: the owners give £ 5, 6, 7, or 9 on the hand towards the chest, the master gives him a share, and every man half-a-crown [2s 6d], out of his share, besides which he has one hundred of poor Jack [dried cod fish] from the whole.Mr Cock was very civil to me, and here I lived in the greatest content imaginable. I had much to do in my profession, yet leisure to study, to walk, to fish, and take pleasure. At the end of the season I went by boat to Cape Broyle, to Caplin Bay, to Ferryland, and home. Here are beaver, otter, and deer plentiful; for fruits, strawberry, raspberries, whorts [blueberries], and wild grapes incredible.
The diseases of this country are: breaking out of the arm wrists, colds and coughs, and the scurvy, of which they have two sorts, the one an acute scurvy, soon caught, soon cured, the other a cachexy, or dry scurvy, which makes the patient look thin, yellow, squalled, with pain and paresis of the limbs, and is often mortal. The other is an acute scurvy; their gums rot, thick-breathed, swollen, black, indurated hams and thighs, tumours of the legs, yielding to the touch, extravasation of the blood, a disease not curable by all the medicines which can be carried there, but easily by a few vegitives of the country. Viz. first purging with the roots of the Spatula foetida, or stinking gladwin, steeped in water, which works violently both ways, then giving them the tops of spruce, wild vetches, agrimony, a sort of wild succory (called here scurvy leaves) steeped in beer, and bathing them in decoctions of the same. Bleeding is found pernicious in that disease. The cause of this so common a malady is partly from the great mutation of the weather, which when we first come is very cold, and in July shall be intolerably hot, partly from the aqueous and crude nourishment, fish, and from sudden colds after the fatigues of labour, but mostly from the air, which is crude, foggy and scorbutic. The ground, being uncultivated, yields very ill vapours, being towards the sea most woody for 5 or 6 miles, but inward is ponds, marshes, rivers, mountains, and rocks. There will some mornings come down upon the rivers a foggy cloud, or vapor, which will burn and exulcerate like fire, and that mostly between Christmas and April. I once cured a little boy that lost the top of its nose, several fingers, part of the glans and prepuce, both heels to the bones, and several toes thereby.
In the midst of the season, men are apt to have vexatious hemorrhages of the nose, which they are sensible proceeds from eating much of the liver of the cods, which is here very delicious. I cured it with the following: consr. rosarum 3ii, sal prun. 3ii, ol. menthol gtt iii, misce for 2 doses [conserve of roses, sall prunella = potassium nitrate and potassium sulphate, with 3 drops of oil of menthol]. Also, when the herrings come, (which is in June, the fairest, fattest, sweetest, and largest in the world) they surfeit on them, and then shall have vomitings and scouring, which I cured by a vomit, and at night a little diascordium and a drop of chemical oil of wormwood or mint.
In July, the mosquitos (a little biting fly) and garnippers (a larger one) [timber flies?] will much vex us. Sometimes the boys are so tired with labour they will steal off and hide under the flakes, or get into the woods and sleep 3 or 4 hours, so hearty that they feel not the mosquitos, who by the time he wakes shall have swollen him blind, and then he knows not to get out. I have seen them prodigiously swollen by them; their cure usually is by populem [black poplar ointment].
When the fishermen lade, or sometimes moor in the day, it's hard work for the shore men, so as they rest not above two hours in a night. Nor are the fishermen better to pass, who row hard and fish all day, and every second night take nets and drive to catch herrings for bait. They have divers kinds of bait. In the beginning of the year they use mussels, then come herrings and generally last all the year. The middle or end of June came the caplin, a small sweet fish and the best bait, and when they come we have the best fishing, the cods pursuing them so eager that both have run ashore. I have seen caplin so thick that one might dip them in maunds [baskets] on the shore. After the caplin come the squids, a fish like soaked leather, and of this shape. [Sketch in original.]
They catch them in nets or seines, and sometimes by bobbing (as they call it), which is thus: they take a small cod and skin him, and hanging him a little under the water in the night, the squids will lug at it; then they pull it up softly and clap a cap net under, and so secure them.
In the winter the planters employ themselves in getting fish, sawing boards, making oars, catching beaver, and fowling. They have innumerable ducks, several geese, wild pigeons, partridge, hares, etc. September the 14th, we left Renews and sailed for England, where we arrived (without any memorable accident by the way) on Michaelmas day, at Plymouth.