Working on the Water

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An Unusual Job for a Young Boy

An Interview with Mr. Brian Fitzgerald, aged 69, South River, Newfoundland

(as related to N. W. Sheppard, May 18th, 1997)

"As a young boy, I grew up on Bell Island. One job that many young boys would do would be to load or unload ballast from boats arriving with all sorts of cargo or preparing to take on iron ore. Ballast was usually large rocks that made an empty boat ride better on the water. The incident that I am thinking about took place in the late 30s or early 40s when I was around 14 years old. They could not get the regular men to do this task because they worked long hours Monday to Friday and didn't want to be bothered with this task. We had been working several hours on a certain ship unloading ballast. When we were given a break, another boy whose name was Mike, and I spread ourselves out on a grill to enjoy the good weather. Without notice, the grill gave way and both of us went thumbing into the engine room. I landed on a catwalk above the engine room. You know what a catwalk is. It is a kind of bridge with iron railings. I don't know how it happened but all the damage to me was to rub skin off the back of my neck. I must have hit the railings because I kept going in and out of conscience. Mike fell all the way to the engine room floor where there were all sorts of gauges. They had to get a skiff to take us to the pier and then carry us to the medical clinic. Like I said, I kept coming to and passing out, especially when the cold sea air hit me. Poor Mike, however, died that night."





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