Sealers frozen in ice being captured in bronze

Josh Pennell
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Artist nearly finished memorial

Morgan MacDonald is taking apart the sculpture that he’s been working on for just about a year. He’s not starting over. That’s part of the process when working with bronze. Soon his piece of art — sealed with thousands of pounds of bronze and depicting a tragic scene of Newfoundland history — will make its way to the community of Elliston.

Sculptor Morgan MacDonald stands next to the clay representation of his Sealers Memorial. He’s working to have the bronze sculpture completed by April 1. — Photo by Josh Pennell/The Telegram

“You actually end up making the statue three times. Once in clay. Once in wax. And once in bronze,” says MacDonald.

Standing next to the completed Sealers Memorial in clay at the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry on Marine Drive, he says this is the hardest step. This is where he makes clay moulds of exactly what will become the finished version in bronze. He’s taking it apart now because his creation will actually be broken down into 70 to 80 pieces. They will eventually become ceramic casts that will have melted bronze metal poured into them. Then the whole creation will be reassembled.

“As you’re sculpting it you have to think about five steps ahead so that when you go to make the moulds you’re not painting yourself into a corner,” he says, laughing. He adds that it’s a misconception that you just dip a sculpture in the bronze.

“At first it’s so difficult to start because there’s nothing.”

The people in Elliston who spearheaded the idea knew what they wanted, and MacDonald had some writing to help him visualize, particularly Cassie Brown’s novel “Death on the Ice” which tells the story of the 1914 sealing disasters.

There were many images from that book that could be considered worthy of the memorial. The one chosen was of Reuben and Albert John Crewe, residents of Elliston, and father and son who were found frozen together in an embrace.  

“There’s a real eerie part in the book that’s almost prophetic. The father and son are literally frozen together and they couldn’t pull them apart. They’re frozen in a solid block of ice. And there’s a part there where they’re literally hoisting them onto the ship, and the thought that came to me while I was working on it was it’s almost going to be a 100 years to the day and I’m going to be literally hoisting this into place much like they were being recovered onto the ship.”

MacDonald is working to have his sculpture finished by April 1. His clay version, partially disassembled, may be incomplete, but somehow captures perfectly the anguish of the lives and families that were torn apart by the disasters of the 1914 seal hunt.

Organizations: Reuben and Albert John Crewe

Geographic location: Elliston

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Recent comments

  • nlnlnl
    January 27, 2014 - 20:49

    I think this is a fantastic monument. Newfoundland really needed something to commemerate those who work as sealers and those who have unfortunately lost their lives through this industry. It's such an important piece for Newfoundland. I can't wait to see it. Great job!

  • Bob O'Reilly
    January 27, 2014 - 20:09

    I think it will be a beautiful monument. Great work and long overdue. Great choice of people for the statue. Thank you

  • Bob O'Reilly
    January 27, 2014 - 20:06

    I think it will be a beautiful monument. Great work and long overdue. Great choice of people for the statue. Thank you

  • Linda Tannahill
    January 27, 2014 - 17:18

    Morgan an extremely talented young man who does amazing work in bronze sculpture. My sister Mary Read, a friend of his family keeps me up to date with his work...I wish Morgan the very best in all his future endeavors.I believe he is destined to be known the world over...Linda

  • Patrick
    January 27, 2014 - 16:49

    I hope he does a better job than he did of the CBS war memorial sculptures. Too small and modern day soldier is wearing 100% issued kit, something you would never see of an infantryman operating outside the wire in Kandahar Afghanistan. He should have requested military input from a reg force unit who perhaps could have sent down a good Cpl or Sgt as a technical advisor bringing with them the modern combat gear that we wear on operations as examples. I don't like the political correctness, special interest pandering of the CBS sculpture either.

    • Give me a Break!
      January 29, 2014 - 15:44

      Wow, Patrick, while I am not the sculptor, I do know how this came about, and I can tell you that you are grossly misinformed or deliberately attacking the work for no other reason to hear your gums flap. Seems to me you have some latent jealousies of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment representation on the two LIFE SIZE statues. There were several military advisers along with historical advisers on that project which was closely overseen by career regular soldiers and members of the Legion. Again what does your selfish, negative, anti-CBS Monument rant have to do with the Sealers Memorial anyway?

  • Mindy
    January 27, 2014 - 16:35

    This sculpture is created to commemorate an important event, or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage. From looking at the photo the sculpture looks to be very well detailed and tells a vivid story. without words. As stated in a comment that it would get a glance from a tourist, well there will be more than a glance by those of who it means the most. Great work!

  • Mark
    January 27, 2014 - 15:58

    What a great subject for a statue. The sealing disaster is one of the most important moments in Newfoundland's history, largely for what the disaster itself came to symbolize.

  • Jackie
    January 27, 2014 - 13:40

    Thank you for sculpting this piece. It is very beautiful and important.

  • Jackie
    January 27, 2014 - 13:37

    Thank you for sculpting this piece. It is very beautiful and important.

  • Debbie
    January 27, 2014 - 11:54

    My great grandfather, Charles Davis was one of the souls lost on the ice and his name is listed in the book, "Death on the Ice". I think it is a wonderful thing to have a statue to commemorate the lives of those so tragically taken from their families .

    • david
      January 27, 2014 - 12:46

      Just wonderful. I know a guy who'd like a statue to his grandfather, too. I remember he died because the Emergency Room at his local hospital had reduced hours....budget cuts. Oh well, maybe they'll cut some other ER's hours, or let go a teacher, and find the money for his statue. One can only hope....after all, some tourist someday might glance at it. Wouldn't that be great!?

  • david
    January 27, 2014 - 09:41

    More statues please. There is nothing we need more.

    • David
      January 27, 2014 - 12:37

      More moronic comments by david please. There is nothing we need more.

    • Chantal
      January 27, 2014 - 12:48

      It's about humanity, culture and art. You wouldn't understand, David.

    • Sonny
      January 27, 2014 - 13:41

      Nice one, Chantal! What a complete boor.

    • david
      January 27, 2014 - 14:10

      Ah, the Newfie intelligentsia agree with me.....there is simply nothing we need more than more statues. We should all remember this moment of 'fiscal clarity' ..... you can bet that I will.

  • Doreen Margaret Mercer (Cole)
    January 27, 2014 - 08:19

    Reuben Crewe was my Great-Grandfather and his Son Albert John my Great-Uncle. I cannot wait to actually see this awesome piece of my family history....

  • Doreen Margaret Mercer (Cole)
    January 27, 2014 - 08:18

    Reuben Crewe was my Great-Grandfather and his Son Albert John my Great-Uncle. I cannot wait to actually see this awesome piece of my family history....

  • Nancy
    January 27, 2014 - 08:13

    This is my Great-Great Grandfather and my Great Uncle. My Great Aunt Marg was looking forward to the unveiling of the statue. Sadly, she passed away last Spring. I've never seen a picture of my relatives. Is this sculpture made in their likeness?