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Letter: William Jackman earned his hero status

This province was populated because of the wealth of our ocean, so therefore we are a seafaring province, stuck out in the North Atlantic in one of the harshest climates in the world.

The sea has swallowed up a lot of our people in the past 500 years. A lot have been rescued by the hundreds of what I call heroes, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have gone beyond the call of duty; put themselves in the face of death to save their fellow man without a thought of the dangers to themselves.

My favourite hero has always been Capt. Bob Bartlett, for the feats that he accomplished and the men he saved while getting stuck in the ice on a voyage to the North Pole, and how he went and got help and rescued them without losing a person.

My other hero is Capt. William Jackman of Renews. I found out about him much later in life and, I guess, much by accident.

On Oct. 9, 1867, Jackman repeatedly plunged into the sea during a hurricane to the relief of the passengers and crew of the schooner Sea Clipper, which had wrecked on the shoals of Spotted Island.

My only sister, Gwen, and her husband, Walter Ryan, moved to Labrador City in the early years of that town. In fact, she received a builder’s award as a person who helped build the town.

I visited her on several occasions and always wondered why the hospital was named for Capt. William Jackman. Having never heard of him before, I wasn’t sure what kind of captain he was.

I watched my sister and her son, Shawn Ryan, some years later take their last breaths in that hospital, both by cancer; it was by chance I was listening to a documentary on CBC Radio about Captain Jackman and the community of Renews.

Shortly after that, searching through a bookstore, going through the section on Newfoundland books about the sea (I’ve always been fascinated by stories of the sea), I came across the book “Jackman” by Eldon Drodge, and the rest is history. It’s a fascinating story of a sea captain who performed an incredible feat on the Labrador coast at a place called Spotted Island. On Oct. 9, 1867, Jackman repeatedly plunged into the sea during a hurricane to the relief of the passengers and crew of the schooner Sea Clipper, which had wrecked on the shoals of Spotted Island. He saved the lives of 27 people. While not many people know where Spotted Island is, it’s off Black Tickle, a community that has been in the news a lot lately, because when the cod collapsed they lost their way of providing for their families. Black Tickle has been in limbo ever since.

Jackman only got a short time out of life, but to me he is my second choice as a hero. To the people who are trying to get a monument for Captain Jackman, you are doing a tremendous thing. Too often our heroes of the sea are not kept in our minds, and we are doing an injustice, both to them and our children, who need to be reminded of our history and the people who helped us to survive in this harsh and inhospitable but wonderful land.

Best of luck on your efforts to keep Captain Jackman’s name alive. You certainly have my support.

 

Capt. Wilfred Bartlett (retired)

Green Bay South

wilfbartlett@hotmail.com

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