Blow Below the Belt, The
DESCRIPTION: In 1966 "the Government Plan was sent around" for resettlement from the outports. "When fifty percent... did sign The other fifty had no choice." Many found no one to buy their home. Many could not find work. Eventually, Premier Smallwood is voted out
AUTHOR: Words: Anthony Ward, Tune: Dave Panting
EARLIEST DATE: 1983 (Lehr/Best)
KEYWORDS: homesickness home parting unemployment hardtimes political money
1950s-1970s - Newfoundland Resettlement Program
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Lehr/Best 8, "The Blow Below the Belt" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "The Leaving of Merasheen" (subject of Newfoundland resettlment)
NOTES [821 words]: Lehr/Best: "The Resettlement Program was carried out in Newfoundland during Joseph Smallwood's government.... Its aim was to relocate... coastal communities to larger centers where they would find better job opportunities and public facilities such as hospitals and schools.... When the smoke had finally cleared over three hundred communities had been completely closed down and those that remained were tombstones marking the passing of a large and noble part of our history."
The title is a reference to boxing as part of an analogy to [that sport]: "But when elections rolled around, we showed Joey [Smallwood] how we felt, We dropped him in his corner and gave Frank Moores the [championship] belt!"
See "The Leaving of Merasheen" for another resettlement song - BS
Joey Smallwood began his career as a radio broadcaster, and used his position to push Newfoundland into Confederation with Canada; according to Brown, p. 374, "Mainland prosperity, urged by Joey Smallwood... won out against the proud penury of independence."
But Smallwood, who went from broadcaster to Newfoundland premier and led the province for more than twenty years, by the late Fifties was turning to "increasingly illiberal one-man rule" (Brown, p. 491). The result of his policy was complaints like these.
For more about Smallwood, see especially "Anti-Confederation Song (II)."
The particular issue was "resettlement." Newfoundland's population was scattered in many small towns and villages, which made social services hard to provide. Indeed, even communication was hard -- with few roads, the outports were connected only by sea, and even those connections were possible only in summer when the seas were (relatively) safe (Chadwick, p. 60). Many people lived without social support or any knowledge of the outside world; they couldn't even read a newspaper if they had one. Smallwood genuinely wanted to a better life -- but instead of doing so by improving Newfoundland's infrastructure and training specialists, he got rid of the small towns by moving the people about:
"In 1954, the provincial government had turned to resettling the widely dispersed populations of coastal communities into centralized locations, thus reducing the cost of delivering health care, education, and public utilities such as electricity" (Cadigan, p. 246). "Under the provincial government's first centralization programme in the period 1954-1965, 115 outport communities were abandoned and their populations totalling 7,500 in larger centers with the aid of government grants. Since 1965 [through 1971] at least a further fifty to sixty outports have been abandoned under a new Fisheries Household Resettlement Programme, the cost of which is shared with the federal Departmennt of Fisheries, making a total, including those which had been abandoned without any government assistance, of well over two hundred settlements which have disappeared since Confederation" (Noel, pp. 264-265).
"Many rural people initially favoured resettlement, especially women, who had borne the high costs of trying to arrange the education of their children and maintaining their families' well-being in the absence of well-developed educational and medical facilities. Disillusionment quickly set in, however, as resettled people found little work, inadequate housing, poor land for supplementary farming, and insufficient financial assistance from government in their new communities" (Cadigan, pp. 246-247).
Smallwood, despite major mistakes like that, managed to stay in charge of Newfoundland from the time of Confederation with Canada in the late 1950s until the early 1970s. In 1968, Frank Duff Moores (1935-2005), who was then only 35 ( 33 years younger than Smallwood) entered politics as Member of Parliament for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception. What happened between 1968 and 1972 was extraordinarily complicated, as Moores rose to lead the Progressive Conservative party of Newfoundland despite his youth and as Smallwood tried various tricks to hang on to power. In 1971, there was a hung election, with no party really in control, but Smallwood was forced to give up his role as Premier in early 1972. A second election, on March 24, resulted in a clear victory for the Progressive Conservatives -- they won 33 seats to 9 for the Liberal party that had been Smallwood's. Moores as a result formed the next Newfoundland government, serving as Premier from 1972 to 1979, when he retired from elective politics to return to business, although he remained politically active (DictNewfLabrador, pp. 229-230).
From the notes in Lehr/Best, it would seem that the author of this knew people who were resettled. It's really more a protest song than a true folk song -- note that it was collected from the author.
For another song on the subject, not collected from the author, see "The Leaving of Merasheen."
For another gripe about Smallwood, see "The Loggers' Plight." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- Brown: Craig Brown, editor, The Illustrated History of Canada, Key Porter, 1987-2000
- Cadigan: Sean T. Cadigan, Newfoundland and Labrador: A History, University of Toronto Press, 2009
- Chadwick: St John Chadwick, Newfoundland: Island Into Province, Cambridge University Press, 1967
- DictNewfLabrador: (Robert H. Cuff, managing editor), Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography, Harry Cuff Publications, 1990
- Noel: S. J. R. Noel, Politics in Newfoundland, University of Toronto Press, 1971
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