Sealers of Twillingate and New World Island, The
DESCRIPTION: The poet recalls the hardships faced by the sealers of 1862, then turns to the modern hunt, as SPCA planes fly overhead. He warns against actual interference with the hunt, and declares seal hunting both good commerce and a good source of food
AUTHOR: John C. Loveridge
EARLIEST DATE: 1973 (Loveridge, Story in Pictures and Poetry of the 1973 Seal Hunt....)
KEYWORDS: hunting animal political nonballad technology
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Ryan/Small, pp. 150-151, "The Sealers of Twillingate and New World Island" (1 text)
NOTES [367 words]: Despite this song's vicious and inflated rhetoric, seal hunting has of course been restricted in the last 30 years -- in part because of opposition from animal rights' groups, but mostly because the sealers have destroyed the seal populations, and have been forced to cut back to preserve the herds.
Seals were indeed an important food source to the Newfoundland fishermen -- and even more to the Inuit. According to Bob Bartlett (who should know; see his biography under "Captain Bob Bartlett"), "The seal is the one indispensible animal of the Arctic. The flesh is by no means disagreeable, though it has a general flavor of fish, which constitutes the seal's chief food" (Bartlett, p. 54).
The several mentions of 1862 in the song are interesting. That was not the year Newfoundlanders started taking seals; they had been doing that for many years by then. But "In 1862 the Newfoundland seal hunt entered the steam age. That year, two Scottish steamers participated in the Newfoundland hunt as a complementary activity to the Davis Strait right-whale 'fishery'" (Candow, p. 41). The steamers soon drove out the sailing vessels; except for a brief period around World War I when steel ships took a lead role, the wooden steamers, which also carried sail, dominated the seal hunt until the 1940s.
Brian Davies, mentioned in the song as the opponent of sealing, was a Welshman who came to Canada in 1955 and joined the New Brunswick SPCA in 1961. He turned his attention to the seal hunt in 1964, and witnessed it firsthand in 1965. The SPCA founded a Save the Seals fund, and Davies gave up his regular career to oppose it. In 1968, he led a press group from Europe to see the hunt, and the anti-sealing movement began (Candow, pp. 118-119). In 1970, he wrote a book, Savage Luxury: The Slaughter of the Baby Seals (Bush, p. 249). He eventually appeared on David Letterman's television show to argue against sealing (Busch, p. 256). Little wonder that the sealers themselves hated him. He's referred to, with equal distaste, in "Save Our Swilers."
"Lundrigan" is, I think, Harold Lundrigan, a Newfoundland businessman and developer. It's not obvious to me why the poet thinks he can block a law. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- Bartlett: Robert A. Bartlett (as set down by Ralph T. Hale), The Karluk's Last Voyage (originally published 1916 as The Last Voyage of the Karluk; I used the 2001 Cooper Square expedition with a new introduction by Edward E. Leslie)
- Busch: Briton Cooper Busch, The War Against the Seals: A History of the North American Seal Fishery, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985
- Candow: James E. Candow, Of Men and Seals: A History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt, Canadian Parks Service, Environment Canada, 1989
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