Uncle John -- The Sealer, 1951
DESCRIPTION: "Among the sealers who came home... was... Uncle John, As mad as he could be." John complains of the new law which allows sealing to begin before March 13, forcing them to take seals too young. He will not rest till the old law is restored
AUTHOR: Solomon Samson?
EARLIEST DATE: 1963 (A Glimpse of Newfoundland in Poetry and Pictures)
KEYWORDS: hunting political
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Ryan/Small, p. 154, "Uncle John -- The Sealer, 1951" (1 text)
NOTES [236 words]: I don't know who the Bradley of this song was. Gordon Higgins (1905-1957) was one of the seven members of the first class of Newfoundlanders to join the Canadian parliament -- ironic, since he opposed Confederation. He represented St. John's East, which might be why the song appeals to him -- but it might just be that he was a staunch opponent of policies imposed by Ottawa. "Mr. St. Laurent" is presumably Louis St. Laurent (1882-1973), the Prime Minister of Canada from 1948-1957, and so presumably the head of government at the time this piece was written.
The law in Newfoundland had for long required sealers to stay in port until March 10, and the sealing season did not start until after that. This was an attempt (only partly successful) to maintain the seal population. But, in the 1950s, the Newfoundland sealers found themselves being displaced by sealers from the Maritimes and even Norway (see James E. Candow, Of Men and Seals: A History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt, Canadian Parks Service, Environment Canada, 1989, pp. 110-111). In 1952, Canada and Norway -- despite advice that the seals were being driven to extinction, with the researchers wanting to shorten the season -- instead informally agreed to lengthen the season, allowing hunting to start at dates from March 5 (in the Gulf of St. Lawrence) to March 10 (Candow, p. 114). Presumably that is the event to which this poem refers. - RBW
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