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Letter: The case for a Northern Peninsula museum

Don’t let writing letters to the editor become a dying art.
Don’t let writing letters to the editor become a dying art.

Dear editor,

I was born and raised in St. Anthony and will be 83-years-old on Dec. 3.

I am a full bred rural Newfoundlander and I am so proud to be able to blow off about that.

As they say in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, I have been a “jack of all trades.” Starting as a young boy, just out of school, it was in the fish plant. At age 20, I became an inshore cod fisherman or, should I say, cod “fisherboy” — seasick and all.

But in my lifetime, I have always had a great interest in the history of rural Newfoundland, especially where I was born and raised, the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.

From the fishing boat I went to northern Labrador where, for a number of years, I taught Inuit children. But still on the move, I spent years in charge of security at the St. Anthony Airport.

But in my lifetime, I have always had a great interest in the history of rural Newfoundland, especially where I was born and raised, the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.

And I am dismayed when I look around and how much of our valuable rural history and heritage have been destroyed or see how our people could sit idly by and permit those in authority destroy so much of our valuable history. There are those who may quickly add “send your valuable history to us and we will give them a permanent home.” But that is not the answer because there are many people on the Northern Peninsula who have never been across its border and never will, especially the elderly.

Therefore, there is a great need for a public museum and what a place better than St. Anthony, when public space is more readily available?

In my lifetime, growing up in St. Anthony, I have had great interest in telling other people who we are and what we do, both here and abroad with probably 500 letters to the editor and seven books published so far.

I have always had the urge to let other people from other parts of the world know who we are, as well as those at home.

For the past two winters, I have been taking my work just a little further, by making large models, about six feet by three feet of a great chapter in our history. Thus far three sit in my basement workplace and ready to view and waiting for a home, with more to come. They are the famous salt cod fish merchants who used to buy the dry cod from the inshore fishermen.

I have always had the urge to let other people from other parts of the world know who we are, as well as those at home.

It was on Aug. 10, 2009 that I wrote a three-page letter and put it in a bottle and threw it into the Atlantic Ocean near my home in St. Anthony. On the three-page letter, I told about Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, our town and its people and the cod moratorium which crippled Newfoundland and Labrador.

Some 544 days and 3,520 km later the bottle was found on a beach in Brittany in Southern France by Joy Nash, a Bachelor of Science in Archeology and her friend Jean Pierre. Within 15 minutes she had made voice contact with me, a contact which will remain for a long while.

Thanks for giving me the time, so I will be able to let those in authority know just how important it is for this area to get a home here at home for its history.

Francis Patey

St. Anthony

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