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Authors: Barbara Walsh

August Gale

BOOK: August Gale
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A U G U S T

A FATHER AND DAUGHTER'S JOURNEY INTO THE STORM

G  A  L  E

BARBARA WALSH

Guilford, Connecticut

Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Walsh

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted in writing from the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed to Globe Pequot Press, Attn: Rights and Permissions Department, P.O. Box 480, Guilford CT 06437.

Map on page 256 by M.A. Dubé © 2012 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC, based on a map from the government of Newfoundland.

Maps on pages 257 and 258 by M.A. Dubé © 2012 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC, based on research and sketches done by Con Fitzpatrick.

Project editor: Meredith Dias

Text design: Sheryl P. Kober

Layout: Joanna Beyer

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

ISBN 978-0-7627-6146-3

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my parents, Ronald and Patricia Walsh, who have always had faith in me

CONTENTS

Preface

Walsh Family Tree

C
HAPTER
1: A Sudden Wind—Brooklyn, August 1935

C
HAPTER
2: Lured by the Gale—Maine, February 2002

C
HAPTER
3: The King of Marystown—Newfoundland, 1935

C
HAPTER
4: The Family Storm Unravels—New Hampshire, 2002

C
HAPTER
5: “'Tis Nothing but Worry and Waiting”—Marystown, August 1935

C
HAPTER
6: Victory Ships and a San Francisco Tempest—My parents' kitchen, April 2003

C
HAPTER
7: Gathering a Crew—Marystown, August 1935

C
HAPTER
8: The Sisters Gather—Newburyport, Mass., May 2003

C
HAPTER
9: Father McGettigan's Torment—Marystown, late August 1935

C
HAPTER
10: Pictures of the Past—Maine, June 2003

C
HAPTER
11: A Premonition and a Dark Cloud—Marystown, August 1935

C
HAPTER
12: Heading into the Storm—Newfoundland, June 2003

C
HAPTER
13: Mustering Courage on Board
Annie Anita
and
Mary Bernice
—August 21, 1935

C
HAPTER
14: “Welcome Home”—Marystown, June 2003

C
HAPTER
15: The Tempest Roars North—North Atlantic, 1935

C
HAPTER
16: Chasing Ancestors—Marystown, June 2003

C
HAPTER
17: “There's a Divil Coming!”—Newfoundland Fishing Grounds, August 1935

C
HAPTER
18: Mountainous Waves and Mighty Men—Marystown, 2003

C
HAPTER
19: Prayers and Apparitions—Marystown, August 1935

C
HAPTER
20: “My Poor Daddy Was Lost”—Marystown, 2003

C
HAPTER
21: Shipwrecked Schooners and Bodies Swallowed by the Sea—Newfoundland, 1935

C
HAPTER
22: “The Whole Town Just Stumbled into Shock”—Marystown, 2003

C
HAPTER
23: McGettigan's Grim Task—Marystown, August 1935

C
HAPTER
24: A Final Voyage—Marystown, 2003

C
HAPTER
25: “'Tis the Queerest Wake”—Marystown, 1935

C
HAPTER
26: Ambrose Continues to Haunt—Marystown, 2003

C
HAPTER
27: Digging Up the Grave—Marystown, 1935

C
HAPTER
28: Graveyards and Redemption—Marystown, June 2003

C
HAPTER
29: The Storm Still Lingers—Marystown, 1935

C
HAPTER
30: August Thunder and Ambrose's Daughters—New Hampshire, August 2003

C
HAPTER
31: “Left in a Dreamland”—Newfoundland, 1935–2005

C
HAPTER
32: One Last Journey—Brooklyn and Staten Island, October 2006

Acknowledgments

Glossary of Newfoundland and Nautical Terms

August Gale Storm Track

Where Paddy and James Sailed

Houses of Fishermen Who Died in the Storm

The Walsh Tragedy Song

About the Author

PREFACE

A
ugust Gale
started out as a story about a storm and my seafaring ancestors who were caught in a killer hurricane, a “devil” that descended upon Newfoundland's waters in the summer of 1935.

But it turned out to be much more. The story grew to include my grandfather, a man who created his own tempests and abandoned my father as a young boy. It would have been much easier to just recreate the gale and my Great Uncle Captain Paddy Walsh, but stories have a way of changing course, becoming living, breathing entities.

My grandfather Ambrose Walsh was Captain Paddy's younger brother. Though I tried to exclude Ambrose from the book and focus only on the fishermen who battled the sea, my grandfather's past, his connection to my father and my family, haunted me. I soon learned I had to tell his story, too.

A journalist for thirty years, I had written about killers, rapists, corrupt politicians, and the victims of crimes, accidents, and misfortune. Their stories were often difficult to tell—but they were strangers. I had never written about my family. The thought of writing about my father's pain, his childhood hurt, overwhelmed me.
I trust you
, he repeatedly told me.

Over the past nine years,
August Gale
took my dad and me on several journeys. We traveled to Newfoundland to gather memories from our ancestors and the children whose fathers fought for their lives in a roiling sea. We traveled to Staten Island and Brooklyn, where churches, playgrounds, and rough-and-tumble neighborhoods stirred the memories of my father's turbulent past.

More than 150 people shared their recollections about a hurricane that forever changed a small Newfoundland village in 1935. And scores of my family members—aunts, uncles, cousins, and my father—helped me to understand the grandfather I never knew.

All the events in this book are true, and the characters are real. In some cases, the dialogue was repeated to me by someone who witnessed the event or the conversation. In other instances, I had to recreate dialogue to retell a scene. In preparation, I reviewed hundreds of pages of newspapers, government documents, and hurricane data to confirm facts, details, and personal accounts.

Nine years have passed since my father first told me the story of the August Gale; for nine years I have lived with this story in my heart and in my head. It is time to let it go, let it be told.

As my seafaring friends would say, “Hoist the main, heave the anchor, and let 'er sail!”

CHAPTER 1
A SUDDEN WIND—BROOKLYN, AUGUST 1935

A
mbrose Walsh sits alone on a bench. The pungent odor of fresh fish and the pleasant scent of saltwater waft through the air, reminding the young man of his Newfoundland home. In the distance, the Staten Island ferry chugs across the bay, churning up waves that slap the Brooklyn pier. Ambrose eyes the diminishing ship, his mind drifting like the plumes of steam billowing from the ferry's engine. He is uncharacteristically distracted at this moment, perhaps by the euphoria of his first son's birth, a dark-haired boy born just two weeks ago; or perhaps he is consumed with worry like any other family man, hoping that he doesn't end up in the relief line with his hand out and his pride gone.

A stranger passing Ambrose on this afternoon would admire his ink-black hair, dark eyes, thick chest, and strong arms. His shoulders and back are taut, straight. Though he is only twenty-seven, he can handle himself in a fight or on a job, and in this year of 1935, he needs all of this strength to believe the future holds more than the past. A strange and sudden gust, a warm August breeze, pulls Ambrose from his thoughts. Sheets of newspaper drift in the air and tumble along the pier until they reach the bench where the young man sits. Glancing down at the trash, Ambrose considers letting the wind take it further along the gritty Brooklyn wharf, but the summer breeze rattles the paper as if it were calling, demanding his attention.

Finished with lunch, Ambrose considers returning to work, but something draws him to the newspaper that has remained at his feet despite the wind that swirls around him. He bends to pick up the paper, scanning the front-page stories. A bold headline captures his eye: A
UGUST
G
ALE
K
ILLS
M
ORE
T
HAN
40 N
EWFOUNDLAND
F
ISHERMEN
.

BOOK: August Gale
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