Victor Butler

Recollections from when he worked as a trader for Alberto Wareham in Merasheen

On Merasheen Island the most mischievous and fun-loving of … lads was William Hines, Junior, the youngest son of William and Emma Hines. His pals were Thomas Hann, Michael J. Pittman, and Bernard Gardiner. These tobacco chewing lads were always playing pranks. One game from which they derived a lot of fun was ‘acting the devil’.

Bill Hines was usually selected to act as the devil, and he would chase the other lads to try and catch them. The lads fastened a cow's tail to the end of Bill's coat with a piece of line and fastened the horns of a cow to an old hat. His face was covered with a black mask with eyeholes cut out. Thus decorated, the game was on.

Bill was a very wild, active lad. Tearing out through the store one day, Bernard Gardiner caught the cow's tail across the door frame and Bill emerged with nothing but the sleeves of his coat on his arms. The remnants of the coat were still fastened to the cow's tail. Bill tied the remains of the coat around a stout rock and threw it over the wharf. He said, "Out of sight, out of mind." He then sneaked home, climbed onto the roof of the porch and in through his bedroom window, and donned another coat. His mother was very disturbed over the loss of Bill's coat.


William Hines, Senior, was an elderly man and very nearsighted. One night there was a party and dance in the fishermen's hall which his daughter, Selena, wished to attend. Since her shoes were badly worn and not suitable for the occasion, she was in a bad mood as, like other girls, she wished to be well dressed. Having a large family, it was next to impossible for her father to purchase new shoes, so he set to work to cobble her old ones in order to make them presentable for the coming event.

In 1924 men were compelled to cobble their family’s footwear. If the soles of shoes or boots were worn, they would be fitted with new leather soles fastened on with wooden pegs or shoe tacks. If a hole were in the upper of the shoe or boot, a patch would be sewn on using an awl and tacker. Resin would be melted with a small amount of grease to form a ball. Hemp sail twine would be pointed at both ends and waxed with the resin. This waxed thread was referred to as a tacker.

As Mr. Hines was preparing his cobbling gear, he laid his wax and ball of twine on a white towel on a chair. A few minutes later he sat on the chair and, being so nearsighted, he did not see the ball of wax. Taking Selena's shoe, he proceeded to fasten on a new sole. When the first shoe was soled, he told Selena to try it on to see if a tack had entered the shoe. Sure enough, one tack had entered near the toe. He told Selena to hand him the stove poker. He then began to prod at the tack and, not being very gentle, he drove the poker through the toe of the shoe. Selena began to cry as she could not attend the dance. The old man stood up. The wax had stuck the end of the towel to the seat of his pants so with the towel flying behind him in the wind he walked to Little Merasheen. William Junior said that his father went to Ned Hennessey's, the merchant at Little Merasheen, under a flag of truce to get the shoes for Selena. The old man persuaded Ned to let him have a pair of shoes, and Selena attended the dance, a happy girl.


The Hines home was situated near the seashore at the foot of a large, sloping meadow. A few feet behind the house a high bank was level with the tops of the windows. The house was clapboarded on the uprights. On the back wall of the kitchen Mrs. Hines had a cupboard built where she kept her special crockery, choice glassware, and knickknacks. Once when Bill was having a difference of opinion with his mother he took the cylinder head of a seven horsepower Hubbard engine in his arms and walked to the heap of the sloping meadow behind the house, where as vengeance he turned the cylinder head loose. He had not planned on causing any great destruction, but the further the cylinder head rolled the greater the momentum it attained. Reaching the bank behind the house it jumped, striking the house exactly where the cupboard was situated. It went through the back of the house, through Mrs. Hines's prized dishes, and landed on the kitchen floor. All that remained was a heap of splintered wood, shattered crockery, and broken glassware. Bill did not return home for three days.

Around the same time as the cupboard was smashed, John Hann, a resident of Merasheen, was having a three dory fishing boat built. Thomas Duke of Fox Harbour, an uncle of Emma Hines, Bill Junior's mother, was master builder. Uncle Tom was a tall man, six feet two, with a long neck and long limbs. One Sunday, Mrs. Hines invited him to tea. She had made special preparations for the occasion. A spotless white linen cloth was on the table in the center of their large kitchen. Her best crockery was on the table with a choice selection of food and the family were all seated with Uncle Tom as special guest. There was no room at the table for young Bill, so he had to sit back on the couch and wait. Watching all the goodies being eaten up did not appeal to Bill since he knew he would get only the leftovers.

Bill was seated about five feet behind Uncle Tom's chair. All the others were enjoying the get-together except Bill who was playing with an old tomcat. Uncle Tom's long neck, where he was sort of bowed toward the table, looked tempting to Bill. He pointed the cat toward Uncle Tom's neck and, with his thumb and finger, he pinched the cat. With a screech of pain, the cat made a spring and, with claws extended, wrapped himself around Tom's neck.

Uncle Tom said, "The Lord save us!" He jumped to his feet, upsetting the table and all its contents in Mrs. Hines's lap and on the floor. For all her extra trouble the good food was ruined. Uncle Tom's neck was a mass of bloody scratches and young Bill escaped through the door before his mother caught him. He was an absent member of the family for a long time.


Bill Hines's friend, Bernard Gardiner, was as much a devil for jokes as Bill. Bernard came from a large family in Merasheen. One of his sisters was married to Frank Viscount who had a store near his home where he kept all sorts of odds and ends. In the back end of the store he kept hay for his sheep.

In those years seabirds were plentiful and all householders saved their feathers to` make beds and pillows. The Viscounts kept their feathers in a large barrel or tierce in the store. As there was no loft in the store Frank had some short boards laid on the crossbeams where the lofting should have been.

Bernard was aware of a young man and his girlfriend who spent some time in late evening and early nights courting in the seclusion of the pile of hay in Frank’s store.  Having an inquisitive nature, Bernard wished to know how the young couple were progressing. Aware of the time the couple arrived at their courting place, one evening he made his made his way to the store before their arrival and, using the barrel of feathers to stand on, he climbed up and lay on the short boards on the crossbeams with just his eyes over the end. The couple arrived just before the close of night and seated themselves on the pile of hay. Bernard could hear them talking but the position he was in wasn't satisfactory so he moved ahead. In doing so, he tipped the boards he was lying on and fell head first into the barrel of feathers. He would have smothered if the barrel had not tipped on its side. As it was, he skinned both shoulders and injured his neck. When he was finally able to view his surroundings, the young couple were nowhere to be seen.


One fine Sunday morning I was sitting on a boulder smoking my pipe. There were three young lads nearby; William Hines, Michael Pittman, and Thomas Hann. Two of them were wearing their everyday clothes but Thomas Hann was wearing a new, light grey suit, the first store-bought suit of his life. All three boys were addicted to chewing tobacco and would go to any reasonable length to obtain a chew.

On the bridge under the eaves of one of the stores an unused beef barrel was standing full of stinking water and a mass of green, stringy slub. Bernard Gardiner was standing near the barrel cutting a plug of chewing tobacco. The seams, in the top of the bridge where the barrel was standing, were open as much as two inches. He said to the boys, "I've lost a piece of tobacco through the seams in the bridge. Whoever finds it can have it." The three boys rushed under the bridge, anxious to find the tobacco. As the beach rocks under the bridge were very rough and uneven, the tobacco would be hard to locate.

Bernard said, "I'll drop a stick where the tobacco fell." When the boys were bunched together near where the stick fell, Bernard upset the barrel of water on them. For a few seconds there wasn't a sound. Then the lament from the boy with the new suit was pitiful and what a clamor they set up. They were all soaking wet with the rotten water. Bernard had quickly made himself scarce.

After a short time they emerged from under the bridge. It is almost impossible to describe the condition of the boys' clothes. Long green streamers of slub covered them from head to foot. William and Michael found an iron barrel hoop, broke it in pieces, and scraped Thomas Hann's suit. Since they were all afraid to go home and it was a fine, sunshiny day, they removed their outer clothes and spread them on the rocks to dry. They sat around all day in their underwear trying to clean their clothes. To help I loaned them a brush. Towards evening their clothes had dried. Thomas Hann was the worst off. As he was going home his new, light-grey suit was a sort of mottled greenish-brown.


For two years, while operating the business at Merasheen, I had a young man just over twenty years of age working with me. His name was James Connors. He was a reliable, good worker and usually wore size eleven rubber boots. When he wasn't wearing his rubber boots, he left them in the retail store near where the molasses puncheon was kept.

Bernard Gardiner spent most of his spare time around the store and being the mischievous joker that he was, one rainy day he filled Jim's rubbers to the ankles with molasses. Jim had a half mile to walk to dinner in the rain. He did not have much time to spare if he was to be back on the job within the hour so he rushed into the retail store to get his rubbers. When he pushed his foot into one rubber, the molasses came halfway up to his knee. I happened to be nearby when he pulled out his long woollen stocking coated with molasses. It took some doing to wash the molasses from his rubbers and dry them out and it was some time before Bernard appeared around the premises again.

Excerpts from “Buffett Before Nightfall” by Victor Butler, Jesperson Press, pp. 114-120