Merasheen Reunion 1980

From: The Monitor 1981-01

Residents awoke on Thursday morning to feel the warm sun. This was perhaps to be the most nostalgic day of all as immediately after breakfast just about everyone took a quick walk to the place in the harbour where they were born. Hours were spent rummaging through the ruins of the old homestead, while every nook and cranny was discussed and explained to curious children, who perhaps were not quite sure why mom or dad created such a fuss about this particular place or why an odd tear was spotted on their cheeks. Many spent a great deal of time in the cemetery paying their respects to friends and relatives, or tidying up plots.

The walk back and forth was like a Sunday afternoon in Merasheen back in the 50s, as everywhere you would go you would meet old friends chatting and strolling the other way or moving about some of their old haunts. Many stopped in front of Cannings to hear Kitty play the accordion or have a little scuff on the gallery.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in a leisurely fashion. There were numerous gatherings in tents,on the beach, or at the roadside, as friends congregated for a song or two. Some were picking mussels, others cooking up, or wandering back from the grocery store, and there was a good summer's wages eaten in fresh fish which was given away freely by the fishermen.

A great deal of interest was shown in Radio Station CHCM Marystown on Thursday as they aired an unmatched “Merasheen Day”. The complete day was filled with dedications to the - participants of the reunion, messages and greetings were sent by friends who were unable to make it, and frequent readings were made from the “Merasheen Reunion 1980” book.

The celebration of the Blessed Eucharist has always been a very important practice in this predominantly Catholic community, and it showed on Thursday evening as hundreds attended the first of three daily outdoor Masses just yards away from the remains of the church on one side and the consecrated graveyard on the other side.

The Mass was concelebrated by Monsignor Denis Walsh and Father Bill Pomroy, both residents of Merasheen. The homilies delivered by the celebrants of this Mass, as well as the other two Masses, gave those in attendance a deeper realization of how precious is their faith. Thanks was given to God for his blessings, for the opportunity of coming together, for the priests who served Merasheen, for our ancestors; and for those who continue to return to Merasheen to seek their livelihood from the fishery that they may have success and safety.

The psalms were read by Donald Pittman with Kevin Pomroy and Ernie Walsh doing the reading. The server was Kevin Pomroy Jr. A hundred or so copies of a missalette was provided for the occasion by Sister Nellie Pomroy, who along with her sister, Sister Ida, provided freshly cut flowers. Some of the leading choir members at the masses were Lucy Counsel, Mary Hann, Violet Pomroy, Julia Wilson, Kathleen Maher, Agnes Bruce, Annie Neary, John Walsh, John and Gerald Pedrson, Kathleen Pemroy, with Addie O’Keefe, Eric Connors and Kevin Pomroy providing the music.

On Thursday night, with the stars flickering and the moon glistening on the water from the Long Point to the White Sail, 300 to 400 people gathered in the Big Back Cove for a huge bonfire. Tons of driftwood, which had gathered over the years, were brought together and Dick Ennis lit a huge fire which kept everybody company for the next three to four hours (indeed it was still smoldering on Friday morning). Singsongs, hand clapping and even an odd bit of toe tapping accompanied Kevin Pomroy and Art Pink on the accordions. At midnight people began to.disburse, not because they wanted to leave this wonderful setting, but simply to attend numerous other gatherings which had been planned around the harbour. One of many dances was held at Bill Pomroy’s old house.

On Friday morning, Mass was held in front of Pomroy’s house. The server was Loyola Pomroy with the readings done by Patricia Burke and John Walsh, and the psalms by Jim Ennis. The peace of Christ was extended to one and all with the body and blood of Christ offered in both forms. Father Pomroy, celebrant, was assisted by Monsignor Walsh and extraordinary ministers, Jim Ennis and Donald Pomroy.

On Friday afternoon a number of people ventured in to Murray’s Pond, a favourite swimming hole, while others continued to ramble around or sit around the_plant wharf talking to friends or greeting new friends who continually arrived in longliners, pleasure boats, etc. Visitors became more plentiful after Merasheen Day on CHCM.

Many enjoyable moments were had today as every day, listening to stories and yarns of old days in Merasheen related by some of the older residents, including Jim Ennis, Tom Houlihan, John Lou Ennis, Charlie Pittman, Leo and Pat Pomroy, Stan Ennis, Mart Canning, Jack Lewis Pittman, Ron Pitcher, Johnny Wilson, Mickey Connors, Jim Wilson, Tom Hann, Ernie Wilson, and others.

Friday night, about four hundred people gathered in the dry fish store of the fish plant for a dance. Again Kevin Pomroy was called on to display his talent, and while space was very limited, it was a great get-together. Merasheen residents were used to bad weather and were not disheartened on Friday night when they were faced with a large rain and wind storm. Some took refuge in the cabins that had been erected by the fishermen, but most were content to keep a constant vigilance and bail out their tents through the night. Some skippers could not keep their tents headed into the winds, or got caught with toe much canvas up and some mainmasts broke. Anxious moments during the night became an excitable topic of conversation the next day as each camper related his experience during the six-hour dilemma.

Visitors kept coming on Saturday, including Don Jamieson and Don Hollett, while Jim Morgan,- Cabot Martin and Bren Howard joined Leo Barry, who had been there for most of the affair. William Patternson, M.H.A for Placentia, came out on Wednesday but had to leave on Friday. Pat Canning, former M.H.A. for the area and himself a Merasheen resident, arrived with a group of people on Saturday afternoon. Many went for one last look at the old homestead and it was a day of gathering souvenirs to take back to friends or as keepsakes.

Mass was held in Big Merasheen on Saturday evening under near perfect weather and setting, with Father James Doody, Parish Priest of Placentia, concelebrating with Fathers Pomroy and Walsh. Jerome Ennis did a reading and Paddy Canning the psalms. Father Doody, who also served Merasheen Parish in the 50s, delivered the homily, which covered many aspects of outport parish life, etc.

Saturday night was perhaps the most memorable night of all. With a full moon and not a ripple on the glistening water, just about everybody gathered in the Jaw Bones for a final fling. The harbour shook with the sounds of laughter, songs and music and as everybody realized that the reunion was drawing to a close, tried to hold on as long as they could. The affair went on well into the morning.

After a short nap, everybody was up bright and early on Sunday morning packing. Skipper Ray Berkshire had been waiting patiently since the night before. It was a sad moment for most as they walked the road towards the M.V. Bertha Joyce and M.V. Bertha Joyce II, which were to take them back to Argentia. However, spirits were not dampened as the two hour return trip was a constant sing-song on both boats.

The reunion is over now, -and looking in on it from the outside,others may wonder what motivated people to return with such commitment and enthusiasm to Merasheen. What did it possess that drew us back? It was our home, and that explains all. Home for us who lived in the outports was broad and it was narrow. Home was our family, home was our community, and one without the other was unimaginable. It was broad in that in its intimate sense,home was the community. It was narrow in that the community often proclaimed its boundary.

The three basic ingredients of our small community were family, friends, and church. There were certainly others, such as the fishery upon Which our livelihood depended, but the basics were always these three. In the context of these there was no identity crisis. We knew who and what we were and where we were going. We knew where we stood in relation to our community to which were bound and in relation to unbounded eternity, and we worked out our lives in that setting and context. Small numbers of people living together, working together, suffering together, helping one another, knowing each other intimately, comprised a type of community that was of a different nature from those drawn together for statistical, economical, or organizational purposes. Such a community was bound together by the heart and soul of its people. It grew its being from that of its people and the two were inseparable. This is the real meaning of “roots” for those of us who lived in Merasheen. For us it means family; it means the intimate ties with friends; it means the religion that tied it all together and made it acceptable and understandable and all of that is localized through the geography of the land in an island named Merasheen.

When we came home to Merasheen on July 23rd, it was not hard to find roots. They were still there and appeared not to have withered with.the space of time and separation. The island was different! Our houses were gone, our gardens, our fishing stages and wharves; the road was overgrown with sod, but it was still home because it still held the graves of our forefathers, the ruins of our houses and our memories and for four days it again held the three ingredients of home that just naturally seemed to fall into place and comprise a unity that can only be fully understood by those who were present.

Reunion 1980 on the way

Reunion 1980 fishplant wharf

reunion 1980 mass

Reunion 1980 tents

Reunion 1980 Jim Ennis   Tom Houlihan   John Lou Ennis