Biographical Sketch of Edward Ransom
Jim Ransom was never privileged to meet his Great Grandfather, however, through stories from elders, a character profile emerged that is neatly summed up in a book entitled, "A Doctor Regrets" by Doctor Donald McI. Johnson (Christopher Johnson Publishers, London, 1949) who worked in Harrington in 1928. The book and the following text portray not only the character of ĎUncle Tedí (Edward Ransom), but of the people in general.
Uncle Ted was eighty-five and was fellow-elder of the Presbyterian Church with Uncle Rob. A perky sparrow of a man with a grizzled stubble of a beard and grizzled hair, Uncle Ted was in cracking form as, after peering at us for a minute through his thick-lensed glasses, he welcomed us in.
"My old eyes start to fail me and I didnít see as it was Dr. Hodd," he shouted apologetically.
Whatever faculty had failed Uncle Ted, it was certainly not his voice! "Welcome, folks, welcome," he bawled to us, once our identity was established. "Sit down and the girlíll make you a mug-up". Uncle Ted popped his head out into the kitchen, gave his instructions in the loudest voice he could muster, and popped his head back again quickly, then once again started to address us in declamatory fashion. "So youíre the new doctor and youíve had to come and see Uncle Ned". Uncle Tedís grizzled chin jutted out towards me aggressively. "Yes, sir, a fine work Dr. Grenfell has done on this coast and a fine man he is too. I tell you, sir, I have something to thank Dr. Grenfell for. Blind I was and had been more than five years. So blind as I could not see the face of my dying wife as she left me to find the Lordís peace. But he took me along to St. Anthony in his own boat where they operated on my eyes and I could once again see the glory of the Lord that surrounds us. Though I must say as I need these spectacles." "Uncle Ted had a cataract," explained Hodd.
"So youíre not afraid to come and stay amongst the pirates?" Uncle Ted challenged me. Then he continued, without giving me a chance to answer, "Have they told you about the wrack?"
"No not much," I said hesitatingly. In actual fact I had heard of little else since my arrival at Harrington. Our stretch of coast, remote though it might be in most ways, at the same time lay directly on the main shipping route from Montreal to Liverpool at the western end of the Strait of Belle Isle. During the same storm in which we had ourselves arrived at Harrington, an ocean-going steamer loaded with flour had run on the rocks at Cape Whittle, barely forty miles away. "Wracks" were events of importance in the lives of the Coast people.
"I can tell you about the wrack," said Uncle Ted, in almost childish glee. "Gone nigh on a week it was since she struck and the bíys has been along to her all the time. The bíys is there now. ĎTis the best wrack as weíve had on this coast for fifty years. But look at this," admonished Uncle Ted, and his chin with its greying stubble stuck out a matter of inches as he picked up a Montreal Star from the table and glowered fiercely, first at the offending news-sheet, then at us. "Look at this. ĎTis a copy of the Montreal paper sent by my daughter. Pirates! Thatís what they calls us. Thieves and pirates! Thatís what we are, if you believe the man as wrote this. Pirates! But lies thatís what I say. I calls him a liar, sir. Yes, sir, I calls him a liar. A liar!". Uncle Tedís voice rose in a crescendo of indignation as he stamped up and down the room. "When all as the bíys has done is to board an abandoned ship and take possession of her and everyone knows as an abandoned ship belongs to those who is first aboard her. I calls him a liar. ĎTis the mercy of the Lord that He has visited on His people, thatís what it is, sirs. The fishing this summer was wonderful bad-scarcely a kettle of fish brought in all summer by some of our people. Some of the people didnít know how they would live through the winter. But the Lord in His mercy, sirs, He will provide. It is not His will that the little children should starve. Now thereís flour from the wrack for everyone as wants to take it and everyone as needs it. Getting it out from under the water they are too. They scrapes the caked flour from the outside of the bag and inside it that flour is a good as ever it was. And fine clothing the women are making out of the bags too for the children. Blessed be The Lord. The righteous cry and The Lord heareth and delivereth them out of all their troubles. Those are the words of the Good Book, sirs. And the Good Book means more to me than those lying Montreal papers."
Uncle Ted glared at us once again in bellicose fashion. But seeing that we did not intend to dispute his point, he became mollified. He was content to prattle on in cheerful, sanctimonious fashion about the mercy of The Lord until such time as we had our mug-up. We already knew the story of the "wrack" in some detail, but Uncle Tedís compelling manner ensured that we heard it all over again from beginning to end. However, an hour of this was quite enough and at the end of that time we took our friendly leave, though we were given to understand in no uncertain fashion that our visit was an unduly short one:
"Yes, grand people," commented Hodd soliloquizing as we returned home over the rocks. "Whatever you think and whatever I think, they believe in the Lordís mercy and that carries them through. Youíll have a lot of fun this winter. But Iím not certain they havenít got something. That shipload of flour was needed badly enough."
Hodd was right. Uncle Ted Ransome had not just spoken for himself. He had spoken the mind of the Harrington community. There was nothing hypocritical about their attitude. There was only one answer to all problems as far as Harrington Harbour was concerned: The Lord would provide.
Prepared for the GenWeb: 12 May 2002