French Presence in Hooping Harbour
It is recorded that Hooping Harbour was used as a station for the French Fishermen as early as the 1700’s, and settled by 1857.
Algerian pirates captured Simon Ninon, a ship owner from Bréhat in Brittany, in 1627. His family borrowed 200 ducats in order to pay the ransom. He was liberated in 1642, at which time he resumed fishing in Terre-Neuve (Newfoundland). Unfortunately he died here and was buried on August 6, 1644 in a harbour named Sans Fond (Hooping Harbour).
On your next trip to Hooping Harbour be sure to visit the French mounds located at North East Bottom. Many mounds such as the ones located here are scatted all throughout Newfoundland’s French Shore as a reminder of those who fished the waters before us.
For more information on The French Shore please visit the French Shore Historical Society’s Website: www.frenchshore.com
The Hooping Harbour Way of Life:
The men and women of Hooping Harbour spent many late nights and early mornings in stages and on wharves. When the women weren’t helping with the fish or feeding their large families, they spent their time spinning wool from the sheep they kept, knitting mitts, socks, and sweaters for their family for the winter. Clothes had to be washed in the brook by hand using a scrubbing board and bucket. Water had to be brought from the brook for every day needs and chores. It wasn’t until the last years in Hooping Harbour that the homes were outfitted with water and sewer systems.
Fishing Activities in Hooping Harbour
Hooping Harbour was well known for its rich fishing grounds and deep waters. They fished for cod, which was dried and salted, and salmon, which were sold fresh. After the resettlement in 1969 many former residents returned to fish for codfish and salmon. Even today, fishermen return to the place where their fathers and grandfathers before them used to fish.
The fishing season started near the first of June and closed around the last of October of each year. When the fishing season ended their work was far from finished. They then had to start all over and begin preparing for the next summer. The men of each individual family usually shared a boat. Many boys gave up their education, such as it was, and started fishing as young as 10 or 12 years old.
“A man’s work is till the set of sun, but a woman’s work is never done!”
There was no set time limit on the workday of the men and women of Hooping Harbour. They worked from dark to dark, many said. The day usually started at 6:00am and often times didn’t end until 1:00am to 2:00am. The men fished all summer and wouldn’t have much time for anything else.
The women’s day started early with everyday household duties such as washing, cleaning, bringing water, caring for children and cooking. The women of Hooping Harbour were also responsible for the drying and salting of fish. In and interview with Emma Randell of Bide Arm, she stated that one summer in Hooping Harbour she salted 1000 lbs of codfish. When the fish would get dry enough, not too green, and if the wind was off northwest they’d spread it out on the rocks. When the fish was finished drying they’d pack it in the store.
In the spring of each year fishermen had to prepare their supplies which included cod traps, gill nets, and hook and line. All were made and mended by hand with needles and cotton twine and one major task was the “bark boiling” of the fishing traps. Fishermen would buy bark and boil it with water in 45-gallon drums. The nets were then dipped in the boiling bark and hung to dry before the start of the fishing season. The barking process helped to preserve the twine from mildew and the corrosive effects of seawater
The Barter System
At the beginning of the fishing season crews would go to the local merchant and “take-out” supplies that they needed to start off the season. The supplies were recorded as dollar value on the fish merchants’ books. Merchants kept a ledger of fish purchased and items supplied and balanced accounts at the end of each fishing season. This arrangement, called the barter system, was often weighted in favour of the merchants. As a result, fishing families generally had little extra “in their pots and in their purses”. This was their way of life and how they ensured they had enough food and supplies to make it through the winter months. If a family ran short near the end of the winter they would depend on the help of others to make it through.
Quotes taken from interviews of individuals who were resettled from Hooping Harbour:
“I thought there was no other place in the world like it. It was home and it always looked new to me. Everybody was the same as your own.” – Margaret Randell, Bide Arm, NL
“Well, we had a good childhood. We was comfortable. We was all friends together.” – Chatfield Randell, Englee, NL
Information was collected in interviews with former residents of Hooping Harbour; Olive Hollett, Naaman & Shirley Randell, Wilfred & Emma Randell, Ellwood Randell, Winnie Randell & Dan & Beulah Randell.