Captain Kean's Secret
In the early 1900s, Charles Noble Lewis and his family were prominent members of St. John’s high society. A chief engineer who worked for Bowring Brothers, Charles fraternized with many of the key players who shaped Newfoundland and Labrador history as we know it today. The living room of the Lewis house served as a meeting place for many of the principals of the Newfoundland sealing industry, including William Coaker, Captain Abram Kean and his sons, Joseph and Westbury Kean, John Munn, and crew members and sealers from many ships. In 1914, Charles’s daughter Jessie was eight years old. A prolific diary writer, Jessie Lewis kept meticulous records of her father’s conversations with these notaries whenever they visited their home on Pennywell Road. The Newfoundland disaster, which saw the greatest loss of life in the province’s sealing history, is where Jessie’s story begins. History remembers Abram Kean, the archetypal sealing captain, as the man accused by William Coaker of being responsible for recklessly leaving 132 men on the ice during that disaster, seventy-eight of whom froze to death during a violent storm. Later, a court of inquiry exonerated this “greatest seal killer of all time.” Culled from the personal diaries of Jessie Lewis, Captain Kean’s Secret is the history of a family embroiled in one of St. John's best-known class struggles of the twentieth century—the bitter conflict between the fish merchants and the working class—and the true story of a young girl who recorded it all, including her own shocking revelation, which lies intertwined with the fate of one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most famous sealing captains.
Biography of sea captain reveals fascinating tale.-- Northeast Avalon Times --
Badcock was most triumphant in honing in on the diaries of Jessie Lewis, a young girl—wise, eloquent and sympathetic beyond her years—and in complimenting the journal excerpts with valuable historical and cultural context. Like Badcock, readers will discover Jessie’s surprising secret and be inspirited by her courage.-- Atlantic Books Today --
Researcher and writer T. C. Badcock pulls these writings into a coherent account that reveals much about the attitudes of a particular man, certainly; but, also, those of Newfoundland’s upper classes toward the poorest of the poor, fishermen who competed for berths on the sealing vessels every winter, signing on to do work considered hazardous even by standards of the time.-- The Western Star --
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