Sunday, March 11, 2012

#19 Ann Harvey

It often bothers me how little I was taught about Newfoundland history growing up, most particularly about the heroes among us. Oh yes, we learned about the Beothuks, and how horrible we apparently were to them, but not about the good and great people who have populated her shores for centuries, who have made Newfoundland a wonderful and proud place for us to call home.

In post #3 of my Lenten 40 list of people I admire and respect, I featured Violet Pike and her role in the Pollux / Truxtun disaster.

Today, I am honored to write about Ann Harvey.

Up until a few years ago, I had no idea who Ann Harvey was. All I knew was that there was a Canadian Coast Guard ship named "Ann Harvey". I figured she must have been the wife of some higher-up within the Coast Guard, or someone frivilous like that. I was wrong. Sadly, the Newfoundland education system does nothing to prevent these kinds of mistaken assumptions. Anything I've learned about Miss Harvey is what I have unearthed by my own research, and the benefit of having a niece-in-law-to-be from Isle aux Morts..

Ann Harvey was born in Isle aux Morts in 1811. Isle aux Morts is French for "Island of the Dead", so named because of the many shipwrecks that occurred among the numerous rocks and islands along that stretch of Newfoundland's southwest coast.

In 1828, the British brig "Despatch", captained by a William Lancaster, left Londonderry en route to Quebec City, with 200 Irish immigrants and 11 crew. On July 10th, a raging storm blew the "Despatch" onto the rocks at Isle aux Morts.

On the night of July 10th, the Harvey family spotted debris washing ashore, but because of the storm and the oncoming darkness, they could not do anything until the next morning.  They found the wreckage the next morning, with survivors clinging to the rocks. Ann, her father George, her 12-year old brother Tom and their Newfoundland dog "Hairyman" then began a rescue mission that would span 3 whole days, and culminate in the rescue of 163 men.

WHY was I not taught about this in school???

From Wikipedia:
"On a beach nearby they found six men who had survived the wreck and set out to find more survivors. They found a large group on a tiny island that would be thereafter known as Wreck Rock. This rock, three miles from shore, was barely large enough to hold the remaining survivors of the thirty or more who had died from exhaustion or washed away and drowned. They had gotten to this small rock by means of a mast they had cut away from the sinking vessel. George could get no closer than 100 feet of them due to the heavy seas. He threw a billet of wood to which the survivors attached a rope and George got his dog to swim for it. Each person was taken off the rock in this fashion."

With all survivors on shore by the evening of July 14th, the Harveys then continued for a further 5 days, building shacks and lean-tos on the beach to house the survivors.

By the time the British Naval vessel HMS Tyne arrived about 8 days later, the community was poised on the brink of starvation, their supplies and winter provisions close to being exhausted by this sudden influx of humanity.
"When Captain Grant of HMS Tyne arrived about eight days later, after receiving word of the wreck, they found no bread, flour or tea left in the Harvey home, their winter provisions all gone. Grant replenished the food stocks of the Harveys and removed the survivors to Halifax, where news of the heroism of Ann and her father travelled throughout the island. From Government House, Governor Thomas Cochrane applied to the Royal Humane Society for recognition of the family and a special medal was struck. Lloyd's of London, the insurance agents, gave the Harveys the then princely sum of 100 pounds."
The heroism of the Harvey family did not end there.

In September, 1838, the Scottish cargo ship "Rankin" blew ashore at the same spot as the "Despatch". Ann and her family rescued all 25 crew.

Ann married Charles Gillam in 1831 and gave birth to 8 children. She died in 1860 at the age of 49.

Ann and her family have been honoured for their heroism:

The Harvey Trail is a walking trail in Isle aux Morts, honouring the site of the daring rescues.

There is a Newfoundland Dog Museum in Isle aux Morts, acknowledging the role this breed has played in these and countless other rescues along our coast.

And of course, there is the Canadian Coast Guard Ship "Ann Harvey", commissioned in 1987. Its role is Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender and search and rescue vessel with light icebreaker duties. No frivolous namesake here, as I had originally feared!

It is, again, with pride, admiration and respect that I tip my hat to another of my countrywomen, Ann Harvey, for her distinguished heroism, strength, determination and

Finally, had we, as Newfoundlanders, been taught more about the heroes and heroism that were routinely a part of life in this province, I have no doubt that our 'inferiority complex', heightened after Confederation, would have been lessened, and would have minimized the disrespectful attitude with which we were "welcomed" into this country. We had every right to behave as if we were going to contribute to the pride and history of Canada, WHICH WE DID, and NOT as we were subsequently treated, as if we were the poor cousins with nothing to do but take-take-take. Our pathetic education system, then and now, did us no favors.

God guard thee, Newfoundland.



  1. does anyone know were ann harvey went to school and by the way she was died 1860 sorry to brust your bubble but she was


  2. i'm doing a canadien hero prodject at school and i was wondering if you knew what kindov edjucation she has please try to conttact me back

    from tianna

  3. Tianna, Sorry for taking so long to respond. I'm afraid I do not know about Ann's education. Isle aux Morts is a very small community today, so I can only imagine that formal education would have been minimal in the mid-1800's.

  4. How did Ann Harvey die? I'm doing a project for school so please answer as soon as possible. Thanks!


    Best Regards !


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