Ella M Rudolph Schooner Shipwreck
I can remember, quite vividly, my grandmother in Greenspond telling me about the wreck of the Ella M Rudolph. She would sit at the kitchen table a recite from memory:Loss Of The “Ella M. Rudolph” Attention all ye fisherman, and toilers of the sea, While I relate these lines to you of an awful tragedy, Which leaves so many families in sorrow to bewail For the loss ‘of sons and husbands, caused by that dreadful gale. The “Ella M. Rudolph”, a vessel staunch, and a clever sea boat too, Her Skipper’s name was Blackwood, and eight composed her crew; A female also was on board, then so gay and bright, She with the rest did meet her doom, on that sad fatal night. On the sixth day of December the Rudolph left the town Full load of general cargo, for Port Nelson she was bound; With a gentle breeze of south west wind, the schooner sailed along, But the sky was thick and heavy, and the night was coming on. At five o’clock that evening, through the “tickle” she did pass, When threatenings of a violent storm was showing by the glass; When from South-East the wind did vere, with storms all through the night, The Skipper’s intention was to try and make Catalina light. Not very far out in the bay the schooner she did reach, When the Skipper changed the course again from North unto North-East, Thinking that the ship would round the cape and reach Bonavista Bay, But under foresail and jumbo, unfortunately made lee way. Eight fine strong men, that very night, upon her deck did stand, With eager minds and piercing eyes all on the look out for land, When the wind blew strong, and the seas ran high, Oh! what a terrible plight When the “Ella M. Rudolph” end her days, on Catalina shore that night. The vessel scarcely struck the rocks before covered with the waves, All of her crew except one man did meet a watery grave; This poor young chap jumped overboard ‘mid blinding snow and drift, And by the guiding hand of Providence was hurled in the cliff He wend his way all up the cliff, through blinding sleet and snow, O’er marshes, fields and valleys, not knowing where to go To look for hospitalities and comforts for the night, When to his surprise, before his eyes, saw Little Catalina lights. It was early next morning, about the hour of four, After eight long hours of travelling he reached Levi Dalton’s door Who kindly answered to his knock and a saddening sight did see, A lad standing there with oilskins on, a miracle from the sea. Come in my lad, come in, this man did kindly say, And tell me what has happened and how you came this way; This boy was so exhausted and all that he did say “A schooner lost, and all her crew, not very far away.” Now with this kindly woman the poor lad did reside And with hot drinks, and clothing warm, she soon him did revive, Which after rest and medical aid the tale he told anew The sorrowful fate of “Rudolph” and the loss of all her crew. The man soon told his neighbours, and soon the news were spread, And men before so very long were raising from their bed, With ropes and gaffs and lanterns too, on a night so dark and drear, The path was thronged with men, from Brook Cove they did. steer. At last they arrived upon the scene, but sadly heard no sound, They searched with vain endeavours, but no creature could be found, But when the dawning broke again such an awful sight to see, A schooner’s wreckage washed ashore, while her crew were in the sea These willing men did try their might some bodies for to get, But the sea was raging furiously and dashing by the cliff, But an awful sight came before their eyes as they stood there next day To see a body wash ashore upon a heaving wave. This chance to be the female once so gay with game An Abbott girl from Hare Bay, her name was Mary Jane. And soon with kind and willing hands, her body did prepare, And sent along for Burial Rights, to her mother’s home so dear. Not one day had passed away but these men were on the spot, And after days of toiling five more bodies they got; And now they are resting in the graves beneath the churchyard sod, But their souls have fled to its place of rest in the Paradise of God So now my friends and comrades, there’s one more thing to do: Let us not forget the widows, and the little orphans too, Whom through this great disaster are left fatherless in their homes, But the Lord knows what is best, and His will must be done. Now in conclusion let us not forget our friends, The people in Catalina who worked with willing hands For to recover those bodies their labour did not spare May blessing rest on Catalina, and all its citizens there. But two more bodies still are lying beneath the ocean waves, Waiting for their Saviour’s call on the last Great Judgement Day, When the sea will give up its dead as told-by Scripture true May the Lord have mercy on the souls of the “Ella M. Rudolph’s” crew.
There were seven ship’s members lost that fateful night, including:
- Skipper Eleazer Blackwood;
- Bertram Blackwood (the Skipper’s eldest son);
- Harry Blackwood (the Skipper’s middle son);
- Walter Attwood;
- Joseph Vivian;
- Samuel Carter (uncle of Bertram, Harry and Duke);
- Noah Vivian; and
- Mary Jane Abbott, who was the ship’s cook.
Carter’s and Vivian’s bodies were never found.
Blackwood’s third son, Duke, age 20, was the only survivor.
The Bay Roberts Guardian reported the news of the sinking this way:
Friday, December 10, 1926: The Schooner Ella M Rudolph, Captain Eleazer Blackwood, met disaster Dec. 6th, near Catalina, in the southeast blizzard which raged in that section. The vessel with the Captain, his sons, Henry, Albert and Duke, four other men and a woman, left St. John’s for Greenspond at 6:30 Monday. The following morning the news of the disaster was learned from Duke Blackwood, the sole survivor. The sturdy ship was dashed to pieces on the rocks, Mrs. Blackwood, the captain’s wife, and child, who were in St. John’s, left by train the morning the vessel left. This is another terrible tragedy of the sea which has befallen the citizens of Greenspond and which has cast a gloom over the whole country.
Just to add a little surrealism to this story, the night that the Ella M. Rudolph went down, Elias Burry, a lay reader in the local church, was lying in bed.
“Suddenly my door opened and in walked a soaking wet Samuel Carter, my good friend. He (Carter) stood in the middle of the room for a few seconds and then departed without saying a word.”
Little Catalina was first settled in the late 1700s or the early 1800s to cut wood for boat building. By 1845 it was a well established inshore fishing community of 195 people. Being so close to Catalina, Little Catalina depended a lot on the economic and social sphere of the larger community. Like many other small communities, Little Catalina suffered severe loss of life to marine disasters. The Great Labrador Disaster and a series of shipwrecks claimed the lives of many causing widows to run 26 percent of the households in the community by 1891.