© 2020 South West Coast Historical Society
Bessie Blackmore interviewed by Robin McGruer, August 27, 2020
Interview with Bessie Blackmore of Port aux Basques, NL (transcript):
Bessie: My name is Bessie Blackmore. I was born October 31, 1936. I was just about six years old when the Caribou went down. My grandfather Charles Ford was an engineer on the Caribou.
Interviewer: So what is your personal story, connected to the Caribou?
Bessie: I remember the morning really well. I remember my mom, walking – we had a long veranda on the house, the old end of the house, and she was walking back and forth with a towel to her face, crying and screeching. And as a child I was really upset, “Mom what’s wrong, what’s wrong?” And she sat me down and tried to explain to me that my grandfather had been drowned on the [S.S.] Caribou. I knew him – being only six – but when he was home I used to be up there and he’d be lying on the daybed and I’d be sitting down by him. You know, he was a very, very nice man, and I loved him. Right? You know, that, that’s my memories of that day. Going on after that, like a couple years after, I went to parades for the Caribou, like I was in the Brownies when I was seven, and somehow I had this, I don’t know the feeling, that maybe I was proud? Because my grandfather was one of the ones that his name was called. And you know, after I got older I realized how sad it was that it had happened, right? But at that time, being seven, I had this pride that my grandfather was, well. I also lost an uncle by marriage to Caribou too, Victor Loman was married to my mom’s sister, and he went down on the Caribou.
Interviewer: And how did it affect your family when he passed away, like did anyone’s lives change?
Bessie: Oh life changed for the family. My dad wasn’t home at the time because he was over in the war overseas. He came home in ’43. But I remember it affected the family, I mean my grandmother and my mother and all of them. My mom’s sister like I said lost her husband. So it had a big affect on the family, right.
Interviewer: How did the sinking of the Caribou affect the community at large, like not just your family but everyone?
Bessie: I would say it affected – like I said I was so young – but I know even years after it affected the community. For a long time there was, I mean it’s so many people, you know. And for years and years and years they had the memorial every year, the big parades and stuff, you know. Like all of the organizations would go to go to the monument, there by the building where the old post office was. There’s a picture, actually, up to the parish hall, of one of the services at that memorial.
Well, I know for us and our family like I said my aunt lost her husband, and she went back to live with her mother and she had two children. And my mother took the youngest child for a nice while because she went back to work, right? And my mother looked after her youngest child Margaret for a while. She was just a baby.
Yes, every year, October the fourteenth, there was, there was a ceremony at the Memorial. The S.S. Caribou Memorial was downtown at first, right? And then it moved up on the highway. So every year, you know like I said when I was a Brownie, a Guide, we always attended as organizations. All organizations did, right? It was just a day that we remembered, you know.