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The View From Fogo Island


At the outset let me say that I have a great respect for any police force, anywhere; in fact I have two nephews who are members of several forces, respectively.

There are times, however, when it seems that a member of a  police force might be a tad heavy-handed, and that is what then makes the news. I want to tell you about a case here in Fogo that took place in 1922 (Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?).

The resident constable in Fogo at that time was William Shave who had been in Fogo since 1899. I have read a lot about this man’s tenure in Fogo, and about his family and I often wish that I had the time to write a bit of a biography on him. From all accounts he was an extremely busy man. However, there are some reports of instances that appear to me to indicate he picked on children, favoured his own family, or was perhaps a little heavy-handed on those who were at the lower rungs of society. Such might be this case which took place in Fogo in 1922, and since this case took place almost a century ago, I suppose that I am allowed to speculate.

Now, there also lived in Fogo at that time a man by the name of Henry Anthony. I do not believe he was a member of the Anthony family that became later associated with Fogo; on the other hand he might have been. He does say that things hadn’t always gone well with him since he “came” to Fogo indicating that he hadn’t always lived here. He was totally blind, and his wife —whose name I am not able to ascertain, was crippled. I am not able to find out if they had any children. How they might have kept body and soul together during these times must have been extremely difficult as certainly there was minimal, if any, social assistance, except perhaps for the dole. And you didn’t get that just by knocking on the relieving officer’s door.

Now, it appears to me that it was legal in Newfoundland at that time to sell beer from your own premises, as long as it was under a certain proof, however that could be ascertained.

Thus, Henry, together with his wife, thought they might be able to supplement their meagre subsistence, howbeit minimally, if they brewed beer and sold it on their premises for five cents a glass. This might very well have been Fogo’s first pub, and in a way, perhaps, that fact might be recognized with an appropriate sign. Meanwhile, let me get on with my story.

On the night of April 17, 1922, Constable Shave was going about his duty looking for boys who threw rocks, or young men fighting over girls, etcetera and it must have been a quiet night.

He decided to visit Henry Anthony’s ‘Pub’ just to make sure everything was quiet and the like. There were several men there drinking beer, and perhaps chewing tobacco which seems to have been a common pastime at the time.

Constable Shave approached Mr. Anthony (He would have called him plain ‘Henry’, no doubt!) and bought a pint of beer, and paid the publican no less than twenty cents. (“What’s going on here?” must have wondered our now leery Henry.) Constable Shave didn’t drink it on the premises, but took it home with him. (I am wondering if that was actually allowed.)  

Let me now fast-forward to June 2, the same year, and a lot has happened since that night of April 22 .

Henry Anthony, had been summoned to court before the magistrate in Fogo. Since he was totally blind, he had been led in by a neighbor, I am speculating. His wife couldn’t attend — well, she was crippled, didn’t I say?  The magistrate brings the court to order, and asks Mr. Anthony to stand. The magistrate reads the charge to him stating blah, blah, blah and that he was charged with selling lemon beer that had been analyzed by a Mr. Davies in St. John’s, and found that it contained six per cent alcohol by volume which was over-proof. He then posed, in a stentorian and intimidating voice, no doubt: “How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, your honour, … his lord, … my God,” … whatever, stammered Henry.

Constable Shave then took the stand and saith, loudly and distinctly, but dropping a few h’s, “On the night of April 17, (1922), I visited Mr. Anthony’s shop. There were several people in the shop and they were drinking beer, which they were selling for five cents a glass. I bought a pint of beer paying 20 cents. I brought it home and immersed it in ice immediately. I put it in two bottles; one half pint in each, corked it tight, and put them in ice for over six hours. I sent one of the bottles to St. John’s to be analyzed and kept the other. Mr. Davies sent a report back that stated that the beer contained 6% alcohol by volume. (I, hereby present report.)”  Pause.

Constable Shave continued, “Bartholomew Snow was dealing out the beer, and defendant Anthony was present. Mr. Anthony admitted he was selling it for 5 cents per glass. Defendant said it was lemon beer. I told him I was going to send it to St. John’s to be analyzed.”

 

No other witnesses were called.

Defendant Anthony with some assistance then took the stand in his own defense, and made statement, “I have been selling beer since I have been living in Fogo. The constable says it is lemon beer but it is not lemon beer. I submit it that it is not proved that the beer contained six per cent alcohol when it was taken from my shop. I have no witnesses to call.”

The magistrate then replied, and said that it was well-known that defendant had been selling beer since he has been in Fogo, and that many complaints have been made about it. By whatever name it was called, the analysis proves that it contains six per cent of alcohol by volume. Thus, I have to convict you of breach of the Prohibition Act, and I impose a penalty of a fine of $100 or two months imprisonment.

Meanwhile, I realize that you are totally blind, with a crippled wife; therefore, I will suspend collection of fine, if you, sir, will give a promise to me and this court that you will never again manufacture or sell any more beer.”

Henry was helped to the stand again and said, (‘saith’, rather): “I promise that neither I, nor my wife, will  manufacture or sell any more beer.”

There you have it. Justice, 1922 style.

The magistrate was true to his word and the collection of the fine was suspended. And so, perhaps, closed Fogo’s first tavern.

A sad story, indeed! We are not told what Henry and his wife had for supper that evening. Perhaps they didn’t have one. Another speculation: neither the constable nor the magistrate extended an invitation.

A correction: In a piece I wrote several weeks ago entitled ‘A Tragedy at Indian Islands’ I made an error that I would like to correct now. I had said that the name of the 20-month old baby who almost succumbed to drowning was Jethro Perry. Actually, it was his brother, Guy. My original source for the piece which was a magisterial enquiry on the drowning of Ethel May Rose did not give the name of the baby as it may not have been pertinent to the crux of the enquiry.  Although this incident took place in 1926, I did a bit of cross referencing with the 1935 census for Indian Islands and found that William and Lena Perry of then had two sons; one, Jethro, was at that time 15, and the other, Guy, was 11.  It should have been obvious from the time frame that the baby’s name was Guy, but for some inexplicable reason I wrote down Jethro. I had an extremely gentle e-mail from Daphne Noble in St. John’s pointing out the mistake. Daphne is the daughter of Jethro. She went on to say that Guy was tragically killed in a motor accident in St. John’s in January, 1957. He was at that time working as a lab technician at the old sanatorium on Topsail Road, St. John’s. She also mentioned this interesting fact. After this incident, Guy became left-handed because his right hand was touched and scarred by one of the hot stones used to warm and resuscitate him. She also went on to say that Jethro (Daphne’s father) and his father William, were a boat-building team. I am remembering that when I had finished this particular piece a few weeks ago, I wondered to myself if there was anyone out there who knew anything more about this incident, who might get in touch with me. I truly appreciate Ms. Noble’s contacting me.

 

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Please note my new e-mail address:

bensonhewitt11@gmail.com

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