GARNISH, N.L. - Some 200 people were in attendance at the Garnish Community Center on Friday, Aug. 10 for the presentation of the emotionally charged play “The Caranza and a Man of Faith”.
The play is a true story of the sinking of the schooner Caranza in September 1930, taking eight men from the small Burin Peninsula community of Garnish to the bottom with her.
Two other fishermen from the community, George Aaron Cluett and Thomas Cluett, along with four other seamen from other communities, managed to escape the sinking ship. For 72 hours, without food, water or a compass, the survivors battled the unforgiving elements in a small open dory before they were finally rescued by a passing vessel.
The play, written and directed by Horatio Cluett, is also the story of his father, George Aaron Cluett — one of the survivors — and the effect the terrible ordeal had on him and how it changed the path the rest of his life would take.
The audience was stone quiet and tears were welling up in some eyes as the loud thunder, lightning and wind tossed the exhausted six fishermen in their dory around like a cork on the open ocean. Then the quiet after the storm passed and to keep their spirits up the weakening survivors began singing the hymn “Throw out the lifeline across the dark wave”.
In the words of 76-year-old Bert Cluett, son of survivor Thomas Cluett, “The play really affected me. I can’t imagine the emotions and the feelings my father and the others had during the three days and nights in the dory. The actors did a fantastic job and all of them along with Horatio are to be commended. It was superb.”
Bert was 18-years-old when his father died and as he explained, “Dad didn’t talk a lot about the shipwreck.”
In later years George Aaron, who Bert described as being a very nice, quiet and religious man, said to him, “Your Dad was a very brave man....it was very tough going out there.”
At the conclusion of the play writer/director Horatio spoke to the audience. As he choked back tears he explained that all his life he found the story of the Caranza to be captivating.
“It is so hard to talk about it,” he said. “Many times in my younger years I came home at night and the first thing I would see was my father sitting at the kitchen table and reading the Bible. Dad was a very religious man, teaching Sunday School and so faithful to the Salvation Army Church.”
Many of the cast members in the play were descendants of the two Garnish fishermen who survived. In attendance were many other direct descendants of survivors Thomas and George and the skipper of the Caranza, Captain Joshua Matthews of Grand Bank who went down with his ship.