July 16, 1997
Native Son Pilots Matthew into Grand Bank
It has been 60 years since Captain John Jack Smith first took a bank schooner out of his home port, Grand Bank Harbour. Just this past Friday, July 11, Captain Smith returned home to one of Newfoundland's most historic ports at the helm of the replica of John Cabot's 15th century caravel, Matthew. He was greeted by fanfare and the beaming faces of family members, and friends alike.
Greeting the 77 year old Captain Smith at dockside were 14 family members, including two daughters, Ruth and Gail. His sister Freda also welcomed him dressed in period costume. She embraced her brother the Captain as he lead the crew of the Matthew on to the shore.
"The event is one of the highlights of my life," said Captain Smith. A profound statement for a man who started his career in fishing schooners in 1935. Smith switched to steam boats in 1942, including cargo ships, tankers, and passenger ships . The last commercial ship Smith sailed was a US Navy tanker in 1960. He has earned five certifications including All Trade Mate and Master, 2nd Mate and Master Foreign, along with other endorsements.
Captain Smith spoke to the 10,000 people who were in Grand Bank for the Matthew Arrival. He said of the Matthew's Transatlantic voyage, "...she is a good ship, a good roller, a poor sailer, but a fine sea boat that will take you home every time."
From Grand Bank, Matthew and crew went on to Harbour Breton where she delivered two bottles of Newman's Port to members of the Newman family, natives of the community. It was footsteps from the past stepping into the present, as Peter and Richard Newman returned to Harbour Breton to be part of the Cabot 500 Celebrations.
The Matthew, crew and special guests were greeted by the Cabot 500 Committee, co-chaired by Loretta Ridgely. "Newman & Company was responsible for putting Harbour Breton on the map, and was the principal reason Harbour Breton flourished economically and socially in the 1800s," said Ridgely.
Newman & Company established its Newfoundland headquarters in Harbour Breton in 1819. One of its main functions was to bring wine from Oporto, Portugal, to Harbour Breton to be aged. It was then bottled in St. John's and distributed to markets around the world as Newman's Port Wine. The Newmans were also fish merchants, involved in the salt fish trade until they moved out in 1907. As with many fish merchants, they were also the only retailer in the area, selling a wide range of products and goods.
When Richard and Peter Newman accepted the invitation to come to Harbour Breton, they decided to place Newman's Port Wine on board the Matthew. On April 18, 1997, Master David Alan-Williams accepted two bottles of Newman's Port Wine, with the instructions that it be delivered to Harbour Breton on July 13, 1997.
Upon arrival, the wine was opened and a toast was made to the Newmans and the safe arrival of the Matthew and crew.
The Matthew and her crew arrived in Burgeo at 3 p.m. Tuesday and depart for Port aux Basques at 8 p.m. today (July 16).
Contact: Doug Burgess, Manager of Communications, Cabot 500 Celebrations, (709) 729-1997.