‘Our greatest navigator”
Capt. Guy Earle was devoted to preserving Newfoundland fishery and way of life.
Today, you’d be publicly ridiculed and probably thrown in jail. But in 1926, tying your eight-year-old son to the mainmast of a schooner to cure seasickness was considered a rite of passage by Art Earle, and one that paid off in spades for his son, Guy. Guy Earle of Carbonear, who would later be considered one of the greatest skippers and sealing captains of his time, may have learned the hard way from his father, but it was smooth sailing thereafter. Upon Capt. Guy Earle’s death in February 1968, former premier Frank Moores said: “We’ve lost our greatest navigator. ”And then-premier Joseph R. Smallwood stated: “Newfoundland has lost one of the most vigorous, energetic, progressive men in the whole fishing industry. There’s no one like him left; his loss is lamentable to Newfoundland. And I have lost a close, personal friend.” No one like him in many ways, says the youngest of his four children, Phil, who speaks of his father as one of the last true, gritty, courageous and unselfish Newfoundland fishing captains to navigate the province’s waters and beyond. Sadly, says Phil, the traditional Newfoundland fishery, and its culture and heritage, may have followed him to his grave. “He was a captain, but he loved being his own man,” says Phil, who fished for a few years himself before studying to become a physician. “All his fishermen … it was a hard life, but they would never leave that fishing boat. It was a time when they were all proud of their work, everyone of them. “My father spent his life trying to keep that heritage alive, by caring about his workers. But that’s all changed now, Today, it’s about the money they can make for them-selves.” Born at Carbonear on Nov. 25, 1918 Earle would, only eight years later Skipper his father’s schooner while trading back and forth to Labrador.
He was 16. Guy Earle’s first trip to the Labrador with his father obviously left an impression. His passion, love and respect for the fishery became more evident when, two years later, he forged his birth certificate by three years so he
could punch his master mariner’s ticket. Only a year after that, Capt. Earle made his first Atlantic crossing at the helm of the three-master Betoine, delivering a load of salt cod to Portugal. A year later, it was off to the Boston states with a load of her ring. A Boston news clipping at the time stated “a Newfoundland vessel arrived covered with ice and snow until the riggings were as thick as wine casts and no crew member was older than 25.” Phil Earle says his father exemplified courage in every endeavour of his life, but more significantly in his profession as a mariner and fish merchant. “His trade was with the people and the warmth he spread in his dealings with them,” Phil recalls. Capt. Guy Earle died of a heart attack at the age of 50, with no personal investments or wealth other than the fish business Earle Freighting Services which he and 1 brother Fred inherited from their father, and continued to build In fact, Fred Earle would continue the legacy of the business for about
30 years after Guy’s death. It was a business that employed 2,500 fisher-men and 190 permanent workers at Carbonear.
“For them, being fish merchants was not so much about making money, as it was for providing a way of life for the people of
Newfoundland, the people they loved,” Phil Earle says of his father, and uncle. “Fred carried it on, tooth and nail, and really put his heart into it.” Tales of Guy Earle’s courage, bravado and pranks are too numerous to list, but they run the gamut from diving into the frigid ocean to save a crewmember, to feigning – albeit brefly—his own drowning just to rouse the crew.
In 1960, the Earle’s bought the Kyle for use in the seal hunt until 1967.
Phil says his father was frustrated even then by federal rules and regulations “that prevented a good hunt.” “You weren’t allowed to take old seals, you couldn’t use helicopters to bring sealers back and forth,” he says.“He gave an interview on the Kyle in ‘65 about how the feds had this ‘seal man’ aboard. I mean, they’d let the Norwegians come inside our 12-.
mile limit and take our seals … but they were stopping our rights and activities our heritage. “And my father didn’t like that at all. He felt it wasn’t fair at to all of to his workers and all Newfoundlanders.” At 6’ 1” and about 220 I pounds, Guy Earle was an imposing figure who “sunk his teeth into the love of life at sea. He believed being a fisherman was as important to us (Newfoundlanders) as any job there was. And the apple did not fall far from the tree. “ I was a doctor, but just going out and dipping a codtrap … it’s the greatest felling there is. Phil’s siblings had also made their mark. The eldest, Davis is a retired
nuclear physicist, while sister Judi achieved~ her masters in education and taught special education for years. Two 9thers have since passed away — Guy (Jr.) in a car accident and sister Anne of cervical cancer. Guy Earle’s legacy was evident in the words of even competing merchants of the day, as is seen in a tribute published in the Daily News sixweeks after Earle’s death.
“Guy’s greatness lay in his faith and vision in the fisheries of Newfoundland and the work he did to make his yisions a rea1ity, wrote Maurice Quinlan, who founded the Quinlan Brothers fish company of
Bay deVerde. “This was his gift to his homeland, a gift few men can claim better.