The following article originally appeared as part of a series titled "Down Home" in the Newfoundland Signal (published in Toronto) in July 1976. In those days the author spent her summers on Red Island with her husband Denis and their daughter Krista. Reprinted by permission.

Island Comes Back to Life

by Lorna M. Ryan

RED ISLAND, Placentia Bay -- We returned to the island a bit early this year, but most of the men had already arrived two or three weeks before. The women and children, of course, don't come until school lets out in June.

This tiny island is one of many places abandoned during the resettlement scheme, but unlike some of the other outports, it refuses to die. Every spring it welcomes the twenty or so fishermen and their families who come back every year to fish for lobster and cod. Din and Krista and I are one of these families.

Most of the summer fishermen have lived here since they were born. Their parents and grandparents lie in the graveyard (overgrown with alders now) on the hill above the church. Their children climb the rocks, fish for connors, and pick conchs off the beach in all the same places they themselves did. And even though the church, the school, and the hall are fallen into ruin and gone forever, the people call this "home" and they come here still.

Many of the houses are gone now, and the rest, their paint badly faded, perch stoically here and there among the rocks. The sturdier ones still shelter their former owners every summer, but the others, with sagging doors and empty windows, contain only a few rats - and memories of former times. Wharves and stages, stained with red ochre, line the shore of the little U-shaped harbour; but they are old now, their wood is rotting, and bit by bit they sag and fall.

But perseverance is a Newfoundland fisherman's hallmark, and so, here, as in all the outports in the summer, the daily routine goes on much as it has for generations.

Even the gulls are still asleep when the pre-dawn stillness is shattered by the sudden stutter of engines. The smooth bir-r-r-r-r of the diesels mingles with the putta-putta-putta-putta of the make-and-breaks, as the little boats leave the wharves and nose their way out into the early-morning fog.

Later, when the sun is well up, white smoke begins to curl out of the chimneys as the women start their day. There is bread to mix, wood to chop, and water to be fetched from the well. And on sunny days the clothes are washed outside on the bridge in a big old tub.

The boats come back in ones and twos early in the afternoon. Gutting fish is a social affair, and the men gather in groups on the wharves, talking, spitting occasionally, and watching the latecomers cut their fish and flick the guts over the side.

When the collector arrives, the boats cluster 'round her like so many connors. One after the other, the men prong their fish into the wooden box on the scales and the skipper keeps tally as each 200-pound lot is tipped into the hold.

With his fish sold and his boat cleaned out and moored, a fellow may see about getting a few nets ready for tomorrow, or he might just crawl into the bunk for a nap before supper. Come dark, the lamps are shined up and lit and it's time for a mug-up before bed.

There's no sitting up for the late-night news out here. 4 a.m. comes a little too early!