Monthly Archives: August 2019

Colourful Mementoes of Marseilles

Traipsing around such an exotic city as the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles was an exciting prospect when I arrived there for a World Fishing Exhibition in 1975. One of my first impressions, however, was a little consternation on entering the tiny bathroom of my hotel room. In addition to the customary wash basin and toilet there appeared a toilet-like structure which I had never seen before. There was, moreover, a supply of cloth-like paper sheets nearby, with no sign of customary toilet paper. It was my first introduction to a bidet.
My hotel was located far from the port’s waterfront so, when free time opened up for some sight seeing, I set out on a very long walk through the city, marvelling at the bright colours and the sheer variety of dwellings, business houses and factories along the way. Despite a general awareness of Marseilles’ reputation as a sometimes dangerous place, it was a peaceful and trouble free jaunt yielding nothing more bothersome than a part of sore feet.
The old port I finally reached was a delightful spectacle, rich in the pageantry of shipping, bustling trades people, awesomely aromatic cafes and restaurants, and handsome artistic and historical treasures. After touring the waterfront and snapping a few pictures, I treated myself to a sumptuous mid day serving of bouillabaisse, featuring an intriguing array of seafood delicacies. What else could one do at a world fisheries exhibition?

Sandy but mainly rocky beaches beckoned for hundreds of sun worshipping tourists, though few seemed to bother swimming.

Guarding the port is the centuries-old Fort Saint-Jean, which stands at the harbour entrance.

A very un-French sounding Snack Bar was a convenient setting for relaxing exhibition patrons.



Notable works of art discovered in my wanderings included a striking triumphal arch and, on a busy roadway, a glorious replica of Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David.

Books Are For Reading …. NOW

Why do we stack a lot of books at home but never get around to reading them? You maybe don’t do this but some of us do, and I’m one of them. One could say that mystery surrounds this lamentable failing – mysteries, actually – that addiction to successions of finely written tales of murder, intrigue and whodunits by such masters and mistresses of the genre as Robert Goddard, Quintin Jardine, Anne Perry, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson, and the like. Frequenting public libraries bulging with such goodies for the crime-obsessed took over reading hours all too fully, leaving scant opportunity to sample the literary riches here at home. Lately, a touch of reform has finally set in, and I’ve actually pulled a few off the shelf, learning swiftly and not a little shamefully, how very much I’d missed.

Our ill-sorted library goes heavy on Newfoundland books, many read but others long intended but not yet actually explored. Until lately when, spurred by so much reminiscence about the Great War a century ago.

Kevin Major brought home in No Man’s Land the stirring experiences of Newfoundlanders, especially at ill-fated Beaumont Hamel in 1916. A Blue Puttee At War by Sydney Frost is a master work, authentically detailing the wartime exploits of Newfoundland soldiers.

Michael Winter brilliantly reflected on those same experiences in Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead.

A.J. Stacey`s A Soldier’s Story traced one man’s experiences throughout the conflict.

Joan Sullivan’s In the Field tapped into similar themes.


Other Newfoundland-based reading highlights have ranged from Alan Doyle’s entertaining recollections from his musical career, Where I Belong and A Newfoundlander in Canada toMichael Crummeys’stirring novel Sweetland about one man’s struggle against resettlement of remote outports.

But I have yet to get into his imaginative and much praised family saga Galore.


One book I very much wanted to read, and finally did, was Grace Sparkes: Blazing a Trail to Independence by Mary Beth-Wright. While I greatly enjoyed stories of this Newfoundland icon’s exploits in journalism, politics and education, I lamented its occasional editorial lapses.


Of all the Newfoundlandia, I was most impressed and highly gratified by the superlative account by Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders of the conspiratorial British and Canadian machinations behind Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation. Thoroughly documented at last was the shocking storyline that everyone who lived through that era firmly believed to be the case but could never find proper evidence.

My journalistic friend Bren Walsh tried his best to unravel the true story in his 1985 book More Than A Poor Majority but access to adequate records was denied him.

A lot more invaluable reading riches remain on my still too overloaded To Do List!

World Fishing Exhibition in Marseilles

Of all the places I might ever have expected to see when I was a mid-level communications guy in Ottawa, the rough and ready Mediterranean port of Marseilles, France, was never likely to be it. Thus it was with utter astonishment and no little excitement that I found myself flying out there with a few other Canadian fisheries folks to attend a World Fishing Exhibition in May 1975. I had mostly to thank for this rare opportunity my new boss, Ken Lucas, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Marine Service, Environment Canada. I had started work as his Chief of Information Services in January, after completing a six month French training course, and managing participation in fisheries exhibits was part of my job.
Getting involved in international fisheries exhibitions was an important way of promoting measures Canada was taking to prepare for the extension of territorial limits over fishing activities on the continental shelf. Law of the Sea deliberations would usher in this new era of fisheries management with the establishment of a 200 mile limit in the following year. Fisheries and Marine undertook, in cooperation with the province of Nova Scotia, to host a World Fishing Exhibition in 1977 in Halifax, and needed to see how it was organized at the 1975 Exhibition taking place in Marseilles.
Ray Mills from the Nova Scotia government, Frank King from Federal Fisheries in Halifax and I joined forces to outline plans and answer questions about the 1977 event. Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries and the Mayors of Halifax and Dartmouth also attended. Canada’s exhibit included three dimensional representations of the ocean floors around our coasts, illustrating the extent of our continental shelf.
One of the feature presentations at the exhibition was a selection of films on fisheries subjects, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of them was a film I had been closely involved with during its production. When I mentioned this, I was asked to speak about it and, with great trepidation, found myself doing so in French. While I had emerged from training at the top level in December, it was a nerve-wracking experience but I somehow managed to get through it without too much anguish. Perhaps it helped that I was still sporting a thick black beard which I had cultivated during the French course.
During the exhibition, I spent some enjoyable time with Fishing News International magazine editor Peter Hjul and his colleagues, a most interesting group. Peter had provided his readers with extensive coverage of the 1973 FAO Conference on Fishery Management and Development in Vancouver. He was accompanied in Marseilles by staff members who reported on fisheries activities at various world centres. One of them was impressively multi-lingual but spoke English in the unmistakable dialect of a London cockney. Another told me he was soon leaving to take on a new job doing fisheries training in the Seychelles, and he sent me a postcard from there later.

Whaling and Wandering in London

The Thames of London, even though it’s a whole lot cleaner than it used to be, is hardly a habitat for great whales, yet there is a lot of talk about them when nations around the world send delegates to meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Formed in 1946 to provide for the conservation and management of whale stocks, the commission has its headquarters in Impington, a village near Cambridge in England. Canada is one of some 88 member countries. Only a few countries engage in whaling today but it remains a highly emotional subject.
A Canadian delegation took an active part in IWC deliberations in London in June 1935, and I attended, mainly to gauge the nature and extent of controversy then surrounding this issue. Delegate discussions dealt largely with scientific studies of whale populations and the impact of whaling operations in that period.

Federal fisheries policies at the time focused on conservation concerns, seeking to ensure the protection of whale stocks, but with growing awareness of campaigns by anti-whaling interests.

Several outspoken opponents of whaling attended the meeting and used every opportunity to present their views. One notable individual was a New Zealand scientist, Dr. Paul Spong, who began whale research at the Vancouver Aquarium, primarily focused on a killer whale named Skana, and became a leading Greenpeace activist. What I did not expect was hearing the highly biased views of some American government officials whose anti-whaling sentiments proved even more extreme than those of protest groups.

Lancaster House interior

Lancaster House interior

Officials at Canada House on Trafalgar Square, particularly Press Officer Don Peacock, provided helpful support to me and other Fisheries staff attending the IWC meeting. Canadian High Commissioner Barry Mawhinney led a group of us at a stately reception held at Lancaster House in St. James Park, tendered by the British Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

For the IWC meeting, I stayed within walking distance at St. Ermin’s Hotel on Caxton Street, a most impressive building. Almost across the street I discovered another imposing structure, bearing identification as New Scotland Yard. After the meeting, I had to settle for less grandiose accommodations at the Athenaeum Hotel.

Sight seeing in London, meanwhile, was an entirely enjoyable experience, partly accompanied by Fishing News International editor Peter Hjul whom I had met two years previously at an international fisheries conference in Vancouver. One locale he made sure to show me was London’s famous Billingsgate Fish Market. He also welcomed me to his office and on a tour of Fleet Street, then still a thriving journalistic centre.

I also had the pleasure of spending time with my good friend Cy Fox who was then on the staff of Reuters News agency on Fleet Street, and sporting a G.K. Chesterton moustache.

Places of interest I visited during my stay included Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Gallery, The Tower of London, and many more.