Author: Marilyn Wheadon
It was in Dundee, Scotland in the spring of 1943 that Mary Ann Page, known to her family as Nan, and her friend Reena had just left the movie theatre when a couple of servicemen started up a conversation with them. Seeing soldiers on the streets of Dundee during the war was nothing unusual but the pleasant young Newfoundlander who introduced himself as Dick Wheadon did get Nan's attention. Before long a courtship had started and on September 23, 1943 Richard Wheadon from Bradley's Cove and Mary Ann Page were married. At the time Dick's ship was docked in Dundee for a few weeks and after the wedding the newlyweds headed to Aberdeen for a honeymoon. The war years slipped by and in March of 1946 a brave but tearful Nan bid farewell to her family in Scotland and boarded the S.S. Scythia for a new life across the ocean. Friendships were forged aboard ship, some of which would last a lifetime. When the ship docked in Halifax, there was still a long journey for the girls who were headed for Newfoundland. Meanwhile Dick had arrived in Newfoundland a few days earlier, and though eager to see his family back home, decided that due to the uncertain winter weather, he was not taking any chances and perhaps not get back to St. John's on time to greet his wife. He stayed with his cousin in St. John's and eagerly awaited Nan's arrival. They boarded the train to Carbonear where they were met by Dick's brother with the horse and sled to bring them on the last leg of their journey and home.
Nan says that when they went over the hill to Bradley's Cove, there was snow everywhere but also there was an archway made from green boughs with “Welcome Home” on it and what a welcome it was! There was a feast waiting and a houseful of people there to greet them. Over the next few weeks Nan eagerly learned to cook traditional Newfoundland food, including homemade bread which she said became better with each new batch. Her husband's family took to her immediately and made her feel very much at home.
The Wheadons were a fishing family who took part in the Labrador fishery and though Nan's husband had once said, while talking about his life back home, that he never intended to haul another fish, it was a little different when he was at home and plans were being made for the voyage to Labrador. Well, Nan decided that if her husband was going, then so was she so the position of cook for the crew was quickly filled. In June they boarded the S.S. Kyle for Indian Tickle. From there they went by motor boat to their fishing rooms at Cape Grepe. They were the only people on the island. If Bradleys' Cove seemed a far cry from Dundee, then surely this place made life in Bradley's Cove seem pretty lively. Here Nan would be doing all the cooking, her helper being the Magic Baking Powder cookbook that her mother in law had given her. She was a quick learner and she had a good crew to cook for. At the end of the fishing season, Nan and Dick moved into their own place in Broad Cove, not far from Bradley's Cove, and she told me that one evening in October her brother in law, John Fred, came to visit and placed something in her hand. She gasped when she saw that it was a hundred dollar bill. He said it was her wages. She didn't want to take the money because she said she never felt like it was work, but rather “a great experience” but her brother in law told her that she deserved every cent.
Nan felt that life was good in Newfoundland. She had met some very kind people who treated her as one of their own, they had bought a house and soon after coming from the Labrador, she discovered that their first child was on the way.
Over the years, Nan moved to St. John's where Dick was working, because life on her own in Broad Cove with six children and a week-end husband seemed lonely but after a few years she yearned for her house beside the sea in Broad Cove and moved the family back. She once told me that when she first came to Newfoundland the sound of the waves beating on the rocks at night made her lonely but as the years went by, that same sound kept her company.
Nan's first trip back to Scotland came 20 years after leaving her homeland and this time she was accompanied by her youngest child Bonnie Heather who was just eighteen months old; the other five, her family had never met. Other trips to Scotland followed and her family back home also came to visit Newfoundland. Sadly, Dick passed on in 1970 but Nan continued to live in Newfoundland.
Nan still lives in Newfoundland with her daughter and son in law. A widow for more than forty years, she considers it a stroke of good luck that several years ago she met and shares a warm and loving friendship with a widower who served in the Merchant Navy during the war, somebody who she can share her memories of her homeland with because he spent time there as well during the war. As if one coincidence wasn't enough, it soon became apparent that Ed was working on the Kyle back in 1946 at the same time that Nan made her trip to Labrador.
I am married to Nan's oldest son and I felt her story was a lovely one and needed to be shared.
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