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Strange But True Newfoundland Stories Strange But True Newfoundland Stories
Jack Fitzgerald

Price: CDN$9.95
Newfoundland History
1989 (4th printing June 1997)
ISBN 0-920021-57-3
146 pages,
5.5" x 8.5", paper
Excepts from Strange But True Newfoundland Stories are available for online reading.

The third in a series of books containing entertaining short stories from Newfoundland's colourful past. This collection has the peculiar mixed with the astonishing, the magical and the almost unthinkable. A combination of archival research and oral history make this an enjoyable book for almost anyone.

Excerpt #1: Castro's Hostage

During June 1958, when Fidel Castro was leading his rebels in their battle to oust President Batista, his army burst into a cafe and took several hostages. The hostage-taking captured newspaper headlines around the world.

Among those captured was Ed Cannon. Cannon had arrived in Cuba just a few months earlier on a project for Steadman Engineering, on contract with Bowater's Ltd. of Corner Brook. He had left Corner Brook for Cuba during March to work on the Moa Bay Nickel Mining Operations. He was one of two Canadians in the group taken hostage.

It was June 26, during an evening of relaxation outside the company town, when Castro's rebels burst into the cafe from all entrances, armed with machine guns.

Cannon recalled, "We were placed in trucks and then driven into the hills for about 40 miles to the rebel's centre of operation, which was a large house with no furniture on a coffee plantation. There we lived like millionaires for a week or two until negotiators secured our freedom. We were flown out by helicopter, two at a time to Guantanamo Air Base and then to the U.S."

He said the hostages were treated well by the rebels. He noted, "We were given cigarettes, food and an occasional beer, of which the rebels deprived themselves. We had some anxious moments. On one occasion we were herded into a room and could see guards obviously angry in a nearby rom preparing their guns for action." Cannon explained that he learned later that this was in response to Batista's planes flying overhead.

Cannon also recalled that they were never ill-treated or intimidated by their captors. Both Fidel and his brother Raoul were at the camp and in good spirits. He noted, "When we were leaving Castro gave me an arm patch of the rebels and autographed it. I gave him a company ball-point pen."

After being released, Cannon returned to his job at Corner Brook.

Excerpt #2: Guns for Irish Rebels

St. John's played a more intriguing role in the Irish opposition to British rule than most people realize. For example, on one occasion Irish rebel forces concealed 50,000 rifles in a field in St. John's.

During the mid-nineteenth century, the Irish rebel movement known as the Fenian Organization had agents assisting them in Newfoundland. Fenian supporters in St. John's helped to smuggle 50,000 rifles, which had been purchased at Portland, Maine, destined for Ireland. The entire operation was a top-secret one. The St. John's agents unloaded the guns from a ship in St. John's harbour and buried them in a field located near the home of the Anglican Bishop of Newfoundland.

When a ship had been engaged to carry the weapons to Ireland, the agents removed them from their hiding place and loaded them on board. The cargo safely reached Kinsale, Ireland, its destination.

The field in St. John's where the Fenians hid the guns was an area once owned by Sir E.M. Archibald, one-time Attorney General of Newfoundland. It was known as Bishop's Thorpe (later Bishop's Court).

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