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Welcome to the History of the SS Kyle
A Cultural Icon of Newfoundland / Labrador Celebrating 110 Years
1st Captain Lorenzo Stevenson 1913
K is for KYLE
SS Kyle of Reid Newfoundland Company’s Alphabet Fleet
Signed agreement between Reid & Builder Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson LTD England April 17, 1912
Keel was laid – October 12, 1912
Framed completed on November 16th 1912
Launched on April 7th, by Mrs. R.G. Reid Newcastle England
Newfoundland Legislative Act 1913. CAP. XXIII.An Act Respecting the Mail Service of the Colony(Passed April 16, 1913.)
PREAMBLE: “Whereas on the 3rd day of march 1898 an agreement was entered into between the Government and Robert Gillespie Reid, whereby amongst other things the said Robert Gillespie Reid agreed to provide suitable steamboats to perform the mail service of the Colony and, amongst others, one steamer to ply between Port aux Basques and North Sydney” hence the SS Kyle was born.
Arrived at St. John’s NL May 20th 1913 under Command of Captain Lorenzo Stevenson
Nautical Miles – 1929, Kilimeters – 3574, Miles – 2221 (On-Tyne England-St. John’s NL
Sailed through Narrows of St. John’s with Captain Lorenzo Stephenson . Known as the fastest and strongest of alphabet fleet. Hull built with extra steel to conquer the ice of the North Atlantic
Operated as coastal boat between Newfoundland and Labrador under Commission Government.
Kyle, acting as hospital ship, rescued shipwrecked crew of SS Duchess of Marlborough. Duchess was stranded on Hussey’s Rock, near Battle Harbour. Who will rescue the Kyle?
The worst storm for many years commences. S.S. Newfoundland’s crew meet terrible disaster.
March 31, 1914.
S. S. Southern Cross lost near Trepassey Bay with all hands.
April 3. 1914
S. S. Kyle, with Minister PICCOTT, sails in search for Southern Cross.
April 12. 1914
Sealer Bloodhound, Capt. J. WINSOR, arrives with 8,323. Sealer Seal, Capt. MURLEY, arrives with 5,987. S.S. Kyle returns after prolonged but fruitless search for Southern Cross.
Kyle picked up 12 destitute men at Grady and took them home.
1914 WW 1
Ferried Newfoundland troops on first step of trip to war.
Ferry between Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques.
Walter Simms wrote of blockade of ice around his island near Hermitage and Fortune Bays. No supplies for 52 families rationed out, his baby brother died of starvation waiting for supplies. Finally, the Kyle broke through the ice on April 9, the Good Ship Kyle. There’s national shame in letting the Bluenose die on the reefs of Haiti, don’t let the Lady Kyle die a watery death. The Kyle could be tied up to a boardwalk along the shore, waiting to cast off her lines, a museum and memorial to the men and women of Newfoundland and Labrador who eked their subsistence from the cold North Atlantic.
NOTE: We need a new Act respective of the history and culture of Newfoundland and a memorial to our seafaring men and their families. I’d like to see the new legislative bill signed by Danny Williams on this Fifteenth day of September, In the Year of our Lord 2010.
“ NEW” January 20, 1923 Telegraph News (Part 2) Feb 8th S.S. Kyle is due at Port aux Basques this afternoon after terrible battle with waves and ice since Sunday. Second mate, Robert CARTER was washed overboard and drowned and seaman Frederick BLACKMORE had leg injured while cutting ice off rail. The schr. Workman was run down by S.S. Maryland off Portugal on her way with load of fish. Crew are to be landed at Madras. Vessel owned by Hickman & Co.
“Hearty congratulations were due Captain Stevenson for the excellent seamanship displayed while crew share these with him for the manner in which they conducted themselves in a situation which only the bravest could surmount.” Footnote Them days Vol. 9 No 4 p 13 This was an article in the Evening Telegram Every member of crew returned frostbitten. The Kyle was caught in a blizzard for several days. One crew member was lost overboard when chopping the ice. He was buoyed up by his rubber suit. The following morning when the captain tried to continue the voyage, he discovered the steering gear was broken. With great difficulty, the Kyle started out again later that evening. The ship arrived at Port aux Basque with her flag half mast. Let’s not fly her flag half mast again.
Returned to Labrador. Ferried fishermen and their families back and forth from St. John’s, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Carbonear to Indian Harbour, Rigolet, Battle Harbour and many other necessary and at times, life-saving stops along the way. The Kyle worked night and day.
The SS Kyle & Captain Ben Tavernor was the final and only ship to find Old Glory’s Remains of William Randolph Hearst’s monoplane of the New York Daily Mirror Newspaper after the attempts of over 50 other American ships, but failed. Thirty -six feet of Old Glory’s wingwith the American flag on her was rescued and brought to a hanger in Bay Roberts.
The substantial crew of the SS Kyle includes Fed Whalen of the Placentia, First mate, Kenneth Harding of Greenspond, Second mate, George Scrrikes Bay Roberts Purser, Sol Courage Chief steward & Alfred Javelin Clark & P. Redmond First Engineers.
There was no radar in those days, but the captain on the boats seemed to have a sixth sense of direction. I would rather trust any one of those old captains than any modern one with their college degrees up to ‘here’ and radar! Footnote: Them Days, Vol.9, No. 4 P. 26 author Robert Davis.
Kyle comes to Indian Harbour. In those days 20,000 men fished for cod along Labrador and the Kyle transported them all. The Kyle dropped into Indian Harbour to pick up an ailing Captain Willet and bring him home. Captain Clark was in charge. “But this fellow Clark! By George, the way he drives that ship is a miracle. Anyone else would pile her up twenty times a trip.” Clark was undaunted by the perils and brought the ship through, “Mark my words he’ll be along tonight about three o’clock, when it’s blackest.” Them days, Vol. 9 No.4 P. 32. Words of Dr. Harry Paddon, Sr.
1st Dr of the SS Kyle – Dr. Nigel Rusted (died 2012)
Doctor Ted Drover was the new medical officer on the Kyle mastered by Captain Tom Connors. Dr Drover wrote “Times have changed and people are better off beyond relief, but they don’t appear to be as happy in their work. The industry seems to have lost its glamour, excitement and atmosphere of romance, so evident when the families moved from home to their stations on the Labrador ON THE GREAT SHIP KYLE” Footnote Them Days Vol. 9 No. 4 P. 46 Have we as Newfoundlanders also lost our excitement and anticipation/? Our heritage and memories lie in the Kyle. We cannot let her die Dr
1939 Captain Earl Winsor wrote the Kyle was the only link, after the Caribou was torpedoed during 2nd WW. (Captain Ben Tavernor lost his life). It was the only ice-breaker we had between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia….The Kyle brought excitement and joy and a feeling of isolation removed when she arrived on her first trip in the spring of the year… There were some-heart breaking days as the children of Labrador were sent off to boarding school visa the Kyle. “there was always one sentimental feeling about her. On the last voyage into Hopedale and Makkovik, where the Moravian Band existed, as the anchor was weighed and the ship steamed slowly out the harbour, the Band would circulate the boat and play “God be with you till we meet again.” “ The sailors always had a mouth organ or accordions. The conditions weren’t always conducive to dances or anything, but the people who traveled on the Kyle enjoyed themselves.
She was a very charming ship, exciting boat.” Footnote: Them Days Vol. 9 No. 4 P. 51 Spoken by Captain Earle Windsor And, she will be again! “Luckily we never had any great disaster on the Labrador coast with the Kyle or any of the passenger boats that I know of. The most powerful one of all went down in the Strait of Belle Isle, you know, hitting just a growler, the William Carson. When you think of that one and what work the Kyle used to do down through the years, it’s amazing we’re all alive! Footnote: As above P 55
SS Caribou torpedoed during 2WW with Captain Ben Tavernor and his First Mate Stanley Tavernor going down with the ship. One hundred and thirty-nine met their fate that night. A great master gone. Years earlier, true to his word, he found the wing of Old Glory. 1949 Kyle purchased by CNR and routed back to ferrying between Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques plus service to Botwood/Bay of Islands and Labrador.
Arrival of the SS Kyle Rescue on the Burin Peninsula Feb. 8 1942. The 3 major US Navy ships, Pollux, Truxion & Wilkes were the three major players in the most dramatic and worst disasters in US Naval history. With the Pollux & Truxion crashed on the rocks due to the violent storm and the Wilkes managing to stay off and there was no way to rescue the men in the water from this area. With the SS Kyle battling the raging storm and discovered it would be impossible to attempt rescue from this area set a course for St, Laurence Harbour. Despite the rolling of the ship and the danger the SS Kyle would be battered to death by the rocks they tied her up the best they could and marched their way over land through the storm with as many blankets, ropes, axes and supplies, including 2 nurses O’Flaherty & Reddy to the Iron Springs Mine. They all did what they could to lend assistance in the Rescue.
“In seven years I saw all the coast; St. John’s to St. Anthony, Red Bay to Cape White Handkerchief beyond Saglek and what a world of beauty, terror, peace, storm, sunrises and sunsets, and happy landfalls the old Kyle introduced me to thirty years ago. Footnote As Above P. 61 , Written by RN Joan Stedman
The Kyle was just fabulous, a boat you’d remember. Captain O’Keefe was a fine man but quiet, but you felt you were safe, you know, that he could handle the ship. It was never boring, not on theKyle, because the music room was always a hive of activity. There was usually somebody on her that could play…There was always something going on and you almost felt like a big family. Footnote: As Above P. 63 Written by Ruby Baikie
Kyle sold to USA owned Shaw Steamships of Halifax bought the Kyle and renamed it the Arctic Eagle
For many years the Kyle has been the friend of all the coast; “We shall not fail you, storm or shine” her gallant captain’s boast. From Carbonear to george’s Cove. From Fishing Ships to Smokey Though her music room is crowded and her cabins awful pokey- We have welcomed her. The Kyle is here is echoed down the shore, And now they tell us we have lost her from the Labrador” As Above, p 87 by Joan Stedman Be careful my fellow men before the Kyle is no more And lose her soon we really will, if no one takes up the cry We have to build her up and make her fine before she lies On the ocean floor, gone for good for evermore…history lost by Libby Earle
Captain Guy Earle bought the Arctic Eagle renaming her the SS Kyle. Guy knew of the Kyle’s reinforced hull and ice-breaking capabilities. He wanted the SS Kyle for his first foray into the seal hunt. He wanted to be able to outmaneuver the Norwegian, Scandinavian, Russian and other seal-hunters around the globe. The SS Kyle was the ship to do this.
SS Kyle under Captain Eric Guy Earle successfully attended the annual seal hunt. Despite the Greenpeace cries and all the bad press, (Bridget Bardot) the Kyle persevered. How can Bridget Bardot ask Obama to end seal hunt. Obama doesn’t run Canada. Just like McCartney mixing up provinces, Bardot is mixing up countries. They should take Geography 101!
“Kyle drifted fast in heavy ice flow until the 50-year-old vessel came to rest against a towering ice berg about 100-150 feet high on March 28th. Said the 47-years old captain, Guy Earle, “You could hardly see the top of it for snow drifts.” He thought winds at the time to be gale force T 85 MILES AN HOUR. He said he feared the giant berg would turn over and crush the ship.” … Captain Earle said most of the deck was filled with heavy ice. Outside the boat was bulged in right from the midship to its bow on one side. As above, p 91 from the Evening Telegram. The top of vessel was torn asunder. Guy was able to get the Kyle, his men and the seals safely back to Carbonear, where he tied the Kyle to his wharf at Earle’s Fisheries.
After unloading all the seal pelts the following day Guy Earle, Charlie Dowden his Dad Stephen Dowden, and the Engineers took the SS Kyle to St. John’s to be inspected on dry dock by Jim Anderson (CSI) Canadian Steamship Inspector only to find out there was closer to $150,000 worth of damage and was only insured for $100,000.00. They launched her back into the water and brought her back late that night to Carbonear Harbour.
For the Next 2 days they unloaded all the food and salvageable goods ashore. Guy had asked Charlie Dowden & His Dad Stephen, both Captains along with the ships engineer Gerald Bernard M to moore the SS Kyle in Harbour grace where Charlie dropped the steam anchors with a good spread. Her boilers would cool for her final and last time.
Later that year one of her anchor chains broke and the
A violent storm hit the wharf and the Kyle broke loose from her mooring, and she was adrift again but this time without captain and crew. She drifted into Harbour Grace and has been resting upon a muscle bed ever since. No watery grave for her, our Lady Kyle. I have taken the liberty of renaming her Lady Kyle, for she no longer is using her steam ship ways to ply the North Atlantic. The Lady Kyle sits instead, quietly with a Fist.
During the First year the SS Kyle was aground looting started with many residents stealing memeto’s for themselves’s, and the Earle Brothers decided to sell the SS Kyle for scrap to Dominion Metals Salvage Co. When the gale fetched her up in the shallows off the community of Riverhead in 1967 it was the end of her days afloat.
Captain Guy Earle Died on February 19th,1968 of a Heart Attack. www.captainguyearle.com
The SS Kyle is sold the the provincial Government for $4000.00
Memories of May Sulley: “I spent many happy hours on the SS Kyle as a passenger. At nights when she was anchored everyone, I including the captain and stewards, would gather in the Music Room for a sing-along, to tell stories, and play cards. It was a beautiful moonlit night and calm waters, everyone on deck square danced to an accordion or mouth organ. As far as I’m concerned, there will never be another ship more comfortable to sleep on and she has lots of room to move about. I have fond memories of the Kyle and if given a choice of which boat to sail on it would definitely be the SS Kyle. Long live her name, at least.” But, we need to save much more than her name. I know the people of Newfoundland are worried about the roads, the jobs, but don’t they realize if we rebuild the Kyle and make viable businesses out of her, the roads will be repaired and jobs will appear. Build it and they will come!!! The Kyle meant so much to so many people. The town folk would run to meet the Kyle, whenever she pulled in day or night. Fishermen and their families would dance on the wharf waiting for the Kyle to come. If the Kyle was late, they would dance all night. Now, it is the Kyle who waits.
The Kyle delivered the mail, necessary food, had a doctor, saved lives and made people happy. Couples met, became engaged and almost married on the Kyle. I will be retaking my vows on the Lady Kyle in the future, as soon as she is restored. The Kyle went through rough ice, dangerous seas, and survived and her people survived. As the Kyle saved and helped so many, who will help her now? The Lady Kyle is alone, waiting. We, as the people of Newfoundland have to save her now before she destructs totally, toppling over into the icy water. God has given us a chance. We owe it to ourselves to have this nautical museum, restored as she once was, for all to visit. She will be making people happy again, memorialized for the Newfoundland people and the world.
Different notable people have tried to restore the Kyle. Friends of the Kyle was a committee created in about 1996. Then several letters and requests were sent in to the Harbour Grace Mayor’s office. Don Coombs office received a letter from the honorable R. John Efford, P.C.M.P. Avalon, on July 28, 2004. In this letter the Honorable John Efford gave his support to the Town of Harbour Grace for her application for the Kyle to be designated as a National Historic Site. He continued: “ Given the rich and colorful history of the S.S, Kyle, with regard to its service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador since 1913, the S.S. Kyle certainly deserves to receive designation as a National Site.
Hon John Efford had earlier written in 1995, On behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation hereby authorizes the “Friends of the Kyle” Committee to apply for Federal Government ‘Green Project’ funding for the purpose of cosmetic upgrading of the vessel.
John Murphy, Mayor of St. John’s wrote his support on February 12, 1996.
Funding raised for paint the SS Kyle in 1996 for Matthew Celebration
George Sweeney MHA of Carbonear-Harbour Grace District wrote on July 23, 2004: …” my full support for your application to have the ss Kyle designated as a National Historic Site.
After his first trip in June to Newfoundland, Elizabeth Earle ( Libby’s) Husband Brian DePiero starts the www.sskyle.com on October 19th
Libby has meeting with Provincial Government for permission to restore the SS Kyle.
Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, verbally gave her support during her meeting with me in June.
Libby receives written permission from the provincial Government in November
1st Annual Swim the Kyle by Libby Earle 9/12/2010
SS Kyle Photo make June issue of World Ship Trust Review by Brian DePiero
2nd Annual Swim the Kyle by Libby Earle 9/11/2011
SS Kyle Photo makes March issue with written article in June issue World Ship Review by Brian DePiero
3rd Annual Swim the Kyle by Libby Earle 9/15/2012
SS Kyle Turns 100 Years old
4th Swim the Kyle by Libby Earle, Sandy Morris, 9/14/2013
Kelly Russell Recites his Dads famous Poem 9/14/2013 following swim the Kyle
2014 5th Annual Swim the Kyle July 12th was the largest organized gathering Harbour Grace has had in many years.
2015 6th Annual Swim the Kyle “Cancelled” due to safety issues. The event was then called Kyle Festival. 2016 – No Celebrations were scheduled.