Melina Whalen, a past resident of Pilley’s Island, had a soft, sweet voice and an endearing little laugh. You can hear that soft voice in an interview recorded way back in March, 1986. Melina was nearly 89 at the time. You’ll get to hear some tales of how it was ‘back in the day’.
Part of a series of interviews conducted and recorded by Mr. Hiram Silk, the 25 minute recording of Melina can be found on the Memorial University of Newfoundland – Digital Archives website. It was recorded right in her home, the same house where she said she was married, way back in 1916.
“I came in this house the day that I was married,” she said.
Melina said she lived in Pilley’s Island all her life and said that she could remember the mine there in operation. A pyrite mine began in 1887 at Pilley’s Island, and it operated until 1908. It was the first mine in Newfoundland to have electric light. The mine led to a time of economic success for Pilley’s Island. At one time the community even had a courthouse, and a hospital.
Not only could she remember the hospital, she explained she worked at the hospital as a midwife. “I borned, oh, probably 200 babies,” she said in that soft voice of hers.
To listen to Melina, go to the MUN webpage. Click/tap the play button, then click on the progress bar on the player to choose a point to jump into the recording.
[If you find the player on the MUN website is not working well, try a different browser.]
At the 7:00 minute mark she talked about the hospital that used to be in Pilley’s Island.
At the 15:00 minute mark she speaks again about healthcare. She said the hospital at Pilley’s Island was well-equipped, complete with wards and X-ray.
At the 13:45 minute mark she talked about who died in WW1. Pilley’s Island was hit particularly hard in the first world war. Many young men perished. ( Search the database at the Rooms. ) She said she had three brothers in the war, of which one unfortunately died. “He wasn’t gone a year and he was killed,” she remembered. She then went on to speak of the impact of WW1 on the community.
Click this player image to go to the MUN webpage
Melina’s first-hand account of aspects of life in this area in the past and of the effects of historic events are part of the reasons why recordings like this one are so valuable.