LISTEN | Irene Toms Interview

LISTEN | Irene Toms Interview

Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Digital Archives Initiative website hosts an interview recorded in the 1980s with Irene Toms, who lived in Rattling Brook until her passing. (She was probably in her 80s when the interview was recorded.)

The audio file is 18 minutes long, but some beginning audio seems to have not been included in this particular audio file. Nevertheless, it is a delight to hear Irene talk about growing vegetables, starting a shop in Rattling Brook and what prices were at that time for some items. Irene also told of how the building of a road into Rattling Brook impacted her business. (The best stories are those of duck hunting.)

On more solemn notes, she reports of how her father had spoken of diphtheria striking Shoe Cove hard. (We can assume this to be a reference to the diphtheria epidemic of the late 1800s.)

Irene also spoke of and the impact of the Great Depression, and of how one man in Caplin Cove, near Shoe Cove,  actually starved to death because the merchant refused him more supplies. shows this was not unheard of. Malnutrition was rampant and deaths happened, especially to infants. The whole situation led to riots in St. John’s. Some people in outports were often indebted to merchants who provided food and other supplies on credit and took their catch as payment. Some men sank into debt to the point that some merchants cut their credit altogether.

>> Hear more on the Great Depression. Here is the link to Irene’s interview <<<