…..or I Miss My Dad
Here is a bio of my Dad, written by family friend, June Warr.
A TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN HAROLD PARSONS
July 31, 1930 – September 2, 1989
“I must go down to the sea again”
To anyone who was at all familiar with Skipper Harold Parsons, those words are especially apt. He did seem compelled ‘to go down to the sea again”. In recent years since his retirement from fishing, each morning at sunrise, and before, found him at the waterfront. There he truly must have felt at home.
Harold, the son of Peter and Susie Parsons, was born in 1930 in Pilley’s Island. His sister Marie (married to Gerald Abbott) resides in Musgrave Harbour; his stepbrother Lloyd and his stepsister Grace both predeceased him. Harold grew up in Lushes’ Bight, learning at a very early age, an independency which was to become his trademark. He was only eleven when he went to sea with his father. He learned navigation quickly and by age 16, he had gained his clearance as captain becoming the youngest person in Newfoundland to accomplish this.
Harold courted and married Phyllis Short from Beaumont which is a sister community to Lushes Bight on Long Island. They were wed on June 30, 1952 and settled first in Pilley’s Island. The early years of their marriage saw Harold once again on the water. He ran a passenger boat between the islands often taking sick people to Springdale Hospital. Once arriving in Springdale, he would carry in his arms sick or injured patients who were unable to make it on their own to the hospital.
As for many other Newfoundlanders, the 1960s marked a time of change for the Parsons’ family. On the 18th of October 1960, Harold launched his house in Pilley’s Island and floated it all the way to Lewisporte. There the family took up residence and Captain Harold became a reluctant ‘landlubber’. He worked for the next year at Winston Locke’s Garage and a further six years with Lewisporte Woodworkers. Work necessitated another move to Springdale in 1967. Employed by Hewlett’s, then with R. Manuel and finally going into business on his own filled the years from 1967 to 1979. At that time, a lifetime dream was realized. Harold acquired the fishing vessel The Willing Lass.
No tribute to Harold Parsons would be complete or fitting without a tribute to his schooner. The H.M and H. Humby was built in the late 1940s by Samson Humby of Summerville in Bonavista Bay. The late Clayton Johnson of Catalina owned and operated the schooner for a number of years under the name Maxine Johnson. When Cyril Pelley of Pelley Enterprises acquired her in the 1960s from Jesse Collins of Hare Bay, she was little more than a derelict. The Pelleys rebuilt her completely even outfitting her with two new engines. They operated her for a number of years under the name The Willing Lass. So it was that in 1979, the last operational fishing vessel of that style built in Newfoundland went to the Labrador fishery with her new owner Captain Harold Parsons at the helm.
The years from 1979 – 1986 brought to fulfillment a lifelong dream for Harold. Each May, schooner, captain and crew set out for ‘the Labrador fishery’ and each fall in September heralded the return of the tired, yet triumphant crew. It was, with numbing shock, that one learned of the sudden and disastrous storm on August 31st, 1986 which resulted in the loss of Skipper Harold’s schooner off Cape Bauld.
Harold often told interesting stories about his life at sea; some of which kind of baffled him. One such experience during WWII happened while shipping lumber into the port of Botwood. For some unknown reason his ship was sighted (by a sub, we assume) then mistakenly shot upon as it entered the harbour! As a matter of course, Harold would minimize his own role in situations such as having to go ashore on a rope once in a storm off Belle Isle in order safely to secure their boat. However, whenever he talked of the demise of The Willing Lass, one recognized immediately the deep emotional attachment that he felt towards his schooner.
Throughout his life, Captain Harold maintained a respect for citizenship. He was a member of the Masonic Order, served as past president of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce and of the United Church AOTS Men’s Club. He was President of the Springdale Lions Club in ’74 -’75. He kept avidly interested in politics. He was a champion for handicapped children and of ‘old timers’ always having time to chat with both.
His own children Mary, June, Judy, Peter and Tammy were first in his heart and it is no surprise that his son Peter and some of his daughters as well have inherited his great passion for the sea.
No stranger to pain, Captain Harold Parsons bore his aches with the same independence that, all his life, earmarked him as truly unique. He will long be remembered and sadly missed.
E.E. Cummings knew all about what most of us Parsons’s feel about the ocean:
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