Almost Forgotten Tragedy

Below is a Roots to the Past column I wrote earlier this summer. I wanted to share it here to remember the men who were lost on the Mina Swim.

 

An Almost Forgotten Sea Tragedy

Diane Lynn Tibert

I first heard of the fishing vessel the Mina Swim about twelve years ago when my aunt showed me a newspaper article detailing its fate. I had been researching Thomas Taylor, my mom’s mother’s father. I knew very little about the man and because of his common name, I found many Thomas Taylors but never the right one. All I had to go on was he lived in Burin, NL and he was lost at sea when my grandmother was about twelve years old.

To many along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the United States, those three words – lost at sea – chill the spine and make hair stand on end. Those who make their living on the ocean are not divided by provincial or country lines. Their borders are defined instead by the shoreline. When one man is lost at sea, regardless of where he is from, it is equally felt in St. Anthony, NL as it is in Gloucester, Maine. In fact, many fishermen from Gloucester have been lost in Canadian waters and many Atlantic Canadians have been lost on ships out of Gloucester.

But to me the Mina Swim was different; my great-grandfather had supposedly died when it was lost without a trace at sea. My aunt said she had always been told Thomas Taylor had been aboard.

I began chasing after every piece of information I could uncover about the ship. The time period was right. My grandmother would have been eleven that early February in 1917 when the ten-dory banking schooner left Burin for the Grand Banks. One account I found listed a T. Thorne as a crewmember. Knowing the surname could have been a misprint or misspelling of Taylor, I dug deeper.

At last, I came in contact with Robert Parsons, the author of several books on sea disasters. He had researched the Mina Swim and had a list of crewmembers. He was certain Thomas Taylor wasn’t one of them though there was one crewman still unnamed. Could this mystery man be my great-grandfather?

Finding individuals or ships lost between 1917 and 1919 is easy; there were many. The difficult part is finding a specific individual. Eventually, all the possible ways of finding Thomas Taylor and the ship he was lost aboard were exhausted, and I put aside the search.

Last week a message arrived. It was from a distant relative who has also been searching for answers about Thomas Taylor and the Mina Swim. He informed me about the Mina Swim Memorial website (http://minaswim.com) by a Burin committee aimed at preserving and honouring the memory of the men who lost their lives on the vessel.

Visitors to the website can read newspaper clippings about the overdue vessel and the possibility that it may have been struck by an ocean liner. A detailed list of crewmembers is available.

Anyone with information to share, regardless of how little or seemingly insignificant, is welcome to contact one of the individuals listed on the website. It is my hope that by spreading the word about the project that every crewmember – perhaps even my great-grandfather – will finally be named.

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12 thoughts on “Almost Forgotten Tragedy

  1. Love reading every bit of info I can on the Mina Swim, my great grandfather was the captin of the vessel thanks for sharing

  2. My uncle wrote a song about the mina swim which he also researched prior.its nice song that i think ya would like.he is now passed but my aunt is still living.the song was sang by fine tradition which are all my relations.hope this helps.let me know if i can help in some way reguards george

  3. my uncle wrote and sang a song called the mina swim.it is avery nice song that alot of research went into writing.his name is kevin jorgenson-now deceased.his wifes name is selina jorgenson of bulls cove in burin.his sons names are ed from mortier and fred from st johns——-the navigaters.his daughter is carol ann from st johns.the song i think was performed by a group called fine tradition.also the lefeuvres wharf is eric lefeuvres descendents from bullls cove.i think he still lives there.you should listen to the song .i think you would enjoy it.hope this was helpful.

    • Wow, these family names sound very familiar. My cousin is married to a Jorgenson. My great-grandmother was named Selina.

      Thank you for letting me know about the song. If my mother knows about it, she hasn’t told me. Is there a place on the Internet to hear it? Perhaps UTube?

      I’ll google the information and see if I can find the lyrics.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      Aha! I just googled for lyrics and found them on the Mina Swim Memorial Page: http://minaswim.com/facts.html

  4. Hi Diane, I was lucky enough to stumble onto a newspaper clipping in the Digital archives at MUN, the Daily Star March 28th 1917. This clipping lists the crew of 21 and a little more info. I’m sorry to report that Thomas Taylor was not part of the crew. I hope you find out what happened to him and I will keep my eye’s open for any info. on him in my research also….Harold

  5. I enjoyed the article, Diane. I hope this website eventually helps you track down your great-grandfather. It seems a bit sad, all those individuals who have been lost at sea.

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