Gros Morne History: Rev. Rule finds solace in the “Old Man”

4 The Old Man

The “Old Man” near the southern entrance to Bonne Bay.

The Rev. Ulricus Zwinglius Rule was lonely. The first Church of England minister (indeed, the first cleric of any denomination) assigned to Bonne Bay, his parish stretched from Bay of Islands to Port au Choix!

In his solitude, Rule often gazed at the “Old Man,” the prominent rock pillar near the southern entrance to Bonne Bay, which had  “the appearance of the head and shoulders of an elderly man with a garland on his brow.”  Looking up from the sea shore, he “was comforted. Such a steadfast looking man, and so cheery; and the evening glory about his head, as I have seen it sometimes makes him seem like one who has reached a perfection attained scarcely this side the grave. . . The Old Man made me think of St. Simeon . . .waiting for the coming of Christ, and encouraged me to look for the good time when my mission should be divided, and more appropriate provision be made for the spiritual needs of the people.”

He pictured the Old Man presiding over the Bay from aboriginal days to the coming of the British settlers. His view, common enough in those by-gone days, was that the English settlers in the Bay, being Christians, were superior to our first peoples. And his poem reflects the values of the times as seen by an English gentleman.

 

“An aged man of vigorous thought and will,

O’er whom had passed full many a changeful year…..

Stood peering above the summit of a hill…

 

From the recesses of the land, from woods,

Ravines, and marshes, rock strewn plains and hills…

Rude tribes were wont to come here to behold

The living broad expanse..

 

Here by the water’s edge

They pitched their fragile shelters; light canoes

Bore them from shore to shore. The hospitable smoke

From out the sheltering hills uprose, and spread

In the thin air…

 

The inner land now lies a solitude

The Indian tribes as snow in summer melted

Have passed away…

 

Sons of fair Britain now

A stronger race, win from the sea a livelihood

And in this bay now make their constant home.

But greater e’en than this the moral change:

Far happier now the home, a Christian home,

The aged Simeon’s hope, the CHRIST, has come.” (42-43)

 

(from Rev U.Z. Rule, 1927 “Reminiscences of My Life”  Dicks and Co, St. John’s)

Antony Berger

Antony Berger is the author of The Good and Beautiful Bay: A History of Bonne Bay (to Confederation and a Little Beyond).