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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 3: Tragedy

My grandfather Pretty's family story is a tragic one. It started out happily enough though, Mary Ann Day married Robert James Pretty in 1884. A year later, their oldest child Albert was born. Mary Ann was from Old Shop. Robert, from Dildo, worked as a fisherman, as had his father before him.

                                         Dildo, Trinity Bay

Over the next fifteen years, Robert and Mary Ann Pretty had seven children, two girls and another five boys. One of the girls, Sarah Lydia, died at two years of age. Then, by 1903, Robert was dead from tuberculosis. In 1906, the second oldest, Harry died of tuberculosis. His death was posted in the newspaper at the time.

Evening Telegram – St. John’s, Nfld.

November 10, 1906 – Died at Dildo – A Telegram was received today telling of the death of Mr. Harry Pretty at Dildo. He worked as an apprentice engineer at the R.N. Co. machine shops and being very ill went to Dildo for his health’s sake. He was a brother to Mr. A. Pretty of the Dispatching Office of the R.N. Co. and was very popular.


   Dildo, Trinity Bay. At one time, all the land above the road was owned by the Pretty family.


Albert married Maggie Pike of Port aux Basques and they lived in St. John's. Albert worked in the dispatching office at the Royal Newfoundland Railway. ( How did Albert and Maggie meet and how did Albert get that job? Had Albert started his career on the trains and met Maggie in Port aux Basques? I guess we'll never know.) 

It seems that Mary Ann and the children lived in St John's as well after Robert died but returned to Dildo when she got sick. (Was Mary Ann working in St. John's to support her family?) She died a year later.

This is the notice from the newspaper at the time of her death.

Evening Telegram – St. John’s, Nfld

June 5, 1908 – Mrs. Pretty Dead – Mrs. Pretty, mother of Mr. A. Pretty, Chief Dispatcher of the R.N. Co.’s office, died at Dildo, Trinity Bay at 4 o’clock last evening. Deceased, who had been residing in town ary Annwent to Dildo in July hoping that a change of air would arrest the progress of the disease consumption. She had been ailing of about a year. Deceased was in her 47th year. Leaves five sons and one daughter to who the Telegram extends its sympathy in having lost their dear mother. Her husband predeceased her about four years ago.


Emily Muriel was the oldest child at home at the time of her mother's death. At eighteen, she had responsibility of the boys, and this is where Old Shop and Mary Ann's family help out. We think that Emily Muriel and the boys, Fred, Sam, Cyril and Robert, ranging in age from, fifteen to seven, went to live in Old Shop. Soon Fred went to work at the railway in St. John's where he boarded on Shaw Street. Cyril eventually lived with Albert, Maggie and their daughter Mildred in St. John's. This left Sam and Robert in Old Shop with their sister.


Albert died in 1910 and Maggie eventually moved back to Port aux Basques with Mildred and Cyril. A year later, my grandfather started work in St. John's as a locomotive fireman, the way paved for him by Albert, Harry and Fred before him. Cyril eventually worked with the railway as well, out of Port aux Basques.


               Albert Pretty's headstone


                      Grandfather Samuel Pretty's Engineman's Certificate

          Cyril and Norah (LeMoine) Pretty


Sadly, Emily Muriel died of tuberculosis at the sanitorium and Robert, the youngest, died in 1918; all but three of the family died of tuberculosis. How had Fred, Sam and Cyril survived when the disease was all around them and so easily spread? What must it have been like to have both parents and so many siblings succumb to the terrible disease? I imagine the dying parents admonished the children to be good, not to cause any trouble to those who would care for them.

Mary Ann's brother and his wife appear to be instrumental in caring for the orphaned Pretty children. Fred and his family stayed in touch with Abner and Phoebe Day. Between 1896 and 1917, Phoebe and Abner had eleven children. They were also very kind and possibly cared for Mary Ann's children after her death as well. While Abner died in 1939, Phoebe lived into her nineties, dying in 1968. Obviously she was tiny but mighty!


        Great Uncle Fred Pretty, Phoebe Day and Fred's Wife, Jessie

2 comments:

  1. According to my grandfather John Day , Mary Ann died at Phoebe and Abner's home in Old Shop.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good to know, Bill. Thanks for the information. Marie

    ReplyDelete