A Song for Red Island

The Spirit and the Apple Tree

©Abbeyfield Productions, 2013

C                       G                   Am
Granite and sandstone collided
C                     Em                    Am                          D7
to make an island in the middle of Placentia Bay.
Em                   C
Close to the fishing grounds,
Em                                         C
a place where hope and peace abounds;
F                             C                         G7                          C
Red Island, the place where my heart will always stay.

Basque, Portuguese and French
fishers settled on Isle Rouge and it became their proud domain.
Then fortunes did intervene,
Britain took over in 1713.
Families moved on but Red Island knew it would rise again.

Sure enough came another wave of settlers;
Ireland’s sons and daughters came for better lives to build.
So once again the harbour rang
and children, happy songs they sang.
The spirit grew strong again as hearts and minds they thrilled.

Red Island before resettlement. My family home is the double house in the middle foreground. The part on the right was built in the early 1800s by my Great Grandfather Maurice Barry and the part on the left was built in the late 1800s by his son William aka Skipper Billy. The image was provided to http://www.redislandnf.ca by Betty Spurvy.

Generations of families grew up there.
The western boats and gardens provided for their needs.
But leaders sometimes betray;
they uprooted all—sent them away.
“Resettlement for a better life,” the government decreed.

Our family home, 1985, 20 years after resettlement. The house was dismantled a few years later and the apple tree started to fade shortly after.

Our family home, 1985, 20 years after resettlement.  See the big apple tree in the front yard. It was planted by my Father and Grandfather around 80 years ago. The house was dismantled a few years later and the apple tree started to fade shortly after that.

C                           D                               Em
The Island was supposed to be abandoned.
C                                   Am                         Em                 D
The modern way was not better and jobs did not exist.
C                           D                           Em
People looked back across the water
F                                     Am                             D7               G
“Stay off of it, you’re better here,” the leaders still insist.

But the spirit of Red Island knows better.
This is not the first time that people have moved away.
Some may have thought this was for good,
but cycles run, just as they should.
And you know that the spirit will rise again someday.

Just last week my old friend Patrick told me
about the apple tree Skipper Billy planted there years ago.
The apples now they grow once more,
better, sweeter than ever before,
just like the thoughts of the old home that still sets hearts aglow

A recent picture of the tree. It's back and stronger than ever.

A recent picture of the tree. It’s back and better than ever.

D                       A                   Bm
Granite and sandstone collided
D                     F#m                    Bm                       E7
to make an island in the middle of Placentia Bay.
F#m                   D
Close to the fishing grounds,
F#m                                         D
a place where hope and peace abounds;
G                             D                         A7                          D
Red Island, the place where my heart will always stay.


In the meantime for anyone who’s reading this–go ahead and play away. It’s easy to play. Just read a verse silently to yourself and you’ll get the rhythm. It plays in 4/4 moderate. You can do it with just down strums or arpeggiate until it feels right.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Newfoundland and Labrador, poetry/songs, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to A Song for Red Island

  1. Mary says:

    Great lyrics – Would love to hear the tune also!Can you add a clip / link to it on your guitar?! Would be interested to read more about the French and Basque settlement of Red Island. Where is this info ? Is it in any books or just from the oral history tradition.

    • I’ll have to get a few buddies together to help refine it a bit first 🙂 I will also have to be more careful in keeping bibliographic notes. Yes, I have read primary documents about it but I’d be hard pressed to name them offhand. By the way, speaking of the oral tradition, I do recall Dad often saying that when the so-called original settlers (McCarthy, Barry, Tobin, etc.) came to the island they found several French brothers still living here. If I remember correctly he said they were buried out near Bernard Mulroney’s meadow. It makes sense as Captain Tavernor did not kick everyone out and I am pretty sure he did not record visiting Red Island during his trip to “swear ’em in or kick ’em out” after Utrecht came into effect here.

  2. Splendid view of a place close to your heart, an overseas visit I enjoyed.

  3. Martin says:

    Maurice, thanks for the great story of your family home and Red Island. I am so glad the apple tree has found new life. Think about recording yourself singing the song and putting that as an addition to this post. I’d look forward to that. Best wishes. Martin-Comox on the other side.

  4. Berk & Kay Mulrooney says:

    Very Interresting topic Maurice,I remember Years Back After we Left RedIsland & We went Back There Fishing & I took A Walk To the GraveYard & I Found A Headstone With A French Name On It.It Was up From were Mike Lambe Was Buried.I asked My Father About The Grave & He Said There Were French People Buried There From years Back.

  5. ursula barry marche says:

    my name is ursula Barry MARCHE o i wish my dad was alive to see red island again he name was Bert hes father was willman once he left he never got back . i know he would have love to go back for visit

  6. Great! A beautiful song about your beloved Red Island. Now you just have to record a clip…there is nothing such as an “old voice “! The chords seem very melodic, maybe I will try them out tomorrow too…

  7. Others have suggested this be put to live music, recorded, and posted. I am not musical so cannot hear hear the melody … I will leave that up to you. Why was the house dismantled after resettlement? You gave the impression (in an earlier post) that it was being looked after (perhaps that was the gentleman who recently passed away?). I am sorry it had to go … but am equally glad your Dad’s apple is still there. Next time you’re out you should collect some fruit for seed to replant the family legacy. We did that with maple seed from our first farm … before we left it we collected and planted seed … when we arrived here in PA we planted the seedlings and now have a wonderful Silver Maple from which we have collected seed. We now have three (third ‘generation’) seedlings which we plan to take with us on a potential future move. How often do you get out to Red Island? If you’ll be out before the snow flies perhaps you can collect some seed? D

    • Thanks to Jimmy we got an extra 20 years of use out of the house. By 1985, though, the age and the lack of large scale maintenance had taken its toll. My Father had died the previous year and with it, maybe some of my desire to continue maintaining the place. I had Jimmy take in down for me and use the wood for his own purposes.
      Sadly I don’t own my own boat so visits to Red Island are now few are far between. I’m there in my thoughts all the time, though and hope, someday to re-establish a smaller dwelling just back of the tree.
      Now, about your idea for the tree. What an excellent idea and I will look into getting ot done soon. I have two places to plant the seeds–my hope in Southern Harbour and my present home here in Mount Pearl.
      Now, finally, as for the singing. I NEVER solo. Yes, I can but I just plain don’t like it. I love singing with others, though and maybe later on when I can convince some friends and family to play along I’ll share a clip.

  8. jennypellett says:

    I wonder if the re-blooming of the apple tree is symbolic. I’d like to think so.

  9. elkement says:

    Yes – a YouTube video please 🙂 I’ll do my best to make it go viral on all social networks.
    The attic storey / the roof of the house had an interesting shape – is this typical for Red Island or Newfoundland?

    • It’s a Mansard roof. Those designs originally came from France. My house was in two parts. The part that made the colour photo is not as old as the part that is only shown in the black and white picture. The older part–I don’t really know how old it really was. It was used by my Great grandfather who was born in 1830 but, maybe it predated him; maybe HIS father used it too since I have o record of that house. Perhaps–and I am only guessing–this was a hold over from when the French were there. An equally likely possibility is that the original building had only one storey and the mansard roof replaced the original as THAT is a very efficient way to add a new storey to an existing building. That often happened in Newfoundland–as families grew so, too, did houses. What an excellent question–up to now I had never given it any thought at all!
      Oh, and the next time you pass a McDonald’s restaurant notice the roof–it is the same 🙂

      • elkement says:

        Thanks! We have a mansard roof, too – but it is not completely flat at the top. I was intrigued in particular by that flat plane, and by the nearly 90 degrees slope. Here mansard roofs are not very common, and they consist of two parts exhibiting different slopes. Thus a small ‘attic’ is still there (There is a specific German term for that ‘top attic storey’ – I have consulted two dictionaries now, and they tells me that there is no English translation for that, other than ‘attic’; the literal translation is something like ‘peaked attic’).

        But the history of our house is similar – we have replaced the pitched roof with a mansard roof and gained a full storey … and this was not the first adaption that had been made in its nearly 95 years history as far as we can tell.

        Sorry for the digression – sometimes it is weird which details catch my attention!

        • …and that’s why comments from you are always fun 🙂
          The roof was not completely flat at the top; it’s just the picture that makes it look that way. The side peaks are much steeper than normal and, to compensate, the top peaks are much less sloped than normal. It was almost rounded at the top instead of peaked. I looked through all of my pictures to see if I had one that showed the roof better but could not find a better one. I did, though, find one from 1961 that showed the two houses, side by side, before the older one was dismantled. You also get to see a baby picture of me and Dad 🙂 He was a LOT older than be–he was 57 at the time.

      • elkement says:

        Thanks for the research 🙂 It’s a nice photo!

  10. seeker says:

    That is a very simple chord. See if I can find a guitar to strum it. I am so glad that the tree has withstand the elements. I must the “relocation” program that Canada did to so many settlers was a disgrace. Can you go back and reclaim the land?

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