William Minty Morry
Born: 22 Feb. 1918
Married: 5 Nov. 1942
Died: 11 Oct. 2004
St. John’s, NL
Born: ca 1923
Died: ca 1996
William Minty and “Pat” Morry
The War Years
Bill joined the Newfoundland Police (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary) in St. John’s during the autumn of 1938, just before the outbreak of hostilities in Europe.
Bill in uniform as an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
When war broke out, he enlisted in the British Army. Newfoundland was not permitted to field its own Regiment in the Second World War as it had been in World War I. In February 1940, therefore Bill resigned from the police force and sailed for Britain with the first 400 draft on board the ship Duchess of Richmond, which had been pressed into service as a troop carrier.
On April 14th,1940, the ship landed at Liverpool and was met by Sir Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary and all on board went to Wollich Depot to be equipped with uniforms and other necessary small gear. Then, without training, they were sent to the coast of Norfolk on Coastal Defence equipped with artillery guns, rifles etc., that had been condemned in1918. He remained there until Dunkirk, receiving some training, until relieved by a British Regiment. Then the Newfoundlanders went on to Larkhill where they were given much better equipment including 25 pounder guns which are still in use today and new rifles and machine guns. From there they went on to Scotland for training on Landing Craft. When the training was completed, they embarked for North Africa where they took part in several major battles until the surrender of the German Africa Corps. At that point action moved across the Mediterranean, landing on toe of Italy. Bill took part in most major battles of that campaign such as Cassino, Foggia, Lanciano and Ortona, ending at the Po valley when the war in Europe finally came to an end. Eventually he returned to England and helped organize drafts to Newfoundland until returning himself in December of 1945. There he rejoined the Police after being discharged from the Army in February, 1946, with the rank of Sergeant No. 1 with exemplary military conduct. Subsequently he joined the Canadian Militia Reserve and finished up with the rank of Captain, remaining active until his retirement from the Militia at age seventy.
Here is a letter written home in February 1945 to his sister Phyl, whom he affectionately knew as “Carrots” because of her red hair. In the letter he expresses his desire, shared by all of his fellow Newfoundland soldiers, to get home at least on leave, if not permanently, as soon as possible.
Bill describes the equipment given to the Newfoundlanders and others who stood in defence of Britain’s coastline at the start of the war:
“In the coastal defence operations opposite France we were equipped with guns mothballed after W W I. These guns were more dangerous to us than the enemy we were later equipped with much better small arms and what later became a very useful gun, the 25 pounder still in use today. During the time of the evacuation of the allied army from France, we were patrolling the east coast of England armed mostly with pick handles called stick patrol. I don’t think we could have destroyed many German tanks with that weapon! Funny now, but not then. Hitler missed his best chance, of course. Winston Churchill was threatening them with all sorts of dire consequences if they dared to set foot on England’s shore. Great poker player was Our Winston!”
Bill Morry, Second from right at rear
Bill never forgot his loyalty to those who fought for their country. He was very active in the Royal Canadian Legion in many roles, up to and including Provincial President and executive member of Dominion Command. He has continued to this day to participate in the activities of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Bill Morry escorting Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
In sports, he represented the Legion provincially in track and field and other local sports activities. Outside of his Legion duties, he was for several years President of the Baltimore Track Club and the Southern Shore Hockey Team. He has also served as a JP for the Ferryland District and also as a member of The Atlantic Press Council representing The Evening Telegraph for ten years
The “Singing Legionnaire”
The Morrys were in the fish business in one way or another for more than 200 years. Matthew Morry (1750-1836) was undoubtedly not the first in the line to ply the trade, at least seasonally, but he was the first to take up residence permanently in Newfoundland. From his time right down to the modern era, Morrys ran fishing operations (fishing, fish products, sales and shipping) in and out of Caplin Bay (later Calvert) and Ferryland. In earlier generations they also had some association with the industry in Bonavista Bay and on the Labrador.
Bill Morry was the last in his line to be able to eke out a living from the progressively failing fishery. Through times of plenty and times of hardship (more often than not the latter) he managed the Morry fish business in Ferryland. He also represented the interests of the fishing industry as Director of the Fish Trades Association and later President and Chairman of the Association and for 14 years as a Director of the Fisheries Council of Canada, in which capacity he travelled Canada from coast to coast.
One can only imagine how heart-breaking and devastating it must then have been for Bill to see the fishery collapse due to mismanagement and rapacious offshore fishing practices by the 1980’s, to the point where it was no longer possible to keep the Morry fish business afloat. The business was sold to other interests but only lasted a year or two before it was finally closed for good.
Bill Morry was the last of the Morrys running a fishing operation in Ferryland
The end of a 200 year old tradition
Paula and Peter Morry, ca. 1970
Sonia and Steven, November 1994
Jo, Jonathan, Peter, Rebecca and Nathan (seated)
In 2003, Stuart McLean, of CBC’s Vinyl Café fame, re-released his folksy study of small town Canada entitled Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada, which had first been published in 1993. This 10th anniversary edition provided an epilogue to some of the earlier accounts. For me it was of interest because I had never seen the original publication and so was quite surprised to learn that there was a chapter on Ferryland in it and that several pages were devoted to his encounter with Uncle Bill, Aunt Pat and others in the community.
Stuart McLean’s style of writing has been compared to that of Peter Gzowski (his partner for many years on Morningside) and indeed they have both tended to report on what they see and hear in their encounters with ordinary Canadians with a bit of a “rose-tinted glasses” view of the world. Nevertheless it makes for interesting reading. Here, without permission of the author, but I hope with his acceptance and understanding, is the portion of the chapter on Ferryland that relates most to the Morrys. The book can be purchased, along with others by Stuart McLean, direct from CBC at: http://www.cbc.ca/vinylcafe/books.html