Ann Harvey Nomination Letter

February 15th, 2009

Glenn Keough
Provincial Historic Commemorations Board
P.O. Box 8700, Colonial Building
St. John’s, NL
A1B 4J6

Mr. Keough:

We would like to nominate Ann Harvey of Isle aux Morts, Newfoundland and Labrador, for consideration by the Provincial Historic Commemorations Board.

We feel that Ann Harvey and her family, through their heroism and hospitality, have had a significant impact on this province demonstrating to the whole world these most positive traits of our people. Our community is very proud of our rich maritime heritage and feels that in a province where shipwrecks are so common, Ann’s story has emerged as a very unique one because of the magnitude of her heroic deeds and the fact that she was able to repeat it in a span of ten years. Equally important is the fact that she played such a prominent role at a time when women were thought to be ‘invisible’ people in our society. In her October 3rd, 2008 release unveiling her government’s new initiative of Character: Newfoundland and Labrador, Education Minister Joan Burke probably summarized the role of notable women like Ann Harvey best when she said: “The province we enjoy today is founded on the strength and determination of the women and men of Newfoundland and Labrador’s past. They saved lives, tended the sick and provided spiritual guidance.” Through this program Ann’s extraordinary contribution is being celebrated along with other remarkable women like Myra Bennett, Elizabeth Goudie and Doris Saunders. For this reason, we see it befitting to nominate Ann Harvey as an EXCEPTIONAL PERSON who has played a significant role in our history and culture.

Further proof of the significance of this story is the type of recognition it has received after one hundred eighty years. Most recently it has been the subject of an award winning novel, ‘Ann and Seamus’, by Newfoundland author Kevin Major. Former Memorial University president, Dr. Axel Meisen, read the novel and thought the story would be a good topic for an opera so he pitched the idea to Susan Knight, artistic director of the acclaimed choir, Shallaway. In turn, Mrs. Knight commissioned Stephen Hatfield, internationally known composer, conductor and educator, to compose a folk opera to further celebrate Ann’s legacy. The chamber opera premiered in St. John’s in June of 2006 and in the summer of 2007 was performed for audiences across Canada and the United States, with a final performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Last summer it was performed in Denmark and Ireland.

Ann’s story is only now being discovered by some of the descendants of the survivors she helped rescue. Some of them were able to attend the premiere of the opera in St. John’s and none of them could leave the province without first making the trek to Isle aux Morts to witness where this shipwreck occurred and to pay their respects to the family at the Harvey gravesite. One of them, Bruce Arnott, probably best expressed the sentiment these descendants feel for Ann and her family when he wrote “I and many others would never have been born but for Ann Harvey’s courage in rescuing our ancestors from the wreck of the Despatch in 1828…” It begs the question: ‘How many people out there owe their existence to Ann and what have their contributions been to our society?’ All because Ann and her family took the time to help!

While this nomination has a lot of support, one of our main supporters is the Harvey Story Steering Committee which has emerged over the past couple of years to embark on the development of Ann’s story as a major tourism attraction for the community and region. This Committee consists of representatives of the two levels of government, along with the municipal government, key development groups, and private stakeholders in the community.

Please find enclosed our nomination. We understand this nomination will first be reviewed by the PHCB Secretariat for completeness and conformity to the application and program guidelines and eligibility criteria. We are also aware that if all requirements are met, this submission will first be considered by the Board before recommendation to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for approval.

Please contact us if you require further information.


Blanford Billard
Community Development Assistant
On behalf of the Town of Isle aux Morts

Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador,
Honourable Ed Roberts

Town of Isle aux Morts
P.O. Box 110
Isle aux Morts, NL  A0M 1J0
Phone:  (709) 698-3441 or 698-3313
Fax:  (709) 698-3449 or 698-3313
Email: or


Ann Harvey (1811-1845), Isle aux Morts (Dead Islands), Newfoundland and Labrador.


Ann Harvey is being nominated for consideration under criteria 1, an EXCEPTIONAL PERSON who has played a significant role in our history and culture.

Ann was the first of eleven children born to George and Jane Harvey. She grew up on the Dead Islands, on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. It is likely she would have joined her father in his fishing enterprise, particularly as she was the eldest child and three years older than her next sibling in the Harvey family. By 1828, the year of the first rescue, Ann would have had about eight or ten years experience at the inshore fishery. In his narrative poem, Ann and Seamus, Kevin Major described Ann as “the fisherman’s maid born to the ways of the sea.” Nineteenth century French diplomat Joseph de Gobineau referred to such women as “sea-nymphs.” He wrote that English women “haul their boats on to the shore, go and catch fish in the bay with their fathers and husbands, salt it and barrel it with their own hands.”

On the southwest coast, dense fog, powerful eddies, clusters of rocky islets and the absence of lighthouses made navigation perilous in nineteenth century Newfoundland. Shipwrecks were common on that part of the island and the “melancholy name” of one community, the Dead Islands, was thought to be derived from the number of wrecks and fatalities that occurred. In such places, children used bunches of small patent desk and cabinet keys that swept to land as toys, while their fathers spent days burying corpses.

In 1828, at the age of 17, Ann joined her father, and ten-year-old brother Tom in the rescue of 163 passengers and crew from the Brigantine Despatch. Ann’s years in the fishery had helped develop her courage, ability and physical strength. She would have been skillful with oars, knowledgeable about the local waters and navigation hazards, and used to handlining for fish. She was a capable and dependable crew member. It is unlikely that young Tom could have spent sufficient time at sea to have reached that status.

The Despatch left Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on May 29, with at least 200 passengers from the counties of Tyrone, Donegal and Londonderry, bound for Quebec. The ship was commanded by William Lancaster of Workington, England, and had a ten-man crew. On July 10, 1828, it ran aground four miles east of Dead Islands on a sunker, commonly referred to by the locals as the “Bad Neighbour.” Attempts to launch the jolly boat failed, and three people, including the Captain, were lost. Repeated efforts were made to reach the mainland, but rough seas hampered their movement. A small group made it to safety the next day.

Captain Richard Grant of the HMS Tyne had difficulty sailing to the area due to the poor weather, and finally arrived eight days after the Despatch went aground. In his letter to Rear Admiral Charles Ogle he wrote that “infants were washed from their mother’s breast, and some passengers perished from want of sustenance.” Governor Cochrane proposed that all 200 might have lost their lives without the “assistance of a poor and industrious fisherman.”

George Harvey had seen flotsam, and knew when he picked up a keg and a straw bed on Saturday evening at Dead Islands that a ship had foundered. At first light on Sunday, July 13, Ann, Tom and their dog boarded a 12-foot punt with their father. They passed many fragments of wreck as they rowed through heavy surf, wind and rain for about two hours. Over the next three days, they risked their own lives to bring the passengers to safety. They rowed to and from a tiny island, ever since known as Wreck Rock, that the passengers had reached by building a bridge to the rock from the ship’s studding-sail boom. The Harvey rescue party rowed fragile passengers to their home where they would have been cared for by Jane Harvey, Ann’s mother. They made repeated trips to the mainland with passengers, brought their summer’s food stores to the beach for the survivors, and erected temporary shelters. By the time the British naval vessel HMS Tyne arrived, Captain Grant reported there was not an article of food left in the Harvey home. Food was sent to the survivors, and what was left was given by Captain Grant to the Harvey family.

One hundred and fifty-three passengers had been saved, along with 10 of the brig’s crew. The captain and at least forty-seven passengers had drowned or perished. Some were swept from Wreck Rock, some died of fatigue on the rock or after they reached the Newfoundland mainland. The survivors were taken aboard the HMS Tyne and landed in Halifax on July 26.

Archdeacon Wix heard the story of the rescue first hand from Ann Harvey when he visited the southwest coast in the fall of 1830, two years after the shipwreck. “On a rock, three miles from their residence and one mile from shore, they (the Harveys) discovered such of the passengers as were not drowned ‘clinging together’, as they described it, like ‘birds’, the rock being scarcely large enough to hold them.” Harvey had thrown a billet of wood which the passengers secured to a rope. The Harvey dog swam to secure the other end of the line and the passengers were then “drawn to shore one at a time by Harvey and his daughter.”

At the request of Governor Cochrane, Wix presented a gold medal to Ann Harvey, now nineteen, for her and her father’s “humane exertions.” The medal, however, only bore the name of George Harvey. Lloyd’s subscribers also provided George with a grant of _100 for his “valuable assistance and humanity” to the ship’s passengers and crew.

Reverend William Marshall, a Methodist missionary in Hermitage Bay, visited Dead Islands on September 7, 1839. After attending to baptisms, reading prayers and preaching, George Harvey brought him by punt to Burgeo Islands. “On our way down Mr. Harvey pointed to the Rock on which a large brig was lost in 1828 named the Despatch with 200 passengers on board, 160 of whom Mr. H. and his daughter succeeded in carrying from the rock on which the vessel had struck.” It is not surprising that numerous secondary reports state that George Harvey credited Ann with being the person most responsible for the amazing rescue. Given the sea conditions, George could not have attempted the rescue on his own. When Ann was not drawing the passengers to shore, she maneuvered the boat in the pounding surf and strong waves, so they could get to the rock where the passengers were huddled. Ann’s job was to row in such a fashion that their boat could remain close enough to bring the passengers to safety, without being thrown on the rock themselves.

Ten years later, Ann and her father rescued 25 crew members of the Rankin on September 14, 1838. There is less information available on this effort. Alexander Mitchell was the master of the 650-ton vessel, belonging to the house of Rankin and Gilmore of Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was bound for Quebec when it went aground near the same spot as the Despatch. Jukes visited George Harvey in the fall of 1839, and they discussed both shipwrecks. Jukes wrote of the Rankin: “She struck on a rock and went to pieces, the crew hanging on to an iron bar or rail that went around the poop.” The crew were taken off six or eight at a time in a punt rowed through the heavy surf by Ann and her father. Though Jukes does not mention Ann’s involvement, she is identified by the Northern Shipwrecks Database as the rescuer of the Rankin. The same source names George Harvey as the rescuer of the Despatch.

Ann Harvey’s name never appears in the official record of the Despatch. Governor Cochrane refers to “the Harvey”, not the other able members of the rescue party. First Mate Henry Lancaster’s account, as told to Captain Grant, stated the local rescue party included “George Harvey and his eldest girl, age 17 and eldest boy, age 10.” Captain Grant, who was not directly involved in the rescue, only referred to “a man by the name of Harvey whose exertions I attribute to saving the lives of the whole.” Nor is there any mention of Ann Harvey in the media accounts. The Strabane Morning Post credits the Despatch crew and “a fisherman in a small boat” for saving the lives of so many passengers. “Melancholy Shipwreck,” reprinted in the Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, noted that “the highest praise we understand is due Harvey for his conduct on the occasion, as also the Mate and Crew.” Even Archdeacon Wix, who presented the medal to Ann in the fall of 1830, never referred to her by name. At the time of the shipwreck she was “the daughter of George Harvey” and in 1830, “the wife of Charles Guillaume.”

A number of years after the wreck of the Despatch, Ann’s role is publically acknowledged but she is christened with a new name – the “Grace Darling of Newfoundland.” Grace Darling (1815-1842) also joined her father in a marine rescue off the Northumbrian coast of England. In 1838, the Forfarshire had run aground on the Outer Farne Islands. Grace and her father William, the lighthouse keeper, rowed to the wreck and brought five people to land. Then with the assistance of two of the rescued crewmen, William Darling returned to his coble and saved four additional people. The rescue off the Northumbrian coast took a few hours compared to the three long, exhausting days spent by the Harveys bringing 163 passengers and crew to safety at Dead Islands. In England, the Royal Humane Society presented gold medals to both Grace and William Darling. The treasury gave Grace _50, and over _750 was raised and invested for her benefit. (Her father received _270.) William Wordsworth praised Grace’s heroism in verse and William Bell Scott did a series of paintings. Grace Darling became a media celebrity in England, and seemed to have eclipsed the fame of her father, William. In the Dominion of Newfoundland Ann Harvey’s status was elevated from being, at best, a nameless “eldest girl, age 17″ to being the “Grace Darling of Newfoundland.” Given the scale and dates of the Despatch and Forfarshire rescue efforts, it would have seemed more fitting for the English girl to be named the “Ann Harvey of England.”

Little is known about the details of Ann’s life after the rescue of the crew of the Rankin in 1838. She eventually settled in Port aux Basques with her husband, Charles Guillaume, where they raised a family. Ann died in 1860 at the age of 49. Her grave is unmarked.

The courageous action of Ann Harvey makes her worthy for consideration as an exceptional person who has played a significant role in our history and culture. Plebeian women often disappear from the official record but Ann Harvey belongs in the company of two other 19th century female heroines, Madeleine de Vercheres in Quebec and Laura Secord in Upper Canada.

The Canadian Coast Guard has recognized the strength, determination , and courage of Ann Harvey. A search and rescue vessel built in 1987, the CCGS Ann Harvey, bears her name. Ann Harvey also appears as an entry in a standard reference source for the province, the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland. Though in part a work of fiction, Kevin Major’s narrative poem, Ann and Seamus, draws from the historical record. Major’s work was the inspiration for an opera of the same name.

In addition, a plaque honouring the heroism of the Harvey family was prepared by the Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth, Government of Newfoundland. The plaque was presented to the town council of Isle aux Morts in the spring of 1988, but because of erroneous information in the text, it lies in storage. The plaque text reads: THE HARVEY FAMILY

It was here in the fall of 1832 that George Harvey with the aid of his seventeen year old daughter and his twelve year old son saved the lives of passengers and crew of the Brigantine Despatch en route from England to Quebec, which had foundered on the rocks near the Harvey home. First securing a rope to the land, and putting aside all thoughts of their own personal safety, the three managed to row within reach of the wreck whereby, with the aid of their Newfoundland dog, they were successful in securing the other end of the rope to the distressed ship. By the means of this “lifeline” all on board, a total of 163 people were led to safety by the Harvey family. For their heroism the family was presented with a medal and a personal letter of commendation from the king.


Cormack, William. E. Narrative of a journey across the island of Newfoundland in 1822. (Centenary issue). London: Longmans, Green and Company Ltd., 1928.

Dinn, Ellen. “Ann Harvey”. Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador (Vol.2, p. 846). St. John’s: Newfoundland Book Publishing, 1994.

Forster, M. 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2004.

Gobineau, Joseph Arthur. A Gentleman in the Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1993.

Jukes, J. B. Excursions in and about Newfoundland during the years 1839 and 1840 in two volumes, Volume I. Toronto: Canadiana House, 1969.

Major, Kevin. Ann and Seamus. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2003.

White, R. List of wrecks on the coast of Newfoundland to 31 December, 1903. St. John’s, NL: Herald Job Print, 1904.

Wix, E. Six months of a Newfoundland missionary’s journal, from February to August 1835. Toronto: Canadiana House, 1969.

Church of England Letters:

Letter to Archdeacon Hamilton from Archdeacon Wix, January 1, 1831.


William Marshall Diary1839-1841, volume 1. Unpublished manuscript, Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, MF 238. Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Colonial Office:

Letter from Captain Richard Grant, HMS Tyne to Rear Admiral Charles Ogle, July 27, 1828

Letter from Governor Thomas Cochrane to Secretary of State George Murray, 2 July 1829.

Web and Databases:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Canadian Coast Guard-CCGS Ann Harvey.

Harvey Family of Isle aux Morts. Genealogical research by Kirk Butt.

Matthew, H.C.G. “Grace Darling.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Northern Maritime Research. Northern Shipwrecks Database. Bedford, NS: Northern Maritime Research, 2007.

Newspapers and Periodicals:

“Letter from John Bennett to Captain Richard Grant”, Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, November 11, 1828.

“Loss of Brig Dispatch,” Strabane Morning Post, September 2, 1828

Melancholy Shipwreck”, Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, September 2, 1828.

“Newfoundland’s Grace Darling,” Decks Awash 7(2), 36, 1978.

Provincial District:

Burgeo – LaPoile

Bruce H. Arnott
5402 Madison
Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48125
Phone: 313-291-4906

Greg Arnott
Box 33
North Portal, Saskatchewan S0C 1W0

Linda Bailie
P.O. Box 267
Connell, WA 99326
Fax: 509-234-0530

Harvey Story Steering Committee
Attn: Blanford Billard
P.O. Box 211
Isle aux Morts, NL A0M 1J0
Phone/Fax: 709-698-3313

Philip Hiscock, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Folklore
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, NL A1B 3X8
Phone: 709-737-8778

Susan Knight, CM, ONL, LLD
Founder and Artistic Director
SHALLAWAY- Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus
46 Bonaventure Avenue
St. John’s, NL A1C 3Z5
Phone: 709-739-9968
Fax: 709-726-7695

Kevin Major
27 Poplar Ave.
St. John’s NL A1B 1C7
Phone: 709-738-3374
Fax: 709-722-4685

Marine and Mountain Zone Corporation
Attn: Vanessa MacArthur (Chair) or Debbie Munden (Executive Director)
P.O. Box 2009
Channel-Port aux Basques, NL A0M 1C0
Phone: 709-695-9350
Fax: 709-695-7925
Email: OR

Lloyd Pretty
Visual Artist, Publisher. Photographer
Lloyd Pretty Fine Arts
P.O. Box 67
92 New Mexico Drive
Stephenville, NL A2N 2W6
Phone: 709-643-8686 (studio) or 709-649-0489 (cell)

Provincial Advisory Council of the Status of Women
Attn: Vanessa MacArthur
Citizens Service Officer
Service Canada
Channel-Port aux Basques, NL A0M 1C0
Phone: 709-695-5000 Fax: 709-695-9671

Mary Stengel
681 SW 67th Ave.
Portland, OR 99223

For Emergency, call 911 or 956-2424.
This will alert the pager system.