Hedley Snook, Page 1
Born on 6 April 1901, Hedley Snook was the son of George and Priscilla Snook. He married Sabina Blagdon and they raised a family of seven daughters and two sons. He was a seaman, who showed great courage when shipwrecked in 1923, performing an almost impossible task that saved several lives, but had a lifelong effect on his own life. A deeply religious man, Snook was caretaker of the Salvation Army School for many years, in the days of wood stoves and outdoor toilets. He passed away on 13 November 1985, at the age of 80, just 15 days before his 60th Wedding Anniversary. In addition to his wife and nine children, he was mourned by 31 grandchildren, 39 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild. Although never publicly recognized, his act of bravery was as great as any.
The Courage of Hedley Snook
A small, wiry 22-year-old in 1923, Snook sailed as cook on the 'Vera B.', a 60-ton schooner from Fortune. The skipper and owner of the vessel was Hezekiah Gillard of North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Also on board were mate Saul Mosher of Fortune and seaman John Warren of St. Barbe. On 28 October the vessel sailed from North Sydney, bound for the Magdalen Islands with a cargo of coal.
It was the season of the year for heavy winds and before evening a furious gale was blowing. By nightfall the weather was what the men termed a 'living' storm. It was not possible to make their destination in the face of such a gale and Gillard decided that the best, and safest, course was to run before the gale and try to reach Cheticamp, in Inverness County, Cape Breton. Failing that, they might reach some other haven on the Canadian coast between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. They cut the sail down to 'small canvas' - a single reefed foresail and riding sail - and ran the ship wild through the turbulent night.
In the darkness they saw a light which they thought was Cheticamp and steered towards it. On driving in closer they soon discovered, to their great sorrow, that it was a light on the back of Cheticamp. There was nothing left to do but let fo the anchor and ride out the storm all night. They thought daybreak would reveal their exact position. When the morning of the 29th dawned, the wind, which had apparently been north or northwest, veered suddenly to the southwest and blew 'great guns.'
This change of direction of the gale now put the Vera B. on a lee shore with a vengeance. There was little hope, if any, that she would survive in this position. Gillard studied the situation and concluded that there was only one way to save their lives. They would slip the vessel's chains and let her drift ashore, hoping that she would go in far enough to let them get safely to land.
With her chains slipped, the ship did indeed drift towards shore, but she grounded while still quite far off. There was a tremendously heavy sea running. When the vessel struck the shoal all hands took to the rigging, fearing they might be swept away. The storm did not let up and the four men clung to their desperate perch above the tossing sea and crashing wreck for six dreadfully long hours. There was a life-saving station on the shore but there was little hope for help because the sea was too violent to launch a boat.
Finally, in sheet desperation, the Captain said; 'I don't see any chance of saving our lives unless we loose the spars and try to get ashore on the wreckage.'
Snook had another idea. 'Captain,' he said, 'if you lash me to a lifebuoy, I'll try to get to land.'
'My son,' Gillard replied, 'you wouldn't ever reach the shore in this storm.'
'It's just as well to take the risk as to stay here and perish in the rigging,' was Snook's reply. He wasn't about to give up without a fight.
Realizing the cook's determination, the Captain took the jib and jumbo down-hauls, and the staysail halfyards. He then lashed Snook to the lifebelt and held the end of the halfyards on board in case he reached the shore alive. Gillard was doubtful about his chances but for success though. Snook then stood on deck and waited for three seas to pass.
'Goodbye, Captain,' he said.
'Goodbye, cook,' the Captain replied.
No further words were necessary for both men fully understood the gravity of the situation. Snook then jumped over the side of the broken vessel and into the crashing, churning breakers.
Page 1 ~ Page 2