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Grandois hosts 2015 Come Home Year

84-year-old Edmund McGrath stands on his front balcony overlooking the bay in Grandois. McGrath celebrated his birthday back home right before the Come Home Year began on July 15.
84-year-old Edmund McGrath stands on his front balcony overlooking the bay in Grandois. McGrath celebrated his birthday back home right before the Come Home Year began on July 15.

Edmund McGrath takes it easy on his front balcony after celebrating his 84th birthday the night before. The old house, which he built in 1979, is bustling with activity, as his children and wife finish off their dinner inside and wipe up the dishes. They travelled home to Grandois from as far away as Ontario and Alberta. Though his birthday is June 25, the town’s 2015 Come Home Year celebrations provided McGrath the opportunity to celebrate it back home with friends and family from far and wide.

Grandois’ 2015 Come Home Year opened on July 17. McGrath didn’t partake in the opening ceremony after dancing the night before, opting instead to rest his feet at his home with family.
“I’m not tired, but I got a bad foot,” he says. “It’s been bad all the year.”
A fisherman for most of his life, McGrath moved to Corner Brook with his wife in 1998 to be closer to a hospital for her heart condition. But they still return home every summer – the only difference this year being the level of activity and the host of people surrounding him.
Unfortunately, McGrath says not many of his old friends are around anymore – just him and Ambrose McGrath.
While Grandois remains pretty secluded, and only accessible by dirt road, McGrath recalls a time when you’d have to get to other communities, like Croque, by boat. That was before the road was put through to Croque in the 1970s.
“It was about three hours from here to St. Anthony, with the boats we had then,” he adds. “And the wintertime you had to go on dog team.”
He also recalls a time when there were about 16 fishermen around – now, just 19 people remain in the community altogether. But for this Come Home Year week, 130 families registered to be back home and share in the community spirit of Grandoi

Grandois’ 2015 Come Home Year opened on July 17. McGrath didn’t partake in the opening ceremony after dancing the night before, opting instead to rest his feet at his home with family.
“I’m not tired, but I got a bad foot,” he says. “It’s been bad all the year.”
A fisherman for most of his life, McGrath moved to Corner Brook with his wife in 1998 to be closer to a hospital for her heart condition. But they still return home every summer – the only difference this year being the level of activity and the host of people surrounding him.
Unfortunately, McGrath says not many of his old friends are around anymore – just him and Ambrose McGrath.
While Grandois remains pretty secluded, and only accessible by dirt road, McGrath recalls a time when you’d have to get to other communities, like Croque, by boat. That was before the road was put through to Croque in the 1970s.
“It was about three hours from here to St. Anthony, with the boats we had then,” he adds. “And the wintertime you had to go on dog team.”
He also recalls a time when there were about 16 fishermen around – now, just 19 people remain in the community altogether. But for this Come Home Year week, 130 families registered to be back home and share in the community spirit of Grandoi

The McGrath family was singing proudly as they carried their family banner during the parade.

Returning to his second home
Benjamin Swett, a photographer from New York City, has recollections of Grandois from a different perspective. He first visited Grandois in 1977 at the age of 18, running a day camp for children while volunteering with the Quebec-Labrador Foundation.
The tiny fishing village was in stark contrast to the Big Apple. But he immediately felt welcomed with open arms. During his six weeks of staying with Maude and Jack Whiteway, he got to know everyone within the community and a connection to Grandois was permanently formed.
“In the early mornings, one of the exciting things was going fishing with Jack and his family in their punt, and hauling nets and bringing the salmon and the cod back,” he recalls. “And our boat would be just full of fish, all around our legs. At that time, this was a very thriving fishing community.”
Swett also documented his visit by taking numerous photos. Many years later, he came across the pictures again and decided to reconnect with the community.
“I came back last summer with my wife and met many of the people I had known years ago,” he explains. “They told me about the Come Home Year, so I’ve come back.”
Now he has received a grant from the International Grenfell Association and is putting together two books: one featuring his old photographs from his 1977 visit and another documenting Grandois today and the 2015 Come Home Year.
“It is to me, in a way, like coming home,” he says. “It’s like coming back to the place that I remember and that I told my children about.”
In between these visits, some changes have been noticeable. Swett says, physically, the biggest change has been caused by the road. In 1977, the houses were clustered together along the waterfront where the stages were. Most of those houses are now gone and, subsequently, they have been built along the road. He recalls there were at least a couple-hundred people living there then as well.
But most of all, he just remembers the friendly nature that the town still possesses today.
“Everyone here welcomed me in and I felt like I was immediately at home with everyone.”

Organizing the event
The concept of a Grandois Come Home Year was Josephine Clarke’s idea. She is one of the 19 residents remaining in the village today. She comprised the Come Home Year committee along with Peggy McGrath, who is currently living in Edmonton, Alberta. According to Clarke, people had been requesting it for some time.
It took them 17 months to prepare for the four-day event. They had to go around to all of the businesses to try and get donations. With such a small population in Grandois, that required going outside of the community, and lots of time on the phone and emailing.
“We would never be able to do it without outside help,” says Clarke. “And a lot of people donated a lot of stuff.”
They also received a grant from the International Grenfell Association and Atlantic Lotto.
“Our biggest aim was for the kids,” says Clarke. “Everything for the kids was free, because we hate it when you go places and there’s a little kid crying because they didn’t get something. So we got something for every child. No child will go without nothing.”
Meanwhile, McGrath’s path back to Grandois was a long one. She and her husband drove over 5,500 kilometres from Edmonton in their camper.

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