RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM, NL. – The home of well-known Newfoundland and Labrador author Earl Pilgrim has been destroyed by fire.
And everything the Roddickton-Bide Arm man has worked on over the years has been lost with it.
Pilgrim’s home caught fire on Saturday evening, March 31.
He told the Northern Pen he first noticed smoke filling the house from the basement. He narrowly escaped by crawling out through the front door.
While the author was unharmed by the blaze, it consumed the entire house and everything inside.
Pilgrim, 78, has written a number of books detailing life on the Great Northern Peninsula.
All the documents Pilgrim collected through years of historical research for his books were lost in the fire.
“In my house was the total history of our area,” he said.
Pilgrim saved no copies.
Amongst the items lost in the fire were countless historical documents, including letters, diaries and photos from the Dr. Grenfell era and from the Saunders and Howell era – when they operated the sawmill – of Roddickton-Bide Arm.
Pilgrim also lost interview transcripts and recordings, two computers, and 8,000 books in his library.
“I had books there that were worth a fortune,” he said.
At the time of the fire, Pilgrim was working on a second and third volume of The Adventures of Ernest Doane – the first volume of which he released in 2017.
Manuscripts and historical documents used for research were all lost in the fire.
He says it’s impossible for him to re-write that work.
Pilgrim was also planning a book on the founding of the town of Conche – a community located near Roddickton-Bide Arm on the northeast side of the Great Northern Peninsula.
Before he died, Patty O’Neil, a local Conche man, had left Pilgrim documents on that period.
Those were consumed in the fire as well.
“It’d break your heart to see it happen,” said Pilgrim on the loss.
He says he was just starting to get back into his work after his wife, Beatrice, passed away in 2016.
“It’s almost two years and now I was getting on my feet to get all this stuff done,” he said. “And now it’s all gone.”
The house was 49-years-old. Earl and Beatrice Pilgrim moved in after they were married. They raised their four children in the home.
Pilgrim has also served in the Canadian Army and is a former Canadian Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
He subsequently worked as a forest ranger and as a wildlife protection officer with the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
He now intends to stay with family members in Roddickton-Bide Arm and says he has cabins where he can stay as well.
Pilgrim believes the fire started from his furnace. He had no insurance on the house.