Natural Resources

Landslides

Date: February 23, 1936

Location: South Side Road, St. John's

Easting: 371000

Northing: 5267650

Latitude: 47° 34' 00" N

Longitude: 52° 44' 00" W

Fatalities: 1

Injuries: 1

Source: Western Star Feb 26, 1936, Evening Telegram

Heavy rain fell for a protracted period, on snow covered ground. At 8.30 am on Sunday the 23rd of February, Mr. Michael Byrne was making a channel to divert water that was flooding the ground floor of his house at 207 Southside Road. His wife and two of their children were trying to prevent water damaging their shop, located at the front of the house, when they heard a loud rumbling from the back of the house. Three more of the Byrne children, Lillian (aged 9), Robert (7) and Theresa (4) were in the kitchen, on the first story at the back of the house. The Evening Telegram reported:

"Mrs. Byrne ran upstairs to the kitchen but she could not get the door open. Her husband followed almost immediately and smashing in the door they found their boy Robert half-buried in gravel and rock which pouring in from the garden had smashed through the floor and filled the underneath room to the ceiling."

Robert was buried head downwards, but after being dug out was found to have no serious injury. Lillian was unhurt, but Theresa was carried down the hole in the floor, and killed, apparently by suffocation. Her body, when recovered 15 minutes later was unmarked apart from a gash on her forehead.

The Flynn house next door (apparently number 205) was also damaged. Mary and Stella Flynn were trapped in their bedroom that adjoined the Byrne kitchen, and were rescued by their brother Gerald. The landslide had originated from the steep slopes above the houses, and consisted of a mixture of soil, vegetation, snow and boulders estimated at half a ton. One such boulder passed clean through the Byrne house, and is seen lying on the sidewalk in an Evening Telegram photograph.

207 Southside Road was located 100 m east of St. Mary's Church, and was a "double" house, with the Byrnes occupying one side, and the Flynn family the other. It was three stories high, and built into the slope, so that the first story looked directly out onto the hill behind. Neither the house nor St. Mary's Church stand today. The Church is marked by a monument, both to the church and the burial place of Shawndidit, the last Beothuck. The probable site of 207 is vacant.

Theresa West (nee Byrne) is Robert's daughter, and writes that Robert became deaf due to the effects of the landslide, and the effects of being buried also resulted in life-long back problems.

Byrne Family

The Byrne family in 1935/36. Michael Byrne sits, with Theresa on his lap, Robert sits in front and Mary on the right. Photograph used with permission of the Byrne family, from the collection of Theresa West (Byrne).

 
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