Joey Smallwood

Joey Smallwood

Joseph Roberts "Joey" Smallwood (December 24, 1900 - December 17, 1991) was a politician from Newfoundland,Canada. He was the main force that brought the then Dominion of Newfoundland into the Canadian confederation in 1949, becoming the first Premier of Newfoundland, serving until 1972. As premier, he vigorously promoted economic development, championed the welfare state and emphasized modernization of education and transportation. Smallwood abandoned his youthful socialism and collaborated with bankers, turning against the militant unions that sponsored numerous strikes. The results of his efforts to promote industrialization were mixed, with the most favourable results in hydroelectricity, iron mining and paper mills.

Smallwood was charismatic and controversial. Never shy, he dubbed himself "the last Father of Confederation." While many Canadians today remember Smallwood as the man who brought Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation, the opinion held by Newfoundlanders and their diaspora remains sharply divided as to his legacy.

Joey Smallwood was born at Mint Brook, near Gambo, Newfoundland, to Charles and Minnie May Smallwood. His grandfather, David Smallwood, was a well-known maker of boots in St. John's. Growing up in St. John's, as a teenager Joey Smallwood worked as an apprentice at a newspaper and moved to New York City in 1920. In New York he worked for the socialist newspaper The Call. Joey Smallwood returned to Newfoundland in 1925, where he soon met and married Clara Oates. In 1925 he founded a newspaper of his own in Corner Brook.

In 1928, he acted as campaign manager for the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland, Sir Richard Squires. He also ran as a Liberal candidate in Bonavista in 1932 but lost. During the Great Depression, he worked for various newspapers and edited a two-volume collection titled "The Book of Newfoundland." He also hosted a radio program, The Barrelman, beginning in 1937 that promoted pride in Newfoundland's history and culture. He left the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland in 1943 to operate a pig farm at the Newfoundland Airport at Gander.

Smallwood was featured in two National Film Board of Canada documentaries: In 1970, he was the subject of Julian Bigg's documentary film A Little Fellow from Gambo in 1974, he was featured alongside Newfoundland media mogul Geoff Stirling and director Michael Rubbo in Rubbo's Waiting for Fidel. In 1998, Wayne Johnston's novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams presented a fictionalized portrayal of Smallwood. He is referenced in a line in the Newfoundland folk song, "Thank God We're Surrounded by Water" by Tom Cahill and Joan Morrissey as well.

Some more readings about Joey are:

I Choose Canada - Joey Smallwood (a memoir)

Joey, The Life and Political Times of Joseph R. Smallwood - Harold Horwood

The Unlikely Revolution - Richard Gwyn

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams - Wayne Johnson

Here is a link that brings you to the documentary film "A Little Fellow From Gambo" !


Joseph R. Smallwood Monument

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The bronze figure of J.R. Smallwood comes out of the terrain like an organic column, almost like a tree growing from the ground, and gradually gets transformed into recognizable and realistic forms and features. The pose is indicative of the nature of Joey Smallwood. One hand is on his heart as if swearing an oath, the other hand pointing down to the realities of life in a gesture of a state man. Sincerity and conviction are emanating from the composition. The columnar figure is surrounded by large boulders, gradually descending from the center to the periphery, thus forming a conical composition with a diameter of roughly 35 feet. The boulders are reminiscent of the cheering crowd of Newfoundlanders carrying J.R. Smallwood on the campaign trail or after one of his numerous political victories. In this sense he becomes the product of people and the land, literally being born form "The Rock". The large cone of boulders creates a composition silhouette reflecting weight, order, and stability, some of his main reasons for joining Canada. It also acts as a symbolic podium for Smallwood the dreamer, the propagandist, and the preacher. The composition attempts to create an atmosphere of a shrine, a modern druidic temple where one almost has to elbow their way through the labyrinth of boulders, sneak through passages, and climb rocks in order to reach the sculpture.

The composition attempts to create a balanced, homogenous whole by incorporating into the experience both sculpted and natural elements: the bronze statue and the group of boulders. The general atmosphere of the artwork is subtle and non-intensive with a strong emphasis on simplicity. The sculpture is paying tribute to a politician of enormous stature, as well as to an ordinary down to earth man. 

Luben Boykov