Our Lady of Good Voyage Madonna cedar-wood statue was created by two artists from Porto, Portugal, and was commissioned by Portuguese-American fishermen of Gloucester for the Our Lady of Good Voyage church. Silva Franca made the Madonna and Ourivesaria Alianca made the crown and vessel. It was brilliantly welcomed to Gloucester in 1948.
Here’s the timeline thanks to Sawyer Free and Gloucester Daily Times
On Sunday May 23, 1948
350 Portuguese-American fishing skippers and fishermen, their wives and children and friends took part in the third crowning and readied for the upcoming fourth annual blessing of the fleet. “A most colorful procession in the annual coronation ceremonies of the DES club in the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage when Rev. Stephen E. DeMoura, the pastor, honored 22 with the impressive mass of coronation including the imperator, Capt. John Lopes of Sadler Street.”
Thursday May 27, 1948
Cutting it close: the Gloucester Daily Times reported that the Portuguese ship Gil Eannes was expected at Fish Pier but didn’t arrive. The 279 foot, 1048 net tons, fishing fleet hospital vessel, str. Gil-Eannes, “bound here from Lisbon, Portugal, with the estimated 600 pound cedar-wood life size statue of Our Lady of Good Voyage was due in port by 9 o’clock this morning, but up to noon today had not been sighted off Eastern Point Light.”
It was here, just not at the pier. Take note: there’s a Ten Pound Island detail–Pancake Ground, and homeland security.
“It was believed that she was fog bound off the coast and was jogging awaiting clearing before chancing the remaining voyage into port. She will anchor on the Pancake Ground near Ten Pound Island until tomorrow afternoon when she is due to dock at the State Fish pier.” She was escorted off Whistling Buoy by the redfish dragger Carol Ann, Capt. Francis, and brought to anchor on the Pancake Ground for a “three hour inspection to clear her for official entry.” Harbormaster Captain Fred Wise used his own craft. Mayor Friend gave a short speech. Seventy one officers, crew, and ‘relief fishermen’ were on board the Gil Eannes as it made the 11 day crossing.
What an arrival: the fog was so thick no one ashore could catch any glimpse of her! The Princess of Portugal, her Royal Highness Antonia de Braganza, was expected to arrive for the festivities and was booked at the Tavern, as were the ambassadors. Thousands came to town including bus groups from New Bedford, New Jersey, and other states. There were 26 Gloucester fishing boats and the USS Perry destroyer for the blessing of the fleet.
Memorial Day Weekend – Friday May 28, 1948-Sunday May 30, 1948
A thrilling 3-day observance festival began with Bishop John Wright leading a mass and procession Friday morning to the pier, and closed on Sunday with Archbishop Richard Cushing. Reverend DeMoura had a zealous committee. Twelve brawny crew from the Gil Eannes (matching shirts) six at a time alternated carrying the statue to the church. Crowds lined the streets and these guests were stunned at the sheer size of such a welcome. Three thousand people watched the procession and it’s estimated 10,000 were there for the Sunday climax.
Gil Eannes crew, honor guard for the statue
Over the 3 days, there were special programs along with Memorial Day ceremonies: a carillon concert from the towers Friday night, a plaza-like square was decorated with colored electric lights in front of the church, banquets (at the Tavern), band concerts, and folk dancing*. Later in the weekend, two men each from 25 different Gloucester draggers were chosen for the honor of bearing the statue on their shoulders to and fro the pier.Poor weather postponed the final day ceremonies. Ambassador Pereiro left with the Gil Eannes to travel to the Grand Banks and visit with the estimated 3000 fellow countrymen, fishing there in some 60 salt cod Portuguese boats at the time.
“Of course, while aboard ship (in Gloucester), a bevy of news photographers and movie newsreel gentry took a raft of film of the statue, of the two bishops and monsignor and priests meeting one another…”
I would like to see a newsreel. Newspapers carried it across the country thanks to the Associated Press pictures. By 1953 National Geographic was in town for a feature story in color. (You can read that article)
More photographs tomorrow.
(*Rose Sheehan did you know?)