John Henry Scammell


Melvin Baker (c)1998

(Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly vol. XCII, no. 1 (Summer 1998) 22
John (Jack) Henry Scammell was born on July 11,1894 at Change Islands, the son of Althea (Jones) and Arthur Scammell, a fishing vessel owner and captain. He was educated at the Church of England School at Change Islands, Bishop Feild College in St. John's, and the teachers' summer school in St. John's. His first teaching position was as principal in 1912 of the Boys' Central Training School in St. John's, and he later taught at Bishop Feild College.

In 1916 he joined the Fishermen's Union Trading Company as private secretary to President William Coaker of the Fishermen's Protective Union (FPU) and the following year was appointed traveling organizer for the FPU. In 1919 he was elected as a Unionist for the District of St. Barbe and successfully won re-election in this seat until 1928 when he was elected for Bonavista Centre in 1928. He did not seek re-election in the 1932 general election.

In the early 1920s Coaker designated Scammell as his successor as President of the FPU. In 1926 Scammell became the second president of the FPU following Coaker's decision to concentrate his efforts on the business activities of the various companies formed by the FPU. As President, Scammell attempted to revitalize the FPU but during the early 1930s the FPU fell in serious decline and membership greatly declined as a result of the effects of the Great Depression on the fishery. In 1936 he was succeeded as FPU president by King's Cove native Ken Brown and was made an Honorary President by the FPU's Supreme Council.

In 1929 Scammell became editor of the Fishermen's Advocate and his fiery editorials were "noted for their logic, common sense, and directness," his successor as editor, Charles Granger observed in 1940. Passionately committed to the cause of fishermen and the social and political activism of the FPU, Scammell's "outstanding gift was oratory and he had a great command of the English language. In this field he was almost without peer."

Scammell died of a stroke at the Bonavista Cottage Hospital on September 18, 1940. A funeral service for him was held in the Church of Holy Martyrs at Port Union and Scammell's remains were carried in the Young Hood to Change Islands for burial.