|Rushden Echo, 11th August 1972, transcribed by Kay Collins
Dr Ralph Ernest Bayes
Ralph’s Home 66 Years after Travelling Steerage to Winnipeg
Minister Jets in and Chalks Up 50 trans-Atlantic Crossings
Ralph Bayes left home at the age of 20 with six gold sovereigns in his pocket, travelling steerage across the Atlantic and landed in America a few days before the San Francisco earthquake.
This week he is back in Rushden at the ripe old age of 86with 50 trans-Atlantic crossings to his credit.
Once he sold the “Echo” as a newsboy. Now he is Dr Ralph Ernest Bayes, a Congregational minister of 64 years standing and chaplain in charge of the Mariners Houses, a non-denominational seaman’s home in Boston, Massachusetts, looking after the welfare of seamen from all over the world.
Dr Bayeshe is a self-educated man holding Bachelor of Arts, Master of Sacred Theology and Doctor of Divinity degreeshas been attending an international seafarers’ welfare conference at Putney with his second wife, who is having her first look at Rushden.
They are staying at the Westwood Hotel and having taken the opportunity to visit Dr Bayes’ two surviving sisters who live at Rushden and Enfield. Dr Bayes described the conference as “a great ecumenical experience.” Delegates included a bishop from Rome and a Jewish delegate from Israel.
But his latest trans-Atlantic crossing by BOAC jet was a far cry from the first time he crossed the Atlantic back in 1906.
As a lad, Dr Bayes had been an errand boy, made shoes, curried leather, sold papers and delivered milk seven days a week.
He attended Newton Road, Alfred Street and Moor Road schools, Rushden. His mother died when he was only six and he boarded in the home of a kind neighbour, rooming in an attic and reading books by candlelight.
In 1906 he bought a ticket from Rushden to Winnipeg and sailed three days after his 20th birthday, travelling steerage. He was told at Winnipeg that he could get work by travelling a further 220 miles west to Moosomin, Saskatchewan.
Dr Bayes spent a year on a Manitoba farm, his salary 12 dollars a month and keep. He recalls: “Ten hours were spent in the fields daily, and abundant chores kept one busy before breakfast and after supper. I broke sod, drove a gang plough, made hay, shocked wheat, belonged to a threshing gang and did a little less on Sundays.
On the prairies the log houses had no modern fittings, the summer was hot, mosquitoes ravenous and winter saw the thermometer register 60 degrees that lasted 62 years until below zero.
“The second summer I belonged to a cosmopolitan gang constructing the grand trunk Pacific Railway. Weekly pay was ten and a half dollars most of which went for our board.”
In June of that year he met Edith Linnitt, a Rushden girl living in Winnipeg, and was married at Moosomin. It was a marriage that lasted 62 years until his wife died. Now Dr Bayes has married for a second time.
For a short while he worked as a drayman for a gas and electricity company in Dakota when, at the age of 22, he had the distinction of being ordained a Congregational minister without having attended either high school, college or religious seminary.
Dr Bayes became academically qualified the hard way, spending his spare time reading in public libraries.
It was on the strength of a reading list that included works by Darwin, Huxley, Macauley, Plato and Milton that he became a freshman at Yangton College and in 1916 gained his BA degree.
Three years later he received his STB degree from Andover Seminarythe oldest theological seminary in the country, and the Master of Sacred Theology degree at Harvard University in 1937.
Dr Bayes, who gained his doctorate at Yankton College, also studied for a year at Oxford University.
He served as a minister in various pastorates in South Dakota and Wisconsin and in 1931 began a lifelong career as chaplain in charge of the Mariners’ House in Boston.
This veteran minister has visited nearly as many countries as some of the seamen he looks after. He has twice been round the world, visited practically every country in Europe and has been to Australia, New Zealand, Africa, the Arctic Circle and many South American countries.
And, he says, there will be a warm welcome for any seafarer from England who comes his wayparticularly any mariner who happens to come from his native Rushden.