From being shot to meeting Joey Smallwood, it was a great 36 years!
When Murray Evans joined the RCMP 56 years ago, recruiters were as interested in his physique as they were his intelligence. The boy from New Brunswick was 18 years old at the time.
“The first time a friend and I went to the RCMP office, the sergeant said: 'Go home and measure your chest and make sure it measures up.' It had to be so much in expansion,” Mr. Evans recalls with a smile. Delighted that their chest sizes were acceptable, Mr. Evans and his friend went back to the office and wrote the entrance exam. “My friend who encouraged me to join didn't pass the test so I was left alone,” Evans says. Evans, a carpenter at the time, soon found himself trading in his tools for a Stetson hat and red serge.
“I went up to Fredericton and the sergeant said: 'You better know, you're signing away five years of your life, young man.' They sent me out on the train that evening across Canada to British Columbia to the Fairmont Barracks.” Mr. Evans was raised in the fishing community of Lorenville, on the outskirts of St. John, New Brunswick. After completing his RCMP training he was posted to St. John's, Newfoundland.
“I was so pleased to come here because when I was working with a roofing company they all talked about Newfoundland and how kind Newfoundlanders were,” Mr. Evans remembered.
The train ride across the country was, long, tiring and, in places, breathtaking. “I remember getting off the train in the prairies with my little camera taking pictures of the oxen. Someone was calling out to me but I thought, they aren't going to bother me. But here it was the train was pulling away without me,” Supt. Evans laughs.
Once he arrived in this province, Supt. Evans was told by his supervisors that he'd only be in St. John's for three months before being transferred to rural parts of the province.
Rather than three months, his posting to St. John's spanned three years. Long drives over gravel roads were very much a part of his early duties, he says. “We went all down the Southern Shore and to Harbour Grace. We were with the Preventive Service-Liquor-Highway Patrol we had motorcycles back then, an old Harley Davidson belong to the Ranger force and two English bikes. We were told we had to put 200 miles on them each day.”
“The young men often found their own ways of adding miles to the speedometer,” he says.
“There were times you'd be on a back road and you'd strike a blueberry patch and you'd pitch the hitch up and let it run for a few miles.”
Among the highlights of his early career, Mr. Evans says was meeting and spending time with the late Premier Joseph R. Smallwood. The premier had an apartment at Fort Townsend which gave him both privacy and security working near the police in Constabulary Square. Evans says during his meetings with the premier, Mr. Smallwood was always a gentleman and great person to have a conversation with. “I had an occasion to be with Premier Smallwood just before his stroke, for the last time,” he says.
When he wasn't busy in the office, Evans and his comrades were policing in the community earning their title “Jack of all Trades.”
While stationed at St. John's, Mr. Evans met his wife Stella Whitten from nearby Petty Harbour. The couple, who have two children and five grandchildren, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
The next 25 years of his career was spent serving at various other detachments in Newfoundland including Harbour Grace, Glovertown, Ferryland, Whitbourne, Labrador City, Gander, and Corner Brook. While much of his duties were routine, policing back in by-gone days also meant risking one's life. While stationed outside the St. John's area, Mr. Evans came face-to-face with the barrel of a shotgun.
He and Stella had two young children at the time, he responded to the call about a mentally ill man shooting windows out of houses.
“Myself and another constable went down. We got out by the old potato house and crawled down through the grass. I got in and jumped on his back to try to knock him down, he wouldn't go down. He started to turn the shotgun on me so I ran out and around the corner but there was a fence there and I couldn't go any further. I turned back and he shot me and got me in the corner of the eye. I shot him then in the leg and he fell down.”
Although bleeding himself from the head, Evans rendered first aid to the man.
Both were taken to hospital where Evans was treated for his eye wound.
Whether traveling by boat, train, skidoo, car or cycle, Mr. Evans says he enjoyed all of his police postings both in this province and elsewhere in the country. He retired in 1990 after 36 years with the RCMP. “I always said if there's ever a day I don't completely love my work, I'd leave. But that never happened and that's why I stayed for so long,” he says.
Superintendent Murray Robert Evans passed away at the age of 81 on May 4, 2017.
Read his story and the story of other RCMP Officers who served in Newfoundland and Labrador in - In Search of Adventure available here