Newfoundland Ranger: Cyril Goodyear: The pursuit of Justice and the Great Outdoors
Cyril Goodyear has worn an incredible number of hats in his lifetime. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, is one of the last surviving Newfoundland Rangers, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a lawyer, a judge, a chief judge and then deputy minister of a government department. On top of that he is an avid outdoors man and retired town mayor. At 93 years old he shows no sign of slowing down or aging. “I have five unpublished books I’m working on,” he tells me.
Goodyear was born and grew up in Deer Lake and continues to live there in his own home by himself with little assistance.
He left home at 17 to go to Canada and join the Royal Canadian Air Force. “I went from Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney and caught the train to Halifax. But I was too young to get into the RCAF, so I got a job in the dockyard, and went down to the recruiting station every few days for about a month, until they agreed to take me.”
Goodyear was sent to Toronto for training, but the war was ending so he never went overseas. “When Hitler knew I joined he shot himself,” he adds with a chuckle.
A chance meeting with famous Newfoundland Ranger Cpl. John Hogan, led to his next career. “He told me I should join the Newfoundland Rangers. So, I signed up.”
He proudly states, “My first posting was in Battle Harbour, in Southern Labrador, which was then a supply place and customs port. I used to clear the whalers from Scotland and Norway, who were going to the big whaling factory at Hawke’s Harbour, and the salmon boats from Canada and the United States.”
After Battle Harbour, he was sent to the northeast coast of Labrador, to Nain.
Goodyear recalls, “I spent my 20th and 21st birthdays there. The last boat went south the 15th of October, and you hardly saw anyone from the outside world between then and June or July of the next yea depending on the ice conditions when the supply boat would come back.”
Thinking back on his childhood in Deer Lake brings back fond memories. “I was always outdoors. Deer Lake was a logging town, so I spent my holidays growing up in the lumber camps. My father was a camp foreman. So, I learned how to live in the woods.”
He is an avid outdoorsman, “I remember being 10 years old and I would go off and camp by myself and go fishing. So, Labrador was a great fit for me. In Nain, I used to travel all the way up to Hebron and down to Hopedale by dog team and small boat.” He would travel over the sea ice and when storms would come up, he would crawl into whatever he could find for shelter. “It maybe a snow hole, or if there was time, I’d build an igloo, or if I was lucky, I might find some old shack. Or I’d try to find a place in the woods, where I could stick up a winter tent.”
One memory stays in his mind. “One time I was on my way back from Hebron, I came down over the Kiglapait Mountains. My dog team driver and I were snowbound there for three days. Finally, we got down to where there was a family, Sarah and Boas Obed’s family. We didn’t have any food, so Sarah did bannock on the stove, and there was nothing else in the house to eat. The next morning, we left, and we had about 50 miles to go to Nain, when I got there, I sent food back to them.”
Mr. Goodyear worked in many careers throughout his life and he says, “The best group of people I have ever worked with were the rangers. I learned more doing that job than anywhere else. That career was the one that had the greatest influence on my life.”
The one person he talks about the most is his beloved wife, Shirley. He recalls a life of them doing everything together from camping to canoeing. “As a Ranger and as a Mountie, I would be away from home a lot, so she had to be pretty independent.” He remembers when people would come to their home with their problems. There would be everything from wanting help to fill out forms, to annoying neighbours, to needing help dealing with out of control teenagers. “When I came home, Shirley would have all the problems solved.”
Goodyear and his wife were married for 42 years. “We loved out life,” he smiles remembering their time together.
When the Rangers were absorbed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during Confederation, Cyril Goodyear changed uniforms and became a Canadian Mountie.
Always one to make the best of a situation, he recalls being posted in Glovertown. “I had a 45-foot police boat and it had a good motor. I would patrol all of Bonavista Bay by myself. I did that for two years. I know every rock in the bay because I struck every damn one of them,” he laughs.
In 1951, he transferred to Halifax. He became an investigator in the Major Crimes Unit.
One thing becomes evident when you are talking to Cyril Goodyear, he has a wicket sense of humour. He chuckles when and says, “I think I was promoted because the RCMP had the impression I was a fantastic investigator. But really, I knew everybody, I would talk to everybody, I would dock at their wharves, and I had so many connections my success rate at solving cases was very high. It’s not like I was a genius—I was just a friendly person.”
He says his policing technics were simple. “Sometimes people would come up to me and say, ‘How are you making out with such and such a case?’ I’d say, ‘Well, I don’t know,’ and they’d tell me who to go talk to about it. It was a simple as that.”
Goodyear stayed in Major Crimes until he retired in 1965. Upon retirement, he was appointed to the provincial court in Newfoundland as a magistrate. Then he was named to the court, he took a leave of absence and went to Dalhousie University to get his law degree. He graduated in 1977 then spent several years in court in Labrador and was eventually transferred to the Royal Commission on Labrador; subsequent to that he became head of the provincial court.
He became great friends with John Ottenheimer who was Justice Minister at the time. Together they helped revamp the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary by leasing new cars for them to drive and expanding their territory to Churchill Falls, Labrador and Corner Brook, Newfoundland. “At that time, they drove what was referred to a as ‘a rainbow fleet,’ cars of every colour. He says, “Their police cars weren’t fit to drive. We knew they needed funding and resources for them to be effective as a police force and we did our best to give them what they needed.”
His knowledge of the land in this province led him on another career and he became Deputy Minister of Rural, Agricultural and Northern Affairs. He was also the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
He retired from justice in 1989, but not being one to sit idle, he ran and was elected mayor of Deer Lake from 1997 to 2001. During his spare time, he has published five books and has another five written.
One of his books tells the story of his life in the Newfoundland Rangers.
“In the Rangers, we had to keep an official daily diary. I kept a personal diary, as well. They became one of my books, a memoir called, Sometimes I Forget.” He put all his diaries and photos in a museum in Deer Lake, so the memory of the Newfoundland Rangers would live on. “All I have left now is my memories.”
He takes the royalties from his books and donates them to the Newfoundland Ranger Scholarship fund at Memorial University. He has also left $50,000 in his will to the fund to ensure the scholarship lives on.
Throughout his 93 years, he has dedicated most of his life to supporting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and justice on many levels.
Today he is a widower and his two sons live out of province. He spends his days writing and it is hard to believe this vibrant, brilliant man at 93 years old is still an enthusiastic outdoorsman.
As one of only 204 men to have belonged to the Newfoundland Ranger Force, and only one of four still living. Cyril Goodyear is a part of the history of Newfoundland and Labrador and a proud part of the history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s history in this province.
For more RCMP stories you can buy "In Search of Adventure - 70 Years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador" here