Mesher, Harvey

Trapper, poet and storyteller born in Independent Harbour (Nunatsiavut) in 1904 – died in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Nunatsiavut) in 1986.

Harvey Mesher, also known as Harvey Augustus Ralph Mesher or Harvey A. R. Mesher, was born in Independent Harbour at Sandwich Bay, in southern Labrador. Although the timeline of the key events in Harvey Mesher’s life is well known, his birth date is still questionable. Equally valid sources say that Harvey Mesher was born in 1904 or in 1916. We choose to mention these two dates, especially since Harvey Mesher himself wrote that 1916 was his date of birth. However, considering the published information aboutg his life timeline, we assume that it is more likely that he was born in 1904.

The son of William Goodenough and Charlotte Elisabeth Davis, both native to the area, Harvey Mesher was the eldest of eight children. Harvey Mesher’s mother never attended school herself, yet she taught him the alphabet and how to count. A gifted child, he entered Paradise River’s elementary school with advanced placement. Then in 1915, when he was in grade four, he left school and started trapping with his father, who passed on his knowledge and skill. Harvey Mesher was part of a trapping family originating with his great-grandfather. It was at the age of 17 that he went hunting with a rifle for the first time in his life. Two years later, he noticed that he had already trapped every possible animal present in the Labradorian territory. Although Harvey Mesher was never remunerated for his work as a trapper with his father, the latter always made sure for all his needs. His father hired him for one summer as a local retailer and he then he worked as a salmon fisher for the IGA (International Grenfell Association) mission in Cartwright (Labrador). He continued trapping, fishing and hunting for the next thirteen years.

In April 1925, he married Emily Leftbridge, with whom he had six children. She died in 1937 and in 1939, he married Elfreda Learning, the nurse who had been caring for his children. With Elfreda Learning he lived in several places in the Sandwich Bay area until 1955, when he moved 350 kilometers north, away from his native region, to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. For medical reasons, he had to stop trapping and fishing and adjust to a more sedentary life.

A few years later, Harvey Mesher started to write poetry. His published poetry collection is entitled The Selected Poems of an Ex-Labrador Trapper (1968). In an interview with CBC in 1983, he reminisced that when he was a trapper full-time, he had also written a few poems, but he had not kept any of this literary work. Many of Harvey Mesher’s poems focus on his time spent in Labradorian wilderness. He also wrote poems on other subjects as well as family stories and autobiographical anecdotes, which were published in the Them Days magazine in 1981, and posthumously in 1987 and 2002. Harvey Mesher’s writing purpose was to pass on his family history, which he considered important, to present and future generations. At the time of writing this biography, we were not able to find any kinship links between Harvey Mesher and Bob Mesher or Dorothy Mesher.

In 1975, the poet moved to Paradise Bay (Labrador), then, a few years later, to Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Labrador) where he died in 1986.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.