Newfoundland Halloween traditions, turnips and colcannon

Archival Moment

October 31

Long before the pumpkin their as the turnip.

Long before the pumpkin there was the turnip.

Halloween was originally called All Hallows’ Eve which means the evening before All Saints’ Day.  Hallowmas – or All Saints Day Mass is on November 1) “Hallow” is an Old English word for “saint”. This was shortened to Hallowe’en and finally to Halloween.

Halloween has Celtic origins. In pre-Christian times, many people believed that spirits from the underworld and ghosts of dead people could visit the world of the living on the night of October 31. These spirits could harm the living or take them back to the underworld. To avoid this, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits if they left their homes on October 31. They hoped that this would confuse the ghosts and spirits.

Essentially the Christian world took elements of an existing pagan holiday – and made it their own.

New Word:  Hallow is an Old English word for “saint”

Halloween in many communities in Newfoundland was referred to as Colcannon Night or Cauld Cannon. For hundreds of years, on All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, friends would be invited to a dinner of colcannon – a cabbage and potato hash.

Four objects were traditionally hidden in the large dish of colcannon, a ring, a coin, an old maid’s thimble, and a bachelor’s button. Whoever found the ring would marry soon. To the coin-holder, riches would accrue, while celibacy awaited both the thimble-getter and button-discoverer.

The St. John’s newspaperThe Daily News in 1896  reported that a Cauld Cannon party given by Miss O’NEIL of the West End  was a most enjoyable affair – over 20 couples sat down to the repast. A young lady in a Water Street book and stationary store, found the ring. Though nobody acknowledged finding the button, it is affirmed that a certain young lady, not 100 miles from Queens Street, got it but would not own it.”

Many established associations and fraternities hosted a Cauld Cannon Party.  These parties  were not for the timid. Newspaper accounts report that these parties continued to as late as s 4 in the morning.  The revelers stumbling home!!   The present day antics of George Street and its Mardi Gras festivities are tame in comparison.

As they did stumble home not a pumpkin was to be seen.  But is likely that the light of Jack O’Lantern  carved in a turnip would have given them some guidance.  Long before the pumpkin our Irish ancestors carved turnips and put coals or small candles inside. They were placed outside their homes on All Hallow’s Eve to ward off evil spirits. They were also known to use potatoes and rutabagas.

Recommended Reading: (on Halloween): Santino, Jack  ed. Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994. [Philip Hiscock, "Hallowe'en Guys Come to Newfoundland," The Folklore Round Table 9 (Fall 1989): 28-36]

Recommended Halloween Traditions:  Particular to Ireland and Newfoundland:  http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishhalloweentraditions.htm

Recommended Recipe: Colcannon: http://saltjunk.com/?page_id=7549

Recommended Song:  “Colcannon” comes from the album entitled “The Black Family” which was released in 1995. Mary Black sings this in such a playful manner. A true delight of a song! Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCQbksGz67U

Colcannon Night: A Lost Newfoundland Tradition

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 31, 1896

250px-Colcannon_recipe_on_bag_of_potatoes_(cropped)Long before Trick or Treating or Halloween got established in Newfoundland, in many communities the night of October 31 was referred to as Colcannon (also Cauld Cannon) Night.

On what is now All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween  – friends would be invited to a dinner of colcannon, a  mixture of hash of various vegetables, and sometimes meat.   The surprise of the dinner was that there were four objects hidden in the large dish of colcannon, a ring, a coin, an old maid’s thimble, and a bachelor’s button.  Each object had great symbolic significance. Whoever found the ring would marry soon. To the coin-holder, riches would accrue, while celibacy awaited both the thimble-getter and button- holder.

A Colcannon Party was to be an evening of fun but for young ladies finding the button, it was most distressing,  it doomed them to be spinsters or for the young men to irrevocable bachelorhood.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News in 1896 reported about such a party:

“ a Cauld Cannon party given by Miss O’NEIL of the West End (of St. John’s)   was a most enjoyable affair – over 20 couples sat down to the repast. A young lady in a Water Street book and stationary store, found the ring. Though nobody acknowledged finding the button, it is affirmed that a certain young lady, not a mile from Queen’s Street, got it but would not own it.”

Imagine the teasing that young lady had to endure.

Previous to the 1930’s Colcannon parties were as big as St. Patrick’s Day parties are today. Every fraternal organization hosted Colcannon Party that tended to be followed by a dance.

The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on November 1, 1902:

“ The town was lively last night with cauld cannon parties.  The young folks were entertained with snap apple, while older ones enjoyed themselves at the altar of Terpsichore, the clear cold air resounding to the musical strains till early morning.”

Just in case you are naive enough to think that George Street closes late – the newspapers report with great frequency that patrons of the Colcannon or Cauld Cannon Parties were often seen staggering home as late as 4:00 a.m.

New Word:  In Greek mythology, Terpsichore  “delight in dancing” was one of the nine Muses, ruling over dance and the dramatic chorus. She is usually depicted sitting down, holding a lyre, accompanying the dancers’ choirs with her music. Her name comes from the Greek words (“delight”) and (“dance”).

Recommended Reading (on Halloween): Santino, Jack  ed. Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994. [Philip Hiscock, "Hallowe'
en Guys Come to Newfoundland," The Folklore Round Table 9 (Fall 1989): 28-36
]

Recommended Halloween Traditions:  Particular to Ireland and Newfoundland:  http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishhalloweentraditions.htm

Recommended Recipe: Colcannon: http://saltjunk.com/?page_id=7549

Recommended Song:   “Colcannon” comes from the album entitled “The Black Family” which was released in 1995. Mary Black sings this in such a playful manner. A true delight of a song! Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCQbksGz67U

The First Giant Squid

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 25, 1873

 

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour.

 

On 25 October 1873 a fisherman, Theophilus Picot fishing off Bell Island in Conception Bay, had a battle with a giant squid. This battle resulted in the first giant squid specimen to be studied scientifically on land!

It was Alexander Murray, the first Director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland who brought the story to the attention of the international scientific community.

A few weeks following the fisherman’s battle with the giant squid Mr.  Murray, wrote to Louis Agassiz, Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.  In the letter he explained that the fisherman Picot

 ” struck at it  (the squid, at the time he had no idea what it was)  with an oar or boat-hook, whereupon the creature’s fury seemed to be aroused, and it struck at the bottom of the boat with its beak, and immediately afterward threw its monstrous tentacles over the boat, which probably it might have dragged to the bottom had not Picot with great presence of mind severed one of the tentacles with his axe.”

Mr. Murray had more than a story he also included:

 “a couple of photographs of the said tentacle and a few of the small denticulated sucking cups.”

The reference to the  battle with the giant squid  first appeared the prestigious publication scientific journalThe American Naturalist’  8 (1874), 120-124. under the tile “Capture of a Gigantic Squid at Newfoundland.”

This was the first of the giant squid to be documented. Over the years their have been others. At the Rooms Provincial Museum a giant squid that was originally caught November 14, 1981 in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, is on display.  The last giant squid caught in Newfoundland waters was in Triton in 2004 and there was another found in Sandy Cove, Fogo Island, in 1982.

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour. It is a life-size replica of the World’s Largest Giant Squid (Guinness Book record) that was landed nearby on November 2, 1878.

Recommended Visit: At the Rooms Provincial Museum a giant squid that was originally caught November 14, 1981 in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, is on exhibit.

Recommended Reading: Aldrich, F. A., and Brown, E. L. 1967. “The Giant Squid in Newfoundland,” The Newfoundland Quarterly. Vol. LXV No. 3. p. 4-8.

Recommended Song: Sing along lyrics included:  http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/01/squid.htm

Recommended Squid Recipe:  (just in case you get one) http://www.squidoo.com/squid-calamari

The ladies knit, for our soldiers

October 23, 1914

Archival Moment

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-112; A work committee in the Ball Room of Government House. Note that some of the women are sewing by hand and machine; others are knitting.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-112; A work committee in the Ball Room of Government House. Note that some of the women are sewing by hand and machine; others are knitting.

Following the declaration of war in August  1914 Lady Margaret Davidson, wife of the Governor of Newfoundland, called upon “the women of Newfoundland to assist in aiding the British Empire in the present crisis by providing the necessities needed by our soldiers at the front. ”

Seven hundred women attended the first meeting. Those in attendance passed a resolution to form a “Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland” with the object of helping the men of Newfoundland in the defense of the British Empire.

The first gathering of the women for their ‘sewing and knitting sessions’ was held at Government House, St. John’s on September 17, 1914.

A month later, on October 23, 1914 the ladies satisfied with the amount of work that they had completed invited the residents of St. John’s for “an exhibition of the articles of clothing made by the different workers throughout the Island, for our soldiers at the front.”

Those who visited Government House saw in the exhibit “socks, shirts, pillows, pajamas, hospital jackets, knitted caps, and hand kerchiefs.”  Lady Davidson explained that the articles came from “Spaniard’s Bay, Carbonear, Fermeuse, Stephenville and Twillingate.” She was particularly pleased with the women of Twillingate who had contributed 1, 144 pairs of socks.

She was also quick to point out that in many other outports the workers “are busy sewing and knitting, and their contributions will be received in due time.”

Photo Credit:  Government House, St. John’s. On October 2, 2014 Her Honour, Patricia Fagan,  hosted a reception at Government House in Honour of the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland, later to become known as the WPA

Photo Credit: Government House, St. John’s. On October 2, 2014 Her Honour, Patricia Fagan, hosted a reception at Government House in Honour of the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland, later to become known as the WPA

Lady Davidson explained that “in the city about 800 ladies are engaged four days a week making garments.” Throughout the Dominion of Newfoundland she said “the various church guilds are working steadily and the members of first aid classes and nurses are making bandages.”

A special project of some of the younger women   was the “making garments for the Belgian children.”

Lady Davidson and her lady friends from the Women’s Patriotic Association were proud of their work and insisted that “of the clothing received it is of the best material and workmanship.”

The first shipment of the material was made on the S.S. Tabasco a British Steamer responsible for general cargo. In January 1917 carrying a similar load the Tabasco was torpedoed by a German Submarine.

Recommended Archival Collection: Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland Description number MG 842.5 This fle consists of printed publication prepared by Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA), with introduction by Lady Margaret Davidson. Instructions for knit wear and convalescent clothes for soldiers included.

Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks” by Tryphena Duley, Verses by Margaret Duley.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Knitting Socks: Demonstration: Sock Knitting: In just two years, the women of Newfoundland and Labrador knit 62,685 pairs of socks for the troops in the First World War. Come to the Collecting the Great War: Enlisting Your Help exhibition to watch a pair of grey socks being made, using the original pattern, and try your hand at knitting. Demonstrations are ongoing on level 2 Wednesday’s from 6:30-9:00 until December 10th.

 

 

 

Were Newfoundlanders at the Battle of Trafalgar?

Archival Moment

October 21, 1805

The Battle of Trafalgar (The Death of Nelson),  by the Irish artist John Edward Carew.  His work is also in the Basilica in St. John's.

The Battle of Trafalgar (The Death of Nelson), by the Irish artist John Edward Carew. His work is also in the Basilica in St. John’s.

For the men of the navy one of the most significant dates on the calendar is Trafalgar Day, celebrated on October 21.

The day is the celebration of the victory won by the Royal Navy, commanded by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.

The victory at Trafalgar was to be of great importance, it was the triumph that ensured Great Britain’s domination of the sea for the next 100 years. The day was widely commemorated by parades, dinners and other events throughout much of the British Empire in the 19th century and early 20th century. It is still widely celebrated in navies of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Trafalgar Day was celebrated with great fanfare and continued until the First World War, after which it became less prominent due to the heavy losses incurred during that conflict.

The last time Trafalgar Day was celebrated in St John’s, Newfoundland was on October 21, 1914. In the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram an editorial was devoted to the significance of the event with a full page extract from the issue of the London Times containing the original report on the Death of Nelson and the Victory of Trafalgar.

At the Battle of Trafalgar over 18,000 sailors and marines fought on the British side. Their names have now been collated into a database at The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Apart from English, Welsh and Scottish, the Irish were by far the largest contingent with over 3573 men indicating that Ireland was their place of birth.  From Canada, particularity Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, 31 men.

Keith Mercer, Ph.D., Research Associate at Gorsebrook Research Institute, Saint Mary’s University has in his research identified five mariners who acknowledged Newfoundland as their home or birthplace.

John Brown was a 28-year-old able seaman in HMS Naiad. A “volunteer” entered at sea, he was probably pressed from a merchant vessel earlier that year.

Joseph Harrison was a 22-year-old ordinary seaman in HMS Agamemnon, a ship in which he served for at least four years after Trafalgar.

John Welch was a 20-year-old landsman in HMS Minotaur. His birthplace is listed as “St. John,” which likely means St. John’s. He had company in that ship. Robert White, a 20-year-old able seaman from Newfoundland, also served aboard the Minotaur.

Finally, J.B.J. Allis (Allio) is listed as from St. Peter’s, Newfoundland, which could be the French island of St. Pierre off the island’s south coast.  An ordinary seaman, he was turned over from HMS Gladiator to HMS Ajax in 1804, in which ship he served for more than two years, including at Trafalgar. He then deserted, or ran away, from the Ajax at Gibraltar in 1806. If “Allis” was from St. Pierre, he was likely a Frenchman who was forced to fight against his own country. Surprisingly, dozens of Frenchmen served in British ships at Trafalgar, just as there were many Americans in the Royal Navy. Many of these foreigners were pressed or forcibly conscripted into service.

Newfoundland has another connection. To celebrate the great victory, Nelson’s monument in Trafalgar Square in London was commissioned.  This first and most famous panel, in this monument is The Battle of Trafalgar (sometimes called The Death of Nelson), it was put in place in December 1849 executed by the Irish artist John Edward Carew.  The others followed, between 1850 and 1852.

It is said that the Roman Catholic bishop of St. John’s, John Thomas Mullock who was in the process of building the Cathedral in St. John’s (now the Basilica) was so impressed with Carew’s work ‘The Death of Nelson’, that he commissioned Carew to execute two bas reliefs that would hang in the Cathedral and two statues, for the courtyard.  Carew’s work is our connection to Trafalgar Square!

Again the loud toned trump of fame

Proclaims Britannia rules the main

While sorrow whispers Nelson’s name,

All mourns the gallant victor slain.

In Canada, Niobe Day is celebrated by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) on the 21st day of October each year. Niobe Day marks the arrival of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Niobe in Halifax on October 21, 1910, the first Canadian warship to enter Canada’s territorial waters and a landmark event in the beginnings of the Naval Service of Canada.

Niobe Day gives RCN personnel a chance to reflect on their collective accomplishments since 1910, what it means to be members of the profession of arms, and what is required of them to ensure the RCN’s continued excellence, both at sea and ashore, in the years to come.

Recommended Reading: Parsons, W. David, and Ean Parsons. The Best Small-Boat Seamen in the Navy: The Newfoundland Division, Royal Naval Reserve, 1900-1922. St. John’s, NL: DRC Publishing, 2009.  By 1914, more than 1,400 Newfoundland seamen had trained and were ready to serve on ships of the Royal Navy in case of war. During the First World War (1914-1918), and up until 1919, a total of 1,994 officers and men of the Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserved served on ships of the Royal Navy – 192 lost their lives. It was during the war that these Newfoundlanders earned the title of “the best small-boat seamen in the Navy.”

Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) are on line at  http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. The Rooms.   Level 2 Atrium. Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: The Rooms Level 2 Museum Vitrine. A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in our collective memory are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, this Rooms exhibit explores the significant role these flowers played across the last century.

Recommended Blog posting:  Keith Mercer’s, Trafalgar Veterans from Atlantic Canada. Read more:  http://www.keithmercer.com/1/post/2013/10/trafalar-veterans-from-atlantic-canada.html

 

One-day symposium on the historical significance of Grenfell

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13.62   (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell painting .)

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13.62 (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell painting .)

The impact of British physician-missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell (1865-1940) was widely recognized during the first half of the twentieth century. Grenfell’s lifework in Newfoundland and Labrador began in the early 1890s with the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. By 1914 the International Grenfell Association (IGA) was formed to focus on his work in this region. This one-day symposium will explore the historical significance of Grenfell, the IGA, and the delivery of healthcare in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last century and address issues concerning the present and the future. All are welcome, with refreshment breaks provided.

The Rooms, St John’s, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9 am to 5 pm

Programme and Schedule

9:00 am-9:10 am

Session 1—Introduction Welcome

Chair, Jennifer Connor

9:10 am-10:20 am

Jeff Webb: “Newfoundland in the age of Grenfell”

Jim Connor: “Primary medical care and health in Newfoundland during the Grenfell era: Were they that bad?”

10:40 am-11:30 am

Anne Budgell: “Opera, lunch, and tea: New York high society and the Grenfell Mission”

Heidi Coombs-Thorne: “‘Heroines’: Nursing with the Grenfell Mission, 1939-1981”

11:30am-12:30pm

Ronald Numbers: “The gospel of right living: Wilfred Grenfell’s collaboration with John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek.”

1:30pm-2:45pm

Jennifer Connor: “Two British physicians and their ‘flits’ on the Grenfell mission in Newfoundland before 1930”

Larry Dohey: “It is called ‘GRENFELLITIS:’ Archivists look at the Grenfell Collection and its artistic and historical significance”

Monica Kidd: “‘If we can make a cure of him’: Lyrical Grenfell in the St. Anthony casebooks, 1906”

3:05pm-3:55 pm

Bill Bavington: “Reflections on the IGA in a time of transition–1974-1982”

Maria Mathews: “Back to the future – Primary care reform in rural Newfoundland and Labrador”

3:55 pm-4:25 pm

Concluding Remarks

Chair, Jim Connor

Norman Pinder

Edward Roberts

All sessions  are  free and open to the public. The Rooms, St John’s, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9 am to 5 pm

For more information contact: Dr. Jim Connors: jconnor@mun.ca    or 709.777.8729.

The Long’s Hill Cemetery – A Silent City

The Long’s Hill Cemetery – A Silent City

Long's Hill Cemtery, St. John's (1810 - 1849)

Long’s Hill Cemtery, St. John’s (1810 – 1849)

In 1849 legislation was introduced in the Colony of Newfoundland closing all cemeteries in St. John’s, including the cemetery for the Roman Catholic’s on Long’s Hill that was opened in 1811.   What happened to the Long’s Hill Cemetery? What was St. John’s like between 1810 -1849?

Larry Dohey, Manager of Collections and Projects at the Rooms Provincial Archives will discuss the history of the cemetery, using archival documents, in a presentation at the Benevolent Irish Society, Irish Hall, 30 Harvey Road, St. John’s, Thursday, October 16 @ 7:30 p.m.  All are welcome. For more information call (709) 754-0570.

Please forward to family and friends who may be interested.