His broken-hearted mother …”

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

Greene FWW CollectionIn the wake of the death and carnage of Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916 many mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador clung to the hope that their sons did not die but had been taken as Prisoners of War (POW). They were desperate to have any shred of evidence. Mothers, like Catherine Andrews of 249 Water Street, St. John’s wrote letters to government officials urging them to do all that they could to find their sons.  She had three sons that signed up to fight for ‘King and Country’.  The government typically responded:

Dear Madam,

For some time past the Imperial Government have been making enquiries in relation to those men of the First Newfoundland Regiment who have been reported missing since the action of the 1st July. I very much regret to state, however, that from the correspondence which has taken place …. it is evident that none of them are Prisoners of War in Germany, and the authorities are, therefore, reluctantly forced to the conclusion that all these gallant men [including] one of whom was very dear to you, were killed in that fateful action on the 1st of July.

I desire to express to you on behalf of the Government, as well as for myself, the sincerest sympathy in this time of sorrow. We feel the loss of our loved ones, but it will, no doubt, be some consolation to you to think that he – for whom you now mourn- willingly answered the call of King and Country, did his part nobly, and fell, facing the foe, in defence of the principles of Righteousness, Truth and Liberty. Though he has laid down the earthly weapons of warfare, he now wears the Soldier’s Crown of Victory and his name will be inscribed upon the Glorious Roll of Honor, and be held in fragrant memory by all his fellow countrymen.

When the victory is won, and Peace again reigns upon the earth, it will be a comforting thought to you that in this glorious achievement he bore no small part.

Like many in Newfoundland, this determined mother, Catherine Andrews, could not comprehend the staggering toll of Beaumont Hamel. Almost a year later, she contacted government officials, requesting that they publish a photograph of her son, in hopes that someone might recognize him:

 The letter, dated 21 May 1917, was addressed:

 “ To whom it may concern.   [I] don’t know if this is the correct address…. I am sending my darling son’s photo to you to see if it will be of any use to you as there are now hopes of being able to trace our missing men. You will see by the photo that he was posted as missing on July 1st 1916 and later I was sent official notice that he was believed killed in action, but there are many of us who believe they are alive. If you have any proof of my son’s death will you kindly send such to me, his broken-hearted mother.

 I have received some letters we sent him stamped with the two words: “Casualty verified”. Please explain how that can be possible and, if true, do please send me anything you may have in personal property or belongings of his… I shall be very thankful for any news of him or his affairs. I have one [soldier] son now at Wandsworth [Hospital] and another still in France with the Canadian Royal Engineers.

 Very respectfully,

Mrs. Catherine Andrews

When informed that no information was available about her son’s death, Mrs. Andrews wrote the governor:

To His Excellency Governor Davidson

Sir,

 As the mother of one of our fallen heroes I wish to see you on a very important matter. Will you kindly arrange for me to see you at the very earliest possible date and if that is not possible may I see Lady Davidson instead.

 The private secretary to the Governor contacted the Regimental Record Office; unfortunately, Joe Andrews, like so many other Newfoundland soldiers was missing, leaving no personal effects, no identification discs, no grave, no memory of his last words. Sometimes the families found out the circumstances of their son’s death several years later.

(This narrative originally appeared as part of a dramatic reading ‘Soldiers’ Stories’ written and researched by Jessie Chisholm using archival material from the Rooms Provincial Archives.)

On July 1 take some time to visit our National War Memorial, St. John’s or the War Memorial in your home town. Remember, Catherine Andrews and the many other mothers who lost their sons.

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms. 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.

Commemoration: In St. John’s on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 at 11:00 a.m., The Honourable Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and Honorary Colonel of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Her Honour Patricia Fagan will attend the Memorial Day Service at the National War Memorial in St. John’s. His Honour will lay the first wreath. Her Honour will lay a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Patriotic Association (1914-1918).

Memorial Day: July 1 “Sons Lost on the Field of Battle”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 1, 1916

Memorial Day

NA 3106 Opening of the Newfoundland Memorial Park, Beaumont Hamel, France

July 1st is a time for celebration for the people of Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the day has a more somber meaning.

Memorial Day commemorates the participation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel, France.

On July 1, 1916, 801 members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment fought in that battle and only 68 answered the roll call the next morning.

 “We here in Newfoundland have felt the effects of the war… The  dreadful reality of war has come to too many families throughout the land. And there are very few districts in the Island which are not mourning… sons lost on the field of battle. The war is an all absorbing topic, it is never absent from our thoughts. It is like some dreadful nightmare that we cannot shake off. Our prayers and desires are for a speedy end of the war, for an early peace, but for a peace at the same time, which will render impossible another such world calamity as that which we are suffering now.” (Source:  Edward Patrick Roche, 1918  – 107‑2‑6)

Shortly after the Great War, the Government of Newfoundland purchased the ground over which the 1st Newfoundland Regiment made its heroic advance on July 1. Much of the credit is due to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nangle. As Director of Graves Registration and Enquiry and Newfoundland’s representative on the Imperial War Graves Commission, he negotiated with some 250 French landowners for the purchase of the site. He had a leading part in planning and supervising the erection, at each of the five Newfoundland Memorials sites in Europe, of a statue of the noble caribou, the emblem of the Regiment, standing facing the former foe with head thrown high in defiance.

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms. 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.

Commemoration of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel: In St. John’s on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 at 11:00 a.m., The Honourable Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and Honorary Colonel of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Her Honour Patricia Fagan will attend the Memorial Day Service at the National War Memorial in St. John’s. His Honour will lay the first wreath. Her Honour will lay a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Patriotic Association (1914-1918).

Lest we Forget!

 

 

Looking for a Good Tea Fight?

Archival Moment

June 26, 1897

Evening Telegram, St. John's, NL Advertisement: February 3, 1894

Evening Telegram, St. John’s, NL Advertisement: February 3, 1894

A great number of expressions and terms that were part of everyday conversation have been lost over the years. In Newfoundland there was a time that one would be very excited to be invited to a “tea fight” it was an event that people looked forward to with great enthusiasm.

On June 26, 1897 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on a big “tea fight” held in the community of Channel, Port aux Basques. The newspaper reported:

“There was a great display of bunting at Channel (Port aux Basques) on the 22nd. In the evening people of the place enjoyed a big “tea fight” and a dancing event on an extensive scale.”

In the 1890’s a great number of societies and organizations throughout the country (Newfoundland) were encouraging “tea fights.”   Firemen, policemen, educators, Christian teachers, leaders in the temperance community, all were encouraging or sponsoring ‘big tea fights.”

In St. John’s a “tea fight”  at the West End Fire Hall for firemen, policemen, and lady friends, kept up till midnight.

“Tea fights” were annual events at the Temperance Hall on Victoria St. The Telegram reported

“There was a superb tea fight participated in with good appetite. Every person present fared well—freely partook of a good serving by young ladies in charge of the tables, and made no further complaint than “the water is not hot enough.”

A “tea fight” is an English term that referred to a “little social gathering” or “an evening party.” The Oxford English Dictionary explains “tea-fight” as a slang or humorous name for a tea-party or tea-meeting.

In 1869 William Conant Church argued in the entertainment magazine The Galaxy that the “ignominious phrase, a tea fight…” can be traced back to the expression “a sociable dish of tea.” He wrote:

“Our mother and grandmothers gathered on special summons or went without warning on general invitation; and even our fathers and grandfathers despised neither the tea nor the sociability that sweetened it. But the thing (a sociable dish of tea) and its name have passed away … it lives only in the memory of some morose old bachelors under the ignominious phrase, a tea fight…”

The phrase “tea fight” may have been dying away in other parts of the world in the early 1870’s but in Newfoundland “tea fights” were very popular in the 1890’s and continued until the 1920’s.

It is now another phrase lost from our everyday conversation.

Time for a tea, perhaps I will have you over for a “tea fight” some evening.

What are other phrases, terms or expressions particular to Newfoundland and Labrador have been lost?

Recommended Reading: The Dictionary of Newfoundland English, first published in 1982 is a historical dictionary that gives the pronunciations and definitions for words that the editors have called “Newfoundland English”. The varieties of English spoken in Newfoundland date back four centuries, Culled from a vast reading of books, newspapers and magazines, this book is the most sustained reading ever undertaken of the written words of this province. http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/

Mysterious Iceberg off St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 24, 1905

“Our Lady of the Fjords”

Mysterious Iceberg in St. John’s Narrows, T.B. Hayward. June 24, 1905

On  June 24, 1905 T.B. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Christian presence.

The photograph in ques­tion depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John’s. How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown. The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes. His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he com­posed a sonnet in honour of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to the glistening ice figure as “a shimmering shrine – our bright Atlantic Lourdes. The sonnet was published Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.

Our Lady of the Fjords

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.” Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book  Baltimore’s Mansion.

The timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition appearing in the St. John’s Narrows  was quite  significant.

June 24 on the Christian calendar is the Feast of St. John the Baptist.   On June 24, 1497  John Cabot “discovered”  Newfoundland,  it is the feast day of the patron saint of the R.C. Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral  in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s.

Recommended Reading:

The Newfoundland Quarterly, LXXXVI, no. 2. (1980)

Kodak Catholicism: Miraculous Photography and its Significance by Jessy C. PAGLIAROLI : Canadian Catholic Historical  Association (CCHA) , Historical Studies, 70 (2004), 71_93

Recommended Archival Collection:  Very few photographs of Thomas B. Hayward have been identified.  If you are aware of other photographs and sketches created by Thomas or his father J. W Hayward the  Rooms Provincial Archives Division would love to hear from you.

 

 

International Airport Proposed for Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 21, 1928

International Airport at Trepassey, Newfoundland

On June 21, 1928 the prestigious New York Times  newspaper declared that Trepassey, Newfoundland would be the site of a great international airport.

The newspaper headline declared:

“Miss Earhart Predicts Great Airport at Trepassey for Transocean Flights.”  

The headline came about as a result of an interview that Amelia Earhart had with the international press shortly after landing at Burry Port, Wales becoming the first woman to make the Atlantic crossing.

Earhart and her crew had departed fromTrepassey, Newfoundland the morning of June 17 landing “across the pond” on June 18.  Prior to departure from Trepassey she has spent twelve days in the town meeting many of the local people.

Earhart told the New York Times reporter:

“Trepassey ought to be some day a great airport for transoceanic travel. It processes the finest harbor, perhaps the only harbor, adapted naturally for seaplane takeoffs in its part of the world.”

But she cautioned that Trepassey needed to develop an infrastructure to sustain this new industry that was emerging.  She told the reporter:

“…there are very few trains from the outside world into Trepassey and absolutely no facilities for taking care of a plane or repairing them. … If someone would build a seaplane station in Trepassey it would be a great help to aviation, for there is going to be more transatlantic flights from there so many that they will not even be of interest to the public.”

Unfortunately for Trepassey no infrastructure was established.

In Newfoundland, the town of Harbour Grace became the airport of choice. The  Harbour Grace airfield, built on the summit of this hill by the  local  people became starting point of many early flights from West to East.  Amelia Earhart  the next time she was in Newfoundland  by passed  Trepassey that she had spoken  so highly about   and completed the world’s first transatlantic solo flight by a woman after taking off from Harbour Grace, on 20 May 1932 and landing at Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Archival Collection:  (International) George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers:  The Amelia Earhart papers offer a rare glimpse into the life of America’s premier woman aviator. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.  The online collection includes more than 3,500 scans of photographs, maps, documents, and artifacts relating to Earhart.  http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart/

Recommended Archival Collection:  (Local) At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read the GN 18.18  Series. These are handwritten news books kept by staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on local and international events. Starting in 1912 and running until the mid 1930s, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs compiled daily news summaries from newspaper reports and transmitted these by Morse Code to all of the telegraph offices on the island. This “Public Despatch” wherever it was received, the news summaries would be written out by the telegraph officer and posted on a wall, or read by the operator to local people who could not read.  In 1928 the staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs made notes about the activities in Trepassey concerning Amelia Earhart.

Recommended Reading: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart  By Susan Butler.  Da Cappo Press (A chapter is devoted to her time in Trepassey.)

Recommended Reading: Earhart, Amelia. 1928. 20 Hrs., 40 min.: Our Flight in the Friendship. G.P. Putnam’s Sons:New York. (Reprinted in 2003 by National Geographic Adventure Classics: Was

Why should the innocent suffer for the guilty: Prison Reform in Newfoundland?

HMP1June 19, 1890

Archival Moment

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, (H.M.P.) St. John’s is one of the oldest stone structures in the province, and is one of the oldest, stand-alone stone prisons in Newfoundland and Labrador. It has held countless inmates since the first prisoner took to his cell in 1859.

Since that first prisoner, H. M. Penitentiary has been fodder for reformers and critics.

In June 1890 the House of Assembly of Newfoundland passed a piece of Legislation known as “An Act to provide for the Commutation of Sentences for good behavior and industry of Prisoners confined to the Penitentiary.”  Essentially the legislation allowed for the release of prisoners for good behavior before they completed their full sentence.

The new legislation was the talk of the town. Some were quite critical other reformers suggested that more could be done.

On June 19, 1890 one such reformer in a letter to the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram wrote:

“One of the greatest difficulties in the punishment of convicted persons in this country, (Newfoundland) lies in the fact that it is often impossible to punish the guilty without making the innocent suffer far more severely.”

The writer (he wrote under the pen name Reformer) was suggesting that once convicted and imprisoned the man is “inflicting beggary upon his family.”

The writer proposed a remedy. He wrote:

 “The only remedy for this appears to be that a variety of industries should be established in the penitentiary; that every person imprisoned should be obliged to labor at some industry; and that his earnings should be applied to the support of his family, where such support is needed. In this way, all law-breakers would be gradually deprived of public pity, the respect for the law would grow stronger in the whole community; and the law, being backed up by public opinion, would gain a stronger hold upon the conscience of every individual in the community.”

Insisting that every person imprisoned should be obliged to labor at some industry had the advantage he wrote “to give the prisoner a chance to learn a trade.” He continued:

 “In this way, too, every person imprisoned would learn some trade (more or less perfectly, according to the length of his term, and the nature of the industry); every such person would probably acquire habits of industry; and thus there would be greater security against a relapse into evil ways after discharge from the prison.”

Since it was founded in 1859 until the early 1900’s prison work crews could be seen about the city working on public buildings and there grounds. One industry or trade that was developed at the penitentiary was the trade of ‘broom making’ most of the brooms found in Newfoundland households were  at one time made by the prisoners of the penitentiary.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: Statistics Showing the Number of Persons in the Penitentiary   [Fonds GN 170] Newfoundland and Labrador court records collection.

Recommended Reading: 2008 “Judging the Prisons of Newfoundland and Labrador: the Perspectives of Inmates and Ex-inmates”, in Poirier, S., Brown, G. and Carlson, T., in Decades of Darkness: Moving towards the Light. A Review of the Prison System in Newfoundland and Labrador, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, pp. 139-202.

 

 

Amelia Earhart in Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 17, 1928 

Amelia Earhart, June 14, 1928, Trepassey, Newfoundland

As a passenger on the Friendship, (Fokker F7 airplane) Amelia Earhart, the first woman to hop the Atlantic, flew from Trepassey, Newfoundland, to Burry Port, Wales, on June 17, 1928.

The Friendship and crew successfully landed in Newfoundlandon June 5 only to encounter gales or fog for days that prohibited their takeoff forEurope.

Earhart Arrives in Trepassey, June 5, 1928

···· The Friendship circled Trepassey twice before putting down in the choppy water of the harbor after a flight of 4 hours, 24 minutes. As the big monoplane taxied slowly toward the small cluster of houses on the eastern shore that was the town of Trepassey, dories full of men whirling ropes (Amelia called them maritime cowboys), each evidently hoping to guide them in, surrounded the Friendship, …

The town magistrate, Fred Gill, and his two sons, waiting near the monoplane in a dory, secured the honor of giving Amelia and Bill Stultz a ride to the dock. Slim Gordon came later, after tending to the plane.

The children of Trepassey, who had been watching and waiting at the windows of the convent school facing the harbour, ran down to the shore en masse. Amelia “had a vision of many white pinafores and aprons on the dock,” and was under the impression that school had let out early so that the children could greet them. In fact the children had simply fled without permission for which they were made to stay late.  She went up and visited with the children later at the convent school; the nuns were scandalized by the sight of a woman in pants.

One of the Telegrams that was sent to Amelia Earhart in Trepassey from a friend George, knowing that Amelia had not packed a change of clothing wired:

“SUGGEST YOU GO INTO RETIREMENT TEMPORARILY WITH NUNS AND HAVE THEM WASH SHIRT ETC –STOP”

It was arranged that the three fliers would spend the night at a small frame two story house with attached general Store belonging to Richard (Richie Dick)  and Fanny Devereaux …. Mrs  Devereaux too at first sight of Amelia in her “breeks” and boots was “quite overcome, and felt her to be sure I was present in the flesh.”

The Deveraux children,  among them,  a young girl  who was to grow up to be  Sister Theophane Curtis of the Presentation Congregation,  the daughter of Fanny Deveraux from a previous marriage moved from their family home to live with relatives.

DEPARTURE FROM TREPASSEY  – June 17, 1928

The team left Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928, and arrived at Burry Port,Wales approximately 21 hours later, a distance of more than 2,010 miles (3,235 kilometers), in 20 hours 49 minutes. With Miss Earhart were Wilbur Stultz, pilot, and Louis Gordon, mechanic.

When the crew returned to the States, they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade inNew Yorkand a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. From then on, flying was the fixture of Earhart’s life.

The experience in Trepassey might have been the inspiration for Earhart in the 1930’s  to design  a line of “functional” women’s clothing, including dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats, initially using her own sewing machine, dress form, and seamstress.  She photographed well and modeled her own designs for promotional spreads.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives holds a series of photographs (H5 – 32-35)  taken of Amelia Earhart prior to commencing the world’s “first transatlantic solo flight by a woman”. Earhart took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland  on 20 May 1932 and landed in Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Reading: Earhart, Amelia. 1928. 20 Hrs., 40 min.: Our Flight in the Friendship. G.P. Putnam’s Sons:New York. (Reprinted in 2003 by National Geographic Adventure Classics:Washington.)

Recommended Website:  The official Website of Amelia Earhart:  http://www.ameliaearhart.com/