“When the able and the young go away to work…”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

 May 23, 1869

The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, VA 14-146 / G. Anderson

On  (May 23, 1869) Edward Morris of St. John’s wrote in his diary  about all of the activity at the dockside in St. John’s . He observed “about 500 men” getting ready to leave Newfoundland  in search for work.  He wrote in his diary:

“Yesterday the “Merlin” Steamer left Shea’s Wharf for Nova Scotia with upwards of 500 men to work on the inter colonial railway. The saddest evidence of the depressed state of this colony (Newfoundland) that has as yet been presented.  When the able and the young go away to work upon the roads in the other provinces in preference to remaining to prosecute the fisheries it speaks little for the inducements of the fisherman’s occupation.”

The jobs that the 500 Newfoundlanders were seeking by taking the Steamer ‘Merlin  from St. John’s to Nova Scotia were jobs on the inter colonial railway, under construction,  linking the Maritime colonies and Canada. Completion of the railway was made a condition of Confederation in 1867.

The out migration, that Edward Morris witnessed, by his fellow Newfoundlanders is a constant theme in Newfoundland history.  The people of Newfoundlandand moved to other countries for a wide range of reasons throughout the 1800’s, emigration occurred on the largest scale during the last two decades of the century when the cod fishery fell into severe decline and caused widespread economic hardship.

While some people left their homes permanently, others worked in foreign countries on a seasonal or temporary basis before returning home. Most emigrants moved to Canada or the United States. The vast majority to “the Boston States.”

In more recent years Newfoundland and Labrador has witnessed (1996 and 2001) about 47,100 people pulling up stakes and leaving the province.

According to Statistics Canada estimates Newfoundland and Labrador experienced a net loss of 3,000 people to Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia in 2017-18.

The Conference Board of Canada’s most recent long-term forecast predicts the province’s population will fall from about 527,000 now to 482,000 by 2035.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type emigration in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Newfoundland: Journey Into a Lost Nation by Michael Crummey and Greg Locke. McClelland & Stewart. Chronicles the passage of a time when cod were still plentiful and the fishery shaped the lives of most of the island’s inhabitants, to the present, when an economy, propelled by oil and mineral development, is recasting the island’s identity in a new mould.

Recommended Website: Statistics Canada – http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/subject-sujet/theme-theme.action?pid=3867&lang=eng&more=0

 

 

Victoria Day, the 24th of May

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

24 May

Queen Victoria: Born May 24, 1819

Victoria Day as we know it today has been known under a number of different names. Our parents and grandparents perhaps best remember it as Empire Day.

With the death of Queen Victoria, who died on 22 January 1901, the nations of the British Commonwealth  including Newfoundland began to search for a way to best celebrate her contributions.

The first ‘Empire Day’ took place on 24th May 1902, Queen Victoria’s birthday. Newfoundland was among the first of the commonwealth nations to officially declare Empire Day an official holiday in 1903.

The holiday has given rise to the

  “The 24th May is the Queen’s Birthday. If we don’t get a holiday we will all run away.”

Empire Day remained on the calendar for more than 50 years. In 1958 Empire Day was renamed as British Commonwealth Day, and still later in 1966 it became known as Commonwealth Day. The date of Commonwealth Day was also changed to 10th June, the official birthday of the present Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1957, Victoria Day was permanently appointed as the Queen’s birthday in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the Queen’s birthday is celebrated in June.

Queen Victoria and Newfoundland Connections

Queen Victoria allowed for the land grant for the Basilica, St. John’s

Queen Victoria and the  Newfoundland Shawl

Bishop  Michael Fleming  – the Roman Catholic bishop  of Newfoundland conceived of the of the idea  of building the  Basilica Cathedral in the 1830’s.  In April, 1838, by gracious decree of the new Queen, Victoria, a definitive grant of some nine acres was made for the purpose of erecting the new cathedral and related buildings.   Fleming  obtained permission from Queen Victoria to build on “The Barrens”.

Tradition has it that  Bishop Fleming  met with Queen Victoria in Hyde Park in London where the Queen rode by in her carriage.  She then invited him sto Buckingham Palace for tea.

After a discussion, Queen  Victoria offered her support and approval for the  granting of the land for the Roman Catholic  Cathedral.  As he was leaving  the Palace – Queen Victoria noted that it was chilly outside and offered him a shawl  –  which he later gave to his friend  Mary Shaw Dempsey of Alexandria Street, St. John’s.   There is a photograph of the shawl in a 1955 publication.

Victoria Behind Carbonear takes its name from Queen Victoria 

Newfoundland:   Victoria goes by many nicknames, including “The Village” and “The Savage Hollar.”  The community of Victoria is believed to have originally begun as a “winterhouse” for people from Freshwater and Carbonear.  In the nineteenth century the settlement was named Victoria Village, in honor of Queen Victoria.

Pitcher Plant

Queen Victoria and the Pitcher Plant

The Pitcher Plant was originally selected by Queen Victoria to be printed on the newly-minted Newfoundland Penny. The Pitcher Plant, was later designated by the Newfoundland Cabinet in 1954 to be the official flower of the new province. This unique plant can be found throughout the marshes and bogs of Newfoundland. The wine and green flowers attract the insects which, occasionally, fall into the tubular leaves below. The cup-shaped leaves collect water and rain, drowning the insects which nourish the plant.  The pitcher plant — so named because its leaves resemble a pitcher for pouring water— ian insect-eating plant that grows in various terrains across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Queen Victoria and Cabot Tower

In 1897, Cabot Tower was commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (60th Anniversary).

An excellent example of late-gothic revival architecture the tower was designed by St. John’s architect William Howe Greene.

Begun in 1898, Cabot Tower was completed in 1900 and has been a part of a number of historic events.

Although now one of the most recognizable symbols of St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador, its construction was not well-supported in the town. Most of St. John’s burned to the ground in 1892 and the banks in Newfoundland crashed in 1894. When Judge Daniel .W. Prowse, a prominent local man, suggested building Cabot Tower, one person said in a local paper that:

it’s like putting a silk hat on the head of a man who can’t afford to buy a pair of boots.”

Victoria Park, St. John’s  Declared a Scared Place  

Victoria Park, St. John’s

Victoria Park takes its name from Queen Victoria 

In the Police Court  on July 28,1897, his Honor Judge Daniel Prowse, in delivering judgment in  an assault case committed on Thomas Redmond, a son of Patrick Redmond, caretaker of Victoria Park,  Judge Prowse remarked that “the park is a sacred place”, as is the person of Mr. Redmond, and in future any person brought before him for assaulting that gentleman, will be severely punished.

Take some time to visit Victoria Park this weekend and visit the website of the Victoria Park Foundation.

 

Archival Collection at The Rooms: What have we in the archives about Queen Victoria:  In the search bar  type Victoria: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Victoria Day in Newfoundland and Labrador marks the beginning of the summer, it is time to open the cabins  and get the camping gear out!!

Recommened Song:  Buddy Wasisname – 24th Of May.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fMzIpoDHLA&list=RD3fMzIpoDHLA#t=15

 

 

Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Date: Sunday, May 19
Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Where: The Rooms Theatre
Cost: Included With Admission

Join us at The Rooms for a special performance by Aileen Lambert whose singing is rooted in the English language repertoire of her native County Wexford, Ireland. Many if the songs that she will sing are from her CD “The Wexford Lovers; Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland.”  Traditional Songs sung in Wexford but also found in Fermeuse, St. Shotts, Fogo, Branch and other communities in Newfoundland.

Bring along the children too for this performance as a number of songs have accompanying actions and are guaranteed to get everyone moving and singing to the top of their voices. The first half of the concert will be centered on child friendly songs, where Aileen will be joined by her daughters Nellie (age 9), Eppie (age 6) and Nan (age 4) to perform songs with tall stories such as ‘Paddy and the Whale’ to songs of nonsense like ‘Little Pack o’ Tailors’. Nellie will also share her love of ‘sean-nós’ Irish dancing (gaelic for ‘old-style’).

Aileen and her husband Michael Fortune (folklorist/filmmaker) are currently spending a month based in the community of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, to record and document traditional song, folklore, customs and sayings.   To follow their activities and research check out  folklore.ie  or Aileen Lambert – Traditional Singer on FaceBook

An all-ages performance you won’t want to miss.

First come, first served

 https://www.events.therooms.ca/Events/details/id/00002085

“Trepassey residents shaken out of their customary staidness”

US Navy ships Trepassey Bay May 6, 1919

In May 1919  (100 years ago)  the international press and aviation enthusiasts throughout the world  were all very interested in what was happening in Trepassey, Newfoundland.

The Evening Telegram reported on May 6, 1919:

“Never before in its uneventful history has the small settlement of Trepassey been filled with such excitement as today permeates that place. For from a vague idea of what the much talked of Transatlantic flight is, the little village has in a flash become a very centre of operations, and already the people there have become used to the sight of nearly a dozen American cruisers anchored in the harbor.“

On May 6 the residents of Trepassey sat on the banks overlooking the harbour to witness the arrival of a two American naval vessels.   They were unannounced and unexpected. On Saturday morning two more vessels anchored in the harbour. Before the end of the week there would be a dozen naval vessels  with a crew of approximately 8,500.

The Telegram reported:

The furor caused by the entirely unexpected arrival of the U. S. N. “Kistoo” late Friday afternoon, and that caused on Saturday by the arrival of two others, the flagship “Prairie” and the seaplane mother ship,” “Aroostock,” had best be left to the imagination.”

Everyone in Trepassey and residents of nearby St. Shott’s were all up bright and early on Saturday morning – all gathered in small clusters trying to figure out what was happening.   It was eventually revealed

“ a seaplane was lowered to the water and, running along the surface for a short distance, ascended into the air and went circling off over the harbour and village”.

Curtiss NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland May 16, 1919

NEVER SEEN THE LIKES BEFORE

 There was much excitement – never had anyone in Trepassey seen a flying machine in the skies before.

The newspapers reported:

“As in the case of the Martinsyde biplane’s test flight, the gulls and other sea birds that were peacefully floating on the waters were startled out of their calm and flew away to safety out of reach of this new manner, of bird that had invaded the quietness of the placid air of the port.

The gentle sheep, the more spirited goats and the virile ponies that browsed along the grassy slopes of the immediately surrounding country were panic-stricken at the sight of the seaplane and more so, perhaps, at the unearthly sound of the powerful motor, and for a long time after the flier had dropped back to the harbor they capered madly about the fields and the winding lanes that constitute the roads of the village.

Not less than the animals, it must be admitted, the people themselves were shaken out of their customary staidness, and for hours after they met in little groups and discussed this new wonder that had come amongst them, and a most amusing feature of these conferences were the wild hazards of the natives as to what “drove” the plane and what kept it in the air. This problem has not been solved at Trepasey yet. “

At about 1.30 the seaplane made another flight, circling over the harbour for about half an hour. The inhabitants now lined up along the beach, and although not so excited as on the day preceding they were just as interested as ever.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL Flying Boats Trepassey A47-42

U.S. NAVY ATTEMPT, AT CROSSING THE ATLANTIC

The U. S. Navy were attempting   to cross the Atlantic by air using four seaplanes of uniform type.   The flying machines chosen were the Navy-Curtiss machine, built by Curtiss with the cooperation of the Navy; all fitted four Liberty motors, and four propellers.

The plan was that on the voyage across the Atlantic the planes would fly together keeping in sight of each other all the distance.  The navy vessels in Trepassey were to depart Trepassey  Harbour  and were to be posted  along the route with  a total of fifty-seven other ships all along to the Azores, being situated fifty miles apart. Thus, when the seaplanes left Trepassey, flying for the  Azores they  would at no time be more than twenty-five miles away from a cruiser.

Upon arrival at the Azores they were to refuel and begin the fourth leg of the flight, going to Lisbon, in Portugal. Refueling there  and then the fifth and last leg at Plymouth, England.

TREPASSEY FEELS A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THE FLIGHT

Lieut. Richard James

The crowd from Trepassey were quick to claim very personal connection to the newly arrived Americans   – they discovered that aboard the “Aroostook” was Lieut. Richard James who laid claim to Trepassey roots.

The locals were quick to tell the reporters   that  Lieut. James was born in Trepassey, but left there some thirty years ago.  (1890’s)   the newspapers reported:

His occupation before Trepassey left him with a minute knowledge of the harbor, and it was he who piloted in the other ships on upon arrival here. There are several people who remembered the old native, and the entire village, needless to state, is proud of him. The fact that, after thirty years absence, he could successfully pilot the cruisers in the harbor, is a high tribute to the knowledge and skill of Lieut James. “

ENTERTAINING THE AMERICANS

With the population of  Trepassey at approximately 800 what were they to do with 8,500 visitors?

The people of Trepassey wanted to show the men on the navy vessels a good time. The hand of hospitality was extended to them all.  The Telegram reported:

“Last evening a dance was held in one of the houses, several sailors being present, while numerous individual men were invited out to homes in the village.

Newfoundlanders have always been noted for their hospitality and kindness to strangers, and when, Saturday night, the likeable Yank sailors came ashore in quest of adventure and other things, they were  treated with the customary kindness and consideration for which outport people are so famed.

The sailor boys were a “little” disappointed over Trepassey,—for even to the most optimistically minded, Trepassey is not a very modern city—and altho careful not to say this or anything else that would give offence, their long faces told their own story. To make matters worse, the weather, although delightfully clear and fine, was exhilaratingly keen and having recently returned from Cuba the Americans felt the cold pretty badly.

The one and only shop was besieged and raided and every stick of gum, every cigarette and every drink that was in the place absorbed.

Postcards were in demand but here again the postcard fiends were doomed to disappointment.”

One of the naval officers Mr. Balcon S. Bond, the Chief Radiograph Officer of the U. S. S. Prairie, wrote:

“Fishermen would take us in parties from our ship and show us around the district. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you of some of the good times we had in dear old Trepassey and I am sure that the village will never be forgotten.”

He also wrote:

“Many homes gave us suppers for the small amount of fifty cents, and it was some supper. About  four good fresh eggs, a large piece of ham, as many cups of coffee or tea as you could drink, and good old home-made bread and butter. If you were to call for a supper like that in New York, I am sure it would cost you two and a half dollars easily.”

TREPASSEY IS NOT A SECOND NEW YORK

 The newspaper reported:

 The fact is, Trepassey is not a second New York, and nothing but the very necessaries of life are sold there.

A number of sailors who had missed the last boat going to the ships, moored about a quarter mile off the shore, were taken in by people of the village and spent their first night in Newfoundland domiciles.

Sunday morning came in bright and fair and although a rather high N.W. wind blew during the day the sun shone out warmly and the weather was not altogether bad. Again a large number of sailors were given shore leave, and the Roman Catholic Church, the only one in the place, was filled to capacity at both early and late services.

During the day Trepassey was gaily bedecked with flags of all descriptions, flown in honor of the visitors, while the hurrying sailors and sight seeking natives, swiftly moving motor boats from the ships, and devout church-goers made a most interesting sight, one whose equal in interest Trepassey has never before witnessed.”

NC BOATS ROARED IN TURN DOWN TREPASSEY HARBOR

On Friday evening, May 16, three NC boats roared in turn down Trepassey harbor and flew off into the gathering darkness over the Atlantic.

When the naval vessels were passing out of Trepassey many people were seen on the beach, waving, and many fishermen blew three fog horn blasts. In return the  naval vessels  gave three long blows of her whistle.

On May 27,1919, NC-4’s keel sliced into the waters of the Tagus, Portugal. The first transatlantic flight was indeed an accomplished fact.

 

TREPASSEY WAS PART OF THE FIRST FLIGHT!!

The Rooms: NEW EXHIBIT Opening June 7, 2019     “Second to None: Highlights from the History of Aviation in Newfoundland & Labrador”

Newfoundland and Labrador has played a significant part in the history of aviation. Through archival documents and images from The Rooms Provincial Archives supplemented with artifacts from The Rooms Provincial Museum, this exhibition will feature highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.

 

Join Aviation History NL  as we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Alcock & Brown’s historical non-stop crossing of the Atlantic

Aviation History NL

aviationhistorynl.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations in the streets: VE – Day

Archival Moment

May 8, 1945

The Daily News, May 1945.

The Daily News, May 1945.

At 10:30 a.m. on May 8, 1945 the siren atop the Newfoundland Hotel, St. John’s, began to wail. This was the same siren that had sounded over the city every Thursday morning since 1939, reminding citizens that we were at war. This time the siren was declaring that the country was at peace! It was the declaration of Victory in Europe Day – VE – Day.

Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on May 7, 1945, ended the Second World War in Europe.

In homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador families gathered around their radios to listen to a broadcast from the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland (BCN) located on the top floor of the old Newfoundland Hotel in St. John’s.

That morning, announcer Aubrey MacDonald, held a microphone outside the studio window to record and broadcast the noise from the celebrations below in the streets of St. John’s .

His radio audience heard him say:

“You are hearing the rejoicing, the unabated rejoicing of our people in St. John’s which has followed spontaneously the great announcement by Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, that the war in Europe has ceased in an Allied victory …..    Listen to the whistles, the steamers, the church bells, as our people greet them in great jubilation.

 The town is bedecked with bunting. Flags are flying. And just now, our people are releasing the pent-up emotions in a torrent of joyous emotion. The war in Europe is over!! Listen to our people show their feelings.

People of nearly every Allied country are taking part in this great celebration today in our city. Cars are scurrying to and from covered in bunting. Men, women, and children are celebrating in a great spirit of unabated joy. The jubilation continues. The celebration is on. There is an aura of complete, unadulterated relief in the spontaneous outburst and the feelings which have so long been pent up are now being released in a torrent of joy. But with all, the predominant note is one of thankfulness — thankfulness to the Almighty who in His divine mercy, has blessed our arms.

As we leave this scene here in St. John’s to which we have looked forward to the past six years we return to the non the less joyous expression of our feelings in the anthems and songs of the empire.

We begin with the national anthem of our own Newfoundland — Britain’s oldest colony — whose sons fought so well and so valiantly and whose patriotic people contributed so much in work and money and toil towards the winning of this long, arduous war.”

All Newfoundlanders stood by their radios to listen to the Ode.

Dancing at VE Day Party on biard the HMCS Burlington, St. John’s

Taking into account service in the Newfoundland Militia, the Forestry Unit and the merchant marine, more than 12,000 Newfoundlanders (the 1945 population, including Labrador, was 321,819) were at one time or another directly or indirectly involved in the war effort. About 1,000 military personnel from Newfoundland and Labrador were killed during the war.

Recommended Archival Collection: Celebration [of] termination war 1939-1945   GN 158.120:     File consists of memoranda and correspondence on celebrations of V.E. Day [Victory in Europe] in Newfoundland.

Recommended Exhibit: Here, We Made A Home: The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4, The Rooms.

Listen:  Aubrey MacDonald VE-Day 1945 celebrations in St. John’s (excerpt) The Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland hung a microphone outside its St. John’s studios to records the celebrations.  Click here: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2666362373

Listen: Take some time to talk to someone in your family about their experience of World War II. Think about what you want to do with archival material that you hold that is related to the Second World War.

“Sell the boots for the keep of the soldier’s graves in France”

Archival Moment

May 14, 1918

Advertisement: Evening Telegram, 1915

On May 14, 1918, Mr. Frederick Harris of Glovertown, Bonavista Bay received in the post a package that read:

“one package of effects, which belonged to your son, the late #2607 Private Eugene Harris of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.”

Twenty (20) year old Eugene had died in action in the trenches of France a few months earlier.

The package contained “one identity disc and one cigarette case.”

The package was also supposed to include a pair of seal skinned boots that the father had sent to his son but the father upon hearing that his son had died wrote to the war office and suggested:

“I would like you to sell the skin boots and give the money toward the keep of the soldier’s graves in France, the socks and mits I would like to be sent to my other son No. 3365 Private Clarence Harris in France. I don’t suppose he will need the boots as I sent him a pair when I sent the other dear boy the boots … “

When he was writing the letter Frederick Harris was not aware that his other son Clarence had also died. News had not yet reached the family.

Two of his sons lay dead in the trenches of France.

The Harris family like thousands of other families in Newfoundland upon hearing of the death of their sons were determined that if their child was to be buried in foreign soil that the grave be a respectable plot and well maintained. It was the prayer of this grieving father that the sale of the seal skinned boots would help in some small way to offer this dignity.

Five years following the death of his two sons Frederick Harris writing to the war office asked for a photo of the graves where his sons were buried. With photo in hand he wrote:

I received the photos of the grave of my boy Eugene Harris. Thanks very much.”

The only remembrance that the families had of their “soldier boys” was a photo of the grave that was hung in an honored place in the household and the few contents of the package of effects that was sent to them.

The men of the Newfoundland Regiment that fought in the trenches of France in the Great War suffered prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions that often lead to ‘trench foot.’ It was not unusual for young soldiers like Eugene Harris to write home and order ‘seal skinned boots’ that offered the best possible protection against the wet and cold.

The sale of Private Eugene Harris’s pair of seal skinned boots at the request of his father was one of the many acts of generosity shown by Newfoundlanders that would eventually see the erection of memorials in France and communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Archival Collection: Over 6000 men enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War. Each soldier had his own story. Some soldiers’ stories were very short; other soldiers who were lucky enough to survive the war had a longer story to tell. Each story is compelling. Read More: https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/database

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Beaumont Hamel: The trail of the Caribou: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Minnie crossed over, she was the last of the crowd

Mrs. Minnie Murphy

As a teen I remember a “crowd”  in our house.  Minnie Murphy and her husband Tom, Nicky and Sadie Murphy and a few other visitors coming over to our house on “Dohey Square” St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay after the Saturday evening mass.

Every Saturday after mass there was always a few cups of tea, raisin buns, toast with molasses and or a stronger drink for some.   It was inevitable that they would break out into songs and recitations.

Mrs. Minnie was the last of that crowd. Mrs. Minnie crossed over on April 30, 2019 she was 91.

Her voice and the songs that she and others sang in our house on Dohey Square and in many other homes live here:

https://www.itma.ie/newfoundland/tags/minnie-murphy

Visitation will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 12:00 – 2:00 P.M .

Funeral Mass will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3rd at 2:00 P.M.

Inurnment to take place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. Bride’s.

 

 

“Buy a broom in May, sweep your friends away..”

Archival Moment

May Month

"Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away."

“Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”

If you are shopping in May to replace an “old broom” you might want to consider the old English rhyme that goes:

Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”

Some would even argue that one should not use a broom at all in May;  the English rhyme  for this superstition  goes:

 

If you sweep the house with broom in May, You’ll sweep the head of that house away.”

The origins of these superstitions have been lost but it is likely that the Newfoundland influence can be traced to 19th-century England in particular in Suffolk County home of the ancestors of many Newfoundlanders.

The superstition was also held by our Irish ancestors, they refused to make brooms during the month of May. It was the general rule in Ireland, to gather a stock of brooms, before May Day (1st May) in order that they should last through the month.

The broom has also taken on some considerable symbolic value.

Photo Credit: The Rooms: A 50-38: Little Girl with her broom, women's work!

Photo Credit: The Rooms: A 50-38: Little Girl with her broom, women’s work!

The broom is often associated with woman and good housekeeping.  As a result of the association, it was the practice that when a wife had been absent from home “longer than justifiable”, a broom, decorated with a ribbon, would be hung over the doorway, as an advertisement for a housekeeper.

The men also took advantage of the broom as a symbol.  When the man puts out the broom, it is understood that he invites his friends to carouse with him during his wife’s absence. Nowadays, it might be called an invitation to a shed party!!

In Newfoundland, P.K. Devine, a journalist and a teacher, and one of the first important native Newfoundland folklore enthusiasts observed that boats were “broomed” to let people know that they were for sale. Instead of an advertisement in the local paper, the old “birch broom” used in sweeping the deck, was hoisted to the mast-head to let everyone in the harbor know that the schooner was for sale.

Making brooms was considered a noble profession and most towns had a small family business geared towards making brooms or a medium sized business that included the manufacture of brooms.  The Directory for St. John’s in 1890 for example identified Robert Martin of 18 Duckworth Street and Joshua Mills of Kickham’s Lane as broom makers for the business of F & M Company.   In rural Newfoundland certain fishermen because of their natural talent were identified as the “broom makers” and often made the brooms to support their meager income from fishing.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s a small Broom Industry was created at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) manufacturing brooms that were sold in the shops of St. John’s and other towns. It is an art form that has now all but died.

With regard to the old English rhyme “Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”   I tend to be a bit more relaxed in May month about house cleaning and absolutely no broom in sight!!

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives: Broom Industry: GN 13. Dept. of Justice (1939-1948) 1   folder  Box number, 106.

Recommended Reading:  Admiral W.H. Smyth, 1788—1865, The Sailor’s Word-Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms (London: Blackie and Son, 1867)

Recommended Song:  Lish Young Buy A Broom (Shanneyganock) with lyrics and video http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/30/broom.htm

“St. John’s has been the petted child of every Government and the people of St. John’s are spoiled.”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 15, 1890

Petition to establish public baths in St. John’s

Painting: Hans Bock der Ältere, The Baths at Leuk

An “outport visitor” to St. John’s in April 1890 was quite shocked to hear that it was the “intention of some young men of St. John’s to petition the government to establish public baths.”   The ‘outport visitor’ was so troubled that he penned a letter to the Editor of the St. John’s  newspaper the Evening Telegram making his objections known.

The ‘outport visitor’ wrote to the newspaper that he saw “the necessity of the baths” but  “to  ask the Government to establish them is something beyond human imprudence, and I should be surprised to find the people of St. John’s backing up such a proposal.”

At the time a ‘bath house’ was essentially a large room with rain showers and a plunge pool with a large swimming pool.

The idea of ‘public baths’, at this time, was a concept that was taking hold in many cities in North America.  Most homes did not have indoor toilet facilities or any kind of bath facilities. The young men of St. John’s were aware that in United States, there was a progressive move for cities to build public baths. Some cities in North America  saw the idea of ‘public baths’  as a  ‘moral imperative’ a Brooklyn, New York  newspaper  editor wrote :

“… it is a duty of the public, as its own government, to educate [the poor] out of their condition, to give baths to them that they may be fit to associate together and with others without offense and without danger. A man cannot truly respect himself who is dirty. Stimulate the habit of cleanliness and we increase the safety of our cities. And give over the idea that a free bath is any more of a “gratuity” than the right to walk in the public streets.”

Interior of a typical Bath House 1900 -1915

In Newfoundland the “outport visitor” had little time for such considerations. He argued if the:

‘public baths’ were approved next you would have “the young men petitioning the Government to provide them with soap and towels for their daily ablution… I should have thought that there was enough of private enterprise in St. John’s to start baths, where each person might obtain admittance on payment of a penny or so for each occasion.  But if this cannot be done, let these young men apply to Municipal Council to give them baths.”

The letter continued; if the young men of St. John’s can have a bath house at the expense of the taxpayers why not the men of Twillingate, Bonavista, Trinity, Harbour Grace and Placentia.   He concluded, it would be an injustice to establish a ‘bath house’ in St. John’s at the expense of the tax payers.

It was all too much for the ‘outport visitor’; he concluded that if ‘municipal officials’ could consider luxuries like ‘bath houses’ for their young men of St. John’s, then they were getting too much money from the Government. He wrote: “St. John’s has been the petted child of every Government and the people of St. John’s are spoiled.”

The ‘outport visitor’ who wrote the letter to the editor was not aware that St. John’s had a long tradition of supporting ‘bath houses’.  The “Princess Bath” on Water Street was advertising that it was open to the public as early as July 1860.  The advertisement for the Princess Bath read:

“The public of Newfoundland, visitors and travellers, are informed that the town of St. John’s is at length supplied with … Hot, Cold, Vapor and Shower, Salt and Fresh Water BATHS: also Salt Water Swimming BATHS …[with] separate departments for Ladies and Gentleman – and is situated on  Water Street  near the Galway Steamship Company’s  Wharf. Open from 6 am – 9 pm summer and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Winter  and from 3 – 6 p.m. on Sundays.   A female superintends the ladies department.”

With the introduction of indoor plumbing and bathing facilities in the home  ‘public baths’  were gradually replaced by the more conventional swimming pools.

Recommended Archival Collection:  A great place to discover history is in the pages of our local newsappers. Take some time to explore  the newspaper collections in your city or town. From your desktop take some time to explore  Memorial University’s Digital Archives Initiative (DAI), your gateway to the learning and research-based cultural resources. The DAI hosts a variety of collections which together reinforce the importance of the past and present, of Newfoundland and  Labrador’s history and culture.  Read More: http://collections.mun.ca/

Recommended Reading:  Washing “the Great Unwashed” Public Baths in Urban America, 1840-1920 (Urban Life and Urban Landscape Series) Ohio State University, 1991

 

Newfoundlanders with “The Diggers”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 25, 1915

Newfoundlanders fought side by side with the men of Australia and New Zealand.

Newfoundlanders fought side by side with the men of Australia and New Zealand.

ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is Australia and New Zealand’s most important national day of commemoration.  The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces on 25 April, 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey.

The Australians and New Zealander’s stayed together and fought the Turks for eight months. They took part in battles that are forever etched in the military consciousness of their countries. In one battle alone at a place called Lone Pine, the Australians lost close to 2,200 men.

They won the ground and seven Victoria Crosses were earned in the process.

Six months after the ANZAC forces had landed 1,076 Newfoundlanders came ashore along the shores of the Dardanelles Strait on September 20, 1915. The Newfoundlanders spent the first months digging trenches and keeping long night watches, spending time on the front line learning trench warfare techniques from the ANZAC forces (they had been dubbed with the nickname diggers).

The number of Australian and New Zealand casualties ran high, New Zealand: 2721 and Australia approximately 8700.

The lack of a military breakthrough convinced the Allies it was time to withdraw from Gallipoli. It was decided the Newfoundland Regiment would help in the difficult task of covering the evacuation of Allied troops onto waiting ships. This rearguard operation went well and the Newfoundlanders were among the last Allied soldiers to leave Turkey in January 1916.

During the almost four months the Newfoundland Regiment fought at Gallipoli, approximately 30 men died in action and 10 more died of disease.

Gallipoli was the first of many battles that would earn the Newfoundland Regiment an impressive reputation during the First World War. The Newfoundland Regiment would go on to fight with distinction in Belgium and France throughout the rest of the conflict. The regiment even earned the title “Royal” in 1917 in recognition of its exceptional service and sacrifice—the only regiment to be honoured this way by the British during the war.

The “Trail of the Caribou” designed to trace the path of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment  through its engagements in the First World War, consists of six large caribou statues cast in bronze.  Each caribou, the symbol of the regiment and the province (then-dominion), stands facing the enemy line with its head thrown back in defiance, a symbol of Newfoundlanders’ bravery and fortitude in battle.

A replica  of the six  caribou  are at Beaumont Hamel, Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Masnieres and Courtrai, all sites where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought for King and Empire. A replica also stands in Bowring Park in St. John’s. There  are on going conversations with the government of Turkey  about the possibility of establishing a monument at  Gallipoli.

So it’s over the mountain and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight the Hun at Flanders and at Gallipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 36  This collection consists of photographs related to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War. The collection consists of two photograph albums which have been dismantled, as well as individual items. One album was apparently compiled in 1915-1916 in recognition of the services of Newfoundland Regiment soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign. (Note: Originals are restricted for conservation reasons. Digital scans available.)

Recommended Exhibit:  At the Rooms, Beaumont Hamel: The Trail of the Caribou. The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories.  https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou

Recommended Activity: On April 25th visit the War Memorial in your town and remember the men of Newfoundland and Labrador who stood with ‘the diggers’ at Gallipoli, Turkey.

Recommended Web site: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/pdf/cr/pi-sheets/gallipoli-eng.pdf

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea: Recruiting Sergeant: http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/04/recruit.htm