Ladies, bring your thimbles to Government House

Archival Moment

September 17, 1914

Please bring your thimble to Government House

Please bring your thimble to Government House

The ladies of St. John’s were very excited about gathering at Government House on Military Road, (September 17, 1914) to be part of the elaborate sewing sessions that were being organized by Lady Margaret Davidson, wife of the governor.

Following the declaration of war in August, Lady Davidson 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 gathering at the home of the Governor of Newfoundland at 2:30 p.m. on September 17, 1914 was the first for the working parties of the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) who were to begin their sewing sessions.

Lady Davidson was very pleased with the response to her call, in fact there was so much enthusiasm, so many had signed up, that the members had to be divided into four classes, according to the initial letter of their surnames. Those whose surnames began with the first three letters of the alphabet were the first to meet.

Lady Davidson placed few demands on her first sewing circle all she asked of the ladies was that “all of those who attending are requested to bring thimbles with them.”

No doubt, for many of the women of the town, the excitement was not only generated by their enthusiasm to support their soldier boys but also an opportunity to see inside the grand house of the Governor and Lady Davidson, a home that was not typically available to the general public.

It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the ladies at Government House and from throughout the towns of the colony produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers.

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 Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the NFLD 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. Some of the service records are on line at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

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  Wednesdays from 2-4 until Oct 1, and Wednesday s from 6:30-9:30 until December 10t

“City of Funerals”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 15, 1924

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 157-110; Gerald J. Whitty and William King’s funeral procession, Water Street, St. John’s

The death of six men in the City of St. John’s on (September 15, 1924) cast a gloom over the city. The local newspapers described St. John’sas a “city of funerals.”  The citizens of St. John’s and the province were mourning the loss of  Gerald J. Whitty and fellow veterans who were struck and killed by a speeding car at Donovans  (on the outskirts of the City).

Gerald  J. Whitty as secretary-treasurer  of the  Great War Veterans Association (GWVA)   of Newfoundland  was  known throughout the province for his advocacy work  for the veterans returning to Newfoundland following the Great War.  He helped run the poppy campaign, begun in 1921, and edited the Veteran Magazine. In 1923 he represented the GWVA in Londonat the first biennial conference of the British Empire Service League.

He was instrumental in improving pensions and the project of a national memorial to honour Newfoundland’s war dead.

On the evening of 15 September, Whitty and 13 companions met in a restaurant at Donovans to bid farewell to a friend who was leaving for England.  At 11:00 p.m., he, William King, another prominent Newfoundland veteran, and Chief Petty Officer Robert Lovett of HMS Constance were standing by the bus that was to take the party back to St John’s. Suddenly, a speeding car appeared and struck the three men. Whitty and William King were killed instantly, as were four occupants of the car.

On 18 September, St John’s became a “city of funerals.” In the afternoon, following the burial of William King in the General Protestant Cemetery, the funeral procession continued to Whitty’s residence. At the War Memorial  on Water Street that he was instrumental in having established , a short halt was made and wreaths placed. Whitty was buried in Belvedere Cemetery. At the graveside, Father Thomas Nangle observed that veterans had lost “their best friend and advocate.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division explore VA 157 an album of photographs relating to the experience of Gerald J. Whitty.

Recommended Reading:  William Whitty, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Melvin Baker and Peter Neary.

Recommended Website: http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=42117&query

 

A ‘Smoking Concert’ at Quidi Vidi Lake

Archival Moment

September 14, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

One of the entertainments that was held for the young men in the camps at Pleasantville, near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s in September 1914 were the ‘Smoking Concerts’. The young men in the camps at Pleasantville were the first recruits for the Newfoundland Regiment. They were being trained to prepare to fight for ‘King and Country’.

Originally the term ‘Smoking Concert’   referred to live performances, usually of music, before an audience of men only; popular during the Victorian period. At these functions men would smoke and speak of politics while listening to live music.

In Newfoundland and other places by 1914 the smoking concerts were much less formal; they were not so much about discussions of politics but evenings of song and recitations.

In St. John’s, one of the locations for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was at the ‘mess tent’ on the Pleasantville grounds. There are reports that as many as 400 men would gather under the tent for the entertainment.

One of the local celebrities that could be found, on a very regular basis at the camp, playing the piano for the “Smoking Concerts’ was Charles Hutton. Hutton was a leading figure in Newfoundland musical activities, he was the owner of Hutton’ Music Store (that was later taken over by his sons) and his wife was a celebrated classically trained singer.

Hutton would play for many of the men who would come forward to sing their ‘party pieces’. The evening would include solos, storytelling, musical recitations, and instrumental numbers. The evening would always close with the singing of the National Anthem by the entire gathering.

Typically alcohol was involved. ‘Smoking Concerts’ were referred to by some by the much more indelicate term, ‘Piss Ups.”

Imagine, going down to Quidi Vidi for a ‘Piss up’, I mean “Smoking Concert.”

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. 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.

 

The Pope in Newfoundland 30th Anniversary

Photo Credit: Pope John Paul II holding Monica Walsh daughter Des Walsh and Eleanor Dawson. In the background is their son Brendan Walsh. Papal Mass, Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL, September 12, 1984.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 12, 1984

On September 12, 1984, Pope John Paul II made a “pastoral visitation” to Newfoundland and Labrador, a milestone in the history of Catholicism in the province. The Pope came to help celebrate the 200th anniversary (1784-1984) of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

While in the province he maintained a hectic schedule.  His itinerary included: The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet at Flatrock; Meeting with the Handicapped at Memorial Stadium, St. John’s;  Celebration of Mass at  Pleasantville,  near Quidi Vidi Lake; Meeting with Youth at Memorial University of  Newfoundland and a Meeting with Catholic Educators  at the Basilica Cathedral.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, after leading the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 26 years.

He is remembered as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to. (The latter can be attested by the young men who served the mass at Pleasantville – breaking with protocol – the Pope broke away from the formal procession to the altar to the chagrin of security to greet those who were serving the mass. (We chatted for a very short time!)

On May 1, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II. Beatification means that a person’s life has displayed certain qualities that are worthy of imitation by other Christians. He was canonized a saint in the church on April 24, 2014. (I can now say that I spoke and shook hands with a saint!)

Recommended Archival Collection: To read the addresses and homilies given by the Pope go to:   http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Pope_speeches_1984.html 

To view video clips go to: http://archives.cbc.ca/society/religion_spirituality/topics/242-1217/

Recommended Publication: Upon this Rock the Story of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul O’Neill, Breakwater Books (1984)

 

A St. John’s horse went into hysterics

Archival Moment

Motor cars begin to displace horses

September 9, 1914

horse_drawing_in_pencil_by_deedeedee123-d56peduThere was much excitement in St. John’s on September 9, 1914 with crowds gathering, all scrambling to get the best view of the first annual work horse parade that was ever held in the city. The parade held under the auspices of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Lady Davidson took place and was described as “a decided success.”

Upwards of 130 horses were entered into the parade that looped past the post office along Water Street to McBride’s Hill, thence to Duckworth Street and up Cochrane Street to Government House grounds where the exhibition was held.

The parade was headed by the Salvation Army’s fine brass band that “presented a very attractive and novel sight, the horses being decorated with patriotic colours.”

For many the parade was seen as a distraction from the seriousness of the conversation about the ‘Great War’ that had been called a month earlier.

The local newspapers reported:

“Citizens from every point of vantage, viewed the procession as it wended its way to the exhibition grounds, (at Government House on Military Road) accompanied by an immense crowd of people who thronged the sidewalks and followed with admiration the long line of horses from different classes”

On the field at Government House the animals were taken to their allotted spaces and the judging was done by some of the leading citizens, the gentlemen and ladies of the town, including his Excellency and Lady Davidson, the Premier and Lady Morris.

Judges had to choose the best horses in a number of categories including; “Heavy Draft Horses”, won by “Ben” driven by J. Morrisey; the “Truck Horse” that had to driven and owned by truckmen was won by “Charlie ” owned by John Fowler;   “The Express and Delivery Horses” category was won by “Bruce”, owned by M. Fleming; “The Cab Horses”, category was won by “Stella” owned by   A. Symonds. There were also categories for farm horses, ponies and an old horse category.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that was established in Newfoundland in November 1888 was always seeking new ways of bring attention to their cause.

The parade of horses was in September 1914 a success but because of the Great War (1914-1918) what may have been a grand tradition was interrupted after only one year.

The parade also stands as a symbolic divide between the old and the new. It was in 1914 that motor cars or automobiles began to take the place of the horse. The shift from horse to motor car was so evident in St. John’s that the Editor of the Twillingate Sun in July 1914 felt obliged to write an editorial about the phenomena.

The Editor noted that the first motor car had arrived in Twillingate owned by Mr. Ashbourne’s had brought with it:

“considerable criticism, and naturally there are some old folk who can see no use in such contraptions as automobiles. There are also the owners of horses who, unused to such things, easily see in an automobile a terrifying sight.”

The Twillingate man cautioned in 1914 that it was inevitable that the horse would be displaced by the motor car. He wrote:

“Now although horse owners, (with the exception of Mr. POND, whose horse Dick, regards automobiles with contempt and indifference,) have their kick, they are not the first. A St. John’s horse went into hysterics when the streetcars first started, and no doubt the cars were valiantly cussed by the drivers, but the horses got used to them, and ours will do the same. …..”

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 593 is the SPCA Collection 1912 -1927. It consists of correspondence; complaint books, and investigation reports into complaints of cruelty.

Recommended Web Site: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals –  http://spcastjohns.org/

Consecration of the Basilica

ARCHIVAL MOMENTS

September 9, 1855

The Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s, NL was consecrated on September 9, 1855.

Four Roman Catholic bishops arrived in St. John’s for the consecration of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica)  early in the night of Monday, September 3, 1855, and proceeded immediately to the Cathedral, amid the tumultuous welcome of a large and enthusiastic throng of spectators. Every available space along the route of the procession was densely packed. The great bells of the Cathedral, together with those of the Old Roman Catholic Chapel on Henry Street and of the convents, pealed forth. The windows of the houses along the route were brilliantly lighted and the streets were illuminated not only by the gas lights but also by flaming torches, giving a most picturesque appearance to the town.

The procession wended its way to the recently completed Cathedral, where the bishops knelt in prayer. After a blessing was given to the congregation, Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s spoke to the crowd, thanking them for the warm reception they had given the visitors. All then dispersed for the night.

During the next few days, the prelates were entertained at various functions, and received addresses of welcome from the Benevolent Irish Society, and other groups.

A LABOUR OF LOVE, WAS AT LAST ACCOMPLISHED.

On September 9 the day of Consecration, great crowds of people flocked into St. John’s, from remote as well adjacent settlements. It appeared that the entire Catholic population of the island had come to participate in the ceremonies. The Consecration of the Cathedral was carried out by Bishop Mullock, with all the solemnities prescribed in the Roman Pontifical. Twenty-two of the thirty priests in Newfoundland were present, as well as the Secretary-Chaplain to Archbishop Hughes, and the Chaplain to Bishop MacKinnon.

The celebrations with which the day of Consecration came to a close were truly impressive. That night, the entire frontage of the Cathedral and adjacent buildings was decorated with 1500 coloured lamps, while the Catholic people in every quarter of the town vied with one another in illuminating the windows of their houses. Tar barrels blazed in the streets, firearms were discharged, and sky rockets streamed through the air. Every available means was employed to proclaim the prevailing joy and thanksgiving that the great work, which was truly a labour of love, was at last accomplished.

The four visiting Roman Catholic Bishops were: Most Rev. John Hughes, Archbishop of New York; Bishop Armand-Francois de Charbonnel, of Toronto; Bishop Thomas Louis Connolly of New Brunswick; Bishop Colin Francis MacKinnon of Arichat (Antigonish),Nova Scotia.

Archbishop John Hughes of New York was so impressed that such a substantial cathedral could be built in a town of the size of St. John’s (approximately 25,000) by sealers and fishermen that he resolved when he returned to New York that he would commence the construction of his cathedral that we now know as St. Patrick’s Cathedral on  Madison Avenue in New York.

The Basilica has undergone many revisions since its completion in 1855,  its very existence represents something more durable even than stone, as this simple verse describes:

“The fishermen who built me here
Have long ago hauled in their nets,
But in this vast cathedral
Not a solitary stone forgets
The eager hearts, the willing hands
Of those who laboured and were glad
Unstintingly to give to God
Not part, but all of what they had.”

Recommended Website: History of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s, NL: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

Recommended Reading: Fire Upon the Earth: the Life and Times of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, O.S.F.  by J.B. Darcy, C.F.C.: Creative Publishers, 2003.

How to name a war

Archival Moment

September 2, 1914

home1With the outbreak of war in August 1914 pundits began to coin phrases to best name this new conflict. In the very early days of the war the tendency had been to refer to it as the “European War.” As the war progressed and more nations became involved in the conflict it became known as the “Great War” and the “First World War”.

In Newfoundland, the first term given to the conflict was “The Great War” the term was first used on September 2, 1914. Copying an article from the New York Independent the St. John’s, Evening Telegram reported:

 Some wars name themselves, the Crimean War, The Civil War, the Franco – Prussian War, the Thirty Year war, the Revolutionary war, and many others.

This is the Great War

It names itself

The term “First World War” was another term that emerged shortly after the start of the war; the phrase is credited to the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel wrote:

“There is no doubt that the course and character of the feared “European War” will become the First World War in the full sense of the word.”

The “European War” became known as “The Great War”, and it was not until 1931, with the beginning realization that another global war might be possible, that there is any other recorded use of the term “First World War”.

During the Interwar period (1918-1939), the war was most often called the World War and the Great War in English-speaking countries.

After the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the terms World War I or the First World War became standard, with British and Canadian historians favoring the First World War, and Americans World War One.

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is available 6683 individual service files, 2300 have been digitized and are available at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp   This searchable database for military service records includes the attestation papers: name, service number, community and district of origin, next of kin and relationship, religion, occupation, year of enlistment, fatality, and POW status (if applicable). Take some time to read the stories of these young men.

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.