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 Day is Australia and New Zealand’s most important national day of commemoration. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 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 is no Caribou 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 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

Excursion around the Bay

Archival Moment

April 23, 1889

Excursion around the Bay

Advertising for the ' Excursion Season'

Advertising for the ‘
Excursion Season’

There was a long established tradition in St. John’s, known locally as ‘the excursion’ that saw hundreds of the citizens of the town make reservations in late April on one of the costal boats or on the train for “an excursion around the bay.”

The first of the excursions began on the May 24th weekend as part of the Empire Day celebrations. Excursions continued well into August.

Typically the excursions were arranged by one of the many societies, associations or church groups for their members. It was for many the social event of the year. A typical ‘excursion’ included an early morning departure by coastal boat or train, arrival in the host community for a breakfast prepared by the local women, a picnic lunch, a walk about in the town, and an opportunity to hike or trout. In some communities a sports day would be, some of the ‘sports’ included horse races, foot, hurdle and sack and wheelbarrow races, shooting matches. The day would end with a comic concert or dance and supper.

The most desired destinations for an excursion were Harbour Grace, Trinity, Witless Bay, Renews and Placentia.

These junketing expeditions or excursions were also occasions for a ‘drunken spree.’

One group that enjoyed the excursions were the politicians. In April 1888 the legislature was closed to allow for an excursion to Placentia. This particular junket came under criticism because “the cost of the said entertainments was being defrayed out of the public purse.”

One critic of these excursions, referred to the excursion to Placentia as “the drunken spree in Placentia.”

Writing to the Evening Telegram (April 23, 1989) the critic wrote that the members of the government were joined by the members of the opposition, “how can such persons (the opposition) thereafter denounce such expenditure as an act of public robbery (which it is) or any other similar acts of public robbery.”

For the vast majority however it was a day of considerable fun. Perhaps your organization should plan an ‘excursion around the bay.’

The tradition was so ingrained in the hearts and minds of Newfoundlanders that the term “excursion bread” or “scursion” was coined to refer to a dry sweet biscuit, shaped like a cake of ‘hard tack’ taken by the travelers in their pockets to eat between meals.

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea: Excursion around the Bay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0q3Pm2rFVQ

Recommended Reading: Excursions in and about Newfoundland during the years 1839 and 1840 by J.B. Jukes.

Reckless Drivers – Speeding on St. John’s streets

Archival Moment

April 20, 1903

 

H.D. Reid's automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John's, NL, 1908

H.D. Reid’s automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John’s, NL, 1908

It was on April 20, 1903 that the first two cars were imported into Newfoundland by Robert G. and Harold D. Reid. The Reid family was one of the wealthiest in the colony. At the time they owned the Reid fleet of ships, the Newfoundland Railway and were the holders of large land, timber, and mineral concessions in the colony.

A few weeks later on May 4, 1903 , Robert G. Reid’s “Thomas Flyer” became the first gasoline driven automobile  to be operated in Newfoundland, when a Mr. Stewart, one of the Reid staff,  took the car for a short drive  in St. John’s. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported that the car:

 “made its trial trip in the West End this morning and was the object  of curiosity to all who saw  it speeding up the promenade and down the southside.”

The following week the Telegram, on the occasion of Harold D Reid’s initial operation of his vehicle, reported:

“It did not go fast through the city, but got up to a speed of about 12 miles an hour in some places on the road. The vehicle is a four wheeler and cost Mr. Reid landed here $1600.00. It is run by a gasoline motor. It is called a Locomobile…”

Not everyone wanted to share the road with these new “autos.”  In the city cabmen and farmers complained about the noise of the ‘autos’ that tended to make their horses skittish.  It was also true that many of the good citizens of St. John’s were also reluctant to share the streets with autos.

The editorial writer for the St. John’s newspaper, “The Workman”, on August 2, 1918 declared in a bold headline, “Reckless Autoists” that:

“The life of the average pedestrian in the City (St. John’s) these days is one of perpetual peril. Let him attempt to cross a street, in broad daylight, and he is lucky if some auto doesn’t come around  the corner, at a rate of 15 miles an hour, and just miss him by a scant foot, while the chauffeur glowers at him as much to say “Get off the earth you lobster. What right have you to be on the street?”

The newspaper continued that the car was here to stay but that the police should be diligent in convicting those that exceeded eight miles an hour.   He wrote:

 “The auto has come to stay off course. But a lot of haughty daring drivers seem to forget that the pedestrian was here first.  Even he has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” The police should take the number of any auto driver  who goes around the corner faster than eight miles an hour, and the magistrate should soak him the limit every time.”

The number of cars imported into Newfoundland continued to increase; by 1925 there were 952 cars and 102 commercial vehicles. Upon joining Confederation Newfoundland boasted 9,022 cars and 4,743 commercial vehicles. Today in Newfoundland and Labrador there are more vehicles on the roads than there are people living in the province with almost 633,000 cars and trucks. There are about 500,000 people living in the province.

Recommended Reading: Motor Vehicles, Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume Three.

Old Lost  Word: Cabman – The driver of a horse-drawn carriage.

Car words: auto automobile, car, vehicle, locomobile,

Is this holiday about St. George or William Shakespeare?

Archival Moment

April 23

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George's Day be called Shakespear's Day.

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George’s Day be called Shakespear’s Day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, April 23, is St. George’s Day a provincial holiday celebrating our ‘English ancestry’.

St. George’s Day has long been acknowledged as a significant date in Newfoundland and Labrador but it was not celebrated as a holiday until April 23, 1921.

Traditionally it was a day filled with pageantry and parading. Typically all of the English Protestant organizations including the Newfoundland British Society, Loyal Orange Association, Society of United Fishermen, Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Sons of England Benefit Society, lined up in honor of St. George parading through the streets of St. John’s.

Throughout the town on St. George’s Day all of the men would be sporting a red rose in their lapel, the national emblem and flower for England

April 23 is however not only about St. George it is also all about William Shakespeare.

In Newfoundland there have always been enthusiasts for William Shakespeare and on April 16, 1936, George W. Ayre, a lawyer from St. John’s writing from his home at 24 Circular Road wrote to the local newspapers:

“Now, I should like to call your attention to the fact that the 23rd of April is far more important than its being St. George’s Day and that is that it is also the day on which Shakespeare was born and died, his birthday and deathday, and Shakespeare is as far above St. George as the intellect is above the physique or something mental is above something physical.

St. George is more or less confined to Englishmen or the person of British Empire, as their Patron Saint but Shakespeare is the intellectual ocean into which the little tributaries of intellect flow. He is the myriad minded man, the greatest, mind, possibly, that ever was on earth, and as Englishmen, for he was an Englishman, as Britishers, for he was a Britisher, as men of intellect, as his was the greatest intellect, we should honour his birthday and deathday.

He is not only all these but he is the outstanding genius of the world, whose works are studied by schoolchildren, scholars, actors, and others, of all countries.

We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.

We cannot afford to drop it as Shakespeare’s Day.

Let us therefore honour Shakespeare on that day, (April 23) let there be Shakespearean recitals and performances; let there be dances, concerts, etc. all in honour of the greatest mind that was ever in the world.”

There were those in St. John’s who were not amused with the letter; in fact they were quite baffled. Mr. Ayre (the gentleman penning the letter) was the first President of the St. George’s Society in St. John’s.  Ayre’s loyalties were clearly suspect. One of his first acts as the president of the St. George’s Society (founded on April 23, 1921) was to encourage theatrical groups in St. John’s to present Shakespearean plays on April 23.

Many thought it was really a bit much for the President of St. George’s Society, which was to advocate for their great patron St. George to write that:

“We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.”

Who was St. George?  According to legend, St. George, a soldier of the Imperial Army, rescues a town in what is now Libya from the tyranny of a dragon. St. George overpowered the beast and then offered to kill it if the townspeople would convert to Christianity and be baptized. The story is that there were 15,000 conversions on the spot. Openly espousing Christianity was dangerous and eventually the authorities of Emperor Diocletian arrested George. He was martyred about 303 AD.

St George is the patron saint of England. He is the patron of soldiers and archers, cavalry and chivalry, of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers, of horses, riders and saddlers. He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Lithuania, Moscow, Palestine, and Portugal.

Recommended Action: Wear a Red Rose in your lapel on April 23 just to remind people that you know why you had the day off. If you want to celebrate the birth and death of Shakespeare impress your friends by reciting a few lines from the bard.

St. George’s Day

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 23, 2013

St. George’s Day

St. George's Feast Day is April 23 but the holiday is on Monday, April 22.

St. George’s Feast Day is April 23 but the holiday is on Monday, April 20.

St. George’s Day is provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, observed on the Monday nearest April 23rd.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the holiday was born out of our sectarian history. The Roman Catholic’s of this place laid claim to St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and the Protestants laid claim to St. George, Patron of England.

As a saint, or even a historical person, St. George and his exploits are of doubtful authenticity, the most popular of the legends that have grown up around him relates to his encounter with the dragon. A pagan town in Libya was victimized by a dragon (representing the devil), which the inhabitants first attempted to calm down by offerings of sheep, and then by the sacrifice of various members of their community. The daughter of the king (representing the Church) was chosen by lot and was taken out to await the coming of the monster, but George arrived, killed the dragon, and converted the community to Christianity.

Saint George has been adopted world wide as the saint fighting the evil and defending the good, in the end slaying the dragon (representing the evil).

King Richard I of England placed his crusading army under St. George’s protection, and in 1222 his feast was proclaimed a holiday. As the patron of England – it was only a matter of time that his patronage would also cover the  New found land with the arrival of our  English ancestors.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the tradition of St. George is not only confined to his feast day (April 23) but he also presents as one of the characters in the old mummering plays, historically performed over the Christmas season.  In the mummering play he fights hand-to-hand with a Turkish Knight emerging as the hero.

In 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, the pennant of the Cross of St. George was flown by John Cabot when he sailed to Newfoundland.  It was also traditional to wear a red rose on the lapel on St. George’s Day.

Interesting that St. George is the Patron of England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Gozo, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, and Portugal but only Newfoundland and Labrador honour the day with a holiday.

A great place to live!

The most widely recognized St George’s Day symbol is St George’s cross. This is a red cross on a white background, which is often displayed as a flag. It is used as England’s national flag, forming part of the Union Flag, the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Recommended Website:   St George’s Day.com  the website offering information on all things English, that celebrates English Heritage and actively promotes St George’s Day on the 23rd April.  http://www.stgeorgesday.com/

 

Newfoundland Mustang the First

Archival Moment

April 17, 1964

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

There was a bit of excitement at George Parson’s Ford dealership in St. Johns on April 17, 1964, a crowd of people were at the dealership looking at a Wimbledon White convertible with the 260 cubic-inch V-8, it was the first time that any of them had seen a Mustang.

In the crowd was Stanley Tucker, an airline captain with Eastern Provincial Airlines (EPA)  based out of St. Johns.  Tucker, fell in love with the car and told George Parsons dealership agent Harry Philips  he wanted to buy that Mustang. Philips originally hesitated wanting to hold on to the car to get a little more publicity out of it. When Tucker came with a check in hand the next day, Parson’s sold the car to Captain Tucker.

Tucker at the time did not know it but  he had unknowingly purchased Mustang #1, the very first Mustang off the assembly line.  In an interview with Mustang Monthly Magazine years later Tucker said:

 “For a long time, I was the only Mustanger in Newfoundland. It was quite an experience. Many times, other motorists would force me to the side of the road and ask me about the car – what it was, who made it, how did I like it and how much did it cost? The car has been a real joy to own and drive. Getting into it is something like slipping into the cockpit, and I feel as much a part of the machine as I do when I’m flying.”

Not long after Tucker unknowingly purchased the now-historic car, representatives from Ford learned that their Canadian promotional vehicle, the first-ever Mustang, had been let loose. Ford wanted the car back, but Tucker wanted to drive it. Tucker drove the car about St. John’s for nearly two years, putting 10,633 miles on the odometer.

Meanwhile, Mustang sales blossomed. Before Mustang, Falcon held the Ford record of building a million vehicles in two years, 16 days. Mustang broke that record by reaching the million mark in one year, 11 months, and 24 days.

As Ford prepared for the millionth Mustang celebration, a Ford official made Captain Tucker an offer: In exchange for the first Mustang, Ford would trade the millionth Mustang. At the millionth Mustang celebration in Dearborn, Michigan on March 2, 1966, Tucker stood at the end of the assembly line with a Ford executive and accepted his new car.

While Tucker posed with the millionth Mustang, a white convertible, he didn’t actually receive that car. Tucker had earlier placed an order with George Parson’s Ford in St. Johns for a 1966 Silver Frost convertible with a black top.

Meanwhile, the white Mustang #1 with VIN 5F08F100001 once again became property of Ford Motor Company. The Mustang that only knew Newfoundland roads is now at home in the Henry Ford Museum.  In 1987, the car went on permanent display in the “Automobiles in American Life” exhibit, still sporting the 1965 Newfoundland and Labrador license plates.

Archival Hint:  Did you know that when trying to date a photograph  often one of the factors considered is the age of the cars that appear in the photographs.  Most archives have access to car experts  – antique dealers  – that help in the dating process.

Public bath houses for the spoiled men of St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 15, 1890

Painting: Hans Bock der Ältere, The Baths at Leuk

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, 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.”

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. Ffom 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, 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

 

Why are they celebrating mass in the hills?

Archival Moment

April 13, 1829

Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore Oral history purports that Mass Rock was the site of secret Catholic gatherings.

Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore Oral history purports that Mass Rock was the site of secret Catholic gatherings.

On April 13, 1829 a significant milestone in Irish history was reached when King George IV reluctantly gave royal assent to the Roman Catholic Relief Act.

This Act effectively removed a series of laws known as Penal Laws or Popery Laws that severely limited the ability of a Catholic to do anything.

Some of the laws included:

•     Forbid a Catholic from exercising his religion

•     Forbid the Catholic from receiving a Catholic education

•     Forbid the Catholic from entering a profession

•     Forbid the Catholic from holding Public Office

•     Forbid the Catholic from owning a horse worth more than 5 pounds

•     Forbid the Catholic from buying or leasing land

•     Forbid the Catholic from voting

•     Forbid the Catholic from receiving a gift or inheritance of land from a Protestant

•     Forbid the Catholic from renting any land that was worth more than thirty shillings

•     Forbid the Catholic from sending their children abroad for an education

Upon receipt of the news that the Penal Laws had been struck down Bishop Thomas Scallan in St. John’s, Newfoundland declared 21 May a day of public thanksgiving.  In St. John’s and other major towns throughout the island, bands, parades, and special church services evidenced the pleasure of Catholics that the penal restrictions of centuries had been lifted.

However, their joy was short-lived; by December the colony’s attorney general, James Simms, and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland had concluded that the relief bill was inoperative in the colony of Newfoundland.  Catholic emancipation did not finally come to Newfoundland until the proclamation of representative government and the calling of the first elections on 26 August 1832.

It was during the years when the Penal Laws were in effect that traditions such as the Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore and  Pulpit Rock in the Torbay area  were developed. Oral history purports that Mass Rock  and Pulpit Rock were  the site of secret Catholic gatherings. Disguised priests and settlers would gather to celebrate mass or say prayers while lookouts were stationed at vantage point to spot English authorities. While no official record exists of the activities at Mass Rock and Pulpit Rock , a legendary cycle regarding the sites  continues to exists.

Archival Collection: To explore some of the issues that were being discussed read the Colonial Office Records (CO 194 -678-83) Governor Cochrane’s Correspondence at The Rooms Provincial Archives.

Recommended Reading: Irish In Newfoundland 1600-1900 by Michael McCarthy, Creative Book Publishing, St. John’s, 1999. This book paints a vivid picture of the Irish experience from the early days of anti-Catholic persecution in Newfoundland when a house could be burned to the ground simply because Mass had been said there.

Recommended Website: Laws in Ireland for the Suppression of POPERY commonly known as the PENAL Laws.  Read More:  http://library.law.umn.edu/irishlaw/index.html

“The Titanic has struck a berg”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 14, 1912

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. At that time, she was the largest and most luxurious ship ever built. At 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, she struck an iceberg about 400 miles off Newfoundland. Although her crew had been warned about icebergs several times that evening by other ships navigating through that region, she was traveling at near top speed of about 20.5 knots when one grazed her side.

In 1912, the Marconi wireless radio was still in its infancy state as far as utilization. Marconi operators, Harold Bride and Jack Philips  on the direction of the ships Captain  (Smith)  put on the headphones and immediately began tapping out CQD – MGY … CQD – MGY  which translates  to CQD = Come Quick Danger or  attention all stations, D =  distress or danger, and MGY was the Titanic’s radio call letters.

Walter Gray, Jack Goodwin and Robert Hunston were serving at the Marconi Company wireless station at Cape RaceNewfounldand  400 miles west of Titanic.  The wireless news was being handled by them.

TWO FRIENDS: THEIR  LAST CONVERSATION

It would have been a very difficult night for Walter Gray at Cape Race.  The Marconi operator on the Titanic was his good friend Jack Philips.  Jack had been the last person that he had seen in England before he had departed for Newfoundland.  Walter had been excited all the day of April 14 – he was waiting anxiously at Cape Race waiting for the Titanic and his good friend Jack to come within ‘hearing” distance of Cape Race.   Walter later wrote:

“That evening I held brief conversation with Philips. He emphasized the magnificence of the vessel, the wonderful group of passengers and the good time being had by all.

Later in the evening the second operator (Hunston) called out “Mr. Gray the Titanic has struck an iceberg and is calling C.Q.D. (COME QUICK DANGER)  I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to the operating room.

Donning the headphones, I heard Philips call for help using both distress calls, C.Q.D. and the newly-introduced S.O.S. His call included the ship’s position in Latitude and longitude, weather conditions, and the story of striking the berg. When he ceased, I called the Titanic and inquired whether I could assist in any way. Philips thanked me and asked me to stand by.

A short time after 2:00 a.m. a very weak distorted signal was heard and the “Virginian” being much closer picked up what they thought was Philips voice trying to get a message out and that was the last word from the radio operator, Philips.”

Less than three hours later, the Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking more than 1500 people with her. Only a fraction of her passengers were saved. The world was stunned to learn of the fate of the unsinkable Titanic.

Water Gray’s good friend Jack Philips was one of those that perished.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division: The Cape Race Log Book:  A journal of predominantly one line entries highlighting events of local, national and international interest, as maintained by various members of the Myrick family at Cape Race and Trepassey.  Includes reference to the sinking of the Titanic.

Recommended Web Site: 100 Year  Later: Titanic in the Archives (The Rooms Provincial Archives Division)  http://www.therooms.ca/titanic/

Recommended Reading:  The Life Story of An Old Shetlander, Walter J. Gray, Shetland Times, 1970.

Labrador Schooner with her crew, caught in the great storm.

Archival Moment

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

In November 1915 many of the Newfoundland newspapers were reporting that communities throughout the Island were in mourning or experiencing “great anxiety” over rumors of the loss of friends and family in a storm that battered the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

Communities in Conception Bay were grieving for the rumored loss of sixteen men and women, lost on the schooner, Swallow’ owned by Albert Fradsham, sailing out of Bay Robert’s.

The schooner had been last seen on November 15, 1915 on the northeast coast of Newfoundland in the town of Seldom Come By, Fogo Island. The schooner, it was confirmed had put into Seldom, where three of the crew from the area left her.

The crew had spent the summer and fall prosecuting the fishery on the Labrador.

With the departure of the ‘Swallow’ from Seldom Come By on November 16, 1915, there was silence, no one had seen or heard from the schooner. The general speculation was that the ‘Swallow’ with her crew had been caught in the great storm and driven out to sea.

It was not only the ‘Swallow’ out of Bay Robert’s that was missing, officials in Carbonear reported that the Schooners, ‘Silver Cord’, ‘Morella’, and the ‘L. and S’. were missing. Officials in St. John’s were reporting that the Schooner the ‘Blanche M’. and ‘H. W. Wentzell’ were missing. The Schooner ‘Annie’ out of Fermeuse was also reported missing in the storm.

The Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Mr. Archibald Piccott immediately dispatched the whaler ‘Cabot’, the tugboat ‘D.P. Ingraham’ and other steamers, to begin a search. Piccott had a vested interest in the search he had been educated and operated a shop in Bay Roberts. He would have known many of the 16 men and women on the ’Swallow’.

Fishermen_off_the_Coast_of_LabradorTheir search was to no avail, it was concluded that the ‘Swallow’ “must have been driven out into the ocean.” Many concluded that the ‘Swallow’ was lost with all aboard. The Bay Roberts newspaper The Guardian, on November 29, 1915 identified the crew aboard the Swallow:

“Beatrice Batten, Chas Batten and Henry Batten of Bareneed; Abram Smith and Rebecca Menchions of Bishop’s Cove; John Jones of Upper Island Cove; William Dawe, Frost (girl) and a boy named Snow of Clarke’s Beach,   a boy of South River; Ambrose Fagen of Kelligrews, Samuel Kinsella, William Russell, Arthur Greenland and William Russell Jr of Coley’s Point and Clara King of Country Road.”

John Bowering, was identified as the Master of the Schooner.

On November 30, 1915, there was a glimmer of hope, a report circulated that the schooner ‘Swallow’, now fifteen (15) days overdue from the Labrador coast, had been sighted in Lockers Bay, Flat Island, Bonavista Bay. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries immediately dispatched a motor boat from Greenspond to investigate.

The news was devastating. The battered schooner ‘Swallow’ had been towed into Flat Island, but the crew was missing.

The following day, December 1, 1915, the immense grief of the families and friends of those presumed dead was lifted. The Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Gordon Davidson had  received a telegram at his home in Goverment House, St. John’s from Mr. Bonar Law, Secretary of the Colonies (later Prime Minister of Britain) that read:

“The crew and passengers of The Swallow were saved and landed at Stornoway (Scotland)  by the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. Please circulate information, John Bowering.”

The local newspapers reported upon hearing about the telegram that:

“All will be thankful at the good news of their safety.”

Family and friends were later told that the ‘Swallow’  had been battered by the storm of the night of  November 16.  They were adrift for a number of days before they were spotted by a Norweigian Steamer.   The crew abandoned, the ‘Swallow’  and transferred to the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. The Norwegian vessel landed at Stornoway, a port on Lewis, the North Island of the Hebrides in North West, Scotland.

It is said that the Batten’s and other families had a particularly good Christmas in 1915. On Christmas Eve, the crew of the ‘Swallow’ who had all been presumed dead, landed at Bay Robert’s, they all walked home, back into the lives of their family and friends.

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/

Recommended Website: Costal Women in Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation. This virtual exhibit portrays the women who lived and worked in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation http://www.mun.ca/mha/cw/index.html