May snow has healing powers

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May Snow

Where is the May Snow?

“May Snow”  is something that  none of us are keen to welcome but  it is  a phenomena that we have all known.

William Shakespeare, like the rest of us was not keen  on  ‘May Snow”  in  ‘Love’s Labour Lost’, he wrote:

 

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows. (1.1.105)”

But if we get snow we might as well make the best out of it.

In this province our ancestors  and government  insisted “May Snow” should be bottled and used as a remedy to cure sore eyes.

A brochure printed by the government of Newfoundland in 1955, titled “Historic Newfoundland  and Labrador” stated:

Many old people testify to the efficiency of this strange cure.

The “Dictionary of Newfoundland English” observed:

“Snow from the first snowfall in May would be collected because it was supposed to have healing powers. It would be used to cure sore eyes. It was called May water.”

J. K. Crellin, in his book “Home Medicine: The Newfoundland Experience” offers a suggestion for those unhappy with their complexion. Crellin in his research discovered that one’s complexion would be improved by soaking one’s face in the first snow in May month.

Snow is associated with purity and innocence as in the expression  “as pure as the driven snow.”

Another expression that is deeply rooted in the folklore of many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador is the expression

“A snowfall in May, will take freckles away.”

It was not uncommon for the young Irish girls to bathe their faces in May snow water with the wish and the prayer that their freckles would disappear. The expression is countered by another wonderful old Irish saying

” A face without freckles is like a night without stars”

Let us embrace our weather, take it as it comes. Let’s bottle this May snow. It truly is good for sore eyes!!

Recommended Website:  Environment Canada:  http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/city/pages/nl-24_metric_e.html

 

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

 

 

The crowded sidewalks of St. John’s

Archival Moments

15 May 1879

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John's, looking east.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John’s, looking east.

On May 15, 1879 the Colonial Government of Newfoundland declared that they had had enough of the businessmen on Water Street obstructing the natural flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of the historic street. It appears that the businessmen were hindering traffic by placing their wares in “boxes, barrels, and packages”   on the sidewalks.

To show that they saw this as a very serious matter, constables dragged before the Police Court in St. John’s “forty two (42) representatives of the business houses on Water Street.” The parade of businessmen to the Police Court included according to the local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, “men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country.”

The Telegram continued:

“It was certainly unique to see so many of our leading civilians arraigned at the bar of justice, and we must confess that our feelings were truly indescribable when we entered the court room and glanced around.”

The Evening Telegram reporter seemed to be enjoying the spectacle observing with some embellishment that:

“There they were, men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country, philanthropists, merchant princes and politicians of the first order; constrained by the omnipotent mandate of the presiding genius of the magisterial bureau. In short they were there on a charge of violation of the following the Municipal Regulations Act.”

The particular act that they were dragged before the courts to answer too was the regulation or act that read:

“Any person who shall place or deposit on any sidewalk in any of the said places, except in transit, any boxes, barrels, packages, or any other matter or thing, so as to obstruct free passage on the said side walk, shall for very offence forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding twenty five dollars.”

Water Street, St. John’s was the hub of the cultural, social and economic activity in St. John’s in the 18th – 20th century.

In 1877, just two years before this mass arrest of the business leaders of St. John’s, Rochfort’s Business Directory, the “Business and General Directory Containing Classified Lists of Business Men of St. John’s” gave a detailed listing of all trades on Water Street and reported that there were on the historic street many different kinds of enterprises.

Some of the businesses on the historic street included: 3 Photographic studios, 8 Auctioneering houses, 4 Bakeries, 2 Blacksmiths, 3 Boarding houses, 15 Boot and Shoe Makers, 15 Butcher Shops, 3 China and Glassware Dealers, 4 Confectioners, 2 Coopers, 2 Dentists, 1 Distiller, 28 Drapers, 2 Engineers, 2 Furniture Dealers, 31 Grocers, 3 Hairdressers, 3 Harness Makers, 11 Hardware Dealers, 2 Hotels, 2 Joiners, 3 Leatherware Dealers, 4 Lumber Merchants, 32 General Merchants, 6 Millinery, I Painter, 2 Plumbers, 2 Pump and Lock Makers, 6 Stationers, 1 Stonemason, 19 Tailors, 7 Tin, Sheet and Iron and Copper Workers, 8 Watchmakers, and 50 Wine and Spirit Retail Stores.

With so many businesses being located on Water Street vying for the attention of the same customers it was not surprising that they should position their products on the sidewalks to try and lore customers into their shops!!

Do you have any problems navigating the sidewalks in St. John’s?

Recommended Archival Collection: City and Town Directories held in archives give incredible insights into the business life of Newfoundland communities. A few of the directories that should be consulted when doing research are Hutchinson’s Directory of Newfoundland (1864); Lovell’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); McAlpine’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); and Rochfort’s Directory of Newfoundland (1877).

Recommended Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

“Be Sober and Watch” – Take “The Pledge”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May 12, 1985

 

The Pledge Card

On  May 12,1985 the members of the Total Abstinence and Benefit Society (TABS) met in St. John’s and dissolved the Society by a resolution of its members. The society had been formally established in St. John’s by the Revered Kyran Walsh in 1841.

It was not the first movement to introduce the philosophy of temperance in St. John’s and by extension the rest of the Newfoundland.

Edward Wix the Church of England Missionary had helped organize a temperance society which met almost every month between 1833 and 1838 and published the Newfoundland Temperance Journal.

Members of the TABS enrolled under the society’s motto of “Be Sober and Watch”, and had taken “the pledge” to abstain from alcoholic beverages.

The words of the famous “pledge” which members took was:

“I pledge myself with the Divine Assistance that as long as I shall continue a member of this Society I will abstain from all intoxicating liquors unless for medical or religious purposes and that I will discountenance intemperance in others.”

The society was a well established sponsor and host for numerous literary and musical and theatrical events. The logic of the society was to provide a good alcohol free venue  to counter the appeal  other entertainments.

In the 1930’s TABS was very optimistic about their future building their new hall at  344 Duckworth Street in, St. John’s, at the time the largest Art-Deco style building ever erected in the city. The building is best remembered as the Capital Theatre (Henry Street entrance) and CBC Radio Building.

When the Society was dissolved in 1985 the Registration Books, Minute Books and other related material was deposited in the Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese.

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives explore: MG 599:  Sons of Temperance, Twillingate; the collection consists of minutes of meetings, re: list of officers, parades, general business  and MG 1009: Sons of Temperance, St. John‘s Division No. 3: Minutes of the Sons of Temperance for 1865-1867 beginning with the inaugural meeting. Minutes include lists of officers including ages and occupations of members, resolutions, finances, quarterly reports, membership fees, expenditures, etc.

Recommended Song: Murphy Broke The Pledge (Irish Descendants) based on the Johnny  Burke Ballad, Murphy Broke the Pledge   [1851-1930] of St. John’s, NL (1894). This variant arranged by the Irish Descendants (Rollin Home, 1998)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAUzJmUkC7A

The stories of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War

Photo Credit: CIBC senior vice-president and Eastern Canada region head Sylvain Vinet (left) and The Rooms director Anne Chafe  at the launch of the companion catalogue for the exhibition of the same name, “Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou.” – Juanita Mercer

The stories of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War at The Rooms’  are now available in print.

The award-winning exhibition, and now this publication, both document the effects of the First World War on the province — on those who fought, on the families and communities left behind, and on the politics, economy and future of the province.

Read More: http://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/the-rooms-launches-exhibition-catalogue-208277/

 

 

 

 

“May the force be with you.” Newfoundland and the Force of Music

Photo Credit: American composer John Williams in 1952 at the Atlantic Films studio on Prescott Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Behind Williams are Ralph Blei, sound engineer, and Margeurite Reid, scriptwriter. (The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, A 68-51 / AFE)

“May the 4th be with you.” What started as pun affectionately shared by fans has become a complete Star Wars holiday: Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away.

Fans of the movie franchise are celebrating because Friday is May the Fourth, which sounds like the famous line from the movie, “May the force be with you.”

What would Star Wars be without Newfoundland influenced music?

The renowned American composer of Star Wars, John Williams said he has many fond memories of his two years in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the first time he had ever travelled outside the United States of America. He found Newfoundlanders to be friendly and welcoming, and many of his Air Force buddies became lifelong friends.

He also became well-known in St. John’s for being able to arrange many kinds of music and songs for the Air Force Band.

In 1952, Williams came to the attention of Atlantic Films, a Newfoundland production company which had been commissioned by Premier Joey Smallwood to make Newfoundland tourism films.

His initiation in film was in Newfoundland. Williams has said after his experience in Newfoundland he developed and refined his musical composition style, and returned to the United States to work in Hollywood film orchestras.

Williams’ scores for the Star Wars movies count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music.

Other contributions of John Williams include: Jaws and Superman and Schindler’s List and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

May the force be with you.

Watch and Listen: In 1952, John Williams  came to the attention of Atlantic Films, a Newfoundland production company which had been commissioned by Premier Joey Smallwood to make Newfoundland tourism films. Watch this film  that John William’s arranged the music for : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3Yd3o-_00w

 

“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