“The Untold Story of the Labrador Court.”


The Labrador Court of Civil Jurisdiction was a short-lived experiment in long-distance justice delivery. Each summer, from 1826 to 1833, the Court departed from St. John’s for the Labrador in an ice-reinforced vessel that cruised the Coast for two or three months, stopping at numerous coves and harbours from Blanc Sablon in the South to Rigolet in Esquimaux Bay (now Hamilton Inlet), and occasionally West to Kinnemish in Carter Basin and North West River.

The Court’s Clerk, George Simms, a Justice of the Peace and merchant from Trepassey, kept a journal of these voyages, of which four, from 1830 to 1833, are known to have survived.

This lecture is based on The Journals of George Simms, J.P., and the Records of the Labrador Court, 1826-1833, 2 vols., edited by Augustus G. Lilly and Christopher P. Curran, St. John’s.

The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2017, which contains Simms’s Journals, the complete Court Records, and a selection of archival documents, all of which add to our knowledge of legal, commercial, and Indigenous activity in Labrador.

These materials, most of them published for the first time, are supplemented by an Introduction which traces the history of the delivery of justice on the Labrador Coast from 1809 to 1863.

There are identifications for some 225 persons and places mentioned in the publication, extended biographical sketches of the Court’s Judge, Captain William Paterson, and Simms, and contemporary illustrations, showing people and places on the Coast and the politicians, administrators, and lawyers who were instrumental in setting up the Court.

Please join us on Thursday, 22 February 2018, as Rhodes Scholar Augustus G. Lilly, Q.C. presents the Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society’s  free monthly lecture:

The Journals of George Simms, J.P., and the Untold Story of the Labrador Court, its Origins, Operations, and Demise.”

Location: Hampton Hall, Marine Institute
Date: Thursday, 22 February 2018
Time: 7:30 pm
Parking: Free parking is available in front and to the west of the building.

Truxton and Pollux: “No m’am, that’s the colour of my skin.”


February 18, 1942

Standing Into Danger

The American destroyers Wilkes and Truxton and the supply ship Pollux were on their way to the Argentia Naval Base when they went off course and smashed on the rocks in Lawn Point and Chambers Cove on the Burin Peninsula on February 18, 1942.

The Truxton and Pollux were a total loss. Two hundred and three officers and crew (203) lost their lives. Their life jackets which were not equipped with crotch straps slid off on impact with the water.

Residents of nearby St. Lawrence and Lawn managed to rescue 186 survivors.

At this time the US Navy was segregated. Of the 46 survivors from the USS Truxton, one was black. When Lanier Phillips was rescued by residents of St. Lawrence they treated him the same as they treated the white survivors. He woke up in a room surrounded by a group of white women who were bathing him — many of the rescued sailors had jumped into cold ocean waters covered with a layer of heavy black bunker C oil, which then coated the men. All were in need of cleaning. Phillips noted that if he had woken up in his home state of  Georgia,USA, naked and surrounded by white women, he would have been lynched (and the women branded and run out of town).


One of the women helping with the rescue had never before seen an African American and was puzzled that the crude oil seemed to have soaked his skin to the point of colouring it. She was determined to scrub it off, and Phillips had to tell her that, no m’am, that’s the colour of my skin. Phillips  later found himself sitting at the family table, using the same china cups and plates that the family used, and was dazed (and appalled) to find himself in one of the family beds, looked after by the lady of house who didn’t seem to be afraid of being in the same room with a black man. He said he didn’t sleep all night, it terrified him.

This experience in St. Lawrence galvanized the Navy Mess Attendant to fight racial discrimination within the US Navy. He later became the Navy’s first black sonar technician. After completing a 20 year career in the navy, Lanier Phillips joined the exploration team of Jacques Cousteau. He helped find and uncover a sunken atomic bomb, became active in the civil rights movement, and now  travels’  speaking to young men and women in the U.S.military about the destructiveness of bigotry and racism.

Dr. Lanier Phillips, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Lanier Philips received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree May 31, 2008 from Memorial University of Newfoundland. The university cited what it called ‘his resistance to and capacity to rise above repression’.  In 2011, Phillips was given honorary membership into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador for his work in civil rights in the U.S.

Phillips died on March 12, 2012, at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives read  MG 956.187, A letter from Joseph Manning, Lawn to Gerard Ryan, Corbin:  a description of Manning’s experiences during the rescue of seamen from the USS Pollux and USS Truxton.

Recommended Reading: Oil and Water, a play by Robert Chafe  is based on the true account of shipwrecked African American sailor / veteran Lanier W. Phillips and his experiences in St Lawrence, Newfoundland.  (Text above taken from the play list of Oil and Water)

Recommended Reading: Standing Into Danger by  Cassie Brown Flanker Press Ltd, St. John’s, NL


“Let me treat you to a drink”


February 16, 1909

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

On  February 16, 1909 the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on a sermon given by Archbishop Michael Francis Howley, the Catholic Archbishop of St. John’s.  The newspaper account reported that “Archbishop Howley occupied the pulpit in the Cathedral” and spoke about establishing a League to be called the “Anti Treating League.”

The name chosen for the organization refers to the established practice and “habit of inviting each other to drink which is called “treating.”  We know it today in the expression “let me treat you to a drink.”

It was Archbishop Howley’s hope that this new organization

 “will have the practical effect in preventing excesses in the use of intoxicating drinks and encouraging sobriety and moderation, and the practice of the virtue of Temperance.

Archbishop Howley proposed that members of the Anti Treating League would pledge themselves “not to take from anyone a drink of intoxicating liquor in a place where such liquors are sold.

In short you could drink but no treating!!

The attempt by the Archbishop to curb drinking was not the only attempt to address the issue of excessive drink.  At The Rooms Provincial Archives records establish that as early as 1675 the  government  was keeping an account of the names of suppliers of liquor and wines to the inhabitants of Newfoundland.

The  Anti Treating League was established but many were deaf to the message of the Archbishop.  The year following the establishment of the League the number of Roman Catholics confined to the Police Station for being drunk was 430.  The number confined for being drunk and disorderly was 299.  He was not amused!

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese:  Howley’s Circular Letter – December 27, 1908: The Anti Treating League.

Recommended Reading: Rumrunners: The Smugglers from St. Pierre and Miquelon and the Burin Peninsula from Prohibition to Present Day.  J. P. Andrieux; Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2009.





The Ocean Ranger


Photo Credit:

The Rooms Provincial Archives : A-41-36; Ocean Ranger, Lost February 15, 1982

On February 15, 1982 at 0052 hours local time, a MAYDAY call was sent out from the Ocean Ranger, noting a severe list to the port side of the rig and requesting immediate assistance. This was the first communication from the Ocean Ranger identifying a major problem.

At 0130 hours local time, the Ocean Ranger transmitted its last message:

 ‘There will be no further radio communications from the Ocean Ranger. We are going to lifeboat stations’.

Shortly thereafter, in the middle of the night and in the midst of atrocious winter weather, the crew abandoned the rig.

All 84 crewmembers died.  56 were Newfoundlanders. Over the next four days search teams were only able to recover 22 bodies, 2 lifeboats, and 6 life rafts.

Families across Newfoundland and Labrador,  struggled to cope with the loss. In every community in the province in every church, in every school people gathered to find comfort.  At a crowded ecumenical service at the historic Basilica  Cathedral  in St. John’s, friends and relatives attended a memorial service to pay tribute and to search for answers.  The Catholic Archbishop of the province surrounded by clergy from all churches used the occasion to call on both the federal and provincial governments to establish “a joint enquiry into the terrible accident”.

Recommended Archival Collection: Two new ‘Ocean Ranger” collections are now held at The Rooms.  The David Boutcher Collection features photographs taken by David on the Ocean Ranger in 1982.  Many of the photographs feature friends and fellow crew members.  David died on the Ocean Ranger.   Also available is the Lloyd Major Collection, Lloyd was a medic on the Ocean Ranger, his 52 photographs feature individuals who worked on “The Rig”  and structural features of The Rig.

Note: Many of the individuals in these photographs have not been identified and we would welcome the assistance  of families and friends  of the victims to help us in this process

Recommended Book (Fiction): Moore, Lisa .  February. House of Anansi Press (2010).  February is a fictional exploration of the impact on one family of the 1982 sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger.

Recommended Book: (Non Fiction):  Heffernan, Mike (2009). Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster, Creative Publishers, St. John’s.  This is an illustrated collection of first-person accounts from former rig workers, victims’ families, government officials, media, and search and rescue crews.

Website: Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Marine Disaster: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/or_response.html


A Newfoundland and Labrador geographical romance


February 14, 1918

Newfoundland and Labrador a place of romance.

Newfoundland and Labrador a place of romance.

This is a geographical romance that will take you to the many nooks and crannies of Newfoundland and Labrador.  This is a poem for Valentine’s Day!

Each of the bolded words in this poem is a place name in Newfoundland and Labrador. Please note that some of the place names have changed and or have been resettled and may no longer be on the official provincial map.  Take some time with the provincial map and travel with Annie Opsquotch about this province to try and find her true love!!

 A Newfoundland and Labrador  Geographical Romance

Annie Opsquotch just could not make up her mind. She was smitten by two men, Joe Batt  and Sam Hitches.  Little did she know that there was another who was in love with her and was determined to keep her to himself! But her mind was made up, she was determined to find her true love!

Now Annie Opsquotch got a mash,

But wasn’t very sure,

If she loved Old Sam Hitches less

Or Young Joe Batt the Moore

Bad Neighbour when he heard it,

In his Heart’s Ease felt alarm,

And sent Joe Batt to Burying Place;

Gave Sam a Bloody Arm.

Then Annie’s scornful Ha, Ha,

Was Tentamount to snubs,

When Mose Ambrose heard of her Exploit

He felt like Jack O’Clubs


Her Beau Bois, she then went in quest,

And traveled day and Knight,

And swore she wouldn’t Stepaside

Till she found her Heart’s Delight.

She took a Gin and Brandy,

Her Bareneed to appease,

She took a stock of Horse Chops,                           

Like wise some Bread and Cheese.                         

She started on Blue Pinions,

With the swiftness of a Hare,

She went to sleep with Heart’s Content,

But woke up in Despair.

Thru Cat’s Cove, Dogs Cove, Hogs Nose,

Thru Bear’s Cove, Lion’s Den,

Past Beaver, Seal and Badger

And Duck and Deer and Clam;

Thru Fox and Goose and Wolf Bay

Rat, Weasel, Turtle, Swan,

Thru, Salmon, Swile and Puffin,

And rested her at Lawn.

Thru Lobster, Loon and Clown Cove                                

With haste she did Pushthrough,

Thru Gouffe, Greeps and Gaggles                                    

Knife Cove and Lance au Lou;                              

Cupid’s message via Pacquet

Put an end to her alarms,

At last she got her Heart’s Desire,

Snug, Safe in Joe Batt’s Arms.

The poem  was written under a pen name, or “nom de plume” by Bald Nap.  It is  possible that the writer  was from Bald Nap  described as an outport on Bay d’Espoir located in the Trinity District.

This  poem makes reference to approximately sixty five place names.

Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives explore the Nomenclature Board fonds , Description number GN 157. This collection consists of of incoming correspondence to the secretary, Nomenclature Board (1920-1943; 1950),including petitions about proposed community name changes.

Where in the province are these places located?  WE have found most – but a few  (?)  we have not found. Perhaps you can help.

The Annieopsquotch Mountains are located in the southwestern interior of the island of Newfoundland, east of Bay St. George. Its name is Mi’kmaq and literally translated means ‘terrible rocks.’

Sam Hitches: A small fishing station on Long Island between Despair and Hermitage. Distance from Fortune Bay is nine miles, from Gaultois by boat is seven miles.

Joe Batt: A fishing settlement on north east side of Fogo Island. Distance from Fogo is five miles.

Moore’s Cove, near Shoal Tickle. Shoal Tickle was the smallest of the four communities that were settled outside the Town of Fogo.

“The Bad Neighbour” is about three quarters of a mile off Burgeo.

Heart’s Ease is primarily a shortened name for Heart’s Ease Beach (near Gooseberry Cove, Trinity Bay). The community ceased existence in the 1920s.

Indian Burying Place, Notre Dame Bay is located approximately halfway between Nippers Harbour to the south, and Shoe Cove to the north. It can be reached by boat, walking overland, or by skidoo in the winter from Snook’s Arm.

Bloddy’s Arm: A salmon river, in the Fogo division of the District of Twillingate and Fogo.

Ha Ha: Newfoundland has more than a few hahas, including Ha Ha Bay, Ha Ha Mountain, and The Ha Ha.

Mose Ambrose: Located along Route 363, Mose Ambrose, Harbour Breton area, was originally called Mon Jambe and later became known as Mozambrose. Like most communities along the south coast, Mose Ambrose was first established as fishing rooms for ventures from England.

Exploit’s River: One of the most important inlets in Newfoundland. Distance from Twillingate by boat is 24 miles.

Jack O’ Clubs is now known as Aguathuna, located in the Stephenville Western Region.

Beau Bois on the Burin Peninsula, only a 10-minute drive from Marystown.

Knight’s Cove is a village located southwest of Bonavista and west of Catalina.

Stepaside is located on the south coast of Newfoundland (on the Placentia Bay side of Burin Peninsula).

Heart’s Delight-Islington is a town on the south side of Trinity Bay.

Bear Cove can mean a number of places; there were at least eight in the province.

Lion’s Den: Fogo Island.

Beaver Cove changed its name to Beaverton in 1968.

Badger is a town in north-central on the Exploits River. It supplied pulp and paper for the mills in Grand Falls-Windsor for many years, and was famous for its large spring log drives.

Black Duck Cove, near Ireland’s Eye, Trinity Bay.

Deer: as in Deer Lake, western Newfoundland.

Clam Bank Cove, now known as Lourdes.

Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay.

Goose Bay, Bonavista Bay or Labrador.

Lower Wolf Cove, now Springdale.

Rat (Rattling Brook), now Heatherton.

Weasel Island: Mi’kmaq burial site in Hermitage District.

Turtle: ?

Swan: Swan Island, Bay of Exploits.

Salmon Cove, now called Avondale.

Swile Rock, Trinity Bay.

Puffin: ?

Lawn, Burin Peninsula.

Lobster Harbour, NDB, now Port Anson.

Loons Cove, now called Lewins Cove.

Gin Cove, north side of Smith’s Sound, Trinity Bay

Brandy: ?

Bareneed is located east of Bay Roberts, on the west side of Conception Bay.

Horse Chops is a small island off the coast of Labrador, near the mouth of Sandwich Bay or the cape near the entrance of Engliah Harbour, Trinity Bay.

Bread and Cheese, located south of Bay Bulls.

Blue Pinions: A small fishing settlement on west side of Fortune Bay, district of Fortune Bay. Distance from Bellorem is five miles by road, near St. Jacques.

Hare (Hare Bay) is a natural bay located on the eastern side of the Northern Peninsula.

Heart’s Content, a community nestled along the sea on the Baccalieu Trail.

Despair (Bay d’Espoir). It’s sometimes claimed that the name Bay Despair represents an English corruption of the French.

Cat’s Cove, on the Burin Peninsula.

Dog Cove, on St. Brendan’s Island.

Hog’s Nose: Trinity Harbour, Trinity Bay.

Clown Cove, near Carbonear.

Pushthrough: A resettled fishing community located on Newfoundland’s south coast, about 20 kilometres northwest of Hermitage.

Gouffe: ?

Greeps: ?

Gaggles: a place to which logs are hauled, preparatory to transportation by water or rail.

Knife Cove, Knife Bay (or Baie de Couteau, or Knife Cove) is a natural bay or cove. Cornelius Island is nearby.

L’Anse-au-Loup is located between Forteau and L’Anse-au-Diable.

Cupids: the oldest English colony in Canada and the second oldest English in North America! A place for lovers!

Pacquet (“hideaway” in French) is located in White Bay, on the Baie Verte Peninsula.

Heart’s Desire, south side of Trinity Bay.

Snug Harbour, approximately 30 kilometres northeast of Charlottetown.

Safe Harbour is a resettled fishing community located around a well-sheltered harbour on the north side of Bonavista Bay.

Joe Batt’s Arm, Fogo Island.

Bald Nap is an outport on Bay d’Espoir, located in the Trinity District.


Shrove Tuesday—Pancake Day


February 13, 2018

Pancake ChefMardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions) or Pancake Tuesday.

The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins. This year Ash Wednesday is on February 14.


On Shrove Tuesday,  (February 13) Christians were encouraged to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.

The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression short shrift”. To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. The longer expression is, “to give him short shrift and a long rope,” which formerly meant to hang a criminal with a minimum of delay.

What is in that pancake

Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.

Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part in discovering what their future will be as part of the meal.

The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition:

  • a penny—to symbolize poverty
  • a nickel—to symbolize wealth
  • a string—to symbolize a fisherman (if a boy got the string, he would be a fisherman, if a girl did, she would marry one)
  • a holy medal—the house blessed with a priest or a nun.
  • a hair clip—hairdresser or barber
  • a button — to symbolize that you would never marry – a bachelor or an old maid
  • a pencil stub – a career in teaching: imagine a lead pencil in your food!)
  • a thimble—to symbolize that you would be a seamstress (a girl) or a tailor (a boy)
  • a wedding ring—to symbolize that you would marry soon




Dream about your Valentine




Bay Leaf Heart

Bay Leaf Heart

Many traditions have evolved around St. Valentine’s Day.  One that is particular to the Eve of St. Valentine involves the bay leaf.

Bay leaves have been used to help determine ones future mate.

The practice has been to place a few bay leaves inside of a small cotton bag, preferably red in color. Place this herb bag under your pillow on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Part of the tradition requires that a love charm be recited prior to going to bed for the evening:

“Good Valentine, be kind to me, in dreams let me my true love see.”

Performing this love spell is supposed to cause you to dream about the person that you will eventually marry.

The bay leaf was held in such high esteem that victors of battle, sport and study were crowned with garlands of laurel, as a symbol of their success. This is where the term “baccalaureate” originates from and it is now referred to when students have successfully completed their schooling years. The word “baccalaureate,” alludes to the bay wreathes worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in ancient Greece.

Just check the spice rack to see if you have any bay leaves in the house.

Sleep well.

 “Good Valentine, be kind to me, in dreams let me – my true love see.”