Christmas of Olde in Newfoundland and Labrador

Paul Rowe and Allan Byrne

Paul Rowe and Allan Byrne

Once again, actor Paul Rowe and musician Allan Byrne have combined their talents to deliver a show based on archival materials reflecting the Christmas of Olde in Newfoundland and Labrador. This show has been steadily popular over the last few years, and tickets always sell swiftly.

Paul and Allan have uncovered an impressive selection of poems, recitations, songs and stories, mostly written from the 1870s to the 1940s, from sources as varied as diaries, log books and annual Christmas publications. Out of this material they have created a full-length production that gives an entertaining glimpse of our Christmas traditions during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Paul and Allan are excited to be presenting their show again this year, and are pleased to bring the show to three beautiful venues!

December 8 and 9 – Basilica Cathedral Museum, St. John’s. 8pm. For tickets call (709)726-3660 ext. 221

December 10 – St. George’s Anglican Church, Petty Harbour, 7pm. For tickets call (709)728 2147

December 15 – Placentia Bay Cultural Arts Centre, Placentia, 8pm. For tickets call (709)227-2151

Tickets: $20

The Veiled Virgin: “This statue is a perfect gem of art”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 4, 1856

On 4 December 1856 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland, recorded in his diary:

Received safely from Rome, a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in marble, by Strazza.The face is veiled, and the figure and features are all seen. It is a perfect gem of art.”

The Veiled Virgin was placed in the library of the Basilica Cathedral Parish in St. John’s until 1862, when Mullock presented the statue to the Superior of Presentation Convent.  His sister was a member of that convent.

This statue was executed in flawless Carrera marble by the renowned Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875) in Rome. Other examples of Strazza’s work may be seen in the Vatican Museums, Rome and in the city of Milan. The Veiled Virgin was described by the St. John’s newspaper The Newfoundlander (4 December 1856) as the second such work by Strazza on the subject of a veiled woman.

The newspaper reported:

 “To say that this representation surpasses in perfection of art, any piece of sculpture we have ever seen, conveys but weakly our impression of its exquisite beauty. The possibility of such a triumph of the chisel had not before entered into our conception. Ordinary language must ever fail to do justice to a subject like this – to the rare artistic skill, and to the emotions it produces in the beholder. These themes are rather.”

The Veiled Virgin remains in the care of the Presentation Sisters, Cathedral Square, St. John’s.  It may be viewed by appointment.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database for descriptions of our archival records at The Rooms and view thousands of digital photographs. See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collection:  Presentation Congregation Archives –Cathedral Square, St. John’s, NL 709-753-7291

 

 

A Christmas Box for our Soldiers and Sailors

Archival Moment

December 1914

christmaswwixsb05m_mediumDuring the first week of December 1914 throughout Newfoundland and Labrador the conversation in many households was about preparing a ‘Christmas Box’ for the Newfoundland boys who had signed up to fight for King and Country.

If the ‘Christmas Box’ was to reach ‘the boys’ with the Newfoundland Regiment that were stationed in England, it would have to be ready by December 10.

The tradition of the ‘Christmas Box’ is well established in Newfoundland, as early as 1819 the Anglican clergyman Rev Lewis Amadeus in his book ‘A History of the Island of Newfoundland’ observed:

“ [The Christmas boxes are] presents, not in coin. . . but in eatables, from a turkey or a quarter of veal or mutton, or a piece of beef just killed for the occasion, down to a nicely smoked salmon.”

In 1914 a number of St John’s businesses were promoting the notion of sending Christmas Boxes (Hampers) to the young men who had signed up for the war effort. Universal Agencies located at 137 Water Street encouraged family and friends of the Ist Newfoundland Regiment to send the boys “their Xmas Dinner.

Universal Agencies advertised:

“We have just received word from our London connections that should the friends of any of our Volunteers on Salisbury Plain wish to send them Christmas Hampers they will undertake to supply Hampers containing such things as Turkey, Ham, Sausages, Pudding, Mincemeats, Fruit and Confectionary … “

Universal Agencies also advertised that they would offer three different size of hampers, $5.50, $11.00 and $16.50

Families were also told that the ’Christmas Box’ would be incomplete without a package of cigarettes.

“And don’t forget that after a good dinner your boy will appreciate a box of the famous De. Reszke Cigarettes at $1.50.”

In order to make the price of sending a ‘Christmas Box’ cost effective the “ Newfoundland Government removed all duties on smokes going direct to our Soldiers on Salisbury Plains and our Sailors on the Ocean.”

The Christmas Hampers may have been addressed for Pond Camp on the Salisbury Plain where the tented camp was established in October 1914 for the Regiment but by December the Regiment was moved to Fort George, Inverness located in the Highlands of Scotland. The Newfoundland Regiment celebrated its first Christmas away from home with a Regimental dinner and with visits to the many homes of the Scottish people who showed in many ways their appreciation for these young soldiers.

Recommended Archival Collection: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp

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

Christmas in the Trenches

Date: Wednesday, December 7
Time: 7:00pm
Location: The Rooms Theatre
Cost:  Included with the price of admission

The men of the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland on the Florizel in October 1914, believing the war would be over by Christmas.  Come and join Larry Dohey as he shares how the boys from home kept the spirit of the season in faraway places.- See more at:  https://www.therooms.ca/programs-events/for-adults/engaging-evenings/christmas-in-the-trenches  

 

 

 

WWII Dockyard for Bay Bulls

Archival Moment

WWII Dockyard for Bay Bulls

Property of Martin O'Driscoll, Bay Bulls, 1942. Note the parish church in the background.

Property of Martin O’Driscoll, Bay Bulls, 1942. Note the parish church in the background.

Throughout WWII St. John’s had become the strategic naval hub for ships travelling across the Atlantic. With limited capacity in St. John’s harbour, repair facilities in the harbour quickly became overcrowded and a search began for another harbor.

A decision was soon made to construct a dockyard at Bay Bulls; the town was close to St. John’s and offered a deep water bay opening to the Atlantic. In Bay Bulls it was decided to build a dockyard that could accommodate smaller ships that required repair allowing the larger vessels to be serviced in St. John’s.

Construction demanded access to water front property.

In order to build the dockyard and supporting infracture the properties of local residents in Bay Bulls were expropriated by the Newfoundland Department of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for the installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process of expropriation was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection consists of 37 photographs relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community. The images illustrate houses, fences, shops, sheds, farms, farm animals, vehicles, buildings, and household items.

Some of the Bay Bulls families included in the process were: Coady, Gatheral, O’Driscoll, and Williams.

Construction of the WWII infracture in Bay Bulls began in July 1942; the first operation began in the spring of 1944. The construction included a marine railway with anchorage facilities, barracks, administration buildings and its own power supply in the form of a hydroelectric facility.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series (Bay Bulls) Click to view the Bay Bulls photographs: https://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/Action?ClientSession=-526741c6:158b8fb21c3:-7f98&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&PromptID=&ParamID=&CMD_(DetailRequest)[0]=&ProcessID=6000_3363(0)&KeyValues=KEY_38634

Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms: This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Stephenville, from a French farming village into a flourishing American air base.

Archival Moment

April 1941

Photo Credit: A 65. 6 (1943) Margaret Boulos (Basha) Retail Store Stephenville

Photo Credit: A 65. 6 (1943) Margaret Boulos (Basha) Retail Store Stephenville

In September 1940 as WWII raged, plans were being made to transform the quiet, largely French-speaking farming village of Stephenville, Newfoundland into a flourishing American air base.

The transformation was to impact the whole area but it would have a direct impact on more than 200 people, living on a small parcel of land, consisting of 865 acres. These people would be removed from their homes; their properties were slated for expropriation.

Under its Leased Bases Agreement with Britain, the United States had obtained rights to build the Stephenville air base in 1940. A board of American army and navy personnel arrived in Newfoundland on September 20, 1940 to scout for possible base sites. The Americans quickly realized that Stephenville would be an ideal location for an air base. It would eventually become the largest US military base outside of the continental USA.

In order to build the air base the properties of local residents were expropriated by the Newfoundland Department of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for American military bases and installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process of expropriation was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection consists of 265 photographs (b&w) relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community of Stephenville. The images illustrate houses, fences, shops, sheds, farms, farm animals, vehicles, buildings, and household items.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series (Stephenville) Click to view the Stephenville photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=38234

Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms:  This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Recommended Reading: High, Steven. “From Outport to Base: The American Occupation of Stephenville, 1940-1945.” Newfoundland Studies 18.1 (2002): 84-113.

 

Argentia and Marquise claims for Expropriated Property

Archival Moment

September 1940

Argentia and Marquise claims for Expropriated Property

Alexander Maher's house in Marguise and hundreds of other homes in Marguise and Argentia were torn down in 1940 to make way for the American base in Argentia.

Alexander Maher’s house in Marquise and hundreds of other homes in Marquise and Argentia were torn down in 1940 to make way for the American base in Argentia.

In September 1940, a squad of American army and navy personnel arrived in Placentia Bay to investigate possible base sites. Impressed by the landlocked harbour, and level land that had the potential for airstrip construction, the group recommended building a naval air station at Argentia and an army base in the neighbouring village of Marquise.

The undertaking meant large-scale and long-lasting disruption for the area’s 750 residents. Over the course of a year, the entire populations of both Argentia and Marquise – alongside three cemeteries – had to be relocated.

The properties were expropriated by the Dept. of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for American military / naval bases and installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection  consists of 175 photographs (b&w) relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community of Argentia,  and 78  photographs relating to claims in the nearby community of Marquise, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

The photographs document houses, fences, shops and warehouses, household items, hotels, farms, agriculture, vehicles, sheds and garages. These properties were eventually expropriated for military and defence during WWII.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series  (Argentia) Click to view the photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=40866

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series  (Marquise) Click to view the photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=38235

Recommended Exhibit:   From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms.  This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Recommended Reading:  Houlihan, Eileen (Hunt).  Uprooted! The Argentia Story. St. John’s: Creative Publishers, 1992.

“We could hear their cries all night below us.”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: IGA Lantern slides, Pouch Cove, IGA 1-189

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: IGA Lantern slides, Pouch Cove, IGA 1-189

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
November 29, 1875

On the night of November 29, 1875, the Schooner Waterwitch left St. John’s bound for her home port of Cupids with 25 souls on board. She never made it to Cupids; in the middle of a blinding snowstorm she struck rocks just north of Pouch Cove.

In the local St. John’s newspaper, The Times, the Anglican Minister of Pouch Cove, Reginald Johnson wrote:

“We had a frightful wreck here last night. The schooner Waterwitch, … to and belonging to Cupids, in the Bay, total loss. There were 25 souls on board, – out of which we saved only 13. I was on the spot soon after the terrible news reached the houses, and helped to haul up the survivors. Every man was hauled up fast to about 100 fathoms line, as the wreck could not be approached. We could hear their cries all night below us. It was frightful! The people have behaved nobly ….”

The loss of the 12 men and women on that cold November night is commemorated  in song and story with much of the credit for the rescue of the survivors, given to Alfred Moores of Pouch Cove. He allowed himself to be lowered to the ship by a rope from an overhanging cliff so that he could carry the people to safety.

Also recognized for their role in the daring rescue were David Baldwin, Eli Langmead, William Noseworthy, and Christopher Mundy.

The horror of the night is told in the verses of the song the Waterwitch that is still song in Pouch Cove.

But, hark! Another scream is heard, the people get a shock,
Another female left below to perish on the rock;
When Alfred Moores makes another dash, as loud the wind do roar,
And brings a woman in his arms in safety to the shore.

The town of Cupids went into deep mourning; nine of the dead were from their small place.

A year after the tragic event Governor and Lady Glover at Government House, St. John’s presented Alfred Moores with the Silver Medal of the Royal Human Society. The other four were presented with the bronze medal for their heroic effort. The present location of the medals is not known.

Commemoration TONIGHT:  Commemoration of the Waterwitch Wreck and Rescue to take place beginning at the United Church Cemetery, Pouch Cove and proceeding to the Silver Threads Bldg. Pouch Cove. 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm., Tues. Nov. 29, 2016.

ecommended Museum: The Pouch Cove Museum located in the Town Hall has a small exhibit commemorating the sinking of the Waterwitch.  The Cupids Legacy Centre has a model of the Waterwitch as well as a piece of the original wreck.

Recommended Song: Sung by Richard Moores [d.1975] of Pouch Cove, NL (son of the song’s hero, Alfred Moores) and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/01/witch.htm

Recommended Book: The Loss of the Waterwitch & Other Tales by Eldon Drodge, 2010, Breakwater Press.