Newfoundland Convicts Sent to Australia


AUGUST 31, 1835

A convict team much like the one that Thomas Baldwin would have served with ploughing a farm, while a guard looks on.

Many Newfoundlanders have made their way to Australia over the years; among the very first to reach the shores of that beautiful country were those who arrived on the “convict ships.”   They were convicted felons, often of very minor crimes, chained in the hold of the convict vessels that carried them to the prison colonies in Australia.  Among the early ‘documented’ Newfoundlanders to arrive in Australia was Thomas Baldwin  (alias Baldwell) who arrived aboard the convict ship  “Hero” on  August 31, 1835.

Australia at the time was not the tourist attraction it is today. It was originally established by Britain as prison colony. Between 1788 and 1868, 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia.

The Newfoundlander, Thomas Baldwin who found his way to Australia was  24 years old, married with one child and recorded his religion as Catholic. Thomas’s trade was a carter. (A carter typically drove a light two wheeled carriage). He had no education and was sentenced for 7 years for stealing poultry.  Thomas was tried at Waterford City, Ireland  on  February 2, 1834 and arrived in the colony of New South Wales (NSW), Australia on August 31,1835 aboard the convict ship ‘Hero’ and was then assigned to Grose Farm.

The Hero was one of fourteen sailing vessels bringing prisoners to New South Wales, Australia  in 1835, six of them brought Irish prisoners.  On board there were 197 prisoners. The journey took 169 days. Included on the passengers list were 8 women and 9 children.

It is likely that given he gave his home address to the court as Newfoundland  that he must  have been in Newfoundland during  previous summers, perhaps prosecuting the fishery. The Baldwin family name has been established in Newfoundland since 1724.

It is possible that Thomas Baldwin was intentionally trying to get arrested so as to be sent to Australia to be with his brothers. Thomas’s family was no stranger to the law.  His brother Lawrence (convicted of stealing clothes) was transported on the convict ships to Australia in 1828 and his brother James in 1833.

Thomas had issues with authority, while in prison in 1836 he was charged with the offence of ‘neglect of duty’ and was ‘placed in cells for 6 days on bread and water’. In 1841 he was charged with the offence of ‘disorderly conduct’ and was placed on the treadmill grinding corn for 2 months at Carter’s Barracks from where he was discharged.

It is likely that Thomas also knew what it was like to be flogged.  Discipline was firm. One observer of the cruel treatment to the convicts reported:

“The floggings are hideously frequent. On flogging mornings I have seen the ground where the men stood at the triangles saturated with blood, as if a bucket of blood had been spilled on it, covering a space three feet in diameter, and running out in various directions, in little streams two or three feet long…. “

Thomas’s home for the duration of his imprisonment would have been Carters’ Barracks, home to the convict gangs working on the brick fields as carters and brick makers.The barracks provided sleeping quarters for these tired workers who daily carted the new made sand stock bricks.

Other Newfoundland families that have links with Australian convict history include Edward Shaw, a soldier transported to New South Wales in 1840, John Watson , a fisherman  transported in 1824 and  John Woods a fisherman salter of St. John’s transported on the convict ship Southworth in 1822.

Recommended Archives: The Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Search the Archives:

Recommended Web Site:  Irish Convicts to New South Wales: List of Ships Transporting Convicts to NSW 1788-1849.



The Cape Shore Road: “A path through a bog”


August 29, 1927


The Cape Shore Road, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile.

Every Roman Catholic bishop since 1784 has been responsible for a “pastoral or Episcopal visitation” to the parishes in rural Newfoundlandand Labrador that are under their jurisdiction.  The “Episcopal visitation” is essentially an opportunity for the bishop to meet with the parish priest and the local people to discuss the state of the local church and its future. In that tradition, Archbishop Edward P. Roche of St. John’s made an ‘Episcopal Visitation” to the Cape Shore in August 1927.

Upon returning to his home in St. John’s, Archbishop Roche wrote a two page letter to the elected members of the House of Assembly in particular to Sullivan, Walsh and Sinnott who were responsible for the Placentia District that included the Cape Shore.

In his letter to the elected officials 29 August 1927 Archbishop Roche wrote:

 “The road from Placentia to Patrick’s Cove is now complete, and passes through some of the very finest scenery in the country.

His description about the state of the road from St. Bride’s to Branch was not as flattering. He wrote:

 “the road is almost impassable; it can scarcely be called a road at all, being very little more than a path through a bog.”

The Archbishop was keen on seeing the roads developed from an economic perspective.  He stated:

 “the people are hard working and industrious, and better road communications would make for greater prosperity in the settlement.”

He also felt that the Cape Shore had considerable tourism potential. He wrote if the road was completed:

 “it will be one of the most attractive and picturesque drives in the country.”


The beauty of the Cape Shore and the condition of the road has not been lost on  those that have travelled to the Cape Shore.

Rex Murphy the CBC host and commentator wrote in the Globe and Mail, October 6, 2001:

 The going to it, (Goosebery Cove, on the Cape Shore Road) and the coming from it, over the splendid wilfulness of the Cape Shore road itself, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile that has yet been hit upon.”

Recommended Archival Collection: See  MG 658.  This small collection consists of account book re: trust accounts, accounts with St. John’s firms (1936); cheque book and stubs (1947-1948); journal (1938-1945) created by the Branch and Cape Shore Area Development Association. Search on line

Recommended Reading: A cove of inner peace on Newfoundland’s Cape Shore: Globe and Mail.


Berry Pickers and Shooting Instructors

Archival Moment

August 27, 1914

The Rifle Range is in the Southside Hills. Stay out of the berry patches.

The Rifle Range is in the Southside Hills. Stay out of the berry patches.

With the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, the task of turning civilian volunteers in Newfoundland into something resembling a military force fell to the Musketry Committee.

On August 27, 1914 a meeting of the Musketry Committee was held at the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C.) Armoury. Sergeant Instructor Joseph Moore, a former professional soldier with 21 years’ service in the British Army, outlined the plan of training the recruits.

The first of the men to sign up for the Newfoundland Regiment were coming from the established paramilitary brigade headquarters of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Catholic Cadet Corps, the Methodist Guards, the Newfoundland Highlanders, and the Legion of Frontiersman.

Instructor Moore explained that the preliminary training would consist of shooting and the cleaning and proper care of rifles. A decision had been made that squads of 50 men under the command Instructor Moore would be given three days practice at the Southside Range after which they will continue their training at Pleasantville.

Pleasantville, at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s with the declaration of war, emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914.

Reports indicate that “quite a number of gentlemen had volunteered as instructors, and all arrangements for efficient training of the recruits had practically been finalized.”

This Committee were working with the Equipment Committee with regard to the procuring of rifles, but no decision had yet been reached as to which rifle would be adopted.

Those living near the Southside Rifle Range were not amused. The hills east of St. John’s  called the  South Side Hills  were known as  the best berry picking grounds  in the town. Within days notices were posted in the local newspapers and about the Southside warning residents to stay away from the rifle range.  Their traditional berry picking patches were now off limits.

Some it is reported were to chance a stray bullet from the Rifle Range in order to get their bucket of beloved blue berries!

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War  service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  Search the Archives:

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:



The First Newfoundland Film

Archival Moment

August 26, 1914

The First Newfoundland Film

The First Newfoundland Film

There was much excitement in St. John’s on August 26, 1914, residents interested in film were excited about the first public showing of a film that was produced in Newfoundland. They were anticipating the showing of the production “Ye Ancient Colony” at the Nickel Theatre.

The setting for the film was the newly established ‘Bowring Park’ known to most residents of the city as the Rae Island property. The company that had undertook the venture was the Newfoundland Biograph Company with financial backing from A. Winter, Mr. Outerbridge and Mr. Harvey.

The film was by today’s standards a documentary featuring the official opening of Bowring Park on 15 July 1914 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught.

Those promoting the film wrote in the Evening Telegram:

“We are inclined to hail the advent of the local firm who have had the courage to inaugurate the idea of preserving by means of animated photography figures, scenes and occurrences of our Home Land. Their courage and enterprise is something of which we must not lose sight ….“

The newspaper went on to read:

“and it is hope that the people who witness the film at the Nickel Theatre tonight, will bear in mind that this splendid presentation is no mere passing item, an ordinary release, but is a local rendition of a local subject, photographed by local people, financed by local promoters and offered as Newfoundland’s first contribution in the way of animated photography.”

Though much of the early film shot in Newfoundland and Labrador was lost or destroyed, a valuable and significant archive has been preserved.

Recommended Archives: The Provincial Archives at The Rooms includes footage by pre-Confederation filmmakers, Varick Frissell’s; The Viking (1931) and The Great Arctic Seal Hunt (1927) , NIFCO, the National Film Board of Canada maintain rich collections of much of the work done since Confederation. Search the Archives:

Recommended Reading: The Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation (NLFDC). The NLFDC has been mandated to promote the development of the indigenous film and video industry in the Province, as well as to promote the Province in national and international film and video markets as a location for film, television, and commercial productions. Read more:

Recommended at The Rooms Theatre: View archival film footage of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War.  Ongoing showings from 2 – 4pm in the Level 2 theatre

Recommended Film Festival: The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) is one of the longest running women’s film festivals in the world. Established in 1989 to support and promote women filmmakers, SJIWFF produces several screenings, workshops and other events throughout the year, culminating in a five day film festival held in October in St. John’s.



Take me to the ‘Bonnet Hop’

Archival Moment

August 25, 1885

The girls are ready to party!!

The girls are ready to party!!

One form of entertainment that our ancestors looked forward to was the “bonnet hop” an evening of entertainment that included music and fireworks.  In August 1885 the talk in St. John’s was all about the ‘bonnet hop’ at the Sea View House, Topsail.

Notice about the ‘Bonnet Hop’ appeared in advertisements in all of the local St. John’s newspapers. Organizers promised a grand evening that included a special train to take guests from St. John’s to Topsail and return. The music for the ‘hop’ would be performed by Professor Bennett’s Band.

Professor David Bennett the former music instructor at St. Bonaventure’s College was a prominent performer and bandmaster, his group was the band of choice for numerous public and private functions.

Music and musical groups played an important part in the social life of the community. Bands like Professor Bennett’s played at  occasions like the hauling of firewood , the laying of cornerstones of public buildings, the towing of sealing ships through harbour ice, the arrival and departure of visiting dignitaries were all occasions when music was obligatory.

Traditionally a ‘bonnet hop’ was a dance on the deck of a boat, in which the ladies keep their bonnets on their heads.  (The term bonnet refers to a strip of canvas laced onto the bottom of a loose footed jib in order to increase the sail area in fair weather. The bonnet is removed when wind velocity increases again.) Nowadays the ‘bonnet’ is the hood of the car!!

Excursions to ‘Grand Bonnet Hops’ were a regular feature on the social calendar, in some Newfoundland communities  ‘bonnet hops’  were called ‘bontops’  now  they are referred  to as a spree or social at the community hall.

If you missed the ‘bonnet hop’ in Topsail the members of Professor Bennett’s Band promised “a series of Promenade Concerts, Dancing Assemblies and other Amusements, during the fall season at the Parade Rink, St. John’s.”

Our ancestors knew how to party!

Recommended Archival Collection: Explore the many collections that are held at the Rooms –  search here:

 Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Newfoundland English G.M. Story, W.J. Kirwin, and J.D.A. Widdowson, eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, The DNE is a historical dictionary based on evidence taken from printed sources and, in addition, on evidence of tape-recorded speech in the province. After its great popular success in 1982 and widespread published reviews, it has continued in print to the present.

‘Raspberry Treat’, an all-night party

Archival Moment

August 22, 1898

Raspberry Recipes, 1890's.

Raspberry Recipes, 1890’s.

You would think if you listened to the critics of the late night hours on George Street, St. John’s, that it was today’s youth who invented the concept of partying throughout the night.  Partying from dusk to dawn is nothing new to the city.

In August 1898, residents of the town found every excuse to have a party, including bringing friends and colleagues together for a ‘raspberry treat.’

On Saturday, August 20, 1898 friends gathered for a ‘raspberry treat’ at Dillon’s Cottage, Freshwater. The concept of a ‘raspberry treat’ was quite simple.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported:

“Various games were enjoyed until 10.00 o’clock when all sat down and did justice to the raspberries and cream and other delicacies so plentifully provided. Songs were then given by a number of ladies and gentlemen of the company.”

There was a tradition in Newfoundland that the first raspberries were never picked before August 15 also known as Lady Day in Newfoundland.

The report in the local paper went on to say:

Dancing formed the next part of the programme, and was kept up till daylight, when a vote of thanks was tendered to Mrs. Miller and the ladies. Before leaving for town, (St. John’s) refreshments were served, and after singing “Auld Lang Syne” the party dispersed.”

In 1898, Dillon’s Cottage, Freshwater would have been one of approximately 20 homes that were once common in the Freshwater Valley area, the area that we now know best as Mount Scio and Oxen Pond. Freshwater would be the area that is now the home of the Botanical Garden and Timble Cottage on Nagle’ Hill.

Freshwater Valley was settled primarily by Irish immigrant farmers who produced food for local consumption, particularly for St. John’s and the surrounding area. The Irish pioneers developed a farming way of life that proved prosperous from the late 1700s into the twentieth century.

Newfoundland is perfect for growing raspberries, which prefer a cooler environment. Raspberries are said to be loaded with antioxidants that help fight symptoms of aging in the body.  Mi’kmaq tradition suggests raspberries help treat diarrhea and boiling the berries and leaves produce a stimulant that helps cure mouth sores.

Why not plan an all-night raspberry treat’ Invite me along!!

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database for descriptions of archival records at the Rooms and  view thousands of digital photographs. Click the image to begin your search.

Recommended Reading: Farming the Rock: The Evolution of Commercial
Agriculture around St. John’s, Newfoundland, to 1945.  by Robert MacKinnon.  Acadiensis,  Vol. XX, No. 2 Spring, 1991.

World Photo Day and Newfoundland and Labrador Collections

Archival Moment

August 19th, 1839

Photo Credit: The Rooms SP 1; Portrait of elderly man in cravat and gown (1860 and 1880] Daguerreotype portraiture was popular in Newfoundland in the 1840’s.

Photo Credit: The Rooms SP 1; Portrait of elderly man in cravat and gown (1860 and 1880]
Daguerreotype portraiture was popular in Newfoundland in the 1840’s.

World Photo Day 2016 marks a special anniversary for photographers across the globe. It marks the 177th anniversary of the first permanent photographic process patented and freely released to the world on August 19th, 1839.

Scientists, artists and inventors took up the task of capturing the light at the start of the 19th century but it was not until William Henry Fox Talbot undertook a series of experiments at Lacock Abbey, Wilkshire, England in 1834-1835 that the dream became reality.

Talbot captured the first photographic negative at the Abbey, an image of a window, not much bigger than a postage stamp. However, he did not announce his invention or publish his findings immediately.

It wasn’t until January 1839, the year that is now regarded by many as the year photography was born, and that he announced his process and then only because a Frenchman named Daguerre claimed the invention for himself.

By the end of January the race was on between the two men – to claim the title ‘inventor of photography’.

On August 19, 1839, at the Institut de France in Paris, the distinguished physicist, Francois Arago, announced to the world on behalf of the French Government the details of Daguerre’s process which became known as the daguerreotype. The Daguerreotype process produced a positive image, but it is from a negative-positive process developed by William Fox Talbot that our modern photographic processes stem.

Talbot’s negative/positive process that ultimately established itself as the process used up until the digital age.

In Newfoundland photography was established as early as March 10th, 1843 with the following advertisement appearing in the local St. John’s paper the Public Ledger:


MESSERS William VALENTINE & Thomas DOANE beg leave to call the attention of the inhabitants of St. John’s and its vicinity, to an Art which has attained great celebrity and popularity in almost every city of Europe and America.

They have completed an apartment fitted for the purposes of Daguerreotype Portraiture, and have made other improvements and arrangements, by means of which they are confident of producing pictures of exquisite beauty.

The Daguerreotype Rooms, at the Golden Lion Inn, will be opened on MONDAY, at 10 o’clock, and will remain open daily from 10 to 4 o’clock. Persons unacquainted with the art, are respectfully invited to call at the Rooms, and examine Specimens.  Portraits taken in any state of the weather.

The first known photographs made around Newfoundland and Labrador were tied to the fishing industry. In 1857 Paul-Émile Miot, a French naval officer aboard the Ardent, captained by Georges-Charles Cloué, made photographs of the waters and land around Newfoundland and Labrador. Miot may have been the first to use photographs in the production of hydrographic maps. During subsequent trips to Newfoundland, he also made a series of portraits that would be published as woodcuts in Le Monde illustré, Harper’s Weekly and Illustration. Important both for their practical information and as political tools, Miot’s images also provide evocative glimpses of Newfoundland’s past.

The first commercially available 35mm film camera was developed only 90 years ago. The digital camera became popular just 20 years ago and 15 years ago, camera phones didn’t exist. Today, everyone is impacted by the influence of photography.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database to view thousands of digital photographs.  The rooms is very interested in your photographic collections especially daguerreotype portraiture.  Talk to us about your collection.

Recommended Reading: Antonia McGrath, Introduction to Newfoundland Photography, 1849-1949 (St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 1980).

Recommended Presentation:  The Photographic Historical Society of Newfoundland and Labrador presents James Vey, Photographer. Presenter Suzanne Sexty; Tuesday 6 September 2016 at 7:30 PM  at  the Sally Davis Seminar Room (SN4087)  at memorial University’s Science Building.