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 Committee told those gathered that the work would begin at the different brigade headquarters as soon as the work of enlisting was completed. 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. Within days notices were posted in the local newspapers and about the Southside warning residents to stay away from the rifle range. The area was home to their traditional berry picking patches.

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: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”. This online exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.  Selected, 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.   

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly 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. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

COLLECTING THE GREAT WAR ENLISTING YOUR HELP: The Rooms needs your help to tell the stories of the men and women who served overseas and at home during the First World War and the impact that the war had here. The Rooms staff will be available to collect stories and document photographs and artifacts. Help us preserve stories of the First World War before they are lost. The information gathered will be used to develop a new permanent exhibition on The Great War to open in 2016. More Information:


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 was 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.

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 Film: The Grand Seduction is a 2013 Newfoundland comedy film directed by Don McKellar and Produced by Barbara Doran. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Mary Walsh, Mark Critch and Gordon Pinsent.

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



Newfoundland takes Prisoners of War

Archival Moment

August 22, 1914

Prison13495337191864875045prison3-hiIn the hours following the declaration of the First World War in August 1914, the government of Newfoundland began to declare ‘certain individuals’ as ‘Prisoners of War.’

In St. John’s, the local papers reported as early as August 18, 1914 “that one Carl Winicarski, an Austrian fireman was held as a prisoner of war.”

On August 20, 1914 “the police (in St. John’s) arrested another German as a Prisoner of War, there are now detained on the Police Station two Germans and a Pole.”

These were all men working on foreign vessels, that happened to be tied up in St. John’s harbour, that were carrying passports of the enemy countries, the Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and The Ottoman Empire (Turkey).

It appears that the Police Station was inadequate for the purposes of holding ‘Prisoners of War.’   The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on August 21, 1914:

“Owing to complaints being made that the Police Station was unfit to quarter Prisoners of War (POW’s) yesterday afternoon two German’s and a Pole were removed from there to the Penitentiary, where they will be allowed a certain amount of liberty.”

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) on Quidi Vidi Lake became then the home for the prisoners of war in St. John’s. Initially, “prisoners of war” were also held in Corner Brook and Harbour Grace in the town’s Police or Court House cells.   As the numbers increased they were transferred to a facility in Donovan’s, (on the outskirts of St. John’s) and eventually to a larger facility in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

The Amherst Camp was the largest prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in Canada during World War I with a population of 853 prisoners. The most famous prisoner of war at the camp was Leon Trotsky.

The Prisoners of War in Newfoundland “were allowed a certain amount of liberty” and remembered fondly their time in Newfoundland and the people that they met while they were incarcerated.

Richard Frohner who had been arrested in Harbour Grace wrote from Amherst in 1917:

“I would rather be in Harbour Grace as here. (Amherst). Our best times we had over there (Harbour Grace) and in Donovan’s but I know that we will not get back as POW’s, we hope that this war will be over and we will be free once more…”

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regimen. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) are on line ,

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium   Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly 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. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Exhibit: The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery. POINTED NORTH: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland & Labrador, May 31 – September 21, 2014. As part of the Rockwell Kent Centennial in Newfoundland, The Rooms presents paintings, drawings, prints and books from various points throughout Kent’s career, highlighting those inspired by his time here. With anti German sentiment rising as the Great War approached, Kent who had studied as a youth in Germany cavorted about Brigus, Newfoundland singing German tunes and extolling the virtues of German culture. See also

Celebrating 175 years of photography

Archival Moment

August 19th, 1839

PhotoWorld Photo Day 2014 marks a special anniversary for photographers across the globe. It marks the 175th 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: The Rooms Provincial Archives is home to hundreds of thousands of photographs from 1843 to the present.

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

Newfoundland architecture: From the Octagon Castle to the Fogo Island Inn

Archival Moment

August 18, 1898

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives.  E 19 - 31. Octagon Castle, Topsaiil.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 19 – 31. Octagon Castle, Topsail.

The world press remians fascinated by the construction and opening of the Fogo Island Inn, a milestone in the work of The Shorefast Foundation and its founder, visionary Zita Cobb. Following a successful career in the high technology industry, Cobb returned to Fogo Island, her birthplace, to invest millions.

In August 1898, the world press was fascinated by the Octagon Castle, Topsail.

Travel writers have throughout history made their way to Newfoundland and Labrador to comment on this place, governments over the years have been actively courting travel writers as part of their tourism strategy.

In 1898 there was much excitement with the news that J.C. Baker, the Art Editor of the World, was in travelling in Newfoundland and he was keen to write about this place.  In particular Baker was fascinated by Octagon Castle and its owner Professor Charles Danielle.

Baker wrote to Danielle to ask that he:

“Send me details on how and why you took up your life on the borders of that delightful lake, (Rocky Pond, Topsail) in the solitude of the wilderness; I think it would make an interesting article …”

The World was at the time the most successful of the New York newspapers. In 1898 it was under the direction of Joseph Pulitzer who was in an aggressive era of circulation building. In 1896, the World began using a four-color printing press; it was the first newspaper to launch a color supplement.

Professor Danielle was excited about the possibility, J.C. Baker was requesting:

“Photos of yourself at present, and some of the old ones in costume, together with photos of Octagon castle exterior and interior?”

The local press, the Evening Telegram  was reporting:

“When a journal like the New York World, with a circulation of over 700,000, thinks it’s worthwhile to illustrate and publish the Professor’s enterprise, the latter must surely be a live man, and the Octagon, a most remarkable place…”

It was indeed a remarkable place.

Professor Danielle had previous to the Octagon Castle been best known for another building that he constructed the Oriental Palace, built on the north bank of Quidi Vidi in 1893. Although he named it the Royal Pavilion, in newspaper advertisement he described it as the “Magnificent Oriental Palace.” Its interior was decorated in oriental style.  Its ballroom accommodated 1,500 people; the kitchen had four large ranges and as his advertising said.

“The attendants will be attired in oriental costumes and in harmony with the general surroundings — that none but Danielle’s has ever yet gladdened the eyes of Newfoundland with.”

It appears that Professor Danielle had a difficult relationship with his landlord (Mr. Joe Ross) at Quidi Vidi and in a fit of anger disassembled the Palace, board by board and had it carted to Rocky Pond, now called Octagon Pond.  There, he reassembled the palace in octagon style and named it Octagon Castle. The castle was envisioned as a restaurant and resort. The main building was a true octagon shape, with eight sides. It was four stories in height, covered 3,750 square feet of land and enclosed 10, 880 square feet of floor space.

Octagon Castle soon became a popular resort for the pleasure-loving public of St John’s. Societies and clubs held their picnics there, and on holidays hundreds of excursionists flocked to the castle to enjoy the boating and other amenities. Once a year Danielle provided a day’s outing for orphans from the city. To publicize the place he issued pamphlets describing its attractions and even included a list of “don’ts” to prospective clients.

“Don’t bring flasks in your pockets; the Professor keeps Strang’s, Bennett’s, and Gaden’s best. . . . Don’t bring any growlers with you; they keep me awake nights. . . . I want to implore patrons again not to bring flasks and bottles with them, and break them around the grounds. I have buried broken bottles until I can’t get a whole angle worm to catch a trout, they are all cut up in bits.”

Many stories have grown up around the proprietor of the Octagon Castle. One describes him lamenting the state of his health early in May 1901 and predicting that in a year he would “be no more.” Exactly a year later he died.

Octagon Castle was destroyed by fire in 1915.

New – Old Word: Growler, a container (as a can or pitcher) for beer bought by the measure.

Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

Recommended Website:The Fogo Island Inn:

Recommended  Forbes Magazine: Hot  Hotel:  

Ode To Newfoundland


August 17, 1979

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives MG 956.110 Item consists of sheet music, lyrics, and illustrated cover for patriotic composition, Newfoundland. On left side a seal fisherman in oilskins holding Newfoundland pink, white and green with seal at his feet on right side a uniformed Royal Naval Reserve member, holding Union Jack, with Newfoundland dog.

On August 17, 1979, Royal Assent was given to legislation adopting the Ode to Newfoundland as the official provincial anthem of the province of Newfoundland.

The  song  the “Newfoundland”  now known as the “Ode To Newfoundland” was sung for the very first time on January 21, 1902 at the Casino Theatre in St. John’s.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News, reported that  the new song was greeted enthusiastically.

The newspaper article reads:

 “Miss Frances Daisy Foster rendered with exquisite feeling a new song entitled “Newfoundland.” It proved a pleasant surprise and the general appreciation of it was marked by the audience joining spontaneously in the chorus.”

The “Ode to Newfoundland” was composed by Governor, Sir Cavendish Boyle, the original score was set to the music of E.R. Krippner, a German bandmaster living in St. John’s but Boyle desired a more dignified score. It was then set to the music of British composer Sir Hubert Parry, a personal friend of Boyle, who composed two settings.

By 1904 it was firmly established as the unofficial anthem of the Dominion of Newfoundland so much so that in the 1909 General Election, Robert Bond proposed that if elected he would make it the official anthem of the country.

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white

at winter’s stern command

Through shortened days and

starlit nights we love thee frozen land

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee frozen land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, frozen land.

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shores

and wild waves wash their strands,

Through spindrift swirls and tempest roars

we love thee windswept land,

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee

windswept land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, windswept land.

As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

We hope that you sing this “archival moment”  and please pass it along to your many friends.

Recommended Archival Collection: Take some time to explore MG 956.110 at the Rooms Provincial Archives Division this cover illustration featuring the Ode to Newfoundland depicts some of the iconic symbols and images of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Reading:  Geoff Butler, Ode to Newfoundland. Lyrics by Sir Cavendish Boyle. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2003.

Come Sing Along: With lyrics, sheet music, MIDIs & video

Lady Day In Newfoundland


August 15, 1864

The fishing season began with the blessing of the boats by the clergy.

 In Newfoundland and Labrador, August 15 is better known as Lady Day.  On August 15 there is a long established tradition that the “catch of fish” on this day was to be given over to the church.

‘Lady Day,’ the fifteenth of August  in some parts of the province signaled the end of the fishing season.  It  was not unusual for some fishermen to ‘give it up’  for the remainder of the summer.

On August 14, 1864 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s   “called on the people of the St. John’s  area  to fish for St. Patrick’s Church tomorrow”  Bishop Mullock was so determined to get the fishermen up and out fishing at an early hour that he put on a special mass in the Cathedral (now the Basilica) at 4:00 a.m. “for the people going to fish…”

August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, was one of the great feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church. So important was this day that it was considered a Holy Day of Obligation, a day to  refrain  from work, a day demanding that the faithful attend Mass.


When the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) was being constructed Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of Newfoundland received in 1834 from Pope Gregory XVI,  the faculty to dispense the fishermen subject to his spiritual jurisdiction from the obligation of fasting on the vigils of saints.  This allowed Bishop Fleming to give permission to the fishermen to fish for the church on holy days, like Lady Day.  Bishop Fleming referred to himself as “the prelate of a congregation of impoverished fishermen.” 

Father Kyran Walsh (the priest in charge of the construction of the R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) would collect Lady Day fish in the summer, and so raised the thousands of pounds that were needful to complete the Cathedral.

Lady Day in many communities became a day of celebration – at the end of the “fishing day” in some communities (especially in Placentia Bay) dinner and dances were held in the parish halls.

On August 19, 1944 one writer for the Western Star newspaper in Corner Brook, lamented that:

“The 15th of August passed by rather uneventfully. However, many sadly recalled the big celebrations it occasioned in days gone by, and would like to see it return to its former festivity.”