The response of some Irish Newfoundlanders to the Great War

April 30, 1917

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory, a Newfoundland infantryman in field dress standing in front of an unfurled Red Ensign containing the Great Seal of Newfoundland.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory, a Newfoundland infantryman in field dress standing in front of an unfurled Red Ensign containing the Great Seal of Newfoundland.

On April 30, 1917 Revered Daniel O’Callaghan, Parish Priest of  the  the R.C. Parish in Flatrock wrote to Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche of St. John’s complaining:

 “ For months the people in Flatrock have been subjected to a deal of scornful remarks, and to unfair and unjust treatment from so-called patriots because our men have not volunteered.” Father O’Callaghan was particularly incensed that “the Flatrock men have been refused berths to the ice-fields”

The letter is evidence that those who did not volunteer in the war effort were discriminated against.

The Irish born O’Callaghan had at the beginning of WWI discouraged the men of Flatrock from volunteering for the war effort. He is reputed to have told his parishioners that there was no pride “in standing under the British rag.”

Born in South Down, Ireland in 1875, Daniel O’Callaghan, the young Irish Priest in Pouch Cove may have been taking his lead from what his ‘clerical’ contemporaries were doing in his home country,  Ireland. Within the Roman Catholic Irish hierarchy, there was disunity and a lack of a common purpose about the war. The leading archbishops in Ireland in 1914, Archbishop Michael Logue of Armagh and Archbishop William Walsh of Dublin were not in favour of the war or were at best ambivalent and refused to support recruiting or indeed lend any support at all to recruiting. The bishop of Limerick, Bishop Edward Thomas O’ Dwyer, was openly anti-British.

The refusal of the “so called patriots” to give a berth on the ships going to the ice fields to prosecute the seal fishery would have meant economic hardship for the Flatrock men.

O’Callaghan is also  given credit for establishing the tradition of having the famous Regatta Crews from Outer Cove carry there boat to Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s on Regatta Day. Many saw it as a ploy to keep the crew members away from drink on the big day.

Recommended Reading: “Lives Recalled: Deceased Catholic Priests Who worked in Newfoundland 1627-2010”  by Rev.  Francis A. Coady, St. John’s, NL.

Recommended Website:   Find  the Regimental Records of the men of the Newfoundland Regiment here. This is a work in progress not all records are on line. http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part3_database.asp