December 26, 1883
The Harbour Grace Affray
St Stephen’s Day (known nowadays as Boxing Day) is a significant date on the Newfoundland
calendar. It was on St. Stephen’s Day in 1883 on which the Harbour Grace Affray took place.
On St. Stephen’s Day, 1883, the hostility that was forming in the town of Harbour Grace between the Protestants and Roman Catholics came to a boiling point. Approximately 400 – 500 members of the Loyal Orange Association held their annual parade through the town.
It was during their march around the town that a group of 100 to 150 Catholic men from Riverhead formed a line in an attempt to prevent the Protestants from passing through the lane from Harvey Street to Water Street because they felt that the Orangemen were encroaching on their territory.
From this confrontation came five deaths and 17 injuries. Resulting from this event, known as the Harbour Grace Affray, nineteen people were arrested and brought to trial.
Due to conflicting evidence and suspected perjury, all charged individuals were acquitted.
Killed in the Affray:
- William Jeans, aged 21, Carbonear
- William French, 40 years, Courage’s Beach, Harbour Grace
- Patrick Callahan, 56 years, Southside Harbour Grace
- John Bray, an aged man, Courage’s beach, Harbour Grace
- Thomas Nicholas, Oterbury, Harbour Grace
Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN 170 Newfoundland and Labrador Court Records: Files consist of charges relating to the Harbour Grace Affray.
Recommended Reading: The Harbour Grace Affray: St Stephen’s Day 1883 by Patrick Collins, DRC Publishing, St. John’s, NL, 2011.
Old Word: Affray: person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.