“City of Funerals”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 15, 1924

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 157-110; Gerald J. Whitty and William King’s funeral procession, Water Street, St. John’s

The death of six men in the City of St. John’s on (September 15, 1924) cast a gloom over the city. The local newspapers described St. John’s as a “city of funerals.”  The citizens of St. John’s and the province were mourning the loss of  Gerald J. Whitty and fellow veterans who were struck and killed by a speeding car at Donovans  (on the outskirts of the City).

Gerald  J. Whitty as secretary-treasurer  of the  Great War Veterans Association (GWVA)  of Newfoundland  was  known throughout the province for his advocacy work  for the veterans returning to Newfoundland following the Great War.  He helped run the poppy campaign, begun in 1921, and edited the Veteran Magazine. In 1923 he represented the GWVA in London at the first biennial conference of the British Empire Service League.

He was instrumental in improving pensions and the project of a national memorial to honour Newfoundland’s war dead.

On the evening of 15 September, Whitty and 13 companions met in a restaurant at Donovans to bid farewell to a friend who was leaving for England.  At 11:00 p.m., he, William King, another prominent Newfoundland veteran, and Chief Petty Officer Robert Lovett of HMS Constance were standing by the bus that was to take the party back to St John’s. Suddenly, a speeding car appeared and struck the three men. Whitty and William King were killed instantly, as were four occupants of the car.

On 18 September, St John’s became a “city of funerals.” In the afternoon, following the burial of William King in the General Protestant Cemetery, the funeral procession continued to Whitty’s residence. At the War Memorial  on Water Street that he was instrumental in having established , a short halt was made and wreaths placed. Whitty was buried in Belvedere Cemetery. At the graveside, Father Thomas Nangle observed that veterans had lost “their best friend and advocate.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division explore VA 157 an album of photographs relating to the experience of Gerald J. Whitty.

Recommended Reading:  William Whitty, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Melvin Baker and Peter Neary.

Recommended Website: http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=42117&query