First day of spring, an anniversary for Kilbride

Archival Moment

February 1, 1863

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John's suburbs. VA 33-98.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John’s suburbs. VA 33-98.

On February 1, 1863 there was much excitement on the outskirts of the town of St. John’s, the residents of the area, mostly farmers, were preparing to welcome the Roman Catholic Bishop (John Thomas Mullock) to officially open their new stone church, that would be called, “Kilbride”.

‘Kilbride’, the “magnificent stone church” was one of five that was built under the direction of the bishop in the 1860’s. Stone churches were also built at  Burin, Torbay, St. Kyran’s and Ferryland. Only, Holy Trinity, Ferryland remains standing.

The residents of Kilbride were quite determined that the date for the consecration or official opening of their new church be February 1st so as they could celebrate their Irish roots and honour one of the patron Saints of Ireland. In Ireland, February 1st is the Feast of St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland (also referred to as Brigit, Bridget, Brighid, or Bride).

Kilbride, literally translated means, church of Bride.

In Ireland, “spring” officially starts on February first to honor St. Brigid, who, according to pagan legend, was able to make even the rocky farms of Ireland productive. The pagans honored Brigid on February 1 because it was the first day of spring in the pagan calendar. February 1 marks the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring, although Irish meteorologists consider the whole of February to be part of winter.

St. Brigid was later to abandon her pagan roots and embrace Christianity sewing the faith deep in the hearts of the Irish.

The original Kilbride Church was located in what is now the Kilbride Cemetery, Bay Bulls Road, St. John’s.

The church served the people of Kilbride well from its date of consecration, February 1, 1863 until it was destroyed by fire in 1892.

Acknowledging St. Bride and our Irish heritage can also be found in other parts of the province. On the beautiful Cape Shore, is the community of St. Bride’s, “on more ancient maps it was called La Stresse, and later Distress.”

In 1876, a young Irish priest, Charles Irvin, was assigned to the area and declared that “Distress” was “not of a pleasant sound” and declared that the name would change from ‘’Distress’ to “St. Bride’s.”

When asked where I from am I am always so tempted to say ‘Distress’.

Happy Spring!!

Archival Collection: At the Rooms provincial Archives explore the Nomenclature Board fonds , Description number GN 157. This collection consist of of incoming correspondence to the secretary, Nomenclature Board (1920-1943; 1950),including petitions about proposed community name changes.

Recommended Reading:   Newfoundland name Lore, A series of articles by Archbishop Michael F. Howley examining the origins of Newfoundland place names, originally published in The Newfoundland Quarterly between 1901-1914 and reprinted between 1932-1940. The reprinted articles have been extracted and bound together to form this book; in consequence, a great deal of unrelated material is also present, including poems, illustrations and advertisements.

Take some time: Take some time to explore the ruins of the Kilbride church in the cemetery at Kilbride. A memorial plaque was placed at the approximate place where the church was located.