Author Archives: Larry Dohey

Newfoundland proposed to sell Labrador to Quebec.


 March 4, 1924

Labrador MapThe modern boundary argument  between Newfoundland and Labrador  over who rightfully owned Labrador (Quebec or Newfoundland) began in 1902, when the Newfoundland government granted a lumber company license to harvest trees on both sides of the Hamilton River (now called the Churchill River). The Quebec government considered the southern part of the river to be part of Quebec, and complained to Canada’s secretary of state. Newfoundland refused to cancel the license.

On March 4, 1924 Prime Minister Walter S. Monroe of Newfoundland proposed to sell Labrador to Quebec for $15 million provided that Newfoundland would retain rights to a three mile wide coastal zone for the use of fishermen.

Quebec’s Premier Taschereau declined Monroe’s offer to sell Newfoundland’s interests in Labrador. The Quebec leader saw no reason to pay for what he believed already rightfully belonged to his province and decided to take his chances with the Privy Council resolution to the dispute.

Deliberations began in October of 1926 with P.T. McGrath from Newfoundland making the case for the province.  In 1927 the Privy Council decided in Newfoundland’s favour, a verdict accepted by Canada.

In the course of our history Newfoundland has made at least four separate attempts to sell Labrador to Canada. The only reason that there was no deal was that Canada would not pay the price Newfoundland asked.

The first offer was made in 1922, during Richard Squires’s first term as prime minister. A year later, in 1923, William Warren, the newly elected Prime Minister of Newfoundland  made another approach to Canada.

Prime Minister, Walter S. Monroe, saw little potential in Labrador, he told the House of Assembly “this country (Newfoundland) will never be able to develop it.”

Sir Richard Squires and his colleagues turned again to Ottawa late in 1931, a formal offer to sell Labrador for $110 million was again rejected.

Imagine if Canada had accepted. No Churchill Falls, or Lower Churchill, the extensive mineral deposits in Western Labrador, Iron Ore, Nickle, Voisey’s Bay. Would Canada have wanted us in 1949 if we were not bringing these resources?

Recommended  Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read MG 8, the papers of Sir. P.T. McGrath  which  consist of textual and cartographic records compiled by P.T. McGrath in preparing the Newfoundland Government’s arguments in the Labrador Boundary Dispute (1906-1926). The fonds is composed of correspondence, transcripts, memoranda, affidavits, research materials, maps and legal proceedings.


Influenza Epidemic Raging


March 2, 1919

Influenza Poster on Public Building

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007)




“The long and hungry month of March”


March 1

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: VA -15-A -28-10 Twillingate Garden Cellar

In Newfoundland and Labrador the month of March has traditionally been referred to as “the long and hungry month of March.”  The expression finds its origins in our “food” history.

“The long” is taken from the fact that March follows – the shortest month in the year – February.  “The hungry month” can be explained by looking at the availability of food especially root vegetables and how supplies were preserved throughout the winter months.

The preservation of food for our ancestors (before the weekly and for some daily visit to the grocery or convenience store) typically involved freezing, salting or pickling.

With no electricity one of the essential structures to be built on the family property was the “root cellar.”  Root cellars served to keep food supplies from freezing during the winter months and cool during the summer months.

Typically, families would put a variety of root vegetables in the cellar in the fall of the year; the main vegetables being potatoes, turnip, and carrot.  Other food supplies placed in the root cellar over the winter months included beets, preserves, jams, berries, and pickled cabbage.  Fish and wild game also found a place in the cellars including turres, moose, caribou, salt meat, and salt fish.  In addition to what was stored in the cellar  some families had access to  domestic animals such as cows, goats, and sheep.

As the winter wore on the supplies that had been gathered and stored in September and October  – especially the vegetables – would gradually diminish,  by late March, supplies would be very low.

The coming of March  marked a time of optimism and hope.  March was the time for sealing or “swilin’ time.” Seal meat would give some reprieve to `the long and hungry month of March’  by which time the family food store was very low.  At this time of the year, in many parts of the province, sealing provided the only opportunity to obtain fresh meat and the pelts brought long awaited cash.

It would be springtime before the hope of the first new vegetable of the year would show, the spring green, know locally as dandelion leaves, the first vegetable after a long winter.

It is the long and hungry month of March.

March is Nutrition Month in Canada.

Recommended Web Site: Elliston, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador is the Root Cellar Capital of the World.

Lost Words: “Lazy Beds”:  a type of potato bed – a farming method where the sod was not removed but turned over with the shovel between the beds, thus simultaneously forming the trenches and raising the beds.Newfoundland andLabrador is one of the few places in the world where this type of potato bed can still be found.





Irish Newfoundland Week, 2015 EVENTS

March 11 – 17, 2015

untitledThe Executive of the Irish Newfoundland Association (INA) invites you to their “Irish Week” events that promise to explore our cultural, historic and economic connections with Ireland. The Association identified four events that they hope will appeal to the membership of the INA and to the general public. The events feature a cross section of our community including, historians, politicians, poets, writers and singers.

The Executive invite you to please “hold these dates” and please share the schedule with friends and colleagues.

Members of the INA and the general public are invited to all events. All of the happenings are FREE with the exception of the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Dance.

The schedule of events is:

Wednesday, March 11th  8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Holiday Inn, St. John’s. Presentation  Two Features (FREE)

Dr. Patrick Mannion

Dr. Patrick Mannion

Feature1: Dr. Patrick Mannion’s presentation will examine how “Irishness” in Newfoundland is understood, and how the strength, depth, and variety of Irish identities have varied widely through time. His talk will focus particularly on the O’Brien family of St. John’s and their farm as an example of the passionate connection to Ireland felt by many Newfoundlanders of Irish descent, and will conclude with some thoughts on how the contemporary O’Brien Farm Foundation can commemorate and contribute to this cultural heritage.

Feature 2: “Newfoundlanders: Voices from the Sea.” 1979 is a 60 minute documentary that looks at the place of the Irish in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. John Mannion helped research and served as one of the location supervisors for the film. The film is dated but almost 40 years later it still offers much to think about. Have a drink as you look back 40 years.

Thursday, March 12th, 2:30 p.m.  The Rooms Theatre – 9 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John’s

Tommy Fegan

Tommy Fegan

Film: Coppers and Brass: The piping tradition of Irish Travellers (2014, 65 min)

Join visiting Irish musician and scholar Tommy Fegan as he presents his film documentary Coppers and Brass, which explores Irish traditional music played by members of the Irish Travelling community. The film focuses particularly on uilleann pipe playing, demonstrating how Irish Travellers exhibit specific stylistic traits within Irish traditional music. After the film, Tommy will pull out his pipes and treat us to a few tunes while explaining the mysterious workings of Ireland’s only indigenous traditional Irish instrument.  (This event is arranged and  hosted by The Rooms)


Thursday, March 12th,  8:00 p.m.  Holiday Inn, St. John’s

McGee was featured in a “historical series” of Canadian stamps in 1927 – making him the first Irishman in the English-speaking world to appear on a postage stamp.

McGee was featured in a “historical series” of Canadian stamps in 1927 – making him the first Irishman in the English-speaking world to appear on a postage stamp.

Presentation: Thomas D’Arcy McGee:  

Perspectives by Loyola Hearn, Former Canadian Ambassador to Ireland & Tommy Fegan, Thomas D’Arcy McGee Centre, County Louth, Ireland.

In the town of Wexford, Ireland on the I5th of May, 1865 Thomas D’Arcy McGee made a speech rejecting his revolutionary past. He told his audience: “Politically we were a pack of fools, but we were honest in our folly and no man need blush at forty for the follies of one and twenty unless he still perseveres in them.”



Sunday, March 15th 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Poets and Readers Session. Holiday Inn, St. John’s. Four Features (FREE)

Writers Read

 Feature 1: Mark Callahan : Newfoundland poet and composer. Edited,The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry, with James Langer, the book features the work of 11 poets who “developed—either by birth or residence—a strong relationship with the island of Newfoundland prior to the publication of their first full-length collection of poetry.”

Feature 2: Kate Evans, born and grew up in Co. Sligo, Ireland. In 1969, she she moved to Newfoundland and Labrador. Her first novel, Where Old Ghosts Meet, was published in September 2010, by Breakwater Books, St John’s. NL. It was short listed for the APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award.

Feature 3:   Ed Kavanagh, has worked as a writer, actor, musician, theatre director, university lecturer, and editor. His latest publication Strays was shortlisted for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, one of the East Coast Literary Awards sponsored by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and a finalists for this year’s Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards

Feature 4. Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore, short-story writer, novelist is a three-time nominee for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (2002, 2005 and 2013), winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and long listed for the Man Booker Prize, Moore is considered one of Newfoundland’s (and Canada’s) most important contemporary writers.

(Please note that you can purchase the latest publication of each writer at the venue.)

Tuesday, March 17th  8:00 – 12: 00 Bella Vista Club,   24 Torbay Road, St. John’s – Entertainment and Dance

Dance and Party in the Irish Tradition ($20.00)

The Freels

The Freels

The Freels offers the dynamic balance of passionate ballads and fiery dance tunes. Members include: Anthony Chafe (guitar, accordion, vocals), Maria Peddle (fiddle, vocals), Danny Mills (flute, bouzouki, vocals), Andrew Fitzgerald (fiddle, bodhran, vocals) and Fergus Brown-O’Byrne (accordion, concertina).

Middle Tickle with D’Arcy Broderick, fiddle, guitar, mandola, banjo, accordion and mandolin and William Broderick (Drums), Glenn Hiscock (Mandolin, Fiddle, Vocals), Paul Hiscock (Bass, vocals) and Ron Kelly (Guitar, vocals).

Reserve your tickets by e mailing:

Larry Dohey:

Sheilagh O’Leary


Purchase your ticket:

Fred’s Records, 198 Duckworth St, St John’s.

Travel Bug, 155 Water St, St John’s.

Alpine Country Lodge, 12 Churchill Square, St John’s.

Sliding laws, crazy carpets and flying saucers.

Archival Moment

February 1916

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

In recent weeks, signage declaring new regulations about sliding on the hills in St. John’s has been posted in public places throughout the city. The signage declares a whole raft of rules about what can and cannot be done when snow sliding.

Some think that this is a new  conversation, but the reality is that regulations about snow sliding or sledding in St. John’s started 99 years ago.

In 1916 “skating or sliding down the hills” was on the agenda of Newfoundland legislators, so much so   that the lawmakers opted to pass legislation about sliding.

In Chapter 51 of the Consolidated Acts, 1916 under the chapter title “Of Nuisances and Municipal Regulations” Section 14 the Act reads:

“The stipendiary magistrate may make regulations for preventing persons from coasting, skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets …”

The focus of the legislation in 1916 was on the  “… skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets…”  

There was a time when the ‘townies’ loved nothing more than grabbing their sleigh for a ride down of the steep hills of the city. The practice was however quite dangerous.

The local newspapers reported on an almost daily basis about individuals being injured on the hills of the town.

On January 14, 1916 the Evening Telegram reported:

“Boy Injured while sliding over Prescott Street”  Yesterday after noon,  newsboy met with a painful accident. He collided with another sled resulting in a deep wound being inflicted in his leg. The injured youth was brought to a nearby drug store for treatment and was later conveyed home and attended by a doctor. “

On February 18, 1916 under the headline “Dangerous practice the sliding of children” the Telegram reported:

“The sliding of children on the city heights is a very dangerous practice particularly on those hills near the street car rails. This morning two children of Hutching’s Street narrowly escaped being killed by a passing street car. The sled on which the youngsters were seated passing in front of the car’s fender by a couple of feet. “

The new signage posted on St. John’s hills and parks owned by the city comes after Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said the city of St. John’s was reviewing its liability in the wake of the city of Hamilton, Ontario being sued following an injury at a popular sledding hill last winter. The City of Sudbury, Ontario in response to the same lawsuit responded by fencing off a sliding hill and banning tobogganing on public land outright.

Almost 100 years following the initial conversation about snow sliding on the hills of St. John’s the conversation continues. This time, all that we lose are our “crazy carpets and flying saucers.”

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives. The consolidated statutes of Newfoundland : being a consolidation of the statute law of the colony down to and including the session of the Legislature in the year 1916 / printed and published by and under the authority of the Governor in Council, and proclaimed under the authority of the Act 9 and 10, George V., cap. X., 1918.

Happy (150th) Birthday, Sir Wilfred Grenfell


February 28, 1865

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13-62  Wilfred Grenfell Painting.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13-62 Wilfred Grenfell Painting.

Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, was born February 28, 1865. He was an English physician and missionary, famous for his work among Labrador fishermen. Dr. Grenfell came to Labrador in 1892.

During more than 40 years of service in Labrador and in Newfoundland, he built hospitals and nursing stations, established cooperative stores, agricultural centers, schools, libraries, and orphanages, and opened the King George V Seamen’s Institute in St. John’s, in 1912. Grenfell cruised annually in the hospital steamer Strathcona II, keeping in touch with his centers of missionary work.

Over the years Grenfell received many awards from universities and other institutions. In 1907 he was appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George; in that year Oxford University awarded him the first Honorary Doctorate of Medicine ever granted by that University and in 1928 he was chosen as Fifth Honorary Knight for Life of the Loyal Knights of the Round Table.

Grenfell’s health failed during the 1920’s and he suffered a heart attack in 1926 and in 1929. He retired in Vermont, U.S.A.  in 1935 at the age of 70. He made his last trip to Labrador in 1939 after his wife died from cancer. He brought her ashes to be interred on Fox Farm Hill overlooking St. Anthony. Grenfell died two years later at his home in Vermont and his ashes were brought to Labrador and placed next to his wife’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: The records of the International Grenfell Association (IGA) were donated to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) by IGA representatives in June 1985. The IGA magic lantern slides form the most colourful pieces of the IGA fonds. These records are  now available at the Rooms  Provincial Archives.

Rooms Exhibit:  The Rooms, home to the largest collection of IGA material in Canada is marking the 100th Anniversary of the incorporation of the IGA in Canada with the exhibition: Mission Trips to Scholarships (1914 – 2014).

Recommended Reading: Grenfell of Labrador: A Biography. Ronald Rompkey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

A summer in Labrador: The Diary of James Craig Potter, MD.

Presentation: Thursday, February 26, 2015

Photo Credit: MG 158-170.1. Mary Sophie Stevens, Dr. James Craig Potter, and Philip Hodges

Photo Credit: MG 158-170.1. Mary Sophie Stevens, Dr. James Craig Potter, and Philip Hodges

The International Grenfell Association (IGA) actively advertised for volunteers to work with Dr. Wilfred Grenfell’s Mission on the Labrador – Newfoundland coast. One of the young volunteers that responded was James Craig Potter one of the many qualified volunteers (called “workers without pay” or “wops”).

James Craig Potter, MD, volunteered with the International Grenfell Association at Battle Harbour during the summer of 1920. As a young man he maintained a diary that is now in the collection of the Rooms Provincial Archives.

His diary is a bound copy of the letters he sent to his mother, women’s rights activist and physician Marion Craig Potter.

Archives technician Beverly Bennett from the Rooms Provincial Archives presents the story of his first impressions of Newfoundland and Labrador and his early medical experiences.

This FREE presentation is open to the PUBLIC.

Thursday, February 26, 2015 (TODAY)

The Rooms Theatre

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.