Author Archives: Larry Dohey

Father and son embrace.

Archival Moment

March 31, 1914

Sealing DIn 1911, Reuben Crewe was one of a handful of sealers who swam to safety when their vessel sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Afterwards Reuben’s wife, Mary, insisted that he give up sealing. She could no longer bear the sleepless nights of worry for his safety.

It was a rite of passage for the young men of Newfoundland to try and find a berth on one of the sealing vessels going to the ice to prosecute the seal fishery.  In March 1914, Albert John Crewe  had just turned 16 and he was determined that he was going to go.

His mother refused to listen to her young son. The boy insisted, he was determined go.  Finally she relented but she insisted he would only go if his father took him under his wing.

Ruben Crewe agreed. He and his son signed up on the S.S. Newfoundland with a group of other men from Ellision on March 4, 1914.

On March 30th, 1914,   Ruben and his son John Albert with another 164 men left the SS Newfoundland and headed towards the SS Stephano seven miles away. For the next two days they were lost in a vicious blizzard due to the captain of each ship assuming the men had found refuge on the other.  78 men were to freeze to death, including Ruben and Albert.

Cassie Brown in her book ‘Death on The Ice’ wrote about the father and son.  They had struggled for hours to stay alive, the father encouraging his son to walk to move.

“But now, father and son were unable to encourage each other any further. Albert lay on the ice to die, and his father lay beside him, drawing his son’s head up under his fishermen’s guernsey in a last gesture of protection.  They clasped in each other arms, they died together.”

 Rescuers found the S.S. Bellaventure found Reuben and Albert John frozen in an embrace, the father attempting to shield his teenage son from the elements.

Mary recounted later that she was awakened the night of the disaster to see Reuben and Albert John kneeling at her bed and that she was struck by the look of peace on their faces.

The embrace of father and son has been immortalized in a statue that was created by renowned bronze sculptor and visual artist Morgan MacDonald. The statue will be will be erected in Elliston, Newfoundland commemorating those lost in the tragedy.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the Sealers Crew Agreement and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross is also included on this collection.

Recommended Film:   The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, uses animation, survivor testimony and archival footage to create the story of the Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.  View this  short film from your own home at https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours

Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.  A first for the Newfoundland and Labrador publishing industry, as readers turn the pages of Perished they’ll find maps, log book entries, telegrams, a sealer’s ticket for the SS Newfoundland, and more that can be pulled out and examined.  These are the primary source materials that ignite the imagination of history buffs and students alike and are among more than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents that illustrate this amazing book. (NEW PUBLICATION)

 

“Representing himself to be another …”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

“Representing himself to be another … Philip Dohey and Charles Foley”

Photo Credit:  The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 51; S.S. Bellaventure crew bringing bodies and survivors of the S.S.  Newfoundland Sealing Disaster aboard ship.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 51; S.S. Bellaventure crew bringing bodies and survivors of the S.S. Newfoundland Sealing Disaster aboard ship.

One of the men that died in the Sealing Disaster of 1914 was Charles Foley of St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay.  The irony was that Charles Foley did not have a berth on the S.S. Newfoundland; his name is NOT listed in the Sealers Crew Agreement.

The oral tradition in St. Bride’s was that Philip Dohey was one of the crew on the S.S. Newfoundland but at the last minute gave his berth to his friend Charles Foley. This “personating or representing himself to be another” was frowned upon, so much so that the Agreement signed between Captain Wesley Kean of the S.S.  Newfoundland and Philip Dohey on March 4, 1914 read:

 “If any man should sign a false name not his own and shall proceed in the said vessel personating or representing himself to be another, it shall be the option of the maters or suppliers to withhold from him any share of the voyage.”

His determination to find a berth on the S.S. Newfoundland to the extent that he would “represent himself to be another’ may have been a commentary on the economy of the day. The seal fishery represented the only source of cash income that would transition their families from the long winter into the approaching summer fishery.

Between March 31 and April 2, 1914 disaster struck. The men of the S.S. Newfoundland found themselves on the ice, stranded in a blinding snowstorm with freezing temperatures. In the 54 hours they were stranded, many died.

The local paper the Evening Telegram in St. John’s reported in April 1914 about the bodies being removed from one of the rescue vessel, the S.S. Bellaventure that had pulled into St. John’s Harbour.

 “The vision sent a shudder through the crowd. The bodies had been laid there just as they were brought in from the ice, many of them with limbs contracted and drawn up in postures which the cold had brought about.”

The task of identifying the 69 dead and 8 missing men was given to Dr. Alexander Campbell, the port doctor in St. John’s. Using the Sealers Agreement register, Dr. Campbell declared crew member #78; Philip Dohey missing.

It was not until April 30, 1914 that authorities confirmed that crew #78 was in fact not Philip Dohey but Charles Foley.

Crew #78 was the last of the 78 men declared dead.

Sealers Agreement, Philip Dohey #78

Sealers Agreement, Philip Dohey #78

Officially the Sealers Crew Agreement, now  held at the Rooms Provincial Archives continues to read, Philip Dohey missing.

Philip  is not known to have spoken about giving up his berth on the S.S. Newfoundland to his friend. No doubt he pondered what fate had been dealt to him.

Charles Foley is not in the official register but he is  remembered at the “Home from the Sea, Sealers Memorial” in Elliston, Trinity Bay where all those who lost their lives prosecuting the seal fishery in the spring of 1914 are engraved on a stone tablet.

 

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the Sealers Crew Agreement and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross is also included on this collection.

Recommended Exhibit:  The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, using animation, survivor testimony and archival footage. You can also view the short film from your own home at https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours

Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.  A first for the Newfoundland and Labrador publishing industry, as readers turn the pages of Perished they’ll find maps, log book entries, telegrams, a sealer’s ticket for the SS Newfoundland, and more that can be pulled out and examined.  These are the primary source materials that ignite the imagination of history buffs and students alike and are among more than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents that illustrate this amazing book. (NEW PUBLICATION)

Grief Turned to Joy

Archival Moment

March 22, 1915

Grief Turned to Joy

nurse-chessYesterday (March 22, 1915) the home of Mrs. Agnes Wheeler, Torbay Road which has been the scene of mourning and sorrow since the loss of the HMS Clan McNaughton was suddenly changed into one of joy. Mrs. Wheeler had been mourning the loss of her son Philip who was believed to have been on the missing ship when a letter from her boy came yesterday announcing the joyful news that he was quite safe.

Mrs. Wheeler, age 51, a widow, the mother of three children, had been mourning the loss of her son with her two other children, Peter, age 17; and Mary age 11 since early February.

The following is his letter.

  1. Ward

Fizakerley Hospital, Liverpool.

February 26th, 1915

My dearest mother.

Just a few lines, hoping you are keeping quite well as it leaves me at present. Dear mother, I am just writing to let you know I came off the Clan McNaughton before she went down and I am quite safe. I am in this hospital with pneumonia but I am glad to tell you I have got over the worst of it and I am progressing favorably and hope to be out soon.

I have no more to say at present hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain your loving son,

Philip.

Please mother; remember me to all at home.

 

Another letter was received from Sister Ryder (a nurse) of the hospital who writes as follows:

Ward F 4

lst Western General Hospital Fizakerley

March 1st 1915

nurse writingDear Mrs. Wheeler,

l do not know if your son Philip has written to you since he has been in this hospital but seeing his name amongst the names of those brave men missing from HMS Clan McNaughton I thought perhaps you would be relieved to hear he has been in this hospital since the 20th of January. He has been very ill with typhoid fever but is now doing very well and we hope that he will soon be up and about again.

Yours sincerely,

Sister H. Ryder

The gladness which these rays of heavenly sunshine brought to that humble dwelling on the Torbay Road yesterday (March 22, 1915) can better be imagined than described. The story of Philip Wheeler’s escape is a remarkable one. He was first drafted for the ill-fated Viknor but was taken ill and had to remain ashore. Later he joined the HMS Clan McNaughton and the rest of his story is told in the letter to his mother.

Mrs. Wheeler is a happy woman today but mingled with her happiness is a tender sympathy for those mothers who are still left to weep for the brave sons they have given in the service of the Empire.

History of the HMS Clan McNaughton

deathnavalHMS Clan Macnaughton was a converted cargo passenger ship built in 1911. The vessel was hired by the Admiralty in November 1914. She was sunk during a severe gale (or possibly mined) off the NW coast of Ireland with the loss of all hands.

The true cause of her sinking has never been fully established. However, there has been some speculation that a combination of a bad Atlantic storm, coupled with a top heavy ship (due to the fitting of naval guns) may have contributed to her loss rather than a loose mine out in the Atlantic.

Stephen Dicker from Flat Island, Bonavista Bay, joined the HMS Clan MacNaughton on January 19, 1915 and voiced discontent about working conditions: “Anyone that has experienced a month at sea in a boat like this will say that the landsmen has got a blessing.”

On February 3, 1915, the HMS Clan MacNaughton was sunk with the loss of all 261 on board, including 23 Newfoundlanders. In total, during the war, 192 reservists and 117 merchant sailors from Newfoundland perished.

Those who died were:

BRYAN, Edward Smn 1284X of Elizabeth Tucker [formerly Bryan] and the late John Bryan Thorburn Road, St. John’s

BUTLER, Peter Smn 2174X of William and Anne Butler Harbour Grace

CHAFE, William Henry Smn 1283X of Henry and Hannah Chafe Forest Pond, The Goulds, St. John’s

COADY, Timothy Francis Smn 1293X of Anna Coady 22 York Street, St. John’s

CROCKER, Stanley Smn 2178X of John Charles and Jane Crocker Heart’s Delight, Trinity Bay

DICKER, Stephen Smn 1240X of22 George and Jane Dicker Flat Island, Bonavista Bay

DYER, William Gerrard Smn 2170X of Mrs. Helen Dyer Logy Bay, St. John’s East

HALLETT, Albert Smn 931X of Jonas and Sarah Hallett Flat Island, Bonavista Bay

KAVANAGH, Thomas Joseph Smn 217X of James and Katherine Kavanagh Logy Bay, St. John’s East

KEHOE, William J. Smn 2173X of Michael Thomas and Christina Kehoe Riverhead, Harbour Grace

KNIGHT, Thomas Smn 1297X of William and Annie Knight Pleasant Street, St. John’s

MORGAN, John Thomas Smn 1255X of Joseph Morgan Seal Cove, Conception Bay

MORRIS, Walter Smn 1282X of Mrs. Amelia Morris 63 Field Street, St. John’s

O’BRIEN, Patrick J. Smn 2172X of Richard J. and Matilda O’Brien

OSMOND, Gerald Augustus Smn 1287X H.M.S. Husband of Mary Osmond 121 Duckworth Street, St. John’s

PIKE, Francis Smn 2175X H.M.S. of Mrs. Susan Pike Water Street, Harbour Grace

RANDELL, Ralph Smn 2176X of John and Elizabeth Randell Elliott’s Cove, Random Island

SIMMONS, F. Eugene Smn 1285X of L.H. and Anne Simmons Spruce Brook

SNOW, Randell Joseph Smn 1256X of Mrs. Elizabeth Snow Mundy Pond Road, St. John’s

SQUIRES, Richard J. Smn 1280X H.M.S. of Richard J. and Elizabeth Squires St. John’s

STONE, Edward Smn 1295X of Edward and Isidorah Stone Bell Island

WATKINS, Jonas Smn 2177X of Henry and Ellen Watkins Summerford, Notre Dame Bay

(If you are friends with someone who shares the surname of one of these men – send them this post – it might be an ancestor.)

 

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives research the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve fonds . GB 1/3. This collection consists of 17 volumes of personnel records for the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve (1900-1919). Records include applications for enrolment, naval service ledgers and registers of payment and retainers. Includes an alphabetical listing of reservists. Microfilm reproductions are available for research. Reel content is provided with item level descriptions.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA-58-21, Reservist in complete uniform, HMS Briton, ca. 1916.

Will the new craze of “Velocipede Riding” come to Newfoundland?

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
March 20, 1869

Try this on the hills in St. John's, NL

Try this on the hills in St. John’s, NL

There was much excitement in St. John’s during this week in 1869. The people of the town were anxious to see the “newly imported velocipedes”   that were available for viewing at the Fishermen’s Society Hall on Queen’s Road.

Edward Morris, General Manager of the Newfoundland Saving’s Bank was so fascinated by the phenomena that he recorded in his diary (March 20, 1869) that even the ailing Roman Catholic Bishop (John Thomas Mullock) was determined to leave his sick bed to see the “newly imported velocipedes.”

The velocipede was invented in France in 1865, upgrading previous bicycles with the addition of pedals to the front wheel. In 1868 E. B. Turner, an agent for Coventry Sewing Machine Makers, England,  was on holiday in Paris where he witnessed the new craze of velocipede riding. Having tried the machines himself he returned to Coventry, England with a new velocipede and persuaded the machine manufacturers to revive their flagging fortunes by manufacturing the bikes themselves.

These bicycles became known as `Boneshakers` due to the severity of the ride afforded by their solid wooden or metal wheels.

In 1869 the Franco-Prussian War broke out and all metal production in France went to the War effort, therefore the French bicycle industry ceased temporarily and English production took over.

In 1871 the penny farthing was invented and took over from the Velocipede, so ending its production.

Recommended Archival Collection: Diary of Edward Morris, Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese, St. John’s.

Recommended Web Site:  The International Veteran Cycle Association. http://www.ivca-online.org/

New Word: velocipede: French vélocipède, from Latin veloc-, velox + ped-, pes foot — fast foot.

Is there a Stradivari in St. John’s?

Archival Moment

MARCH 19, 1892

ViolinThere was much discussion in the music community in St. John’s on March 19, 1892, conversation driven by a news item in the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, about the possibility of an authentic Cremona violin, dated 1681 in the city.  This was no ordinary violin this was reputed to have been created by the master genius of violin-makers, the maestro of Cremona, Antonius Stradivari.

Antonio Stradivari (1644 -1737) set up his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he painstakingly handmade made violins and other stringed instruments. He took a basic concept for the violin and refined its geometry and design to produce an instrument which is now the standard. Stradivari’s violins have been judged by history to be the best.

The owner of the alleged ‘strad’ in St. John’s was “Mr. P. Roche, a storekeeper of this city”.  He had done some preliminary work on investigating the provenance of his violin. The Telegram reported:

“The word (the name of the maker) and the figures (year)  are inscribed on the inside of the back (of the violin) and may be seen by looking through the scroll worked holes in the front of the instrument.”

The article went on to read:

“There are five known famous violins by a celebrated maker from that city, (Cremona) each of them worth hundreds of guineas. One has been in New York, one in Munich, and one in London; three are still missing.  There are very many less famous Cremona violin, whether Mr. Roche’s belongs to the most celebrated class, he is taking steps to find out. It was purchased many years ago by his brother in Halifax.”

What happened to the violin?  We really do not know – perhaps it remains with the descendants of Mr. Roche who may not be aware of the fine instrument that they have!!

Today, a conservative estimate on the value of the violin, if it were authentic, would range from $1 to $5 million.

Recommended Reading: Antonio Stradivari, His Life and Work (1644-1737) W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred E. Hill  Originally Published in 1902

Recommended Website: http://www.cello.org/heaven/hill/index.htm

Recommended Movie: The Red Violin is a 1998 Canadian film directed by François Girard. It spans four centuries and five countries as it tells the story of a mysterious violin and its many owners.

Support the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra:  Read More:  http://www.nso-music.com/

“Journalists and their discreditable doings”

Archival Moment

March 14, 1881

Newspaper boysThe political reporters that now cover the news at the Confederation Building do so only after considerable thought and reflection on the discussions that they hear in the legislature. It was not always so!!

In March 9,  1881, John Rorke  Sr., a member of the Executive Council (Cabinet) in in the William Whiteway Government lashed out at reporters for the:

disagreeable manner in which the Reporters furnish (report on) the debates of the Assembly, causing much complaint and dissatisfaction, even to both sides of the House.”

Rorke and other members of the House of the Assembly, located in the Colonial Building on Military Road, St. John’s were suggesting that the bias of the reporters and their newspaper editors was the news.

At the time St. John’s boasted a number of daily newspapers including, Newfoundland’s first newspaper The Royal Gazette, (1807 – 18??), the Morning Chronicle, (1862-1881), The Newfoundlander (1827 -1884), The Ledger (1875 -1882) and The Evening Telegram (1879 – present).  Each was trying to carve out their own readership and in the 1880’s they took some very definite Editorial positions.

In the 1880’s the two big “editorial” discussions in Newfoundland were about Confederation with Canada and support for a railway.

The Morning Chronicle was the principal anti-Confederate newspaper; The Newfoundlander was the principal Confederate newspaper and enthusiastically supported the railway.

The Editors did not mince words, one Canadian Editor wrote about the Editor of the Evening Telegram in a most unflattering manner. He wrote:

“Canada has one determined enemy. He lives down at Newfoundland in the City of St. John’s. He is the editor of the Telegram, that humorously ill-natured sheet, which, as we once before pointed out, has abused everything in Newfoundland that was good for the Island.”

The editor of the  Evening Telegram  referred to another Editor as  “as a vile ingrate and unworthy of the countenance of any political party”

Journalists drinking and playing cards in the " Reporters Room"  in the Colonial Building.

Journalists drinking and playing cards in the ” Reporters Room” in the Colonial Building.

As the Editors sniped at each other the reporters in The Reporter’s Room, located in the basement of the Colonial Building were often distracted from their journalistic calling.  In a letter to the St. John’s paper the Evening Telegram, on March 14  one  ‘Eye Witness‘ to the shenanigans of the Reporters  wrote:

“Now, Mr. Editor can this be wondered at when it is well known that the Reporters Room has been used, not so much for quietness, in getting up their reports, as for smoking, drinking and card playing, “draw poker” in particular, some members of the Assembly and even outsiders, entering into the spirit of such doings”

Imagine the shock to the public to discover that the Reporters Room in the basement of the House of Assembly in the Colonial Building was being used for “smoking, drinking and card playing…”

What were these journalistic thinking?

Currently the Colonial Building is closed for interior and exterior renovations and is slated to re-open in late 2016 with a restored interior, exterior and new exhibits to bring to life the people and political events of our past.  It will be the home of our political history. I wonder will we hear the voices from the Reporters Room in the basement of the building.

Why is there no ‘Reporters Room’ in the Confederation Building ?

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division holds microfilm copies of over 30 Newfoundland and Labrador newspapers dating from 1810 – 1982.  See also  The Historical Directory of Newfoundland and Labrador Newspapers 1807 – 1996.

Recommended Websitehttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/colonial/default.html

Recommended Museum Visit:  At The Rooms Provincial Museum visit the exhibit ‘Here, We Made a Home’ in The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. This exhibit highlights some of the events associated with the political history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tradition has it that March 18th is Sheelagh’s Day.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 18

On Sheelagh’s Day, the Irish  party!!

xmWSp5hIn Newfoundlandand Labrador there has been an established tradition to refer to the day following St. Patrick’s Day  (March 17) as  Sheelagh’s Day.  As early as 1819 the Anglican Missionary and historian Lewis Anspach  in the first general of history of Newfoundland that was published wrote:

“It is hardly in the power of any priest in the world to hinder an Irishman from getting gloriously drunk, if he is so inclined, on the whole of the 17th of March, as well as the next day in honour of Sheelagh….”

The St. John’s newspaper The Newfoundlander on  (26 March) reporting on the celebrations of the Members of Benevolent Irish Society in St. John’s on March 17, 1829 wrote:

“The company continued to retire, successively, until six o’clock on Sheelagh’s morning, (March 18) at which hour, we understand, a few of the campaigners might have been seen, as usual, piously and patriotically employed in ‘drowning the shamrock.’”

Sheelagh (also Sheila, Sheilah, Sheelah) in Irish folk legend is somewhat of a mystery she is variously described as the wife, sister, housekeeper or acquaintance of St Patrick, patron saint ofIreland.

In Newfoundland few refer to March 18 by her name day; nowadays Sheelagh’s  name is only invoked with reference to any storm that takes place on or shortly after March 18 – the storm being referred to as Sheelagh’s Brush.

So ingrained in the Newfoundland psyche is the association with Sheelagh and the last storm of the winter season  that the fishing fleets were (are) reluctant to put out their gear and the sealing fleets were reluctant to take to the ice preferring to wait until after Sheelagh’s Brush had passed.

Sheila’s Brush typically brings a heavy snowfall. The snow is attributed to Sheila’s sweeping away of the last of winter. But, once the brush blows through  – it signals that Spring is just around the corner.

Pity her name is not invoked as it was in our past. Time perhaps to reclaim March 18 to give this day, the traditional name, Sheelagh’s Day.