Author Archives: Larry Dohey

Newfoundland Convicts Sent to Australia


AUGUST 31, 1835

A convict team much like the one that Thomas Baldwin would have served with ploughing a farm, while a guard looks on.

Many Newfoundlanders have made their way to Australia over the years; among the very first to reach the shores of that beautiful country were those who arrived on the “convict ships.”   They were convicted felons, often of very minor crimes, chained in the hold of the convict vessels that carried them to the prison colonies in Australia.  Among the early ‘documented’ Newfoundlanders to arrive in Australia was Thomas Baldwin  (alias Baldwell) who arrived aboard the convict ship  “Hero” on  August 31, 1835.

Australia at the time was not the tourist attraction it is today. It was originally established by Britain as prison colony. Between 1788 and 1868, 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia.

The Newfoundlander, Thomas Baldwin who found his way to Australia was  24 years old, married with one child and recorded his religion as Catholic. Thomas’s trade was a carter. (A carter typically drove a light two wheeled carriage). He had no education and was sentenced for 7 years for stealing poultry.  Thomas was tried at Waterford City, Ireland  on  February 2, 1834 and arrived in the colony of New South Wales (NSW), Australia on August 31,1835 aboard the convict ship ‘Hero’ and was then assigned to Grose Farm.

The Hero was one of fourteen sailing vessels bringing prisoners to New South Wales, Australia  in 1835, six of them brought Irish prisoners.  On board there were 197 prisoners. The journey took 169 days. Included on the passengers list were 8 women and 9 children.

It is likely that given he gave his home address to the court as Newfoundland  that he must  have been in Newfoundland during  previous summers, perhaps prosecuting the fishery. The Baldwin family name has been established inNewfoundlandsince 1724.

It is possible that Thomas Baldwin was intentionally trying to get arrested so as to be sent to Australia to be with his brothers. Thomas’s family was no stranger to the law.  His brother Lawrence (convicted of stealing clothes) was transported on the convict ships to Australia in 1828 and his brother James in 1833.

Thomas had issues with authority, while in prison in 1836 he was charged with the offence of ‘neglect of duty’ and was ‘placed in cells for 6 days on bread and water’. In 1841 he was charged with the offence of ‘disorderly conduct’ and was placed on the treadmill grinding corn for 2 months at Carter’s Barracks from where he was discharged.

It is likely that Thomas also knew what it was like to be flogged.  Discipline was firm. One observer of the cruel treatment to the convicts reported:

“The floggings are hideously frequent. On flogging mornings I have seen the ground where the men stood at the triangles saturated with blood, as if a bucket of blood had been spilled on it, covering a space three feet in diameter, and running out in various directions, in little streams two or three feet long…. “

Thomas’s home for the duration of his imprisonment would have been Carters’ Barracks, home to the convict gangs working on the brick fields as carters and brick makers.The barracks provided sleeping quarters for these tired workers who daily carted the new made sand stock bricks.

Other Newfoundland families that have links with Australian convict history include Edward Shaw, a soldier transported to New South Wales in 1840, John Watson , a fisherman  transported in 1824 and  John Woods a fisherman salter of St. John’s transported on the convict ship Southworth in 1822.

Recommended Web Site:  Irish Convicts to New South Wales: List of Ships Transporting Convicts to NSW 1788-1849.

Recommended Music: The experience of these convicts is recorded through the first Australian folk songs written by convicts. Convict songs like Jim Jones, Van Diemen’s Land, and Moreton Bay were often sad or critical. Convicts such as Francis Macnamara (known as ‘Frankie the Poet’) were flogged for composing original ballads with lines critical of their captors.

Botany Bay sung by Mirusia Louwerse in Melbourne Australia :


Music in the Park

Archival Moment

August 22, 1898

Photo Credit: A 103-2; Newfoundland Regiment Band performing in park during Newfoundland Week, London

Photo Credit: A 103-2; Newfoundland Regiment Band performing in park during Newfoundland Week, London

Music in public spaces has always held an important place in the lifestyle of the residents of St. John’s. There is a long history of residents gathering in the public parks where there was an expectation that music would be performed.

On August 19, 1898 the music in Bannerman Park was so “exceptionally good” that the local newspaper The Evening Telegram reported: “it was the best this season, [The music] was so exceptionally good, that the large number of our citizens present applauded the various selections by clapping their hands.”

Not all who gathered in Bannerman Park were amused. The newspaper reported that several gentleman of the west end of St. John’s were quite displeased that music was being realized in Bannerman Park but little for their neighborhood park.   To add insult to injury it was not just good music in Bannerman Park, it was the very best performed by none other than “Professor Power’s most excellent orchestra.”

The West End crowd, in the neighborhood of Victoria Park, felt that they were being victimized. They admitted that they were getting occasional performances but they were “vexed that they have to listen to the harsh selections at Victoria Park.” Worse again there was no possibility that they would get the quality of Mr. Power’s orchestra because “Mr. Power and his orchestra had been secured for the whole summer” by the Bannerman Park Committee.

With the recent revitalization of Bannerman Park and the construction of a new bandstand music has once again returned to Bannerman Park. On Sundays throughout the summer ( (next show on September 13 at 2:00 p.m.) a free concert featuring amazing local musical talent is presented.

The crowd in the west end 117 years later are still keeping an eye to Bannerman Park, not to be outdone in May 2015 about 75 people attended a public meeting to discuss how their park can be best rejuvenated or redesigned. The west-end park received $1-million — a 50/50 split between the city and the province — to put towards a major overhaul.

I am thinking the new plan might include a bandstand!

Victoria Park occupies the same 6.5 acres of land now as it did when it opened in 1890. Bannerman Park was formed on land set aside for public use by Governor Bannerman in 1864.

Recommended Reading: Stories About Bannerman Park:

Recommended Action: Support the Garden of Memories in Bannerman Park: People who enjoy the park can contribute to the park‘s revitalization through by sponsoring various fixtures, flower gardens, and commemorative granite stones, which will be used for the pathways in the Garden. For more information:

Recommended Action: Join the Friends of Victoria Park (FOVP), a concerned group of West End residents and community members who came together in May 1998 with the goal to ensure that Victoria Park regains and retains its historical place as a vibrant, safe, and enjoyable environment for all residents and visitors. Read More:


A grand Newfoundland welcome or a “Placentian feu de joie”

Archival Moment

August 27, 1886

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 1074-22.1; Royal salute or feu de joie for a wedding party at Harrington Harbour. International Grenfell Association photograph collection. Note the men with the guns in the background.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 104-22.1; Royal salute or feu de joie for a wedding party at Harrington Harbour. International Grenfell Association photograph collection. Note the men with the guns in the background.

There was a custom in all Newfoundland communities whereby the local residents would greet all visiting dignitaries with a ‘loud salute of guns’ also known as “feu de joie.”  If the dignitary was arriving by boat the men of the town would line the wharf with guns aimed to the sky shooting a volley as a sign of welcome.  If the delegation came by road, the men armed with their guns, stood along the road, often near a green bough archway, that was created for the dignitary to walk under shooting the volley  as he entered.

In early August 1886 the men of Placentia gave a loud salute of guns from the “plaza” of Placentia that greeted the ears of Mr. George H. Emerson, MH.A., as he walked ashore into Placentia  from the costal steamer, just arrived from St. John’s. Emerson was well known in Placentia, he had been elected the year previous as the Liberal member of the House of Assembly (M.H.A.) for Placentia and St. Mary’s.

Upon hearing the “feu de joie” the locals noticed that  Emmerson “doffed his sombrero bowing deeply and graciously, acknowledging the compliment extended to him” by the citizens of Placentia.

Emerson was however soon blushing with embarrassment.  A juvenile from Placentia who stood witness to his bowing shouted:

 “The guns are not for you, sir they’re for Mr. Fowlow’s wedding that took place last night.”

It appears that the men of Placentia were not on the wharf to greet Mr. Emerson but rather they were there to ‘salute their guns” to their friend Mr. Fowlow who had just married and was about to depart the town on the same coastal steamer that the young politician had arrived on.

The firing off the guns or “feu de joie“  as a young couple left the church, after exchanging vows,  was a long established tradition in Newfoundland. Another tradition was to fire the guns as they departed the community on their honeymoon.

Embarrassed that he had stolen the limelight Mr. Emerson confidence “drooped and he sought out his hotel.”

Upon arrival at the hotel he quickly” ordered a cocktail, which soon put him in good feather again”.

The Editor of the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram on August 27, 1886, with tongue planted firmly in cheek wrote:

  “In the sweet by and by when he leads one of his fair constituents to Hyman’s altar, he will be entitled to all the honor and comfort derivable from Placentian feu de joie.”

To take someone to Hyman’s altar was an expression that referred  to taking someone to the altar to marry.  Emerson, the Editor of the Evening Telegram suggested, would not receive the salute of guns  (the Placentian feu de joie)  until his marriage day.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language  (MUNFLA) comprises extensive collections of Newfoundland and Labrador folksongs and music , folk narratives , oral history, folk customs, beliefs and practices, childlore and descriptions of material culture. Explore your traditions  at MUN!!

Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Newfoundland English G.M. Story, W.J. Kirwin, and J.D.A. Widdowson, eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, The DNE is a historical dictionary based on evidence taken from printed sources and, in addition, on evidence of tape-recorded speech in the province. After its great popular success in 1982 and widespread published reviews, it has continued in print to the present.

Recommended Museum Exhibit:  The Rooms Provincial Museum Division,  Here, We Made a Home: The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery, Level 4. See a short film video “Wedding salute in Fogo.”  The video captures the traditional Newfoundland and Labrador, ‘loud salute of guns’ or a fusillade also known as “feu de joie.”

New Phrases: — n  , feu de joie  a salute of musketry fired successively by each man in turn along a line and back   C18: literally: fire of joy] . The custom continues in many communities in Newfoundland especially on the Cape Shore where guns are fired as the newly married couples leave the church.

When was the last time that you witnessed a ‘salute of guns’ in your community?

When was the last time that a green bough arch was erected in your community to welcome some dignitary?

Newfoundlander, one of the best light-weight jockeys in North America.


August 25, 1979

Photo Credit: Nick Wall from Newfoundland sitting atop Stagehand on the Santa Anita track inCalifornia. Wall beat out the legendary Seabiscuit. Copyright: Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Nick Wall  of Kelligrews, Conception Bay, Newfoundland  was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame at Toronto, 25 August 1979.

Born at Lower Gully, Kelligrews Conception Bay, Newfoundland18 December, 1906, Wall moved to Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1913. While working in the mines, he learned to ride pit ponies and, during the frequent miners’ strikes, he raced with his fellow workers.

In his mid-twenties, Wall left Atlantic Canada to pursue racing professionally in the U.S.A. His petite, 100-lbs. frame made him a popular choice with trainers, and he was often given choice mounts. Over the course of his career, he rode in all the major American races, including the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

At the peak of his career in the late 1930s, Nick Wall was one of the best light-weight jockeys in North America. Between 1926 and 1957, he rode 11,164 mounts, with 1,419 first, 1,305 second, and 1,352 third-place finishes.

The highlight of his career came at the Santa Anita Handicap in 1938. Wall rode Stagehand to a thrilling photo-finish victory over the famed Seabiscuit. That same year, he was leading money-winning jockey in Unite States, earning $385,161.

In total, Wall finished in the money with over 4,000 horses and enjoyed a career purse of nearly $3.5 million. For his success, he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame at Torontoon  25 August 1979 and into the Newfoundland Sports Hall of Fame, 19 October 1979.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms, Provincial Archives Division see the Stewart Alexander Davidson fonds. This fonds consists of audio cassette of interviews with members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame including Nicholas M. “Nick” Wall

Recommended Web Site: Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame:

Recommended Movie:  Seabiscuit (2003)  Stars: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Elizabeth Banks.

Take me to the ‘Bonnet Hop’

Archival Moment

August 25, 1885

The girls are ready to party!!

The girls are ready to party!!

One form of entertainment that our ancestors looked forward to was the “bonnet hop” an evening of entertainment that included music and fireworks.  In August 1885 the talk in St. John’s was all about the ‘bonnet hop’ at the Sea View House, Topsail.

Notice about the ‘Bonnet Hop’ appeared in advertisements in all of the local St. John’s newspapers. Organizers promised a grand evening that included a special train to take guests from St. John’s to Topsail and return. The music for the ‘hop’ would be performed by Professor Bennett’s Band.

Professor David Bennett the former music instructor at St. Bonaventure’s College was a prominent performer and bandmaster, his group was the band of choice for numerous public and private functions.

Music and musical groups played an important part in the social life of the community. Bands like Professor Bennett’s played at  occasions like the hauling of firewood , the laying of cornerstones of public buildings, the towing of sealing ships through harbour ice, the arrival and departure of visiting dignitaries were all occasions when music was obligatory.

Traditionally a ‘bonnet hop’ was a dance on the deck of a boat, in which the ladies keep their bonnets on their heads.  (The term bonnet refers to a strip of canvas laced onto the bottom of a loose footed jib in order to increase the sail area in fair weather. The bonnet is removed when wind velocity increases again.) Nowadays the ‘bonnet’ is the hood of the car!!

Excursions to ‘Grand Bonnet Hops’ were a regular feature on the social calendar, in some Newfoundland communities  ‘bonnet hops’  were called ‘bontops’  now  they are referred  to as a spree or social at the community hall.

If you missed the ‘bonnet hop’ in Topsail the members of Professor Bennett’s Band promised “a series of Promenade Concerts, Dancing Assemblies and other Amusements, during the fall season at the Parade Rink, St. John’s.”

Our ancestors knew how to party!

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division: Read some of the many great stories that is our history in the local newspaper the Evening Telegram: [1879-1886]-1978 Microfilm.

Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Newfoundland English G.M. Story, W.J. Kirwin, and J.D.A. Widdowson, eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, The DNE is a historical dictionary based on evidence taken from printed sources and, in addition, on evidence of tape-recorded speech in the province. After its great popular success in 1982 and widespread published reviews, it has continued in print to the present.

‘Raspberry Treat’, an all-night party

Archival Moment

August 22, 1898

Raspberry Recipes, 1890's.

Raspberry Recipes, 1890’s.

You would think if you listened to the critics of the late night hours on George Street, St. John’s, that it was today’s youth who invented the concept of partying throughout the night.  Partying from dusk to dawn is nothing new to the city.

In August 1898, residents of the town found every excuse to have a party, including bringing friends and colleagues together for a ‘raspberry treat.’

On Saturday, August 20, 1898 friends gathered for a ‘raspberry treat’ at Dillon’s Cottage, Freshwater. The concept of a ‘raspberry treat’ was quite simple.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported:

“Various games were enjoyed until 10.00 o’clock when all sat down and did justice to the raspberries and cream and other delicacies so plentifully provided. Songs were then given by a number of ladies and gentlemen of the company.”

There was a tradition in Newfoundland that the first raspberries were never picked before August 15 also known as Lady Day in Newfoundland.

The report in the local paper went on to say:

Dancing formed the next part of the programme, and was kept up till daylight, when a vote of thanks was tendered to Mrs. Miller and the ladies. Before leaving for town, (St. John’s) refreshments were served, and after singing “Auld Lang Syne” the party dispersed.”

In 1898, Dillon’s Cottage, Freshwater would have been one of approximately 20 homes that were once common in the Freshwater Valley area, the area that we now know best as Mount Scio and Oxen Pond. Freshwater would be the area that is now the home of the Botanical Garden and Timble Cottage on Nagle’ Hill.

Freshwater Valley was settled primarily by Irish immigrant farmers who produced food for local consumption, particularly for St. John’s and the surrounding area. The Irish pioneers developed a farming way of life that proved prosperous from the late 1700s into the twentieth century.

Newfoundland is perfect for growing raspberries, which prefer a cooler environment. Raspberries are said to be loaded with antioxidants that help fight symptoms of aging in the body.  Mi’kmaq tradition suggests raspberries help treat diarrhea and boiling the berries and leaves produce a stimulant that helps cure mouth sores.

Why not plan an all-night ‘raspberry treat’.  Invite me along!!

Recommended Archival Collection: Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division: Read the many great stories that is our history in the local newspaper the Evening Telegram: [1879-1886]-1978 Microfilm.

Recommended Reading: Farming the Rock: The Evolution of Commercial
Agriculture around St. John’s, Newfoundland, to 1945.  by Robert MacKinnon.  Acadiensis,  Vol. XX, No. 2 Spring, 1991.

Women plea for justice

Archival Moment

August 1891

Harbour Grace Court House

Harbour Grace Court House

We do not often hear the voices of women speak to us from the pages of history especially the wives and sisters of poor fishermen but an incident in Carbonear in 1891 forced some women to take action.

In early June 1891, George Peckam and David Clarke of Victoria Village near Carbonear, Stephen Howell, Mark Dean, James Reid, and John Powell all of Carbonear were convicted “on a charge of disobedience of orders and refusal of duty.”  They were all crew members on the banking Schooner Argonaut.

When these six  men signed up  to prosecute the fishery on the banking Schooner Argonaut it is likely that he would have signed a standard agreement known to many as the ‘Masters and Servants Agreement.’  This agreement covered the contractual obligations of the fishermen and the consequences of disobeying the Captain or deserting the vessel.

These Carbonear fishermen would likely have also been aware of the Statutes of Newfoundland passed in 1888 that detail laws concerning dissertation of a Banking Schooner. The law read:

  “When any person, fishermen, shoreman or shareman, shall fail or refuse to perform such contract or agreement without showing cause therefor, such as unseawothiness of the vessel, insufficiency of food, absence of suitable accommodation, or a medical certificate or some other good excuse, any justice may, upon complaint by some employer or his agent, issue his warrant and cause such person to be apprehended and brought before him. “

Disobeying orders and or refusal of duty automatically meant 30 – 60 days in jail.

The Stipendiary Magistrate in Carbonear, James Hippisley who heard the case  was not sympathetic to the men. He gave the maximum sentence.

The mothers and children of the six men were devastated. These men were the bread winners in their families; if they did not work their families would face starvation.

On June 15, 1891 the five women made an emotional plea in the form of a petition to the Colonial Governor of Newfoundland, Sir John Terence Nicholls O’Brien begging  for some form of relief  and that that their men be released from the prison in Harbour Grace.

In the petition Susannah Peckam explained that her son George Peckham had “six children the eldest is only ten years old.”

Martha (Clarke) Howell the mother of Stephen Howell explained that he had five children, the eldest is seventeen and that her husband is a cripple and unable to work. She was determined to get her son releases. This was the second petition presented on his behalf.

Martha Clarke the sister of David Clarke explained that she is “deprived of the ways and means of assisting an aged father of 76 years according of the duty of a child to a parent.”

Margaret (Butt) Dean the wife of Mark Dean explained that she had no support and that they were responsible for “an aged father (84) and mother (60) and two young children.”

Sophia (Mulley) Reid the mother James Reid explained that she would be “deprived of all help.”

Cecily (Gillespie) Powell pleaded for the release of her son John Powell “who has four in family the oldest 17 and labors under heart disease and very often bad with it and often falls down.”

Cecil Frane, the Secretary for Governor O’Brien, responded to the petition. He wrote:  “the case of the prisoners has already been reported upon,  Magistrate Hippisley and the Governor refused to release Howell who first petitioned and the other cases are exactly similar.”

From June till early August 1891 the six men languished in the Harbour Grace prison.

It would be a difficult fall and winter because they had no income, no share in the summer catch of fish.  Their families faced starvation and destitution.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 2.22, Box 12, v. 2, no. 27. , p. 104-111 (15 June 1891) Petition requesting  for relief due to losses incurred by imprisonment at Harbour Grace of sons and husbands, crew of banking schooner Argonaut.  Letter to Robert Bond, colonial secretary from Cecil Fane, private secretary, governor, enclosed. p. 104-11

Recommended Reading:  Bannister, Jerry: The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Recommended Reading:  The Newfoundland Bank Fishery: Government Policies and the Struggle to Improve Bank Fishing Crews’ Working, Health and Safety Conditions. Fred Winsor, B.A., M.A.  Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996.