Author Archives: Larry Dohey

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 Placentia, Burin, Torbay 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.

 

Archivists and Artists Create

Reception Open to the Public

Photo Credit: Tanya St-Pierre. Collage Series (2014). Digital print.

Photo Credit: Tanya St-Pierre. Collage Series (2014). Digital print.

The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery will be hosting a reception on Friday, January 30 at 7:30 p.m. to formally open five new exhibits.

Two of the exhibits, Tanya St. Pierre’s, “Collage Series” and Daniel Young and Christian Giroux’s, “Infracture Canada” borrow from the collections of the Rooms Provincial Archives

The “Collage Series” features thirty-two composite images by Quebec-based artist Tanya St-Pierre. St-Pierre’s collages interpret, while rendering poetic, the work of Newfoundland and Labrador women during the First and Second World Wars. Researching intensely in The Rooms Provincial Archives for a two-week period in August 2014, St-Pierre carefully looked over hundreds of archival documents and selected the primary material for the collages. By cutting out fragments of history from archival sources, and blending the two time periods, the collages operate like a metaphor for the disruption that occurs during wartime, and the lives torn in the context of these moments of strong cultural tension and social transition.

“Infracture Canada” critically explores the built environment. For the exhibition, the artists incorporate architectural images from the Provincial Archives collections, speaking to the built vernacular found in this province. This exhibit was co-produced with Oakville Galleries.

The other exhibits that will officially open are St. John’s-based multidisciplinary artist Audrey Hurd’s exhibit ‘’Until it Remembers” and Lyne Lapointe’s, Perches/Perchoirs organized and circulated by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and “Folklore and other Panics”

Immerse yourself in our culture at Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest public cultural space. It’s the place where it all comes together – our history, heritage and artistic expression. The Rooms unites the Provincial Archives, Art Gallery and Museum. A place for people, The Rooms is a portal to the many stories our province has to tell.

Join us and meet some of the artists in this free event that is open to the public. For more information contact The Rooms by calling 757-8090 or visit http://www.therooms.ca/pdfs/visitor_guide.pdf

“The mate has been drunk all day.”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 31, 1892

What to do with a drunken sailor?

What to do with a drunken sailor?

One of the great sources of archival information about the men who have made their living from the sea can be found in the “Crew Agreements and Log Books.” English logbooks survive from as early as the mid-17th century and a few more general journals from even earlier. By 1730, the British Admiralty identified the need for consistency and issued the order in their Naval Instructions of 1731 that  a log book had to be maintained on all vessels.

Prior to departure from any port crew members signed the crew agreement  and the Captain would designate one of the crew members, typically the “first mate” to keep a log of the trip.

These logs were treated as sacred, the logs provide considerable information on the vessel, including the port of registry, tonnage, owner and intended voyage. The information relating to the individual crew members includes the person’s name, year and place of birth, capacity, previous vessel served on, and date of signing on and off the vessel.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Herald, reported on January 31, 1892 about an incident  on one vessel that involved an entry in the ship’s log book.

The newspaper reported:

“A good story is told of a well-known sea captain who has more than once visited this port.  (St. John’s). He always allowed his mate to keep the log. On one particular occasion the mate became intoxicated, and was unable to attend to his duty. As the mate very rarely committed the offence the captain excused him and attended to the log himself, concluding with this: “The mate has been drunk all day.” Next day the mate was on deck and resumed his duties.

Looking at the log he discovered the entry the captain had made and ventured to remonstrate with his superior.” What was the need sir””, he asked, “of putting that down on the log?” “Wasn’t it true?” asked the captain. “Yes sir; but it doesn’t seem necessary to enter it on the log””. “Well” said the captain, “since it is true it had better stand, it had better stand.”

The next day the captain had occasion to look at the log, and at the end of the entry which the mate had made was found the item: “The captain has been sober all day.”

The captain had the mate summoned and thundered “What did you mean by putting down that entry? Am I not sober every day?” “”Yes sir, but wasn’t it true?” “Why of course it was true.” “Well then sir”, said the mate, “since it was true, I think it had better stand, it had better stand.”

Recommended Archives: One of the best collections of “Crew Agreements and Log Books” in the world can be found at the Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland.  https://www.mun.ca/mha/index.php

Recommended Song: What to do with a Drunken Sailor:  Great Big Sea: http://www.elyrics.net/read/g/great-big-sea-lyrics/drunken-sailor-lyrics.html

Canadian fish sent to England, an opportunity for Newfoundland

Archival Moment

January 29, 1915

Fish PosterIn the early days of the First World War, Newfoundland businessmen began to look for opportunities, especially opportunities to expand the fish trade.

With the declaration of war in 1914 the North Sea, the traditional fishing ground for England was closed. The local papers reported:

“The North Sea fishing fleet has been badly hampered and almost put out of action this season through the menace of mines and the result has been a serious depletion of the fish supply so large a part of the food of the British people.”

The famine assumed such dimensions that Cardinal Francis Bourne, the leader of the Catholic Church in England, granted a dispensation to the Catholics of England allowing they may eat meat on Fridays and Fast Days, the Cardinal explained that the step was necessary because of the high price of fish.

The first group to respond to the famine being experienced in England was the fish merchants of the Pacific Coast of Canada. The Canadians were well placed strategically because just months previous the grand trunk Pacific Transcontinental Railway line had been completed allowing fish from Prince Rupert, British Columbia access to markets in Eastern Canada and the United States.

In an experiment to help feed the British three Canadian express refrigerator cars carrying thirty tons of halibut taken from the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Prince Rupert passed through the city of St.  John, New Brunswick, where the fish was then shipped by the steamship to the British market. The fish would be carried over 6,500 miles before it reaches the consumer.

The Evening Telegram in St. John’s reported:

“ A trial shipment of 20,000 pounds of halibut proved to be successful, when opened in England it was found to be in first class condition leading to the placing of other large orders. “

Newfoundland fish merchants, aware that “large orders” for fish were being demanded by the British people, saw an opportunity. They knew immediately, “that great development in this new trade will continue till the end of the war.”

The new trade resulted in an economic boom, wartime conditions kept prices high, and Newfoundland merchants continued to supply their traditional markets in Europe, the Mediterranean, Brazil and the Caribbean. The boom lasted until 1920.

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp This site contains the military files of over 2200 soldiers ( we have another 4000 on microfilm) from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served in the First World War. These files are searchable by name or by community and will therefore provide invaluable information for all viewers, but will be of particular interest to those who are conducting either family or community research.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: Level 2 Museum Vitrine: A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in the collective memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, The Rooms staff explore the significant role these flowers played across the last century.

The Basilica Cathedral Bells

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 1906

Basilica Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

Basilica Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

If you were walking past Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s during this week in January of 1906 you might have been curious enough to approach the steps of the church to take a close look at the Joy Bells that sat on the steps of the Cathedral awaiting shipment to Ireland. They were being sent to the famous Murphy foundry on James Street, Dublin, where they were originally cast.

The bells in their day were considered some of the best in the new world.

The bell known as “St. John” built in 1850 was the largest ever cast in Ireland at that time, and won a Gold Medal at the Dublin Exhibition of Irish Manufacturers. The bell, a massive piece, weighs nearly two tons. Upon its arrival in St. John’s in February, 1851, it was hauled by hand to the Basilica, and installed in the East Tower.

The bells sitting on the steps of the Cathedral in January 1906 were made by Murphy, the celebrated Bell maker at Dublin in 1854.

Basilica Bells 2In the tradition of the Catholic Church each of the bells was christened and named before being installed.   In addition to having its own name each bell when originally installed had its own sound or personality.

The bells are:

Mary – 1854 – octave D

Patrick – 1854 -octave E

Bonaventure – 1863 – F sharp

Michael -1906

Matthew – 1906

Anthony – 1906

Francis – 1906

James – 1906

These five bells completed the peal, viz.:  G A B C (sharp) and D (octave)

Following their installation in 1906 the bells rang without interruption until 1988 at which time the cluster of bells was removed from the west tower of the Basilica because of structural weakness in the tower. The bells were placed in storage on site at the Basilica Cathedral. Following years of silence, the bells were again re-installed ringing out on (June 9, 2009) at noon, the first time in over twenty years.

Today you can hear the bells being rung on special “feast days” or special occasions like a wedding.  The largest bell “St. John” rings at noon every day.

Recommended Reading: Tour of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s:  http://www.thebasilica.ca/index.cfm?load=page&page=186

Recommended Website: After 21 years, the bells have been reinstalled in the bell tower of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n-ht7bQ8zA 

A rosary was distributed to each man

Archival Moment

January 28, 1915

Mass in the trenches

Mass in the trenches

There was a ritual in Newfoundland throughout the First World War (1914-1918) whereby the young volunteer soldiers gathered under the banner of their own denomination for lectures, prayers and blessings from the priest or minister of their church.

Those of the Roman Catholic faith typically gathered at St. Bonaventure’s College, Bonaventure Ave (directly across the street from The Rooms) for a series of lectures and prayers.

The Evening Telegram reported on January 28, 1915:

“The first of a series of lectures to the Roman Catholic members of the volunteers before their departure for England was given in the oratory of St Bonaventure’s College last night by Reverend Father Joseph Pippy who eloquently portrayed to his listeners the new duties they were entering upon.”

Father Pippy urged strongly the young volunteers:

“to conduct themselves as true men, to uphold the best traditions of their religion and to act as true soldiers in the observance of military duties in order that they might bring credit on themselves, their regiment the colony and the empire.”

The Reverend lecturer exhorted the young men above all toL:

“resist the temptations of intemperance; a righteous cause was being fought. He continued and it behooved every volunteer to do his duty as best he knew how”

The local newspaper correspondent reported “The lecture lasted nearly an hour and was impressive and beneficial to the large number of volunteers present.”

The evening concluded with “Benediction, imparted by Reverend Father Thomas Nangle after which a rosary was distributed to each man.

The men gathered were told that there would be one more token of their faith,

“Prayer books will be given out later before their departure …. the members will (also) attend confession and communion in a body.”

The distribution of the rosary was significant, the rosary would have been a prayer that all of the Catholic volunteers would have known by heart. There was a time when it was a prayer that would have been recited in every Catholic home.

These young me clung to their faith, they especially clung to their rosary beads. Richard A. Howley of St. John’s whose ship the H.M.S. Irresistible had been blown out of the water wrote from his hospital bed in Plymouth, England in 1915:

 

“It was terrific, my legs felt as if they were both broken, and my back as if it had been flayed. I fell on the spot and thought that I was done for. I had a little Rosary … I took it out, kissed the Crucifix and crossed myself, I immediately experienced an extraordinary change , something forcing me into action …”

In the service records of many of the Newfoundland volunteers, they reference turning to their faith.

During the Great War the United States government produced and issued special “combat” rosaries for the spiritual welfare of Catholic soldiers. These rosaries were made to withstand the rugged reality of life in the trenches. Made of brass, washed in silver, and blued to darken the metal (to prevent them from making the soldiers easy targets) these rosaries were made to last. Instead of a traditional chain, the combat rosary featured a significantly stronger “pull chain” from which they are sometimes named.

We have no description of the rosaries that were issued to the Newfoundland volunteers but if you know of or hold a pair that have a connection to the First World War I would love to talk to you about them.

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

This site contains the military files of over 2200 soldiers ( we have another 4000 on microfilm) from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served in the First World War. These files are searchable by name or by community and will therefore provide invaluable information for all viewers, but will be of particular interest to those who are conducting either family or community research.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: Level 2 Museum Vitrine: A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in the collective memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, The Rooms staff explore the significant role these flowers played across the last century.

The Prophet from Placentia

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 25

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 130-66.3 Placentia from Castle Hill

On January 25, 1824,  Richard Brothers originally from Placentia, Newfoundland died in the home of a family friend in England.  During his life time the Placentia native stirred much controversy gathering about him critics and disciples.

Richard Brothers was born in Placentia,  25 December 1757. His father was a gunner at what we now call Castle Hill

At the age of fourteen he entered the royal navy. He became a  lieutenant with seniority in 1783, he then asked to be discharged.  Brothers, resigned his majesty’s service on the ground that a military life is totally repugnant to Christianity

In September 1787 Brothers went to London. Here he lived very quietly on a vegetarian diet, and worshipped at a baptist chapel.

In 1790 he began to garner the attention of the public, he began his prophetic career by declaring he had a divine mission to announce the fulfillment of the scriptural prophecies in the Book of Daniel Dan. vii.

He  is credited with proposing a theory now called the Anglo-Israel theory which maintains that the English and their ethnic kinfolk throughout the world are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Brothers described himself as the “Nephew of the Almighty,” because he considered that he was descended from one of the brothers of Jesus, and claimed that in November 1795, he would be revealed as the “Prince of the Hebrews” and “Ruler of the World”.  When this date passed  he was abandoned by many of his disciples,  despite the fact that some of his earlier political predictions (e.g. the violent death of Louis XVI.) had been fulfilled. Brothers had also proclaimed that as a descendent of King David he was the rightful heir to the British Throne. King George III was not amused; in March, 1795 Brothers was committed to a lunatic asylum.

His ideas continued to flourish even from his hospital cell. He wrote his “Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794),  “A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).

He had many influential disciples. In the British House of Commons, Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, M.P.  was his advocate. William Sharp, the engraver, was so fully persuaded of the claims of Brothers that in 1795 he engraved two plates of his portrait. His most faithful disciples was John Finlayson, he removed Brothers from the lunatic asylum and invited him into his home where he later died.

The believers in Brothers theory are not yet extinct, and those who adopt the Anglo-Israel theory regard him as the earliest writer on their side.

It is likely that descendants of this family are still in the province, children of his brothers and a sister who settled on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland.

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives and Special Collection, Memorial University of  Newfoundland. MF 351. Collection consists of seven images of the likeness of Richard Brothers. http://www.library.mun.ca/qeii/cns/archives/cnsarch.php

Recommended Web Site: http://olivercowdery.com/texts/brot1797.htm

Recommended Reading: Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794), A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).