Author Archives: Larry Dohey

St. George’s Day

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 23, 2013

St. George’s Day

St. George's Feast Day is April 23 but the holiday is on Monday, April 22.

St. George’s Feast Day is April 23 but the holiday is on Monday, April 20.

St. George’s Day is provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, observed on the Monday nearest April 23rd.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the holiday was born out of our sectarian history. The Roman Catholic’s of this place laid claim to St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and the Protestants laid claim to St. George, Patron of England.

As a saint, or even a historical person, St. George and his exploits are of doubtful authenticity, the most popular of the legends that have grown up around him relates to his encounter with the dragon. A pagan town in Libya was victimized by a dragon (representing the devil), which the inhabitants first attempted to calm down by offerings of sheep, and then by the sacrifice of various members of their community. The daughter of the king (representing the Church) was chosen by lot and was taken out to await the coming of the monster, but George arrived, killed the dragon, and converted the community to Christianity.

Saint George has been adopted world wide as the saint fighting the evil and defending the good, in the end slaying the dragon (representing the evil).

King Richard I of England placed his crusading army under St. George’s protection, and in 1222 his feast was proclaimed a holiday. As the patron of England – it was only a matter of time that his patronage would also cover the  New found land with the arrival of our  English ancestors.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the tradition of St. George is not only confined to his feast day (April 23) but he also presents as one of the characters in the old mummering plays, historically performed over the Christmas season.  In the mummering play he fights hand-to-hand with a Turkish Knight emerging as the hero.

In 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, the pennant of the Cross of St. George was flown by John Cabot when he sailed to Newfoundland.  It was also traditional to wear a red rose on the lapel on St. George’s Day.

Interesting that St. George is the Patron of England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Gozo, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, and Portugal but only Newfoundland and Labrador honour the day with a holiday.

A great place to live!

The most widely recognized St George’s Day symbol is St George’s cross. This is a red cross on a white background, which is often displayed as a flag. It is used as England’s national flag, forming part of the Union Flag, the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Recommended Website:   St George’s Day.com  the website offering information on all things English, that celebrates English Heritage and actively promotes St George’s Day on the 23rd April.  http://www.stgeorgesday.com/

 

Newfoundland Mustang the First

Archival Moment

April 17, 1964

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

There was a bit of excitement at George Parson’s Ford dealership in St. Johns on April 17, 1964, a crowd of people were at the dealership looking at a Wimbledon White convertible with the 260 cubic-inch V-8, it was the first time that any of them had seen a Mustang.

In the crowd was Stanley Tucker, an airline captain with Eastern Provincial Airlines (EPA)  based out of St. Johns.  Tucker, fell in love with the car and told George Parsons dealership agent Harry Philips  he wanted to buy that Mustang. Philips originally hesitated wanting to hold on to the car to get a little more publicity out of it. When Tucker came with a check in hand the next day, Parson’s sold the car to Captain Tucker.

Tucker at the time did not know it but  he had unknowingly purchased Mustang #1, the very first Mustang off the assembly line.  In an interview with Mustang Monthly Magazine years later Tucker said:

 “For a long time, I was the only Mustanger in Newfoundland. It was quite an experience. Many times, other motorists would force me to the side of the road and ask me about the car – what it was, who made it, how did I like it and how much did it cost? The car has been a real joy to own and drive. Getting into it is something like slipping into the cockpit, and I feel as much a part of the machine as I do when I’m flying.”

Not long after Tucker unknowingly purchased the now-historic car, representatives from Ford learned that their Canadian promotional vehicle, the first-ever Mustang, had been let loose. Ford wanted the car back, but Tucker wanted to drive it. Tucker drove the car about St. John’s for nearly two years, putting 10,633 miles on the odometer.

Meanwhile, Mustang sales blossomed. Before Mustang, Falcon held the Ford record of building a million vehicles in two years, 16 days. Mustang broke that record by reaching the million mark in one year, 11 months, and 24 days.

As Ford prepared for the millionth Mustang celebration, a Ford official made Captain Tucker an offer: In exchange for the first Mustang, Ford would trade the millionth Mustang. At the millionth Mustang celebration in Dearborn, Michigan on March 2, 1966, Tucker stood at the end of the assembly line with a Ford executive and accepted his new car.

While Tucker posed with the millionth Mustang, a white convertible, he didn’t actually receive that car. Tucker had earlier placed an order with George Parson’s Ford in St. Johns for a 1966 Silver Frost convertible with a black top.

Meanwhile, the white Mustang #1 with VIN 5F08F100001 once again became property of Ford Motor Company. The Mustang that only knew Newfoundland roads is now at home in the Henry Ford Museum.  In 1987, the car went on permanent display in the “Automobiles in American Life” exhibit, still sporting the 1965 Newfoundland and Labrador license plates.

Archival Hint:  Did you know that when trying to date a photograph  often one of the factors considered is the age of the cars that appear in the photographs.  Most archives have access to car experts  – antique dealers  – that help in the dating process.

Public bath houses for the spoiled men of St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 15, 1890

Painting: Hans Bock der Ältere, The Baths at Leuk

Painting: Hans Bock der Ältere, The Baths at Leuk

An “outport visitor” to St. John’s in April 1890 was quite shocked to hear that it was the “intention of some young men of St. John’s to petition the government to establish public baths.”   The ‘outport visitor’ was so troubled that he penned a letter to the Editor of the St. John’s  newspaper the Evening Telegram making his objections known.

The ‘outport visitor’ wrote to the newspaper that he saw “the necessity of the baths” but  “to  ask the Government to establish them is something beyond human imprudence, and I should be surprised to find the people of St. John’s backing up such a proposal.”

At the time a ‘bath house’ was essentially a large room with rain showers and a plunge pool, a large swimming pool.

The idea of ‘public baths’, at this time, was a concept that was taking hold in many cities in North America.  Most homes did not have indoor toilet facilities or any kind of bath facilities. The young men of St. John’s were aware that in United States, there was a progressive move for cities to build public baths. Some cities in North America  saw the idea of ‘public baths’  as a  ‘moral imperative’ a Brooklyn, New York  newspaper  editor wrote :

“… it is a duty of the public, as its own government, to educate [the poor] out of their condition, to give baths to them that they may be fit to associate together and with others without offense and without danger. A man cannot truly respect himself who is dirty. Stimulate the habit of cleanliness and we increase the safety of our cities. And give over the idea that a free bath is any more of a “gratuity” than the right to walk in the public streets.”

In Newfoundland the “outport visitor” had little time for such considerations. He argued if the:

‘public baths’ were approved next you would have “the young men petitioning the Government to provide them with soap and towels for their daily ablution… I should have thought that there was enough of private enterprise in St. John’s to start baths, where each person might obtain admittance on payment of a penny or so for each occasion.  But if this cannot be done, let these young men apply to Municipal Council to give them baths.”

The letter continued; if the young men of St. John’s can have a bath house at the expense of the taxpayers why not the men of Twillingate, Bonavista, Trinity, Harbour Grace and Placentia.   He concluded, it would be an injustice to establish a ‘bath house’ in St. John’s at the expense of the tax payers.

It was all too much for the ‘outport visitor’; he concluded that if ‘municipal officials’ could consider luxuries like ‘bath houses’ for their young men of St. John’s, then they were getting too much money from the Government. He wrote: “St. John’s has been the petted child of every Government and the people of St. John’s are spoiled.”

The ‘outport visitor’ who wrote the letter to the editor was not aware that St. John’s had a long tradition of supporting ‘bath houses’.  The “Princess Bath” on Water Street was advertising that it was open to the public as early as July 1860.  The advertisement for the Princess Bath read:

“The public of Newfoundland, visitors and travellers, are informed that the town of St. John’s is at length supplied with … Hot, Cold, Vapor and Shower, Salt and Fresh Water BATHS: also Salt Water Swimming BATHS …[with] separate departments for Ladies and Gentleman – and is situated on  Water Street  near the Galway Steamship Company’s  Wharf. Open from 6 am – 9 pm summer and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Winter  and from 3 – 6 p.m. on Sundays.   A female superintends the ladies department.”

With the introduction of indoor plumbing and bathing facilities in the home  ‘public baths’  were gradually replaced by the more conventional swimming pools.

Recommended Archival Collection:  A great place to discover history is in the pages of our local newsappers. Take some time to explore  the newspaper collections in your city or town. Ffom your desktop take some time to explore  Memorial University’s Digital Archives Initiative (DAI), your gateway to the learning and research-based cultural resources. The DAI hosts a variety of collections which together reinforce the importance, past and present, of Newfoundland and  Labrador’s history and culture.  Read More: http://collections.mun.ca/

Recommended Reading:  Washing “the Great Unwashed” Public Baths in Urban America, 1840-1920 (Urban Life and Urban Landscape Series) Ohio State University, 1991

 

Why are they celebrating mass in the hills?

Archival Moment

April 13, 1829

Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore Oral history purports that Mass Rock was the site of secret Catholic gatherings.

Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore Oral history purports that Mass Rock was the site of secret Catholic gatherings.

On April 13, 1829 a significant milestone in Irish history was reached when King George IV reluctantly gave royal assent to the Roman Catholic Relief Act.

This Act effectively removed a series of laws known as Penal Laws or Popery Laws that severely limited the ability of a Catholic to do anything.

Some of the laws included:

•     Forbid a Catholic from exercising his religion

•     Forbid the Catholic from receiving a Catholic education

•     Forbid the Catholic from entering a profession

•     Forbid the Catholic from holding Public Office

•     Forbid the Catholic from owning a horse worth more than 5 pounds

•     Forbid the Catholic from buying or leasing land

•     Forbid the Catholic from voting

•     Forbid the Catholic from receiving a gift or inheritance of land from a Protestant

•     Forbid the Catholic from renting any land that was worth more than thirty shillings

•     Forbid the Catholic from sending their children abroad for an education

Upon receipt of the news that the Penal Laws had been struck down Bishop Thomas Scallan in St. John’s, Newfoundland declared 21 May a day of public thanksgiving.  In St. John’s and other major towns throughout the island, bands, parades, and special church services evidenced the pleasure of Catholics that the penal restrictions of centuries had been lifted.

However, their joy was short-lived; by December the colony’s attorney general, James Simms, and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland had concluded that the relief bill was inoperative in the colony of Newfoundland.  Catholic emancipation did not finally come to Newfoundland until the proclamation of representative government and the calling of the first elections on 26 August 1832.

It was during the years when the Penal Laws were in effect that traditions such as the Mass Rock in Renews on the Southern Shore and  Pulpit Rock in the Torbay area  were developed. Oral history purports that Mass Rock  and Pulpit Rock were  the site of secret Catholic gatherings. Disguised priests and settlers would gather to celebrate mass or say prayers while lookouts were stationed at vantage point to spot English authorities. While no official record exists of the activities at Mass Rock and Pulpit Rock , a legendary cycle regarding the sites  continues to exists.

Archival Collection: To explore some of the issues that were being discussed read the Colonial Office Records (CO 194 -678-83) Governor Cochrane’s Correspondence at The Rooms Provincial Archives.

Recommended Reading: Irish In Newfoundland 1600-1900 by Michael McCarthy, Creative Book Publishing, St. John’s, 1999. This book paints a vivid picture of the Irish experience from the early days of anti-Catholic persecution in Newfoundland when a house could be burned to the ground simply because Mass had been said there.

Recommended Website: Laws in Ireland for the Suppression of POPERY commonly known as the PENAL Laws.  Read More:  http://library.law.umn.edu/irishlaw/index.html

“The Titanic has struck a berg”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 14, 1912

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. At that time, she was the largest and most luxurious ship ever built. At 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, she struck an iceberg about 400 miles off Newfoundland. Although her crew had been warned about icebergs several times that evening by other ships navigating through that region, she was traveling at near top speed of about 20.5 knots when one grazed her side.

In 1912, the Marconi wireless radio was still in its infancy state as far as utilization. Marconi operators, Harold Bride and Jack Philips  on the direction of the ships Captain  (Smith)  put on the headphones and immediately began tapping out CQD – MGY … CQD – MGY  which translates  to CQD = Come Quick Danger or  attention all stations, D =  distress or danger, and MGY was the Titanic’s radio call letters.

Walter Gray, Jack Goodwin and Robert Hunston were serving at the Marconi Company wireless station at Cape RaceNewfounldand  400 miles west of Titanic.  The wireless news was being handled by them.

TWO FRIENDS: THEIR  LAST CONVERSATION

It would have been a very difficult night for Walter Gray at Cape Race.  The Marconi operator on the Titanic was his good friend Jack Philips.  Jack had been the last person that he had seen in England before he had departed for Newfoundland.  Walter had been excited all the day of April 14 – he was waiting anxiously at Cape Race waiting for the Titanic and his good friend Jack to come within ‘hearing” distance of Cape Race.   Walter later wrote:

“That evening I held brief conversation with Philips. He emphasized the magnificence of the vessel, the wonderful group of passengers and the good time being had by all.

Later in the evening the second operator (Hunston) called out “Mr. Gray the Titanic has struck an iceberg and is calling C.Q.D. (COME QUICK DANGER)  I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to the operating room.

Donning the headphones, I heard Philips call for help using both distress calls, C.Q.D. and the newly-introduced S.O.S. His call included the ship’s position in Latitude and longitude, weather conditions, and the story of striking the berg. When he ceased, I called the Titanic and inquired whether I could assist in any way. Philips thanked me and asked me to stand by.

A short time after 2:00 a.m. a very weak distorted signal was heard and the “Virginian” being much closer picked up what they thought was Philips voice trying to get a message out and that was the last word from the radio operator, Philips.”

Less than three hours later, the Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking more than 1500 people with her. Only a fraction of her passengers were saved. The world was stunned to learn of the fate of the unsinkable Titanic.

Water Gray’s good friend Jack Philips was one of those that perished.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division: The Cape Race Log Book:  A journal of predominantly one line entries highlighting events of local, national and international interest, as maintained by various members of the Myrick family at Cape Race and Trepassey.  Includes reference to the sinking of the Titanic.

Recommended Web Site: 100 Year  Later: Titanic in the Archives (The Rooms Provincial Archives Division)  http://www.therooms.ca/titanic/

Recommended Reading:  The Life Story of An Old Shetlander, Walter J. Gray, Shetland Times, 1970.

Labrador Schooner with her crew, caught in the great storm.

Archival Moment

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

In November 1915 many of the Newfoundland newspapers were reporting that communities throughout the Island were in mourning or experiencing “great anxiety” over rumors of the loss of friends and family in a storm that battered the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

Communities in Conception Bay were grieving for the rumored loss of sixteen men and women, lost on the schooner, Swallow’ owned by Albert Fradsham, sailing out of Bay Robert’s.

The schooner had been last seen on November 15, 1915 on the northeast coast of Newfoundland in the town of Seldom Come By, Fogo Island. The schooner, it was confirmed had put into Seldom, where three of the crew from the area left her.

The crew had spent the summer and fall prosecuting the fishery on the Labrador.

With the departure of the ‘Swallow’ from Seldom Come By on November 16, 1915, there was silence, no one had seen or heard from the schooner. The general speculation was that the ‘Swallow’ with her crew had been caught in the great storm and driven out to sea.

It was not only the ‘Swallow’ out of Bay Robert’s that was missing, officials in Carbonear reported that the Schooners, ‘Silver Cord’, ‘Morella’, and the ‘L. and S’. were missing. Officials in St. John’s were reporting that the Schooner the ‘Blanche M’. and ‘H. W. Wentzell’ were missing. The Schooner ‘Annie’ out of Fermeuse was also reported missing in the storm.

The Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Mr. Archibald Piccott immediately dispatched the whaler ‘Cabot’, the tugboat ‘D.P. Ingraham’ and other steamers, to begin a search. Piccott had a vested interest in the search he had been educated and operated a shop in Bay Roberts. He would have known many of the 16 men and women on the ’Swallow’.

Fishermen_off_the_Coast_of_LabradorTheir search was to no avail, it was concluded that the ‘Swallow’ “must have been driven out into the ocean.” Many concluded that the ‘Swallow’ was lost with all aboard. The Bay Roberts newspaper The Guardian, on November 29, 1915 identified the crew aboard the Swallow:

“Beatrice Batten, Chas Batten and Henry Batten of Bareneed; Abram Smith and Rebecca Menchions of Bishop’s Cove; John Jones of Upper Island Cove; William Dawe, Frost (girl) and a boy named Snow of Clarke’s Beach,   a boy of South River; Ambrose Fagen of Kelligrews, Samuel Kinsella, William Russell, Arthur Greenland and William Russell Jr of Coley’s Point and Clara King of Country Road.”

John Bowering, was identified as the Master of the Schooner.

On November 30, 1915, there was a glimmer of hope, a report circulated that the schooner ‘Swallow’, now fifteen (15) days overdue from the Labrador coast, had been sighted in Lockers Bay, Flat Island, Bonavista Bay. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries immediately dispatched a motor boat from Greenspond to investigate.

The news was devastating. The battered schooner ‘Swallow’ had been towed into Flat Island, but the crew was missing.

The following day, December 1, 1915, the immense grief of the families and friends of those presumed dead was lifted. The Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Gordon Davidson had  received a telegram at his home in Goverment House, St. John’s from Mr. Bonar Law, Secretary of the Colonies (later Prime Minister of Britain) that read:

“The crew and passengers of The Swallow were saved and landed at Stornoway (Scotland)  by the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. Please circulate information, John Bowering.”

The local newspapers reported upon hearing about the telegram that:

“All will be thankful at the good news of their safety.”

Family and friends were later told that the ‘Swallow’  had been battered by the storm of the night of  November 16.  They were adrift for a number of days before they were spotted by a Norweigian Steamer.   The crew abandoned, the ‘Swallow’  and transferred to the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. The Norwegian vessel landed at Stornoway, a port on Lewis, the North Island of the Hebrides in North West, Scotland.

It is said that the Batten’s and other families had a particularly good Christmas in 1915. On Christmas Eve, the crew of the ‘Swallow’ who had all been presumed dead, landed at Bay Robert’s, they all walked home, back into the lives of their family and friends.

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/

Recommended Website: Costal Women in Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation. This virtual exhibit portrays the women who lived and worked in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation http://www.mun.ca/mha/cw/index.html

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Archival Moment

April 7, 1914

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

On April 7, 1914, the St. John’s daily newspaper the Evening telegram reported:

 “Much anxiety and grave concern is being felt for the Southern Cross. Her non arrival is causing universal alarm but there is no reason why hope should be abandoned.

Exactly a week ago (April 2, 1914)  this forenoon Captain T. Connors  of the Coastal S.S. Portia  passed the Southern Cross five miles W.S.W.  of Cape Pine. That same afternoon the fatal blizzard came in and it is believed the Southern Cross was driven off to sea a couple of hundred miles and since then has not been able to reach the land.

Ever since it was reported by Captain Connors relatives and friends of loved ones on board have been besieging  the telegraph offices  in the city and outports and the eager information “Have you any news of the Southern Cross”  is sought for but unfortunately the reply is always in the negative.

However the Southern Cross is only a week overdue and this is not considered long by nautical men as the records will show.  The crew of the Southern Cross whose names have already been published  belong to St. John’s, Conception Harbour, Brigus, Clarke’s Beach, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace , Spaniards bay and St. Vincent’s.

On April 6 the absence of the Southern Cross was discussed by the Executive Government (Cabinet) and it was decided to send the revenue cruiser Flona to assist the Kyle and the U.S. Scout  ship Seneca in searching for the overdue vessel. The unanimous hope is that the “Cross” will turn up all right.”

The whole of the country of Newfoundland was mourning.  All were aware of the 78 sealers who had died on the S.S. Newfoundland.  The bodies of many of these men had been placed on special trains to be sent home.  Those that were not along the train route were being sent home by coastal vessels.

Among those that were on their way home to be buried was the body of Patrick Corbett, age 22, lost on the S.S. Newfoundland.   Joseph Corbett the head of the household was now waiting for news on his 18 year old son Joseph Jr.  a sealer on the S.S. Southern Cross.

The Parish Priest in Clarke’s Beach, Reverend Whelan observed that it was a difficult time on the family “Joseph the father is subject to heart trouble, he depends on the assistance of these two young men for the support of his now helpless family. I greatly fear that he will not last much longer …”

It would be thirteen more days before the S.S. Southern Cross was declared lost with her whole crew.

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.

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/