Author Archives: Larry Dohey

Our war story in poetry

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

“Advance of the Newfoundlanders”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory

Young soldiers who witnessed the devastation of trench warfare found ways to cope with what they had seen. Willam Coysh, 20 years old, Regimental #2018 from the Battery Road in St. John’s tried to cope by writing poetry.  On October 12, 1916 while recovering from “shell shock and shrapnel wounds to the back and right arm” at the 4th London General Hospital, London, England he wrote “Advance of the Newfoundlanders” a poem about the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916.

Onward they swept in the flower of

their manhood,

Our lads from Newfoundland,

far from the sea.

Onward thy swept until the last man

had fallen

Had fallen for Britain, the land of

the free.

With guns in front and rear,

With death and danger near,

To them unknown was fear,

Gallant five hundred.

Oh, well we might love the fair land

that bore us,

That can boast of sons so

loyal and true,

Who gave us their all to keep the flag

flying,

The flag of our Empire,

the red, white and blue.

For no braver deed hath e’er been recorded

Then their steady advance o’er the shell riv’en soil,

The scene of long months of

horror and anguish

Amid death and danger, privation and toil

On swept the gallant band,

Falling on every hand

O’er that dread No Man’s Land

Went that five hundred!

Upon returning to Newfoundland in 1917 described as ‘medically unfit” Coysh was assigned special duty as a quartermaster sergeant a warrant officer responsible for supplies.

Following the war William Coysh moved to Highland Park, Detroit, U.S.A. He died at the Maddison Community Hospital on 4 November 1977.

Commemoration of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel: On the 100th anniversary of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel, The Rooms will open this new permanent exhibition. Journey from trench to home front, from recruitment and training through service overseas as you experience stories of the Great War and its lasting impact on the people and the identity of Newfoundland and Labrador. A full day of commemorative activities is planned for July 1, 2016 to honour those from Newfoundland and Labrador who served in the First World War.

Due to the level of interest and anticipated large numbers in attendance  for the tribute event, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery will not open to the public until Saturday, July 2.  The Rooms is pleased to offer FREE admission to this exhibition on July 2 and 3.

 

Telling the story of war in song: the men of the Goulds

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

The Songs of World War One

The Songs of World War One

Deeply rooted in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador is the tradition of telling stories in song. During the First World War whole communities rallied around the young men from their towns that signed up to fight for King and Country, singing songs that extolled the virtues of the young men. Typically the songs followed established tunes, well known in the communities with new lyrics added that resonated with the people of the place.

During the First World War, if you attended a party in the Goulds (on the outskirts of St. John’s) it would be likely that you would hear sung “The Boys from the Goulds” sung to the tune of the old Irish song “Wearing of the Green.”

The Boys from the Goulds

Oh, people dear, did you hear

The news that’s near and far?

For our old dear boys here from the

Goulds

Are going to the war!

They are a crowd of stirring lads,

The truth to you I’ll tell;

They will shortly leave for Scotland

Where they will be trained there well.

Chorus

They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

The Brave Boys from Newfoundland

They will fight the Kaiser’s Army

They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

There is Weston William and Peter Finn,

James Howlett and Thos Clarke,

And William Frizell and Henry

They’re sure to do their part;

There is Perry Howlett and Willie Ryan

John Heffernan and Joe White.

Then they go to fight the Germans

They mean to show their might.

 

Chorus

 

There’s James Walsh and Lawrence Murphy

Poor John Barton once so brave;

The latter two I mention

They have filled a soldier’s grave.

Chorus

The men that are referred to in the song are:

Weston Williams, Regimental #: 3312. Age of Enlistment: 18.

Peter Finn, Regimental #: 3230. Age of Enlistment: 22.

James Joseph Howlett, Regimental #: 3313. Age of Enlistment: 19.

Thomas Clark, Regimental #: 3311 from Goulds, Age of Enlistment: 18

William Frizell, Regimental #: 3279. Age of Enlistment: 21

Pierre Howett, Regimental #: 3352. Age of Enlistment: 18

William Ryan, Regimental #:133. Age of Enlistment: 24

Michael Heffernan, Regimental #: 4316. Age of Enlistment: 26

Joseph White: Regimental #: 1241. Age of Enlistment: 20

James Walsh: Regimental #: 2341. Age of Enlistment: 22

Lawrence Murphy: Regimental #: 196. Age of Enlistment: 20

John Barton: Regimental # 1485. Age of Enlistment: 28

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Newfoundland Regiment   in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Exhibit:

Commemoration of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel: On the 100th anniversary of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel, The Rooms will open this new permanent exhibition. Journey from trench to home front, from recruitment and training through service overseas as you experience stories of the Great War and its lasting impact on the people and the identity of Newfoundland and Labrador. A full day of commemorative activities is planned for July 1, 2016 to honour those from Newfoundland and Labrador who served in the First World War.

Due to the level of interest and anticipated large numbers in attendance  for the tribute event, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery will not open to the public until Saturday, July 2.  The Rooms is pleased to offer FREE admission to this exhibition on July 2 and 3.

Listen to the tune: ‘The Wearing of the Greene’ and sing the lyrics of the “The Boys from the Goulds” : http://www.ireland-information.com/irishmusic/thewearingofthegreen.shtml

Mysterious Iceberg off St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 24, 1905

“Our Lady of the Fjords”

Mysterious Iceberg in St. John’s Narrows, T.B. Hayward. June 24, 1905

On  June 24, 1905 T.B. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Christian presence.

The photograph in ques­tion depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John’s. How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown. The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes. His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he com­posed a sonnet in honour of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to the glistening ice figure as “a shimmering shrine – our bright Atlantic Lourdes. The sonnet was published Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.

Our Lady of the Fjords

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.” Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book  Baltimore’s Mansion.

The timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition appearing in the St. John’s Narrows  was quite  significant.

June 24 on the Christian calendar is the Feast of St. John the Baptist.   On June 24, 1497  John Cabot “discovered”  Newfoundland,  it is the feast day of the patron saint of the R.C. Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral  in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? The Rooms has hundreds of photographs of icebergs. Type “iceberg” in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading:   Kodak Catholicism: Miraculous Photography and its Significance by Jessy C. PAGLIAROLI : Canadian Catholic Historical  Association (CCHA) , Historical Studies, 70 (2004), 71_93

Recommended Archival Collection:  Very few photographs of Thomas B. Hayward have been identified.  If you are aware of other photographs and sketches created by Thomas or his father J. W Hayward the  Rooms Provincial Archives Division would love to hear from you.

International Airport Proposed for Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 21, 1928

International Airport at Trepassey, Newfoundland

On June 21, 1928 the prestigious New York Times  newspaper declared that Trepassey, Newfoundland would be the site of a great international airport.

The newspaper headline declared:

“Miss Earhart Predicts Great Airport at Trepassey for Transocean Flights.”  

The headline came about as a result of an interview that Amelia Earhart had with the international press shortly after landing at Burry Port, Wales becoming the first woman to make the Atlantic crossing.

Earhart and her crew had departed fromTrepassey, Newfoundland the morning of June 17 landing “across the pond” on June 18.  Prior to departure from Trepassey she has spent twelve days in the town meeting many of the local people.

Earhart told the New York Times reporter:

“Trepassey ought to be some day a great airport for transoceanic travel. It processes the finest harbor, perhaps the only harbor, adapted naturally for seaplane takeoffs in its part of the world.”

But she cautioned that Trepassey needed to develop an infrastructure to sustain this new industry that was emerging.  She told the reporter:

“…there are very few trains from the outside world into Trepassey and absolutely no facilities for taking care of a plane or repairing them. … If someone would build a seaplane station in Trepassey it would be a great help to aviation, for there is going to be more transatlantic flights from there so many that they will not even be of interest to the public.”

Unfortunately for Trepassey no infrastructure was established.

In Newfoundland, the town of Harbour Grace became the airport of choice. The  Harbour Grace airfield, built on the summit of this hill by the  local  people became starting point of many early flights from West to East.  Amelia Earhart  the next time she was in Newfoundland  by passed  Trepassey that she had spoken  so highly about   and completed the world’s first transatlantic solo flight by a woman after taking off from Harbour Grace, on 20 May 1932 and landing at Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Archival Collection:  (International) George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers:  The Amelia Earhart papers offer a rare glimpse into the life of America’s premier woman aviator. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.  The online collection includes more than 3,500 scans of photographs, maps, documents, and artifacts relating to Earhart.  http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart/

Recommended Reading: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart  By Susan Butler.  Da Cappo Press, 2009.  (A chapter is devoted to her time in Trepassey.)

 

First World War Letters

Red-Crossnurse-writes-a-letter-for-an-injured-patient“First World War Letters”  is a documentary that CBC just launched using letters that are found in the Rooms Provincial Archives.

The Rooms holds thousands of pieces of correspondence from the First World War, written by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They come from the records of the men and women who signed up to serve King and Country at home, in the trenches, on the sea and in the air.

Take some time to watch and listen to their stories. These are the voices of our families. Click on the link below:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/beaumont-hamel-letters-1.3630620

Watch the video then scroll down and  LISTEN to the whole documentary.

 

 

 

Amelia Earhart in Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 17, 1928 

Amelia Earhart, June 14, 1928, Trepassey, Newfoundland

As a passenger on the Friendship, (Fokker F7 airplane) Amelia Earhart, the first woman to hop the Atlantic, flew from Trepassey, Newfoundland, to Burry Port, Wales, on June 17, 1928.

The Friendship and crew successfully landed in Newfoundlandon June 5 only to encounter gales or fog for days that prohibited their takeoff forEurope.

Earhart Arrives in Trepassey, June 5, 1928

···· The Friendship circled Trepassey twice before putting down in the choppy water of the harbor after a flight of 4 hours, 24 minutes. As the big monoplane taxied slowly toward the small cluster of houses on the eastern shore that was the town of Trepassey, dories full of men whirling ropes (Amelia called them maritime cowboys), each evidently hoping to guide them in, surrounded the Friendship, …

The town magistrate, Fred Gill, and his two sons, waiting near the monoplane in a dory, secured the honor of giving Amelia and Bill Stultz a ride to the dock. Slim Gordon came later, after tending to the plane.

The children of Trepassey, who had been watching and waiting at the windows of the convent school facing the harbour, ran down to the shore en masse. Amelia “had a vision of many white pinafores and aprons on the dock,” and was under the impression that school had let out early so that the children could greet them. In fact the children had simply fled without permission for which they were made to stay late.  She went up and visited with the children later at the convent school; the nuns were scandalized by the sight of a woman in pants.

One of the Telegrams that was sent to Amelia Earhart in Trepassey from a friend George, knowing that Amelia had not packed a change of clothing wired:

“SUGGEST YOU GO INTO RETIREMENT TEMPORARILY WITH NUNS AND HAVE THEM WASH SHIRT ETC –STOP”

It was arranged that the three fliers would spend the night at a small frame two story house with attached general Store belonging to Richard (Richie Dick)  and Fanny Devereaux …. Mrs  Devereaux too at first sight of Amelia in her “breeks” and boots was “quite overcome, and felt her to be sure I was present in the flesh.”

The Deveraux children,  among them,  a young girl  who was to grow up to be  Sister Theophane Curtis of the Presentation Congregation,  the daughter of Fanny Deveraux from a previous marriage moved from their family home to live with relatives.

DEPARTURE FROM TREPASSEY  – June 17, 1928

The team left Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928, and arrived at Burry Port,Wales approximately 21 hours later, a distance of more than 2,010 miles (3,235 kilometers), in 20 hours 49 minutes. With Miss Earhart were Wilbur Stultz, pilot, and Louis Gordon, mechanic.

When the crew returned to the States, they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade inNew Yorkand a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. From then on, flying was the fixture of Earhart’s life.

The experience in Trepassey might have been the inspiration for Earhart in the 1930’s  to design  a line of “functional” women’s clothing, including dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats, initially using her own sewing machine, dress form, and seamstress.  She photographed well and modeled her own designs for promotional spreads.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject?  Type  Aeroplane or Flight in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives holds a series of photographs (H5 – 32-35)  taken of Amelia Earhart prior to commencing the world’s “first transatlantic solo flight by a woman”. Earhart took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland  on 20 May 1932 and landed in Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Reading: Earhart, Amelia. 1928. 20 Hrs., 40 min.: Our Flight in the Friendship. G.P. Putnam’s Sons:New York. (Reprinted in 2003 by National Geographic Adventure Classics:Washington.)

Recommended Website:  The official Website of Amelia Earhart:  http://www.ameliaearhart.com/

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

Archival Moments

June 13, 1915

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

nurseOn June 13, 1915 Maysie Parsons, 26 years old, originally from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland wrote to her father Edward Parsons from L’Hopital de L’Ocean, a field hospital in La Panne, Belgium. In her letter she wrote frankly about war and what she was witnessing. She wrote:

“My Dear Father

Although we are only six miles from the trenches, we never hear any war news. The only thing we do know is when there is a battle on this end. We can hear the guns and see the flashes and lightening, and tonight, oh, it is simply terrible. It is just the same as thunder and lightning and to think that every flash means so many deaths!

It is horrible. We do get terrible cases in. I know if you saw the poor patients, you would wonder how they could possibly live. It is impossible to sleep lots of nights.

War certainly is HELL

Tonight I am writing by the light of candle. We can’t get any sleep. And have been watching the flashes off the guns, etc., all along the lines for hours. It really seems that the fighting is all around us. I am glad I came but it certainly seems strange.

Wherever we go we very seldom meet anybody that can speak a word of English, and then if we go for a walk about every few yards we are held up by a sentry and have to produce our passports.”

Maysie was frustrated that she could not speak the language of the soldier boys that she was treating. When war broke out, Belgium did not have enough nurses so were dependent on nurses sent from British Commonwealth countries including Canada and Newfoundland. Masie signed up with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She wrote:

We get a lot of cases in here that only live a few hours. It seems terrible, they have not a person belonging to them, and I wish I could speak French. It is certainly hard to nurse every sick patient when you have to guess at what they want, and then not to be able to speak to them. Kindly and sympathize with them. I think a kind word often means a lot.

Maysie was also conscious that all of her letters would be read by censors and was careful not to disclose details that would result in her letter being delayed and or not delivered.

Yesterday we had quite a lot of patients come in, 61. I could write for hours about how thy have been treated, but you see, our letters are censored, and there are lots of interesting things we cannot tell.

Like other letters that were sent by sons and daughters from the trenches of Europe to parents back home in Newfoundland the letters would always make reference to other Newfoundlanders that they had encountered, their Newfoundland patriotic fervor was always evident.

The other day a man came and asked me what part of Canada I as from, so I told him not Canada, but Newfoundland, he told me he knew Sir Edward P. Morris quite well, and how he had to study up about the fisheries, for the Convention of the Hague. He was asking me about Newfoundland, and afterwards I found out he was the Editor of the London Times.

We found an English newspaper today, and you should see the bunch get around it, it was about a month old, but we read everything in it, even the advertisements. It was good to see something in English.

I sent some cards home, hope they get them.

Love too all,

From your Loving daughter

Maysie

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Great War Photograph  Collection  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms. 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.