Author Archives: Larry Dohey

One-day symposium on the historical significance of Grenfell

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13.62   (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell painting .)

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13.62 (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell painting .)

The impact of British physician-missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell (1865-1940) was widely recognized during the first half of the twentieth century. Grenfell’s lifework in Newfoundland and Labrador began in the early 1890s with the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. By 1914 the International Grenfell Association (IGA) was formed to focus on his work in this region. This one-day symposium will explore the historical significance of Grenfell, the IGA, and the delivery of healthcare in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last century and address issues concerning the present and the future. All are welcome, with refreshment breaks provided.

The Rooms, St John’s, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9 am to 5 pm

Programme and Schedule

9:00 am-9:10 am

Session 1—Introduction Welcome

Chair, Jennifer Connor

9:10 am-10:20 am

Jeff Webb: “Newfoundland in the age of Grenfell”

Jim Connor: “Primary medical care and health in Newfoundland during the Grenfell era: Were they that bad?”

10:40 am-11:30 am

Anne Budgell: “Opera, lunch, and tea: New York high society and the Grenfell Mission”

Heidi Coombs-Thorne: “‘Heroines’: Nursing with the Grenfell Mission, 1939-1981”


Ronald Numbers: “The gospel of right living: Wilfred Grenfell’s collaboration with John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek.”


Jennifer Connor: “Two British physicians and their ‘flits’ on the Grenfell mission in Newfoundland before 1930”

Larry Dohey: “It is called ‘GRENFELLITIS:’ Archivists look at the Grenfell Collection and its artistic and historical significance”

Monica Kidd: “‘If we can make a cure of him’: Lyrical Grenfell in the St. Anthony casebooks, 1906”

3:05pm-3:55 pm

Bill Bavington: “Reflections on the IGA in a time of transition–1974-1982”

Maria Mathews: “Back to the future – Primary care reform in rural Newfoundland and Labrador”

3:55 pm-4:25 pm

Concluding Remarks

Chair, Jim Connor

Norman Pinder

Edward Roberts

All sessions  are  free and open to the public. The Rooms, St John’s, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9 am to 5 pm

For more information contact: Dr. Jim Connors:    or 709.777.8729.

The Long’s Hill Cemetery – A Silent City

The Long’s Hill Cemetery – A Silent City

Long's Hill Cemtery, St. John's (1810 - 1849)

Long’s Hill Cemtery, St. John’s (1810 – 1849)

In 1849 legislation was introduced in the Colony of Newfoundland closing all cemeteries in St. John’s, including the cemetery for the Roman Catholic’s on Long’s Hill that was opened in 1811.   What happened to the Long’s Hill Cemetery? What was St. John’s like between 1810 -1849?

Larry Dohey, Manager of Collections and Projects at the Rooms Provincial Archives will discuss the history of the cemetery, using archival documents, in a presentation at the Benevolent Irish Society, Irish Hall, 30 Harvey Road, St. John’s, Thursday, October 16 @ 7:30 p.m.  All are welcome. For more information call (709) 754-0570.

Please forward to family and friends who may be interested.



World War II came home to Newfoundland.


October 14, 1942

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 2-48; Remember the SS Caribou and Her Gallant Crew

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 2-48; Remember the SS Caribou and Her Gallant Crew

In the early morning hours of October 14, 1942 a lone German torpedo from the German submarine U69 hit the  SS Caribou,  the Sydney to Port aux Basques ferry on  route to Newfoundland, under Captain Benjamin Tavenor.  World War II came home to Newfoundland.

Immediately following the hit chaos ensued as passengers, thrown from their bunks by the explosion rushed topside to the lifeboat stations.

Of the 237 people aboard the Caribou when she left North Sydney, 136 had perished. Fifty-seven were military personnel and 49 were civilians. Of the 46-man crew, mostly Newfoundlanders, only 15 remained. Five families suffered particularly heavy losses: the Tappers (5 dead), the Toppers (4), the Allens (3), the Tavernors (the captain and his two sons), and the Skinners (3). The local press reported:

 “Many Families [were] Wiped Out.”

News of the sinking sparked much outrage as victims,  friends and families, and the populace at large, condemned the Nazis for targeting a passenger ferry. An editorialist with The Royalist newspaper in St. John’s wrote that the sinking:

“was such a useless crime from the point of view of warfare. It will have no effect upon the course of the war except to steel our resolve that the Nazi blot on humanity must be eliminated from our world.”

The Channel/Port aux Basques area was the worst hit as many crew members of the Caribou were local men. A funeral on October 18 for six victims was attended by hundreds of mourners, and a procession that followed the bodies to the grave sites reportedly measured two kilometres long.

There are three known survivors of the SS Caribou that are still living. Fifteen-month-old Leonard Shiers of Halifax was the only one of 11 children to survive the sinking. He now lives in Ontario. Percy Moore’s, a sailor with the British navy was heading home to Moores Cove, Newfoundland when the torpedo hit, he now resides in Florida and Headley Lake in Fortune, he was a forester returning home on leave.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read  VA  40- 16:  A page from The Evening Telegram, St. John’s, NL. with several newspaper articles about the sinking of the SS Caribou, including names of those lost ; death of assistant matron, Agnes Wilkie, General Hospital.

Recommended Website: This archival piece looks at the sinking of the SS Caribou  It was the largest marine disaster in Canadian waters during World War Two. In 1942, the famed SS Caribou was the passenger ferry operating between Port Aux Basques and North Sydney. It was supposed to be for civilians only. But a decision was made to also use the Caribou for troops, a decision that proved deadly.

Recommended Reading: Thornhill, H. It Happened in October : The Tragic Sinking of the S.S. Caribou. Newfoundland: H. Thornhill, 1945.

Recommended Song:  The Caribou; Lyrics can be found at:

New Memorial University Campus Opened


October 9th, 1961

Provehito in Altum (Launch forth into the deep)

On October 9th, 1961, the Elizabeth Avenue   campus of Memorial  University of Newfoundland  in St. John’s was formally opened. Attending the opening  were  a number of well-known dignitaries including Prime Minister  John Diefenbaker, Premier Joseph Smallwood, Lord Thomson of Fleet and  Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Roosevelt, the widow of the President of theUnited States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the official emissary of the President of theUnited States, John F. Kennedy.  Mrs. Roosevelt formerly passed over to the Board of Regents and the Senate, the new campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Thousands of school children from all parts of the province took part  in the parade up Elizabeth Avenue.

Memorial Universitybegan as Memorial University College (MUC), which opened in September 1925 at a campus onParade StreetinSt. John’s.

Upon opening MUC offered the first two years of university studies, the initial enrollment was 57 students, rising to a peak of over 400 in the 1940s.

The college was established as a memorial to the Newfoundlanders who had lost their lives on active service during the First World War. It was later rededicated to also encompass the province’s war dead of the Second World War.

The post-Confederation government elevated the status of Memorial University College to full university status in August 1949, renaming the institution to Memorial University of Newfoundland.  The enrollment in MUN’s first year was 307 students. In 1961, enrollment increased to 1400.

Recommended Reading:  Dr. Mel Baker, ‘Celebrate Memorial: A Pictorial History of Memorial University of Newfoundland’ (St. John’s Newfoundland: Memorial University Press © 1999)

Malcolm MacLeod. ‘A Bridge Built Halfway: A History of Memorial University College, 1925-1950.’MontrealandKingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

Recommended to View:

Recommended Website

We will march and sing with the First 500 tomorrow!! It’s a long way to Tipperary.

Archival Moment

October 4, 1914

 Cover page of sheet music published in 1914.

Cover page of sheet music published in 1914.

As the “First 500” or “Blue Puttees” marched from the tent city in Pleasantville, St. John’s, where they had completed their basic military training, they sang.

As the they marched through the streets on October 4, 1914 to the troopship the S.S. Florizel, that awaited them in St. John’s Harbour, to take them to fight for ‘King and Country” they sang a song that was new to many of them.

Marching towards the unknown, the young soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment broke into this new marching song, the song, they were singing with great enthusiasm was “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

The song, in the opening days of the Great War (August 1914) had quickly become ‘Britain’s Marching Song’ the London newspapers reported “it has become the marching song of the British Army.”

The St. John’s newspapers were determined that the young soldiers of Newfoundland Regiment should also know the song, reporting that because “it is not widely known in this country” (Newfoundland) the words should be published.

The Evening Telegram published the lyrics for all to learn on 19 September 1914.

Up to mighty London Came an Irishman one day.

As the streets are paved with gold

Sure, everyone was gay, Singing songs of Piccadilly, Strand

and Leicester Square,

Till Paddy got excited, then he shouted to them there:


It’s a long way to Tipperary,

It’s a long way to go. It’s a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know! Goodbye, Piccadilly, Farewell, Leicester


It’s a long long way to Tipperary, But my heart’s right there.

(repeat chorus)

Paddy wrote a letter To his Irish Molly-


Saying, “Should you not receive it,

Write and let me know!” “If I make mistakes in spelling, Molly,

dear,” said he,

“Remember, it’s the pen that’s bad,

Don’t lay the blame on me!


Molly wrote a neat reply To Irish


Saying “Mike Maloney Wants to

marry me, and so

Leave the Strand and Piccadilly Or you’ll be to blame,

For love has fairly drove me silly:

Hoping you’re the same!”


British soldiers marchingThe irony was that many of the “First 500” or the “Blue Puttees” who were singing the song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” as they marched would die in what they called “Tipperary Avenue”, a communications trench, at Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916.

It was the custom in the “Great War” battlefields to name the roads and trenches with names that were familiar. At Beaumont Hamel two names that were familiar to The Newfoundland Regiment were St. John’s Road and Terra Nova Street.

In September 1916 Padre Thomas Nangle who was tasked with finding and identifying the bodies of the Newfoundlanders who died at Beaumont Hamel wrote:

“On Sunday, September 24th after saying Mass in a roofless barn within 800 yards of the German line, I started out on my quest … to find the bodies of the Newfoundlanders. I trampled on through Tipperary Avenue a communications trench from which our heroes “went over” on that fateful day (July 1). This (Tipperary Avenue) was the exact spot on which was made the most glorious event in the history of far off Newfoundland.”

It is a long way from Pleasantville, St. John’s, Newfoundland to Tipperary Avenue, Beaumont Hamel, France.

“It’s a long long way to Tipperary, But my heart’s right there.”

The song was originally written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams as a music hall and marching song in 1912. In 1914 columns of Irish marching soldiers made the song known and popular first in the British Army, then on the whole Western Front. The world first heard about the song from the London newspaper Daily Mail. Their correspondent, George Curnock witnessed the Irish soldiers marching and singing in Boulogne, France on August 13th, 1914. The song quickly became the definite song of the Great War.

Recreating the March to the Florizel: Commemorating the departure of the ‘First 500’ from St. John’s. On Sunday, October 5, 2014 approximately 500 individuals, from across Newfoundland and Labrador, will take part in a recreation of the historic march to the Florizel. Participants will march the actual route, taken by the original recruits, from Caribou Park, Pleasantville to the St. John’s harbour front, culminating with a special ceremony at the Harbour front. The march departs Pleasantville at 1:00pm and arrives at the Harbour front at approximately 1:45pm. More Information:

Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all) are on line at

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.


They disappeared from the earth like a shadow…


October 2, 1827


Photo Credit: Drawings by Shanawdithit showing spears, water buckets, cups, a dancing woman, a devil Source: Library and Archives Canada/C-028544 © Public Domain nlc-683

They disappeared from the earth like a shadow…

On October 2, 1827, William Cormack, described as an explorer, agriculturalist and merchant in St. John’s, formed the ‘Beothic Institution’, for the purpose of opening a communication with, and promoting the civilization of the “Red Indians of Newfoundland.”

Cormack, had become alarmed at the decimation the Beothuk people and culture, and began searching the Newfoundland wilderness for the Beothuk. In 1823 he heard that a young Beothuk woman Shawnadithit (Nancy April) had been captured,  one of only a few Beothuk with whom to communicate. He immediately sought her out to learn about the Beothuk culture.

Shawnadithit, in effect, became the Beothuk Institution, supplying Cormack with  some of his only first-hand information on the tribe.  Cormack wrote:

“We have traces enough left only to cause our sorrow that so peculiar and so superior a people should have disappeared from the earth like a shadow… Shawnadithit is now becoming very interesting as she improves in the English language and gains confidence in people around. I keep her pretty busily employed in drawing historical representations of everything that suggests itself relating to her tribe, which I find is the best and readiest way of gathering information from her.”

Many prominent citizens subscribed to become members of the Institute.

Cormack subsequently set off with three native guides to explore the area around the Exploits River and Red Indian Lake where the Beothuk were known to have lived but found the country deserted. As a last resort a native search party was sent to the region of Notre Dame and White Bays under the auspices of the Beothuk Institution.

No Beothuk were encountered, as Cormack had feared they were on the verge of extinction.  With the death of Shawnadithit in 1829, Cormack wrote,  they had “disappeared from the earth like a shadow…”

On 2 October 1997, 170 years after its inception, the Beothic Institution was revived as the Beothuk Institute. Its mandate was to arrange for the erection of a statue of a Beothuk woman to commemorate the Beothuk people, and to promote public awareness of the Beothuk and other aboriginal peoples of the province. The idea of a statue came from Newfoundland artist  Gerald Squires, who had a vision of a female Beothuk in the Bay of Exploits, and wanted to honour the spirit of her people. He was commissioned to create the statue. It was poured in bronze by artist Lubin Boykov and unveiled at the Boyd’s Cove Provincial Historic Site in July 2000.

Since then the Beothuk Institute has sponsored the publication of a booklet on the Beothuk, provided essays on the Beothuk  and has initiated a study of Beothuk DNA.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read MG 257 consists of a vocabulary of the Native Red Indians language, from Mary March / compiled by the Rev. John Leigh, 1819-1820, composed of words learned from Demasduit (Mary March), a female Beothuk captured by John Peyton, Jr., at Red Indian Lake, on 5 March 1819. Fonds consist of one booklet, with 17 sheets and cover.

Recommended Website:  At the RoomsProvincialMuseum see Museum NotesThe Beothuks  By Ralph T. Pastore

Recommended Film: Shanaditti : Last of the Beothuks. Directed by Ken Pittman; produced by Rex Tasker and Barry Cowling. Montréal: National Film Board ofCanada, 1982. 20 min., 22 sec.

Recommended Reading:  Marshall, Ingeborg. The Beothuk of Newfoundland: A Vanished People.St. John’s, 1989.

Recommended Reading:  Hewson, John. Beothuk Vocabularies. A Comparative Study. Technical Papers of the NewfoundlandMuseum. Number 2, 1978.  Note: At least 4 other Beothuk individuals were interviewed by various Newfoundlanders in the late 18th and early 19th c.  Shawnadithit was not the only Beothuk to be interviewed. However  most of what we know about those people did come from her.


From ‘Colony of Newfoundland’ to the ‘Dominion of Newfoundland’

Archival Moment

September 26, 1907

There was a time when the Dominion of Newfoundland had  a passport.

There was a time when the Dominion of Newfoundland had a passport.

On 26 September, 1907, Edward VII, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, declared the Colony of Newfoundland, having enjoyed responsible government since 1854, the status of an independent Dominion within the British Empire.

The change of name shifted the official title of Newfoundland from the ‘Colony of Newfoundland’ to the ‘Dominion of Newfoundland’.

The name change was made to clarify the theoretical equality of status within the British Empire of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland.

The Latin word dominium means property, ownership, authority, or territory subject to a king or ruler. Britain’s first North American colonies were ‘His Majesty’s Dominions beyond the Seas’ (though most people called them colonies i.e. the Colony of Newfoundland).

In 1867, to appease United States dislike of the word ‘kingdom’, the British North America Act used ‘dominion’ to create ‘one dominion under the name of Canada.’

On September 26, 1907, by a Royal Proclamation, ‘dominion’ became the distinguishing label for Newfoundland and New Zealand.

To acknowledge their new status the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir Joseph Ward sent a telegram to the Premier of Newfoundland on the day before the official proclamation that read:“upon the eve of the change send you warmest greetings”. Sir Robert Bond of Newfoundland responded: “I heartily reciprocate your cordial greeting and sincerely wish the Dominion of New Zealand the fullest measure of prosperity.”

By the official proclamation Sir Robert Bond was the last Premier of the Colony of Newfoundland 1900 to 1907 and the first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland from 1907 to 1909.

After the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the definition of dominion became lot more precise, with the British drawing a clear line of separation between what was a “dominion” and what was a “colony.” From henceforth, a “dominion” was declared to be an independent country, united in “free association [as] members of the British Commonwealth of Nations” which were in turn “united by a common allegiance to the Crown.”

After 1931 the Imperial Parliament (The Westminster Statue) gave up most of its power to pass laws for the dominions, which in turn gave rise to the status quo of today, where we have a number of independent countries who nevertheless recognize the British monarch as their head of state and form a symbolic union with one another.

The Westminster Statute formally recognized: The Dominion of Canada; The Dominion of New Zealand; The Irish Free State; The Commonwealth of Australia; The Union of South Africa and Newfoundland with “dominion” status in this regard.

Unlike other dominions, and quite unique in history, the government of Newfoundland in 1934 voted to abandon self-government in favor of direct rule from London, becoming the rare entity to reject independence in favor of being governed by someone else.

In 1949 Newfoundland became a province of Canada.

Recommended Exhibit: Here, We Made a Home. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. The Rooms.   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. Shaped by the unique combination of location, history, cultures – English, Irish, French, Scottish – this gallery shares many of these traditions and stories. Some are personal and local; others reflect roles and achievements on the world stage. Running through most of them are qualities of perseverance and innovation, courage and generosity.

Recommended Reading: Don’t Tell The Newfoundlanders: The Story Of Newfoundland’s Confederation With Canada by Greg Malone. Knopf Canada (2012).

Did you know that the original document – The Terms of Union with Canada is held in the Provincial Archives in The Rooms.