Author Archives: Larry Dohey

“City of Funerals”


September 15, 1924

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 157-110; Gerald J. Whitty and William King’s funeral procession, Water Street, St. John’s

The death of six men in the City of St. John’s on (September 15, 1924) cast a gloom over the city. The local newspapers described St. John’s as a “city of funerals.”  The citizens of St. John’s and the province were mourning the loss of  Gerald J. Whitty and fellow veterans who were struck and killed by a speeding car at Donovans  (on the outskirts of the City).

Gerald  J. Whitty as secretary-treasurer  of the  Great War Veterans Association (GWVA)  of Newfoundland  was  known throughout the province for his advocacy work  for the veterans returning to Newfoundland following the Great War.  He helped run the poppy campaign, begun in 1921, and edited the Veteran Magazine. In 1923 he represented the GWVA in London at the first biennial conference of the British Empire Service League.

He was instrumental in improving pensions and the project of a national memorial to honour Newfoundland’s war dead.

On the evening of 15 September, Whitty and 13 companions met in a restaurant at Donovans to bid farewell to a friend who was leaving for England.  At 11:00 p.m., he, William King, another prominent Newfoundland veteran, and Chief Petty Officer Robert Lovett of HMS Constance were standing by the bus that was to take the party back to St John’s. Suddenly, a speeding car appeared and struck the three men. Whitty and William King were killed instantly, as were four occupants of the car.

On 18 September, St John’s became a “city of funerals.” In the afternoon, following the burial of William King in the General Protestant Cemetery, the funeral procession continued to Whitty’s residence.

At the War Memorial  on Water Street that he was instrumental in having established , a short halt was made and wreaths placed. Whitty was buried in Belvedere Cemetery.

At the graveside, Father Thomas Nangle observed that veterans had lost “their best friend and advocate.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division explore VA 157 an album of photographs relating to the experience of Gerald J. Whitty.

Recommended Reading:  William Whitty, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Melvin Baker and Peter Neary.

Where is the city planning?


September 10, 1894

Photo Credit: Quidi Vidi, sketch by William Grey, Sketches of Newfoundland, 1858

On September 10, 1894 the local St. John’s  newspaper, The Daily News, published a letter to The Editor commenting on development near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s.  The writer was not amused that expansion was taking place near the lake without any definite plan.

The anonymous writer, identified as ‘A Passerby,’ wrote:

“Is there not a law about uniformity in house building.”

The writer was particularly infuriated that shebeens were being constructed and worse tolerated.

Following the Great Fire of 1892 in St. John’s there was in the city a spurt of development that saw a road “pushed rapidly ahead” toward Quidi Vidi. With this new road came development.

The initial structures established appear to have been shebeen’s, the letter to the editor reads:

“Owing to one shebeen, trouble has already ensued; it is rumoured that another is being erected in the opposite direction.”

If  sheebeen’s were to be tolerated  the letter  went on to speculate that next you would see

“ a semi-stable, semi-slaughter-house (being) erected on the banks of the lake.”

The author of the letter  would not be happy to find, almost 100 years after he wrote his letter,  that a chicken slaughter house  was erected near the banks of his beloved lake!!

Newfoundland Term: shebeen n also sheebeen, sheveen: Unlicensed place where illicit liquor is sold. [Dictionary of Newfoundland English]

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms: Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador photograph collection consists of a series of 212 b&w photographs predominantly of the Royal St. John’s Regatta races and crews, The photographs include team portraits, races underway, presentation of awards and views of the people along the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake.

Recommended Publication: A Gift of Heritage: Historic Architecture of St. John’s, Newfoundland , 2nd ed. , Newfoundland Historic Trust , This publication of the Newfoundland  Historic Trust focuses on architecture  in St. John’s.

Censored letters and loyalty


September 6,  1941

Let’s Censor our conversation About the War.

Seventy eight (78) years ago this week the Second World War broke out. An Act for the Defence of Newfoundland came into effect giving the Governor in Commission sweeping powers to regulate social and economic life and to appropriate whatever was needed to defend the country. They also issued the Newfoundland Defence Regulations the same day

On September 3, 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. With this declaration, Newfoundland was also at war.

During WWII all correspondence leaving Newfoundlandand Labrador was intercepted by an official censor from the Office of the Commissioner for Justice and Defence that was under the direction of L.E.  Emerson of the Newfoundland Department of Defence.

Most governments of the day, throughout the world, argued that censorship was necessary to prevent valuable information getting into enemy hands and to maintain high morale on the home front.

In order to meet these goals every letter leaving the province was read to insure that individuals were not wittingly or unwittingly giving information to the enemy.

On September 20, 1941 Commissioner Emerson was particularly  disturbed by the contents of a letter that the censor board had intercepted that was written by a young Irish born teacher  (Brother)  E.P. O’Farrell on staff at St. Patrick’s Hall School, St. John’s.  Emerson found the letter to be very suspect.  He described the views held by the young teacher,  O’Farrell,  to be “positively dangerous.”

The letter dated September 6, 1941 written by Brother O’Farrell to his parents in County Kerry, Ireland was considered dangerous on a number of grounds.

Brother O’Farrell in his letter applauded the fact that Ireland had declared itself neutral during the war.  Neutrality was overwhelmingly supported by the population of Ireland; a minority of Irish Republicans sided with Germany, believing that a German victory might bring about a United Ireland.

Moreover, in a war in which the United Kingdom was involved, neutrality was perceived as the clearest expression of Irish sovereignty, something the Irish Prime Minister Éamon de Valera fervently sought.

In his letter, the young teacher O’Farrell speculated that:

 “I don’t think (President) Roosevelt will succeed in getting the States to fight and that all Catholics and all the Bishops are determined to stay out of the war.”

The ‘neutral’ position taken by the Irish during the war, lead many to be suspicious of the Irish and their intentions.  Given that O’Farrell was Irish born and a teacher Emerson insisted his letter did “raise considerable alarm”.  He felt strongly also that:

 “teachers needed to maintain an atmosphere of loyalty and optimism in the schools.”

The letter never reached O’Farrell’s parents.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Provincial Archives Division at The Rooms see GN 38.3 ; Home Affairs and Education. This file consists of memorandum relating to the appointments to the censorship staff, modifications to the censorship process, Appointment of Chief Censor

Recommended Publication:  High, Steven. Occupied St. John’s: a Social History of a City at War 1939-1945. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.   336 pages, illustrated.

“The vendors of St. Mary’s Bay rum, should be placed in the dock”

August 22, 1884

St. Mary’s rum is of so deleterious a character that not my unfortunate clients, but the vendors of such poison, should be placed in the dock.”

On August 22,1884 an outrage against the Catholic population in St. Mary’s, St.  Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland  was resolved by the courts.  The outrage was considered so offensive that it made newspaper headlines internationally. The North Otago Times, in New Zealand  account of the event in St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay reads:

Lawlessness In Newfoundland
“An outrage was perpetrated on Saturday, June 27, 1884 by the crew of the barque Lady Elibank. The crew broke into the Catholic church of St. Mary’s in St. Mary’s Bay, and demolished the furniture and appointments of the sanctuary, destroyed the tabernacle, abstracted the chalice, and other sacred vessels, smashed the candelabra, and strewed the debris about the streets, and in various ways desecrated the church. Five men were arrested. As soon as the knowledge of this desecration of the church spread amongst the Catholic population, not less than 500 boats were manned for the purpose of firing and scuttling the vessel ; but the influence of the parish priest  and the supplying merchants prevented revenge.”

—North Otago Times, in New Zealand

In Newfoundland, the local newspapers the Newfoundlander and Evening Telegram carried every detail of the story:

Newfoundlander, July 1st, 1884:

An act of monstrous desecration and sacrilege
“An act of monstrous desecration and sacrilege was committed at St. Mary’s on Saturday night last. The barquentine LADY ELIBANK arrived there a short time ago was discharging a cargo of salt. Five of the sailors – four of whom are Germans and one a Negro – broke into the Roman Catholic Chapel at a late hour of the night, knocked down the altar furniture, tore up one or more vestments, and even made away with the chalice. The perpetrators of the shocking outrage have all been arrested, and the Sacred Vessel, which had been desecrated has been restored to the Church. As far as we can remember, this is the first act of scoundrelism of the kind that has taken place in this country. As yet, there are no further particulars than those given above, and it is assumed that drink has been the prime mover. But, whatever the cause, we do trust that the miscreants may receive the exemplary punishment that the law can give them.”

The Evening Telegram, July 7th, 1884:

Latest from St. Mary’s
“Intelligence from St. Mary’s states that the magisterial investigation into the conduct of the five men, charged with breaking into the Roman Catholic Chapel there, was concluded last Thursday and resulted in the discharge of the Negro and the committal of the four Norwegian sailors to be tried at Placentia before the Supreme Court on Circuit there next month. The examination disclosed that the parties broke into the church through the window, wrenched off the altar rail, and with it forced open the Tabernacle, where they took away the ciborium and the chalice. They tore down the altar decorations, vases and candlesticks, etc, and flung them about. They even entered the vestry and from it took four suits of vestments, the censer and the monstrance. All these articles, they brought aboard the ship, were subsequently discovered, hidden away in various parts of the hold and amongst the bedding in the forecastle. The captains and officers of the Lady Elibank did all in their power to assist the officers of justice, and it was owing to the personal influence and popularity of Captain Lee that the people were restrained from laying violent hands on the authors of this piece of criminality, the worst of the sort ever known there.”

Newfoundlander, August 22, 1884 :

“St. Mary’s rum is of so deleterious a character”
It was shown that the conclusiveness of the evidence, as well as the confession of one of the accused, left little doubt of their criminality. The Grand Jury retired after two hours absence, returned a true bill against Gustafsen and Kenner who were remanded for trial. Mr. Emmerson being assigned for the defense. When the court sat on Friday, it was found that Kenner, who had from the first declared himself innocent, had confessed his guilt, and Mr. Emmerson, in reply to the question why sentence should not be passed, made a very forcible address. He spoke of them as coming from a barbarous land, of being ignorant waifs, uncivilized and uninstructed, but his strongest point being the sweeping charge made against the liquor sellers of St. Mary’s. Said the learned gentlemen:

“St. Mary’s rum is of so deleterious a character that not my unfortunate clients, but the vendors of such poison, should be placed in the dock.”

His Lordship, Judge Little, correcting the learned council, showed that the accused came from a civilized and Christian land, that they were not ignorant, as both could read and write well, and that they were not drunk.

Kenner was sentenced to two years, Gustafsen to one year and ten months, both with hard labour in the Penitentiary; the imprisonment to be counted from committal in July – forfeiting, in addition, the money due them by their late Captain.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division:    Read the many great stories that is our history in The Evening Telegram: [1879-1886]-1978 Microfilm and in the Newfoundlander  [1827-1835], 1837-[1846-1849, [1851]-[1855-1856]-[1858]-[1860]-[1863]-[1865]-[1868]-[1873]-[1877]-1884 microfilm

World Photo Day and Newfoundland and Labrador Collections

Archival Moment

August 19th, 1839

Photo Credit: The Rooms SP 1; Portrait of elderly man in cravat and gown (1860 and 1880] Daguerreotype portraiture was popular in Newfoundland in the 1840’s.

Photo Credit: The Rooms SP 1; Portrait of elderly man in cravat and gown (1860 and 1880]
Daguerreotype portraiture was popular in Newfoundland in the 1840’s.

World Photo Day 2017 marks a special anniversary for photographers across the globe. It marks the 178th anniversary of the first permanent photographic process patented and freely released to the world on August 19th, 1839.

Scientists, artists and inventors took up the task of capturing the light at the start of the 19th century but it was not until William Henry Fox Talbot undertook a series of experiments at Lacock Abbey, Wilkshire, England in 1834-1835 that the dream became reality.

Talbot captured the first photographic negative at the Abbey, an image of a window, not much bigger than a postage stamp. However, he did not announce his invention or publish his findings immediately.

It wasn’t until January 1839, the year that is now regarded by many as the year photography was born, and that he announced his process and then only because a Frenchman named Daguerre claimed the invention for himself.

By the end of January the race was on between the two men – to claim the title ‘inventor of photography’.

On August 19, 1839, at the Institut de France in Paris, the distinguished physicist, Francois Arago, announced to the world on behalf of the French Government the details of Daguerre’s process which became known as the daguerreotype. The Daguerreotype process produced a positive image, but it is from a negative-positive process developed by William Fox Talbot that our modern photographic processes stem.

Talbot’s negative/positive process that ultimately established itself as the process used up until the digital age.

In Newfoundland photography was established as early as March 10th, 1843 with the following advertisement appearing in the local St. John’s paper the Public Ledger:


MESSERS William VALENTINE & Thomas DOANE beg leave to call the attention of the inhabitants of St. John’s and its vicinity, to an Art which has attained great celebrity and popularity in almost every city of Europe and America.

They have completed an apartment fitted for the purposes of Daguerreotype Portraiture, and have made other improvements and arrangements, by means of which they are confident of producing pictures of exquisite beauty.

The Daguerreotype Rooms, at the Golden Lion Inn, will be opened on MONDAY, at 10 o’clock, and will remain open daily from 10 to 4 o’clock. Persons unacquainted with the art, are respectfully invited to call at the Rooms, and examine Specimens.  Portraits taken in any state of the weather.

The first known photographs made around Newfoundland and Labrador were tied to the fishing industry. In 1857 Paul-Émile Miot, a French naval officer aboard the Ardent, captained by Georges-Charles Cloué, made photographs of the waters and land around Newfoundland and Labrador. Miot may have been the first to use photographs in the production of hydrographic maps.

During subsequent trips to Newfoundland, he also made a series of portraits that would be published as woodcuts in Le Monde illustré, Harper’s Weekly and Illustration. Important both for their practical information and as political tools, Miot’s images also provide evocative glimpses of Newfoundland’s past.

The first commercially available 35mm film camera was developed only 90 years ago. The digital camera became popular just 20 years ago and 20 years ago, camera phones didn’t exist. Today, everyone is impacted by the influence of photography.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database to view thousands of digital photographs.  The rooms is very interested in your photographic collections especially daguerreotype portraiture.  Talk to us about your collection.

Recommended Reading: Antonia McGrath, Introduction to Newfoundland Photography, 1849-1949 (St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 1980).


Ode To Newfoundland


August 17, 1979

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives MG 956.110 Item consists of sheet music, lyrics, and illustrated cover for patriotic composition, Newfoundland. On left side a seal fisherman in oilskins holding Newfoundland pink, white and green with seal at his feet on right side a uniformed Royal Naval Reserve member, holding Union Jack, with Newfoundland dog.

On August 17, 1979, Royal Assent was given to legislation adopting the Ode to Newfoundland as the official provincial anthem of the province of Newfoundland.

The  song  the “Newfoundland”  now known as the “Ode To Newfoundland” was sung for the very first time on January 21, 1902 at the Casino Theatre in St. John’s.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News, reported that  the new song was greeted enthusiastically.

The newspaper article reads:

 “Miss Frances Daisy Foster rendered with exquisite feeling a new song entitled “Newfoundland.” It proved a pleasant surprise and the general appreciation of it was marked by the audience joining spontaneously in the chorus.”

The “Ode to Newfoundland” was composed by Governor, Sir Cavendish Boyle, the original score was set to the music of E.R. Krippner, a German bandmaster living in St. John’s but Boyle desired a more dignified score. It was then set to the music of British composer Sir Hubert Parry, a personal friend of Boyle, who composed two settings.

The Daily News reporter knew that he had heard something special  when he heard the ‘Newfoundland’  being sung for the first time , he  wrote:   “he  (Boyle) has given us a poem which may be chosen as the Colony’s own anthem.”

On  June 21,1902  it was “resolved by the Committee of Council that the Ode “Newfoundland”, written by His Excellency Sir Cavendish Boyle, K.C.M.G., Governor of Newfoundland, with the musical setting by Professor E.R. Krippner, be approved, and officially recognized  as the Colonial Anthem.”  

That should have been it, all was required was the signature of the Governor.  The Governor however refused to sign. Arthur Mews, The Deputy Colonial Secretary of the day wrote:

“His Excellency (Governor Boyle) from motives of delicacy, did not formally approve the same at that time.”

The “delicacy’ was that  Governor Boyle was  both author of the Ode and Governor, it simply did not look proper that he sign off on his own Ode.

The Premier of the day, Sir Robert Bond, determined  that the Ode  become the official anthem suggested that given the hesitation of  Governor Boyle  that approval be  given by the Hon. W.H. Horwood, C.J. , Administrator of the Government.  But it was not to happen.

By 1904, the ‘Newfoundland’  had become firmly established, in the minds  of most people,  as the “official anthem”  of the Dominion of Newfoundland,  there was no Government function without the ‘Newfoundland’, it was sung at most public gatherings, in parish halls and concert halls.   It was so firmly established  that in the 1909 General Election, Robert Bond proposed that if elected he would be certain  to  make it the “official”  anthem of the country.

Bond lost the election.

Nothing was said of the official status of the Ode until 1972.   Frank Graham in his book  “We Love Thee Newfoundland” Biography of Sir Cavendish Boyle, wrote:

“At an event in St. John’s it was observed that a certain military group failed to observe protocol and the proprieties by coming to attention and showing the proper respect during the playing of Newfoundland’s anthem. The commanding officer was called on the carpet to explain the unseemly conduct of his men.  The officer defended himself and his group  by explaining that there was noting on the statue books to confirm the fact that the Ode  was Newfoundland’s Provincial anthem.  It transpired that he was right.”

In 1974  their was a resurgence of interest in making the Ode official, (driven by Lieutenant Governor, Gordon A. Winter,)  that resulted in the introduction  of the Provincial Anthem Act  for the Province of Newfoundland.  On May 2, 1975 the legislation  became official. It reads:

“The poem commonly called the Ode to Newfoundland, composed by Sir Cavendish Boyle, Governor of Newfoundland  from 1901 -1904, as it appears in the schedule is adopted as the provincial anthem of the Province of Newfoundland and shall be officially known and recognized as the Ode to Newfoundland.”

The Ode  to Newfoundland

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white

at winter’s stern command

Through shortened days and

starlit nights we love thee frozen land

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee frozen land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, frozen land.

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shores

and wild waves wash their strands,

Through spindrift swirls and tempest roars

we love thee windswept land,

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee

windswept land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, windswept land.

As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

Recommended Archival Collection: Take some time to look at  MG 956.110 at the Rooms;  this cover illustration featuring the Ode to Newfoundland depicts some of the iconic symbols and images of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Book: “We Love Thee Newfoundland” Biography of Sir Cavendish Boyle, K.C.M.G. Governor of Newfoundland 1901 -1904 by Frank W. Graham.  Creative Printers, St. John’s, 1979.

Recommended Reading:  Geoff Butler, Ode to Newfoundland. Lyrics by Sir Cavendish Boyle. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2003.


Portuguese Commemorate Newfoundland Connections

August 17, 2017

Portuguese Fishermen

The Commanding Officer of the Portuguese, Naval Ocean Patrol vessel, NRP Viana do Castelo has confirmed that it will be docking in St. John’s on Thursday, August 17th and his crew will lay a memorial wreath in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, St. John’s at the grave of White Fleet fisherman, Dionisiv Esteves.

The wreath laying ceremony will take place on Thursday morning, August 17 at 11:00 a.m. The short ceremony, in the cemetery at Kennas Hill and the Boulevard.

 Dionisiv Esteves, died during the 1966 fishing campaign while unloading his daily catch of codfish. He was crushed between his swamped dory and the steel hull of the fishing vessel Santa Maria Manuela. His unmarked grave site, which was discovered, (four years ago) has come to symbolize all those Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 Since the grave was discovered the daughter of Dionisiv Esteves has come forward to learn more about the father that she never met.  His brother, Fernando Esteves has also come forward to make inquiries about the resting place of his brother.  Last year a Portuguese film crew began filming for a documentary that tells the story of Dionisiv Esteves and the Portuguese fishermen working in the North Atlantic.

 This year Captain Tenente  of the Viana De Castello will be assigning  naval personnel for the Mt Carmel wreath laying ceremony.  The ceremony is an attempt to recall the long association of the people of Newfoundland with the ‘White Fleet.’

 Also attending the service will be Admiral Henrique Lila Morgado the assistant to the chief of Staff of the Portuguese Navy.

 Immediately following this ceremony, a short visit to the Fatima Grotto at the Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist will take place.  The Statue of the Lady of Fatima was a gift to the people of St. John’s from the Portuguese White Fleet fishermen in 1955. This was traditionally the altar that the Portuguese fishermen of the ‘White Fleet’ prayed at before they left the port of St. John’s to return to the Grand banks and eventually home.

 The Viana De Castello is part of a fisheries inspection mission in the NAFO zone off the Grand Banks. The vessel I will remain in port until August 19.

 The  Portuguese Commanding Officer  invites the public to attend these ceremonies.


Local businessman and author, Jean Pierre Andrieux  was responsible  for spearheading a financial campaign four years ago to raise funds to erect a memorial at the grave site of Esteves that now serves to remember all Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing in Newfoundland waters.

 The wreath laying ceremony is open to the public. Those attending are encouraged to use the Kenna’s Hill entrance to the cemetery.


11:00: Mount Carmel Cemetery

11:45: Basilica Cathedral

 In case of  inclement weather (rain) all events will be moved to the Basilica Cathedral.