Category Archives: Archival Moments

Is seal flipper, meat or fish?


What to eat on Good Friday? 

Seal Flipper Pie

Seal Flipper Pie

The question has long been a thorny theological issue: is  “seal flipper pie”  meat or fish. It’s an important question because this Friday is ” Good Friday”, and on the menu in many households and restaurants in this province will be “flipper pie”

Good Friday is the day Catholics and others Christians commemorate Jesus’s death on the cross. It’s a day by tradition that most  people abstain from eating meat.  Fish tends to be the meal of choice for Good Friday.

The inclusion of seals within the category of “fish” is a most difficult issue for the more pious or traditional  in the community.

Those that are convinced that seal flipper pie can be served as fish do have some convincing historical  – doctrinal evidence to stand on.

As early as 1555,  the Swedish scholar and Catholic Bishop, Olaus Magnus (1490-1557), last Catholic Archbishop of Uppsala,  (Sweden)  in his history  (Historia de gentibus septenrionalibus. ) wrote that  in Sweden seal flesh was regarded as fish during Lent and eaten on Good Friday.

Research at the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archives indicates seal flippers are classed as fish.

In many Newfoundland and Labrador communities Catholics have been by tradition permitted to eat “flipper pie” during Lent which coincided with the seal-hunt. Local legend says a Pope, through the local bishop, once declared the seal to be a fish so that during Lent and on meatless Fridays, Newfoundlanders had a better chance avail of this “seasonal”  food source.

It has to be true. In a commentary on Bill C-45:  “An Act respecting the sustainable development of Canada’s seacoast and inland fisheries”  federal government officials in the commentary on the document wrote.

“The inclusion of seals within the category of “fish” stems from a long tradition, possibly explained by the ruling of the Church of Newfoundland that seals were fish, “so that even the most pious Newfoundlander can eat seal meat on Friday or during Lent.” 

According to the Code  of Canon Law (1917)  some interpretations  of certain of these church laws suggest that animals associated with water are allowed to be eaten during Lent, such as beaver, otter and frogs. This might also explain why traditionally, in Bay Bulls and the communities of the Southern Shore of Newfoundland that  turrs and sea ducks could be eaten on Fridays in Lent.

So, what will be on your plate on Good Friday?

Recommended Website: Bill C-45: An Act respecting the sustainable development of Canada’s seacoast and inland fisheries. Prepared by: François Côté, Science and Technology Division Elizabeth Kuruvila, Law and Government Division 20 February 2007.

Recommended Reading: D. M. Lavigne and K. M. Kovacs, Harps and Hoods: Ice-Breeding Seals of the Northwest Atlantic, University of Waterloo Press, Waterloo, 1988, p. 104.

Newfoundland Connections to Vimy

One of the most impressive memorials established by the Canadian Government after the First World War is the majestic and inspiring Canadian National Vimy Memorial. This memorial has a significant Newfoundland connection.

The imposing structure was designed by Walter Allward, one of Canada’s most famous sculptors. Alward’s connection to Newfoundland is that he was the son of John Allward and Emma Hart Pittman, who were married at the Anglican Cathedral in St John’s in 1860.

The Allward’s had four children born in Newfoundland; Charles, Elizabeth Ann, Mary, and James. Walter was born in Toronto on 18 November 1876 as was one other brother Frederick William. The Allward’s moved from St John’s to Toronto around 1870.

Allward began work on the Vimy memorial in 1925 and completed it 11 years later at a cost of $1.5 million. It is adorned by 20 allegorical figures representing faith, justice, peace, honour, charity, truth, knowledge, and hope. A key figure and the largest, “Canada Bereft” also known asCanada mourning her fallen sons,” speaks to the country’s wartime losses.

“Canada Bereft”, was carved from a single 30-tonne block. Head bowed in sorrow, she provides a powerful representation of Canada, a young nation grieving her dead. Overlooking the Douai Plain, she gazes down upon a symbolic tomb draped in laurel branches and bearing a helmet and sword. The Vimy Memorial is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians who were killed on French soil and have no known graves.

It was NOT only “Canada that was mourning her fallen sons” at Vimy, Newfoundlanders (then a separate dominion) were also in mourning for the sons that they lost at Vimy. More than 3,000 Newfoundlanders living and working in Canada joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Many were at Vimy fighting side by side with the Canadians.

The Vimy Memorial was unveiled in July 1936 to a crowd of more than 100,000, including 6,000 Canadian veterans who had traveled overseas for the ceremony. The Memorial survived the Second World War, despite fears that German forces would destroy it after France’s surrender. Adolf Hitler visited and was photographed at the site in 1940. Since the Second World War, there have been several formal, and countless informal, Canadian pilgrimages to the Memorial and the 91-hectare park of Canadian trees and shrubs surrounding it.

It is the principal site of Canadian remembrance and commemoration. Beaumont Hamel is the principal site of Newfoundland remembrance and commemoration.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms provincial Archives: [MG 836] The James Spearman Winter collection consists of draft version and article as published in The Veteran (Dec. 1938: p.13, ill.) describing an official visit to the Newfoundland War Memorials in France and Belgium, July 1938, by James Alexander Winter, Commissioner for Home Affairs. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary (Arnaud) Winter. Includes 20 photographs taken by James and Mary (Arnaud) Winter illustrating their trip.

Recommended Reading: The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War: A Guide to the Battlefields and Memorials of France, Belgium, and Gallipoli by Fran Gogos.

Newfoundlanders serving with the Canadian Corps and at Vimy Ridge

Photo Credit: The Rooms: B-1-81 Mary Winter at Vimy, 1938

On April 9, 1917;  100,000 soldiers of the Canadian Corps advanced along the Vimy Ridge, France, in an attempt to drive the German Army away from the French city of Arras. It was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked together – a feat that some said made Canada a nation.

At the crack of dawn on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps came together for the first time and stormed the German-held ridge. By April 12, the Canadians captured Vimy and, as many historians say, forged a new sense of national identity.

3,296 Newfoundlanders working in Canada when the First World was declared signed up to fight with Canada under the flag of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

The price of the victory was 11,000 Canadian casualties, 3,600 deaths. There were about 20,000 German casualties

The history of Newfoundland’s involvement in the First World War is usually recorded separately from the Canadian story, given the province’s status then as a separate dominion. Yet the Canadian and Newfoundland wartime experiences were often intertwined, perhaps nowhere more so than at Vimy and Arras in April 1917.

On 9 April 1917, as the Canadian Corps surged over Vimy Ridge north of Arras, British Third Army attacked eastward from Arras, only a few miles away from Vimy Ridge. The Newfoundland Regiment formed part of that force.

The cost of victory was high – 5,008 soldiers were killed, including many of the Newfoundland members of the Canadian Corps.

Partial List of Newfoundlanders who served with the Canadian Corps killed at Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 1917

Corp. Harry Fowler, # 460060, killed in action on 10 Apr. 1917 , 44th Battalion , Vimy Memorial

Pte. Charles Forsey Hickman, # 871526, killed in action on 12 Apr.1917, 44th Battalion, Vimy Memorial

Pte. Dominic Bennett, # 488745, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917 , 25th Battalion, buried in  Thelus Military Cemetery

Pte. John George Baggs , # 715935, killed in action on 9 Apr.1917, Royal Canadian Regiment , buried in La Chaudiere  Military  Cemetery, Vimy

Pte. Frank Patrick Walsh, # 877659, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, 185th Overseas Battalion , Vimy Memorial

Pte. Wilfred Bennett, # 877516 , killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, 73rd Battalion, Vimy Memorial

Sergt. James Maher, #178121, killed in action on 9 Apr.1917, 87th Battalion,  buried in Canadian  Cemetery  No.2, Neuville -St. Vaast

Pte. Augustine Joseph Meehan, # A/36070, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, 4th Battalion , buried in Bois –Carre British  Cemetery, Thelus

Pte. Thomas Whiteway, #761161, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, 121st. Overseas Battalion, buried in Villers Station Cemetery, Villers-Au-Bois

Pte. John Charles Cole , # 1075145, killed in action on 9 Apr., 1917, 67th Pioneer Battalion, Vimy Memorial

Pte. Stanley Frederick Cornick, # 208443, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, The Royal Canadian Regiment, buried in La Chaudiere Military  Cemetery, Vimy

Pte. Edgar Leslie MacKay, # 208444, killed in action on 9 Apr. 1917, The Royal Canadian Regiment, Vimy Memorial

The Role of the Newfoundland Regiment

Photo Credit: The Rooms; A 157 -11 Men of Newfoundland Regiment who saved Monchy

The Battle of Arras commenced on April 9, 1917 and the Newfoundland Regiment soon found themselves in the thick of it. Just before midnight of April 14th, 1917 the Newfoundlanders moved forward in single file to the firing trenches on the eastern outskirts of Monchy-le-Preux, a small French village located about 8 km south east of Arras. In the inky darkness the men proceeded at a snail’s pace through the littered fields, picking their way among the dead horses which lay in disordered piles covered with a thin mantle of snow.

Later that day the Battalion counted its losses. The fatal casualties were exceeded only by the number of those who fell at Beaumont Hamel; and one-quarter of the Newfoundland officers and men who went into action at Monchy-le-Preux became prisoners of war.

The Newfoundland losses incurred from April 12 to 15, 1917, based on existing information, total 460 all ranks. Seven officers and 159 other ranks were killed (or died of wounds), seven officers and 134 other ranks were wounded and three officers and 150 men were taken as prisoners of war. Of these 28 died from wounds or other causes while in captivity.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms provincial Archives:  [MG 836]  The James Spearman Winter collection consists of draft version and article as published in The Veteran (Dec. 1938: p.13, ill.) describing an official visit to the Newfoundland War Memorials in France and Belgium, July 1938, by James Alexander Winter, Commissioner for Home Affairs. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary (Arnaud) Winter. Includes 20 photographs taken by James and Mary (Arnaud) Winter illustrating their trip.

Recommended Reading: The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War: A Guide to the Battlefields and Memorials of France, Belgium, and Gallipoli by Fran Gogos.

The sadd face of wynter upon all this land

Archival Moment

April 7, 1623

The Charter of Avalon was granted to George Calvert by King James I on (7 April 1623). The charter created the Province of Avalon on the island of Newfoundland and gave George Calvert (later known as Lord Baltimore) complete authority over all matters in the territory. The charter extended from Ferryland to Petty Harbour, bound to the northwest by Conception Bay and to the west by Placentia Bay. Lord Baltimore chose Ferryland as the principle area of settlement.

In 1625 Sir George Calvert resigned as Secretary of State and declared himself privately to be a Roman Catholic. He was given the Irish title of Baron Baltimore of Longford, a pension of 2,000 pounds per annum, and was now free to devote himself to the flourishing little colony of 100 settlers at Ferryland.

It was not until 23 July 1627 that Lord Baltimore, accompanied by two Catholic priests, Fathers Anthony Smith and Longville, finally set eyes on Ferryland. He was so encouraged by what he saw he returned the following year with his wife, Lady Joan, and all his children except his eldest son, Cecil, who remained behind to look after family affairs in England. He was also accompanied by a third priest, Father Hackett.

Besides problems with French privateers who raided the colony Lord Baltimore was soon involved in a religious dispute. On his arrival in Newfoundland on July 23, 1627 the two Roman Catholic priests he brought with him offered the first mass in British North America at Ferryland in thanksgiving for a safe voyage.

Rev. Erasmus Stourton, the first Church of England Clergyman in Newfoundland, made it his business to check out the rumors of Popish (Roman Catholic) practices at Ferryland. Back in England, Reverend Stourton lost no time in spreading the news that new convert to Catholicism, Lord Baltimore, was encouraging Popery among English subjects at Ferryland. No one apparently took any action about the complaint.

Despite living comfortably in a stone mansion with his family, Calvert (Lord Baltimore) became disheartened over the next year as he had to sustain attacks from French privateers, including the pirate de la Rade (or de la Ralde), and to endure a harsh winter and a food shortage that claimed the lives of 10 settlers and inflicted many others with scurvy.

“The sadd face of wynter upon all this land”

By 1629 Calvert had decided that he did not like his Newfoundland province. He blamed this change of heart on the miserable weather he and his wife endured in 1628 -1629. He complained to his friend Sir Francis Cottington that he had suffered much

“in this wofull country, (Newfoundland) where with one intolerable wynter [winter] we were almost undone. It is not to be expressed with my pen what wee have endured.”

And he told King Charles I:

that from the middest [middle] of October, to the middest of May there is a sadd face of wynter (winter) upon all this land …. “

The winter of 1629 must have been much like this winter.

Recommended Archival Collection:

Tartan Day in Newfoundland and Labrador

Tartan Day in Newfoundland and Labrador

Credit: Barbara Griffin Art Collections
Newfoundland Nostalgia

Tartan Day in Canada, April 6th, has become a yearly event. The concept of Tartan Day began at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia on 09 March 1986.

Tartan day  was chosen to promote Scottish Heritage by the most visible means. The wearing of the Scottish attire, especially in places where the kilt is not ordinarily worn, i.e.: work, play or worship.

Starting originally as ‘Tartan Day in Nova Scotia’, Jean Watson approached every provincial Legislative Assembly in Canada, as well as other Scottish-cultural societies across Canada, to help get such a date established.

After ten years of work, Tartan Day in Canada was approved in every Provincial Assembly from sea to sea by Premier’s proclamation or Members’ Bill. The Provincial Government of Newfoundland & Labrador officially adopted the Newfoundland tartan on 6 April 1995.

The official tartan of Newfoundland and Labrador

 The official tartan of Newfoundland and Labrador was designed in 1955 by Samuel B. Wilansky, a local store owner on Water Street in St. John’s. It was registered in the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1973. The white, gold, and yellow come from the province’s official anthem, “Ode to Newfoundland”:

The green represents the pine forests, the white represents snow, the brown represents the Iron Isle, and the red represents the Royal Standard. Its International Tartan Index number is 1543.

The region of Labrador also has its own design of tartan and it was created by Michael S. Martin. The tartan of Labrador, which can be related to Donald Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, was sent to the Scottish Register of Tartans, which assigned reference number 10004 to the tartan.

Photo Credit: The Rooms VA 59 – 46. Scottish soldier and his lover.

“Some of the greatest builders of Empire in Terra Nova have been and are Scotsmen … “

The Scottish are no stranger to Newfoundland and Labrador, in fact it has been said   that “Some of the greatest builders of Empire in Terra Nova have been and are Scotsmen … “  The evidence is persuasive. Some of the Scottish Merchant Firms in Newfoundland and Labrador include:

Tasker, St. John’s : Rennie Stewart & Company, St. John’s;  McBride & Kerr (Greenock); Goodfellow & Company; Baine, Johnston and Company, Port De Grave and St. John’s (1780);   Walter Grieve and Company, St. John’s’; Robert Hutton, St. John’s; Crawford and Company, St. John’s; Hunter and Company , St. John’s; John Munn and Company, Harbour Grace; William Alexander,Bonavista; Archibald Graham, Trinity’; Baird Brothers, Saltcoats, Ayrshire St. John’s   (1852);    Thomas McMurdo & Company,St. John’s the well-known drug firm, 1823;   The Reid Newfoundland Company;  McPherson , “The Royal Stores, St. John’s;   G. Browning & Son, biscuit manufacturers, Ayrshire.

The tartan they “richt weel” wore, and far across the foam,

 Did foster the old traditions of the dear loved Highland home.

 The land of Burns and Wallace is proud it gave them birth,

 For all have played a noble part in proving Scotland’s worth

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Archives is home to hundreds of photographs that feature individual and family photographs of Scottish heritage.

RNC Officers Carry Guns


April 3, 1998

Royal-Newfoundland-Constabulary-HP-QC-frontThe Newfoundland legislature authorized officers of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to carry sidearm’s on April 3, 1998 ending this provinces status as the only unarmed police force in Canada.   Previously, members of the force kept their weapons in a  locked compartment in their police vehicle.

The Justice Minister of the day Chris Decker made the announcement in the Legislature.

On 2 December 1997, a Select Committee of the House of Assembly was appointed to enquire into the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and report its findings to the House of Assembly by 31 March 1998. The Select Committee conducted research, viewed presentations by interested parties and held public hearings.

The Committee tabled its report to the House of Assembly on 31 March 1999 which recommended that the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary be amended to permit its members on operational duty to wear sidearms as part of their regular uniform.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has the deepest roots of any police force in Canada and possibly North America. These roots date back to 1729 when Newfoundland’s first Governor, Captain Henry Osborn of the Royal Navy, created six separate judicial districts each with justices and constables.

Recommended Reading: Browne, G. (2008) To Serve and Protect: The Newfoundland Constabulary on the Home Front World War Two.St. Johns: DRC Publishing.

Recommended Website:  RNC Historical Society:

Bishop not happy with Confederation



How did Newfoundland vote?

How did Newfoundland vote?

It was no secret that Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, the leader of the Catholic Church in St. John’s during the referendum debates in Newfoundland in 1948 was strongly opposed to Newfoundland joining Confederation.  He took every opportunity that he could to encourage “his people” to vote for Responsible Government.

The anti-confederate forces were divided between the Responsible Government League [RGL] and the Economic Union Party [EUP]. The RGL advocated a simple return to the status Newfoundland had held in 1933.  A group of younger anti-confederates formed the EUP, led by Chesley Crosbie, which promoted the idea of a special economic relationship with the United States.

In contrast, the Confederate Association under Joey Smallwood and Gordon Bradley was better funded, better organized, and had an effective island-wide network. They campaigned hard and with considerable skill and confidence.

On June 3, 1948 the results of the first referendum were released. Confederation received 64,066 votes, 41.1 percent of the total, Responsible government with 69,400 votes (44.6 percent) and Commission government was last, with 22,311 votes (14.3 percent).

A second referendum was set for 22 July 1948, with Commission dropped from the ballot.

Archbishop Roche was not a happy man.  He looked at the results of the first referendum only to find that areas of the province that had a significant Catholic population had voted for Confederation.  He was especially displeased with the people of  Marystown on the Burin peninsula who had voted for Confederation with Canada.  He laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parish priest Reverend John Fleming.

On June 26, 1948 he wrote to the Reverend Fleming:

“Words are cheap; actions speak. In the recent referendum your people of Marystown – a majority of them – aligned themselves against the rest of the Diocese.  This was due largely either to your misguided leadership or to your masterly inactivity.”  200/F/2/1

The Confederation option won a small majority over the Responsible Government choice, Confederation winning by 78,323 votes or 52.34 per cent over 71,344 or 47.66 per cent over the latter. Voter turnout was 84.89 per cent of the registered electors.

The Responsible Government option carried in seven districts, all on the Avalon Peninsula, and the Confederate vote carried in the remaining districts.  The Confederates successfully picked up the vote previously given in the first referendum to the Commission of Government option. The same regional voting pattern evident in the first referendum was also present in the second referendum, with the Roman Catholic vote off the Avalon Peninsula having played a significant role in the Confederate vote.

Reverend John Fleming was not the only Catholic priest to advocate for Confederation. It is said that Joey Smallwood in 1964 on the death of  the Reverend William Collins who had served in many parishes in Placentia Bay attended the wake service of Reverend Collins. At the service it is alleged that Smallwood said:

“When I die and go to the pearly gates, I will greet St. Peter and I will ask if Father Collins is sitting on the heavenly throne ,  if this good Confederation supporter,  this priest has not been welcomed into the heavens, I too will refuse to enter.”

On March 31, 1949, Archbishop Roche would not have  been in  the mood to celebrate.   The act creating the new Canadian province of Newfoundland (now Newfoundland and Labrador) came into force just before midnight on March 31, 1949; ceremonies marking the occasion did not take place until April 1.

The British Parliament passed the necessary legislation on 23 March, and the Terms of Union came into effect “immediately before the expiration of the thirty-first day of March 1949” (Term 50).

With the death of Joey Smallwood in 1991 the Government of Newfoundland asked the Roman Catholic Basilica parish, where Archbishop Roche is buried in the crypt, if they would host the funeral for the former premier.  The Basilica parish agreed.  It was the first time that the two were in the same building.  The choir director (Sister Kathrine Bellamy, RSM ) said  to one of the choir members,  “Would you go down into the crypt and sit on Archbishop Roche’s coffin, for surely he is spinning in his grave that they have allowed Joey in his church.”

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives Division  explore  GN 154  a collection that  consists of minutes of the delegations 41 meetings in St. John’s; letters to the Chairman and the Secretary of the Newfoundland Delegation to Ottawa from societies, business firms, Labour unions, etc. regarding the effect of Confederation on various organizations.

Recommended Exhibit:  Here, We Made a Home. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. The Rooms.   Come over to the Rooms and find Joey Smallwood’s glasses and bowtie.

Recommended Reading: “Newfoundland at the Crossroads” by Dr. John FitzGerald.  A guide through original documents to key issues in Newfoundland’s 20th-century constitutional history. This book reveals the desires of Britain and Canada to bring about Newfoundland’s union with Canada, and shows their close co-operation and the fascinating inner political workings of the confederation campaigns.

Recommended Website:  The 1948 Referendums: