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RIP Larry Dohey

Readers of this blog will know by now the sad news that our dear friend Larry has passed away.

Trinity. 2006.

This website had a humble beginning. It started as a simple email that he would send to a bunch of addresses that he’d collected over the years. Larry loved finding new email addresses to add to his address book. Back then there were no websites, no servers, no newsletters, no unsubscribe buttons. Just a personal email every week or two or three with an interesting story from Larry. I would often be surprised to have someone tell me that they get these emails leaving me thinking: “Now how did Larry get that email address?”. He would get calls at his desk at the Archives in the Basilica from people asking to be added to these group emails.

In the Fall of 2011, those group emails grew up to become this website. Larry and I were at The Duke enjoying a drink or two or three, having the same conversation we’d had a hundred times — “I wish there was some way to put all of these Archival Moments out there for everyone”. He’d been writing them and emailing out every week for the past few years and really had no idea who was reading, nor how they were all being received. We later learned that these emails were forwarded far and wide to a huge network of people that far eclipsed his small collection of email addresses.

Before I left The Duke that night, I asked Larry to send me every Archival Moment he had on his computer. I went home and bought the domain name, setup a server and a new website. Bright and early the next day Larry sent me dozens of horrifically formatted Word documents to be added to the site. He had all the old ones he’d sent out, plus a several dozen more that he was actively working on distributing in the coming months. I wrote a quick import script to clean up the formatting issues and with that, Larry was launched.

If memory serves me correctly, our goal was to have 20 Archival Moments cleaned up and published before we spread the word to anyone. As your inboxes can attest, the site has grown considerably since then—there are currently 455 Archival Moments. His audience of a few dozen has grown as well—almost 900 of you receive these via email. In the past month we’ve had almost 8,000 visitors, in the past year almost 140,000. In July, we had our 1,000,000th visitor. The New York Times gets this much traffic every day, but for a small, local site like this one, these are astonishing numbers.

The most popular post on the site is about, of course, a Newfoundlander — James Foster McCoubrey, who was for a time the oldest man in the world. Mr. McCoubrey’s post was read almost 8,000 times back in June of 2013 and 26,000 times since then. Next in popularity was a post about Old Christmas Day, after that, one about a Mysterious Iceberg, one about the Veiled Virgin, and one about the long and hungry month of March. Larry covered everything: from Amelia Earhart, to the Great Fire of 1892, race and shipwrecks, sex, the Titanic, Regatta Roulette, the Olympics, and a proposed international airport in Trepassey(!).

Every year, Larry and I would get together for an official lunch and talk about the site. I’d print out the stats and the popular posts from the last year, Larry would sit and wonder if the traffic numbers were “good” (they certainly were) and if the visitors were all real people or mostly “bots” (his actual word). We called it the Archival Moments Annual General Meeting Luncheon. I was going to schedule this year’s AGM for tomorrow.

Who am I?  I’m just one of the countless people Larry befriended and mentored along the way. My good friend Allan and I had the tremendous fortune of working at the Basilica Archives with Larry in our early 20s as we mapped out what it was we were going to do with our lives and careers. These were certainly my happiest years of work as I was surrounded daily by Larry infectious positivity (not to mention the very long lunches). I can still hear Larry’s kettle click on, come to a boil and click off hour after hour, all day long. He’d finish up a phone call or a meeting and emerge from his office, click down the button on the kettle only to have the phone ring again and draw him back. If not for the phone, Larry would have drowned in tea.

My intention is to continue to host this site, for its importance as a record of knowledge great and small. It will live on as a tiny corner of the internet dedicated to this special island and the man who loved it so dearly.

Larry was a humble and enthusiastic servant to the past and to the people who wanted to learn about it. He leaves behind a hole no one can fill, a sadness we’ll always endure and a joy we’ll always feel. May he rest in peace.

Terry Sutton,
St. John’s

Crime thriller pairs police and archivist

Crime thriller pairs police and archivist

The Telegram (St. John’s)3 Aug Twitter: @Barbsweettweets BARB SWEET

Author Helen C. Escott based the archivist helping her new thriller’s main police investigator on The Rooms’ own Larry Dohey.

(St. John’s, NL)  There’s a new kind of crime fighter in the fictional world, and author Helen C. Escott based the archivist helping her new thriller’s main police investigator on The Rooms’ own Larry Dohey.

Dohey, director of programming and public engagement and author of the popular Archival Moments blog, makes his fictional debut as Larry Morgan in Escott’s book, in which Morgan helps main character Cpl. Gail Mcnaughton delve into the mystery of missing and murdered women cases dating back to the 1950s.

Dohey hadn’t had a chance to read the hot-off-the-press book yet when The Telegram spoke to him Friday. But reading a passage on page 28, when Mcnaughton first encounters Morgan, he laughed, “I’m not yet in my 60s.”

The rest of the physical description is pretty close to the real-life Larry — stylish with a distinct smile, accent and facial expressions.

“(His) hair was a mixture of greyish brown, with flecks of white in his sideburns. His square glasses sat on the end of his nose, and his broad smile made him look like your favourite teacher,” reads the depiction of Morgan.

Escott’s fictional take on the archivist is that he is the son of a murdered woman.

 “Archivists typically don’t make it into a book,” said Dohey.

All the time, though, they help researchers, writers, filmmakers and journalists with historical accuracy, and point them in the right direction to track down historical clues.

Dohey said that when Escott approached him, he offered a depiction of what was happening in rural Newfoundland in the 1950s and who would have been travelling around at the time.

“Apparently I just grew in her imagination and made it into the pages of the book,” said Dohey.

He was looking forward to reading the book and finding out how closely Morgan resembles him, but said, generally in literature, if archivists are mentioned, they are stereotyped as being elderly and dowdy, and with thick glasses.

“One thing I do love about this idea of an archivist being in the book is it gives us a chance to show the potential of archives, the contents of the archives and how they can be used by a writer or filmmaker,” Dohey said.

In the past, he has helped solved a few mysteries.

He helped track down the grave of an unknown Portuguese sailor who died in Newfoundland waters.

He also helped someone, after a lot of digging, prove their father-in-law was a First World War veteran.

Dohey is anticipating a little bit of teasing for his newfound notoriety, and had a good-natured response to whether, if he was ever offered, he would go for a TV series as a crime-fighting archivist.

“All of us archivists are always available to help in any way,” he said.

Escott said Larry Morgan wasn’t meant to be a character in the book, but after constantly going back and forth to do research on old newspapers and records, and the help she received from Dohey, she began to wonder, why haven’t the police used an archivist before to solve crime? She said it seems original to feature one in a crime thriller.

And Escott found Dohey so interesting, she had to put him in the book.

“It worked out really well, I got to say. It was meant to be,” she said.

The main character is named for Chris Macnaughton, an RCMP inspector who investigated the murder of St. John’s teenager Dana Bradley. Escott knew Macnaughton, who is now retired, from her career in media relations/communications, from which she is now retired as an RCMP civilian employee. (Bradley’s murder is still unsolved — she went missing on Topsail Road in December 1981 and her body was found in a wooded area off Maddox Cove Road.)

 The character Cpl. Gail Mcnaughton takes her first name from real-life Staff Sgt. Gail Courtney.

 Escott said she would talk to Macnaughton once a month to ensure authenticity, and she goes out of her way to make her characters real.

 The character Mcnaughton is caring for a mother with dementia.

 “I always make them real people with real problems,” Escott said.

 The major characters in “Operation Vanished” are also gay.

 Escott’s inspiration for the plot came from a fascination with fairy stories in Newfoundland and Labrador, originating from Ireland, Scotland and England, that often explained the disappearance or murder of women and children as being caused by fairies.

One such story revolved around a woman beaten beyond recognition, Escott said.

Though attributed by the community to the work of a fairy, in reality the woman was beaten by a relative, and as was often typical of the time, the crime was dismissed because she wasn’t from the community, the jailing of the man would leave his family destitute and women were too often dismissed as having deserved their fate.

Escott noted women were not officially persons until 1929, and even so, that never slowed the incidence of violence against them.

“There has never been a time when men were not considered persons under the law,” she said.

There were few women in the media in the 1950s to drive equal coverage, she noted, and when a woman did go missing, it would take a Mountie a day or two to reach the community.

Often women were just not considered important enough for crimes against them to be properly reported or pursued.

And so, the fairies were used to explain away the dark goings on in families — the fairies were said to not like streetlights and prefer isolated communities, Escott said.

 She hopes Morgan and Mcnaughton will one day team up with the RNC investigator from her first thriller, “Operation Wormwood,” in a future book.

 “Operation Vanished,” is published by Flanker Press.


St. John’s woman made mailbag that was aboard Alcock and Brown’s historic flight

Sew much history

The Telegram (St. John’s)14 Jun 2019  by ROSIE MULLALEY


Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL A47-24 Brown holding the mailbag and Alcock holding a model plane.

She wasn’t on the plane that made the first transatlantic flight 100 years ago, but Mary Jackman’s contribution to that momentous flight is sewn into the fabric of Newfoundland history.


In flying the modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from here on June 14, 1919, across the Atlantic Ocean before landing in Clifden, Ireland, 16 hours and 12 minutes later — the first non-stop flight from North American to Europe — British aviators Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown of the Royal Air Force took aboard a bag full of mail.

A skilful seamstress, Jackman was the one who made that bag.

“She was a wizard. She could do anything,” Jackman’s granddaughter, Shirley Birmingham, told The Telegram Thursday. “She was a magnificent seamstress, a magnificent cook, a magnificent housekeeper.

“I found out way too late that I should have appreciated my grandmother.”

Birmingham, 95, was raised by her grandmother and grandfather, Capt. John Jackman, after her mother died in 1930, when Birmingham was just six years old.

Photo Credit: The Rooms. A-46-159 Large crowds gathered at Lesters Field to witness history.

Her grandmother — who was born Mary Ann Deally in 1863 — died in 1946, but Birmingham will always have happy memories of her making clothes for the family in their home at 206 Lemarchant Rd. in St. John’s.

“She made my clothes, my (St. Patrick’s) school uniform and my two older sisters’ clothes, and it was all so marvelous,” said Birmingham, adding that the fabric her grandmother used came from the English merchants back in those days.

“There were many things she made — men’s gloves with stitches made so finely in the back. My daughter even wore a coat that she made.”

Birmingham said her grandmother likely got to make the bag because her brother, Jim, worked at the post office at the time.

She had known for years that her grandmother had made the mailbag that was aboard the flight with Alcock and Brown. She wanted to ensure her grandmother was recognized for it this year during the centennial celebrations.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL The Alcock and Brown mailbag is on exhibit T The Rooms – 4th level.

Birmingham mentioned it to several people when she attended the Field of Flights exhibit, held at Admiralty House Communications Museum in Mount Pearl last month to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Alcock and Brown’s transatlantic flight. While sifting through albums with historic photos, one featured a photo of Alcock and Brown with the mailbag.

“I think people would find that of interest,” said Birmingham, who lives in St. John’s with her 86-year-old husband, Gerald. “It’s history. It’s Newfoundland history. Many people will forget it, but not me.”

One of the organizers of the exhibit suggested she call Larry Dohey, Director of Programming and Public Engagement at The Rooms, which houses much of this province’s archives.

Dohey working with Museum curators investigated the claim and checked the bag, which is on display at The Rooms, and found Mary Jackman’s name on the inside seam.

“One of the big reasons for the transatlantic flight was to provide better communication around the world,” Dohey explained. “As a result, mail that took weeks before that took a much shorter period of time. It was a very significant accomplishment for many reasons.”

The mailbag is part  of a self-guided aviation tour of the Rooms that  allows visitors to  see the mail bag in the context  of related aviation photographs.  The Rooms also  opened an aviation exhibit   ‘Second to None: The History of Aviation in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Through documents, images, artifacts and artwork from The Rooms collections, this exhibition features highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.

The centennial celebrations will also feature several private and public events, including a commemorative flight to Ireland, an aviators’ ball, a garden party, a downtown concert, a commemorative sculpture, a city reception, a historic stage production and a commemorative print.

Flight Across Conception Bay Made in 25 minutes


June 11, 1919

Photo Credit: The Rooms; A10:36 Handley Page “Atlantic” Over Harbour Grace, June 1919.

All eyes on June, 1919, in St. John’s and Harbour Grace were looking towards the skies for an opportunity to see one of the many flying machines and their crews that were in St. John’s and Harbour Grace making preparations to participate in the first non-stop transatlantic crossing of the Atlantic.

Four teams were in the country (now province) to compete for a prize of $10,000 and a place in aviation history. They were the team of the Australian pilot Harry Hawker and Scottish navigator Kenneth F. Mackenzie-Grieve; the British aviators Frederick Raynham (pilot) and C.W.F. Morgan (navigator); the British aviators John Alcock (pilot) and Arthur Whitten Brown (navigator and the Handley Page Company Group, led by British pilot Mark Kerr, Handley Page was a British aircraft manufacturer.

On June 10, 1919 residents of Conception Bay and St. John’s were treated to a test flight by the Handley Page Company Group, led by British pilot Mark Kerr and Major Brackley .

The local newspaper the Daily Star reported:

“The Handley- Page plane made a splendid take off on Tuesday afternoon. The wind was westerly, a moderate breeze, and the machine took the air in less than one hundred yards, having reached the height of 2000 feet, she was headed for St. John’s, across Conception Bay, passing over Bell Island at an altitude of 3000 feet, and reached St. John’s in twenty-five minutes. The distance from here to St. John’s is twenty-five miles in a direct line.”

Having reached St. John’s, the aviators circled over the city for ten minutes, then headed westerly, passed along the south side of Conception Bay for thirty miles, then turning northeasterly, flew along the coast line, passing over the settlements and towns along the north side of the bay from Holyrood to their destination at Harbor Grace.

The weather was ideal for flight, the sky being cloudless, the sun shining warmly and visibility good. The flight was witnessed by the majority of the residents of the Conception Bay towns, and the machine was clearly outlined against the horizon and presented a novel sight to the people of the whole coast, both sides of Conception Bay, many of whom saw a plane in flight for the first time.

The people looking to the skies were fascinated. The St. John’s Daily Star reported:

“The horny handed fishermen-farmers watched with intense interest the huge bird-like machine passing gracefully overhead. Women and children left their dwellings, abandoned their work, and made their way to vantage points and watched the flying machine until lost to sight. “

It seemed as if the crew  desired to give the inhabitants of Conception Bay towns an opportunity to see the huge plane on the wing, as he traversed a course returning to Harbor Grace best calculated to accomplish this object. Whether this deduction is correct or not, it is construed by many; and doubtless the residents along the Conception Bay settlements appreciated the opportunity afforded them to see the biggest plane of its class in the world make its first trial trip this side of the Atlantic.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, B21-101 HandleyPage aircraft at Harbour Grace

The landing was made as gracefully as the ascent, the machine taking the ground at 5.47 p.m., having been an hour and seventeen minutes in the air, and covering approximately. 110 miles, averaging ninety miles an hour.

On the return trip the aviators ascended to about 5000 feet, at which height they found the temperature only slightly cooler than at the surface, and the wind practically in the same direction. The landing was made heading eastward, although the wind was westerly, but not strong.

The local papers noted that  Rear Admiral Kerr and Major Brackley says  were ” well satisfied with the result of their trial flight  ”  but  the reality was that during the first trial flight the crew discovered an overheating problem and realized that new radiators would have to be installed.

Speculation  about which  would be off first, Vickers or Handley-Page to set off  was strong.   It was said that “Competition is growing keen” .

Photo Credit: The Rooms; A-47-15 Arthur Brown and John Alcock

Note:   The dream of Kerr and Brackley to be the first to make the nonstop flight over the Atlantic were dashed just a few days later when on June  14, 1919, Alcock and Brown took off from Lester’s Field , St. John’s at 1:45 p.m. in a Vickers Vimy biplane fitted with two Rolls-Royce engines. The two landed nose down in a bog at to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland16 hours later. They received the Daily Mail prize for completing the world’s first nonstop transatlantic flight and were knighted by King George V.

Source: The St. John’s Daily Star

Recommended: Aviation Tour at The Rooms:  Discover some of the gems in the collections at The Rooms. Take a self guided tour and find the mailbag carried on the flight by Alcock and Brown, the Marquette for the Alcock and Brown  Memorial at the Manchester Airport and the Rooms is home to a large collection of Alcock and Brown related photographs.

New Exhibit Opening:  June 14, 2019  at The Rooms: Second to None: The History of Aviation in Newfoundland and Labrador.  This country (now province) has played a significant part in the history of aviation.  From the transatlantic flights by Alcock and Brown and Amelia Earhart through the Second World War and Operation Yellow Ribbon, the role of Newfoundland and Labrador is second to none. Through documents, images, artifacts and artwork from The Rooms collections, this exhibition features highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.

Recommended: 2019 Alcock and Brown Celebrating 100 years:  Celebrations Schedule

Alcock and Brown: Flew Very Low —Trip Successful — Aviators Pleased


June 10, 1919

Photo Credit: The Rooms: A-47-3 Test Flight Over Lester’s Field

ST JOHN’S  had the pleasure of seeing another airplane yesterday afternoon when the  Vickers Vimy  bi-plane, constructed at Pleasantville, made its trial trip over the city. It attracted every eye and it flew so low that many citizens thought it would drop at any moment. It did not descend, however, until it reached Lester’s field, Cornwall Avenue, where the new hangar is being erected and from where it will start on its transatlantic flight. It was not generally known that the trial flight would be made yesterday and consequently there were not many spectators but those present witnessed a very graceful ‘take off.’

At 4.30 Capt. J. Alcock, D.S.C., pilot, and Lieut. A. W. Brown, navigator, having donned their air clothes, started their flight, rising where the Martinside left the earth on her trial spin and near where she met with the accident a few weeks later.

She rose after a run of about 40 and continued eastward over Signal Hill. The machine then turned westward and after circling over the city continued west at a speed of 95 miles an hour until it reached the bottom of Conception Bay. Though very few were present for the take-off, as it I was not expected the Vickers  would be ready to fly, the noise  off the two Rolls-Royce engines quickly attracted the people, who watched with deep interest the movements of the machine as it gracefully swept over the town and out towards Holyrood.

Photo Credit: A-47-5 Alcock and Brown Assembling of the Vickers Vimy

Having reached the latter place the return trip was made, Capt. Alcock again circling the Vickers over the city and went out over the south side hills to beyond Cape Spear. After flying to and fro for about 47 minutes Capt. Alcock shaped his course  flying at a very low altitude  the new aerodome, Lester’s field, where a perfect landing was made, the machine being brought to a standstill before it covered 50 yards after taking the ground.

On her way to Lester’s field she flew so low that many thought she I would strike some of the houses, but Messrs. Alcock and Brown knew their business and reached the  landing place without the slightest mishap.

The aviators expressed themselves as highly pleased with the satisfactory results obtained from the engines, scarcely any trouble being given during the 47 minutes’ flight. It will be necessary however, before they start the trans-Atlantic flight to make some adjustments and also to test their compasses, which means that the attempt cannot possibly be made before tomorrow. Besides they have to take on board 870 gallons of fuel for their engines and other equipment, but it is hoped that most of; this work will be accomplished today.

Photo Credit: The Rooms. A-46-159 Large crowds gathered at Lesters Field to witness history.

The airmen have decided to take; their departure from Lester’s field, which has been put in first class condition by a staff of men. The ground is perfectly hard and a better starting place it would be difficult to locate. Messrs. Alcock and Brown are confident that they will make the Atlantic flight without mishap.

They have not yet decided where they will land. It may be in Ireland but of everything goes as satisfactorily as they hope, they will continue on to London. The machine is now receiving the finishing touches and as soon as the compasses are tested and the weather conditions over the ocean are favorable the start will be made.

Last evening thousands of citizens visited the hangar and all were favorably impressed with the bi-plane. Messrs. Alcock and Brown have the best of St. John’s for a successful flight.

Source: St. John’s Daily Star, 1919-06-10

Recommended: Aviation Tour at The Rooms:  Discover some of the gems in the collections at The Rooms. Take a self guided tour and find the mailbag carried on the flight by Alcock and Brown, the Marquette for the Alcock and Brown  Memorial at the Manchester Airport and the Rooms is home to a large collection of Alcock and Brown related photographs.

Recommended: 2019 Alcock and Brown Celebrating  100 years:  Celebrations Schedule



US Navy ships Trepassey Bay May 6, 1919

In May 1919 an estimated 8500 American naval crew arrived in Trepassey Harbour and immediately commenced  establishing a ‘naval base’  laying out a square  and erecting tents to serve as ‘shore canteens’.   The canteens would serve drinks, cigarettes tobacco and other ‘luxuries’.

The Naval vessels that had anchored in the harbour  would eventually be stationed at about 50-mile (80 km) spacings  as guides  for American planes that were flying  from  Trepassey  to Portugal via the Azores, thus completing the first successful (although not non-stop) transatlantic flight.

Looking about the town the Americans were quick to rent the largest building in the community the Temperance Hall which they quickly fitted for concerts. Their plan was to have the ships band give selections in the evenings bolstered with some excellent singers and good musicians that were among the crews.

The St. John’s newspaper the Daily Star reported:

“Notwithstanding the change from fine to damp and somewhat foggy weather last afternoon, the men on shore leave enjoyed themselves well. They have one cause of complaint and that is the absence of places where they can spend their cash allowances in small wares and buy sweetmeats, chocolates and candies for their numerous friends of the village.”

Trepassey in 1919 had but one shop and its shelves were empty within hours of the arrival of the Americans.

The Daily Star reported:

“As Trepassey depends mainly on daily supplies of necessities from the city (St. John’s) no extensive business has been undertaken by any dealer here, hence the scarcity of such things that the Yankee sailor finds.”


The St. John’s newspaper, the Evening Telegram was the first out of the gate to report on the armada of American Naval vessels in Trepassey  Harbour but according to The St. John’s Daily Star  the people of Trepassey  were not amused at the coverage. The Star reported:

“The Evening Telegram report yesterday was puerile and greatly exaggerated nonsense.   The few people that I (Daily Star) have shown these extracts are indignant and consider they have been held up to ridicule. The scene depicted of the “natives gathering “and discussing what made the flying machine go and how it was kept in the air “is untrue and a reflection of the good sense and intelligence of the people here and if the Evening Telegram writer had been present at the Trepassey railway station last evening when the men of this place heard it read from my message he would not stand long on the order of his getting away towards the city. He might have been raised a little in the air. Neither the  Yankee sailors nor the people  of Trepassey thank the Evening telegram writer  for his efforts to misrepresent both and cast ridicule on the intelligent people of Trepassey”.

The Evening Telegram was quick to shoot back at the criticism from the Daily Star. Under the banner  “News King at Trepassey”  the Evening Telegram countered:

“The special reporter (Billie Murphy)  of the Telegram  who was in Trepassey for the purposes of obtaining firsthand information of the American activities in connection  with their attempt at crossing the Atlantic  stands by every word of his dispatch from Trepassey, despite the silly article contained in Yesterday’s  Daily Star”.

The Evening Telegram took another critical shot at The Daily Star suggesting that their manner of collecting news was very suspect. The Star did not have a reported in Trepassey they were basing their reports on news from locals in the town.  The Evening Telegram wrote:

“The public must not regard seriously a paper that receives a few dozen words and then adds and pads about ten times as much to it, the addition being pure conjecture and in one instance, at least, the frothy ebullitions of an intensely jealous Star scribe”.

Evening Telegram reporter J. R. Smallwood


It appears that the Evening Telegram sent along another young news reporter to Trepassey, J. R. (Joey) Smallwood, just 19 years old,  the future premier of  Newfoundland and Labrador.

On May 30, 1919, Joey described as “one of the Telegrams reportorial staff” received a letter from Mr. Balcon S. Bond, the Chief Radiograph Officer of the U. S. S. Prairie, one of the American Naval vessels that anchored in Trepassey during the time (May 6 – May 16, 1919) while the America Navy’s transatlantic flight was being made ready.

The young naval officer wrote:

“Your papers (the Evening Telegram) were received with great delight, and I must express my own, and also the staffs’ appreciation of their contents.   The Telegram is as good as any paper in the little old city of New York.”

He went on to write that the Americans enjoyed their stay in Trepassey and appreciated the hospitality. He wrote:

“Nine-tenths of the Prairie’s crew was sorry to leave Trepassey, for the people there have given us some good times. Fishermen would take us in parties from our ship and show us around the district. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you of some of the good times we had in dear old Trepassey and I am sure that the village will never be forgotten.

 Many homes gave us suppers for the small amount of fifty cents, and it was some supper. About  four good fresh eggs, a large piece of ham, as many cups of coffee or tea as you could drink, and good old home-made bread and butter. If you were to call for a supper like that in New York, I am sure it would cost you two and a half dollars easily” .

Curtiss NC-4 departs Trepassey, Newfoundland , May 1919


On May 16, 1919, three United States Navy-Curtiss Flying Boats (the NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4) left Trepassey harbor.   The NC-4 managed to fly to Portugal via the Azores, thus completing the first successful (although not non-stop) transatlantic flight.

On May 27, 1919 NC-4 became the first aircraft of any kind to fly across the Atlantic Ocean – or any of the other oceans. The part of this flight just from Trepassey, Newfoundland to Lisbon had taken a total time 10 days and 22 hours, but with the actual flight time totaling just 26 hours and 46 minutes.

It all started in Trepassey,  100 years ago this month!!

Recommended Exhibit: The Rooms: NEW EXHIBIT Opening   SOON    “Second to None: Highlights from the History of Aviation in Newfoundland & Labrador”   Newfoundland and Labrador has played a significant part in the history of aviation. Through archival documents and images from The Rooms Provincial Archives supplemented with artifacts from The Rooms Provincial Museum, this exhibition will feature highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.











Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Date: Sunday, May 19
Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Where: The Rooms Theatre
Cost: Included With Admission

Join us at The Rooms for a special performance by Aileen Lambert whose singing is rooted in the English language repertoire of her native County Wexford, Ireland. Many if the songs that she will sing are from her CD “The Wexford Lovers; Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland.”  Traditional Songs sung in Wexford but also found in Fermeuse, St. Shotts, Fogo, Branch and other communities in Newfoundland.

Bring along the children too for this performance as a number of songs have accompanying actions and are guaranteed to get everyone moving and singing to the top of their voices. The first half of the concert will be centered on child friendly songs, where Aileen will be joined by her daughters Nellie (age 9), Eppie (age 6) and Nan (age 4) to perform songs with tall stories such as ‘Paddy and the Whale’ to songs of nonsense like ‘Little Pack o’ Tailors’. Nellie will also share her love of ‘sean-nós’ Irish dancing (gaelic for ‘old-style’).

Aileen and her husband Michael Fortune (folklorist/filmmaker) are currently spending a month based in the community of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, to record and document traditional song, folklore, customs and sayings.   To follow their activities and research check out  or Aileen Lambert – Traditional Singer on FaceBook

An all-ages performance you won’t want to miss.

First come, first served

“Trepassey residents shaken out of their customary staidness”

US Navy ships Trepassey Bay May 6, 1919

In May 1919  (100 years ago)  the international press and aviation enthusiasts throughout the world  were all very interested in what was happening in Trepassey, Newfoundland.

The Evening Telegram reported on May 6, 1919:

“Never before in its uneventful history has the small settlement of Trepassey been filled with such excitement as today permeates that place. For from a vague idea of what the much talked of Transatlantic flight is, the little village has in a flash become a very centre of operations, and already the people there have become used to the sight of nearly a dozen American cruisers anchored in the harbor.“

On May 6 the residents of Trepassey sat on the banks overlooking the harbour to witness the arrival of a two American naval vessels.   They were unannounced and unexpected. On Saturday morning two more vessels anchored in the harbour. Before the end of the week there would be a dozen naval vessels  with a crew of approximately 8,500.

The Telegram reported:

The furor caused by the entirely unexpected arrival of the U. S. N. “Kistoo” late Friday afternoon, and that caused on Saturday by the arrival of two others, the flagship “Prairie” and the seaplane mother ship,” “Aroostock,” had best be left to the imagination.”

Everyone in Trepassey and residents of nearby St. Shott’s were all up bright and early on Saturday morning – all gathered in small clusters trying to figure out what was happening.   It was eventually revealed

“ a seaplane was lowered to the water and, running along the surface for a short distance, ascended into the air and went circling off over the harbour and village”.

Curtiss NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland May 16, 1919


 There was much excitement – never had anyone in Trepassey seen a flying machine in the skies before.

The newspapers reported:

“As in the case of the Martinsyde biplane’s test flight, the gulls and other sea birds that were peacefully floating on the waters were startled out of their calm and flew away to safety out of reach of this new manner, of bird that had invaded the quietness of the placid air of the port.

The gentle sheep, the more spirited goats and the virile ponies that browsed along the grassy slopes of the immediately surrounding country were panic-stricken at the sight of the seaplane and more so, perhaps, at the unearthly sound of the powerful motor, and for a long time after the flier had dropped back to the harbor they capered madly about the fields and the winding lanes that constitute the roads of the village.

Not less than the animals, it must be admitted, the people themselves were shaken out of their customary staidness, and for hours after they met in little groups and discussed this new wonder that had come amongst them, and a most amusing feature of these conferences were the wild hazards of the natives as to what “drove” the plane and what kept it in the air. This problem has not been solved at Trepasey yet. “

At about 1.30 the seaplane made another flight, circling over the harbour for about half an hour. The inhabitants now lined up along the beach, and although not so excited as on the day preceding they were just as interested as ever.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL Flying Boats Trepassey A47-42


The U. S. Navy were attempting   to cross the Atlantic by air using four seaplanes of uniform type.   The flying machines chosen were the Navy-Curtiss machine, built by Curtiss with the cooperation of the Navy; all fitted four Liberty motors, and four propellers.

The plan was that on the voyage across the Atlantic the planes would fly together keeping in sight of each other all the distance.  The navy vessels in Trepassey were to depart Trepassey  Harbour  and were to be posted  along the route with  a total of fifty-seven other ships all along to the Azores, being situated fifty miles apart. Thus, when the seaplanes left Trepassey, flying for the  Azores they  would at no time be more than twenty-five miles away from a cruiser.

Upon arrival at the Azores they were to refuel and begin the fourth leg of the flight, going to Lisbon, in Portugal. Refueling there  and then the fifth and last leg at Plymouth, England.


Lieut. Richard James

The crowd from Trepassey were quick to claim very personal connection to the newly arrived Americans   – they discovered that aboard the “Aroostook” was Lieut. Richard James who laid claim to Trepassey roots.

The locals were quick to tell the reporters   that  Lieut. James was born in Trepassey, but left there some thirty years ago.  (1890’s)   the newspapers reported:

His occupation before Trepassey left him with a minute knowledge of the harbor, and it was he who piloted in the other ships on upon arrival here. There are several people who remembered the old native, and the entire village, needless to state, is proud of him. The fact that, after thirty years absence, he could successfully pilot the cruisers in the harbor, is a high tribute to the knowledge and skill of Lieut James. “


With the population of  Trepassey at approximately 800 what were they to do with 8,500 visitors?

The people of Trepassey wanted to show the men on the navy vessels a good time. The hand of hospitality was extended to them all.  The Telegram reported:

“Last evening a dance was held in one of the houses, several sailors being present, while numerous individual men were invited out to homes in the village.

Newfoundlanders have always been noted for their hospitality and kindness to strangers, and when, Saturday night, the likeable Yank sailors came ashore in quest of adventure and other things, they were  treated with the customary kindness and consideration for which outport people are so famed.

The sailor boys were a “little” disappointed over Trepassey,—for even to the most optimistically minded, Trepassey is not a very modern city—and altho careful not to say this or anything else that would give offence, their long faces told their own story. To make matters worse, the weather, although delightfully clear and fine, was exhilaratingly keen and having recently returned from Cuba the Americans felt the cold pretty badly.

The one and only shop was besieged and raided and every stick of gum, every cigarette and every drink that was in the place absorbed.

Postcards were in demand but here again the postcard fiends were doomed to disappointment.”

One of the naval officers Mr. Balcon S. Bond, the Chief Radiograph Officer of the U. S. S. Prairie, wrote:

“Fishermen would take us in parties from our ship and show us around the district. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you of some of the good times we had in dear old Trepassey and I am sure that the village will never be forgotten.”

He also wrote:

“Many homes gave us suppers for the small amount of fifty cents, and it was some supper. About  four good fresh eggs, a large piece of ham, as many cups of coffee or tea as you could drink, and good old home-made bread and butter. If you were to call for a supper like that in New York, I am sure it would cost you two and a half dollars easily.”


 The newspaper reported:

 The fact is, Trepassey is not a second New York, and nothing but the very necessaries of life are sold there.

A number of sailors who had missed the last boat going to the ships, moored about a quarter mile off the shore, were taken in by people of the village and spent their first night in Newfoundland domiciles.

Sunday morning came in bright and fair and although a rather high N.W. wind blew during the day the sun shone out warmly and the weather was not altogether bad. Again a large number of sailors were given shore leave, and the Roman Catholic Church, the only one in the place, was filled to capacity at both early and late services.

During the day Trepassey was gaily bedecked with flags of all descriptions, flown in honor of the visitors, while the hurrying sailors and sight seeking natives, swiftly moving motor boats from the ships, and devout church-goers made a most interesting sight, one whose equal in interest Trepassey has never before witnessed.”


On Friday evening, May 16, three NC boats roared in turn down Trepassey harbor and flew off into the gathering darkness over the Atlantic.

When the naval vessels were passing out of Trepassey many people were seen on the beach, waving, and many fishermen blew three fog horn blasts. In return the  naval vessels  gave three long blows of her whistle.

On May 27,1919, NC-4’s keel sliced into the waters of the Tagus, Portugal. The first transatlantic flight was indeed an accomplished fact.



The Rooms: NEW EXHIBIT Opening June 7, 2019     “Second to None: Highlights from the History of Aviation in Newfoundland & Labrador”

Newfoundland and Labrador has played a significant part in the history of aviation. Through archival documents and images from The Rooms Provincial Archives supplemented with artifacts from The Rooms Provincial Museum, this exhibition will feature highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.


Join Aviation History NL  as we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Alcock & Brown’s historical non-stop crossing of the Atlantic

Aviation History NL









Mrs. Minnie crossed over, she was the last of the crowd

Mrs. Minnie Murphy

As a teen I remember a “crowd”  in our house.  Minnie Murphy and her husband Tom, Nicky and Sadie Murphy and a few other visitors coming over to our house on “Dohey Square” St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay after the Saturday evening mass.

Every Saturday after mass there was always a few cups of tea, raisin buns, toast with molasses and or a stronger drink for some.   It was inevitable that they would break out into songs and recitations.

Mrs. Minnie was the last of that crowd. Mrs. Minnie crossed over on April 30, 2019 she was 91.

Her voice and the songs that she and others sang in our house on Dohey Square and in many other homes live here:

Visitation will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 12:00 – 2:00 P.M .

Funeral Mass will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3rd at 2:00 P.M.

Inurnment to take place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. Bride’s.