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Private Michael Ryan, Welcomed home to Calvert

February 24, 1919

Calvert, Newfoundland

In February 1919 many young men who had signed up to fight for “King and Country” were returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, many were welcomed home to friends and family with a party in the local parish hall.

Private Michael Ryan (20 years old) of Michael Sr. of Caplin Bay, (now Calvert) arrived home from France by the Corsican, he was home after two years of service having seen some of the most severe fighting of the war, but came through without a wound.

On Friday night (February) 14th the ladies of the harbor tendered Private Ryan a splendid reception in St. Joseph’s School (Caplin Bay, now Calvert) .

JOSEPH Sullivan the Master of Ceremonies (MC) stood before the crowd and said:

   “With feelings of sincere joy and thankfulness to God we heartily welcome you home again. We feel proud of you, and this little reception, is only a slight mark of the honour due you, after putting in two years of constant danger and hardship, so that we may enjoy the privileges of Justice, Freedom and Liberty, which thank God through your and your numerous chums sacrifices have been preserved to the world and to us.”  

Everyone in Calvert was very aware that when Private Ryan left Calvert – he was with his good friend Charlie (Canning) they had left Calvert on the same day to go to the recruiting office in St. John’s, February 8, 1917.

“We are glad to have you back again and our only sorrow, and we feel sure yours also, is that your poor chum Charlie (Canning) who enlisted with you, is not here tonight to share with you our joy, but God willed otherwise, and tonight he like so many others of Our, “Better than the Best” sleeps in a hero’s honoured grave in France, a martyr to the Huns’ frightfulness.”

Standing at the podium Joseph Sullivan the MC for the reception said: “You can be assured that though absent you were never forgotten, and we may say that a continuous prayer for your safety was always on our lips.”

He then presented Private Ryan with a purse, and gold watch and fob (chain) from the men of the men of Caplin Bay (now Calvert) as a remembrance of his home coming.

As he stood on the stage in the parish hall with the watch in hand he looked down at his family that included his father Michael (Sr) sister Hannah, 24, his sister Ellen Sullivan of Caplin Bay, his sister Bride Battcock of Brigus South, and his sister Julie Brine of Cape Broyle.

A man of few words Private Ryan said:

“Believe me my friends that tonight I feel more excited than I ever did at the sight of the FRITZIES  and on that account you must not expect much reply from me to your beautiful address. I can only say I did my plain duty and it was God’s holy will I was to be spared to come home again. I am delighted to be back among you once more to “home sweet home,” and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you all. “

NOTEFritz or Fritizies was also a name given to German troops by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars.


The Passing Over of Michael Ryan – They dropped red poppies in his grave.

Michael Ryan died in May 1955 his obituary read:

“War was the one episode in his life that took Mike away from his beloved Southern Shore.”

For the rest , he lived at Calvert all his life and married (Bridget Clancy) there and raised a large family Michael, James, Francis, Edmund, Helen (Clowe), Reverend William J.,  Reverend Kevin, Philomena Keough, Genevieve and Marie, Presentation Convent, St. John’s.

His obituary reads:

” He was first a good provider and kind father. He was a kindly man to whom his neighbours came in trouble, a wise man to whom his neighbours came for advice – a just man who did the right by all men. For half a century he was part and parcel of everything worthwhile that went on in Calvert. He made to the growth and building up of that community the substantial contribution of good citizenship – and the great contribution of being a man of character doing the things that his place and times required of him.”

A guard of honour of the Canadian Legion escorted the funeral cortege to the cemetery on the hillside towards Ferryland – and when the final prayer had been said and the Legion ritual read, dropped red poppies in his grave. “And they buried him among the fir trees where the hill slopes towards the broad Atlantic – within the sight and the sound of which he had lived all his life”.

Recommended Archival Collection: Regimental Record: Michael Ryan, of Caplin Bay, Regimental # 3468

Recommended Archival Collection: Regimental Record: Charles Canning of Caplin Bay (Calvert)

Recommended Museum Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories.

The Insulting “Vinegar Valentine” Card

February 14, 1938

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

It was Valentine’s Day 1938 and as she did every morning Mrs. Hannah Kelly on Colonial Street, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador picked up the mail and was most excited to find that  she had four Valentine’s cards,  no doubt she thought from admiring friends and neighbours!  But on closer inspection her mood changed, she was furious! She had been delivered four Vinegar Valentine Cards!

The “Vinegar Valentine”, also called “comic valentines,” were unwelcome notes  sometimes insensitive and always  somewhat emotionally harmful.

Vinegar valentines were commercially purchased containing an insulting poem and illustration. They were sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who disliked  him or her; they were often vulgar and even rude.

The vinegar cards that were delivered to 50 Colonial Street, St. John’s were very harsh.

One suggested that Mrs. Kelly was a snooper:

“Everyone knows that you’re a snooper
You snoop the whole day through
If you could hear what people are saying
You’d get their opinion of you.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was a gossip:

“If someone would only cut out your tongue,
So full of venom and guile,
Most happily would the world be freed
From a plague of nuisance and vile”





Photo Credit: The Rooms; St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was “An old sow” that she was a pig!!

“You’re easy and greasy, like a hog in a pen.
But a mountain of flesh is not courted by men.
You’re as rough as a file, and as course as can be,
Like some barbarous maid from the isle of Feegee”




Photo Credit: The Rooms. St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was not a pretty woman in fact the sender of the vinegar card commented that she had a big chin.

Horrible, horrible is the din
When a woman has too much shin!
Oh you annoying tiresome pest.
Do give us pray a little rest!!




Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL : E 1-38; Chief Patrick J. O’Neill, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary


Mrs. Kelly could barely contain her anger; she was not going to be quiet about these insulting vinegar cards! So on a day that should be reserved for matters of love and comfort she immediately called the Chief of Police , P.J. O’Neill.  She followed the phone call with a letter that she sent to his office  (February 15) claiming that she was being  “persecuted”  by her neighbours and that an investigation should be started.

She also suggested that the four “vinegar cards “   that she enclosed in the envelope to him should be analyzed   and that a comparison of the handwriting on the cards should be  made with the handwriting of a few of her neighbours.  She also stated  that  the “leader of the gang” that were persecuting her was  Mable Crocker on 4 College Square  and other neighbours on Colonial and College Streets.

The Chief of Police sent out his detective Constable Reginald Noseworthy to investigate the matter. He obtained the handwriting from five households of those that were alleged to be part of the gang.  A number of individual having consulted with their lawyers refused to give a sample.

On February 23, 1938,   Detective Noseworthy  reported  to the Chief of Police that he was not able to find the culprits – but  was convinced that Mrs.  Kelly was not liked by her neighbours; no one had a good word for her.   He also suggested “she might have sent the Valentines to herself , so that she could have this as a pretext of having a Police Constable call on her neighbours doors, as she is well aware this would cause them some annoyance.”

The vinegar valentines were very popular in Newfoundland the 1930’s  and in in some locations in the country until the 1970’s they were still selling well.

These days, it is much less likely we’ll get a horrid note in the mail as a Valentine’s surprise.

 Recommended Archival Collection:  At The Rooms, GN 13/1/B  Box 417 Subject file  K27. Newfoundland Constabulary, Criminal Investigation Bureau