NEW Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Eric Ellis Collection

Photo Credit: Eric Ellis: A 8-34; H Company, Newfoundland Regiment (detail)

The Rooms has in recent year made it a priority to scan and make available online material related to the First World War (1914 – 1918) and the most recent online offering is the Eric Ellis album of photographs and postcard.  (VA 77).  The 150 photographs and postcards were collected by Ellis, a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Eric Ellis was educated in St. John’s. He enlisted in the First Newfoundland Regiment (later the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) on 9 October 1915, he was 20 years old. He served in the army until the end of World War I and was promoted three times: Corporal (27 October 1915), Acting Sergeant (11 August 1916) and Second Lieutenant (18 May 1917). During his service he earned a certificate from the Scottish Command School of Musketry which qualified him in small arms instruction. Following active duty in France, Belgium and Germany (1918), he was discharged on 15 February 1919 and was placed on reserve. After the war he married Elsie H. Churchill (1892-1975) in 1923; they had one daughter, Elsie C..

By 1935, Ellis was an assistant supervisor in the Butterine Factory in St. John’s. The following year, he was employed as assistant supervisor at the Browning Harvey beverage bottling plant. He worked there for many years and attained the position of plant manager of the company’s St. John’s Ropewalk Lane plant.

Ellis died in 1982 and was interred in the Topsail Road Anglican Cemetery, St. John’s.

The photographs and postcards depict members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and activities, scenes of war damage [1914-1919] and scenes throughout Europe including Belgium, France, Germany and Russia.

To view the collection:

Plane readies to take off from the Rooms

A replica of a Nieuport II, French single seater First World War fighter plane from 1917 that landed at The Rooms in November is ready for take off

This bi-plane was one of the aircraft that flew as part of a commemorative flight over the Vimy Memorial on the hundredth anniversary of the battle – April 9th, 2017.

Join us on January 4, 2018  at  2:30 PM  at The Rooms as Larry Ricker one of the team that flew the Nieuport II talks about his experience at Vimy and Beaumont Hamel and the place of flight in our First World War history

Newfoundland Role in First World War Flight

During the First World  War (1914-1918)  Newfoundlanders were determined that  ‘Our Boys’  who had signed up to fight for King and Country would be equipped as well  as any other country in the world.  St. John’s newspaper headlines read “Give our Boys Aeroplanes”. The St. John’s newspaper the Daily Star read; “we have given ‘ Our Boys’  to the empire to do their bit. Let us equip them to do it as effectively as possible.”

In 1915 the Patriotic Association of Newfoundland led a fundraising effort to supply aircraft for the war effort. The collection drive turned its attention toward an “Airplane Fund” to purchase warplanes for the Imperial forces. By the late summer of 1915, the fund had raised $53,000. The government immediately purchased two Gnome-Vickers airplanes, at a cost of roughly $10,000 each. After some discussion, the Patriotic Association decided to buy another airplane. Donations continued to come in and by 1917, five planes had been purchased for the British air services.

Aviation historians have identified at least thirty three (33) NL flyers, with some aces, medal winners and some truly unique experiences.  Five of the more celebrated flyers were Ronald Ayre, Howard Vincent Reid, Roy S. Grandy, John M. Melee and Carl Frederick Falkenberg.

Howard Vincent Reid joined the Newfoundland Regiment at the outbreak of the war and was one of the First 500.  After arriving in Britain he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service and became the first Newfoundland Pilot. It is likely that because Howard had joined the Naval Air Service that his father Sir William Reid purchased an aircraft  for the Overseas Club.

Ronald Ayre was studying in England when war broke out. He earned his pilot’s wings and flew in Europe. Awarded the Military Cross in 1917 (after two successful bombing missions), he gained promotion to Captain. After the war, he worked in the family business, Ayre & Sons.

Roy S. Grandy was born in Bay Largent, Fortune Bay, he enlisted  with the newfoundland Regiment in 1914 serving in the Gallipoli Campaign.  In 1916 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, his natural aptitude for flying eventually saw him being transferred to the School of Special Flying Gosport as a flying instructor.

John M. LeMee in 1915 left his job in the paper mill in Grand Falls and signed up with the Newfoundland Regiment.  He was one of the few survivors of Beaumont Hamel.  In December 1916 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. In April 1917 his plane crashed into the English Channel, he survived the crash and was awarded a testimonial from the Royal Humane Society for his bravery.

Carl Frederick Falkenberg DFC (2) was born in Botwood, Newfoundland.  In June 1917 he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, as a pilot and on February 28, 1918 joined Royal Air Force Squadron No. 84 in Flez France, flying SE5As at the start of the German spring offensive. On April 29, 1918 Falkenberg, shared, with another pilot, in the destruction of a German two-seater. Lieutenant Falkenberg was wounded a second time on May 10th 1918, when he crashed, but was soon back in combat. From May to August 1918, he served, as an instructor, in the original Canadian Air Force formed in England. On September 1st, 1918, he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs).

His citation read in part as follows: “A bold and skillful airman who has destroyed four enemy machines and driven down four out of control.” By October 20, 1918 he had destroyed a total of 14 aircraft and one balloon and was awarded his second DFC.  After WW1, he became a salesman for North American Life Insurance. At the outbreak of WW2, Falkenberg joined the RCAF as an administration officer, serving as Commanding Officer of 4 Training Headquarters, Calgary and at No.2 Initial Training School, Regina Saskatchewan. He died in 1980.

Do you know the names of any First World War flyers?  Love to hear from you.

Landed at The Rooms

What is happening at The Rooms?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

 2:30 pm: Presentation

3:00 pm: Documentary  “Flightpath of Heroes” at  in the theatre.

Included with the cost of admission.

This documentary presents historical information about the Battle at Vimy Ridge and covers the modern day Vimy Flight teams’ efforts to fly over the Vimy monument which happened this past spring.


Happy New Year Auld Lang Syne – Times Gone By


December 31

Auld Lang Syne – Times Gone By

The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year’s eve,“Auld Lang

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 62-58. A Joyful New Year from Newfoundland.

Syne” is a Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area ofScotland, Burns’s homeland.

“Auld Lang Syne” literally translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, “For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.”

There’s plenty of documentary evidence establishing “Auld Lang Syne” as a Hogmanay favorite since the mid-19th century:

The company joined hands in the great music room at midnight and sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as the last stroke of 12 sounded.
– The New York Times (1896)

It was a Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo who popularized the song. Lombardo first heard “Auld Lang Syne” in his hometown of London, Ontario, where it was sung by Scottish immigrants. When he and his brothers formed the dance band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born.

The song became such a New Year’s tradition that “Life magazine wrote that if Lombardo failed to play ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived.”

There is  – as with all things –  a Newfoundland connection. The musical Auld Lang Syne was written by Newfoundland born playwright Hugh Abercrombie Anderson. Born in St. John’s , Anderson was the son of  the politician John Anderson.  In 1921 he became manager of a theatrical business in New York  owned by his brother John Murray Anderson. Under the pen name of Hugh Abercrombie he wrote the musical Auld Lang Syne , a musical romance in two acts.  It was used as the theme song in the 1940 movie Waterloo Bridge.

Recommended Video – Sing Along:  St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. New Year’s Eve, 2012.


Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago!

For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For times gone by.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale)
For times gone by!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!

Happy New Year.

I hope that you are enjoying your “Archival Moments”. 

Gun salute rings in the New Year



The "firing off the guns" on New Year's Eve is a long established tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The “firing off the guns” on New Year’s Eve is a long established tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The “feu de joie” or  “fire of joy”  is a gun salute that was common place in Newfoundland in the past,  an activity that is associated with bringing in the New Year.

The tradition continues in many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, at the stroke of mid night gun shots are fired as residents bring in the New Year.

In an article entitled “The Folk-Lore of Newfoundland and Labrador,” appearing in  the St. John’s newspaper   “The Evening Herald,” (December 29, 1892),  the Anglican Missionary priest, Rev. Arthur C. Waghorne discusses Christmas traditions that are observed in Newfoundland  which “either continue to prevail, or have been only lately  disused.”  One of the traditions that he refers to is the “firing off the gun.”

In his article he notes that the tradition of the “firing off the gun” is not as popular as it was fifty years ago confirming that the tradition has been established in Newfoundland since at least 1842 and perhaps much longer.

One could speculate that the tradition might have been established in Newfoundland as early as 1621 with the arrival of Lord Baltimore’s first settlers in Ferryland.  We do know that the practice in North America dates to at least 1642 when a law in Maryland  (also established by Lord Baltimore)  was passed  ordering that:

“No man to discharge 3 guns within the space of ¼ hour… except to give or answer alarm.”

The law was introduced in Maryland because gunshots were the common method of warning neighbors of an emergergency (fire) or a pending attack. Because so many people were shooting guns while celebrating on New Years Eve and other celebratory occasions, it was impossible to know what was happening.

It is a tradition that is gradually fading – with the “shooting in the New Year” being gradually replaced by fire works that have the advantage of supplying   both the noise and visual effect.

It is generally accepted that the practice of shooting off the guns on New Years Eve comes from the belief that evil spirits dislike loud noises. The guns were fired off to ward off any bad luck that the spirits might bring.”

New Year’s Eve Countdown & Fireworks : When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, the people of Newfoundland are the first in North America to celebrate the New Year.

Pet owners are reminded that the noise associated with ‘gun fire’ and ‘fireworks’ will likely be a frightening experience for your pet – please attend to your pets, most pets would prefer to be inside during the fireworks display.

Recommended Reading: Devine, P.K.  Devine’s Folk Lore of Newfoundland in Old Words, Phrases and Expressions, Their Origin and Meaning (St John’s: Robinson & Co., Ltd., 1937)


“They had veils over their faces … mummers”


December 27, 1862 

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 4-158; Mummering inSt. John’s, Newfoundland

In Newfoundland the tradition of mummering or jannying is often associated with the mummer’s parade, home visitation, music and the occasional drink!  The tradition has a darker side.

Few people know that in order to mummer in Newfoundland participants at one time needed a license to do so and that for almost 100 years mummering was outlawed!!

In the tradition of mummering, friends and neighbours conceal  their identities by adopting various disguises, covering their faces, and by modifying their speech, posture and behavior.

It was not surprising that some, using these disguises, would be up to no good. Some in disguise would use the mummering season to retaliate against those that they disliked or had some grudge to settle.

In order to control mummering and the violence associated with it in June 1861, the Newfoundland government passed an act which dictated that:

“any Person who shall be found… without a written Licence from a Magistrate, dressed as a Mummer, masked, or otherwise disguised, shall be deemed guilty of a Public Nuisance”. Offenders were to pay “a Fine not exceeding Twenty Shillings”, or to serve a maximum of seven days’ imprisonment (Consolidated Acts of Newfoundland, 1861: 10).

On December 27, 1862   in the Town of Harbour Grace, Constable Joseph Nichols arrested and dragged before the local magistrate,   Joseph Pynn and a few of his friends, Constable Nichols told the court:

“they had veils over their faces and was disguised in female clothing and the other in men’s dress, they were acting in all respects as mummers.”

The magistrate was not amused,  Jospeh Pynn was “fined each 20 pounds sterling  or 7 days imprisonment.” Pynn and his friends were not about to spend Christmas in jail – the court record shows that “Stephen Andrews paid the fine and all discharged.”

The idea of a license to mummer did not go over very well.  Mummering was a passion ingrained in the culture of the Newfoundland people. The St. John’s newspaper the Public Ledger in January 1862 suggested that 150 licenses had been issued during the preceding Christmas season, but that many more participants in the custom had failed to comply with the new legislation.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives:  GN5 /3B/19 Box13, File Number 3

Recommended Song: Mummer Song:  Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song.

Recommended Reading:  Any Mummers ’Lowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador. Flanker Press, St. John’s,  NL.  2014.  Folklorist Dale Jarvis traces the history of the custom in Newfoundland and Labrador and charts the mummer’s path through periods of decline and revival. Using archival records, historic photographs, oral histories, and personal interviews with those who have kept the tradition alive, he tells the story of the jannies themselves. 


An Act Outlawing Mummering


December 28, 1860


Hobby Horse one of the traditional mummer disguises.

On December 28, 1860, in Bay Roberts, Nfld., Isaac Mercer was strolling home from work with his two brothers-in-law when unexpectedly they became victims of a crew of rowdy masked mummers. The three men were beaten until Isaac Mercer’s body went limp. When the brutes scattered and disappeared into the night, Mercer’s friends, bruised and battered, carried him to help. The next day, Mercer was pronounced dead.

The use of disguises also permitted those of the poorer classes to harass the wealthy merchant classes or often allowed rival religious sects the opportunity to vent their hostility while in masquerade. Newfoundland historian D.W. Prowse observed that “men were often beaten badly for old grievances by the fools.”

The mummers are almost always described as carrying some combination of hatchets, sticks, ropes and whips, all of which clearly have the capacity to serve as aggressive weapons. Court records describe  men and women  armed with “bludgeons & swabs dipped in Blubber” which they rubbed into their victims’ faces and clothing, as well as swords and “loaded guns”, carpet brooms, blown bladders  filled with pebbles,  the weapon of choice was a hobby horse, used to charge individuals.

The tragedy of Mercer’s death combined with other abuses that were inflicted while in masquerade fueled a decision that lead on June 25, 1861, to the passing of an act outlawing mummering.  The Act dictated that:

“any Person who shall be found… without a written License from a Magistrate, dressed as a Mummer, masked, or otherwise disguised, shall be deemed guilty of a Public Nuisance”. Offenders were to pay “a Fine not exceeding Twenty Shillings”, or to serve a maximum of seven days’ imprisonment (Consolidated Acts of Newfoundland, 1861: 10).

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives:  GN5 /3/B/19 Box 13, File Number 3 and explore GN 2/1-3 and GN 5. Criminal trials involving mummers and mummering.

New Term: blown bladders: inflated animal bladder used as a mock weapon by Christmas mummers … chasing people and striking them with whips at the ends of some of which were attached inflated bladders.

Recommended Reading:  Any Mummers ’Lowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador. Flanker Press, St. John’s,  NL.  2014.  Folklorist Dale Jarvis traces the history of the custom in Newfoundland and Labrador and charts the mummer’s path through periods of decline and revival. Using archival records, historic photographs, oral histories, and personal interviews with those who have kept the tradition alive, he tells the story of the jannies themselves. 

Recommended Song: Mummer Song:  Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song.



A Christmas Box for our Soldiers and Sailors

Archival Moment

December 1914

christmaswwixsb05m_mediumDuring the first week of December 1914 throughout Newfoundland and Labrador the conversation in many households was about preparing a ‘Christmas Box’ for the Newfoundland boys who had signed up to fight for King and Country.

If the ‘Christmas Box’ was to reach ‘the boys’ with the Newfoundland Regiment that were stationed in England, it would have to be ready by December 10.

The tradition of the ‘Christmas Box’ is well established in Newfoundland, as early as 1819 the Anglican clergyman Rev Lewis Amadeus in his book ‘A History of the Island of Newfoundland’ observed:

“ [The Christmas boxes are] presents, not in coin. . . but in eatables, from a turkey or a quarter of veal or mutton, or a piece of beef just killed for the occasion, down to a nicely smoked salmon.”

In 1914 a number of St John’s businesses were promoting the notion of sending Christmas Boxes (Hampers) to the young men who had signed up for the war effort. Universal Agencies located at 137 Water Street encouraged family and friends of the Ist Newfoundland Regiment to send the boys “their Xmas Dinner.

Universal Agencies advertised:

“We have just received word from our London connections that should the friends of any of our Volunteers on Salisbury Plain wish to send them Christmas Hampers they will undertake to supply Hampers containing such things as Turkey, Ham, Sausages, Pudding, Mincemeats, Fruit and Confectionary … “

Universal Agencies also advertised that they would offer three different size of hampers, $5.50, $11.00 and $16.50

Families were also told that the ’Christmas Box’ would be incomplete without a package of cigarettes.

“And don’t forget that after a good dinner your boy will appreciate a box of the famous De. Reszke Cigarettes at $1.50.”

In order to make the price of sending a ‘Christmas Box’ cost effective the “ Newfoundland Government removed all duties on smokes going direct to our Soldiers on Salisbury Plains and our Sailors on the Ocean.”

The Christmas Hampers may have been addressed for Pond Camp on the Salisbury Plain where the tented camp was established in October 1914 for the Regiment but by December the Regiment was moved to Fort George, Inverness located in the Highlands of Scotland. The Newfoundland Regiment celebrated its first Christmas away from home with a Regimental dinner and with visits to the many homes of the Scottish people who showed in many ways their appreciation for these young soldiers.

Recommended Archival Collection:

Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. 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. –  – See more at: