Firing guns at weddings

Archival Moment

February 10, 1882

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 104-22.1; Royal salute or feu de joie for a wedding party at Harrington Harbour. International Grenfell Association photograph collection. Note the men with the guns in the background.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 104-22.1; Royal salute or feu de joie for a wedding party at Harrington Harbour. International Grenfell Association photograph collection. Note the men with the guns in the background.

There is a long established tradition in Newfoundland that encourages the “discharging of fire arms” for the purpose of creating a noise especially to celebrate a marriage. As the bride and groom leave the church the men of the town stand about discharging their guns in celebration.

On February 10, 1882 the Editor of the local paper the Twillingate Sun, Jabez P. THOMPSON, spoke out against the custom suggesting that rather than discharging their guns, pistols and firearms that they would be better served to buy present for the newly married. He wrote:

“It has been suggested that if persons are anxious to manifest esteem for their newly married friends, could it not be done in a more tangible way by presenting them with a valuable present, which the cost of the powder so used would be likely to procure. We would recommend such a plan.”

Francis BERTEAU, Stipendiary Magistrate in Twillingate was another who was not fan of discharging guns at weddings. The Magistrates objection was prompted by the fact that a case was before him in his court, a short time before, the cause of the complaint being that the plaintiff’s horse had taken fright by the firing of guns while passing the public streets.

The Editor argued:

“Magistrate BERTEAU has given caution against the unnecessary discharging of fire arms, as prevention to any serious accident that might accrue by a persistency in such a dangerous practice.”

The government of the day was also keen to stop the practice, in January 1882 a new law was passed that read:

“Any person firing any Gun, Pistol or other Fire-arms in any City, Town, or Settlement in this Island for the purpose of creating a noise or disturbance, or without some necessity or reasonable excuse for so doing, shall for every such offence pay a penalty not exceeding Twenty Dollars.”

The new law was to fall on deaf ears; the tradition of firing guns at weddings continued and remains a tradition in many communities throughout the province. Those who fired the guns always found “some necessity or reasonable excuse.”

The tradition of ‘firing the guns’ at a wedding continues in communities long the Cape Shore. Do you know of other communities?

The ‘firing of the guns’ is not to be confused with a ‘gunshot wedding’!

Recommended Archival Collection: Planning on doing some family research. The Rooms Provincial Archives is home to the largest collection of Parish Marriage Registers in the province.

Recommended Reading: Getting Married in Newfoundland and Labrador:



No flying saucers in Victoria Park

Archival Moment

February 1916

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

Signage declaring new regulations about sliding on the hills in St. John’s has been posted in public places throughout the city. The signage declares a whole raft of rules about what can and cannot be done when snow sliding.

Some think that this is a new  conversation, but the reality is that regulations about snow sliding or sledding in St. John’s started 100 years ago.

In 1916 “skating or sliding down the hills” was on the agenda of Newfoundland legislators, so much so  that the lawmakers opted to pass legislation about sliding.

In Chapter 51 of the Consolidated Acts, 1916 under the chapter title “Of Nuisances and Municipal Regulations” Section 14 the Act reads:

“The stipendiary magistrate may make regulations for preventing persons from coasting, skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets …”

The focus of the legislation in 1916 was on the  “… skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets…”  

There was a time when the ‘townies’ loved nothing more than grabbing their sleigh for a ride down of the steep hills of the city. The practice was however quite dangerous.

The local newspapers reported on an almost daily basis about individuals being injured on the hills of the town.

On January 14, 1916 the Evening Telegram reported:

“Boy Injured while sliding over Prescott Street”  Yesterday after noon,  newsboy met with a painful accident. He collided with another sled resulting in a deep wound being inflicted in his leg. The injured youth was brought to a nearby drug store for treatment and was later conveyed home and attended by a doctor. “

On February 18, 1916 under the headline “Dangerous practice the sliding of children” the Telegram reported:

“The sliding of children on the city heights is a very dangerous practice particularly on those hills near the street car rails. This morning two children of Hutching’s Street narrowly escaped being killed by a passing street car. The sled on which the youngsters were seated passing in front of the car’s fender by a couple of feet. “

The new signage posted on St. John’s hills and parks  (including Victoria Park) owned by the city comes after the city of St. John’s had to review  its liability in the wake of the city of Hamilton, Ontario being sued following an injury at a popular sledding hill . The City of Sudbury, Ontario in response to the same lawsuit responded by fencing off a sliding hill and banning tobogganing on public land outright.

Almost 100 years following the initial conversation about snow sliding on the hills of St. John’s the conversation continues. The warning signs in Victoria Park read no  “crazy carpets and flying saucers.”

Learn more about Victoria Park, St. John’s: Read More:

Learn more about Victoria Park:

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives. The consolidated statutes of Newfoundland : being a consolidation of the statute law of the colony down to and including the session of the Legislature in the year 1916 / printed and published by and under the authority of the Governor in Council, and proclaimed under the authority of the Act 9 and 10, George V., cap. X., 1918.

The longest-serving British monarch

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 83-93.1

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 83-93.1


Archival Moment

February 6, 1952

Newfoundland the First to put Princess now Queen Elizabeth on a Postage Stamp

Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, her coronation was held on June 2, 1953. The 16th-month span allowed for a mourning period following the death of her father King George VI, and also for preparations for the coronation ceremony held in Westminster Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth, since her accession to the throne in 1952, has made 22 official Royal visits to Canada, usually accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and sometimes by her children Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Queen Elizabeth has visited every province and territory in Canada.

Princess Elizabeth Nfld StampIn Newfoundland the first recognition given to the future Queen occurred in 1933 with the young Princess Elizabeth appearing on a Newfoundland postage stamp. This was the first portrait of the Princess on any postage stamp. Robson Lowe, the philatelist, says “this was for some years one of the most popular stamps in the world”

The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, made their first appearance in Newfoundland in 1951, on behalf of her ailing father. During the Royal Visit of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip to St. John’s, lasted just 26 hours, from 10:15 a.m. on November 11, Remembrance Day, to 12:15 noon on November 12, and involved ceremonies at the St. John’s waterfront, the St. John’s War Memorial, the Church of England Cathedral, Feildian Grounds and Government House.

In June 1959 the Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip, undertook the longest royal tour in Canadian history, They began in St John’s, with a welcome from Prime Minister Diefenbaker and Premier J. R. Smallwood the Royal couple crossed the island to Stephenville and detoured through to Labrador.

Other visits included the official visit in 1978 that included her majesty attending the St. John’s Regatta and her most recent visit in 1997 marking the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s arrival in Newfoundland. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited St. John’s, Bonavista, North West River, Shetshatshiu, Happy Valley and Goose Bay.

Other short stop over’s in Newfoundland by the Queen have included.

1953 Newfoundland

1974 Gander, Newfoundland

1985 Gander, Newfoundland

1986 Gander, Newfoundland

1991 Gander, Newfoundland

The designation “Royal” has been given to number of institutions in the province including the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, (1979); Royal St. John’s Regatta, (1993); and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. (1917).

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives:  John Crosbie Perlin Collection, MG 370 . This series consists of scrapbooks compiled to document the activities of events including the Royal Visit by Queen Elizabeth II (1978).




If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright …


February 2, 1871 

Febryary 2 is Candlemas Day - Blessing of the candles that are used during he year.

February 2 is Candlemas Day – Blessing of the candles that are used during the year.


Some of the best insights into the history of families and communities in this province can be garnered from the pages of the hundreds of diaries that have been deposited into archives in the province. In the diaries of Edward Morris, Mr. Morris observed on February 2, 1871.

Fine morning, light frost, wind from the north, north west. Streets frozen again but no cold such as we have had. The day fine enough but the walking very rough.  Attended at the Cathedral in the morning at the ceremonies of Candlemas Day ….”

February 2 is “Candlemas”  Day.

The ceremony of Candlemas Day that Mr. Morris observed was the blessing of the annual supply of the Church’s candles.  Beeswax candles were blessed by being sprinkled with holy water and having incense swung around them, and then the candles distributed to everyone in the church. Then there was a procession in which people carried lighted candles while the choir sang. The procession represents the entry of Jesus as light of the world into the temple.

In Newfoundland there is an established tradition that on this day a blessed candle would be lit and the mother of the household would bless the children in the home with the candle.  The wax was allowed to drip on the head (hat) and shoulders and on the shoes of the children.

Every fishing boat would also have a blessed candle. These candles would be taken out and lit during a gale or storm.


This day also used to have great significance on the calendar, because the date lies half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, so it marks the day upon which winter is half over!  As Candlemas traditions evolved, many people embraced the legend that if the sun shone on the second day of February, an animal would see its shadow and there would be at least six more weeks of winter.

You may know the rhyme:

If Candlemas day be sunny and bright,Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away. (Fox version)

If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight. If Candlemas day be shower and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again. (Traditional)

In Branch, St. Mary’s Bay an expression that is particular to Candlemas Day was the expression:

Half your prog and half your hay,

Eat your supper by the light of the day.

The expression calls on families, now that we are half way through winter, to take stock of their (prog)  food supplies in their root cellars  and feed for the animals (hay).   Just to insure  that there is enough to get you through the winter.

Recommended Archival Collection:   Edward Morris Diaries 1851-1887. Edward Morris was a businessman, politician, and office-holder; born in 1813 at Waterford (Republic of Ireland). He moved to St John’s, Newfoundland in 1832.  On January 1, 1851 he began to keep a daily diary that he continued until his death on 3 April 1887.

First day of spring, an anniversary for Kilbride

Archival Moment

February 1, 1863

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John's suburbs. VA 33-98.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John’s suburbs. VA 33-98.

On February 1, 1863 there was much excitement on the outskirts of the town of St. John’s, the residents of the area, mostly farmers, were preparing to welcome the Roman Catholic Bishop (John Thomas Mullock) to officially open their new stone church, that would be called, “Kilbride”.

‘Kilbride’, the “magnificent stone church” was one of five that was built under the direction of the bishop in the 1860’s. Stone churches were also built at  Burin, Torbay, St. Kyran’s and Ferryland. Only, Holy Trinity, Ferryland remains standing.

The residents of Kilbride were quite determined that the date for the consecration or official opening of their new church be February 1st so as they could celebrate their Irish roots and honour one of the patron Saints of Ireland. In Ireland, February 1st is the Feast of St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland (also referred to as Brigit, Bridget, Brighid, or Bride).

Kilbride, literally translated means, church of Bride.

In Ireland, “spring” officially starts on February first to honor St. Brigid, who, according to pagan legend, was able to make even the rocky farms of Ireland productive. The pagans honored Brigid on February 1 because it was the first day of spring in the pagan calendar. February 1 marks the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring, although Irish meteorologists consider the whole of February to be part of winter.

St. Brigid was later to abandon her pagan roots and embrace Christianity sewing the faith deep in the hearts of the Irish.

The original Kilbride Church was located in what is now the Kilbride Cemetery, Bay Bulls Road, St. John’s.

The church served the people of Kilbride well from its date of consecration, February 1, 1863 until it was destroyed by fire in 1892.

Acknowledging St. Bride and our Irish heritage can also be found in other parts of the province. On the beautiful Cape Shore, is the community of St. Bride’s, “on more ancient maps it was called La Stresse, and later Distress.”

In 1876, a young Irish priest, Charles Irvin, was assigned to the area and declared that “Distress” was “not of a pleasant sound” and declared that the name would change from ‘’Distress’ to “St. Bride’s.”

When asked where I from am I am always so tempted to say ‘Distress’.

Happy Spring!!

Archival Collection: At the Rooms provincial Archives explore the Nomenclature Board fonds , Description number GN 157. This collection consist of of incoming correspondence to the secretary, Nomenclature Board (1920-1943; 1950),including petitions about proposed community name changes.

Recommended Reading:   Newfoundland name Lore, A series of articles by Archbishop Michael F. Howley examining the origins of Newfoundland place names, originally published in The Newfoundland Quarterly between 1901-1914 and reprinted between 1932-1940. The reprinted articles have been extracted and bound together to form this book; in consequence, a great deal of unrelated material is also present, including poems, illustrations and advertisements.

Take some time: Take some time to explore the ruins of the Kilbride church in the cemetery at Kilbride. A memorial plaque was placed at the approximate place where the church was located.


An Irish soldier and his socks knit by an aged Newfoundland woman

Archival Moment

January 26, 1916

Knitting comforts. (Click on to enlarge)

Knitting comforts.
(Click on to enlarge)

During the First World War women in kitchens and parlors in homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador were enthusiastically knitting goods, especially socks for the men who had signed up to fight for King and Country. Many of these women were members of the Woman’s Patriotic Association (W.P.A.) an organization of more than 15,000 women from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the ladies at Government House and from throughout the towns of the colony of Newfoundland produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers. These items were often referred to as “comforts.”

The socks that were knit were intended primarily for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment but there is evidence that soldiers from other countries including some from Ireland were the beneficiaries of the woolen socks.

In January of 1916 Mrs. Margret Morris of Long’ Hill, St. John’s was thrilled to receive a letter from an Irish Soldier thanking her for socks which he received ‘Somewhere in France’ and found to have been knitted by her. The 85 year old Mrs. Morris was so delighted with the letter of thanks that she strolled down to the offices of the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram to have her story published.

The newspaper reported:

Mrs. Margaret Morris an old lady of 85 years has received a letter from an Irish soldier thanking her for socks which he received and found to have been knitted by her. His name is Private B. McCourt and he is with (British Expeditionary Force) B.E.F. in France.

The old lady was delighted to receive the letter and hopes to get another from him as he asked her to write to him. He thanked her for the socks she had knitted, said how glad he was to get them and expressed much appreciation at receiving a pair knitted by an aged person.

The old lady had placed a slip of paper in one of them giving her name address and age.”

The practice of slipping a note in the toe of the socks that they knit with their name and address as well as a prayer for their soldier boys was well established among the Newfoundland knitters. Those receiving the socks with the notes were often gracious enough to return a note of thanks.

It is not likely that the old lady did receive any other correspondence from her Irish soldier, she died on March 8, 1916 at her residence on Long’s Hill just a few weeks after the initial letter from him.

Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks. By Tryphena Duley. Verses by Margaret Duley.”

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records are on line at:

Recommended Exhibit:  BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU:   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:


The Prophet from Placentia


January 25

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 130-66.3 Placentia from Castle Hill

On January 25, 1824,  Richard Brothers originally from Placentia, Newfoundland died in the home of a family friend in England.  During his life time the Placentia native stirred much controversy gathering about him critics and disciples.

Richard Brothers was born in Placentia,  25 December 1757. His father was a gunner at what we now call Castle Hill

At the age of fourteen he entered the royal navy. He became a  lieutenant with seniority in 1783, he then asked to be discharged.  Brothers, resigned his majesty’s service on the ground that a military life is totally repugnant to Christianity

In September 1787 Brothers went to London. Here he lived very quietly on a vegetarian diet, and worshipped at a baptist chapel.

In 1790 he began to garner the attention of the public, he began his prophetic career by declaring he had a divine mission to announce the fulfillment of the scriptural prophecies in the Book of Daniel (Dan. vii.)

He  is credited with proposing a theory now called the Anglo-Israel theory which maintains that the English and their ethnic kinfolk throughout the world are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Brothers described himself as the “Nephew of the Almighty,” because he considered that he was descended from one of the brothers of Jesus, and claimed that in November 1795, he would be revealed as the “Prince of the Hebrews” and “Ruler of the World”.  When this date passed  he was abandoned by many of his disciples,  despite the fact that some of his earlier political predictions (e.g. the violent death of Louis XVI.) had been fulfilled. Brothers had also proclaimed that as a descendent of King David he was the rightful heir to the British Throne. King George III was not amused; in March, 1795 Brothers was committed to a lunatic asylum.

His ideas continued to flourish even from his hospital cell. He wrote his “Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794),  “A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).

He had many influential disciples. In the British House of Commons, Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, M.P.  was his advocate. William Sharp, the engraver, was so fully persuaded of the claims of Brothers that in 1795 he engraved two plates of his portrait. His most faithful disciples was John Finlayson, he removed Brothers from the lunatic asylum and invited him into his home where he later died.

The believers in Brothers theory are not yet extinct, and those who adopt the Anglo-Israel theory regard him as the earliest writer on their side.

It is likely that descendants of this family are still in the province, children of his brothers and a sister who settled on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland.

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives and Special Collection, Memorial University of  Newfoundland. MF 351. Collection consists of seven images of the likeness of Richard Brothers.

Recommended Web Site:

Recommended Reading: Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794), A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).