Christmas of Olde in Newfoundland and Labrador

Paul Rowe and Allan Byrne

Paul Rowe and Allan Byrne

Once again, actor Paul Rowe and musician Allan Byrne have combined their talents to deliver a show based on archival materials reflecting the Christmas of Olde in Newfoundland and Labrador. This show has been steadily popular over the last few years, and tickets always sell swiftly.

Paul and Allan have uncovered an impressive selection of poems, recitations, songs and stories, mostly written from the 1870s to the 1940s, from sources as varied as diaries, log books and annual Christmas publications. Out of this material they have created a full-length production that gives an entertaining glimpse of our Christmas traditions during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Paul and Allan are excited to be presenting their show again this year, and are pleased to bring the show to three beautiful venues!

December 8 and 9 – Basilica Cathedral Museum, St. John’s. 8pm. For tickets call (709)726-3660 ext. 221

December 10 – St. George’s Anglican Church, Petty Harbour, 7pm. For tickets call (709)728 2147

December 15 – Placentia Bay Cultural Arts Centre, Placentia, 8pm. For tickets call (709)227-2151

Tickets: $20

The Veiled Virgin: “This statue is a perfect gem of art”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 4, 1856

On 4 December 1856 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland, recorded in his diary:

Received safely from Rome, a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in marble, by Strazza.The face is veiled, and the figure and features are all seen. It is a perfect gem of art.”

The Veiled Virgin was placed in the library of the Basilica Cathedral Parish in St. John’s until 1862, when Mullock presented the statue to the Superior of Presentation Convent.  His sister was a member of that convent.

This statue was executed in flawless Carrera marble by the renowned Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875) in Rome. Other examples of Strazza’s work may be seen in the Vatican Museums, Rome and in the city of Milan. The Veiled Virgin was described by the St. John’s newspaper The Newfoundlander (4 December 1856) as the second such work by Strazza on the subject of a veiled woman.

The newspaper reported:

 “To say that this representation surpasses in perfection of art, any piece of sculpture we have ever seen, conveys but weakly our impression of its exquisite beauty. The possibility of such a triumph of the chisel had not before entered into our conception. Ordinary language must ever fail to do justice to a subject like this – to the rare artistic skill, and to the emotions it produces in the beholder. These themes are rather.”

The Veiled Virgin remains in the care of the Presentation Sisters, Cathedral Square, St. John’s.  It may be viewed by appointment.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database for descriptions of our archival records at The Rooms and view thousands of digital photographs. See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collection:  Presentation Congregation Archives –Cathedral Square, St. John’s, NL 709-753-7291

 

 

WWII Dockyard for Bay Bulls

Archival Moment

WWII Dockyard for Bay Bulls

Property of Martin O'Driscoll, Bay Bulls, 1942. Note the parish church in the background.

Property of Martin O’Driscoll, Bay Bulls, 1942. Note the parish church in the background.

Throughout WWII St. John’s had become the strategic naval hub for ships travelling across the Atlantic. With limited capacity in St. John’s harbour, repair facilities in the harbour quickly became overcrowded and a search began for another harbor.

A decision was soon made to construct a dockyard at Bay Bulls; the town was close to St. John’s and offered a deep water bay opening to the Atlantic. In Bay Bulls it was decided to build a dockyard that could accommodate smaller ships that required repair allowing the larger vessels to be serviced in St. John’s.

Construction demanded access to water front property.

In order to build the dockyard and supporting infracture the properties of local residents in Bay Bulls were expropriated by the Newfoundland Department of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for the installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process of expropriation was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection consists of 37 photographs relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community. The images illustrate houses, fences, shops, sheds, farms, farm animals, vehicles, buildings, and household items.

Some of the Bay Bulls families included in the process were: Coady, Gatheral, O’Driscoll, and Williams.

Construction of the WWII infracture in Bay Bulls began in July 1942; the first operation began in the spring of 1944. The construction included a marine railway with anchorage facilities, barracks, administration buildings and its own power supply in the form of a hydroelectric facility.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series (Bay Bulls) Click to view the Bay Bulls photographs: https://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/Action?ClientSession=-526741c6:158b8fb21c3:-7f98&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&PromptID=&ParamID=&CMD_(DetailRequest)[0]=&ProcessID=6000_3363(0)&KeyValues=KEY_38634

Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms: This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Stephenville, from a French farming village into a flourishing American air base.

Archival Moment

April 1941

Photo Credit: A 65. 6 (1943) Margaret Boulos (Basha) Retail Store Stephenville

Photo Credit: A 65. 6 (1943) Margaret Boulos (Basha) Retail Store Stephenville

In September 1940 as WWII raged, plans were being made to transform the quiet, largely French-speaking farming village of Stephenville, Newfoundland into a flourishing American air base.

The transformation was to impact the whole area but it would have a direct impact on more than 200 people, living on a small parcel of land, consisting of 865 acres. These people would be removed from their homes; their properties were slated for expropriation.

Under its Leased Bases Agreement with Britain, the United States had obtained rights to build the Stephenville air base in 1940. A board of American army and navy personnel arrived in Newfoundland on September 20, 1940 to scout for possible base sites. The Americans quickly realized that Stephenville would be an ideal location for an air base. It would eventually become the largest US military base outside of the continental USA.

In order to build the air base the properties of local residents were expropriated by the Newfoundland Department of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for American military bases and installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process of expropriation was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection consists of 265 photographs (b&w) relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community of Stephenville. The images illustrate houses, fences, shops, sheds, farms, farm animals, vehicles, buildings, and household items.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series (Stephenville) Click to view the Stephenville photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=38234

Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms:  This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Recommended Reading: High, Steven. “From Outport to Base: The American Occupation of Stephenville, 1940-1945.” Newfoundland Studies 18.1 (2002): 84-113.

 

Argentia and Marquise claims for Expropriated Property

Archival Moment

September 1940

Argentia and Marquise claims for Expropriated Property

Alexander Maher's house in Marguise and hundreds of other homes in Marguise and Argentia were torn down in 1940 to make way for the American base in Argentia.

Alexander Maher’s house in Marquise and hundreds of other homes in Marquise and Argentia were torn down in 1940 to make way for the American base in Argentia.

In September 1940, a squad of American army and navy personnel arrived in Placentia Bay to investigate possible base sites. Impressed by the landlocked harbour, and level land that had the potential for airstrip construction, the group recommended building a naval air station at Argentia and an army base in the neighbouring village of Marquise.

The undertaking meant large-scale and long-lasting disruption for the area’s 750 residents. Over the course of a year, the entire populations of both Argentia and Marquise – alongside three cemeteries – had to be relocated.

The properties were expropriated by the Dept. of Public Utilities, Commission of Government, to provide sites for American military / naval bases and installations under the Leased Lands Agreement and American Bases Act (1941).

The process was documented and is now available at The Rooms Provincial Archives. This new online collection  consists of 175 photographs (b&w) relating to claims for remuneration for expropriated property in the community of Argentia,  and 78  photographs relating to claims in the nearby community of Marquise, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

The photographs document houses, fences, shops and warehouses, household items, hotels, farms, agriculture, vehicles, sheds and garages. These properties were eventually expropriated for military and defence during WWII.

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series  (Argentia) Click to view the photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=40866

Recommended Archival Collection: Department of Public Works Newfoundland Board of Arbitration records Expropriations claims: Photographs: GN 4.3, Series  (Marquise) Click to view the photographs: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=38235

Recommended Exhibit:   From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Where:   Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery, The Rooms.  This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place. See in particular the exhibit cases “The Friendly Invasion.”

Recommended Reading:  Houlihan, Eileen (Hunt).  Uprooted! The Argentia Story. St. John’s: Creative Publishers, 1992.

“The last relics of an interesting family, the original peoples of Newfoundland”

Archival Moment

November 18, 1830

 “The last relics of an interesting family, the original peoples of Newfoundland”

Photo Credit: The Rooms A-17-110-Shanawdithit

Photo Credit: The Rooms A-17-110-Shanawdithit

In the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburg  the remains of two Beothuk people Demasduit and her husband — a chief named Nonosabusut — have been stored at the museum for years. The pair are the aunt and uncle of Shanawdithit, the last known member of the extinct Beothuk people, who died in St. John’s in 1829.

The remains were taken from a burial site in Newfoundland and shipped to the Royal College of Physicians, London for study, and later ended up at the museum in Edinburgh.

The remains of Demasduit and Nonosabusut were not the only Beothuk that found their way to Scotland for study.

On November 18, 1830 the scull and scalp of Shanawdithit (also known as Nancy and Nance April) the last known survivor of the Beothuk’s was sent to Scotland.

In a letter to the Private Secretary of the Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Thomas John Cochrane, the well know St. John’s physician, Dr. William Carson wrote:

“I send you for His Excellency the scull and scalp of Nancy Beothic inclosed in a tin case. I have put into the case a scroll, copy of which I have inclosed for His Excellency’s information.”

Dr. Carson continued in his letter to describe Shanawdithit:

The skull and scalp of Nancy Beothic Red Indians Female, who died at Saint John’s, Newfoundland,  June one thousand and eight hundred and twenty nine.  At, twenty eight. She was tall, and majestic, wild, and tractable but characteristically proud and suspicious, cautious. “

He then continued to describe the Beothuk people:

“The Red Indians differed in appearance, language, and manners from the Esquimaux and Micmac Tribes, who inhabited the neighbouring shores of Labrador and Acadia. Many ascribed to them an European origin.”

Dr Carson was aware that the remains of Shanawdithit ‘s  aunt and uncle,   Demasduit and Nonosabusut  had already been sent to  England.  He wrote:

“These the last relics of an interesting family the original peoples of Newfoundland are presented by the kindness of His Excellency Sir Thomas John Cochrane Governor, to the Royal College of Physicians…”

Shanawdithit’s remains were later sent the Royal College of Surgeons in London where it was destroyed by the bombings during the Second World War.

The rest of Shanawdithit’s body is believed to have been buried in St. John’s.

In 1997 a monument in her honor was erected, a life-sized bronze sculpture of Shanawdithit, created by Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires.   The bronze image now stands in Boyd’s Cove near the remains of a site of one of the largest Beothuk communities found by archeologists to date, a lasting memorial to Shanawdithit, the last of the Beothuk people.

IN 2007, Shanawdithit, was honoured with a plaque recognizing her as a person of national historic significance. The plaque is in Bannerman Park, St. John’s.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms  the Office of the Colonial Secretary  GN2.2,  the Office of the Colonial Secretary served as the official repository for Newfoundland state records and as the registry for varied legal and statistical documents, the collection includes extensive holdings relating to all aspects of Newfoundland political, economic, community and social life. The original letter written by Dr. William Carson can be found in GN2.2  1830  Volume 2 page 325

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Rooms online database for descriptions of our archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections in the search bar type Beothuk.

Recommended Exhibit: From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea Level 4, The Husky Energy Gallery.  Four Aboriginal Peoples—Innu, Inuit, Southern Inuit and Mi’kmaq—have lived in Labrador or on the island of Newfoundland for centuries. Europeans (livyers) settled both places beginning in the 1600s. This exhibition showcases how the province’s peoples connected and are connected, and how different cultures shape this place.

 

Robert Louis Stevenson “Kidnapped” in Newfoundland?

Archival Moment

November 13, 1850

Robert Louis Stevenson, Happy Birthday!!

Photo Credit: Paddy the Newfoundland checks out the statue of Robert Louis Stevenson. Picture: Greg Macvea for The Scotsman. Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850.

Photo Credit: Paddy the Newfoundland checks out the statue of Robert Louis Stevenson. Picture: Greg Macvea for The Scotsman. Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850.

Robert Louis  Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 13 November 1850. The celebrated writer was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, (1886).

A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world.

Stevenson never set foot in Newfoundland but he and his family were very aware of the place. Stevenson was extraordinarily well-travelled, a lover of sailing on the seas, and of finding new adventures the world over. In October 1887 writing to a cousin R. A. M. (Bob) Stevenson from his summer home in Saranac Lake, NY he described a voyage from Scotland to New York. In the letter he wrote:

”We took so north a course, that we saw Newfoundland; no one in the ship had ever seen it before.”

Stevenson’s mother who was on the voyage wrote:

“The weather was very bad and off Newfoundland, (Robert Lewis) Stevenson caught cold and was for a few days really ill. Yet he declared throughout the whole voyage he was so happy that his heart sang. He was a true son of his father and grandfather in that he had always loved the sea…”

Stevenson wrote of the voyage:

“It was beyond belief to me how she (the ship) rolled; in seemingly smooth water, the bell striking, the fittings bounding out of our state- room. It is worth having lived these last years, partly because I have written some better books, which is always pleasant, but chiefly to have had the joy of this voyage. ….”

The celebrated writer had another connection with Newfoundland and Labrador.

The D & T Stevenson, lighthouse engineers from Edinburgh, Scotland, was named after his uncle (David) and father (Thomas); they were responsible for advising, designing and supplying the original lighting apparatus for the lighthouses at Ferryland, (1869) and Rose Blanche, (1871).

It was the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson (also Robert) from the firm Stevenson and Sons of Scotland that provided a copper domed lantern room and lighting apparatus for use at Cape Spear in 1836.

Visits with his family to remote lighthouses in Scotland as a youth, like those erected in Newfoundland, are thought to have inspired his books Kidnapped and Treasure Island.

Happy Birthday Robert Louis  Stevenson.

You should have come ashore!

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database at The Rooms for archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Website: The Robert Louis Stevenson Website is the most comprehensive web resource dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, designed for all: academics, school children and everybody interested in learning about RLS. http://www.robert-louis-stevenson.org/

“He was my only son. He has played the hero’s part…”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

November 11 – Remembrance Day

NA 3106 Opening of the Newfoundland Memorial Park

Eli Abbot, 18, left Grand Falls by train with a group of friends arriving in St. John’s on February 20, 1916.  He went directly to the recruitment center  (CLB Armory) where he signed up to fight for “King and Country.”   Four days later he marched with his battalion to the waterfront in St. John’s where he boarded the S.S. Sicilian, the transport ship that would take him to Europe to fight.

Just one year later the Rev. W.T.D. Dunn, the Methodist Minister in Grand Falls, walked to the Abbott home in Grand Fall’s clutching a telegram to Mr. Charles Abbott. The telegram read:

I regret to inform you that the Records Office London today reports that number 2119 Private Eli Abbott  was killed in action  28 January

In the quiet of her home on March 4, 1917 his mother Annie Abbott wrote:

“He was my only son. He  has played the hero’s part and has put down his life for King and Country … I shall see him no longer on earth but trust to meet him again in the great beyond where there will be no more war where all will be peace and happiness…”

We will remember him and all those that served their country.

On Friday, 11 November 2016 at 10:55 a.m., Their Honours (Honourable Frank F. Fagan and Her Honour Patricia Fagan) will attend the Remembrance Day War Memorial Service at the National War Memorial, St. John’s  where His Honour will lay the first wreath. Her Honour will lay a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Patriotic Association. Following the Service, His Honour will take the Salute in front of the Court House on Water Street. At the conclusion of the parade, Their Honours will host a Reception at Government House for invited guests.

At 2:00 p.m., Their Honours will attend the Annual Service of Remembrance at the Caribou Memorial Veterans’ Pavilion.

At 8:00 p.m., Their Honours will attend the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s Masterwork’s #2, Honour, Reflect, Remember, at The Basilica of St. John the Baptist.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

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: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

Recommended Book: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One, St. John’s, DRC Publishing, 2010.

 

Tears for a mother and young wife – we remember

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

November 17, 1916 

Vincent Carew headstone, Belgium.

Vincent Carew headstone, Belgium.

On November 17, 1916 Vincent Carew of Cape Broyle, Newfoundland quietly enlisted to “fight for country and king.”  He was 23 years old and the father of two young children.

His wife Elizabeth, when she heard the news that he had signed up was distraught. She immediately wrote a letter to the Governor telling his officials that she had “two small children” and that she did not want her husband to go to war.  The governor’s secretary wrote back that there was nothing that he could do.

One month later on January 31 – Vincent Carew – marched with all of the other Newfoundland volunteers, from their make shift tents near Quidi Vidi to the S.S. Florizel – the troop ship that was waiting in St. John’s Harbour to carry them to the war zones of Europe.

Seven months later on July 10, 1917 he was killed in action in Belgium.

Those who survived, wondered about where their loved one’s had been buried in the fields of Europe. They often wrote to government officials asking for a photograph of the grave site.  Elizabeth Carew wrote and received the photograph of her husband’s grave site in 1922.

She wrote back to government officials “Received the photograph of the grave of Private Vincent Carew. Many Thanks.  Yours,  Bessie Carew.”

The headstone s located in the Bard Cottage Cemetery, Belgium.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

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: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

Recommended Book: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One, St. John’s, DRC Publishing, 2010.

 

Kneeling and prayers in the streets

Archival Moment

2 November

Photo Credit: The Basilica Cathedral bells, St. John’s, NL

The parishioners of the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s were informed  at the end of every Sunday mass  in  November of 1902 that

“During the month of November the “De profundis bell” will be tolled at nine o’clock every evening for the Holy Souls.  All people who at the sound of the bell shall recite, on their knees (if possible) the Psalm De profundis with the verses and responses.

The De Profundis is found in scripture – Psalm 130.

Upon hearing the sound of the church bell wherever Catholics were at 9:00 p.m. they would fall to their knees and recite Psalm 130.

The Roman Catholics in the town of St. John’s  were also informed that:

“Those who do not know the De profundis  may say instead an Our Father  and Hail Mary  for the repose of  the faithful departed.”  (Source: Basilica Cathedral Publication Book, October 26, 1902.

And there was no escaping the toll of the Cathedral (now Basilica) bells. It is said that the bells could be heard as far away as Torbay.

The De profundis  bell was not the only one that was sounded.

A beautiful and pious custom which prevailed in many countries was the “passing bell,” which was rung slowly when a death was imminent in the parish. When the sick person was near his end the solemn tones of the bell reminded the faithful of their Christian duty of praying for his happy death and for his eternal repose; and after his spirit had departed, the bell tolled out his age — one short stroke for each year.

A bell that continues to be sounded in St. John’s  is the Angelus Bell.  The Angelus, consists essentially in the reciting of certain prayers at the sound of a bell at fixed hours. At the Basilica Cathedral the angelus bell is struck at noon each day.

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotion. In November, it is the Holy Souls in Purgatory, described in Catholic theology asthose faithful Christians who have died and gone before us.” Praying for the dead, especially for those we have known, is a requirement of Christian charity.

New Word:  De profundis    (Latin) “out of the depths of misery or dejection” (from the first words of Psalm 130

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database at The Rooms for archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Song: Psalm 130