Denomination division of the civil service


AUGUST 28, 1917

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division: C 1-207; House of Assembly in Session. Colonial Building, Military Road, St. John’s. Edward P. Morris, Prime Minister 1909-1917

On  28 August 1917 Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, the Catholic bishop of St. John’s wrote Prime Minister Edward Morris of Newfoundland with some concerns that he had concerning the denominational division of the civil service” in the country.

Archbishop Roche noted in his letter that he was not happy with the decision reached by Government with respect to the appointment of an Inspector General of Police. It appears that a Catholic had held the position (John J. Sullivan) but it had been decided to give the position to a Protestant. (Charles H. Hutchings).  The Archbishop wrote “I cannot but regard it as the passing out of Catholic hands an important position in point of honour, influence, and emolument.”

Church officials from all denominations staunchly defended positions in the Newfoundland civil service for their flock.  They were following an entrenched principle of “denominational representation in government and the civil service” established as early as 1865. Also known as the principle of “denominational compromise”   it was  generally accepted that positions in the public service, from the Supreme Court bench to ferry men  should be allocated in such a way that each denomination received a proportionate share of both jobs and the salary budget.

The principle essentially meant that all patronage and government jobs should be distributed upon a perfectly fair denominational basis with the amount of patronage given to each denomination representing their share of the population.  Essentially 1/3 of the jobs went to The Roman Catholics, 1/3 to the Anglicans and 1/3 to the Methodists.


The leaders of all of the churches each year scrutinized what were referred to as the “civil lists” to insure that their denominations were well represented.  These “civil lists” identified officials in all departments of government giving the salary and religious denomination of each.

The analysis of the” civil lists” by church leaders was quite detailed. In his letter of 28 August, Archbishop Roche also observed “The salary of the superintendent of the Hospital (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum (Catholic); the salary of the Inspector General (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Penitentiary (Catholic).

The principle of “denominational compromise”  was well entrenched until 1934 when  it came under review by the Commission of Government (1934-1949) they dropped old political and religious criteria in the hiring and promotion of civil servants making merit the sole basis for promotion. (It is interesting to note that when the commission of government was established in 1934, the positions for the three Newfoundlanders were allocated on a denominational basis: Alderdice (Anglican), Howley (RC) and Puddester (UC).

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Provincial Archives Division at The Rooms see GN 2.41 This series consists of the names, occupations, dates of appointments, terms of office and religious denominations of civil servants of St. John’s and Newfoundland.

Newfoundland takes Prisoners of War

Archival Moment

August 22, 1914

Prison13495337191864875045prison3-hiIn the hours following the declaration of the First World War in August 1914, the government of Newfoundland began to declare ‘certain individuals’ as ‘Prisoners of War.’

In St. John’s, the local papers reported as early as August 18, 1914 “that one Carl Winicarski, an Austrian fireman  (stoker)  was held as a prisoner of war.”

On August 20, 1914 “the police (in St. John’s) arrested another German as a Prisoner of War, there are now detained on the Police Station two Germans and a Pole.”

These were all men working on foreign vessels, that happened to be tied up in St. John’s harbour, that were carrying passports of the enemy countries, the Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and The Ottoman Empire (Turkey).

It appears that the Police Station was inadequate for the purposes of holding ‘Prisoners of War.’   The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on August 21, 1914:

“Owing to complaints being made that the Police Station was unfit to quarter Prisoners of War (POW’s) yesterday afternoon two German’s and a Pole were removed from there to the Penitentiary, where they will be allowed a certain amount of liberty.”

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) on Quidi Vidi Lake became the home for the prisoners of war in St. John’s. Initially, “prisoners of war” were also held in Corner Brook and Harbour Grace in the town’s Police or Court House cells.   As the numbers increased they were transferred to a facility in Donovan’s, (on the outskirts of St. John’s) and eventually to a larger facility in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

The Amherst Camp was the largest prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in Canada during World War I with a population of 853 prisoners. The most famous prisoner of war at the camp was Leon Trotsky.

The Prisoners of War in Newfoundland “were allowed a certain amount of liberty” and remembered fondly their time in Newfoundland and the people that they met while they were incarcerated.

Richard Frohner who had been arrested in Harbour Grace wrote from Amherst in 1917:

“I would rather be in Harbour Grace as here. (Amherst). Our best times we had over there (Harbour Grace) and in Donovan’s but I know that we will not get back as POW’s, we hope that this war will be over and we will be free once more…”

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 Regimen. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) are on line ,

Recommended Exhibit: Beaumont Hamel  and the Trail of the CaribouThe 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.


Ode To Newfoundland


August 17, 1979

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives MG 956.110 Item consists of sheet music, lyrics, and illustrated cover for patriotic composition, Newfoundland. On left side a seal fisherman in oilskins holding Newfoundland pink, white and green with seal at his feet on right side a uniformed Royal Naval Reserve member, holding Union Jack, with Newfoundland dog.

On August 17, 1979, Royal Assent was given to legislation adopting the Ode to Newfoundland as the official provincial anthem of the province of Newfoundland.

The  song  the “Newfoundland”  now known as the “Ode To Newfoundland” was sung for the very first time on January 21, 1902 at the Casino Theatre in St. John’s.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News, reported that  the new song was greeted enthusiastically.

The newspaper article reads:

 “Miss Frances Daisy Foster rendered with exquisite feeling a new song entitled “Newfoundland.” It proved a pleasant surprise and the general appreciation of it was marked by the audience joining spontaneously in the chorus.”

The “Ode to Newfoundland” was composed by Governor, Sir Cavendish Boyle, the original score was set to the music of E.R. Krippner, a German bandmaster living in St. John’s but Boyle desired a more dignified score. It was then set to the music of British composer Sir Hubert Parry, a personal friend of Boyle, who composed two settings.

The Daily News reporter knew that he had heard something special  when he heard the ‘Newfoundland’  being sung for the first time , he  wrote:   “he  (Boyle) has given us a poem which may be chosen as the Colony’s own anthem.”

On  June 21,1902  it was “resolved by the Committee of Council that the Ode “Newfoundland”, written by His Excellency Sir Cavendish Boyle, K.C.M.G., Governor of Newfoundland, with the musical setting by Professor E.R. Krippner, be approved, and officially recognized  as the Colonial Anthem.”  

That should have been it, all was required was the signature of the Governor.  The Governor however refused to sign. Arthur Mews, The Deputy Colonial Secretary of the day wrote:

“His Excellency (Governor Boyle) from motives of delicacy, did not formally approve the same at that time.”

The “delicacy’ was that  Governor Boyle was  both author of the Ode and Governor, it simply did not look proper that he sign off on his own Ode.

The Premier of the day, Sir Robert Bond, determined  that the Ode  become the official anthem suggested that given the hesitation of  Governor Boyle  that approval be  given by the Hon. W.H. Horwood, C.J. , Administrator of the Government.  But it was not to happen.

By 1904, the ‘Newfoundland’  had become firmly established, in the minds  of most people,  as the “official anthem”  of the Dominion of Newfoundland,  there was no Government function without the ‘Newfoundland’, it was sung at most public gatherings, in parish halls and concert halls.   It was so firmly established  that in the 1909 General Election, Robert Bond proposed that if elected he would be certain  to  make it the “official”  anthem of the country.

Bond lost the election.

Nothing was said of the official status of the Ode until 1972.   Frank Graham in his book  “We Love Thee Newfoundland” Biography of Sir Cavendish Boyle, wrote:

“At an event in St. John’s it was observed that a certain military group failed to observe protocol and the proprieties by coming to attention and showing the proper respect during the playing of Newfoundland’s anthem. The commanding officer was called on the carpet to explain the unseemly conduct of his men.  The officer defended himself and his group  by explaining that there was noting on the statue books to confirm the fact that the Ode  was Newfoundland’s Provincial anthem.  It transpired that he was right.”

In 1974  their was a resurgence of interest in making the Ode official, (driven by Lieutenant Governor, Gordon A. Winter,)  that resulted in the introduction  of the Provincial Anthem Act  for the Province of Newfoundland.  On May 2, 1975 the legislation  became official. It reads:

“The poem commonly called the Ode to Newfoundland, composed by Sir Cavendish Boyle, Governor of Newfoundland  from 1901 -1904, as it appears in the schedule is adopted as the provincial anthem of the Province of Newfoundland and shall be officially known and recognized as the Ode to Newfoundland.”

The Ode  to Newfoundland

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white

at winter’s stern command

Through shortened days and

starlit nights we love thee frozen land

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee frozen land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, frozen land.

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shores

and wild waves wash their strands,

Through spindrift swirls and tempest roars

we love thee windswept land,

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee

windswept land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, windswept land.

As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

Recommended Archival Collection: Take some time to look at  MG 956.110 at the Rooms;  this cover illustration featuring the Ode to Newfoundland depicts some of the iconic symbols and images of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Book: “We Love Thee Newfoundland” Biography of Sir Cavendish Boyle, K.C.M.G. Governor of Newfoundland 1901 -1904 by Frank W. Graham.  Creative Printers, St. John’s, 1979.

Recommended Reading:  Geoff Butler, Ode to Newfoundland. Lyrics by Sir Cavendish Boyle. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2003.


Lady Day Fish


August 15, 1864

The fishing season began with the blessing of the boats by the clergy.

 In Newfoundland and Labrador, August 15 is better known as Lady Day.  On August 15 there is a long established tradition that the “catch of fish” on this day was to be given over to the church.

‘Lady Day,’ the fifteenth of August,   in some parts of the province signaled the end of the fishing season.  It  was not unusual for some fishermen to ‘give it up’  for the remainder of the summer.

On August 14, 1864 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s   “called on the people of the St. John’s  area  to fish for St. Patrick’s Church tomorrow”  Bishop Mullock was so determined to get the fishermen up and out fishing at an early hour that he put on a special mass in the Cathedral (now the Basilica) at 4:00 a.m. “for the people going to fish…”

August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, was one of the great feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church. So important was this day that it was considered a Holy Day of Obligation, a day to  refrain  from work, a day demanding that the faithful attend Mass.


When the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) was being constructed Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of Newfoundland received in 1834 from Pope Gregory XVI,  the faculty to dispense the fishermen subject to his spiritual jurisdiction from the obligation of fasting on the vigils of saints.  This allowed Bishop Fleming to give permission to the fishermen to fish for the church on holy days, like Lady Day.  Bishop Fleming referred to himself as “the prelate of a congregation of impoverished fishermen.” 

Father Kyran Walsh (the priest in charge of the construction of the R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) would collect Lady Day fish in the summer, and so raised the thousands of pounds that were needful to complete the Cathedral.

Lady Day in many communities became a day of celebration – at the end of the “fishing day” in some communities (especially in Placentia Bay) dinner and dances were held in the parish halls.

On August 19, 1944 one writer for the Western Star newspaper in Corner Brook, lamented that:

“The 15th of August passed by rather uneventfully. However, many sadly recalled the big celebrations it occasioned in days gone by, and would like to see it return to its former festivity.”


“I was talking to all the boys belonging home …”

Archival Moment

August 10, 1915

Photo Credit: F 25-20: The Rooms Provincial Archives, Young Newfoundland Soldiers.

Photo Credit: F 25-20: The Rooms Provincial Archives, Young Newfoundland Soldiers.

The spirit of patriotism ran high throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in the early days of the First World War, families were proud that their sons signed up for the war effort and were only too happy to share any news that they heard from their boys overseas.

The Newfoundland newspapers of the day, especially the Evening Telegram, were aware of the keen interest that neighbours and friends had in the young men that departed our shores for Europe and would arrange with the families permission to publish the letters that they were receiving in the newspaper.

On August 10, 1915 Walter and Mary Crosbie of Bay Robert’s were pleased to find that the Evening Telegram had published a letter that they had received from their son, George (Graham) Crosbie, Regimental Number 1447.  She wanted everyone to know that her boy had signed up for the war effort and that he was at Stob’s Camp in Scotland where he was training to be a soldier.

He wrote to his mother:

Stobb’s Camp

July 11, 1915

Dear Mother:

Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and in good health. I had a lovely time across, I was not a bit sea sick. I had a grand time in Gibraltar. I was talking to Peter Mansfield he told me to remember him to you.

I was talking to all the boys belonging home we landed at Liverpool the boys are as fat as bears, you would not know any of them now.

I think this is all I have to say now as we are not allowed to give any particulars.

You can send me some cigarettes and tobacco as the cigarettes and tobacco is hardly fit to smoke her. Give my love to all the friends especially Aunt Judy tell her I wish I could get some of her beer now.

I think this is all now, you must excuse this letter for I am writing it on the grass.

From your loving son,


Young Graham was so determined to sign up that he convinced recruiters that he was old enough. They wrote on his attestation papers or official record “his apparent age is 19.” The reality was that he was only 16 years old. He departed St. John’s, Newfoundland on the troopship the Calgarian, June 15, 1915.

One year after he wrote this letter George Graham Crosbie, age 17; died from wounds that he sustained at Beaumont Hamel, France on July 1, 1916.

His friend Peter Francis Mansfield, Regimental Number 37 from Jersey Side – Placentia survived the war.

George Graham Crosbie is buried in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen; Seine-Maritime, France. His grieving parents established a gravesite at the Anglican cemetery in Coley’s Point where he could be remembered at home.

Recommended Exhibit at The Rooms:  Beaumont – Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou. Level 2:   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:

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is available 6683 individual service files, many have been digitized and are available at: This searchable database for military service records includes the attestation papers: name, service number, community and district of origin, next of kin and relationship, religion, occupation, year of enlistment, fatality, and POW status (if applicable). Take some time to read the stories of these young men.

Recommended Reading: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers, St. John’s: DRC Publishing, 2011. 145p.


“The poor man’s holiday.” The Regatta.

Archival Moment


Photo Credit: Early illustration of Regatta from Canadian Illustrated News, 1875. Regatta Museum.

Photo Credit: Early illustration of Regatta from Canadian Illustrated News, 1875. Regatta Museum.

The St. John’s Regatta, has since 1818 been an important date on the holiday calendar in Newfoundland. In the 1880’s the “the day of the Races” was considered by many our “National Holiday.”

An editorial in the St. John’s newspaper, the Evening Telegram in July 1881 stated:

“ … we have come to regard “the day of the Races” as our National Holiday, and it is highly expedient, in the general interest that, in fixing on a particular day for these annual aquatic “sports and pastimes, …”

The editorialist wrote that “Regatta Day” should be a holiday for the laboring people:

“… because the Regatta is above all, “the poor man’s holiday.”  When “the people” go out to take their pleasure in the green fields and by the grassy lake of Quidi Vidi, it is expedient that all “the people” should be able to be there.”

The plea to have the Regatta as a National Holiday of the colony of Newfoundland never became a reality but in the hearts and minds of the residents of St. John’s it is the most significant holiday.

There is little doubt that the Regatta was “the poor man’s holiday” all of the crews were made up of the men from the working classes, the vast majority fishermen. At lakeside special ‘aquatic tents’ were reserved for the merchant classes, where they retired for refreshments.

In 1897, Sir Herbert Harley Murray, the Colonial Governor of Newfoundland refused to attend the Regatta stating that the “best” people were not patronizing the event. The son of an Anglican bishop it is likely that Murray was not happy with the boozing by the “operative and laboring classes ….taking their pleasure in the green fields and by the grassy lake of Quidi Vidi.”   He was also not amused that during the Regatta the previous  year no one stepped forward to hold an umbrella for his daughter during a rain shower. Not even the gentlemen of the town lived up to his standard of the “best” people.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division take some time to look at  “The Rowing”  Series  which consists of 212 b&w photographs predominantly of the Royal St. John’s Regatta races and crews, The photographs include team portraits, races underway, presentation of awards and views of the people along the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake. Search the Archives:

Recommended Exhibit: Up The Pond: The Royal St. John’s Regatta  – The Regatta is a two-century old St. John’s rowing event and gigantic garden party held the first Wednesday of every August at Quidi Vidi Lake, weather depending. This year The Rooms commemorates this longstanding day of racing and fun “up the pond.”  Explore Regatta stories, legendary crews and lakeside traditions through artifacts, historic imagery and memorabilia.  Share your Regatta memories and traditions with us!  You can also try your hand at some fun and games in our special Regatta games area, also in the atrium on Level 3.

Recommended Web Site: The Royal St. John’s Regatta:

Recommended tune (Listen):



Photo Credit: Quidi Vidi, sketch by William Grey, Sketches of Newfoundland, 1858

Using archival documents in public programming is always  the goal of archivists in this country and one of the best examples of this marriage is the new CBC Newfoundland and Labrador series  “Down at the Lake” a series of four short documentaries on the history of the development of Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s.

Quidi Vidi Lake is home to the Royal St. John’s Regatta, a two-century old  race and probably one of the most celebrated annual sporting events in North America. The first recorded documentation of an organized event taking place is in 1818, but historians believe that rowing matches were taking place among ship’s crews in St. John’s Harbour since at least the 1700’s. But much more happens on the shores of that historic Pond!! Using archival material and local historical enthusiasts CBC Newfoundland and Labrador tells some great stories.

 The first episode delves into the stories of Quidi Vidi Village: how the area got its name, a church that’s now a home, and development plans around the lake. The second part of the series explores stone structures on the south shore of lake (that are still in use today), and tales of some jail breaks.

The third part of looks at some unusual sports and two graves that predate the cemetery they’re in.  The fourth and final installment of the CBC NL series about Quidi Vidi delves into the music, wild parties and a hotel that was owned by an eccentric entrepreneur on the north side of the lake.

You can watch all 4 parts here:

If  this production is not enough come over to The Rooms  for the exhibit: UP THE POND: THE ROYAL ST. JOHN’S REGATTA

The Regatta is a two-century old St. John’s rowing event and gigantic garden party held the first Wednesday of every August at Quidi Vidi Lake, weather depending. This year The Rooms commemorates this longstanding day of racing and fun “up the pond.”

Come to the Rooms and explore Regatta stories, legendary crews and lakeside traditions through artifacts, historic imagery and memorabilia.