“Be Sober and Watch” – Take “The Pledge”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May 12, 1985

 

The Pledge Card

On  May 12,1985 the members of the Total Abstinence and Benefit Society (TABS) met in St. John’s and dissolved the Society by a resolution of its members. The society had been formally established in St. John’s by the Revered Kyran Walsh in 1841.

It was not the first movement to introduce the philosophy of temperance in St. John’s and by extension the rest of the Newfoundland

. Edward Wix the Church of England Missionary had helped organize a temperance society which met almost every month between 1833 and 1838 and published the Newfoundland Temperance Journal.

Members of the TABS enrolled under the society’s motto of “Be Sober and Watch”, and had taken “the pledge” to abstain from alcoholic beverages.

The words of the famous “pledge” which members took was:

“I pledge myself with the Divine Assistance that as long as I shall continue a member of this Society I will abstain from all intoxicating liquors unless for medical or religious purposes and that I will discountenance intemperance in others.”

The society was a well established sponsor and host for numerous literary and musical and theatrical events. The logic of the society was to provide a good alcohol free venue  to counter the appeal  other entertainments.

In the 1930’s TABS was very optimistic about their future building their new hall at  344 Duckworth Street in, St. John’s, at the time the largest Art-Deco style building ever erected in the city. The building is best remembered as the Capital Theatre (Henry Street entrance) and CBC Radio Building.

When the Society was dissolved in 1985 the Registration Books, Minute Books and other related material was deposited in the Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese.

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives explore: MG 599:  Sons of Temperance, Twillingate; the collection consists of minutes of meetings, re: list of officers, parades, general business  and MG 1009: Sons of Temperance, St. John‘s Division No. 3: Minutes of the Sons of Temperance for 1865-1867 beginning with the inaugural meeting. Minutes include lists of officers including ages and occupations of members, resolutions, finances, quarterly reports, membership fees, expenditures, etc.

Recommended Song: Murphy Broke The Pledge (Irish Descendants) based on the Johnny  Burke Ballad, Murphy Broke the Pledge   [1851-1930] of St. John’s, NL (1894). This variant arranged by the Irish Descendants (Rollin Home, 1998)    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAUzJmUkC7A

The Effects of Bad Rum

Archival Moment

May 12, 1879

Making swish, drink it in moderation!

Making swish, drink it in moderation!

We have all had the occasion when we might have imbibed a little too much alcohol. But none so much as was drunk on one of the wharves in St. John’s on a Saturday afternoon in May of 1879.

One man got so drunk or ‘spiritualized’  that one of the reporters with the St. John’s newspaper the ‘Evening Telegram’ felt compelled to write about it.

The newspaper reported:

“The effects of bad rum were practically illustrated at the South Side of St. John’s, on Saturday. Several casks that once contained the precious beverage were rolled together on one of the wharves for the purpose of being filled with oil, when the idea suggested itself to the employees that free drinks could be obtained for all round by simply rinsing some of them out.

The men who were gathered poured a quantity of water from one cask to another until the proof satisfied those immediately interested and then all present were permitted to freely test the quality.

As a matter of course, a general misunderstanding arose, and a scene of indescribable confusion followed.

One stalwart seaman, belonging to the Dot ( a fishing vessel) of Prince Edward Island, who imbibed rather too freely, became so spiritualized that he thought that he could walk on water to the other side of the harbor.

Divesting himself of the greater part of his clothing, he stepped off the wharf; but unfortunately his faith was weaker than the rum and, like Peter of old, he began to sink.

After considerable time had elapsed, during which work was suspended all round, some parties pushed off a boat and the infatuated man was rescued and placed on terra firma, wiser than before he tried the experiment.”

The newspaper reporter was describing an old practice, the men were engaged in making swish or liquor produced by pouring water into a recently emptied rum barrel.

In Newfoundland there has always been those with a passion for making ‘swish’ and did not take kindly to interference.

On May 2, 1973 the St. John’s Daily News posted a poem  that was critical of  John Crosbie, Minister of Finance  and  liquor taxes that were being considered  by the government of the day.

Hon. John Crosbie

Swish will cost ten dollars

Inflation isn’t bad enough
But Johnny Crosbie makes it tough
He’s putting up the drop of stuff
Swish will cost ten dollars

Into the barrels from the store
So much hot water you would pour
A three buck deal but now it’s more
Swish will cost ten dollars

Liquor soaked into the wood
Drawn out by water as it should
A swishy product make’s that’s good
Swish will cost ten dollars.

If Crosbie likes to spread his name
Quite sad will be his claim to fame
The jacked up price on him we’ll blame
Swish will cost ten dollars.

Making moonshine on one’s own
Will Mr. Crosbie now condone
Why not, the way that things are goin’
Swish will cost ten dollars

Archival Collection at The Rooms:  Temperance societies in Newfoundland had been advocating for prohibition dating back to the 1860’s. In 1915 the Government of Newfoundland held a referendum proposing prohibition. Prohibition, which came into effect  (1917 –1925), prohibited everyone except doctors from buying, selling or possessing liquors containing more than two percent alcohol.   Explore GN 2/5 271-G. Office of the Colonial Secretary. Correspondence and report of the Commission of Enquiry into the administration of the Prohibition Act and appointment of the Liquor Controller 1920-1925.

 

May snow has healing powers

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May Snow

Where is the May Snow?

“May Snow”  is something that  none of us are keen to welcome but  it is  a phenomena that we have all known.

William Shakespeare, like the rest of us was not keen  on  ‘May Snow”  in  ‘Love’s Labour Lost’, he wrote:

 

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows. (1.1.105)”

But if we get snow we might as well make the best out of it.

In this province our ancestors  and government  insisted “May Snow” should be bottled and used as a remedy to cure sore eyes.

A brochure printed by the government of Newfoundland in 1955, titled “Historic Newfoundland  and Labrador” stated:

Many old people testify to the efficiency of this strange cure.

The “Dictionary of Newfoundland English” observed:

“Snow from the first snowfall in May would be collected because it was supposed to have healing powers. It would be used to cure sore eyes. It was called May water.”

J. K. Crellin, in his book “Home Medicine: The Newfoundland Experience” offers a suggestion for those unhappy with their complexion. Crellin in his research discovered that one’s complexion would be improved by soaking one’s face in the first snow in May month.

Snow is associated with purity and innocence as in the expression  “as pure as the driven snow.”

Another expression that is deeply rooted in the folklore of many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador is the expression

“A snowfall in May, will take freckles away.”

It was not uncommon for the young Irish girls to bathe their faces in May snow water with the wish and the prayer that their freckles would disappear. The expression is countered by another wonderful old Irish saying

” A face without freckles is like a night without stars”

Let us embrace our weather, take it as it comes. Let’s bottle this May snow. It truly is good for sore eyes!!

Recommended Website:  Environment Canada:  http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/city/pages/nl-24_metric_e.html

 

“Buy a broom in May, sweep your friends away..”

Archival Moment

May Month

"Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away."

“Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”

If you are shopping in May to replace an “old broom” you might want to consider the old English rhyme that goes:

Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”

Some would even argue that one should not use a broom at all in May;  the English rhyme  for this superstition  goes:

 

If you sweep the house with broom in May, You’ll sweep the head of that house away.”

The origins of these superstitions have been lost but it is likely that the Newfoundland influence can be traced to 19th-century England in particular in Suffolk County home of the ancestors of many Newfoundlanders.

The superstition was also held by our Irish ancestors, they refused to make brooms during the month of May. It was the general rule in Ireland, to gather a stock of brooms, before May Day (1st May) in order that they should last through the month.

The broom has also taken on some considerable symbolic value.

Photo Credit: The Rooms: A 50-38: Little Girl with her broom, women's work!

Photo Credit: The Rooms: A 50-38: Little Girl with her broom, women’s work!

The broom is often associated with woman and good housekeeping.  As a result of the association, it was the practice that when a wife had been absent from home “longer than justifiable”, a broom, decorated with a ribbon, would be hung over the doorway, as an advertisement for a housekeeper.

The men also took advantage of the broom as a symbol.  When the man puts out the broom, it is understood that he invites his friends to carouse with him during his wife’s absence. Nowadays, it might be called an invitation to a shed party!!

In Newfoundland, P.K. Devine, a journalist and a teacher, and one of the first important native Newfoundland folklore enthusiasts observed that boats were “broomed” to let people know that they were for sale. Instead of an advertisement in the local paper, the old “birch broom” used in sweeping the deck, was hoisted to the mast-head to let everyone in the harbor know that the schooner was for sale.

Making brooms was considered a noble profession and most towns had a small family business geared towards making brooms or a medium sized business that included the manufacture of brooms.  The Directory for St. John’s in 1890 for example identified Robert Martin of 18 Duckworth Street and Joshua Mills of Kickham’s Lane as broom makers for the business of F & M Company.   In rural Newfoundland certain fishermen because of their natural talent were identified as the “broom makers” and often made the brooms to support their meager income from fishing.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s a small Broom Industry was created at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) manufacturing brooms that were sold in the shops of St. John’s and other towns. It is an art form that has now all but died.

With regard to the old English rhyme “Buy a broom in May, and you will sweep your family (and friends) away.”   I tend to be a bit more relaxed in May month about house cleaning and absolutely no broom in sight!!

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives: Broom Industry: GN 13. Dept. of Justice (1939-1948) 1   folder  Box number, 106.

Recommended Reading:  Admiral W.H. Smyth, 1788—1865, The Sailor’s Word-Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms (London: Blackie and Son, 1867)

Recommended Song:  Lish Young Buy A Broom (Shanneyganock) with lyrics and video http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/30/broom.htm

College built from Prison Stone

Archival Moment

April 27, 1857
St. Bonaventure’s College – The Old College

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: E 35-28; St. Bonaventure's College.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: E 35-28; St. Bonaventure’s College.

St. Bonaventure’s College, St. John’s known locally as (St. Bon’s) was designed by James Purcell and built by Patrick Keough. It is considered one of the most recognized educational facilities in the province.

In 1855 there was a public auction to sell more than 30,000 building stones from Waterford, Ireland, which had been imported to build the local penitentiary. The Catholic Bishop of the day, Right Rev. John Thomas Mullock, took advantage of plans to build a smaller penal institution and purchased sufficient surplus stones to construct a monastery.

On April 27, 1857 the bishop laid the cornerstone of the building, a year later, in March 1858, the new facilities opened. Dormitories were installed upstairs as the institution operated as a seminary.

Seven years later in 1865 the college began to admit secular students and, in 1889, the Irish Christian Brothers assumed administrative responsibilities for the school.

The building is now known as the Old College or the Skinner Building and is located directly across the street from The Rooms.

Recommended Reading
: Noble to the View:  J. B. Darcy, Creative Publishers, St. John’s, 2007

 

 

“The Art of Gerald Squires: Materials and Sources”

Stan Dragland, literary critic, editor, novelist, and poet will present the annual Newfoundland Historical Society (NHS) George Story Lecture.

The lecture takes its name from George Morley Story (1927-1994), past president of the NHS  and winner of the NHS’s Heritage Award for 1982-1983. Dr. Story joined Memorial University’s Department of English Language and Literature in 1954, where he established an international reputation as a lexicographer and Renaissance scholar, and pioneered the study of Newfoundland history, culture, language and literature.

Dragland in his presentation will discuss the celebrated Newfoundland painter, Gerald Squires. His presentation is based on his research for the long essay in a new book on Squires timed to appear alongside Squires’ 2017 retrospective—opening at The Rooms, May 12th. 

The lecture promises to explore the many sources now available—not only the pictures and sculptures, the criticism and interviews, but also the wealth of archival material preserved by Gail Squires and held in Holyrood.

Especially important are Squires’ own eloquent writings, many of them never published, some of them chosen to grace the lecture. Dragland explores the painter’s passionate grasp of archetypal impulses—heaven and hell contending in his personal cosmology—and tries to suggest how such tensions are embodied in his pictures. An important sub-theme is Squires’ deep-seated ecological consciousness, more relevant and valuable than ever in the context of accelerating threats to the biosphere.

Lecture and illustrations will present Squires as he is well-known and well-loved, but also with dimensions that are not common knowledge. The viewer/listener may also expect to see and hear about some surprising images that came to light after Squires’ death.

Location: Hampton Hall, Marine Institute

Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017     Time: 8pm

Parking: Free parking is available in front and to the west of the building.

Please circulate  to family, friends and colleagues.

For more information:

Tel:(709)722-3191      E-mail: nlhistory@gmail.com

http://www.nlhistory.ca/

Recommended Exhibit: Gerald Squires: Spirit Visible from  May 13 – September 4, 2017  at The Rooms.

Is this holiday about St. George or William Shakespeare?

Archival Moment

April 23

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George's Day be called Shakespear's Day.

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George’s Day be called Shakespear’s Day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, April 23, is St. George’s Day  celebrating our ‘English ancestry’.

 (The provincial holiday is held on April 24, the nearest Monday.)

 

St. George’s Day has long been acknowledged as a significant date in Newfoundland and Labrador but it was not celebrated as a holiday until April 23, 1921.

Traditionally it was a day filled with pageantry and parading. Typically all of the English Protestant organizations including the Newfoundland British Society, Loyal Orange Association, Society of United Fishermen, Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Sons of England Benefit Society, lined up in honor of St. George parading through the streets of St. John’s.

Throughout the town on St. George’s Day all of the men would be sporting a red rose in their lapel, the national emblem and flower for England

April 23 is however not only about St. George it is also all about William Shakespeare.

In Newfoundland there have always been enthusiasts for William Shakespeare and on April 16, 1936, George W. Ayre, a lawyer from St. John’s writing from his home at 24 Circular Road wrote to the local newspapers:

“Now, I should like to call your attention to the fact that the 23rd of April is far more important than its being St. George’s Day and that is that it is also the day on which Shakespeare was born and died, his birthday and deathday, and Shakespeare is as far above St. George as the intellect is above the physique or something mental is above something physical.

St. George is more or less confined to Englishmen or the person of British Empire, as their Patron Saint but Shakespeare is the intellectual ocean into which the little tributaries of intellect flow. He is the myriad minded man, the greatest, mind, possibly, that ever was on earth, and as Englishmen, for he was an Englishman, as Britishers, for he was a Britisher, as men of intellect, as his was the greatest intellect, we should honour his birthday and deathday.

He is not only all these but he is the outstanding genius of the world, whose works are studied by schoolchildren, scholars, actors, and others, of all countries.

We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.

We cannot afford to drop it as Shakespeare’s Day.

Let us therefore honour Shakespeare on that day, (April 23) let there be Shakespearean recitals and performances; let there be dances, concerts, etc. all in honour of the greatest mind that was ever in the world.”

There were those in St. John’s who were not amused with the letter; in fact they were quite baffled. Mr. Ayre (the gentleman penning the letter) was the first President of the St. George’s Society in St. John’s.  Ayre’s loyalties were clearly suspect. One of his first acts as the president of the St. George’s Society (founded on April 23, 1921) was to encourage theatrical groups in St. John’s to present Shakespearean plays on April 23.

Many thought it was really a bit much for the President of St. George’s Society, which was to advocate for their great patron St. George to write that:

“We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.”

Who was St. George?  According to legend, St. George, a soldier of the Imperial Army, rescues a town in what is now Libya from the tyranny of a dragon. St. George overpowered the beast and then offered to kill it if the townspeople would convert to Christianity and be baptized. The story is that there were 15,000 conversions on the spot. Openly espousing Christianity was dangerous and eventually the authorities of Emperor Diocletian arrested George. He was martyred about 303 AD.

Many of us associate St. George with his flag. The standard, the Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower (with the early Union Flag combining St. George’s Cross of England with St. Andrew’s Saltire of Scotland on the mainmast) when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Renews, Newfoundland  to replenish their supplies before they went on their way to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

St George is the patron saint of England. He is the patron of soldiers and archers, cavalry and chivalry, of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers, of horses, riders and saddlers.

He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Lithuania, Moscow, Palestine, and Portugal. But only in Newfoundland and Labrador have we declared this day a holiday!

Recommended Action: Wear a Red Rose in your lapel on April 23 just to remind people that you know why you had the day off. If you want to celebrate the birth and death of Shakespeare impress your friends by reciting a few lines from the bard.