“Dunning” his neighbor and friend leads to fistcuffs and assault.


January 20, 1885

Dunning - 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Dunning – 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Many people trying to manage debt problems have unfortunately experienced the added stress of dealing with persistent calls from collection agencies. Today, the collectors harass by phone but there was a time when it was much more personal, much more “in your face.”

In January 1885 Charles Coveyduck of Upper Gullies was determined to get his friend and neighbor Edward Corbett to repay  £5 that he had loaned him, so determined  was Coveyduck that he harassed Corbett day after day. This relentless pursuit was known as “dunning”, the word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Edward Corbett was fed up with the “dunning” and told his neighbor in no uncertain terms.  The conversation got rather heated, Coveyduck shouted that “he had something better to do than dancing attendance upon Corbett”  and “called Corbett out of his name.”

Their animosity had grown such that the local St. John’s newspaper, The Telegram reported on January 20, 1885:

“Thereupon Coveyduck caught Corbett by the collar of the coat and administered what the spruce young chap on Prescott Street would term “condign punishment.”  However, it was a square game of fistcuffs on both sides, a mode of settling disputes that has a certain recommendation, in itself in these troublous times. They departed bad friends and as Coveyduck wadded through the evergreen glades of the pleasant village of Upper Gullies he vowed that he would make his antagonist “sweat for it in Mr. Prowse’s Court.”

True to his word Coveyduck with his lawyer, Mr Carty at his side and Corbett with his lawyer,  Mr. Emerson at his side stood before Judge Prowse.

His worship, Judge Prowse heard the case fully but as there were certain mitigating circumstances in favor of the accused, (the excessive dunning) he fined Corbett only fifty cents and costs.

The smile was soon wiped off Corbett’s face, in the subsequent civil action for recovery of the £5, judgment was given to Coveyduck in the full amount claimed.

The two friends, Coveyduck and Corbett, should have heeded the words of Shakespeare:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to explore  GN 170 Newfoundland and Labrador court records collection. (microfilm) The collection  of court records looks at  decisions of the court s predominantly  involving debt,  forgery, manslaughter, murder, property disputes,  assault, smuggling, noise complaints, larceny, damages, judgments, casting away of vessels, indecent assault, rape, arson, drunkenness,  etc.  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/

Old Word:  “Dunning” is the process of methodically communicating with customers to ensure the collection of accounts receivable. Communications progress from gentle reminders to almost threatening letters as accounts become more past due. The word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve Loss Remembered

Archival Moment

January 13, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A 11-165; Departure of the Newfoundland Detachment to the Great War (Naval Reservists embarking for England, 1914.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A 11-165; Departure of the Newfoundland Detachment to the Great War (Naval Reservists embarking for England, 1914.

Most people associate the memorial at Beaumont Hamel, France with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment but the memorial also pays tribute to the men of Newfoundland and Labrador who served with the Royal Navy.

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial pays tribute to all those Newfoundlanders who served in the First World War and specifically commemorates those who have no known graves. Emblazed on a bronze table at Beaumont Hamel are the names of 24 seamen of the Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserve. These men died on 13 January 1915 in the sinking of the HMS Viknor.

The HMS Viknor was built in 1888 as the Atrato for the Royal Mail Steam Co. Ltd. The S/S Atrato was a beautifully designed passenger ship, more resembling a luxury yacht than a liner. She was used in the service between England and the West Indies and could carry up to 280 passengers. Bought by Viking Cruising Co. Ltd. in 1912, she was renamed Viking.

At the beginning of WWI, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty, equipped with armament and renamed HMS Viknor. She was mainly used as a cruising patrol ship.

On 13th January 1915, while on patrol, she sank in heavy weather without any distress call. It was assumed that she was sunk by a mine, belonging to a minefield laid by the Germans. Not a single soul of the 295 crew was saved. Many of the bodies were washed ashore days after the sinking.

Among the crew were 25 Newfoundlanders. 24 bodies were never found. The body of Seaman John Bowen Mercer, Age 21 ((1034X) Son of Thomas George Mercer and Elizabeth Mercer, of Bay Roberts washed ashore and is buried in the Colonsay Military Cemetery. Colonsay is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 39 - 4. Naval Reservists

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 39 – 4. Naval Reservists

The 24 men of the Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserve lost in HMS Viknor are recorded at Beaumont Hamel.

1220X Seaman Enos Barnes.Age 33. Son of Matthew and Elizabeth Barnes; husband of Jessie Barnes, of Port Union.

1219X Seaman Albert Brace. Age 20. Son of Richard and Mary Brace, of Chance Cove, Trinity Bay.

1147X Seaman George Coates, age 29. Son of Philip and Emma Coates, of Fogo.

702X Seaman Gilbert Dyke, Age 23. Son of John Martin Dyke and Louisa Dyke, of Salvage Bay.

411X Seaman James Greening, Age 28. Son of Joseph and Jane Greening, of Summerville, Bonavista Bay.

2180X Seaman Thomas Jackson, Age 21. Son of Mrs. Alice Jackson, of Brigus, Port de Grave.

1218X Seaman Levi Jerrett; Age 23. Son of William and Mary Jerrett, of 90, Boyd’s Lane, St. John’s.

874X Seaman Albert Kelly, Son of 24 John and Emmeline Kelly, Cupids, Conception Bay.

1213X Seaman Phillip Lewis, Age 20. Son of Frederick Lewis  and Melina Reynolds of Caplin Cove, Bay de Verde.

1224X Seaman Alexander Martin, Age 23. Son of Rebecca Martin, of Battery Rd., St. John’s.

1209X Seaman Frederick Morgan. Age 19. Son of Joseph Morgan, of Seal Cove, Conception Bay.

1190X Seaman William George Morgan, Age 17. Son of George Henry and Sarah Morgan, of Blow-me-down, Port de Grave.

932X John Parsons, Age 23. Son of John and Mary A. Parsons, of Shearstown.

901X Seaman Harry W Peach, Age 25. Son of William Henry and Elizabeth Peach; husband of Elsie May Brinson (formerly Peach), of Arnold’s Cove, Placentia Bay.

706X Seaman Charles Ralph, Age 24. Son of Stephen and Leah Ralph, of Flat Island, Bonavista Bay.

1122X Seaman Charles Rowe, Age 21. Son of John and Ann Rowe, of Trinity.

1222X Seaman William St. Croix, Age 22. Son of Joseph and Esther St. Croix of Trepassey.

1227X Seaman Edward Smart, Age 19. Son of Samuel and Fanny Smart, of Saunder’s Cove, Alexander Bay.

862X Seaman Eli Sparkes, 24. Son of Isaac and Mary J. Sparkes, Shearstown.

1259X Seaman George Stringer, Age 21. Son of William T. and Mary Ann Stringer, of Little Heart’s Ease, Random South.

1214X Seaman Douglas Walsh, Age 20. Son of Mrs. Mary Ann Hutchings, of Cow Head, St. Barbe.

2179X Seaman Albert J Warren, Age 22. Son of Eli and Mary A. Warren, of Glovertown, Alexander Bay.

611X Seaman George Youden, Age 25. Son of Henry and Jessie Youden, of Bull Cove.

670X Seaman Thomas Youden, Age 26. Son of Henry and Jessie Youden, of Bull Cove. Husband of Alice Youden

During World War I approximately 2000 Newfoundland reservists served in the war effort; 180 men were killed in action. The reservists were not maintained as a unit but dispersed among the British Navy. The reservists also guarded the wireless station near Mount Pearl and manned the defence battery at Fort Waldegrave (reactivated summer 1916). In 1921 demobilization of the reservists was completed and the Royal Naval Reserve was disbanded.

In Bowring Park, St. John’s the caribou memorial has replica plaques of the memorial plaques at Beaumont Hamel, they list 820 names of Newfoundland soldiers, seamen and sailors who died in WW1 and have no known graves. Before this replica was erected families and friends had to travel to Europe to pay tribute to their sacrifice. Remember the men of the HMS Viknor by visiting Bowring Park.

The Newfoundland Naval Reserve is also represented by a sailor holding a spyglass on the west wing of the Newfoundland National War Memorial on Water Street, St. John’s. Give him a second look as you walk past and remember all of the young men of the HMS Viknor.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives research the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve fonds . GB 1/3. This collection consists of 17 volumes of personnel records for the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve (1900-1919). Records include applications for enrolment, naval service ledgers and registers of payment and retainers. Includes an alphabetical listing of reservists. Microfilm reproductions are available for research. Reel content is provided with item level descriptions.

Recommended Exhibit: BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU.  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. A section of the exhibit addresses our distinguished role in the naval services. https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou



“Genealogy, sex, …. and the place of archives.“

Archival Moment

January 16, 1888

newfoundland-bookIt has long been recognized that people are passionate about their family and their family origins, in fact genealogy is considered one of the most popular hobbies in the world.

Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetictest kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

There was a time in Newfoundland when genealogists were frustrated; there were no official institutions in place to help them to build a family tree. One of the first residents of the colony (now province) to recognize this reality was James Murray a St. John’s, Water Street merchant.  In January 1888 Murray wrote to the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram:

“I cannot but express my regret; even at this late day, no effective steps have yet been taken in this colony by which genealogical records may be kept in a public, official and systematic way. As we may fairly assume that the colony has now a definite future before it, I think that no further time should be lost in supplying this lack of vital statistics, the last, but not least, distinguishing mark of civilization.”

Another decade was to pass before the recommendations of Murray were to be heeded. Civil registration started in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1891. Beginning at that time, all clergy were required to register with the government, all baptisms, marriages and burials conducted within their jurisdiction. Prior to 1891, no such central registry existed, so the only records of baptism, marriage or burial were the ones held by the churches.

It was not until 1956 that a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York allowed a group of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland to begin to collect organize and describe various collections of historic government records which included marriage, birth and death registers.

In 1959 the Provincial Government of Newfoundland  passed the Historic Objects, Sites and Records Act which established the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). At that point the records were transferred to PANL located in the Colonial Building on Military Road.

In 2005 the Provincial Archives Division was established in The Rooms.

It was ironic that Murray who was so passionate about keeping records in a “public, official and systematic way’ in the Great Fire of 1892, which razed much of St. John’s, lost all that was dear to him.  While the Murray premises were spared, the records (that he held so dear) were destroyed when the safe in which they were stored was opened too quickly after the conflagration.

Recommended Archives: Contact the Rooms Provincial Archives at (709) 757-8088  or archives@therooms.ca

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/genealogy-research

Recommended Reading:  Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland E.R. Seary (Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1976). Corrected edition by William J. Kirwin. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998

Mummer, struck me a violent blow with a broom


Mummer, struck me a violent blow with a broom

January 9, 1860 

Mummer created by Stephanie Baker Sutton

Mummer created by Stephanie Baker Sutton

On January 9, 1860 John Charles Snelgrove of Harbour Grace a fisherman swore before Robert John Pinsent, her Majesty’s Justice of the Peace in that town:

“On last Friday night  (January 2, 1860) at about nine o’clock, I was on the main street  in Caplin Cove, Harbour Grace in the District of the aforesaid when some MUMMERS came up  and one of them named Henry Critch of Harbour Grace, Blacksmith, struck me a violent blow  with a broom stick on my shoulder, I told him to leave me alone – but he would not, he struck me several blows more  with the stick and knocked me down and beat me severely on my body and face, leaving marks on my face and body, he broke his broom stick on my body from the force of  the blow he  gave me. I did nothing at all to him. I pray that the said Henry Critch may be required to answer my complaint and be further death with according to law.”

The Justice of the Peace was not amused at the shenanigans of Henry Critch and his “mummer” friends and was quick to convict, sentencing Mr. Critch to pay a fine of one-pound sterling and to be imprisoned ten days.

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

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

In order to control the violence associated with mummering such that had been experienced by Mr. Snelgrove, five months after the Snelgrove decision ( June 1861) the Newfoundland government passed an act which dictated that:

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

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives, St. John’s.  GN5 /3/B/19  Box 24File 1R59 – A  – 3

Recommended Song: Mummer Song:  Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8OPy7De3bk

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

Recommended Reading: MUMMERS ON TRIAL Mumming, Violence and the Law in Conception Bay and St. John’s,Newfoundland, 1831-18631 JOY FRASER Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s:  http://www.shimajournal.org/issues/v3n2/h.%20Fraser%20Shima%20v3n2%2070-88.pdf

Old Christmas Day


January 6   

“Old Christmas Day” or “Twelfth Day” or “Epiphany”.

The season of Christmas ends on “Old Christmas Day,” January 6th also known as “Twelfth Day.”

The name “Old Christmas” stems from a piece of legislation introduced before the Parliament in London, England called the Calendar Act of 1751 that came into effect in 1752. Before the calendar was reformed, England celebrated Christmas on January 6th.

Essentially what happened in 1752  was that twelve days were dropped from the then existing calendar (Julian) calendar that was used in England and Ireland and the new  Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII), was adopted.

In 1752 purists said that the “real” Christmas Day was not on December 25th, but January 6th, 365 days after the previous Christmas.

In centuries past, Christmas was deemed to start at sunset on Dec 24 and so the 12th night following it was January 5. Nowadays, people count from Dec 25 and so assume Twelfth Night falls on the 6th.

Christmas nativity

Epiphany – January 6  – is the day when the Church, theologically, marks the arrival of the wise men  – magi – to give their gifts to the baby Jesus: the day when some will add the wise men to their nativity scenes.

In Newfoundland it  was a night to listen and watch. It is said  that at the exact stroke of midnight on Old Christmas Eve, the  farm animals, some kneeling  will start moo-ing and baa-ing and bellowing… not in their normal way, but almost like they were crying. In Newfoundland many children struggled to stay awake to witness the phenomena.  (Sadly they would fall asleep only to hear stories from their parents.) This belief harkens back to the stable in Bethlehem, and to the animals that were present when the Christ Child was revealed to the wise men .

In Newfoundland the tradition is that the Christmas tree should be taken down on Old Christmas Night, because it is bad luck to leave it up after that. In Greespond, Bonavista Bay small gifts were distributed to the children  on Twelfth Night or Epiphany in celebration of the gifts that the wise men brought to the baby Jesus

Also in Newfoundland there is the established tradition of twelfth-cake and twelfth bun and bon fires on Old Christmas Day. These traditions are cited in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. The stories go that on the

last night we[‘d] make a pan of sweet buns, twelfth buns, and give ’em to the people. Every house we’d go to we’d give ’em a bun for Twelfth Night.” 

It is said that the cake was baked as part of the refreshments offered to the clergy   who would visit homes on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, to bless each house in the parish.

The tradition of bonfires in Newfoundland is also supported. The Dictionary of Newfoundland English  reports:

“I have heard my grandmother (born 1835) talk about the ‘Twelfth Cake’, and an old gentleman of about the same age, but living in a different part of the island, told me that he had heard his father say that it was the custom to make twelve small bonfires in the village on Twelfth Night.” 

A tradition that had  remained dormant  in Newfoundland  is the Irish tradition of “Nollaig na mBan” or “Women’s Christmas”  this was an old custom that’s still celebrated by women all over Ireland. It goes back to the days when large families were the norm. Men never lifted a finger in the house to help, and were never expected to.  But each year, after the Christmas holiday, tired women finally got a break – for one day, at least. On January 6th, men would take over of the housework, offering women a chance to go out to relax with each other.  It was a tradition that is deeply rooted especially in  Kerry and Cork, home to many of our ancestors. Several informants suggested  that the tradition  was  also observed especially in Western Newfoundland, when the women gathered on Twelfth Night – Old Christmas Day.  Many “new” Irish now living in Newfoundland have also  revived the tradition by gathering on Old Christmas.

Recommended Archival Collection: Parsons  Christmas Annual, 1899. Contains assorted articles, stories, poetry and photographssome of which are Christmas-themed

Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Newfoundland English:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/

NEW Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Eric Ellis Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view the collection:  http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=47963