Tag Archives: Basilica St. Johns

Lady Day Fish; August 15th in Newfoundland


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.


Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s, 1841 (now Basilica) .

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.”

Rooms Tour: Fishing for Cod: You could say Newfoundland and Labrador exists because of cod fish. So many cod that at one time that you could literally dip your bucket over the side of your boat and fill a pail with fish.  For over 400 years the salt cod industry was the backbone of life in Newfoundland and Labrador. Generations of fishing men, women and children spent their lives “making fish.”

Come with us on a tour at The Rooms of two exhibitions, From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea and Here, We Made a Home, to learn about the salt cod trade in the province.


Internationally Celebrated Artist has work in St. John’s


December 8, 1854


Immaculate Conception Statue by John Edward Carew.

In the centre of the piazza (the square) of the Basilica Cathedral stands a marble statue of the Immaculate Conception, ten feet high, on a granite pedestal of about the same height. The statue was erected in 1858 by Bishop John Thomas Mullock. It is the work of the Irish sculptor, John Edward Carew.

The statue is reputed to be the first  in the world  to be commissioned to celebrate the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception that was proclaimed as infallible by Pope Pius IX in the bull (formal proclamation) Ineffabilis Deus in 1854, and thus is an important article of faith for Roman Catholics.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by Catholics on December 8th each year.


Before proclaiming the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception  the Pope took steps to see whether the Church as a whole agreed by asking 603 bishops whether he should proclaim the  doctrine of Immaculate Conception; 546 (90%) said that he should.

Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s was intending to be in Rome for the Proclamation but stayed in St. John’s to oversee the completion of the R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) that was under construction.

The young priest John Thomas Power, the future bishop of Newfoundland was present at the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

There is in addition to the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the courtyard of the Basilica Cathedral also the life-size statue of the Immaculate Conception which stands to the left of the main altar in the Basilica Cathedral by Filippio Ghersi. It was installed on September 1, 1864.

Recommended Archives: For more information on this contact the Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese.  www.stjohnsarchdiocese.nf.ca

On Line Article: Marian Devotion in Newfoundland:  http://www.umanitoba.ca/colleges/st_pauls/ccha/Back%20Issues/CCHA1954/Kennedy.htm

Geology of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s:  http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/gc/article/view/2739/3186