Tag Archives: Bishop Fleming

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.


“As innocent … as an unborn child”


MARCH 22, 1834 

Richard Snow was baptized on March 22, 1834 at the Old Catholic Chapel on Henry Street. His mother sat in prision – she would be hung for killing her husband,

On  March 22, 1834 James Kelly and Gera Purcel  stood at the baptismal font  in the small Roman Catholic Chapel on Henry Street in St. John’s,  the  baptismal sponsors  for a new born child. The child was the talk of  Newfoundland.  He was little Richard Snow – his father had been murdered a few months previous. His mother Catherine Manderville Snow had been convicted of the murder.

Catherine Mandeville Snow was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland.

Snow as a young woman moved from Harbour Grace  to Salmon Cove near Port de Grave where she took up residence with  John William Snow, a native of Bareneed. Together they had seven children, and married on October 30, 1828.

It was not a happy union, there were reports of frequent fights. According to reports, Catherine would fight back and throw things at him. On the night of August 31, 1833, John Snow disappeared. The local magistrate launched an investigation. With the discovery of blood on John Snow’s fishing stage, the investigation became a murder investigation.

Murder charges were laid against Catherine and her first cousin Tobias Mandeville (25)  and Arthur Springer, (28) one of Snow’s indentured servants.

The twelve hour trial took place at St. John’s on January 10, 1834.  The jury returned a guilty verdict  after thirty minutes of deliberations  for all three.

On  January 31, 1834, Arthur Springer and Tobias Mandeville were hanged.

During the trial it was discovered that Catherine Snow was pregnant with her eighth child.  The local newspaper the  Royal Gazette reported:

 “Twelve respectable Matrons should be empanelled to decide on the truth or falsity of the Prisoner’s allegation;  (that she was pregnant)  the twelve matrons  met on Saturday morning, and returned a verdict  that the Prisoner was in the situation stated in her plea.”

Many in Newfoundlandwere determined that Catherine Snow  should not hang.  Bishop Michael Fleming, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland made Snow a cause célèbre. The governor, Thomas John Cochrane delayed her hanging until the baby was born.

On July 21, 1834, as crowds gathered on Duckworth Street,  Cathwerine Snow walked out on the platform.  At her side was Rev. Thomas Waldron the same priest who had baptized her child.  The local newspaper  The Newfoundlander  reported:

“Rev. Mr. Waldron, was unceasing and assiduous in affording her the soothing consolation of religion, and preparing her for the last awful moment.”

Her last words were,

“I was a wretched woman, but I am as innocent of any participation in the crime of murder as an unborn child”

The St. John’snewspaper the Public Ledger reported:

 “The unhappy woman, after a few brief struggles, passed into another world.”

Recommended Reading:  The local newspapers of the day – The Newfoundlander and Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser reprinted much of the testimony that can be found  on microfilm  at the Rooms  Provincial Archives Division.

Recommended Reading:  (Historical -Fiction)  Catherine Snow by Nellie P. Strowbridge, Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2009.


Mercy Sisters Open Their First School in the New World


May 1, 1843

Mercy Convent, Military Road, St. John's, NL.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy was founded in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley on December 12, 1831.

At the request of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of St. John’s, Newfoundland three Irish women Frances Creedon, Ursula Frayne, and Rose Lynch began their Atlantic crossing on the Sir Walter Scott to begin working as missionaries in Newfoundland.

They arrived in St. John’s on June 3, 1842. With no convent ready they  took accommodations at Belvedere, Bishop Fleming’s residence.  (The street is now known as Margaret’s Place – off Newtown Road. Belvedere is the buidling  nearest to the MCP Building that was  the old  Belvedere Orphanage.)

During the first eleven months of the new mission, the Sisters of Mercy visited the sick and the poor in their homes. On December 12, 1842, the Sisters moved from their temporary home to their new convent on Military Road. This was the first Mercy Convent in the New World.

On May 1, 1843, Our Lady of Mercy School, Military Road, was formally opened. From this nucleus, other convents were opened throughout the province.

Through the years the Sisters of Mercy were engaged primarily in the teaching and nursing professions. In recent years their main focus has been in Pastoral Ministries in various localities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and in Peru.

Recommended Reading: “Weavers of the Tapestry”, Kathrine Bellamy’s, RSM -St. John’s, NL.  Flanker Press Limited   2006

 Recommended Web Site: http://www.sistersofmercynf.org/