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If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright …

ARCHIVAL MOMENT 

February 2, 1871 

Febryary 2 is Candlemas Day - Blessing of the candles that are used during he year.

February 2 is Candlemas Day – Blessing of the candles that are used during the year.

 

Some of the best insights into the history of families and communities in this province can be garnered from the pages of the hundreds of diaries that have been deposited into archives in the province. In the diaries of Edward Morris, Mr. Morris observed on February 2, 1871.

Fine morning, light frost, wind from the north, north west. Streets frozen again but no cold such as we have had. The day fine enough but the walking very rough.  Attended at the Cathedral in the morning at the ceremonies of Candlemas Day ….”

February 2 is “Candlemas”  Day.

The ceremony of Candlemas Day that Mr. Morris observed was the blessing of the annual supply of the Church’s candles.  Beeswax candles were blessed by being sprinkled with holy water and having incense swung around them, and then the candles distributed to everyone in the church. Then there was a procession in which people carried lighted candles while the choir sang. The procession represents the entry of Jesus as light of the world into the temple.

In Newfoundland there is an established tradition that on this day a blessed candle would be lit and the mother of the household would bless the children in the home with the candle.  The wax was allowed to drip on the head (hat) and shoulders and on the shoes of the children.

Every fishing boat would also have a blessed candle. These candles would be taken out and lit during a gale or storm.

WINTER IS HALF OVER

This day also used to have great significance on the calendar, because the date lies half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, so it marks the day upon which winter is half over!  As Candlemas traditions evolved, many people embraced the legend that if the sun shone on the second day of February, an animal would see its shadow and there would be at least six more weeks of winter.

You may know the rhyme:

If Candlemas day be sunny and bright,Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away. (Fox version)

If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight. If Candlemas day be shower and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again. (Traditional)

In Branch, St. Mary’s Bay an expression that is particular to Candlemas Day was the expression:

Half your prog and half your hay,

Eat your supper by the light of the day.

The expression calls on families, now that we are half way through winter, to take stock of their (prog)  food supplies in their root cellars  and feed for the animals (hay).   Just to insure  that there is enough to get you through the winter.

Recommended Archival Collection:   Edward Morris Diaries 1851-1887. Edward Morris was a businessman, politician, and office-holder; born in 1813 at Waterford (Republic of Ireland). He moved to St John’s, Newfoundland in 1832.  On January 1, 1851 he began to keep a daily diary that he continued until his death on 3 April 1887.

The Cape Shore Road: “A path through a bog”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

August 29, 1927

 

The Cape Shore Road, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile.

Every Roman Catholic bishop since 1784 has been responsible for a “pastoral or Episcopal visitation” to the parishes in rural Newfoundlandand Labrador that are under their jurisdiction.  The “Episcopal visitation” is essentially an opportunity for the bishop to meet with the parish priest and the local people to discuss the state of the local church and its future. In that tradition, Archbishop Edward P. Roche of St. John’s made an ‘Episcopal Visitation” to the Cape Shore in August 1927.

Upon returning to his home in St. John’s, Archbishop Roche wrote a two page letter to the elected members of the House of Assembly in particular to Sullivan, Walsh and Sinnott who were responsible for the Placentia District that included the Cape Shore.

In his letter to the elected officials 29 August 1927 Archbishop Roche wrote:

 “The road from Placentia to Patrick’s Cove is now complete, and passes through some of the very finest scenery in the country.

His description about the state of the road from St. Bride’s to Branch was not as flattering. He wrote:

 “the road is almost impassable; it can scarcely be called a road at all, being very little more than a path through a bog.”

The Archbishop was keen on seeing the roads developed from an economic perspective.  He stated:

 “the people are hard working and industrious, and better road communications would make for greater prosperity in the settlement.”

He also felt that the Cape Shore had considerable tourism potential. He wrote if the road was completed:

 “it will be one of the most attractive and picturesque drives in the country.”

THE ONLY THOROUGH JUSTIFICATION FOR THE INVENTION OF THE AUTOMOBILE

The beauty of the Cape Shore and the condition of the road has not been lost on  those that have travelled to the Cape Shore.

Rex Murphy the CBC host and commentator wrote in the Globe and Mail, October 6, 2001:

 The going to it, (Goosebery Cove, on the Cape Shore Road) and the coming from it, over the splendid wilfulness of the Cape Shore road itself, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile that has yet been hit upon.”

Recommended Archival Collection: See  MG 658.  This small collection consists of account book re: trust accounts, accounts with St. John’s firms (1936); cheque book and stubs (1947-1948); journal (1938-1945) created by the Branch and Cape Shore Area Development Association. Search on line  https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Reading: A cove of inner peace on Newfoundland’s Cape Shore: Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/a-cove-of-inner-peace-on-newfoundlands-cape-shore/article763554/

 

Partridge, jostling each other on the barrens

Archival Moment

May 1903

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 53-10; Woman with roasting pan of partridges.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 53-10; Woman with roasting pan of partridges.

In their enthusiasm to lure hunters to the Cape Shore in the 1880’s the people of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, boasted that there was no better place for fishing, trouting and birding than on the Cape Shore. In fact they let it be known to the celebrated travel writer Captain Robert William Kennedy, R.N. that the partridges were so plentiful that they were “jostling each other on the barrens.”

An avid hunter Kennedy in 1880 travelled to Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, where he enjoyed the hospitality of the townspeople and all the partridge hunting that he wanted. Five years following his experience (1885) he wrote in his book Sport, Travel, and Adventure in Newfoundland and the West Indies that it was true ‘patterridges’ (as the Branch people pronounced the name) could be seen to “be jostling each other on the barrens.”

With such grand reports of good hunting in the area it was inevitable that other ‘birders’ should be attracted to the area. It proved to be too much!! By 1900 the partridge population was near extinction.

In May 1903 the people of Branch and Trepassey were petitioning the government to protect the partridge. The local people had “for the last year or two been witnessing their entire crop of birds, swept away prematurely … by the wanton destruction of so many immature birds… “

Sir Robert Thorburn, the former Prime Minister of Newfoundland and a member of the Fisheries Board stood firmly with the people of Branch and their petitions to the government of the day. He took to writing the local press (The Evening Herald) in May 1903 he observed:

“that in comparatively few days at opening of last season shooting, (that a certain city so called sportsman), stated he killed enough birds on Trepassey and Placentia grounds to pay his expenses and that he sold 250 (two hundred and fifty) birds to one of our city grocers.”

Thorburn went on to write:

“Assuming this statement to be true, and that it is not a solitary instance or exception to the rule, does it not emphasize the necessity of preventing if possible a repetition of this wanton destruction of so many immature birds?”

The former Prime Minister, the people of Branch and the people of Trepassey argued that the partridge should remain “undisturbed until about the first of October.“ By tradition the ‘partridge season’ did not open up until October but over the years the ‘birders’ were arriving earlier and earlier.

They argued allowing the birds to mature:

“would have afforded a fair share of sport to the legitimate sportsman, be he a city man, or one of the manor born. ”  Thorburn continued : “Put the shooting back to the first of October and allow the use of firearms on no pretext whatsoever   … and the game will be preserved …. “

It appears that the petitions of the people of Branch and Trepassey were heeded the Consolidated Statutes of Newfoundland were revised to read “ No person shall hunt, kill, take, sell, barter, purchase … any ptarmigan or willow grouse (commonly called partridge).”

 Those of “the manor born” the people of Branch and Trepassey were quite satisfied! It was their petitions in the early 1900’s that saved the partridge from extinction.

The partridge (Lagopus sp) or ptarmigan is now the provincial game bird of Newfoundland and Labrador Two partridge species, Willow Ptarmigan and the Rock Ptarmigan, are found throughout the province.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’  on this subject?  Type hunting  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Sport, Travel, and Adventure in Newfoundland and the West Indies by Captain Robert William Kennedy, R.N. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburg, Scotland, 1885.

Recommended Reading: Department of Environment and Conservation, Newfoundland and Labrador. Small Game Regulations:   http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/hunting/smallgame.html

 

 

 

“Quite a commotion arose among the people of Branch.”

Archival Moment

December 29, 1914

German-horse-drawn-supplies-in-snow-595x409On the morning of December 29, 1914 there was much conversation in the town of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay about the survival of the mailman. On the previous evening with a blinding snowstorm raging, the horse of the mailman with the buggy arrived in Branch, but where was the mailman?

A resident of Branch, writing under the pen name “Com” wrote to the Editor of the Evening Telegram about the incident. The letter under the banner “Hardships of Mailmen” was printed in the newspaper on January 4, 1915. The letter reads:

Dear Sir:

To drive the daily service over the bleak country between Branch and Patrick’s Cove in winter is no soft job. On the 28 December 1914, in the full fury of the blizzard the mail couriers have arrived without the driver, leaving him in the country between Branch and St. Bride’s. The courier was proceeding on his way when he was overtaken by a storm four miles from his home, the snow falling so thick together with a gale of wind.

The horse going to near the ditch caused the buggy to overturn throwing the driver out. The horse bolted and turned homewards leaving the driver in the country, in a blinding snowstorm then raging. When the horse arrived without the driver quite a commotion arose among the people; however a search at once started and the driver was met at the entrance of the place after making his way through the blizzard.

“All is well that ends well.”

Com.

Branch, 29 December 1914

Unfortunately, the letter does not identify the mail courier? Do you know his name?

The McGrath’s of Branch

On 17 April of 1917, twenty one year old George McGrath of Gull Cove, Branch, St. Mary’s Bay left Branch for St. John’s. He was determined to sign up for the war effort to fight for “country and king.”

Just one month following George’s departure from Branch his nineteen year old brother Joseph told his father Patrick and his mother Elizabeth that it was also his intention to join the war effort. Joseph left Branch and met with recruiters in St. John’s signing his attestation papers on 11 May, 1917.

In August 1917 Joseph McGrath #3760 with the other First Newfoundland Regiment volunteers marched from their training camp near Quidi Vidi Lake to the SS Florizel, the troop ship, anchored in St. John’s Harbour. They were beginning the first leg of a journey to the fighting fields of Europe. He joined a battalion in Rouen, France on January 15, 1918.

Five months later Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath – were approached by the parish priest clutching a telegram – it read “Regret to inform you that the Record Office, London, officially reports NO 3760, Private Joseph McGrath wounded on April 13 and missing in action.”

Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath for consolation turned to family and friends in Branch. They lived in hope – in letters to the war office they pleaded for “any shred of news.” There was also confusion – their son George who was fighting in Europe had heard rumors that Joseph was in Wandsworth, a large hospital about 5 miles outside of London. Wandsworth Hospital was where many members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were treated for injuries.

On 13 November 1918 word spread quickly in Branch that a second telegram had been delivered – via the Newfoundland Postal Telegraph – the telegram was addressed to “The Parish Priest or School Teacher.” The telegram read: “London reports today that Private Joseph McGrath previously reported wounded and missing in action is presumed dead. Please inform next of kin Patrick McGrath, Gull Cove, Branch.”

The blinds in all the homes of Branch were drawn.

Joseph was buried at BEAUMONT-HAMEL – Somme, France. He had just turned twenty years old.

Lost Tradition: Upon hearing the news of the death of someone in most Newfoundland communities the curtains and blinds were drawn. Houses on the funeral route had their doors closed and their curtains drawn

Recommended Archival Collection:Over 6000 men enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment during WWI. Each soldier had his own story. Each story is compelling. To read some of these stories go to: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part3_database.asp click on soldiers at the top centre. Find a soldier from your home community or with your family name. Read his life story.

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea – Recruiting Sergeant

Recommended Book: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One, St. John’s, DRC Publishing, 2010.