Tag Archives: Cape Shore

First day of spring, an anniversary for Kilbride

Archival Moment

February 1, 1863

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John's suburbs. VA 33-98.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Ruins of Kilbride Chapel, St. John’s suburbs. VA 33-98.

On February 1, 1863 there was much excitement on the outskirts of the town of St. John’s, the residents of the area, mostly farmers, were preparing to welcome the Roman Catholic Bishop (John Thomas Mullock) to officially open their new stone church, that would be called, “Kilbride”.

‘Kilbride’, the “magnificent stone church” was one of five that was built under the direction of the bishop in the 1860’s. Stone churches were also built at  Burin, Torbay, St. Kyran’s and Ferryland. Only, Holy Trinity, Ferryland remains standing.

The residents of Kilbride were quite determined that the date for the consecration or official opening of their new church be February 1st so as they could celebrate their Irish roots and honour one of the patron Saints of Ireland. In Ireland, February 1st is the Feast of St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland (also referred to as Brigit, Bridget, Brighid, or Bride).

Kilbride, literally translated means, church of Bride.

In Ireland, “spring” officially starts on February first to honor St. Brigid, who, according to pagan legend, was able to make even the rocky farms of Ireland productive. The pagans honored Brigid on February 1 because it was the first day of spring in the pagan calendar. February 1 marks the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring, although Irish meteorologists consider the whole of February to be part of winter.

St. Brigid was later to abandon her pagan roots and embrace Christianity sewing the faith deep in the hearts of the Irish.

The original Kilbride Church was located in what is now the Kilbride Cemetery, Bay Bulls Road, St. John’s.

The church served the people of Kilbride well from its date of consecration, February 1, 1863 until it was destroyed by fire in 1892.

Acknowledging St. Bride and our Irish heritage can also be found in other parts of the province. On the beautiful Cape Shore, is the community of St. Bride’s, “on more ancient maps it was called La Stresse, and later Distress.”

In 1876, a young Irish priest, Charles Irvin, was assigned to the area and declared that “Distress” was “not of a pleasant sound” and declared that the name would change from ‘’Distress’ to “St. Bride’s.”

When asked where I from am I am always so tempted to say ‘Distress’.

Happy Spring!!

Archival Collection: At the Rooms provincial Archives explore the Nomenclature Board fonds , Description number GN 157. This collection consist of of incoming correspondence to the secretary, Nomenclature Board (1920-1943; 1950),including petitions about proposed community name changes.

Recommended Reading:   Newfoundland name Lore, A series of articles by Archbishop Michael F. Howley examining the origins of Newfoundland place names, originally published in The Newfoundland Quarterly between 1901-1914 and reprinted between 1932-1940. The reprinted articles have been extracted and bound together to form this book; in consequence, a great deal of unrelated material is also present, including poems, illustrations and advertisements.

Take some time: Take some time to explore the ruins of the Kilbride church in the cemetery at Kilbride. A memorial plaque was placed at the approximate place where the church was located.


A New Bridge for Placentia Gut


September 23, 2016

On  October 28, 1961, the Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge was officially opened by Premier J.R. Smallwood.

Previous to the new bridge residents of the area  were advocating for a bridge across the main gut  through petitions presented to government  as early as 1926.


in 1942 a scow was put on the Placentia gut by the Americans to transport vehicles (for travel to the wireless stations they had set up on the Cape Shore). They later replaced this with a pontoon bridge, but because of the strong tides the bridge could not be kept in place.

The original  Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge consists of two approach spans and one centre vertical lift span each 100 feet in length. The total weight of the centre span which can be raised in one and a half minutes is 100 tons. Clearance under the span in the down position is 10 feet, and when raised is 70 feet.

In May 2011 the Provincial Government issued a tender to replace the aging “iconic structure.”  The new lift bridge Sir Ambrose Shea bridge  was built directly adjacent to the existing bridge.

NEW BRIDGE  OPENS – September 23, 2016


The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, joined with the Honourable Al Hawkins, Minister of Transportation and Works, the Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, and MHA for Placentia – St. Mary’s, Ken McDonald, Member of Parliament for Avalon, along with His Worship, Wayne Power, Mayor of Placentia, and members of the community, to officially recognize the opening.

The lift bridge is staffed year round, 24-hours a day. The bridge is lifted approximately 2,400 times annually for marine traffic and sees about 6,500 vehicles pass over per day. During the busiest spring months when crab and lobster fisheries are at their peak, the bridge can lift over 400 times a month.

The new Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge cost approximately $47.7 million, which includes construction, engineering and demolition and removal of the old bridge. The construction of the bridge saw the placement of 9,200 metres of steel piling, 3,800 cubic metres of concrete, 150 tonnes of reinforcing steel and approximately 976 tonnes of structural steel.

Mayor Wayne Power of Placentia said “Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge provides a vital link for our communities; it also allows access to the harbour and serves as a unique attraction for visitors. The opening of the new bridge is a great milestone and as a community we are thankful for the investment made to make this a reality.”

New Word:  Bascule Bridge from the French word for “see-saw,” a bascule bridge features a movable span (leaf) that rotates on a horizontal hinged axis (trunnion) to raise one end vertically. A large counterweight is used to offset the weight of the raised leaf.

New Word: Scow  – a large flatbottom boat with square ends, used chiefly for transporting freight

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives explore MG 83 the Bradshaw Family collection that consists of 7 files comprised of land grants for Placentia Gut and North East Arm, bills of sale, printed speeches and advertisements. also contains 2 maps, [ca. 1840] The maps are a Map of Ordnance property, Placentia 1806; copied 1881 and Plan of Placentia, 1741.

Who was Ambrose Shea? Read More: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/shea_ambrose_13E.html

Recommended Song: The Bridge at Placentia Gut:  http://www.laval.k12.nf.ca/poem.htm

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


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 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.”


Branch, 29 December 1914

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

“A derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s … “

Archival Moment

December 7, 1884

With so many  barrells of flour this could be a good Christmas.

With so many barrells of flour this could be a good Christmas.

As Christmas 1884 approached, the people of St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay, were thinking it would not be a prosperous Christmas. It had been a bad year in the fishery. Their fortune was however about  change, unhappily born on the pain of other families from Placentia Bay.

On December 7, 1884 residents of St. Bride’s stood on ‘the bank overlooking Placentia Bay watching as a a derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s, dismasted and waterlogged…”

There was much excitement in St. Bride’s, it was quickly realized that Sixty three barrels of flour and six puncheons of molasses” was aboard the vessel. It was theirs to salvage, they would take it home.

In the days following the salvage effort, St. Bride’s fell silent. James E. Croucher, the Wreck Commissioner stationed at Great Placentia had arrived in the town on December 10th. He immediately began a search for the cargo of the ill-fated schooner, but to his dismay only found Twenty Four (24)  barrels of flour broken and in a damaged condition, and two  (2) puncheons of molasses …” 

Thirty nine (39) barrels of flour and four (4) puncheons of molasses were not accounted for.

Croucher, as the Wreck Commissioner was obliged by law, under the Consolidated States of Newfoundland to travel to St. Bride’s to investigate the loss of the Schooner, he could only conclude: the remainder of the property being distributed amongst salvors by a person or parties who had no authority from me to do so.”

As he sailed out of St. Bride’s for Great Placentia, the residents of St. Bride’s, no doubt celebrated. With their newly acquired abundance of flour and molasses, it would be a good Christmas.

The people of St. Bride’s also mourned, they knew that their gain came at the loss of the crew of the Schooner Stella, a crew of nine men out of nearby Oderin, Placentia Bay. It is said that she was wrecked in the “terrific gale of November 1884.”

Ever respectful of the dead, it is reported that “All the clothes that had belonged to the lost men (that had been taken from the Schooner)  were carefully dried and forwarded to their families.”

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/