Tag Archives: catholic

Bonfire Night

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
November 5

Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated annually on November 5th. The origin of this celebration stems from events which took place in 1605, a conspiracy known as “The Gunpowder Plot,” intended to take place on November 5th (the day set for the opening of Parliament). The object of The Gunpowder Plot was to blow up English Parliament along with the ruling monarch, King James I. It was hoped that such a disaster would initiate a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion.

The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, eventually expanded their members to a point where secrecy was impossible. While the plot itself was the work of a small number of men, it provoked hostility against all British Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them. Even to this day, it is the law that no Roman Catholic may hold the office of monarch and the reigning king or queen remains Supreme Head of the Church of England.

It is believed that the very night the Gunpowder Plot was thwarted in 1605, bonfires were lit in London to celebrate its defeat of the Catholics. As early as 1607, there is a record of bonfire celebrations taking place in Bristol.

Newfoundland Bonfire Night

Traditionally in Newfoundland, November 5th was the big celebration for the Anglicans. The Catholics never took part. With the passage of time the tradition gradually became established in Catholic communities.

The newspapers of the day and oral interviews report that  “They (Protestants) tried to make really big bonfires, sometimes with full blubber barrels, to rile the Roman Catholic’s.”  Barrels of any sort which were left unprotected on Bonfire Night were likely ‘bucked.”  There was also the tradition in some communities that a few tar barrels were put outside for the boys who’d be going around getting stuff for the bonfire.

Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is a tradition that continues in many communities in the province.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database at The Rooms for archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collections:  At Memorial University of Newfoundland: http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/search/collection/ich_social/searchterm/Bonfire%20Night!audio%252Fmp3/field/subcol!format/mode/all!all/conn/and!and/order/nosort/ad/asc

New Word: Blubber Barrel a large wooden container in which cod livers or fat of whales or other large marine animals are stored are stored or placed for the rendering of the oil. (Dictionary of Newfoundland English)

New Word: bucked: to collect or gather surreptitiously; stealing.
He bucked a barrel last night for the bonfire [on November 5thl. 1964 Evening Telegram 27 June, p. 10 (Dictionary of Newfoundland English)

Recommended Rhyme:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Denomination division of the civil service

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

AUGUST 28, 1917

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division: C 1-207; House of Assembly in Session. Colonial Building, Military Road, St. John’s. Edward P. Morris, Prime Minister 1909-1917

On  28 August 1917 Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, the Catholic bishop of St. John’s wrote Prime Minister Edward Morris of Newfoundland with some concerns that he had concerning the denominational division of the civil service” in the country.

Archbishop Roche noted in his letter that he was not happy with the decision reached by Government with respect to the appointment of an Inspector General of Police. It appears that a Catholic had held the position (John J. Sullivan) but it had been decided to give the position to a Protestant. (Charles H. Hutchings).  The Archbishop wrote “I cannot but regard it as the passing out of Catholic hands an important position in point of honour, influence, and emolument.”

Church officials from all denominations staunchly defended positions in the Newfoundland civil service for their flock.  They were following an entrenched principle of “denominational representation in government and the civil service” established as early as 1865. Also known as the principle of “denominational compromise”   it was  generally accepted that positions in the public service, from the Supreme Court bench to ferry men  should be allocated in such a way that each denomination received a proportionate share of both jobs and the salary budget.

The principle essentially meant that all patronage and government jobs should be distributed upon a perfectly fair denominational basis with the amount of patronage given to each denomination representing their share of the population.  Essentially 1/3 of the jobs went to The Roman Catholics, 1/3 to the Anglicans and 1/3 to the Methodists.

SCRUTINIZING THE CIVIL LISTS

The leaders of all of the churches each year scrutinized what were referred to as the “civil lists” to insure that their denominations were well represented.  These “civil lists” identified officials in all departments of government giving the salary and religious denomination of each.

The analysis of the” civil lists” by church leaders was quite detailed. In his letter of 28 August, Archbishop Roche also observed “The salary of the superintendent of the Hospital (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum (Catholic); the salary of the Inspector General (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Penitentiary (Catholic).

The principle of “denominational compromise”  was well entrenched until 1934 when  it came under review by the Commission of Government (1934-1949) they dropped old political and religious criteria in the hiring and promotion of civil servants making merit the sole basis for promotion. (It is interesting to note that when the commission of government was established in 1934, the positions for the three Newfoundlanders were allocated on a denominational basis: Alderdice (Anglican), Howley (RC) and Puddester (UC).

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Provincial Archives Division at The Rooms see GN 2.41 This series consists of the names, occupations, dates of appointments, terms of office and religious denominations of civil servants of St. John’s and Newfoundland.

Was the Bishop Excommunicated?

 ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 26, 1816

Bishop Michael Fleming giving the last rites of the church to Bishop Thomas Scallan.

On January 26, 1816 the talk in St. John’s was all about the appointment of a Father Thomas Scallan, (also Scallon) who was given the nod to succeed as the new Catholic bishop in Newfoundland.    

Scallan was very well educated; in his career he had been a lecturer in philosophy at the prestigious St Isidore’s College, Rome and a professor of classics at the Franciscan Academy at Wexford, Ireland, a preparatory seminary for candidates for the priesthood.

What is most telling about his tenure as Bishop of Newfoundland is the memorial or relief that was established in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) to celebrate his work in Newfoundland.

Scallan in his relationship with the leaders of other denominations was considered to be far ahead of his time. His ecumenical spirit in fact stirred occasional and considerable controversy.

Indeed, Bishop Michael Francis Howley from St. John’s, attributed such ecumenism to a mental weakness. He stated flatly in his Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland (1888)  that Scallan was reprimanded  by Rome for his ecumenical spirit.  He did not identify the type of reprimand  but the most severe censure or reprimand in the Catholic Church is excommunication.

Indeed, this story that he was reprimanded by Rome became  generally accepted – and was compounded by the story that he was refused the last rites of the church.  To quiet the rumors that he was on the verge of excommunication and or perhaps even excommunicated the local church authorities ordered the creation of an  unusual monument of Scallan by the famous Irish sculptor John Hogan.  

The monument  depicts Scallan on his deathbed receiving the last sacraments (last rites) of the church. It was placed  in the Basilica to show his reconciliation with the church.

 Recommended Archival Collection :  Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese

Recommended Reading: Michael Francis Howley’s Ecclesiastical history of Newfoundland . 1888:  was reprinted atBelleville, Ont., in 1979.