Tag Archives: Davidson

“The first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country…”

Archival Moment

January 2, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

A dark pall of sadness hovered over St. John’s on January 2, 1915 with news that “the first name was recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment.” The name of the first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country, one of the First 500 was Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin.

The Governor of Newfoundland, Walter Davidson wrote in his diary on January 2, 1915:

I learn by telegraph that Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin, of St. John’s, died at Fort George (Scotland) on December 31st.”

Chaplin had arrived at  Fort George, Scotland with the Newfoundland Regiment on December 8, 1914.

On January 2, 1915, that Governor Davidson spoke  “with his father and mother and succeeded in checking a proposal for the transport home of the lad’s remains.”

Governor Davison wrote that “He (John Chaplin) was quite young, only 18, and the Doctors hesitated to let him go because of his youth: but his father supported the lad’s entreaties. He was a bright smart young soldier and universally liked.”

John Fielding Chaplin was from Circular Road, St. John’s the son of Mark Chaplin a leading tailor, who operated a successful business from 175 A Water Street. Chaplin “did not die at the firing line” his Regimental Record reads that he died at St. George, Scotland of “abdominal disease.”

The Governor having made the promise to the parents that their son could be transported back to Newfoundland for burial was disappointed to have to return to them to inform them that “it would not be feasible to send home the body of Private Jack Chaplin for internment, the funeral takes place at Fort George.”

The Evening Telegram reported:

His is the first name to be recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment and on this account Newfoundlanders, while expressing deep sympathy to the grief stricken parents, will remember with pride the young volunteer, who though not at the firing line, died as a soldier in the service of this country.”

On January 5, 1915 Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin was buried in Ardersier Parish Churchyard. The Telegram reported:

Newfoundland’s young soldier will be resting among the heroes who have trod the immortal path of duty and devotion to this country. Thought separated from those that he loved in life; the memory of his immortal sacrifice will console them until they are united forever with him in the land of peace.”

Note: John Chaplin’s official Regimental Record states that he died on January 1, 1915.  Governor Davision writes  December 31, 1914.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Governor Davidson’s Private Diary, MG 136.5

Recommended Exhibit: Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. –  – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.HNEnynnP.dpuf

Recommended Reading: Christopher Morry’s : When the Great Red Dawn is Shining: Howard Morry’s Memoirs of Life in the Newfoundland Regiment — 11 Platoon, C Company, RNR. Breakwater Books, St. John’s, 2014.

An invitation: The tradition of the New Year’s Levee

Archival Moment

JANUARY 1, 1915

On January 1, 1915 Governor Walter Edward Davidson of Newfoundland made reference in his private diary to the tradition of the New Year’s Day Levee in St. John’s. He wrote

We received from 3:00 – 6:00 o’clock. It has been an ancient custom for men to call on their lady friends on New Year’s Day. It is dying out but 236 called here. It is usual for them to call also on the Roman Catholic Archbishop and the Anglican Bishop. The former (Archbishop Howley) is in Heaven but Monsignor Roche received a large number of visitors. The Anglican Bishop is away, spending every second winter in his other Diocese in Bermuda.”

The “ancient custom for men to call on their lady friends on New Year’s Day” that Davidson referred to in his diary has disappeared in Newfoundland but the tradition of the levee has survived.

This levee was a reception that was held early in the afternoon of New Years Day, typically at the residence of the host.  Attending these levees was an annual ritual in the town.

At the 1915 Levée Governor Davidson stood in the reception line with Captain G.H.F. Abraham and Captain H. Goodridge, Officers of the Newfoundland Regiment reminding guests of their solidarity with the many Newfoundland soldiers who had departed Newfoundland just three months earlier to fight for King and Empire.

The first recorded Levée in Canada was held on January 1st, 1646 in the Château St. Louis by Charles Huault de Montmagny, Governor of New France (later Québec).  In addition to shaking hands and wishing a Happy New Year to citizens presenting themselves at the Château, the Governor informed guests of significant events in the Mother Country, as well as the state of affairs within the colony.  This tradition is carried on today within The Commonwealth in the form of The Queen’s New Year’s Message.

The Levée tradition was continued by British Colonial Governors in Canada, and subsequently by Governors General and Lieutenant Governors, and continues to the present day.

 Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read Governor Walter Davidson’s Private Diary. MG 136.5

Christmas, dinners and dances, forbidden

Archival Moment

December 22, 1914

“Dinners and dances, forbidden”

Photo Credit: World War I poster. During World War I, Allied Nations relied for propaganda on images and accounts of German atrocities to motivate their citizens to participate in the war effort. In this scene, the silhouetted German soldier with his thick Kaiser mustache drags a young girl away while the ruins of the city burn in the background.

Photo Credit: World War I poster. During World War I, Allied Nations relied for propaganda on images and accounts of German atrocities to motivate their citizens to participate in the war effort. In this scene, the silhouetted German soldier with his thick Kaiser mustache drags a young girl away while the ruins of the city burn in the background.

On December 22, 1914 Margaret  (Lady) Davidson the wife of the Governor of Newfoundland declared that there would be no “dinners or dances “in Government House on Military Road, St. John’s, during the Christmas Season. Lady Davidson thought that it would be inappropriate to have extravagant affairs while the war raged in Europe.

Her gesture, to the men in uniform and their families, was much appreciated but her husband Governor Walter E. Davidson felt that there must be some form of “relaxation” so he invited 64 guests to the house for a game of Belgian Bridge.

Lady Davidson gave her nod to the card game because the event would be used to support the Belgian’s who had been displaced in August 1914 by the German Invaders. In 1914 tens of thousands of Belgian refugees were homeless. They were seen by the world as desperate people in need of emergency assistance, but also victims of German aggression. Throughout the world including Newfoundland committees were being struck to provide charitable relief to Belgian refugees.

Governor Davidson wrote in his personal diary on December 22, 1914:

 “In the evening we had a gathering called Belgian Bridge. There were 16 tables and we played from 8:00 – 10:30 p.m. and then supped. Each of the 64 contributes 50 cents, and if any play for stakes, the winnings go to the Belgian Fund. We netted $90.00 dollars which included extra droppings in the plate and donations from others who come not come.”

Belgian Bridge games were being held in all of the finer houses in the town. Governor Davidson reported:

“There have been similar evenings at the Marmaduke Winter’s and Mrs. Will Job’s and others”

The Governor was quite pleased that his wife approved of the card games he wrote:

Governor Davidson wrote in his diary that he was very pleased that “this form has received her approval.”

Archival Collection:   A the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read the Diary of Governor Walter Edward Davisson. (MG 136.5). He played a significant role in the life of Newfoundland and Labrador especially during the First World War. His insights into the social, political and economic life of NL are interesting.

Recommended Exhibit: Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. –  – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.HNEnynnP.dpuf

 

 

“Eight girls disguised came and sang carols…”

Archival Moment

December 23, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 4-158; Mummering in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 4-158; Mummering in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Governor Walter Davidson and Lady Margaret were just a little surprised to hear the rap at their door on Tibb’s Eve (December 23, 1914). Government House on Military Road, St. John’s was typically off limits to the public, the proper protocol was that guests would only show by appointment.

It was for the couple and their young family a pleasant surprise, the guests at the door were “mummers”. In his diary for December 23, 1914, Governor Davidson wrote:

“In the evening eight girls disguised came and sang carols to us in the hall. They sing delightfully and stayed for mince pies and coffee.”

As is the Newfoundland custom with “mummers” Governor and Lady Davidson immediately began to try and identify their disguised guests.

 

In the tradition of mummering, friends and neighbours conceal their identities by adopting various disguises, covering their faces, and by modifying their speech, posture and behavior.

He was pleased to write in his diary that he was able to discover the identity of five of the eight. He wrote:

“We made out Mrs Colvill, Nell Job: Mary Rendell and the two Miss Andersons’s, all young girls.”

Governor Davidson was quite pleased that the young ‘mummers’ had come to Government House, he wrote:

“It is a tribute to the present regime that they picked up the courage to face Government House of which all stand in awe.”

The reality was that most of the residents of St. John’s were in ‘awe’ of Government House and it is likely that the young women who did show up in disguise were not your typical young ladies. Each of the women, who the Governor identified, from the Job, Rendell and Anderson families, came from some of the more affluent homes in St. John’s. It is also true that a good mummer would never venture out until the afternoon of the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26), and continued every evening and night till the end of the Old Twelfth Day.  These young girls that went to visit Government House were not your typical mummers.

The Governor concluded his diary entry with the note “the attitude (of awe) is always most correct towards Government House per se: but they are no longer afraid.”

Perhaps we should all grab a disguise and head down to Government House. We have a 100 year old standing invitation.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN5 /3B/19 Box13, File Number 3

Recommended Song: Mummer Song: Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8OPy7De3bk

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 4-158; Mummering in St. John’s, Newfoundland

The ladies knit, for our soldiers

October 23, 1914

Archival Moment

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-112; A work committee in the Ball Room of Government House. Note that some of the women are sewing by hand and machine; others are knitting.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-112; A work committee in the Ball Room of Government House. Note that some of the women are sewing by hand and machine; others are knitting.

Following the declaration of war in August  1914 Lady Margaret Davidson, wife of the Governor of Newfoundland, called upon “the women of Newfoundland to assist in aiding the British Empire in the present crisis by providing the necessities needed by our soldiers at the front. ”

Seven hundred women attended the first meeting. Those in attendance passed a resolution to form a “Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland” with the object of helping the men of Newfoundland in the defense of the British Empire.

The first gathering of the women for their ‘sewing and knitting sessions’ was held at Government House, St. John’s on September 17, 1914.

A month later, on October 23, 1914 the ladies satisfied with the amount of work that they had completed invited the residents of St. John’s for “an exhibition of the articles of clothing made by the different workers throughout the Island, for our soldiers at the front.”

Those who visited Government House saw in the exhibit “socks, shirts, pillows, pajamas, hospital jackets, knitted caps, and hand kerchiefs.”  Lady Davidson explained that the articles came from “Spaniard’s Bay, Carbonear, Fermeuse, Stephenville and Twillingate.” She was particularly pleased with the women of Twillingate who had contributed 1, 144 pairs of socks.

She was also quick to point out that in many other outports the workers “are busy sewing and knitting, and their contributions will be received in due time.”

Photo Credit:  Government House, St. John’s. On October 2, 2014 Her Honour, Patricia Fagan,  hosted a reception at Government House in Honour of the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland, later to become known as the WPA

Photo Credit: Government House, St. John’s. On October 2, 2014 Her Honour, Patricia Fagan, hosted a reception at Government House in Honour of the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland, later to become known as the WPA

Lady Davidson explained that “in the city about 800 ladies are engaged four days a week making garments.” Throughout the Dominion of Newfoundland she said “the various church guilds are working steadily and the members of first aid classes and nurses are making bandages.”

A special project of some of the younger women   was the “making garments for the Belgian children.”

Lady Davidson and her lady friends from the Women’s Patriotic Association were proud of their work and insisted that “of the clothing received it is of the best material and workmanship.”

The first shipment of the material was made on the S.S. Tabasco a British Steamer responsible for general cargo. In January 1917 carrying a similar load the Tabasco was torpedoed by a German Submarine.

Recommended Archival Collection: Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland Description number MG 842.5 This fle consists of printed publication prepared by Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA), with introduction by Lady Margaret Davidson. Instructions for knit wear and convalescent clothes for soldiers included.

Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks” by Tryphena Duley, Verses by Margaret Duley.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Knitting Socks: Demonstration: Sock Knitting: In just two years, the women of Newfoundland and Labrador knit 62,685 pairs of socks for the troops in the First World War. Come to the Collecting the Great War: Enlisting Your Help exhibition to watch a pair of grey socks being made, using the original pattern, and try your hand at knitting. Demonstrations are ongoing on level 2 Wednesday’s from 6:30-9:00 until December 10th.