Tag Archives: Distress

Looks like a good Christmas on the Cape Shore

December 7, 1884

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

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 poor year in the fishery. Their fortune was however about to 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 10.  He immediately began a search for the cargo of the ill-fated schooner, but to his dismay only found   “24 barrels of flour broken and in a damaged condition, and two 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.”

What was St. Bride’s Like?

The 1874 census listed a population of 140 in 29 families. Thirteen residents were from Ireland and one from Scotland.  The 79 fishermen had 22 boats. The 13 farmers had 203 cattle, 30 horses, 139 sheep and 113 swine on 200 acres of land.  Products included 60 bushels of oats and 5,460 lbs. 01 butter

By 1891, the population had increased to 256, including four from Ireland. The 66  fishermen-farmers. The community also had a priest, a teacher and a merchant, and 65 of the 122 children were in school.

What about the name?

The name of St. Bride’s is quite modern, and was given from the titular Saint of the Church of St. Bridgett.

On more ancient maps it  (St. Bride’s)  was called La Stress, apparently a French name which became corrupted into Distress.

This name “Distress”  in 1876   was reported by the newly arrived  priest Reverend Charles Irvin  as “not being of pleasant sound”  and having the authority of the church the priest  changed the name from Distress to  St. Bride’s .   

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/

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

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.