Tag Archives: Dohey

Killer avalanche hits Tilt Cove

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 11, 1912

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. VA 85-55: Tilt Cove

On March 11, 1912 an avalanche struck the mining community of Tilt Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula. The avalanche struck two houses built at the head of the cove at the foot of a steep slope, one belonging to Mr. Francis Williams, manager of the Cape Copper Company, and the other belonging to a Mr. William Cunningham, JP, the telegrapher and customs officer.

William Cunningham’s daughter, Vera, was interviewed in 1996 – she was 95 at the time but vividly remembered life in Tilt Cove, and in particular the afternoon of March 11 1912. She recalled that the previous night, following a day of freezing rain a snow storm raged and this continued through the day. Her father came in for tea and said, prophetically, “this would be a great night for snow-sliding“.

Next door the Williams family was sitting down to tea, when a large avalanche swept down the slope and struck the Williams and Cunningham houses. The avalanche just glanced Doctor Smith’s house, which escaped with minor damage.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Smith Family Collection: A 24-98.

The Williams house was  the most severely damaged, with the lower floor collapsing as the rear wall was staved in. The Cunningham house was swept off its foundation and Emily Day the family servant thrown across the kitchen and buried. She had three year-old Edward Cunningham in her arms and protected him against the weight of the snow. Unfortunately she was buried, jammed against the hot kitchen stove, by the time she was dug out,  two hours later, she was very severely burnt. Edward was only slightly injured with minor burns.  Her loving embrace had saved his life.

Emily survived but was badly hurt; she was sent to hospital in St. John’s but died on July 18. A headstone erected in her memory in the Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road, St. John’s reads:

“Emily Day, aged 29 years who died July 18, 1912 from injuries  received  while saving the life of a child in the Tilt Cove Avalanche.  Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”

The rest of the family survived almost unscathed.

Mr. Williams and his 13-year-old son (James) were killed instantly. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported, “the little boy was found dead with bread still in his mouth“. Peter and Francis Sage the two servants in the Williams household were also killed. Mrs. Williams and her two daughters were rescued after three and a half hours of burial, without serious injury.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives  is home  to a number of photographs detailing life in the mining community of  Tilt Cove can be found as well as occasional mining reports on the state and prospects for  mining in Tilt Cove.

Recommended Web Sites: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/environment/avalanches.html

http://www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/mines/outreach/disasters/avalanches/march11_12.html

Recommended Reading:  Killer Snow, Avalanches in Newfoundland by David Liverman., Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2007.

Influenza Epidemic Raging

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 2, 1919

Influenza Notices were  posted on all  Public Buildings.

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland.  Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007) http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396

 

 

Happy New Year Auld Lang Syne – Times Gone By

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 31

Auld Lang Syne – Times Gone By

The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year’s eve,“Auld Lang

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 62-58. A Joyful New Year from Newfoundland.

Syne” is a Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area ofScotland, Burns’s homeland.

“Auld Lang Syne” literally translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, “For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.”

There’s plenty of documentary evidence establishing “Auld Lang Syne” as a Hogmanay favorite since the mid-19th century:

The company joined hands in the great music room at midnight and sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as the last stroke of 12 sounded.
– The New York Times (1896)

It was a Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo who popularized the song. Lombardo first heard “Auld Lang Syne” in his hometown of London, Ontario, where it was sung by Scottish immigrants. When he and his brothers formed the dance band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born.

The song became such a New Year’s tradition that “Life magazine wrote that if Lombardo failed to play ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived.”

There is  – as with all things –  a Newfoundland connection. The musical Auld Lang Syne was written by Newfoundland born playwright Hugh Abercrombie Anderson. Born in St. John’s , Anderson was the son of  the politician John Anderson.  In 1921 he became manager of a theatrical business in New York  owned by his brother John Murray Anderson. Under the pen name of Hugh Abercrombie he wrote the musical Auld Lang Syne , a musical romance in two acts.  It was used as the theme song in the 1940 movie Waterloo Bridge.

Recommended Video – Sing Along:  St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. New Year’s Eve, 2012.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcwrVifbo4g

 TIMES GONE BY

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago!

Chorus:
For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For times gone by.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale)
For times gone by!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!

Happy New Year.

I hope that you are enjoying your “Archival Moments”. 

The First Giant Squid

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 25, 1873

 

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour.

 

On 25 October 1873 a fisherman, Theophilus Picot fishing off Bell Island in Conception Bay, had a battle with a giant squid. This battle resulted in the first giant squid specimen to be studied scientifically on land!

It was Alexander Murray, the first Director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland who brought the story to the attention of the international scientific community.

A few weeks following the fisherman’s battle with the giant squid Mr.  Murray, wrote to Louis Agassiz, Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.  In the letter he explained that the fisherman Picot

 ” struck at it  (the squid, at the time he had no idea what it was)  with an oar or boat-hook, whereupon the creature’s fury seemed to be aroused, and it struck at the bottom of the boat with its beak, and immediately afterward threw its monstrous tentacles over the boat, which probably it might have dragged to the bottom had not Picot with great presence of mind severed one of the tentacles with his axe.”

Mr. Murray had more than a story he also included:

 “a couple of photographs of the said tentacle and a few of the small denticulated sucking cups.”

The reference to the  battle with the giant squid  first appeared the prestigious publication scientific journalThe American Naturalist’  8 (1874), 120-124. under the tile “Capture of a Gigantic Squid at Newfoundland.”

This was the first of the giant squid to be documented. Over the years their have been others. At the Rooms Provincial Museum a giant squid that was originally caught November 14, 1981 in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, is on display.  The last giant squid caught in Newfoundland waters was in Triton in 2004 and there was another found in Sandy Cove, Fogo Island, in 1982.

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour. It is a life-size replica of the World’s Largest Giant Squid (Guinness Book record) that was landed nearby on November 2, 1878.

Recommended Reading: Aldrich, F. A., and Brown, E. L. 1967. “The Giant Squid in Newfoundland,” The Newfoundland Quarterly. Vol. LXV No. 3. p. 4-8.

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

Recommended Exhibit:  At the Rooms see the exhibit “Beneath the Sea”  this exhibit features a 29-foot-long giant squid,  which was found by a fisherman in Hare Bay, Nov 10, 1981.

 

 

World War II came home to Newfoundland.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 14, 1942

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 2-48; Remember the SS Caribou and Her Gallant Crew

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 2-48; Remember the SS Caribou and Her Gallant Crew

In the early morning hours of October 14, 1942 a lone German torpedo from the German submarine U69 hit the  SS Caribou,  the Sydney to Port aux Basques ferry on  route to Newfoundland, under Captain Benjamin Tavenor.  World War II came home to Newfoundland.

Immediately following the hit chaos ensued as passengers, thrown from their bunks by the explosion rushed topside to the lifeboat stations.

Of the 237 people aboard the Caribou when she left North Sydney, 136 had perished. Fifty-seven were military personnel and 49 were civilians. Of the 46-man crew, mostly Newfoundlanders, only 15 remained. Five families suffered particularly heavy losses: the Tappers (5 dead), the Toppers (4), the Allens (3), the Tavernors (the captain and his two sons), and the Skinners (3). The local press reported:

 “Many Families [were] Wiped Out.”

News of the sinking sparked much outrage as victims,  friends and families, and the populace at large, condemned the Nazis for targeting a passenger ferry. An editorialist with The Royalist newspaper in St. John’s wrote that the sinking:

“was such a useless crime from the point of view of warfare. It will have no effect upon the course of the war except to steel our resolve that the Nazi blot on humanity must be eliminated from our world.”

The Channel/Port aux Basques area was the worst hit as many crew members of the Caribou were local men. A funeral on October 18 for six victims was attended by hundreds of mourners, and a procession that followed the bodies to the grave sites reportedly measured two kilometres long.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Search the Rooms Archives on line:  https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read  VA  40- 16:  A page from The Evening Telegram, St. John’s, NL. with several newspaper articles about the sinking of the SS Caribou, including names of those lost ; death of assistant matron, Agnes Wilkie, General Hospital.

Recommended Reading: Thornhill, H. It Happened in October : The Tragic Sinking of the S.S. Caribou. Newfoundland: H. Thornhill, 1945.

Recommended Song:  The Caribou; Lyrics can be found at: http://www.mun.ca/folklore/leach/songs/NFLD1/17A-05.htm

“Women and children first”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 27, 1854

 “THIS SMALL CITY (ST. JOHN’S) IS FULL OF WRECKED CREWS AND PASSENGERS.”

Photo Credit: “Wreck of the U.S.M. Steam Ship ‘Arctic’  Cape Race, Newfoundland.  September 27th 1854.  (Source:  N. Currier lithograph.

On (September 27, 1854) two ships collided of Cape Race, Newfoundland because of a heavy fog, killing approximately 350. For the next several weeks the eyes of the world were fixed on Newfoundland as news reporters were scrambling to find any shred of news about the passengers and crews. Lifeboats with the few survivors began to arrive in towns along the Southern Shore the following day.

The Arctic, a four year old luxury ship, piloted by Captain James Luce sailing out of Liverpool, England slammed into the steamer Vesta, an iron-hulled ship piloted by Captain Alphonse Puchesne, transporting French fishermen from St. Peter’s (now St. Pierre)  to France at the end of the summer’s fishing season.

Immediately upon impact, the Arctic released lifeboats, but many capsized in the choppy waters. Lurid tales of panic aboard the sinking ship were widely publicized in newspapers. Members of the crew had seized the lifeboats and saved themselves, leaving helpless passengers, including 80 women and children, to perish in the icy North Atlantic. It is believed 24 male passengers and about 60 crew members survived.

The captain of the Arctic, James Luce, heroically tried to save the ship and get the panicking and rebellious crew under control. Upon his return to the United States he was treated as a hero, however, other crew members of the Arctic were disgraced, and some never returned to the United States.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST”

The first of the survivors made their way to Broad Cove, near Cape Race from there they proceeded to Renews where they began to mount a search for the wreck of the their ship. The search was headed by the local merchant Mr. Alan Goodridge of Renews.  No sign was found. Some survivors and the crew of the Vesta limped into St. John’s.  The newspapers of the day were reporting that “this small city (St. John’s) is full of wrecked crews and passengers.”  

The New York Times reported:

 “many small vessels which were immediately undertaken in search of the steamer or of any of her boats, had returned from unsuccessful cruises, and that very little hope is entertained for the safety of any…”

The public outrage over the treatment of the women and children aboard the ship resonated for decades, and led to the familiar tradition of saving women and children first” being enforced in other maritime disasters.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Explore the online  collection  held at The Rooms. Search the Archives from the comforts of your home:: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collection:   The Maritime History Archives, (MHA) Memorial University of Newfoundland holds a beautiful hand colored lithograph of the Arctic.  It shows the ship broke up on the rocks with passengers and crew struggling in the cold Atlantic.

Recommended Publication:  Baehre, Rainer K. (ed.) (1999) Outrageous Seas: Shipwreck and Survival in the Waters Off Newfoundland, 1583-1893. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999, ISBN:0886293588

The harbour is quiet, no slides for the children.

Archival Moment

March 6, 1907

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 - 148. James Vey Collection

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 – 148. James Vey Collection

The first week in March month in St. John’s traditionally saw the population grow by the hundreds as the “men from the bay” began to arrive in the city hoping for a berth on the sealing vessels going out to prosecute fishery.

The city, especially the waterfront, would be busy with activity. Many of the men would be looking for lodgings as they awaited news of a berth on one of the vessels, some consumed a little too much and  there were the inevitable rows between the ‘bay men’ and ‘the townies’ looking for the same work.

The Gambo Slide

It was not only St. John’s that was a hub of activity the other hub was the town a Gambo. In the first week of March, 1907 the St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News reported:

“Last night there were 100 men at Gambo, who had walked from Wesleyville and vicinity, to take the train. About 200 more are expected there, this morning, which will be the last coming from that section.”

The Gambo train station was the terminus for just about all of the sealers who would walk the trek from Wesleyville to the train station in Gambo, “an unpleasant tramp” that took from 24 – 32 hours.

However, there would be much excitement in Gambo, especially among the children. The children would be waiting for the Gambo slide.

The Gambo slide was a small lightweight sled that was constructed by the men of Wesleyville and area, that they used to pull their sealing gear and clothes.  As the men of Wesleyville, now exhausted from walking, approached Gambo, the children of the town would be on the outskirts to help them pull their slide for the last few miles.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John's.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John’s.

The children knew once they pulled the “Gambo slide” to the train station, the sealers would board the train for St. John’s and the slides would be theirs!

It was not only the men from Wesleyville that were walking into Gambo to catch the train, the Daily News reported on March 6, 1907:

“Eight hundred men will leave Greenspond, Newtown, Pools Island and neighboring places, this morning and will walk over the ice to Gambo, and come into St. John’s by train.”

Walking in the unpredictable weather especially in March month,  the slides not only served to lighten the loads of what the fishermen had to carry, if the weather “turned on them”, they could always burn the slides and use the  wood as a heat source.

One story goes that upon arrival in Gambo  a small group of young men  from Greenspond, Bonavista  Bay had hours to wait for the train.

“So to keep the fire going we broke up our slides which we had used to drag our suitcases or clothes bags on. This kept the fire going for two or three hours … I was some glad when the train finally came, and, I had never been on a train before in my life.”

With the loss of markets for seal products, the hustle and bustle that came with the preparations for outfitting the boats and signing on the crews in St. John’s is no more.

The first week of March on the St. John’s waterfront is now quiet.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read the journal of Dr. William Waddell (MG 1006.1). The journal documents a typical sealing voyage including a description of the vessel and role of the crew.

Recommended Reading: The Last of the Ice Hunters: An Oral History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt  edited by Shannon Ryan, Flanker Press,St. John’s, NL.

Recommended Reading: Perished: The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster  by Jenny Higgins.  Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove Conception Bay, NL.