Tag Archives: Dohey

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.

 

 

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.

 

The tradition of Midnight Mass

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 23, 1895

Midnight Mass has been celebrated in the Basilica since 1895.

On December 23, 1895 the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News announced that:

 “His Lordship the Right Reverend Dr. Michael F. Howley  (Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland) has decided to revive the custom of celebrating  the first Mass of Christmas morning  at the very opening of the ever glorious day.”

Bishop Howley was reviving the tradition of the celebration of Midnight Mass, a custom that has continued at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) since that announcement in 1895.

Bishop Howley noted that midnight mass was “long in existence in the Roman Catholic Church though allowed to lapse for some years past in this country – Newfoundland.”

The article does not explain why the tradition of the midnight mass was dropped before 1895 in St. John’s.

The newspaper account went on to describe the elaborate decorations of the cathedral. 

Basilica Cathedral St. John's

Basilica Cathedral St. John’s

“The interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral is already beginning to assume the festive garb which always marks the anniversary of the Nativity. The altars and the pulpit are artistically festooned with evergreen to which will be added extensive floral ornamentations interspersed with countless twinkling lights, before the joy bells ring out their glad peal at midnight, to proclaim the birth of the God Man.”

Many theologians say that the Midnight Mass evolved from individuals making pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the actual birthplace of Christ. Because the Bible states that Jesus was born at night and in a manger, to fully immerse oneself in the story and the liturgical significance of the moment, a Midnight Mass seems the best place to achieve these goals. The darkness and the gentle hush that nighttime helps set the scene and enhance the spiritual component of Christmas.

On the Christian calendar – Midnight mass has been observed since at least the year 381. In  381 a Christian woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, observing for three years and keeping a journal of the customs and liturgies she saw there. She witnessed the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ at midnight with a vigil in Bethlehem, which was followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalemculminating with a gathering in Jerusalemat dawn.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, Bishop Michael Francis Howley Collection.

Recommended Reading: The Story of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist by: Susan Chalker Browne . Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2015. There have always been many rumours, tales and fiction told about the securing of the land, the money and the stone and the construction of the imposing building. Susan Chalker Browne has written a book to sort fact from fiction.

 

The first Salvation Army kettle in Newfoundland

ARCHIVAL MOMENT : CHRISTMAS TRADITION  

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-65. Salvation Army Christmas 1906 in front of No. 1 Citadel on New Gower Street,St. John’s, the first occasion of Salvation Army using collecting kettles at St. John’s.

One of the enduring symbols of Christmas is the Salvation Army kettle. Salvationists and friends stand at strategic shopping locations inviting the public to drop a few coins in their “kettles” with the monies realized going to the poor.

The kettle first appeared on the streets of San Francisco, California, USA in 1891 brainchild of Captain Joseph McFee, the kettles were used in a campaign to raise funds for a shelter in the waterfront district.

He remembered, during his earlier days in Liverpool, England, seeing a large kettle where passengers of boats that docked nearby were able to toss coins to help the poor.

Captain McFee suspended a large cooking pot from a tripod and placed a sign above it that read: Keep the pot boiling.” Shortly thereafter, Christmas kettles began appearing in communities across the United States and are now an indispensable part of the holiday season.

In Newfoundland the Salvation Army has been firmly established since the first meeting of the Army on September 3, 1885 at the Methodist Church in Portugal Cove.

In late January of 1886 a group of four female officers arrived in St. John’s, soon followed by a District Officer, Arthur Young. This initial group of Salvationists established the first corps in Newfoundland on Springdale Street in St. John’s. They held outdoor meetings at the Parade Ground, and marched with their followers through the streets making as much noise as possible. Within two months, the Salvation Army in St. John’s had 200 soldiers.

It was the Christmas of 1906 that the first kettle was introduced into Newfoundland. The kettle was suspended on a tripod in front of No. 1 Citadel on New Gower Street, St. John’s.

In Canada the Salvation Army collects approximately $15 -20 million in the nearly 2,000 kettles on street corners and at retail outlets. In Newfoundland the kettles raises approximately $200,000.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives there is a small collection of photographs documenting the presence of the army in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Basilica Cathedral Bells

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 1906

Basilica Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

Basilica Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

If you were walking past Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s during this week in January of 1906 you might have been curious enough to approach the steps of the church to take a close look at the Joy Bells that sat on the steps of the Cathedral awaiting shipment to Ireland. They were being sent to the famous Murphy foundry on James Street, Dublin, where they were originally cast.

The bells in their day were considered some of the best in the new world.

The bell known as “St. John” built in 1850 was the largest ever cast in Ireland at that time, and won a Gold Medal at the Dublin Exhibition of Irish Manufacturers. The bell, a massive piece, weighs nearly two tons. Upon its arrival in St. John’s in February, 1851, it was hauled by hand to the Basilica, and installed in the East Tower.

The bells sitting on the steps of the Cathedral in January 1906 were made by Murphy, the celebrated Bell maker at Dublin in 1854.

Basilica Bells 2In the tradition of the Catholic Church each of the bells was christened and named before being installed.   In addition to having its own name each bell when originally installed had its own sound or personality.

The bells are:

Mary – 1854 – octave D

Patrick – 1854 -octave E

Bonaventure – 1863 – F sharp

Michael -1906

Matthew – 1906

Anthony – 1906

Francis – 1906

James – 1906

These five bells completed the peal, viz.:  G A B C (sharp) and D (octave)

Following their installation in 1906 the bells rang without interruption until 1988 at which time the cluster of bells was removed from the west tower of the Basilica because of structural weakness in the tower. The bells were placed in storage on site at the Basilica Cathedral. Following years of silence, the bells were again re-installed ringing out on (June 9, 2009) at noon, the first time in over twenty years.

Today you can hear the bells being rung on special “feast days” or special occasions like a wedding.  The largest bell “St. John” rings at noon every day.

Recommended Reading: Tour of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s:  http://www.thebasilica.ca/index.cfm?load=page&page=186

Recommended Website: After 21 years, the bells have been reinstalled in the bell tower of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n-ht7bQ8zA 

“Little hope of recovering the body”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

JULY 1 – MEMORIAL DAY

Letter Home from the trenches

Herbert Wills

Rank: Corporal

Service: 2185

Community: Grand Falls

Age: 18

Occupation: Papermaker

Date of Death: December 8, 1916

Regiment: NewfoundlandRegiment

Cemetery: Beaumont Hamel (Newfoundland) Memorial

Parents: Frederick William and Mary Wills of 8,Exploits Lane,Grand Falls.

The one comfort that families desperately wanted upon hearing about the death of their son was to know, that their son, had been buried in a marked grave with dignity.

Fred Wills wrote a number of letters to the Minister of the Militia at the Colonial Building, St.  John’s pleading to know where his son (Herbert Wills) was buried in France.  Many bodies were never recovered.  The battlefields of France became their grave yard.

The Minister of the Militia called on Reverend Colonel Thomas Nangle the R.C. Chaplin to the Newfoundland Regiment in France to make inquires about his place of burial. But Nangle could find no information:

“I am writing herewith copy of said letter  and although  Father Nangle gives but little hope of recovering the body. I trust that his next endeavours will be successful, and that we will have the pleasure of forwarding you good news.”

It was letters like the one that was written by Fred Wills that moved the government ofNewfoundland to establish a Memorial at Beaumont Hamel where the sons of Newfoundland would be remembered. A place of peace and dignity.

Recommended Reading: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers, St. John’s: DRC Publishing, 1911. 145p.

Recommended Archival Collection:    At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is available 6683 individual service files, 2300 have been digitized and are available at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

This searchable database for military service records  includes the attestation papers: name, service number, community and district of origin, next of kin and relationship, religion, occupation, year of enlistment, fatality, and POW status (if applicable).  Take some time to read the stories of these young men.

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.