Tag Archives: fishery

“When the able and the young go away to work…”


 May 23, 1869

The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, VA 14-146 / G. Anderson

On  (May 23, 1869) Edward Morris of St. John’s wrote in his diary  about all of the activity at the dockside in St. John’s . He observed “about 500 men” getting ready to leave Newfoundland  in search for work.  He wrote in his diary:

“Yesterday the “Merlin” Steamer left Shea’s Wharf for Nova Scotia with upwards of 500 men to work on the inter colonial railway. The saddest evidence of the depressed state of this colony (Newfoundland) that has as yet been presented.  When the able and the young go away to work upon the roads in the other provinces in preference to remaining to prosecute the fisheries it speaks little for the inducements of the fisherman’s occupation.”

The jobs that the 500 Newfoundlanders were seeking by taking the Steamer ‘Merlin  from St. John’s to Nova Scotia were jobs on the inter colonial railway, under construction,  linking the Maritime colonies and Canada. Completion of the railway was made a condition of Confederation in 1867.

The out migration, that Edward Morris witnessed, by his fellow Newfoundlanders is a constant theme in Newfoundland history.  The people of Newfoundlandand moved to other countries for a wide range of reasons throughout the 1800’s, emigration occurred on the largest scale during the last two decades of the century when the cod fishery fell into severe decline and caused widespread economic hardship.

While some people left their homes permanently, others worked in foreign countries on a seasonal or temporary basis before returning home. Most emigrants moved to Canada or the United States. The vast majority to “the Boston States.”

In more recent years Newfoundland and Labrador has witnessed (1996 and 2001) about 47,100 people pulling up stakes and leaving the province.

According to Statistics Canada estimates Newfoundland and Labrador experienced a net loss of 3,000 people to Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia in 2017-18.

The Conference Board of Canada’s most recent long-term forecast predicts the province’s population will fall from about 527,000 now to 482,000 by 2035.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type emigration in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Newfoundland: Journey Into a Lost Nation by Michael Crummey and Greg Locke. McClelland & Stewart. Chronicles the passage of a time when cod were still plentiful and the fishery shaped the lives of most of the island’s inhabitants, to the present, when an economy, propelled by oil and mineral development, is recasting the island’s identity in a new mould.

Recommended Website: Statistics Canada – http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/subject-sujet/theme-theme.action?pid=3867&lang=eng&more=0



Happy Birthday, Sir Wilfred Grenfell


February 28, 1865

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13-62 Wilfred Grenfell Painting.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. IGA 13-62 Wilfred Grenfell Painting.

Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, was born February 28, 1865. He was an English physician and missionary, famous for his work among Labrador fishermen. Dr. Grenfell came to Labrador in 1892.

During more than 40 years of service in Labrador and in Newfoundland, he built hospitals and nursing stations, established cooperative stores, agricultural centers, schools, libraries, and orphanages, and opened the King George V Seamen’s Institute in St. John’s, in 1912. Grenfell cruised annually in the hospital steamer Strathcona II, keeping in touch with his centers of missionary work.

Over the years Grenfell received many awards from universities and other institutions. In 1907 he was appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George; in that year Oxford University awarded him the first Honorary Doctorate of Medicine ever granted by that University and in 1928 he was chosen as Fifth Honorary Knight for Life of the Loyal Knights of the Round Table.

Grenfell’s health failed during the 1920’s and he suffered a heart attack in 1926 and again in 1929. He retired in Vermont, U.S.A.  in 1935 at the age of 70. He made his last trip to Labrador in 1939 after his wife died from cancer. He brought her ashes to be interred on Fox Farm Hill overlooking St. Anthony. Grenfell died two years later at his home in Vermont and his ashes were brought to Labrador and placed next to his wife’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: The records of the International Grenfell Association (IGA) were donated to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) by IGA representatives in June 1985.   More at The Rooms: http://www.exhibits.therooms.ca/panl/exhibits/

Recommended Reading: Grenfell of Labrador: A Biography. Ronald Rompkey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Three Newfoundlanders receive National Historic Designations

Nangle, Howley, Munn Named as Having National Significance

In celebration of Heritage Day,  (February 15, 2016) the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of 38 nationally significant persons, places and events that helped define Canada’s history. Three Newfoundlanders were among those named as having National Significance.

Padre Thomas Nangle

Padre Thomas Nangle

WWI chaplain, Thomas Nangle of St. John’s was named a person of historic significance because of his efforts in creating the “Trail of the Caribou” a series of monuments at each of the five major battlefields where Newfoundlanders fought. The St. John’s native became the “padre” of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment after the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. He was instrumental in having a caribou monument erected at each of the five main battlefields where Newfoundlanders had fallen. He was also instrumental in the creation of the National War Memorial in St. John’s.

More on Padre Thomas Nangle: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1032979

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: NANGLE, Thomas Extent   320   pages. Forms part of [Collection GN 19] Newfoundland military service records (Great War) collection


Jamesd Patrick Howley

Jamesd Patrick Howley

James Patrick Howley of St. John’s was a geologist and surveyor who was one of the first Europeans to visit and document the Bay du Nord river system deep in the interior.

He conducted the first thorough geological survey of the island, and documented the known history of the Beothuck people, a work that still stands the test of time.

More on James Patrick Howley: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1032909

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives James Patrick Howley fonds. Description number MG 105 . Extent   39   cm   textual records


John Munn

John Munn

John Munn is considered an outstanding example of a prominent Newfoundland outport merchant. From small beginnings in 1833, he built the largest general fishery supply firm outside St. John’s in Harbour Grace and became the single largest owner of vessels in the colony. His innovative business practices fostered the growth of his firm Punton and Munn, which became John Munn and Company in 1872 and continued operation until Newfoundland’s disastrous Bank Crash of 1894.

More on John Munn: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1033249

Recommended Archival Collection: Maritime History Archives, Memorial University. John Munn and Co. (Harbour Grace) fonds, 1770-1918 45 centimeters of textual records

These new designations reflect the rich and varied history of our nation. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations and designations are made on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. To date, more than 2,000 designations have been made.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister responsible for Parks Canada, in a press release on February 15, 2016 said:

“As we celebrate National Heritage Day I am very proud to recognize the people, places and events that shaped Canada. They tell the stories of who we are as a people, including our history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about our rich and diverse history.”

Take some time to explore archives throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to discover the significant persons, places and events that helped define this place and our history.

Females engaged as servants in the fishery

Archival Moment

May 5, 1884

An “apartment”  for the females engaged as servants in the fishery

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives A 44 1; "Labrador home-built 'floaters' beating North..."

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives A 44 1; “Labrador home-built ‘floaters’ beating North…”

The women of Newfoundland have long had a place on the fishing boats that have gone to the sea. These fishing boats were often small vessels, with limited space, that allowed for little privacy for the crew, especially for the women.

On May 5, 1884; A. J. Pearce, Sub collector at the Custom House in Twillingate responsible for  recording the arrival and departure of all vessels, inspecting the cargo of the vessels and insuring that all paid the required duties and taxes made it known that he wanted the privacy of women aboard vessels protected.

Under the headline “Notice to Schooner Holders” he posted in the local newspaper an announcement that read:

“Sailing Vessels carrying females engaged as servants in the fishery or as passengers, between Newfoundland and Labrador shall be provide with such separate cabin or apartments as will afford at least, fifty cubic feet for each of such females and the owners of such vessels shall provide for such females sufficient accommodation for sanitary purposes.” (Section I and V of the said act)

Captain’s of the vessels were warned if they did not conform to this new regulation they could face “a one hundred dollar fine.” 

The regulations were largely put in place for the women involved in the Labrador fishery, especially those involved in the ‘floater fishery.’ The Labrador fishery consisted of ‘floaters’ those who lived on their boats and fished along the Labrador coast.  Floaters brought their catch back to Newfoundland for processing. Women involved in the floater fishery were typically young and single, and their primary responsibility was cooking for the fishermen.

The regulations that were introduced describing the space to be provided as “a separate cabin or apartment’ was somewhat exaggerated. The reality was that the small space (50 cubic feet), below deck, tended to be just large enough to curl up into and sleep. The wall of this so called ‘apartment’ would be an old wool blanket.

In 1900, approximately 1200 women –one-third of the fishing crews- travelled in small schooners from the communities of Bay Roberts, Brigus, Carbonear, Harbour Grace and Western Bay to work as hired “girls” in the Labrador fisheries.

Captain Alexander Ploughman, of Ship Cove, Trinity Bay in describing the space allotted for women wrote:

“In most cases the accommodation is very meager being merely a screen dividing the female compartment from that of the men…in many cases they [women] are lying around like so many cattle.”

No matter what the cost of making the space for the women, Captain James Burden of Carbonear was determined to provide separate accommodation because he wrote:

 “I cannot think of prohibiting females as we have to make our fish on the Labrador. Two females are better than two men in many cases, and not half the expense.”

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives explore GN 1/3A Office of the Governor 1899-1901. Many of the despatchers make reference to the role of women in the fishery,. including GN 1/3/A   Despatch 265 , Employment of girls in Labrador aboard green fish schooners. GN 1/3/A Despatch 94, Girls employed in green fish catches, Labrador and GN 1/3/A Despatch 112      the Employment of female labour in the Labrador fisheries.

Recommended Website: Costal Women in Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation. This virtual exhibit portrays the women who lived and worked in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation http://www.mun.ca/mha/cw/index.html