Tag Archives: Ireland

An Irish soldier and his socks knit by an aged Newfoundland woman

Archival Moment

January 26, 1916

Knitting comforts. (Click on to enlarge)

Knitting comforts.
(Click on to enlarge)

During the First World War women in kitchens and parlors in homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador were enthusiastically knitting goods, especially socks for the men who had signed up to fight for King and Country. Many of these women were members of the Woman’s Patriotic Association (W.P.A.) an organization of more than 15,000 women from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the ladies at Government House and from throughout the towns of the colony of Newfoundland produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers. These items were often referred to as “comforts.”

The socks that were knit were intended primarily for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment but there is evidence that soldiers from other countries including some from Ireland were the beneficiaries of the woolen socks.

In January of 1916 Mrs. Margret Morris of Long’ Hill, St. John’s was thrilled to receive a letter from an Irish Soldier thanking her for socks which he received ‘Somewhere in France’ and found to have been knitted by her. The 85 year old Mrs. Morris was so delighted with the letter of thanks that she strolled down to the offices of the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram to have her story published.

The newspaper reported:

Mrs. Margaret Morris an old lady of 85 years has received a letter from an Irish soldier thanking her for socks which he received and found to have been knitted by her. His name is Private B. McCourt and he is with (British Expeditionary Force) B.E.F. in France.

The old lady was delighted to receive the letter and hopes to get another from him as he asked her to write to him. He thanked her for the socks she had knitted, said how glad he was to get them and expressed much appreciation at receiving a pair knitted by an aged person.

The old lady had placed a slip of paper in one of them giving her name address and age.”

The practice of slipping a note in the toe of the socks that they knit with their name and address as well as a prayer for their soldier boys was well established among the Newfoundland knitters. Those receiving the socks with the notes were often gracious enough to return a note of thanks.

It is not likely that the old lady did receive any other correspondence from her Irish soldier, she died on March 8, 1916 at her residence on Long’s Hill just a few weeks after the initial letter from him.

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 Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records are on line at: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp

Recommended Exhibit:  BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU:   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.g7eLJMu8.dpuf

 

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 

Mercy Sisters Open Their First School in the New World

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May 1, 1843

Mercy Convent, Military Road, St. John's, NL.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy was founded in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley on December 12, 1831.

At the request of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of St. John’s, Newfoundland three Irish women Frances Creedon, Ursula Frayne, and Rose Lynch began their Atlantic crossing on the Sir Walter Scott to begin working as missionaries in Newfoundland.

They arrived in St. John’s on June 3, 1842. With no convent ready they  took accommodations at Belvedere, Bishop Fleming’s residence.  (The street is now known as Margaret’s Place – off Newtown Road. Belvedere is the buidling  nearest to the MCP Building that was  the old  Belvedere Orphanage.)

During the first eleven months of the new mission, the Sisters of Mercy visited the sick and the poor in their homes. On December 12, 1842, the Sisters moved from their temporary home to their new convent on Military Road. This was the first Mercy Convent in the New World.

On May 1, 1843, Our Lady of Mercy School, Military Road, was formally opened. From this nucleus, other convents were opened throughout the province.

Through the years the Sisters of Mercy were engaged primarily in the teaching and nursing professions. In recent years their main focus has been in Pastoral Ministries in various localities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and in Peru.

Recommended Reading: “Weavers of the Tapestry”, Kathrine Bellamy’s, RSM -St. John’s, NL.  Flanker Press Limited   2006

 Recommended Web Site: http://www.sistersofmercynf.org/