Tag Archives: irish

Mrs. Minnie crossed over, she was the last of the crowd

Mrs. Minnie Murphy

As a teen I remember a “crowd”  in our house.  Minnie Murphy and her husband Tom, Nicky and Sadie Murphy and a few other visitors coming over to our house on “Dohey Square” St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay after the Saturday evening mass.

Every Saturday after mass there was always a few cups of tea, raisin buns, toast with molasses and or a stronger drink for some.   It was inevitable that they would break out into songs and recitations.

Mrs. Minnie was the last of that crowd. Mrs. Minnie crossed over on April 30, 2019 she was 91.

Her voice and the songs that she and others sang in our house on Dohey Square and in many other homes live here:


Visitation will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 12:00 – 2:00 P.M .

Funeral Mass will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3rd at 2:00 P.M.

Inurnment to take place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. Bride’s.



Do you know about Patrick’s Pot?

imagesCAF5JTEEArchival Moment

March 17 (Tradition)
One of the earliest and best accounts of daily life at the Labrador fishery can be found in Nicholas Smith’s book ‘Fifty-two Years at the Labrador Fishery’. In his book he makes reference to a  Newfoundland, St. Patrick’s Day tradition,  that is no more.

Smith writes:

“The ice was very heavy and in large sheets; consequently slow progress was made for the first few days, but on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, Captain William  …  called everybody at daylight to get out to their ‘Patrick’s Pot’ as we were among the seals, and plenty of them.”

In Newfoundland and Labrador a ‘Patrick’s Pot’  suggests a ‘windfall’ in terms of sealing jargon it referred to a seal herd spotted on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17). When spotted especially on St. Patrick’s Day there would be much excitement.

St. Patrick’s Day would have been early in the  ‘sealing season’ and a good omen. The herd would represent a portion of the sealers salary for the year.

Patrick’s Pot or Paddy’s Pot had another meaning for children, when visiting relatives on St. Patrick’s Day silver coins were traditionally given to children, the coins given were referred to as Paddy’s Pot. In the Folk and Language Archive at Memorial University is found reference to this tradition in interviews that were conducted with informants.   One gentleman reported when giving a coin to a child the person typically said:  “and here’s a Paddy’s Pot for ye, me little colleens.’

Wishing you the very best on St. Patrick’s Day. May you find your pot?

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: Fifty-two Years at the Labrador Fishery (London: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1936.

St. Patrick’s Day Tradition in Newfoundland and Labardor


March 17, 1851

The Executive and members of the Benevolent Irish Society (BIS) marched for the first time from their club rooms to the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) on St. Patrick’s Day 1851 and were welcomed by the Bishop. The tradition of the parade to the Basilica, followed by the celebration of the mass (the Feast of St. Patrick’s), is followed by a reception by the bishop in the Episcopal Residence. The tradition continues to this day.

Leaving  the company of the Archbishop  the tradition was for the  BIS to parade to  Government House to be received by the  Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The members of the Executive have since the first visitation presented  their hosts with a  small basket of shamrocks.

The B.I.S. was formally established in St. John’s on February 5, 1806 as a non-denominational service club to help educate and improve the lifestyle of the poor Irish immigrant children of St. John’s. The primary requirement for membership was that the individuals be of Irish birth or ancestry. The constitution of the B.I.S. is based on three principles of charity, benevolence and philanthropy.

As the seal and motto the members of the BIS chose the figure of St. Patrick bearing the cross surrounded by the inscription – “he that gives to the poor, lends to the Lord.”

The Benevolent Irish Society was unique in that it was nonsectarian and offered assistance to the needy regardless of their religion. The founders of the Society were among the first generation of permanent residents in Newfoundland. They included politicians, businessmen and clergy who played significant roles in the political, economic and spiritual growth of the developing colony.

Membership continues to be open to adult residents of Newfoundland who are of Irish birth or ancestry, regardless of religious persuasion.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives  take some time to look at MG 612  the BIS  collection  it consists of minutes of  the BIS (1822-1933, 1938-1970, 1973-1979); agendas (1964-1970); Centenary Volume (1806-1906); loan receipts (1905-1906); journal (1910-1920); cash book (1920-1931); ledger (1939-1944).

Recommended Museum Exhibit:  take some time to see : Talamh an Éisc – The Fishing Ground , an exhibition  at The Rooms, that introduces the Irish peoples who have been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1600s, the exhibit explores the communities they built and celebrates the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Food, Lent and St. Patrick’s Day

Archival Moment

March 17

(St. Patrick’s Day and the Lenten Fast)

Foods fro the Lenten Season Advertisement, Evening Telegram

Foods fro the Lenten Season
Advertisement, Evening Telegram

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 has long been considered a significant date on the calendar of Irish Newfoundlanders, in fact on St. Patrick’s Day, all Newfoundlanders lay claim to some smidgeon of Irishness. The Irish in Newfoundland have for hundreds of years celebrated their patron saint with parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting.

St. Patrick’s Day, falling as it does during the fasting season of Lent has proven to be inconvenient, it has also proven to be a source of theological confusion.

Those who follow the Christian calendar and fast or abstain during the Lenten Season (Wednesday, February 14 and ends on  Thursday March 29)  can relax,  bishops throughout the world, especially in dioceses with large Irish populations have customarily granted a special dispensation from the law of abstinence and fasting on St. Patrick’s Day. In the United States, in the resent past, at least 60 of the nearly 200 dioceses (most with large Irish populations) provide such dispensations.

So ingrained in Newfoundland food culture was the idea of the “Lenten Diet” that there was a time during the Lenten Season when grocery stores in their advertising in the local newspapers boldly bragged in their advertisements that they carried “Lenten Diet” products.

In the local  St. John’s newspaper, Evening Telegram, on March 18, 1914 , Bishop Sons and Company Limited, Grocery Department stated in their advertising that their “‘Lenten Diet’ products included Salmon, Lobster, Cod Tongues, White Bait, Royans,  and a large selection of other fish products.”

The Lenten Diet, The Evening Telegram

The Lenten Diet,
The Evening Telegram

E.P. Eagan a competitor of Bishops and Sons at his Duckworth Street and Queens Road stores in St. John’s boasted in his advertising in The Telegram, March 16, 1914   that he carried “Foods that are popular during the Lenten Season.”

It was in this cultural milieu that it would have been difficult to consider a good meal of Irish bacon and cabbage, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal without an approving nod from the local bishop.

Irish bacon and cabbage, consists of unsliced back bacon boiled with cabbage and potatoes. Sometimes other vegetables such as turnips, onions and carrots are also added. Historically, this dish was common fare in Irish homes as the ingredients were readily available as many families grew their own vegetables and reared their own pigs. (As it was in Newfoundland.) In the mid-to-late 19th century, Irish immigrants to the United States began substituting corned beef for bacon when making the dish, hence creating corned beef and cabbage.

It is not likely that you will find a restaurant menu that will feature a “Lenten Diet’ and even more unlikely that our local newspaper will offer a ‘Lenten Diet’ column,  best stick to the fish.

On St. Patrick’s Day, break the ‘Lenten Fast’   it is all about the parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting!

Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms take some time to see: Talamh an Éisc – The Fishing Ground, an exhibit at The Rooms, which introduces the Irish peoples who have been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1600s, the exhibit explores the communities they built and celebrates the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Censored letters and loyalty


September 6,  1941

Let’s Censor our conversation About the War.

Seventy eight (78) years ago this week the Second World War broke out. An Act for the Defence of Newfoundland came into effect giving the Governor in Commission sweeping powers to regulate social and economic life and to appropriate whatever was needed to defend the country. They also issued the Newfoundland Defence Regulations the same day

On September 3, 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. With this declaration, Newfoundland was also at war.

During WWII all correspondence leaving Newfoundlandand Labrador was intercepted by an official censor from the Office of the Commissioner for Justice and Defence that was under the direction of L.E.  Emerson of the Newfoundland Department of Defence.

Most governments of the day, throughout the world, argued that censorship was necessary to prevent valuable information getting into enemy hands and to maintain high morale on the home front.

In order to meet these goals every letter leaving the province was read to insure that individuals were not wittingly or unwittingly giving information to the enemy.

On September 20, 1941 Commissioner Emerson was particularly  disturbed by the contents of a letter that the censor board had intercepted that was written by a young Irish born teacher  (Brother)  E.P. O’Farrell on staff at St. Patrick’s Hall School, St. John’s.  Emerson found the letter to be very suspect.  He described the views held by the young teacher,  O’Farrell,  to be “positively dangerous.”

The letter dated September 6, 1941 written by Brother O’Farrell to his parents in County Kerry, Ireland was considered dangerous on a number of grounds.

Brother O’Farrell in his letter applauded the fact that Ireland had declared itself neutral during the war.  Neutrality was overwhelmingly supported by the population of Ireland; a minority of Irish Republicans sided with Germany, believing that a German victory might bring about a United Ireland.

Moreover, in a war in which the United Kingdom was involved, neutrality was perceived as the clearest expression of Irish sovereignty, something the Irish Prime Minister Éamon de Valera fervently sought.

In his letter, the young teacher O’Farrell speculated that:

 “I don’t think (President) Roosevelt will succeed in getting the States to fight and that all Catholics and all the Bishops are determined to stay out of the war.”

The ‘neutral’ position taken by the Irish during the war, lead many to be suspicious of the Irish and their intentions.  Given that O’Farrell was Irish born and a teacher Emerson insisted his letter did “raise considerable alarm”.  He felt strongly also that:

 “teachers needed to maintain an atmosphere of loyalty and optimism in the schools.”

The letter never reached O’Farrell’s parents.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Provincial Archives Division at The Rooms see GN 38.3 ; Home Affairs and Education. This file consists of memorandum relating to the appointments to the censorship staff, modifications to the censorship process, Appointment of Chief Censor

Recommended Publication:  High, Steven. Occupied St. John’s: a Social History of a City at War 1939-1945. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.   336 pages, illustrated.

“Emigration is continuing to go on still to a fearful extent.”


May 14, 1863

Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle.

Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle.

On  May 14, 1863 John Murphy, from the Copper Works, Brass and Bell Foundry  in Dublin wrote to Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the R.C. Bishop of Newfoundland to acknowledge receipt of payment for bells crafted for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s (now Basilica).

John Murphy was a Coppersmith who established his business at 109 James’s Street, Dublin, in 1837. Murphy was one of the best at his craft.  His bells were awarded prizes at the Dublin and London Exhibitions and First Prize in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition.  Many of these bells found their way to Newfoundland.

Ordinarily a receipt payment would not garner much attention but with this receipt Murphy included a note to the Newfoundland Bishop that inferred  that the economy of Ireland  was such that the Irish were having to leave their home land for other parts of the world. Murphy wrote:

 “Sorry to tell you that trade is very quiet in Dublin and all over Ireland. At present the clergy are not disposed to get many bells as the people are not in good spirits from the manner particularly that the government is hurting the poor farmers by not giving them some security in their land. Emigration is continuing to go on still to a fearful extent.”

The 1850’s and 60’s were difficult economic times in Ireland and many of the Irish artisans in order to sustain a living had to sell their work to the emerging church in the new world or emigrate.

Almost 153 years to the day hard times have once again visited upon Ireland. Emigration numbers have accelerated sharply since the start of the downturn in the Irish economy in 2008, when an estimated 31,300 left the country.

Encouraging emigrants to return home to Ireland is a central part of the Irish Government’s first diaspora policy, published in March, 2015. The hope expressed at the launch, was that by 2016 the number of Irish returning would outnumber those leaving, after seven years of high emigration.

The figures for returning Irish have been falling as the numbers applying for permanent residency and citizenship abroad in such places as Canada have risen. In the 12 months to April 2014 just 11,600 Irish returned home, down from 15,700 the previous year and almost half the figure from 2008.

Canada  has been actively trying to lure the young Irish. In 2013 Canada  increased  the length of work visas for young Irish and doubled the quota of those who may arrive through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.

Some of  these young  Irish  were  like their ancestors  were making their way to the shores of  Newfoundland and Labrador, but like Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador  over the next few years may be looking at emigration as well.

Archival Collection: Type Irish in the key word search bar:  http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?ClientSession=16a80abc:154b2cdf7b9:-7fd2&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355

Exhibit at The Rooms:  Come and explore Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground on Level 4.  This exhibition introduces you to the Irish who have been here since the late 1600s while exploring the communities they built and celebrating the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland.

Recommended to watch:  ‘The Forgotten Irish’ is a community of Irish people living over two thousand miles from Ireland on the beautiful Cape Shore of Newfoundland.  We welcome all of you new Irish!!   http://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/1378-radharc/355628-the-forgotten-irish/


First meeting of the Benevolent Irish Society

Archival Moment

February 5, 1806

The headquarters of the BIS is now located  at 30 Harvey Road.

The headquarters of the BIS is now located at 30 Harvey Road.

On February 5, 1806 the first meeting of the Benevolent Irish Society (B.I.S.) was held at the London Tavern, St. John’s. The Society was founded for the relief of the poor by a group of 78 Irishmen.

“At a meeting held at the London Tavern, St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Wednesday the 5th February 1806, a number of Irish Gentlemen desirous of relieving the wants and desires of their Countrymen and fellow-creatures at large. It was unanimously agreed, that a Society formed upon true principles of Benevolence and Philanthropy would be the most effectual mode of establishing permanent relief.”

The Society was constitutionally established on February 17, 1806.

As the seal and motto, the BIS founding members, chose the figure of the patron saint of their old country , St. Patrick bearing the cross surrounded by the inscription “he that gives to the poor, lends to the Lord.”

The Benevolent Irish Society was unique in that it was nonsectarian and offered assistance to the needy regardless of their religion.

“all denominations of Christians were admissible to its ranks the only qualifications required being one that one should be an Irishman or the descendant of an Irishman. “

At the time “the needy” were referred to as the wretched and distressed.”

The founders of the Society were among the first generation of permanent residents in Newfoundland. They included politicians, businessmen and clergy who played significant roles in the political, economic and spiritual growth of the developing colony.

The headquarters of the BIS, fronting on Queen’s Road, backing on Military Road opposite of the R.C. Basilica, was converted into a condominium residence in the late 1990’s. (see photo)

The headquarters of the BIS is now located at 30 Harvey Road.

The very popular London Tavern showed no denominational bias, the free Masons met in the fine establishment from 1774 -1832. Located at the corner of what is now York and Wood Streets it’s proprietors Mr. Cornelius QUIRK (1770’s -1810) and later James PHEALAN (1810 -1830’s) liked to have a drink with anyone.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives discover the Benevolent Irish Society [BIS] fonds, MG 612. This collection includes 12 microfilmed reels of documents including minutes (1822-1933, 1938-1970, 1973-1979); agendas (1964-1970); Centenary Volume (1806-1906); loan receipts (1905-1906); journal (1910-1920); cash book (1920-1931); ledger (1939-1944).

Recommended Archival Collection: “Rules and constitution of the Benevolent Irish Society: February 17th, 1806”. Recounts the establishment of the Society in February 1806 and presents the rules and constitution drawn up by the founding committee. Read More: http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/ref/collection/cns/id/17588

Recommended Web Site: http://www.bisnl.ca/main/node

Gift from Australia

When writing a codicil to his last will and testament on this day  6 August 1865, Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St.  John’s left “his gold enameled pectoral cross to the Diocese of St. John’s.”  The gift to the diocese was quite significant because this pectoral cross in addition to having “liturgical” symbolic value also gives insight into the bishops and their friendship networks around the world. Bishop Mullock wrote that  “the pectoral cross was a gift from his friend Dr Bishop Patrick Geoghegan, Bishop of Adelaide, South Australia.”   [104.1.31]

Many of the early bishops in the “new world” came from Irish stock.  The young Patrick Geoghegan, ordained in 1829  as a Franciscan priest (O.S.F) had as his first assignment the Franciscan Church of St Francis’ Church, Dublin, popularly known as the Church of Adam and Eve., the oldest existing Roman Catholic in Dublin.

Geoghegan in 1837 asked to be sent as a missionary to Australia where he became bishop in 1859.

While he was at Adam and Eve  he was befriended by another Franciscan priest, John Thomas Mullock who was also ordained in 1829.  Mullock was the guardian of Adam and Eve Convent.  Mullock was sent as a missionary to St. John’s becoming bishop in 1848.

One of the first people that Mullock wrote about his appointment to St. John’s, Newfoundland was Geoghegan. In that letter he wrote:

“As to myself, I can’t say as yet how I will be situated in St John’s, but I am sure Dr (Michael Anthony) Fleming  (Bishop of Newfoundland)  will make me comfortable. I have a very arduous Mission but with God’s assistance I hope to get through it, always remembering St Francis’ Motto non tibi soli vivere [Live not for yourself alone].I get a steamer direct from Glasgow next month and expect to arrive in 9 or 10 days in St John’s. I will write to you in a month or two after my arrival there and give you an account of the Mission. As yet I know nothing of it except by hearsay. Our Cathedral there is the largest building in N. America.”

The two maintained a life long friendship.

The pectoral cross is on exhibit in the Basilica Cathedral Museum, home to one of the finest collections of religious artefacts of historic and artistic significance in the country.

The pectoral cross (crux pectoralis) is worn by bishops. The word pectoral derives from the Latin pectus, meaning Abreast.” This cross is attached to a chain (or cord) and is worn on the chest, near the heart.  In 1889, the Holy See recommended that the pectoral cross of a deceased bishop which contained a relic of the True Cross be given to his successor. When putting on the pectoral cross, traditionally the bishop says, “Munire me digneris,” asking the Lord for strength and protection against all evil and all enemies, and to be mindful of His passion and cross.