Tag Archives: Lady Day

Lady Day Fish; August 15th in Newfoundland


August 15, 1864

The fishing season began with the blessing of the boats by the clergy.

 In Newfoundland and Labrador, August 15 is better known as Lady Day.  On August 15 there is a long established tradition that the “catch of fish” on this day was to be given over to the church.

‘Lady Day,’ the fifteenth of August,   in some parts of the province signaled the end of the fishing season.  It  was not unusual for some fishermen to ‘give it up’  for the remainder of the summer.

On August 14, 1864 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s   “called on the people of the St. John’s  area  to fish for St. Patrick’s Church tomorrow”  Bishop Mullock was so determined to get the fishermen up and out fishing at an early hour that he put on a special mass in the Cathedral (now the Basilica) at 4:00 a.m. “for the people going to fish…”

August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, was one of the great feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church. So important was this day that it was considered a Holy Day of Obligation, a day to  refrain  from work, a day demanding that the faithful attend Mass.


Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s, 1841 (now Basilica) .

When the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) was being constructed Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of Newfoundland received in 1834 from Pope Gregory XVI,  the faculty to dispense the fishermen subject to his spiritual jurisdiction from the obligation of fasting on the vigils of saints.  This allowed Bishop Fleming to give permission to the fishermen to fish for the church on holy days, like Lady Day.  Bishop Fleming referred to himself as “the prelate of a congregation of impoverished fishermen.” 

Father Kyran Walsh (the priest in charge of the construction of the R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) would collect Lady Day fish in the summer, and so raised the thousands of pounds that were needful to complete the Cathedral.

Lady Day in many communities became a day of celebration – at the end of the “fishing day” in some communities (especially in Placentia Bay) dinner and dances were held in the parish halls.

On August 19, 1944 one writer for the Western Star newspaper in Corner Brook, lamented that:

“The 15th of August passed by rather uneventfully. However, many sadly recalled the big celebrations it occasioned in days gone by, and would like to see it return to its former festivity.”

Rooms Tour: Fishing for Cod: You could say Newfoundland and Labrador exists because of cod fish. So many cod that at one time that you could literally dip your bucket over the side of your boat and fill a pail with fish.  For over 400 years the salt cod industry was the backbone of life in Newfoundland and Labrador. Generations of fishing men, women and children spent their lives “making fish.”

Come with us on a tour at The Rooms of two exhibitions, From This Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea and Here, We Made a Home, to learn about the salt cod trade in the province.


Weather causes theological conundrum


August 15, 1896

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: E 6-7 Two women making hay at Ross’s Farm, Quidi Vidi.

The weather in August of 1896 was so bad that it stirred a “theological” conundrum.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, August 15 is better known as Lady Day.  On the Christian calendar it is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. On the calendar of the Catholic Church, this day is considered a Holy Day of Obligation, encouraging the faithful attend Mass and abstain from working.

In August 1896 for the many farmers the weather was challenging.  The hay had been cut which was followed by weeks of rain, drizzle and fog.  The hay was the staple diet for an estimated 120, 000 horses, cattle and sheep in the colony. The farmers feared that the hay would be spoiled if it was soon not turned.

When the sun rose on August 15 it looked to be the perfect day for turning the hay, one of the few that  the farmers had seen that August. The farmers had choice stand by their faith or their work?

There were great sighs of relief in the churches on the morning of August 15 as the priests of the diocese went into there pulpits proclaiming a dispensation allowing the farmers to work at turning the hay on this holy day.

The priests read the notice from the bishop that read:

“Owing to the unfavorable weather of the past weeks any persons who have hay cut and in danger of being spoiled may turn it out today”  (Source: Basilica Parish, Book of Publications , August 15, 1896.

Recommended Archives: Search the online database at The Rooms Archives  for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Click the image to begin your search: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections#sthash.gNPievth.dpuf

Recommended Reading: Cows Don’t Know It’s Sunday – Agricultural Life in St. John’s by Hilda Chaulk Murray [A study of both the work life and social life of the farmers of St. John’s this book is a tribute to the farming families who were the mainstay of the city during the first half of the twentieth century]