Tag Archives: mcgrath

“Symbolic but important recognition of Labrador”


December 6, 2001

Labrador on the map.

On December 6, 2001, an amendment to the Canadian Constitution officially approved a name change from the province of Newfoundland to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.   The process of the name change began in 1964 with the passage of the Labrador Act an act that permitted the province’s government to refer to itself as the Government of Newfoundland andLabrador.

In April 1999, the Newfoundland House of Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the Governor General of Canada to issue a proclamation amending the Constitution of Canada to change the name of the province to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Then, a year and a half later (October 2001), the Government of Canada introduced a resolution in the House of Commons to change the province’s official name. At the time,  the then Premier Roger Grimes stated,

“Labrador is an important and vital part of this province. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is firmly committed to ensuring official recognition of Labrador as an equal partner in this province, and a constitutional name change of our province will reiterate that commitment.”

Subsequently the province’s postal designator was changed from NF to NL.

John Cabot first used the term “new found isle” in 1497. The name Labrador is generally understood to have originated from the Portuguese word “lavrador” or  “small landholder”, and is probably attributable to João Fernades, a Portuguese explorer.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read  MG 8.  The collection consists of textual and cartographic records compiled by P.T. McGrath in preparing the Newfoundland Government’s arguments in the Labrador Boundary Dispute (1906-1926). Some of the maps of the province of Quebec continue include Labrador.

Recommended Museum Visit:  At the Rooms Provincial Museum take some time to enjoy the exhibit: From this Place: Our Lives on Land and Sea: The Husky Energy Gallery – Level 4:  A rich tapestry of cultures exists in Newfoundland and Labrador: Strong ties to the land and the sea are the threads running throughout. Four Aboriginal Peoples – Innu, Inuit, Southern Inuit and Mi’kmaq – have lived in Labrador or on the island of Newfoundland for centuries. Europeans (livyers) – settled both places beginning in the early 1600s. The stories presented in this gallery highlight how the province’s peoples connected, and are connected. It is a story of how this place shaped its peoples and how different cultures have shaped and continue to shape this place.

Recommended Book:  A Short History of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Edited by Newfoundland Historical Society, Boulder Publications, 2008

The McGrath’s of Branch

On 17 April of 1917, twenty one year old George McGrath of Gull Cove, Branch, St. Mary’s Bay left Branch for St. John’s. He was determined to sign up for the war effort to fight for “country and king.”

Just one month following George’s departure from Branch his nineteen year old brother Joseph told his father Patrick and his mother Elizabeth that it was also his intention to join the war effort. Joseph left Branch and met with recruiters in St. John’s signing his attestation papers on 11 May, 1917.

In August 1917 Joseph McGrath #3760 with the other First Newfoundland Regiment volunteers marched from their training camp near Quidi Vidi Lake to the SS Florizel, the troop ship, anchored in St. John’s Harbour. They were beginning the first leg of a journey to the fighting fields of Europe. He joined a battalion in Rouen, France on January 15, 1918.

Five months later Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath – were approached by the parish priest clutching a telegram – it read “Regret to inform you that the Record Office, London, officially reports NO 3760, Private Joseph McGrath wounded on April 13 and missing in action.”

Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath for consolation turned to family and friends in Branch. They lived in hope – in letters to the war office they pleaded for “any shred of news.” There was also confusion – their son George who was fighting in Europe had heard rumors that Joseph was in Wandsworth, a large hospital about 5 miles outside of London. Wandsworth Hospital was where many members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were treated for injuries.

On 13 November 1918 word spread quickly in Branch that a second telegram had been delivered – via the Newfoundland Postal Telegraph – the telegram was addressed to “The Parish Priest or School Teacher.” The telegram read: “London reports today that Private Joseph McGrath previously reported wounded and missing in action is presumed dead. Please inform next of kin Patrick McGrath, Gull Cove, Branch.”

The blinds in all the homes of Branch were drawn.

Joseph was buried at BEAUMONT-HAMEL – Somme, France. He had just turned twenty years old.

Lost Tradition: Upon hearing the news of the death of someone in most Newfoundland communities the curtains and blinds were drawn. Houses on the funeral route had their doors closed and their curtains drawn

Recommended Archival Collection:Over 6000 men enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment during WWI. Each soldier had his own story. Each story is compelling. To read some of these stories go to: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part3_database.asp click on soldiers at the top centre. Find a soldier from your home community or with your family name. Read his life story.

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea – Recruiting Sergeant

Recommended Book: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One, St. John’s, DRC Publishing, 2010.