Tag Archives: Presentation Convent

Art, Forgery and Prison Romance

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 15, 1880

Hall Ceiling Painted by Pindkowsky, Government House

On June 17, 1880, the Carbonear Herald a local Newfoundland newspaper reported on the conviction of  Alexander Pindikowsky, a young artist and fresco painter, convicted for forgery. He was sentenced on June 15, 1880 to fifteen months at her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Royal Gazette reported:

 “Pindinkowsky was ordered within five days of his release to quit the country (Newfoundland) for life, in default of which, on his return to the country at any time, he is to receive further imprisonment.”

Pindikowsky  (also Pindikowskie) arrived in Newfoundland in 1879 as a professional artist and fresco painter. He was hired by the Anglo American Telegraph Company to give art instruction to interested employees and their wives at Hearts Content Cable Office.

He was arrested on March 10, 1880 and charged with attempting forge two cheques in the name of E. Weedon, Esq. of Hearts Content, Trinity Bay.

The Polish artist’s talents as a fresco painter were brought to the attention of the authorities at the Penitentiary and they were soon put to official use, in return for a remission of five weeks on his sentence. He was set to work designing and painting frescos, to relieve the drabness of the state rooms of Government House.

Governor John Hawley Glover (1876-1885) was so delighted with the frescos that he suggested to Prime Minister William Whiteway that the prisoner Pindinkowsky also decorate the ceilings of the two legislative chambers of the Colonial Building.  Seeing an opportunity the Presentation Sisters at Cathedral Square in St. John’s who were in the process of working on their chapel and drawing room invited the talents of the young artist.

Each day Pindinowsky was brought from the penitentiary to his place of work until the frescos were complete.

It could be said that this is one of the first documented cases of  a prison rehabilitation program in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ROMANCE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Researcher and historian, John O’Mara in his research on Government House in St. John’s discovered that Pindikowsky was also a romantic. In his research he discovered the face of a woman subtly painted into the ceiling of government house.  Some believe her to be one of the maids at government house.  She could possibly be Ellen Dormody the mother of Pindikowsky’s first child, Johanna Mary Ellen Pindikowskie, who was baptized at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) on May 1, 1882.

It is clear that Pindikowsky banishment from the country was withdrawn, he decided to stay in Newfoundland. In 1882 he was advertising his services in a local newspaper, as a fresco painter.

The Athenaeum, established in 1879 with it’s 1,000 seat theatre, that was central to much of the musical activity of the city hired him. He painted some very fine murals on the interior walls of the building. Unfortunately the theatre and his work were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892.

Pindikowsky left St. John’s for the ‘Boston States’ in approximately 1882  followed a year later by Ellen Dormody. She is recorded as travelling from St. John’s to Boston on the SS Colan (or Coban) in 1883.

Life in Boston was unsettled they fist settled in Malden, Mass in 1885 where he is listed in the city directory as a painter then Brockton, Mass, in the city directories of 1887, 1888 and 1889, back to Malden for 1890, then in Newport, RI where he was listed in the city directory as a painter in 1897 and later back in Brockton, Mass.

It appears that he died between 1887 -1906.  His wife is listed in the  Brockton city directory as a nurse and a widow in 1906.

Ellen Dormody the wife of Pindikowsky would have felt very at home in the Boston area. The Commonwealth of Boston census for 1885 reports that 2851 Newfoundlanders had settled in the city and surrounding towns. That number had grown to 7,591 Newfoundlanders by 1895.  The census for Boston in 1915 reports that 13,269 residents of the Boston area claimed Newfoundland  as their place of birth.

The ‘Boston States’ and  Newfoundland  have many connections.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Government House Interior 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: Art, Love and Savagery: Carolyn Moran. Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2016.

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/govhouse/govhouse/tour2.html

Recommended VisitTo see the work of Alexander Pindikowsky both Government House and Presentation Convent are available to the public by appointment.  The Colonial Building is undergoing extensive renovations and is closed.

 

Nuns at home in a tavern

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 21, 1833

Presentation School, Patrick Street, St. John’s, NL date unknown

On September 20, 1883 there was much excitement in St. John’s with religious and civic officials gathering to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of the Presentation Sisters to the colony of Newfoundland

The Irish nuns (Sister’s Bernard Kirwin, Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, Xavier Maloney and Xaverius Lynch) reached St John’s harbour on 21 September 1833 –  the first nuns to serve in Newfoundland. With no account of their arrival being received in Galway, Ireland,  until four months later,  they were given up for dead  at home  and as was the custom in the convent, a Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated for them, and copies of their vows were burned.

The four Galway women came to Newfoundland at the invitation of the Catholic Bishop, Michael Fleming to establish a school that would offer improved educational opportunity for girls and young women in St. John’s.

Upon arrival in St. John’s the nuns were agreeably surprised by the appearance of Newfoundland.

“This country,” Sister Mary Bernard  Kirwin wrote in her first letter home, “is by no means as dreary as we heard. The bay is beautiful and so is the country as far as we can see.”

Within a few weeks of their arrival in St. John’s the sisters had gathered  approximately 450 studenets that they divided into classes. They began teaching in a room at the rear of an old tavern, the “Rising Sun” that also served as their home. The curriculum included grammar, literature, arithmetic, French, music, needle work, and Christian doctrine.

 “SKINNED ALIVE THE MASS OF SAINT CECELIA”

One of the observers of the 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1883 was Henri de la Chaume , attaché to the French Consul in St. John’s . On his return to France, he published a book about his experiences in the colony

The French attaché admired the good works of the Irish born nuns but he was not very kind about their musical ability, he wrote:

 “During this, (the 50th Anniversary Pontifical Mass) they (the nuns) most disgracefully skinned alive the Mass of Saint Cecelia and, not content with this first crime, they went on to profane the “Inflammatus” of the “Stabat Mater.”   (Latin hymn “the Mother was standing.”

He was, however, happy to report that:

 “The ceremony finished with a hymn where at last they did us the grace to give us an “0 Salutaris” by Miss (Clara) Fisher composed by Cherubini.”

One of the women kneeling in the chapel for the 50th Anniversary mass was

 “The Superior of the Convent, (90 year old, Sister Mary Magdalen O’Shaughnessy (1793-1888), one of the four sisters who came here fifty years ago, (she) was there bent over a prie-Dieu.”

Sister O’Shaughnessy  was never to return her beloved Ireland- in her first letter home in 1833 –  she wrote that she was struck by the evident prosperity of St John’s, Newfoundlandand the fondness of the children in the school for “dress-wear, necklaces, ear-rings, rings etc.”

From their appearance,  she wrote,

 “you would scarcely think you are teaching in a poor school. No such thing as a barefoot child to be seen here, how great the contrast between them and the poor Irish!”

Recommended Publication: Hammered by the Waves: A Young Frenchman’s Sojourn in Newfoundland in 1882-83:  Henri De La Chaume (Author), Robin McGrath (Editor), James M. F. McGrath (Translator) Creative Book Publishers, St. John’s, 2006.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Archives of the Presentation Congregation, St. John’s has a wonderful collection of archival documents relating to the lives of the women of the Presentation Congregations and their work in education in Newfoundland.

Recommended Activity: Visit the Presentation Convent at Cathedral Square, St. John’s home of the exquisite statue – The Veiled Virgin by Giovanni Strazza. Also home of an altar designed of pure marble, with carved motif’s documenting the first 50 years of the sisters work in Newfoundland.