Tag Archives: Prowse

Victoria Day, the 24th of May


24 May

Queen Victoria: Born May 24, 1819

Victoria Day as we know it today has been known under a number of different names. Our parents and grandparents perhaps best remember it as Empire Day.

With the death of Queen Victoria, who died on 22 January 1901, the nations of the British Commonwealth  including Newfoundland began to search for a way to best celebrate her contributions.

The first ‘Empire Day’ took place on 24th May 1902, Queen Victoria’s birthday. Newfoundland was among the first of the commonwealth nations to officially declare Empire Day an official holiday in 1903.

The holiday has given rise to the

  “The 24th May is the Queen’s Birthday. If we don’t get a holiday we will all run away.”

Empire Day remained on the calendar for more than 50 years. In 1958 Empire Day was renamed as British Commonwealth Day, and still later in 1966 it became known as Commonwealth Day. The date of Commonwealth Day was also changed to 10th June, the official birthday of the present Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1957, Victoria Day was permanently appointed as the Queen’s birthday in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the Queen’s birthday is celebrated in June.

Queen Victoria and Newfoundland Connections

Queen Victoria allowed for the land grant for the Basilica, St. John’s

Queen Victoria and the  Newfoundland Shawl

Bishop  Michael Fleming  – the Roman Catholic bishop  of Newfoundland conceived of the of the idea  of building the  Basilica Cathedral in the 1830’s.  In April, 1838, by gracious decree of the new Queen, Victoria, a definitive grant of some nine acres was made for the purpose of erecting the new cathedral and related buildings.   Fleming  obtained permission from Queen Victoria to build on “The Barrens”.

Tradition has it that  Bishop Fleming  met with Queen Victoria in Hyde Park in London where the Queen rode by in her carriage.  She then invited him sto Buckingham Palace for tea.

After a discussion, Queen  Victoria offered her support and approval for the  granting of the land for the Roman Catholic  Cathedral.  As he was leaving  the Palace – Queen Victoria noted that it was chilly outside and offered him a shawl  –  which he later gave to his friend  Mary Shaw Dempsey of Alexandria Street, St. John’s.   There is a photograph of the shawl in a 1955 publication.

Victoria Behind Carbonear takes its name from Queen Victoria 

Newfoundland:   Victoria goes by many nicknames, including “The Village” and “The Savage Hollar.”  The community of Victoria is believed to have originally begun as a “winterhouse” for people from Freshwater and Carbonear.  In the nineteenth century the settlement was named Victoria Village, in honor of Queen Victoria.

Pitcher Plant

Queen Victoria and the Pitcher Plant

The Pitcher Plant was originally selected by Queen Victoria to be printed on the newly-minted Newfoundland Penny. The Pitcher Plant, was later designated by the Newfoundland Cabinet in 1954 to be the official flower of the new province. This unique plant can be found throughout the marshes and bogs of Newfoundland. The wine and green flowers attract the insects which, occasionally, fall into the tubular leaves below. The cup-shaped leaves collect water and rain, drowning the insects which nourish the plant.  The pitcher plant — so named because its leaves resemble a pitcher for pouring water— ian insect-eating plant that grows in various terrains across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Queen Victoria and Cabot Tower

In 1897, Cabot Tower was commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (60th Anniversary).

An excellent example of late-gothic revival architecture the tower was designed by St. John’s architect William Howe Greene.

Begun in 1898, Cabot Tower was completed in 1900 and has been a part of a number of historic events.

Although now one of the most recognizable symbols of St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador, its construction was not well-supported in the town. Most of St. John’s burned to the ground in 1892 and the banks in Newfoundland crashed in 1894. When Judge Daniel .W. Prowse, a prominent local man, suggested building Cabot Tower, one person said in a local paper that:

it’s like putting a silk hat on the head of a man who can’t afford to buy a pair of boots.”

Victoria Park, St. John’s  Declared a Scared Place  

Victoria Park, St. John’s

Victoria Park takes its name from Queen Victoria 

In the Police Court  on July 28,1897, his Honor Judge Daniel Prowse, in delivering judgment in  an assault case committed on Thomas Redmond, a son of Patrick Redmond, caretaker of Victoria Park,  Judge Prowse remarked that “the park is a sacred place”, as is the person of Mr. Redmond, and in future any person brought before him for assaulting that gentleman, will be severely punished.

Take some time to visit Victoria Park this weekend and visit the website of the Victoria Park Foundation.


Archival Collection at The Rooms: What have we in the archives about Queen Victoria:  In the search bar  type Victoria: 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

Victoria Day in Newfoundland and Labrador marks the beginning of the summer, it is time to open the cabins  and get the camping gear out!!

Recommened Song:  Buddy Wasisname – 24th Of May.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fMzIpoDHLA&list=RD3fMzIpoDHLA#t=15



The prevention of cruelty to animals

Archival Moment

March 10, 1879

We Love Animals

We Love Animals

On March 10, 1879 the St. John’s newspaper “The Temperance Journal” reported on the early development of a relatively new movement advocating for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

The editor of the local paper James Murray wrote:

“We observe that our thoughtful humanitarian Judge (Daniel W.) Prowse has projected an amended Act for the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

The Editor, with tongue firmly planted in his cheek continued:

Now regarding the necessity of such an act we agree, but what about the necessity of an Act for the prevention of cruelty by animals. Anyone who has witnessed the tender cabbage sprout, that has been watered and watched, and saved alike from the early frost, and the early grub, only to be devoured by the ruthless goat, and a goat that doesn’t belong to you, at that, will understand us.”

Prowse and others did press on and in his lifetime he saw the establishment of the Newfoundland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)  in 1888.

The first work of this newly formed Society was mostly amongst horses, and the hardship they endured from pulling heavy loads up steep hills from the harbor.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 593: 1912 -1927 consists of correspondence; complaint books, and investigation reports.

Recommended Website: For more information on the  SPCA  go to www.spcastjohns.org


That ‘chaw’ trying to make a big fellow of himself … in the lock up ”

Archival Moments

September 19, 1882

A prison cell is no place for  a 'chaw'.

A prison cell is no place for a ‘chaw’.

St. John’s, NL is known internationally as a “party” city. The iconic George Street is on the itinerary of every tourist.  Unfortunately, however, when large numbers gather and alcohol is involved trouble follows.  But did you know that night life in St. John’s is tame today compared to what it was in the 1880’s.

In the 1880’s the court reporters for the city newspapers were busy reporting on multiple arrests for drunkenness and fighting, typically  there would be  seven to thirteen individuals thrown into the “Lock up”  on any given weekend night, this pales  in comparison to the one or two that we get today.

With so many people being arrested for disorderly conduct and other related alcohol charges in September 1882 the condition of the “Lock up” became such a concern that the Editor of the Evening Telegram penned an editorial about the deplorable conditions.  The editorialist wrote:

“Attention has been frequently called to the condition and insufficient accommodation of our Lock up. This place, that is proved by the government for the temporary detention of prisoners, has time after time been found most injurious of the health of its occupants.  Deaths have occurred there. In consequence of which a want of proper attention has been attributed to the police authorities; but no blame could attach to them, as it was not through their fault that such sad events have taken place.”

The “Lock Up” the newspaper reporter suggested because of its size was a breathing ground for “fighting and disorderly conduct.”  The editorial stated:

“As the Lock up is at present situated, it contains four small and dark cells, and as many as eighteen prisoners have been confined to them, at one and the same time. It no wonder then, we find huddled together in a small space, the greater number who are doubtless excited through the influence of strong drink. Last night seven prisoners confined to those four cells, on Sunday morning last here were thirteen having been arrested for the usual offences of drunkenness and disorderly conduct.”

It appears that some of the men who were arrested liked their peace and quiet in the ‘lock up.’  One night In September 1882  a man named Neagle of Riverhead  (west end of St. John’s) who was found fighting on the street was taken into custody and was placed in a cell  with the “indomitable Andrew Kearney” who had been arrested for being incapable of taking proper care of himself.

Kearney was not amused with his very talkative roommate and his pleas for him to be quite fell on deaf ears.  About 2 o’clock in the morning Kearney had had enough and gave Neagle a black eye and a bloody nose.  Asked by the constable why he had  beaten his cell mate Kearney stated:

“that that  “chaw”  whoever he was, was trying  to make  a big fellow of himself.”

His Worship (Judge Prowse) was most displeased with the two men.  Andy Kearney was given twenty days imprisonment for his assault in the cells, and Neagle got fifty days for striking the constable earlier in the evening. In imposing the sentence Judge Prowse stated “that any person who would raise his hand against policemen would be punished by him with the utmost severity.”

The calls for reform to improve the “lock up” with its “four small dark cells” also fell on deaf ears.  The “lock up” remained home to all those who broke the law until the Great Fire 1892.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Evening Telegram and other newspapers give very detailed accounts of all citizens that were arrested. It might be interesting to explore to see if you will find an ancestor in the “lock up.”

Lost Word Meaning:  Chaw:  a talkative person.  Example: Terry is a fine young man, / But he has a lot of ‘chaw,’ /

Newfoundland Expression: “More chaw than a sheep’s head” refers to one who talks too much.

Chaw Bag – Newfoundland and Labrador Language Lessons.  Watch This:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBOgkY02Q-c