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 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.
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.
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
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 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