Tag Archives: Quidi Vidi

Where is the city planning?


September 10, 1894

Photo Credit: Quidi Vidi, sketch by William Grey, Sketches of Newfoundland, 1858

On September 10, 1894 the local St. John’s  newspaper, The Daily News, published a letter to The Editor commenting on development near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s.  The writer was not amused that expansion was taking place near the lake without any definite plan.

The anonymous writer, identified as ‘A Passerby,’ wrote:

“Is there not a law about uniformity in house building.”

The writer was particularly infuriated that shebeens were being constructed and worse tolerated.

Following the Great Fire of 1892 in St. John’s there was in the city a spurt of development that saw a road “pushed rapidly ahead” toward Quidi Vidi. With this new road came development.

The initial structures established appear to have been shebeen’s, the letter to the editor reads:

“Owing to one shebeen, trouble has already ensued; it is rumoured that another is being erected in the opposite direction.”

If  sheebeen’s were to be tolerated  the letter  went on to speculate that next you would see

“ a semi-stable, semi-slaughter-house (being) erected on the banks of the lake.”

The author of the letter  would not be happy to find, almost 100 years after he wrote his letter,  that a chicken slaughter house  was erected near the banks of his beloved lake!!

Newfoundland Term: shebeen n also sheebeen, sheveen: Unlicensed place where illicit liquor is sold. [Dictionary of Newfoundland English]

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms: Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador photograph collection consists of a series of 212 b&w photographs predominantly of the Royal St. John’s Regatta races and crews, The photographs include team portraits, races underway, presentation of awards and views of the people along the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake.

Recommended Publication: A Gift of Heritage: Historic Architecture of St. John’s, Newfoundland , 2nd ed. , Newfoundland Historic Trust , This publication of the Newfoundland  Historic Trust focuses on architecture  in St. John’s.

“The poor man’s holiday.” The Regatta.

Archival Moment


Photo Credit: Early illustration of Regatta from Canadian Illustrated News, 1875. Regatta Museum.

Photo Credit: Early illustration of Regatta from Canadian Illustrated News, 1875. Regatta Museum.

The St. John’s Regatta, has since 1818 been an important date on the holiday calendar in Newfoundland. In the 1880’s the “the day of the Races” was considered by many our “National Holiday.”

An editorial in the St. John’s newspaper, the Evening Telegram in July 1881 stated:

“ … we have come to regard “the day of the Races” as our National Holiday, and it is highly expedient, in the general interest that, in fixing on a particular day for these annual aquatic “sports and pastimes, …”

The editorialist wrote that “Regatta Day” should be a holiday for the laboring people:

“… because the Regatta is above all, “the poor man’s holiday.”  When “the people” go out to take their pleasure in the green fields and by the grassy lake of Quidi Vidi, it is expedient that all “the people” should be able to be there.”

The plea to have the Regatta as a National Holiday of the colony of Newfoundland never became a reality but in the hearts and minds of the residents of St. John’s it is the most significant holiday.

There is little doubt that the Regatta was “the poor man’s holiday” all of the crews were made up of the men from the working classes, the vast majority fishermen. At lakeside special ‘aquatic tents’ were reserved for the merchant classes, where they retired for refreshments.

In 1897, Sir Herbert Harley Murray, the Colonial Governor of Newfoundland refused to attend the Regatta stating that the “best” people were not patronizing the event. The son of an Anglican bishop it is likely that Murray was not happy with the boozing by the “operative and laboring classes ….taking their pleasure in the green fields and by the grassy lake of Quidi Vidi.”   He was also not amused that during the Regatta the previous  year no one stepped forward to hold an umbrella for his daughter during a rain shower. Not even the gentlemen of the town lived up to his standard of the “best” people.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division take some time to look at  “The Rowing”  Series  which consists of 212 b&w photographs predominantly of the Royal St. John’s Regatta races and crews, The photographs include team portraits, races underway, presentation of awards and views of the people along the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Exhibit: Up The Pond: The Royal St. John’s Regatta  – The Regatta is a two-century old St. John’s rowing event and gigantic garden party held the first Wednesday of every August at Quidi Vidi Lake, weather depending. This year The Rooms commemorates this longstanding day of racing and fun “up the pond.”  Explore Regatta stories, legendary crews and lakeside traditions through artifacts, historic imagery and memorabilia.  Share your Regatta memories and traditions with us!  You can also try your hand at some fun and games in our special Regatta games area, also in the atrium on Level 3.

Recommended Web Site: The Royal St. John’s Regatta:  http://regatta.nlpl.ca/php/home.php

Recommended tune (Listen): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNVQdwzMKpA

A ‘Smoking Concert’ at Quidi Vidi Lake

Archival Moment

September 14, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

One of the entertainments that was held for the young men in the camps at Pleasantville, near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s in September 1914 were the ‘Smoking Concerts’. The young men in the camps at Pleasantville were the first recruits for the Newfoundland Regiment. They were training to prepare to fight for ‘King and Country’.

Originally the term ‘Smoking Concert’   referred to live performances, usually of music, before an audience of men only; popular during the Victorian period. At these functions men would smoke and speak of politics while listening to live music.

In Newfoundland and other places by 1914 the smoking concerts were much less formal; they were not so much about discussions about politics but evenings of song and recitations.

In St. John’s, one of the locations for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was at the ‘mess tent’ on the Pleasantville grounds. There are reports that as many as 400 men would gather under the tent for the entertainment.

One of the local celebrities that could be found, on a very regular basis at the camp, playing the piano for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was Charles Hutton. Hutton was a leading figure in Newfoundland musical activities, he was the owner of Hutton’ Music Store (that was later taken over by his sons) and his wife was a celebrated classically trained singer.

Hutton would play for many of the men who would come forward to sing their ‘party pieces’. The evening would include solos, storytelling, musical recitations, and instrumental numbers. The evening would always close with the singing of the National Anthem by the entire gathering.

Typically alcohol was involved. ‘Smoking Concerts’ were referred to by some by the much more indelicate term, ‘Piss Ups.”

Imagine, going down to Quidi Vidi for a ‘Piss up’, I mean “Smoking Concert.”

Iceberg Alley Performance Tent

Imagine, 103  years later the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent,  has replaced the  performance tent of the Newfoundland Regiment.  At Quidi Vidi Lake and the party continues!

History repeating itself!!

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf





“Open air skating” in Bannerman Park

Archival Moment

January 5, 1885

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: 1.27.015; Racing on Quidi Vidi Lake

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: 1.27.015; Racing on Quidi Vidi Lake

There has since the official opening of  “The Loop” in Bannerman Park on  December 24 , 2013 been much excitement about  “open air skating” in the city.  It is the talk of the town, there has in fact not been so much enthusiasm about ‘open air skating” since January 1885.

In January 1885 “three enterprising young men” recognized that “open air skating” might be an attractive proposition to offer to the citizens of St. John’s. They suggested that the good citizens of St. John’s would much prefer “open air skating to the tame monotonous round of Rink skating.”

The three men arranged to have “a wide avenue down and across Quidi Vidi Lake kept clear” that would be reserved for their skaters.  They also proposed erecting “a shed containing a stove” near the skating surface “where warm tea and coffee will be served.”

On January 5, 1885 the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported:

“We note that three enterprising young men are making arrangements to enclose with boughs and to keep swept clean during the winter a suitably spacious area of Ice in Quidi Vidi Lake, for skating purposes. Undoubtedly, this idea fills a universally felt want. Those who prefer open air skating to the tame monotonous round of Rink skating  are reckoned by the hundreds, and as a wide avenue down  and across the lake will be kept clear, we fully believe that the enterprise will receive large public patronage. A shed containing a stove will be erected near where warm tea and coffee will be served.”

One hundred and thirty two years later (132) in St. John’s  skaters have once again forsaken “the tame monotonous round of Rink skating”   and are now heading to Bannerman Park.

The new ice trail, loops through the centre of Bannerman Park and offers a unique skating experience in the heart of the city. It is designed for leisurely skating and is family friendly. Lighting also allows it to be used in the evenings.

Recommended Archival Collection: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collectionsin the search bar type Bannerman Park

Recommended Site: Loop Schedule:http://www.stjohns.ca/public-advisory/bannerman-park-loop-scheduled-maintenance



The Pope in Newfoundland

Photo Credit: Pope John Paul II holding Monica Walsh daughter Des Walsh and Eleanor Dawson. In the background is their son Brendan Walsh. Papal Mass, Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL, September 12, 1984.


September 12, 1984

On September 12, 1984, Pope John Paul II made a “pastoral visitation” to Newfoundland and Labrador, a milestone in the history of Catholicism in the province. The Pope came to help celebrate the 200th anniversary (1784-1984) of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

While in the province he maintained a hectic schedule.  His itinerary included: The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet at Flatrock; Meeting with the Handicapped at Memorial Stadium, St. John’s;  Celebration of Mass at  Pleasantville,  near Quidi Vidi Lake; Meeting with Youth at Memorial University of  Newfoundland and a Meeting with Catholic Educators  at the Basilica Cathedral.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, after leading the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 26 years.

He is remembered as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to. (The latter can be attested by the young men who served the mass at Pleasantville – breaking with protocol – the Pope broke away from the formal procession to the altar to the chagrin of security to greet those who were serving the mass. (We chatted for a very short time!)

On May 1, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II. Beatification means that a person’s life has displayed certain qualities that are worthy of imitation by other Christians. He was canonized a saint in the church on April 24, 2014. (I can now say that I spoke and shook hands with a saint!)

Recommended Archival Collection: To read the addresses and homilies given by the Pope go to:   http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Pope_speeches_1984.html 

Search the Rooms online database 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

Recommended Publication: Upon this Rock the Story of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul O’Neill, Breakwater Books (1984)


Cemeteries in St. John’s


July 3, 1859

Angel writing in the book of life.

Angel writing in the book of life.

On July 3, 1859  Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland consecrated Mount Carmel Cemetery, located near Quidi Vidi Lake. Bishop Mullock wrote in his diary on this day:

“ Today I consecrated the cemetery at Quidi Vidi. Thousands were present. The weather awfully hot.  Temperature 84 degrees in the shade.”

All churches at the time had their eye on land “on the outskirts of the town  that could be developed into cemeteries.

In July 1849 Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming purchased ten acres of land adjoining John Dowsley’s property on the road to Bally Haly Farm, at the top of Kennas Hill, for the purpose of a cemetery. He joined the two lots and made one large burial ground known as Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Tradition has it that Mount Carmel was “the fishermen’s cemetery” as opposed to Belvedere Cemetery (on Bonaventure Ave. and Newtown Road). Belvedere was traditionally seen as the cemetery for the more well to do citizens and only “available to those that purchased sites.”

Up to the year 1849 all burials for all denominations were made in the town’s cemeteries.  The Roman Catholic’s buried their dead in the Long’s Hill Cemetery located on what is now the site near the parking lot of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (The Kirk), on Long’s Hill, St. John’s.

Unfortunately the internments records for the Long’s Hill Cemetery were lost in the Great Fire 1846.

The Church of England Cemetery  was in the church yard of the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist which borders on Duckworth Street, Church Hill, Cathedral Street and Gower Street. It is estimated that there are about 6000 people buried there.

The Wesleyan Cemetery was on the corner of Gower and Queen’s Road.

Many of the internment records for Mount Carmel cemetery – ‘the fishermen’s cemetery’ have survived – some were lost or damaged but in the 1980’s the cemetery was reconstructed using information recorded on the headstones that were erected by individual families.

Today Mount Carmel cemetery is closed to internments, with some exceptions being made for families with existing plots.



Recommended Archival Collection:  All of the churches have established archives that hold detailed records that will help you locate the grave site of a loved one buried in the cemeteries in this province.

“she long mourned her son as dead.”

Archival Moment

August 16, 1898

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives:  Two fishing boats, Broad Cove, Conception Bay, A 10-31  Elsie Holloway, Holloway Studio, St. John's, N.L.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Two fishing boats, Broad Cove, Conception Bay, A 10-31 Elsie Holloway, Holloway Studio, St. John’s, N.L.

In August 1898, Robert Hoskins waited at a small wharf in Quidi Vidi, St. John’s for a fishing boat. He was waiting for his brother, he was told he was fishing out of Quidi Vidi, he had not seen him in twenty eight years.

In 1870, a fourteen year old boy Robert Hoskins left his home in Plymouth, England. His mother bade her sailor boy goodbye, praying that God would bring him safe back to her again; but in the twenty eight years, the boy never returned to gladden his poor mother’s heart.

The Captain of the ship that Robert sailed on was very hard on the young teenager. Robert decided because of the ill treatment to jump ship and on his arrival at the first port. When the opportunity presented itself he jumped ship, he was in Newfoundland.

In the 1870’s those that deserted their ships often went into hiding and were forced to take on a new identity. The young boy made his way to Broad Cove, on the North Shore of Conception Bay; it was a good place to hide. Broad Cove was described “as an open cove with a beach, and by no means a place of shelter in bad weather, 15 miles from Carbonear.”

Upon arrival in Broad Cove he took on a new name (William) and found a friend in Skipper John Butt, who reared him up as one of his own, until he was old enough to look after himself. John Butt  knew by this act of kindness that he was breaking the law.

Newspapers of the day ran daily notices that typically stated:

“Deserted from the service of (name of person) the following YOUNGSTERS, who came out Passengers from Ireland (or England). The notice would then proceed to identify the individual giving details such as  name, height, hair colour, age and the clothing they wore.  The notices always ended with the warning “Any person harbouring or employing the above deserters, after this notice, will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the Law.”

Robert (now known as William) would have maintained a low profile.

Twelve years after finding a home with the Butt family in Broad Cove, Robert decided that it was time that he marry his sweetheart Susanna Janes, the daughter of Mr. George Janes also of Broad Cove. On October 7,1882 they married with George Janes and Ada Stowe as their witnesses.

Ten years later, Mrs. William Bailey of St. John’s was visiting her grandfather, William Butt  at Broad Cove and became acquainted with Robert. During one conversation he told her how he had come to Newfoundland, 28 years earlier.

Upon returning to St. John’s she told her husband Mr. Bailey about the Hoskins in Broad Cove, Conception Bay and the journey of young man to Newfoundland. Mr. Bailey was intrigued, he worked with the fishery protection service on the H.M.S. Pelican  and had known a Richard Hoskins a signalman for 20 years on another vessel the H.M.S. Zephyr.

Mr. Bailey arranged that Richard should get together with his wife. When they met she quickly maneuvered the conversation to find out about his family, he was soon telling her about a brother William who had left as a boy and had never been heard from since.

She was stunned by the similarities of the two stories and proceeded to tell him that she knew a William Hoskins and would try and get his address. She discovered that William was fishing in Quidi Vidi.

On Sunday afternoon Robert went down to the wharf where he was rewarded by finding his lost brother. They recognized each other at once, although so long separated.

William Bailey who was instrumental in bringing the two brothers together decided to write to the local paper to tell the story. He wrote to the Editor  of the Evening Telegram on August 15,1898 :

“ We cannot imagine the feelings of those two brothers  after being separated for so long, and what will be the feelings  of that poor old mother to hear the joyful news  that her long lost son is alive and well.  She is now in her seventies.  The old lady at home may yet live to see the son that she had long mourned as dead.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to find your family in Parish Records:  Births, Deaths and Marriages. This collection contains photocopies and/or microfilm copies of original church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as records of confirmations, minute books and other records of parish life. There are approximately 200 Newfoundland and Labrador parishes represented in this collection. The religious denominations include the Anglican, Congregational, United Church, Moravian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Salvation Army faiths.  For more information go to:  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/prfa.asp

(Note to Hoskin family  genealogists: The Hoskins -Janes marriage on October 7, 1882 is recorded in the circuit marriage register for George Street Wesleyan – Methodist Church, St. John’s.  The story of the Meeting of the Two Brothers after 28 years can be found in a letter to The Editor in the Evening Telegram, St. John’s, 1898 – 08 – 16)

If you know someone from the Hoskins, Butt or Bailey families,  pass on this story.  Let’s find out if this young man did get home to see his mother!!