Tag Archives: Rex Murphy

Looks like a good Christmas on the Cape Shore

December 7, 1884

“A derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s … “

As Christmas 1884 approached, the people of St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay, were thinking it would not be a prosperous Christmas.  It had been a poor year in the fishery. Their fortune was however about to change unhappily born on the pain of other families from Placentia Bay.

On  December 7, 1884 residents of St. Bride’s  stood on ‘the bank’ overlooking Placentia Bay  watching as a “a derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s, dismasted and waterlogged…”

There was much excitement in St. Bride’s, it was quickly realized that “Sixty three barrels of flour and six puncheons of molasses” was aboard the vessel.   It was theirs to salvage, they would take it home.

In the days following the salvage effort, St. Bride’s fell silent.  James E. Croucher, the Wreck Commissioner stationed at Great Placentia had arrived in the town on December 10.  He immediately began a search for the cargo of the ill-fated schooner, but to his dismay only found   “24 barrels of flour broken and in a damaged condition, and two puncheons of molasses …”   

Thirty nine (39) barrels of flour and four (4) puncheons of molasses were not accounted for.

Croucher,  as the Wreck Commissioner was obliged by law, under the Consolidated States of Newfoundland to travel to St. Bride’s to investigate the loss of the Schooner, he could only conclude: “the remainder of the property being distributed amongst salvors by a person or parties who had no authority from me to do so.”

As he sailed out of St. Bride’s for Great Placentia the residents of St. Bride’s no doubt celebrated. With their newly acquired abundance of flour and molasses, it would be a good Christmas.

The people of St. Bride’s also mourned, they knew that their gain came at the loss of the crew of the Schooner Stella, a crew of nine men out of nearby Oderin, Placentia Bay.  It is said that she was wrecked in the “terrific gale of November 1884.”

Ever respectful of the dead, it is reported that All the clothes that had belonged to the lost men that had been taken from the Schooner were carefully dried and forwarded to their families.”

What was St. Bride’s Like?

The 1874 census listed a population of 140 in 29 families. Thirteen residents were from Ireland and one from Scotland.  The 79 fishermen had 22 boats. The 13 farmers had 203 cattle, 30 horses, 139 sheep and 113 swine on 200 acres of land.  Products included 60 bushels of oats and 5,460 lbs. 01 butter

By 1891, the population had increased to 256, including four from Ireland. The 66  fishermen-farmers. The community also had a priest, a teacher and a merchant, and 65 of the 122 children were in school.

What about the name?

The name of St. Bride’s is quite modern, and was given from the titular Saint of the Church of St. Bridgett. On more ancient maps it was called La Stress, apparently a French name which became corrupted into Distress. This name “not being of pleasant sound”  to  the new parish priest in Placentia  was superseded by  St. Bride’s (The priest was Rev. Charles Irvine)  

 Recommended Archival Collection:  The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity  and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4

The Cape Shore Road: “A path through a bog”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

August 29, 1927

 

The Cape Shore Road, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile.

Every Roman Catholic bishop since 1784 has been responsible for a “pastoral or Episcopal visitation” to the parishes in rural Newfoundlandand Labrador that are under their jurisdiction.  The “Episcopal visitation” is essentially an opportunity for the bishop to meet with the parish priest and the local people to discuss the state of the local church and its future. In that tradition, Archbishop Edward P. Roche of St. John’s made an ‘Episcopal Visitation” to the Cape Shore in August 1927.

Upon returning to his home in St. John’s, Archbishop Roche wrote a two page letter to the elected members of the House of Assembly in particular to Sullivan, Walsh and Sinnott who were responsible for the Placentia District that included the Cape Shore.

In his letter to the elected officials 29 August 1927 Archbishop Roche wrote:

 “The road from Placentia to Patrick’s Cove is now complete, and passes through some of the very finest scenery in the country.

His description about the state of the road from St. Bride’s to Branch was not as flattering. He wrote:

 “the road is almost impassable; it can scarcely be called a road at all, being very little more than a path through a bog.”

The Archbishop was keen on seeing the roads developed from an economic perspective.  He stated:

 “the people are hard working and industrious, and better road communications would make for greater prosperity in the settlement.”

He also felt that the Cape Shore had considerable tourism potential. He wrote if the road was completed:

 “it will be one of the most attractive and picturesque drives in the country.”

THE ONLY THOROUGH JUSTIFICATION FOR THE INVENTION OF THE AUTOMOBILE

The beauty of the Cape Shore and the condition of the road has not been lost on  those that have travelled to the Cape Shore.

Rex Murphy the CBC host and commentator wrote in the Globe and Mail, October 6, 2001:

 The going to it, (Goosebery Cove, on the Cape Shore Road) and the coming from it, over the splendid wilfulness of the Cape Shore road itself, is the only thorough justification for the invention of the automobile that has yet been hit upon.”

Recommended Archival Collection: See  MG 658.  This small collection consists of account book re: trust accounts, accounts with St. John’s firms (1936); cheque book and stubs (1947-1948); journal (1938-1945) created by the Branch and Cape Shore Area Development Association. Search on line  https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Reading: A cove of inner peace on Newfoundland’s Cape Shore: Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/a-cove-of-inner-peace-on-newfoundlands-cape-shore/article763554/