Tag Archives: salt fish

Fish Plentiful, But No Salt

Photo Credit:  The Rooms;  Spreading fish on a flake. VA 15A 13.4

The St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram,  reported on June 19, 1923 that families in St. Mary’s and Placenta Bay  were all facing a rough summer.  In interviews  with  Mr. Edward Francis Sinnott, Member for the district of Placentia and St. Mary’s, it was reported that he had received messages from St. Bride’s,  Placentia Bay last night stating that fish had struck in plentiful, but owing to the lack of salt the men can not engage in catching same.

The message further stated  “that a serious situation has arisen in the Bay because of the shortage of salt and supplies in the district. Already many fishermen have been compelled to bar up their houses and leave the country because of impending conditions.”

The news of the first sign of fish in this section was always welcome in past seasons, but not so today when anxious fishermen who have large families dependent upon them can only wait and hope for relief. The shortage of salt is serious to these people, who are thus prevented from securing good catches at this season when fish is so plentiful.




“More money than Dan Ryan”

Archival Moment

July 6, 1934

“The House”
(Rennie’s Mill Road and Monkstown Road, St. John’s)

Daniel Ryan was born in 1851, the son of Michael Ryan and Mary Ellen Fleming   and was at the time of his death on July 6, 1934 considered one of the wealthiest men in Newfoundland.  The other person of considerable financial wealth was his brother James.

Dan and his older brother James established a salt fish firm at King’s Cove in 1875 under the masthead, James Ryan & Company. Dan moved there to manage the operation and eventually became sole proprietor. James also established a separate firm at Trinity in 1906 in partnership with Dan known as Ryan Brothers.  The firm’s chief goal was to profit from supplying Trinity   involved in the Labrador fishery.

In 1895 the two firms known as James Ryan, Bonavista, and James Ryan and Company, King’s Cove, exported nearly 100,000 quintals of codfish, approximately ten percent of Newfoundland’s total exports for the year.

Dan Ryan’s wealth has given rise to the Newfoundland expression “more money than Dan Ryan” or some variation.

Over the years fishing methods changed and ways of preserving the catch improved. As the quick freezing of fish became more popular in the 20th century, the salt fish trade declined. In the years following the Second World War, the Ryan family continued to take fish, but decided to put more emphasis on other aspects of their business, primarily the retail store. The company took its last salt fish in 1952 and eventually closed its doors in 1978, ending an era.

In St. John’s, the Ryan Brother’s are remembered for the construction of a property known simply as “The House,” built between 1909 -1911.  It was considered to be the most extravagant and modern for its time, theRyan Mansion featured the first telephone switchboard system, a fresh air exchange system, a main floor kitchen, and a carriage house built to house the first motor vehicle inSt. John’s. Oral tradition has it that this motor vehicle contraption arrived 3 months before there was fuel in the city to power it so James and family would sit in the vehicle while neighbours looked on.

Dan Ryan who left a portion of his estate to the Roman Catholic Church has his memory preserved  on a column in the west transept in the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.   A tablet to the memory of the Hon. Daniel A. Ryan.

The inscription reads as follows:

to the memory of
Hon. Daniel A. Ryan
Knight Commander, Order of St. Gregory
A Benefactor of the Cathedral
Died July 6, 1934
Requiescat in Pace

Recommended Archival Collection:  James Ryan Limited (Bonavista) fonds, Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Architectural  History: Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada, Bonavista; Lester-Garland Premises Provincial Historic Site,  Trinity, purchased in 1906 by the Ryan Brothers from the Lester-Garlands.  http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/PlacesToGo/RyanPremisesNationalHistoricSite

Architectural History: For more information on The House:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/rhs/rs_listing/196.html