Tag Archives: Shakespear

May snow has healing powers

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May Snow

Where is the May Snow?

“May Snow”  is something that  none of us are keen to welcome but  it is  a phenomena that we have all known.

William Shakespeare, like the rest of us was not keen  on  ‘May Snow”  in  ‘Love’s Labour Lost’, he wrote:

 

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows. (1.1.105)”

But if we get snow we might as well make the best out of it.

In this province our ancestors  and government  insisted “May Snow” should be bottled and used as a remedy to cure sore eyes.

A brochure printed by the government of Newfoundland in 1955, titled “Historic Newfoundland  and Labrador” stated:

Many old people testify to the efficiency of this strange cure.

The “Dictionary of Newfoundland English” observed:

“Snow from the first snowfall in May would be collected because it was supposed to have healing powers. It would be used to cure sore eyes. It was called May water.”

J. K. Crellin, in his book “Home Medicine: The Newfoundland Experience” offers a suggestion for those unhappy with their complexion. Crellin in his research discovered that one’s complexion would be improved by soaking one’s face in the first snow in May month.

Snow is associated with purity and innocence as in the expression  “as pure as the driven snow.”

Another expression that is deeply rooted in the folklore of many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador is the expression

“A snowfall in May, will take freckles away.”

It was not uncommon for the young Irish girls to bathe their faces in May snow water with the wish and the prayer that their freckles would disappear. The expression is countered by another wonderful old Irish saying

” A face without freckles is like a night without stars”

Let us embrace our weather, take it as it comes. Let’s bottle this May snow. It truly is good for sore eyes!!

Recommended Website:  Environment Canada:  http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/city/pages/nl-24_metric_e.html

 

Is this holiday about St. George or William Shakespeare?

Archival Moment

April 23

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George's Day be called Shakespear's Day.

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George’s Day be called Shakespear’s Day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, April 23, is St. George’s Day  celebrating our ‘English ancestry’.

 (The provincial holiday is held on April 24, the nearest Monday.)

 

St. George’s Day has long been acknowledged as a significant date in Newfoundland and Labrador but it was not celebrated as a holiday until April 23, 1921.

Traditionally it was a day filled with pageantry and parading. Typically all of the English Protestant organizations including the Newfoundland British Society, Loyal Orange Association, Society of United Fishermen, Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Sons of England Benefit Society, lined up in honor of St. George parading through the streets of St. John’s.

Throughout the town on St. George’s Day all of the men would be sporting a red rose in their lapel, the national emblem and flower for England

April 23 is however not only about St. George it is also all about William Shakespeare.

In Newfoundland there have always been enthusiasts for William Shakespeare and on April 16, 1936, George W. Ayre, a lawyer from St. John’s writing from his home at 24 Circular Road wrote to the local newspapers:

“Now, I should like to call your attention to the fact that the 23rd of April is far more important than its being St. George’s Day and that is that it is also the day on which Shakespeare was born and died, his birthday and deathday, and Shakespeare is as far above St. George as the intellect is above the physique or something mental is above something physical.

St. George is more or less confined to Englishmen or the person of British Empire, as their Patron Saint but Shakespeare is the intellectual ocean into which the little tributaries of intellect flow. He is the myriad minded man, the greatest, mind, possibly, that ever was on earth, and as Englishmen, for he was an Englishman, as Britishers, for he was a Britisher, as men of intellect, as his was the greatest intellect, we should honour his birthday and deathday.

He is not only all these but he is the outstanding genius of the world, whose works are studied by schoolchildren, scholars, actors, and others, of all countries.

We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.

We cannot afford to drop it as Shakespeare’s Day.

Let us therefore honour Shakespeare on that day, (April 23) let there be Shakespearean recitals and performances; let there be dances, concerts, etc. all in honour of the greatest mind that was ever in the world.”

There were those in St. John’s who were not amused with the letter; in fact they were quite baffled. Mr. Ayre (the gentleman penning the letter) was the first President of the St. George’s Society in St. John’s.  Ayre’s loyalties were clearly suspect. One of his first acts as the president of the St. George’s Society (founded on April 23, 1921) was to encourage theatrical groups in St. John’s to present Shakespearean plays on April 23.

Many thought it was really a bit much for the President of St. George’s Society, which was to advocate for their great patron St. George to write that:

“We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.”

Who was St. George?  According to legend, St. George, a soldier of the Imperial Army, rescues a town in what is now Libya from the tyranny of a dragon. St. George overpowered the beast and then offered to kill it if the townspeople would convert to Christianity and be baptized. The story is that there were 15,000 conversions on the spot. Openly espousing Christianity was dangerous and eventually the authorities of Emperor Diocletian arrested George. He was martyred about 303 AD.

Many of us associate St. George with his flag. The standard, the Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower (with the early Union Flag combining St. George’s Cross of England with St. Andrew’s Saltire of Scotland on the mainmast) when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Renews, Newfoundland  to replenish their supplies before they went on their way to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

St George is the patron saint of England. He is the patron of soldiers and archers, cavalry and chivalry, of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers, of horses, riders and saddlers.

He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Lithuania, Moscow, Palestine, and Portugal. But only in Newfoundland and Labrador have we declared this day a holiday!

Recommended Action: Wear a Red Rose in your lapel on April 23 just to remind people that you know why you had the day off. If you want to celebrate the birth and death of Shakespeare impress your friends by reciting a few lines from the bard.

“Dunning” his neighbor and friend leads to fistcuffs and assault.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 20, 1885

Dunning - 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Dunning – 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Many people trying to manage debt problems have unfortunately experienced the added stress of dealing with persistent calls from collection agencies. Today, the collectors harass by phone but there was a time when it was much more personal, much more “in your face.”

In January 1885 Charles Coveyduck of Upper Gullies was determined to get his friend and neighbor Edward Corbett to repay  £5 that he had loaned him, so determined  was Coveyduck that he harassed Corbett day after day. This relentless pursuit was known as “dunning”, the word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Edward Corbett was fed up with the “dunning” and told his neighbor in no uncertain terms.  The conversation got rather heated, Coveyduck shouted that “he had something better to do than dancing attendance upon Corbett”  and “called Corbett out of his name.”

Their animosity had grown such that the local St. John’s newspaper, The Telegram reported on January 20, 1885:

“Thereupon Coveyduck caught Corbett by the collar of the coat and administered what the spruce young chap on Prescott Street would term “condign punishment.”  However, it was a square game of fistcuffs on both sides, a mode of settling disputes that has a certain recommendation, in itself in these troublous times. They departed bad friends and as Coveyduck wadded through the evergreen glades of the pleasant village of Upper Gullies he vowed that he would make his antagonist “sweat for it in Mr. Prowse’s Court.”

True to his word Coveyduck with his lawyer, Mr Carty at his side and Corbett with his lawyer,  Mr. Emerson at his side stood before Judge Prowse.

His worship, Judge Prowse heard the case fully but as there were certain mitigating circumstances in favor of the accused, (the excessive dunning) he fined Corbett only fifty cents and costs.

The smile was soon wiped off Corbett’s face, in the subsequent civil action for recovery of the £5, judgment was given to Coveyduck in the full amount claimed.

The two friends, Coveyduck and Corbett, should have heeded the words of Shakespeare:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to explore  GN 170 Newfoundland and Labrador court records collection. (microfilm) The collection  of court records looks at  decisions of the court s predominantly  involving debt,  forgery, manslaughter, murder, property disputes,  assault, smuggling, noise complaints, larceny, damages, judgments, casting away of vessels, indecent assault, rape, arson, drunkenness,  etc.  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/

Old Word:  “Dunning” is the process of methodically communicating with customers to ensure the collection of accounts receivable. Communications progress from gentle reminders to almost threatening letters as accounts become more past due. The word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.