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Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland

Date: Sunday, May 19
Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Where: The Rooms Theatre
Cost: Included With Admission

Join us at The Rooms for a special performance by Aileen Lambert whose singing is rooted in the English language repertoire of her native County Wexford, Ireland. Many if the songs that she will sing are from her CD “The Wexford Lovers; Songs and Ballads of County Wexford and Newfoundland.”  Traditional Songs sung in Wexford but also found in Fermeuse, St. Shotts, Fogo, Branch and other communities in Newfoundland.

Bring along the children too for this performance as a number of songs have accompanying actions and are guaranteed to get everyone moving and singing to the top of their voices. The first half of the concert will be centered on child friendly songs, where Aileen will be joined by her daughters Nellie (age 9), Eppie (age 6) and Nan (age 4) to perform songs with tall stories such as ‘Paddy and the Whale’ to songs of nonsense like ‘Little Pack o’ Tailors’. Nellie will also share her love of ‘sean-nós’ Irish dancing (gaelic for ‘old-style’).

Aileen and her husband Michael Fortune (folklorist/filmmaker) are currently spending a month based in the community of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, to record and document traditional song, folklore, customs and sayings.   To follow their activities and research check out  or Aileen Lambert – Traditional Singer on FaceBook

An all-ages performance you won’t want to miss.

First come, first served

“Trepassey residents shaken out of their customary staidness”

US Navy ships Trepassey Bay May 6, 1919

In May 1919  (100 years ago)  the international press and aviation enthusiasts throughout the world  were all very interested in what was happening in Trepassey, Newfoundland.

The Evening Telegram reported on May 6, 1919:

“Never before in its uneventful history has the small settlement of Trepassey been filled with such excitement as today permeates that place. For from a vague idea of what the much talked of Transatlantic flight is, the little village has in a flash become a very centre of operations, and already the people there have become used to the sight of nearly a dozen American cruisers anchored in the harbor.“

On May 6 the residents of Trepassey sat on the banks overlooking the harbour to witness the arrival of a two American naval vessels.   They were unannounced and unexpected. On Saturday morning two more vessels anchored in the harbour. Before the end of the week there would be a dozen naval vessels  with a crew of approximately 8,500.

The Telegram reported:

The furor caused by the entirely unexpected arrival of the U. S. N. “Kistoo” late Friday afternoon, and that caused on Saturday by the arrival of two others, the flagship “Prairie” and the seaplane mother ship,” “Aroostock,” had best be left to the imagination.”

Everyone in Trepassey and residents of nearby St. Shott’s were all up bright and early on Saturday morning – all gathered in small clusters trying to figure out what was happening.   It was eventually revealed

“ a seaplane was lowered to the water and, running along the surface for a short distance, ascended into the air and went circling off over the harbour and village”.

Curtiss NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland May 16, 1919


 There was much excitement – never had anyone in Trepassey seen a flying machine in the skies before.

The newspapers reported:

“As in the case of the Martinsyde biplane’s test flight, the gulls and other sea birds that were peacefully floating on the waters were startled out of their calm and flew away to safety out of reach of this new manner, of bird that had invaded the quietness of the placid air of the port.

The gentle sheep, the more spirited goats and the virile ponies that browsed along the grassy slopes of the immediately surrounding country were panic-stricken at the sight of the seaplane and more so, perhaps, at the unearthly sound of the powerful motor, and for a long time after the flier had dropped back to the harbor they capered madly about the fields and the winding lanes that constitute the roads of the village.

Not less than the animals, it must be admitted, the people themselves were shaken out of their customary staidness, and for hours after they met in little groups and discussed this new wonder that had come amongst them, and a most amusing feature of these conferences were the wild hazards of the natives as to what “drove” the plane and what kept it in the air. This problem has not been solved at Trepasey yet. “

At about 1.30 the seaplane made another flight, circling over the harbour for about half an hour. The inhabitants now lined up along the beach, and although not so excited as on the day preceding they were just as interested as ever.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL Flying Boats Trepassey A47-42


The U. S. Navy were attempting   to cross the Atlantic by air using four seaplanes of uniform type.   The flying machines chosen were the Navy-Curtiss machine, built by Curtiss with the cooperation of the Navy; all fitted four Liberty motors, and four propellers.

The plan was that on the voyage across the Atlantic the planes would fly together keeping in sight of each other all the distance.  The navy vessels in Trepassey were to depart Trepassey  Harbour  and were to be posted  along the route with  a total of fifty-seven other ships all along to the Azores, being situated fifty miles apart. Thus, when the seaplanes left Trepassey, flying for the  Azores they  would at no time be more than twenty-five miles away from a cruiser.

Upon arrival at the Azores they were to refuel and begin the fourth leg of the flight, going to Lisbon, in Portugal. Refueling there  and then the fifth and last leg at Plymouth, England.


Lieut. Richard James

The crowd from Trepassey were quick to claim very personal connection to the newly arrived Americans   – they discovered that aboard the “Aroostook” was Lieut. Richard James who laid claim to Trepassey roots.

The locals were quick to tell the reporters   that  Lieut. James was born in Trepassey, but left there some thirty years ago.  (1890’s)   the newspapers reported:

His occupation before Trepassey left him with a minute knowledge of the harbor, and it was he who piloted in the other ships on upon arrival here. There are several people who remembered the old native, and the entire village, needless to state, is proud of him. The fact that, after thirty years absence, he could successfully pilot the cruisers in the harbor, is a high tribute to the knowledge and skill of Lieut James. “


With the population of  Trepassey at approximately 800 what were they to do with 8,500 visitors?

The people of Trepassey wanted to show the men on the navy vessels a good time. The hand of hospitality was extended to them all.  The Telegram reported:

“Last evening a dance was held in one of the houses, several sailors being present, while numerous individual men were invited out to homes in the village.

Newfoundlanders have always been noted for their hospitality and kindness to strangers, and when, Saturday night, the likeable Yank sailors came ashore in quest of adventure and other things, they were  treated with the customary kindness and consideration for which outport people are so famed.

The sailor boys were a “little” disappointed over Trepassey,—for even to the most optimistically minded, Trepassey is not a very modern city—and altho careful not to say this or anything else that would give offence, their long faces told their own story. To make matters worse, the weather, although delightfully clear and fine, was exhilaratingly keen and having recently returned from Cuba the Americans felt the cold pretty badly.

The one and only shop was besieged and raided and every stick of gum, every cigarette and every drink that was in the place absorbed.

Postcards were in demand but here again the postcard fiends were doomed to disappointment.”

One of the naval officers Mr. Balcon S. Bond, the Chief Radiograph Officer of the U. S. S. Prairie, wrote:

“Fishermen would take us in parties from our ship and show us around the district. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you of some of the good times we had in dear old Trepassey and I am sure that the village will never be forgotten.”

He also wrote:

“Many homes gave us suppers for the small amount of fifty cents, and it was some supper. About  four good fresh eggs, a large piece of ham, as many cups of coffee or tea as you could drink, and good old home-made bread and butter. If you were to call for a supper like that in New York, I am sure it would cost you two and a half dollars easily.”


 The newspaper reported:

 The fact is, Trepassey is not a second New York, and nothing but the very necessaries of life are sold there.

A number of sailors who had missed the last boat going to the ships, moored about a quarter mile off the shore, were taken in by people of the village and spent their first night in Newfoundland domiciles.

Sunday morning came in bright and fair and although a rather high N.W. wind blew during the day the sun shone out warmly and the weather was not altogether bad. Again a large number of sailors were given shore leave, and the Roman Catholic Church, the only one in the place, was filled to capacity at both early and late services.

During the day Trepassey was gaily bedecked with flags of all descriptions, flown in honor of the visitors, while the hurrying sailors and sight seeking natives, swiftly moving motor boats from the ships, and devout church-goers made a most interesting sight, one whose equal in interest Trepassey has never before witnessed.”


On Friday evening, May 16, three NC boats roared in turn down Trepassey harbor and flew off into the gathering darkness over the Atlantic.

When the naval vessels were passing out of Trepassey many people were seen on the beach, waving, and many fishermen blew three fog horn blasts. In return the  naval vessels  gave three long blows of her whistle.

On May 27,1919, NC-4’s keel sliced into the waters of the Tagus, Portugal. The first transatlantic flight was indeed an accomplished fact.



The Rooms: NEW EXHIBIT Opening June 7, 2019     “Second to None: Highlights from the History of Aviation in Newfoundland & Labrador”

Newfoundland and Labrador has played a significant part in the history of aviation. Through archival documents and images from The Rooms Provincial Archives supplemented with artifacts from The Rooms Provincial Museum, this exhibition will feature highlights from the storied aviation history of our Province.


Join Aviation History NL  as we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Alcock & Brown’s historical non-stop crossing of the Atlantic

Aviation History NL









Mrs. Minnie crossed over, she was the last of the crowd

Mrs. Minnie Murphy

As a teen I remember a “crowd”  in our house.  Minnie Murphy and her husband Tom, Nicky and Sadie Murphy and a few other visitors coming over to our house on “Dohey Square” St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay after the Saturday evening mass.

Every Saturday after mass there was always a few cups of tea, raisin buns, toast with molasses and or a stronger drink for some.   It was inevitable that they would break out into songs and recitations.

Mrs. Minnie was the last of that crowd. Mrs. Minnie crossed over on April 30, 2019 she was 91.

Her voice and the songs that she and others sang in our house on Dohey Square and in many other homes live here:

Visitation will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 12:00 – 2:00 P.M .

Funeral Mass will take place at Sacred Heart Church, St. Bride’s on Friday, May 3rd at 2:00 P.M.

Inurnment to take place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. Bride’s.



“Trail of the Caribou” Stamps Released

“Trail of the Caribou” Stamps Released

In 1919, W. M Dooley from Charleston, South Carolina, an occasional correspondent with the Evening Telegram, a St. John’s, NL newspaper,  writing under the banner, “Our American Letter”, on February 25, 1919 wrote:

“The new postage stamps of Newfoundland are very beautiful. ’The trail of the caribou’ is a happy phrase and should help to perpetuate the glorious deeds of the Blue Puttees in Turkey, Belgium and France. The present issue approaches in beauty and design the old time fish and seal stamps which were so much sought after by collectors.”

Dooley was referring to a set of stamps that were released a month earlier on (January 2, 1919) by the Newfoundland Postal Department, a 12 stamp commemorative set, to honour the services and memory of the Newfoundland contingent in the war.

The stamps were printed in response to a stamp shortage developed in Newfoundland. The government and in particular The Postmaster-General, J. Alex Robinson (JAR) wanted a new issue that favored a patriotic subject.

The phrase, “Trail of the Caribou” was created with Lt. Col. Thomas Nangle, Roman Catholic Chaplain of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The badge of the Regiment consisted of the head of a caribou over a ribbon lettered “Newfoundland”. Below the caribou is a ribbon entwining oak leaves.

The “caribou” used is certainly magnificent, but perhaps a bit bizarre, the picture of the caribou is a composite of a caribou with moose antlers.

Of the twelve stamps, four commemorate the work of the Naval Forces, and bore the word “Ubique”, meaning everywhere. Newfoundland’s sailors could literally be found everywhere on the sea.

The remaining eight stamps in this series each commemorate a specific engagement in which the Royal Newfoundland Regiment participated. The engagements are: Suvla Bay, Gueudecourt, Beaumont Hamel, Monchy, Langemark, Cambrai, and Combles. all in France. Steenbeck was at Belgium, Suvla Bay was at Gallipoli, Turkey.

The 1919 “Trail of the Caribou” set was printed by De la Rue and Company in sheets of 100 (10 x 10).

The postal rates for letters up to one ounce were, at the date of issue: domestic 3-cents, drop rate 2-cents, UK Commonwealth 3-cents, and foreign 5-cents.   Registered letters were 5-cents and special delivery 10-cents.

Stamps subject to criticism

One of the first critics of the newly issued ‘Trail of the Caribou’ stamps was The Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Charles Harris, he went so far as to request the issue be withdrawn from sale since it did not portray any of the “Majesties.”   The Government, however, took the position that there was no slight intended and furthermore that Newfoundland’s stamps were not required to bear their likenesses of their Majesties.

Recommended Collection: The entire 12-stamp issue can be viewed in color at the Canadian Postal Archives website:

  • 2 Cents. (1919 – #116) – Ubique (Latin: EVERYWHERE)
  • 5 Cents. (1919 – #119) – Ubique (Latin: EVERYWHERE)
  • 8 Cents. (1919 – #121) – Ubique (Latin: EVERYWHERE)
  • 12 Cents. (1919 – #123) – Ubique (Latin: EVERYWHERE)
  • 1 C. (1919 – #115) – Suvla Bay, Turkey (Gallipoli Campaign – 1915, 1916)
  • 3 C. (1919 – #117) – Gueudecourt, France (Somme Campaign – 1916)
  • 4 C. (1919 – #118) – Beaumont-Hamel, France (Somme Campaign – 1916)
  • 6 C. (1919 – #120) – Monchy, France (Battle of Arras – 1917)
  • 10 C. (1919 – #122) – Steenbeck, Belgium (2nd Battle of Ypres – 1915)
  • 15 C. (1919 – #124) – Langemarck, Belgium (3rd Battle of Ypres – 1917)
  • 24 C. (1919 – #125) – Cambrai, France (Battle of Cambrai – 1917)
  • 36 C. (1919 – #126) – Combles, France (Somme Campaign – 1916)

Recommended Museum Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. 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. Included in the exhibit  are the ‘Trail of the Caribou’ postage stamps.

Holyrood Welcomes Heroes Home

February 22, 1919

In February 1919 throughout the towns and bays of Newfoundland and Labrador the soldier boys who had signed up to fight for “King and Country” were returning home among them were the soldiers from Holyrood.

The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on February 22, 1919:

“The soldier boys of Holyrood were accorded a big welcome home ….. The little town was en fete with bunting and the cannon thundered forth its roars of welcome as the train approached the station.”

Engineer Candow, of the Newfoundland Railway as he approached the town with the soldiers; ( J. Flood, R. Walsh, Edward Besso, Edward Maloney and John Flynn) aboard “long and oft-repeated tooting of his horn” giving the residents notice that “he was pulling something more than the common carrier along.”

Many gathered at the train station to acclaim the returning heroes.

Good Food and Interesting War Stories

Miss Flynn, the Secretary of the Women’s Patriotic Association, and the young ladies of the Patriotic Committee were busy organizing an evening party with plans of banqueting the returning soldiers and sailors in the Star Hall.

The guests to the evening party included the soldiers and sailors, their relatives and a large number of their friends and well-wishers, that were seated at two tables erected lengthwise in the Hall. Among the guests was the parish priest the Reverend W. P. Finn presided at the soldiers’ table.

The newspaper reported:

“As regards quantity, quality and variety the table appointments left little to be desired, and all partook of a hearty meal, the soldiers in the meantime entertaining there with some interesting war stories.”

When supper had been finished the assembly was called to order and patriotic speeches, expressions of welcome, congratulations and thankfulness to the soldiers were made by the Chairman, Rev. Father Finn, and Mr. R. Dwyer, Justice of the Peace ., to which Lc. Corpl. J. Crawley neatly replied on behalf of his comrades- in arms.

This part of the ceremonial having been finished, the Hall was cleared for the dance, an attractive feature to the young folk, and fiddler FOLEY was kept busy handing out some good stuff to his customers till the approaching hours of daylight bade the wearied performers retire to their homes, for a needed rest.

The promoter of this happy reunion for a worthy purpose and her active committee of young ladies must feel proud of the success of their efforts for nothing essential in the ceremonial that usually features in welcome homes was lacking, are deserving of the best thanks of the country as well as the community.

For the occasion, the Hall was nicely decorated and draped with the flags of the Allies, and a motto bearing the good old Irish welcome stood prominently in the foreground.

Regimental Records of the Newfoundland Regiment at the Rooms.

The Regimental Records of the Newfoundland Regiment suggest that 20 Holyrood boys felt the call to duty and enlisted in the service of their King and country, and went overseas—over there with the Newfoundlanders to help out the mother country in the titanic struggle to destroy Prussian militarism and Hun barbarism.

Addressing the crowds gathered, Rev. Father Finn said “we have welcomed some back; we will welcome others who are still absent as duty’s call perhaps in the sweet by and by but alas!, there are some we shall never welcome back. They have made the Supreme Sacrifice and are now sleeping peacefully overseas and under the shell-torn sods of France and Belgium.

Among the Holyrood boys that made the “Supreme Sacrifice” were:

MURPHY, Martin: Regimental # 3655; Age 22; Next of Kin Martha Murphy; Attestation 1917. Died December 3, 1917

TARGETT, Frederick Joseph: Regimental #1743; Age 25; Next of Kin, Sarah Targett; Attestation 1915.   Died: October 16, 1916

LEWIS, John Thomas; Regimental # 2746; Age 19: Next of Kin; Attestation 1916. Died Friday, April 12, 1918


There are a number of other men who died in the First World War that are inscribed on the war memorial in Holyrood but they are from neighboring communities. The names of the men from Holyrood who died are inscribed on the war memorial included:

Lucas Holden, Harbour Main, Regimental #329, Age 21; Next of Kin: Son of William V. and Alice Holden, of Harbor Main, Newfoundland. Died July 1, 1916 Buried at: Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Serre-les-Puisieux, France

Corporal John O’Rourke. John’s Pond, St, Mary’s Bay, Regimental #3345, Age 21, Died: October 20, 1918; Buried: Vichte Military Cemetery, Belgium

Private Augustus Penney: Regimental #1399, Age 22 Next of Kin: Patrick and Helen Penney, of Harbor Main, Died: July 1, 1916; Buried at: Y Ravine Cemetery, France

Other names inscribed are P. Mackey, P. O’Neil, and M. Penney unfortunately no information is available at this time.

Those that survived and eventually made their way home to Holyrood were:

Mullowney, Edward: Holyrood, Regimental # 4713; Age 18 next of kin James Mullowney, attestation 1918.

HICKEY, Michael John: Holyrood, Regimental # 1415; Age 21 next of kin John Hickey , attestation 1915

CURRAN, William: Holyrood, Regimental # 4760; Age 25 next of kin William Curran, attestation 1918

CRAWLEY, John T: Holyrood, Regimental #5765; Age 19. next of Kin, Patrick Crawley . Attestation 1918

CRAWLEY, John: Holyrood, Regimental #2158; Age 20; next of kin Cornelius Crawley. Attestation 1916

CRAWLEY, Albert W: Holyrood, Regimental # 4009; Age 23; next of kin Elizabeth Crawley. Attestation 1917

TUBRETT, Leo Holyrood, Regimental # 5795; age 19; next of kin, Thomas Tubrett. Attestation 1918

OBRIEN, Gerald Holyrood, Regimental # 4800; age 22; next of Kin , John O’Brien. Attestation 1918

KENNEDY, Michael Holyrood, Regimental # 2552; age 23; next of kin, Mrs. Michael Kennedy. Attestation 1916

FLOOD, Joseph: Holyrood, Regimental #4662; age 26; Next of Kin, Edward Flood , attestation 1918

WALSH, Ronald Patrick: Holyrood, Regimental # 4712; age 29; Next of Kin, Margaret Walsh attestation 1918

WALSH, Augustus J: Holyrood, Regimental #3914; age 22: Next of Kin Patrick Walsh. Attestation 1917

WALL, Leo: Holyrood, Regimental #5808; age 23; Martin Wall Attestation 1918

WALSH, Frank: Holyrood, Regimental # 161; age 20; Next of Kin ,William P. Walsh Attestation, 1914

DWYER, Patrick: Holyrood, Regimental # 3927; age 24; Next of Kin; John Dwyer Attestation

DOBBIN, Charles: Holyrood, Regimental # 2539; age 18; Next of Kin; Denis Dobbin, Attestation 1916

BARRETT, Gregory:  Holyrood, Regimental # 1822; age 20 ; Next of Kin; Mary Healy . Attestation 1915

Recommended Archival Collection: Over 6000 men enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War. Each soldier had his own story. Some soldiers’ stories were very short; other soldiers who were lucky enough to survive the war had a longer story to tell. Each story is compelling. Read More:

Recommended Museum Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. 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.

Private Michael Ryan, Welcomed home to Calvert

February 24, 1919

Calvert, Newfoundland

In February 1919 many young men who had signed up to fight for “King and Country” were returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, many were welcomed home to friends and family with a party in the local parish hall.

Private Michael Ryan (20 years old) of Michael Sr. of Caplin Bay, (now Calvert) arrived home from France by the Corsican, he was home after two years of service having seen some of the most severe fighting of the war, but came through without a wound.

On Friday night (February) 14th the ladies of the harbor tendered Private Ryan a splendid reception in St. Joseph’s School (Caplin Bay, now Calvert) .

JOSEPH Sullivan the Master of Ceremonies (MC) stood before the crowd and said:

   “With feelings of sincere joy and thankfulness to God we heartily welcome you home again. We feel proud of you, and this little reception, is only a slight mark of the honour due you, after putting in two years of constant danger and hardship, so that we may enjoy the privileges of Justice, Freedom and Liberty, which thank God through your and your numerous chums sacrifices have been preserved to the world and to us.”  

Everyone in Calvert was very aware that when Private Ryan left Calvert – he was with his good friend Charlie (Canning) they had left Calvert on the same day to go to the recruiting office in St. John’s, February 8, 1917.

“We are glad to have you back again and our only sorrow, and we feel sure yours also, is that your poor chum Charlie (Canning) who enlisted with you, is not here tonight to share with you our joy, but God willed otherwise, and tonight he like so many others of Our, “Better than the Best” sleeps in a hero’s honoured grave in France, a martyr to the Huns’ frightfulness.”

Standing at the podium Joseph Sullivan the MC for the reception said: “You can be assured that though absent you were never forgotten, and we may say that a continuous prayer for your safety was always on our lips.”

He then presented Private Ryan with a purse, and gold watch and fob (chain) from the men of the men of Caplin Bay (now Calvert) as a remembrance of his home coming.

As he stood on the stage in the parish hall with the watch in hand he looked down at his family that included his father Michael (Sr) sister Hannah, 24, his sister Ellen Sullivan of Caplin Bay, his sister Bride Battcock of Brigus South, and his sister Julie Brine of Cape Broyle.

A man of few words Private Ryan said:

“Believe me my friends that tonight I feel more excited than I ever did at the sight of the FRITZIES  and on that account you must not expect much reply from me to your beautiful address. I can only say I did my plain duty and it was God’s holy will I was to be spared to come home again. I am delighted to be back among you once more to “home sweet home,” and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you all. “

NOTEFritz or Fritizies was also a name given to German troops by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars.


The Passing Over of Michael Ryan – They dropped red poppies in his grave.

Michael Ryan died in May 1955 his obituary read:

“War was the one episode in his life that took Mike away from his beloved Southern Shore.”

For the rest , he lived at Calvert all his life and married (Bridget Clancy) there and raised a large family Michael, James, Francis, Edmund, Helen (Clowe), Reverend William J.,  Reverend Kevin, Philomena Keough, Genevieve and Marie, Presentation Convent, St. John’s.

His obituary reads:

” He was first a good provider and kind father. He was a kindly man to whom his neighbours came in trouble, a wise man to whom his neighbours came for advice – a just man who did the right by all men. For half a century he was part and parcel of everything worthwhile that went on in Calvert. He made to the growth and building up of that community the substantial contribution of good citizenship – and the great contribution of being a man of character doing the things that his place and times required of him.”

A guard of honour of the Canadian Legion escorted the funeral cortege to the cemetery on the hillside towards Ferryland – and when the final prayer had been said and the Legion ritual read, dropped red poppies in his grave. “And they buried him among the fir trees where the hill slopes towards the broad Atlantic – within the sight and the sound of which he had lived all his life”.

Recommended Archival Collection: Regimental Record: Michael Ryan, of Caplin Bay, Regimental # 3468

Recommended Archival Collection: Regimental Record: Charles Canning of Caplin Bay (Calvert)

Recommended Museum Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. 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.

The Insulting “Vinegar Valentine” Card

February 14, 1938

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

It was Valentine’s Day 1938 and as she did every morning Mrs. Hannah Kelly on Colonial Street, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador picked up the mail and was most excited to find that  she had four Valentine’s cards,  no doubt she thought from admiring friends and neighbours!  But on closer inspection her mood changed, she was furious! She had been delivered four Vinegar Valentine Cards!

The “Vinegar Valentine”, also called “comic valentines,” were unwelcome notes  sometimes insensitive and always  somewhat emotionally harmful.

Vinegar valentines were commercially purchased containing an insulting poem and illustration. They were sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who disliked  him or her; they were often vulgar and even rude.

The vinegar cards that were delivered to 50 Colonial Street, St. John’s were very harsh.

One suggested that Mrs. Kelly was a snooper:

“Everyone knows that you’re a snooper
You snoop the whole day through
If you could hear what people are saying
You’d get their opinion of you.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was a gossip:

“If someone would only cut out your tongue,
So full of venom and guile,
Most happily would the world be freed
From a plague of nuisance and vile”





Photo Credit: The Rooms; St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was “An old sow” that she was a pig!!

“You’re easy and greasy, like a hog in a pen.
But a mountain of flesh is not courted by men.
You’re as rough as a file, and as course as can be,
Like some barbarous maid from the isle of Feegee”




Photo Credit: The Rooms. St. John’s, NL GN/13/1B

Another suggested that she was not a pretty woman in fact the sender of the vinegar card commented that she had a big chin.

Horrible, horrible is the din
When a woman has too much shin!
Oh you annoying tiresome pest.
Do give us pray a little rest!!




Photo Credit: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL : E 1-38; Chief Patrick J. O’Neill, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary


Mrs. Kelly could barely contain her anger; she was not going to be quiet about these insulting vinegar cards! So on a day that should be reserved for matters of love and comfort she immediately called the Chief of Police , P.J. O’Neill.  She followed the phone call with a letter that she sent to his office  (February 15) claiming that she was being  “persecuted”  by her neighbours and that an investigation should be started.

She also suggested that the four “vinegar cards “   that she enclosed in the envelope to him should be analyzed   and that a comparison of the handwriting on the cards should be  made with the handwriting of a few of her neighbours.  She also stated  that  the “leader of the gang” that were persecuting her was  Mable Crocker on 4 College Square  and other neighbours on Colonial and College Streets.

The Chief of Police sent out his detective Constable Reginald Noseworthy to investigate the matter. He obtained the handwriting from five households of those that were alleged to be part of the gang.  A number of individual having consulted with their lawyers refused to give a sample.

On February 23, 1938,   Detective Noseworthy  reported  to the Chief of Police that he was not able to find the culprits – but  was convinced that Mrs.  Kelly was not liked by her neighbours; no one had a good word for her.   He also suggested “she might have sent the Valentines to herself , so that she could have this as a pretext of having a Police Constable call on her neighbours doors, as she is well aware this would cause them some annoyance.”

The vinegar valentines were very popular in Newfoundland the 1930’s  and in in some locations in the country until the 1970’s they were still selling well.

These days, it is much less likely we’ll get a horrid note in the mail as a Valentine’s surprise.

 Recommended Archival Collection:  At The Rooms, GN 13/1/B  Box 417 Subject file  K27. Newfoundland Constabulary, Criminal Investigation Bureau