Thursday, March 26, 2020

Living Heritage Podcast Ep171 Blacksmithing in Newfoundland

Photo of blacksmith Devon Hokey at work in the Green Family Forge in Trinity, NL. Photo by Dale Jarvis, 2019.

In this episode, Natalie Dignam talks about the history of the blacksmith trade in Newfoundland and forges you can visit on the island today, including the Green Family Forge in Trinity, Pinkston's Forge in Brigus, and an exhibit on Littlejohn's Forge in Bay Roberts.

Visit a Newfoundland Forge:

Littlejohn's Forge exhibit at the Road to Yesterday Museum

Ram's head bottle opener by Devon Hokey. Photo by Dale Jarvis, 2019.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum
professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the
community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.
Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How old is the name Chain Rock? Older than you might think. #askafolklorist

The approach to St. John's in 1813, by Chappell.

Dale Jarvis, Heritage NL

I love placenames, and over the past decade of intangible cultural heritage work, local names for places come up time and time again in our discussions of local history. Sometimes those discussions of toponymy pop up in unlikely contexts.

Earlier today, an online discussion of the word “lazaretto” - an isolation hospital for people with infectious diseases, especially leprosy or plague, or a building/ship used for quarantine - included a reference to quarantine procedures on Signal Hill in this quote from the Evening Telegram (St. John's, N.L.) of 1892-09-30:
There is access to it by water and on two sides by land, by a path from the lazaretto, which can be made good enough for a horse at the expense of ten dollars, and by a road from Chain Rock, which is not finished yet.
That quote raised the following question from Twitter user Rick Magill:
I always assumed chain rock got its name during WWII when they had torpedo/sub curtains across the narrows. Clearly much older. Anyone know how and why it got its name?
Historian Dr. Heidi Coombs was quick to respond, stating:
They referred to Chain Rock during the 1832 cholera quarantine, so it’s at least that old. Ships were not permitted to proceed into the harbour beyond Chain Rock.
She also shared the proclamation requiring ships to anchor at "the first Buoy within Chain Rock," from the Colonial Secretary's Office -- Quarantine Letters, 1832-26 (GN 2/17) at The Rooms.

Going back a bit further, we find a reference to Chain Rock in the long-titled work “Voyage of His Majesty's Ship Rosamond to Newfoundland and the Southern Coast of Labrador: Of which Countries No Account Has Been Published by Any British Traveller Since the Reign of Queen Elizabeth,” by Edward Chappell and published by J. Mawman in 1818.

In February of 1813, His Majesty's ship Rosamond, commanded by Captain Donald Campbell with Edward Chappell as his Lieutenant, received orders from the Admiralty. They were to repair forthwith to Cork, Ireland, in order to collect the first spring convoy bound for Newfoundland, Halifax, and the St. Lawrence River. This, they did, arriving first at Cape Broyle, and then heading to St. John’s.  Of their entrance into the port, Chappell wrote,
At about two-thirds of the distance between the entrance and what may properly be termed the harbour itself, there lies a dangerous shelf called Chain Rock; so named from a chain which extends across the street at that place, to prevent the admission of any hostile fleet. Mariners, on entering this place, ought to be aware of approaching too near the rocks beneath the light-house point. At the time we sailed by them, the masts of a large ship were still visible above the water, that had a short time before been forced by the swell upon those rocks, where she immediately foundered.
By 1813, the name Chain Rock was already well-established Historian Paul O’Neill summarized one version of history of the Rock in his book The Oldest City, published in 1975. He writes,
About 1770 a heavy chain was stretched across the Narrows from Chain Rock to Pancake Rock, and it was the duty of the troops to raise this chain each evening so that an enemy vessel or privateer could not sneak into the harbour under cover of darkness. During World War I a chain boom was again put into use. In World War II the Narrows were protected by a series of metal mesh anti-submarine nets.
1770, however, is not the oldest reference to Chain Rock. Former Parks Canada historian James Candow, in his book “The Lookout: A History of Signal Hill,” notes that a plan of St. John’s Harbour from 1751 includes the placename. He writes,
The same 1751 plan includes an early use of ‘Chain Rock’ to denote the navigational hazzard in front of the old North Battery site, and to which the chain of the Narrows boom had been affixed earlier in the century. [emphasis mine]
So, the name Chain Rock goes back at least to the early 18th century. An earlier map of the harbour, drawn by David Southwood in 1675, notes the locations of both North Fort and South Fort, but not Chain Rock. Any use of the name earlier than the 1700s would, for now, be based on speculation. A research project for a future placenames researcher!

Local folklore aside, the name is definitely, and dramatically, older than the submarine nets of WWII.

Want to know more about NL archaeology and history? You can read Dr. Amanda Crompton's report on her 2008 fieldwork around Signal Hill, which included work near Chain Rock, starting on page 21 of the PAO Report

Friday, March 20, 2020

Living Heritage Podcast Ep170 Wyatt Shibley's Research on Newfoundland's Lebanese Community

Folklorist Wyatt Shibley. Photo by Natalie Dignam.

In this episode, Wyatt Shibley talks about his research on the Lebanese community in Newfoundland, including food traditions, material culture, and the big bands in St. John's, Newfoundlands that used to play popular music. Wyatt is a graduate student in the Folklore Department at Memorial University.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum
professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the
community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.
Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Photographs from Bowring Park, St. John's, taken in the 1930s.

Bowring Park in St. John's was officially declared open on July 15, 1914 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught. At the opening, the Duke hoped that "May it ever be a source of pleasure and enjoyment to the citizens of St. John's and to Newfoundland in general."

These 1930s-era photos are from a collection donated by Ruth Noseworthy Green, and for the most part feature the family of Arthur Taylor, of Southside, St. John's.

Arthur Taylor, 1932

Bowring Park, 1932.  

Max and his brother Arthur Taylor in Bowring Park, 1936.

Arthur Taylor, 1932, Bowring Park Boat Pool and Wharf.

Bowring Park Boat Pool, 1932. 

The "Boat Pool" or "Boat Lake" is now known as the Duck Pond. It was designed by landscape architect Rudolf H. Cochius and completed in June, 1913.  If you look very closely at the centre of the above photo, you can make out a small octagonal building:

Bowring Park Boat Pool, 1932, detail, sharpened.

Could this structure be an early duck house? In 1946, the park became home to six white swans, and a Chinoiserie-style octagonal Swan House was constructed, which you can see clearly in the photo below of the Boat Pond from 1946, taken from the History of Bowring Park.

Boat Pond, 1946, possibly by TB Hayward.

Do you have an early photo of Bowring Park? Email me at

Friday, March 13, 2020

Knit, Purl, Listen: exploring connections between sound + textile

FOLK6740 - PUBLIC FOLKLORE is a graduate-level folklore course at Memorial University, which addresses the various ways in which folklorists present their research back to the communities from which the material originated. As part of their course, students interviewed local knitters, compiled the stories into a booklet, and edited some of the sound clips used in an exhibit at the Craft Council of NL Gallery.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hungry Month of March Mug Up at Marjorie Mews, March 12th

Join us for the final (for now) mug up storytelling session at the Marjorie Mews Library. We want your food memories! Tell us about jam-making, preserving food, root cellars, recipes, favourite (or least favourite) dishes, flipper pie, and the correct term for a bit of left-over bread dough fried up in a pan.  Do you have a memory of Jell-O salads with bits of things floating in the gelatine? Or a memory of the smell of fresh-baked bread? Come have a cup of tea, a treat or two, and trade your table-top tales!

Hosted by folklorist Dale Jarvis, Heritage NL

Thursday, March 12th
Marjorie Mews Public Library 
12 Highland Drive, St. John's

This is a free event, all welcome.

photo:  Mrs. Janie (Herb) and Mrs. W. Milley with table full of bottled preserves. Item MG 63.2217, Item A 57-153 [ca. 1930]. International Grenfell Association fonds, The Rooms. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Living Heritage Podcast Ep169 Weaving with Jessica McDonald

Jessica McDonald weaving on a loom. Photo courtesy of Jessica McDonald.
Jessica McDonald is a textile artist and researcher based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and a recent graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Jessica creates her own textile art, teaches, and researches weaving and craft in Atlantic Canada. She is is currently creating a piece for the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland while also working on a grant for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (also known as SHHRC), and preparing to teach with the Hand Weaver’s Guild of America in Knoxville, Tennessee this summer.

See more of Jessica's work here.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum
professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the
community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.

Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Come Home Café: Celebrating St. Paddy's Day - Tilting Style

Come Home Café: Celebrating St. Paddy's Day - Tilting Style
Friday, March 6, 2020 at 7:30 PM

The Rooms, St. John's

Ticket information here

Join us as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day in true Tilting fashion. Tilting was originally founded by the French in the 17th century as a base for their transatlantic fishery, and eventually became a station for the English and Irish migratory fishery sometime after 1713.

By the 1770s, Tilting had become a predominantly Irish community, and the cultural milieu in which those early Irish thrived is seen today both in the material culture and vibrant oral traditions for which Tilting is so well known. Today, Tilting is registered as both a National Historic Site and Provincial Registered Heritage District.

Folklorist Dale Jarvis will interview community members as they share stories, music, and much more from their beloved town.

What is a Come Home Café?
A Come Home Café is a celebration of rural community life, culture, and history. You can think of it as a return, in spirit, to a home town. It is both a mini-reunion, and a way to share a taste of the unique culture of our local places with those who grew up elsewhere. Each Come Home Café will focus on a different, special Newfoundland and Labrador town, and includes stories, memories, music, and more. Whether you are returning home or coming from away, the Come Home Café has a spot saved for you!

This event is a partnership between Heritage NL, The Rooms, and the Tilting Expatriates Association.