Friday, July 21, 2017

Memories of Historic Places: A Trainful of Mary Brown's Secret Recipe Dough

Over the past couple of weeks I have been researching the Gordon G. Pike Railway Museum and Park. Erected in 1881, this building was once the station for the Harbour Grace Railway. It is a small, one-story, hipped roof building located on Military Road in Harbour Grace. 

I always enjoy hearing people's memories of places, but here on Friday afternoon, as suppertime approaches, one story, as told by Patrick Collins, stands out in particular:

"I remember the train coming down with a load of Mary Brown’s secret recipe.  Aboard were boxfuls of secret recipe dough that they use for the deep fried chicken at Mary Brown’s which is here in Harbour Grace. And I remember that being quite secretive; the owner coming up and saying, 'make sure none of those boxes are stolen.' There was a freight shed that was right next to the station that is gone now and that was very securely looked after."

I can imagine how exciting it must have been for the employees of the station, entrusted with protecting the sacred deep fried chicken formula that has become a staple to many Newfoundlanders. It must have been difficult to resist sneaking a peek of the secret recipe. 

If you or someone you know has a memory of the Harbour Grace Railway station, please contact Katie at or (709) 739-1892 ex. 7.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The World of Henna #podcast, with Eemaan Art Henna

Eemaan Thind was born and raised in Punjab, India. Her family moved to Ontario during her last year of secondary school; she started her BSc. at McMaster University and then transferred to Physics at Memorial University in 2013, when her family moved to Newfoundland. A self-taught artist from a young age, Eemaan picked up the medium of henna body art in the summer of 2013 while participating in the Youth Ventures program, and received the provincial Youth Ventures award for Excellence in Product Design during the same summer. In April of 2017, she travelled to volunteer with the Gurmat Bhawan NGO in Punjab, where she worked with school children, held workshops on child sexual abuse, menstrual health and sex education, and provided free henna workshops for local women. She is pleased to offer a chance of experiencing this ancient art form right here on the Rock.

Photo courtesy Eemaan Art & Henna, Facebook

In this podcast, we talk about Eemaan’s evolution as a henna artist, the traditional uses of henna, and how to discern between real henna and commercialized henna (along with the safety risks of the latter). We also discuss Eeman’s experiences at Henna Con and her recent trip to India, and consider some ideas about henna and cultural appropriation.

Download the mp3

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do you recognize this structure in Bay Roberts? #folklorephoto

Recently I worked on scanning 35mm slides for the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. The slides are organized by community and were taken between 1993-1996. One thing I found interesting in looking at the slides is the boarded up buildings and whether they were demolished or saved. Do you know anything about the building in this image taken June 1994 in Bay Roberts?

Monday, July 17, 2017

#CollectiveMemoriesMonday - Grand Falls-Windsor Memory Mug Up

As part of the Collective Memories project Dale and I headed out to Grand Falls-Windsor last week to help out with the town's first Memory Mug Up event. The mug up was held in the Classic Theatre on High Street and was part of the town's Salmon Festival activities. The event was organized by the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society and was a staged interview with six local community members.

Dale moderated the discussion which involved memories of horses and goats, tales of how to sneak in to the movie theatre with flattened nickels or fake tickets, stories of memorable local characters, the influence of strong woman, and memories about growing up in the community. The event was recorded and will be placed on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative. Check out the video below for a taste of the event and stay tuned for more memories!

~Terra Barrett

Folk Cures and Practical Magic Oral History Night - Spaniard’s Bay, Conception Bay North

Photo from:
Have you ever made a bread poultice? Do you remember stories about a seventh son or daughter? Do you know the perfect mix for wallpaper paste? Have you had a wart charmed? The Heritage Foundation NL, in partnership with the Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Society, wants to know!

The Foundation will be hosting a Cures and Practical Magic Oral History Night at the Wesley Gosse United Church, Spaniard’s Bay on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 at 7:00pm.

“We are looking for anyone with memories of cures, charms, or practical recipes such as soap or wallpaper paste, as well as midwives, and healers with memories of practicing medicine in the area,” says the foundation’s folklorist Dale Jarvis.  “If you have memories of cures and recipes, we would love to hear from you."
The Cures and Practical Magic Night is part of the foundation’s Oral History Roadshow. This project is an initiative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office of the HFNL made possible with assistance from the New Horizons for Seniors program. The Oral History Night Roadshow will see researchers travel from community to community, hosting a series of Oral History Nights, open-mic storytelling sessions led and inspired by seniors in that community.
Come for a cup of tea, share a memory or two about a cure, and bring some home recipes. The information gathered will be used alongside oral history interviews and archival research to create a booklet about folk cures and practical traditions in Spaniard’s Bay. If you have photos or old written recipes, bring them along.
For more information please contact Terra Barrett with the Heritage Foundation toll free at 1-888-739-1892 ext. 5 or email

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hunting the Wild Haggis, with the Haggis Lady, Jennifer Whitfield

This episode of Living Heritage is all about that controversial Scottish delicacy, haggis, the chieftain of the pudding race. And who better to guide us through the culinary history and folklore of haggis than Newfoundland’s own “Haggis Lady” Jennifer Whitfield? Jennifer was raised in Glasgow, lived there till she was 25, then boarded the second voyage of the QEII and sailed away to the new world. She moved to Newfoundland in 1976. She’s been making haggis since 1981, and has made haggis locally for the Burns Night supper, and ships her haggis across Canada.

In this delicious podcast, we talk about what exactly goes into a haggis, how she got started in the haggis-making business and how she became “The Haggis Lady,” what makes an excellent (or terrible) haggis, the folklore and mythology of the haggis, and her recent activities in mailing haggis to needy pudding lovers across North America.

Download the mp3

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A cemetery visit on Orangeman's Day - the grave of William Janes

Yesterday was Orangeman's Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the curious provincial holidays that some people get off work, and other people know nothing about.  While the Heritage Foundation office was closed, I headed off to Carbonear for a meeting about a possible future oral history project, and a visit to St. James Anglican to meet with their committee about their cemetery cleanup project. We'd blogged about St. James Anglican before (read here) and today was the first day their student workers in place. So off I went to help them make a plan for removing brush, and to prioritize which sections of the cemetery they should work on first.

When I arrived, the students had already cleared away some of the brush from around the memorial stone for William Janes, work appropriate, perhaps, for Orangeman's Day. William Janes was killed in the notorious Harbour Grace Affray, and his marker reads:

Who was shot dead whilst
walking in an Orange Pro
cession at Harbour Grace
ON DEC 26TH 1883.

There is a detailed account of the affray here:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Collective Memories Monday - "The first thing I did was climb the mizzen..."

Patricia Cumby, May 2017.
On May 15, 2017, as part of the Collective Memories project, I interviewed Patricia Cumby about her memories of moving to Newfoundland from the UK, living in Heart's Content, and some of the trouble she got into as a child.

Patricia arrived in Gander in a snow storm and had to spend a couple of nights there before the family could make their way to Heart's Content where her father was stationed to work as a doctor. She told the story of getting fitted out for the Newfoundland winter and in this audio clip you can hear about her first adventure in Heart's Content - climbing the mizzen. Patricia explained the mizzen is a small hill in Heart's Content named because ships entering the community could see it from the mizzen-mast up in the crow's nest. Patricia's full interview can be found on Memorial's Digital Archives Initiative.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Isaac Mercer Mummer Murder Case Podcast, with Joy Fraser

Joy Fraser is Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of the Folklore Studies program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. She is completing a book tracing the cultural history of haggis as a contested symbol of Scottishness, provisionally entitled Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland’s National Dish. For the past several years, she has also been researching the relationship between Christmas mumming, violence, and the law in nineteenth-century Newfoundland.

In this episode, we focus on the murder of Isaac Mercer in Bay Roberts, who was beset upon by mummers, hit with a hatchet, and who died of his wounds. We explore the background of mummering traditions in Newfoundland, differences in mummering traditions in different communities, the events surrounding the murder case, her research using court case records at local archives, the licensing and eventual banning of mummering, and the link between mummering and violence in the historical period.

Download the mp3