Friday, July 10, 2020

Cape Broyle Cleanup Project at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery

Last Friday, Andrea O'Brien and I were in Cape Broyle, talking to the Conservation Corps Green Team (pictured above) about their cleanup project for the Immaculate Conception Cemetery Municipal Heritage Site.

I gave a presentation with some basic tips on cemetery conservation work (I call it my "don't be at it" workshop) and Andrea talked about the history of the cemetery itself.

Immaculate Conception Cemetery has historic value as a physical record of Cape Broyle’s history, the cemetery markers serving as both historic records and artifacts on the landscape. It is the first known cemetery in the community, with the earliest headstones dating from the mid 1800s. Cape Broyle did not see year round settlement until the late 1700s, when seasonal fishermen and their families from Ireland’s southeastern counties settled there, including the Alyward, Grant, Kelly, O’Brien, Walsh and Whelan families. Irish immigration continued into the early decades of the 1800s, with the arrival of the Cashin, Coady, Dalton, Furlong, Hartery, Kent and Lahey families. For over a century, this cemetery was used by Cape Broyle and the neighbouring communities of Admiral’s Cove and Brigus South, providing a partial genealogical record for the three outports.

Residents buried there are noted figures in the community’s oral history and folklore. Among them are family members of Michael P. Cashin, who was Prime Minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1919. Men who served in both World Wars from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and Forestry Unit are buried here, along with men who lost their lives working on the sea. Sailor John Yetman of St. Mary’s Bay, who was shot in Cape Broyle Harbour by the captain of an American Banker, is buried here and the well-known story of his death is often recounted in the community. 

After the presentations, we did a walk-through with the summer students, who have started work carefully clearing out brush from one corner of the cemetery. If you are in the area, drop by to see their progress!

One of the more mysterious grave sites is that Reverend Patrick Burke from Tipperary, Ireland. Fr. Burke was an assistant at Holy Trinity Parish in Ferryland and died there on April 27, 1849. His is the only box tomb in the cemetery, as well as the only monument with Latin script. Legend has it that upon hearing of Fr. Burke’s death his distraught family arranged transportation to Newfoundland. Under the cover of darkness, they removed the cleric’s body and brought it back to Ireland.

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