Monday, November 23, 2020

Whiteway - What's in a name?

"Whiteway resident nibbles at his lunch." - Decks Awash photo collection

If you try searching for the early history of the town of Whiteway, in South Trinity Bay on the Baccalieu Trail, you might be hard-pressed to find anything prior to the 20th century about the town. Instead, you’re more likely to come across information on Witless Bay, or a great deal of information on Sir William Vallance Whiteway (1828-1908) who was a member of Parliament for Trinity and Prime Minister of Newfoundland from 1873 to 1885, and again from 1889 to 1894. 

This is because prior to the turn of the century Whiteway was actually known as Witless Bay, Trinity Bay - and prior to that, it was known as Witler’s Bay. How and when exactly Witler’s Bay turned into Witless Bay isn’t clear, but in saying the words aloud its easy to see they sound very similar, so it isn’t hard to see how they eventually got mixed up. 

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections (Coll - 026), Queen Elizabeth II Library,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

By the early 1900s, confusion between Witless Bay, Trinity Bay, and the present-day Witless Bay just south of St.John’s became an issue. Whiteway was renamed after the former Prime Minister, the longstanding representative for Trinity Bay and a notable historic figure, around the time of his death in 1908. 

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