Tuesday, April 19, 2022

From horrid dogs to dangerous youngsters: telling back lane tales in Harbour Grace

Row of headstones in the Bennett's Lane Roman Catholic Cemetery.
Bennett's Lane is visible in the background. Photo taken: February 2022

Harbour Grace, NL -  From horrid dogs and dangerous youngsters, to casket makers and compassionate doctors, the back lanes of Harbour Grace have seen it all. The old stories of the laneways are coming to light once more, with a little help from graduate students enrolled in Memorial University’s Department of Folklore.

The project is a cooperation between students of FOLK6740: Public Folklore, the Town of Harbour Grace, and course instructor Dale Jarvis of Heritage NL. The idea emerged from discussions following a 2018 Heritage NL People, Places, and Culture workshop in the community.  The storytelling project focuses on the historic laneways and paths that run between many of the buildings within and bordering the town's Registered Heritage District.

Students Than Brown, Roshni Caputo-Nimbark, Meaghan Collins, Emma Kwok, Denise McKeown, and Anna Reepschlager interviewed locals, conducted archival research to uncover hidden tales, and created a wiki to document their finds. 

“This research project uncovered some fascinating information from both historical sources and residents’ memories,” says Matthew McCarthy, Economic Development Officer with the Town of Harbour Grace. 

“These areas are such treasure troves of stories, past and present,” says McCarthy. “We think there’s great potential to reanimate these footpaths for both residents and visitors through thoughtful public infrastructure.”

One of the laneways documented in the project is Doctor’s Lane, named in honour of the many early doctors who lived in Harbour Grace. This included Dr. William Stirling, born in Harbour Grace, who eventually settled in Twillingate. He and his wife, Anne Peyton, had ten children, the youngest of whom became Newfoundland’s first opera singer, Georgina Ann Stirling, “The Nightingale of the North.”

The back lanes, while under-developed today, invite exploration. 

“Right now, we have some significant private investment coming to the area, with Yellowbelly’s restorations of the old Courthouse and Immaculate Conception Cathedral,” says McCarthy, “and this project is another important piece of the municipality’s long-term plan to revitalize the downtown Registered Heritage District. We’re excited with where things are headed.”

The students’ wiki page is viewable at:


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