Showing posts with label Petty Harbour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Petty Harbour. Show all posts

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reflections on Petty Harbour

Annie Lee and Ann Payne
This morning I had the pleasure of conducting my first interview as part of the Petty Harbour Oral History project. I interviewed Ann Payne from the Petty Harbour Maddox Cove Museum and her ninety five year old mother Annie Francis (nee. St. George) Lee.

Annie was born and raised in Heart’s Desire, Trinity Bay and moved to St. John’s for work. When Annie was nineteen she left work at Donovan’s hotel and moved to Petty Harbour where her sister Mary lived. Annie worked in Chafe’s shop in Petty Harbour for nine years and after nine years she married the owner’s brother Ambrose Lee.

Ann Payne was born in St. Claire’s hospital, but grew up and spent her whole life in Petty Harbour. Anne had many memories of growing up in the area and stories about the changes the community has seen.

The interview covered many aspects of life in Petty Harbour from beliefs about fairies to Christmas visiting to memories of children’s games. Annie and Ann discussed Chafe’s shop and how is carried everything from a “needle to an anchor”. The shop carried a variety of foods and also sold material. Annie mentioned the priest’s vestments were made out of the thick cloth which was sold at Chafe’s shop.

Ann described growing up in Petty Harbour and the different areas where she would play as a child. The river was a particularly important place and somewhere you would play during the day. Ann said you would never visit the river at night as you were afraid of the fairies. Ann’s father’s family was from Ireland and had a strong belief in fairies. Against advice Ann’s uncle cut across the river one evening, was caught by the fairies and held in the water and broke his leg. Ann said she felt the river was a magical place due to all the stories which surrounded it. The children would go skating on the river during the winter when parts of it froze and in the summer families often had to bathe in the river as their wells would run dry. The river was also a source of water for gardens or for washing clothes on Mondays in the days before indoor plumbing.

School plays, concerts, variety shows and dances were discussed as major sources of entertainment in Petty Harbour. The annual garden party was a particularly important afternoon where there would be turkey teas and tables. Years ago each lady would have their own table with their goods. For example Mrs. Marty made her own butter so she would have a table of homemade butter while Aunt Lucy would have one for desserts. In the years Annie was involved with the garden parties there were no individual tables although she did make a good pie. She won five trophies at the agricultural fair for her baked pies, jam jams or homemade bread. There were also cash prizes for the best vegetables and Annie’s husband Ambrose won a number of times. Community dances and in particular dances during the war were great fun. Annie told a story of how she went to a dance with Ambrose but barely saw him the whole evening as she was dancing with everyone who asked.

Another form of entertainment mentioned was weekly games of cards. Ann described her father and his friends playing games of 45s or 120s where they would gamble for a quarter or a half cow. Annie played cards on Monday evenings in the different spots in the community and continues to play today.

Ann said a favourite summer activity was a picnic to Cape Spear or an outing to pick berries. On a day when her father was not working the family would pack a picnic lunch and head over to Cape Spear. She described the roads as being worse than Petty Harbour’s and when you hit a pothole the whole car went in. Another outing the family would go on would be a berry picking excursion which would involve swimming for the children and lunches of corned beef and cabbage on the Coleman stove.

It was a really great interview and an excellent starting point for the Petty Harbour Oral History project. The interview touched on many aspects of community life in the harbour and sparked my interest in the folklore of Petty Harbour. If you have any memories about the concerts, times and social customs in Petty Harbour I would love to hear from you: or (709)739-1892.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Introducing the New ICH Intern

ICH Intern mummering through the years.

Hi all my name is Terra Barrett and I am a St. John’s native who has just completed the requirements for a BA with a major in Folklore and a minor in French from Memorial University of Newfoundland. I am returning to Memorial in the fall to complete my MA in Folklore with a focus on public/applied folklore. My interests include foodways, customs, material culture and public folklore.

This summer I am joining the Heritage Foundation as a summer works intern. This position will include a combination of fieldwork and office work. The fieldwork will include interviews with community members of the town of Petty Harbour. This interviews will focus on the community’s vibrant social life and activities such as community concerts, singing and recitations. The other project I will be working on will involve developing a survey for museums and community groups. This survey will assess which traditions and customs are important to the communities and how they would like them to be preserved. I will also be assisting Dale and Lisa whenever they need a hand such as the upcoming cemetery workshop for Anthropology students as part of Memorial’s Make Midterm Matter or the interview techniques workshop in Trinity.

Today is my first day on the job and I’ve been working on compiling a list of oral history questions to use in the field. I’m looking forward to heading to Petty Harbour on Wednesday and to a great summer in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office with the Heritage Foundation. If you have any memories of growing up in Petty Harbour or the social life within the community please contact me at or (709)739-1892 extension 5.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A trip to Indian Rock, Petty Harbour

I've been doing a little bit of digging into the folklore surrounding this glacial erratic in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Locally, it is known as Indian Rock, Injun Rock, and Engine Rock. Based on a historic photograph in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Indian Rock is probably the historic name, with "Injun" and then "Engine" being later reinterpretations of the name.

It is also referred to in a couple places as a logan stone, from an old English or Cornish word meaning to rock back and forth.  The earliest reference to Indian Rock as a logan stone is from William Grey's Sketches of Newfoundland and Labrador, (Ipswich, England: S. H. Cowell, Anastatic Press, 1858). Accompanying a sketch of Petty Harbour, Grey writes,
"On the hill opposite the church is a curious rock, which Druidical antiquaries would call a Logan stone."

This name for the rock was referenced in an article by folklorist Philip Hiscock in 1998 (Downhomer, 11.5 pp 18-19) and then later by popular Newfoundland author Jack Fitzgerald in 2009 (Remarkable Stories of Newfoundland, Creative Publishers, pp 3-5).

I'd love to know anything people remember about this rock, particularly about the origin of the name Indian Rock. If you have a memory or a story, email me at

- Dale Jarvis