Showing posts with label funeral customs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label funeral customs. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A note on the Bauline funeral hand-barrow, biers, and catafalques.

Last Thursday, we were in Bauline making a preliminary research trip to look at the old, unmarked Methodist burying ground. While there, we got a tour of the local United (originally Methodist) Church. The cornerstone of the church was laid November 12th, 1919 by A. Soper, Esq, and the inscription on the stone reads “Thy house shall be a house of prayer.” Construction was finished  sometime between 1920 and 1921 (a banner inside the church gives a date of 1920, while other records indicate 1921). The building was expanded, a basement was hand-dug with pick and shovel, and a new concrete block foundation was put in place in 1985.

Whilst exploring the basement, we were able to take a few photos of Bauline’s funeral hand barrow. Its exact age is unknown, but it was recovered a number of years ago from a nearby shed, and was restored by Mr. Alton King.

According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a hand-barrow is a flat rectangular wooden frame with handles at each end for two men to carry cod-fish, seal 'pelts' and other bulky materials. The Bauline funeral hand-barrow differs from a regular fisheries hand-barrow in that it is slightly longer, as it would have been used to carry a coffin to the cemetery, and in that it features a centre bar that swivels out, allowing for an additional two men to act as pall-bearers.

In other places, this piece of technology is often referred to as a “bier” - a stand to support a corpse or a coffin prior to burial. The term “catafalque” is sometimes used interchangeable, or to describe a decorated bier on which a coffin rests in state during a funeral.

Biers like the Bauline example were used in various locations around the province. One good example of the use of a bier is found in the description of the 1887 death and funeral of Captain Alonso Francis of the steamer Curlew:
Before dying the captain, feeling perhaps that death was approaching, had ordered the ship back to Harbor Briton, and it was just outside the heads of that port he died. The body was placed in a coffin as soon as possible, after which the steamer left for St. John's. On arriving here last night Mr. Carnell's hearse was in waiting, and in a short a time as possible the body of the dead seaman was lifted from the life-boat and laid on the bier. The ensign enshrouded it and it was borne on to the wharf by six of the seamen of the Curlew. The wharf was crowded with people, for the dead captain was greatly beloved in St. John's. The scene was weird and awful in the extreme.
- The Colonist, vol. 02, no. 134 (17 June 1887) p 4
Another example of the use of a bier is found in the description of the 1918 Holyrood funeral of Seaman Francis Peddle of the Canadian Naval Reserve:
...when the funeral service had been recited over his bier the body was borne to the hearse in waiting by the pallbearers and the funeral cortege continued its route to Holy Cross Cemetery where the remains were interred beside those of his wife Mary Quinlan who predeceased him nine years ago.
- Evening Telegram (St. John's, N.L.), 1918-10-25 page 9
Other examples of these can be found online, such as the 1800s funeral bier below, from a Welsh chapel, used to carry the coffin during a funeral service and to the site of burial (photo courtesy Caerphilly County Borough Council Museums & Heritage Service).  It does not feature the additional swivel handle of the Bauline example, but is very similar in construction otherwise.

If you know of another example of one of these devices somewhere in Newfoundland and Labrador, contact

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Funeral Procession. #FolklorePhoto

A funeral procession on Church Hill, Spaniard's Bay, approximately 1930s or 1940s. Note the flag at half mast on the right half of the photo. Any automobile enthusiasts who can give us a date for the car, let us know!

Photo courtesy Daphne Robinson. Photo collected as part of the "Lassy Days Photo Scanning Pary" held Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 at the Wesley Gosse Heritage Museum. If this photo elicits memories for you, or if you'd like to arrange a photo scanning party for your community, contact Dale Jarvis at

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#Folklorephoto Hearse Rules of the Spaniard's Bay Orange Lodge

This list came to us with material written by Wesley Gosse about Spaniard's Bay. This list would have hung at the "No Surrender" Loyal Orange Lodge No. 15 in Spaniard's Bay, and outlined the rules for the use of the Lodges hearse. The fraternal organization held parades, sometimes called 'walks', in the community as well as funeral procession for deceased members. The rules outline who could use the hearse for free, and how much it would cost for those who had to pay. Unfortunately the rules are not dated.

~ Kelly

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rare photos of the Forest Road Cemetery Lych Gate and Mortuary Chapel #nlheritage

Followers of the ICH Blog may remember that I have been interested in lych gates, a very specific type of gate that was found at the entrance of Anglican churchyards and cemeteries. You can read more about the history of lych gates in the Occasional Paper #004.

In it, I talk about one of the province's vanished lych gates, the one which once stood in the Forest Road Cemetery.  I knew it had existed, and it is clearly shown on aerial photos and insurance maps, but I had never seen the building before.

Thanks to some detective work by Professor Frederick R. Smith, and the kindness of Mr. Arthur King, we now have this photographic gem - a photo of the gate before its demolition, likely taken sometime circa 1950-1952.

The lych gate is very similar to English examples, and has some similarities to the rebuilt lych gate at Bonavista. It features a sharply gabled roof, with slight bellcurved eaves, Maltese cross motifs, and at least two painted inscriptions, though the photo is just out of focus enough to make it difficult to identify the scripture being quoted (the word "resurrection" seems to be the second word). The woman in the photo is a Mrs. Butt, of the nearby Collier's Lane.

Mr King writes:

Here are some old Forest Road Cemetery photos I scanned from originals supplied by Mrs. Barbara Fry (Heale), a daughter of Victor Heale, caretaker circa 1948-59 . The family lived in the caretaker house on the cemetery. Photos of the entrance gate and old chapel are included. A daughter Elizabeth Heale, shown in the photo, was born in 1942---the photo with her was probably taken between 1950-52. The age of the old chapel photo is uncertain, but probably much before that time---it probably was taken by a commercial photographer such as Holloway as there is an inscription which was his style.

The Church of England Mortuary Chapel photo was said to have come from "The Archives" -- we are uncertain which one. If you have any information on these photos, if you have a theory on the most likely scripture being used on the lych gate, or have any other old photos of the Forest Road Cemetery, please comment below, or contact me at

- Dale Jarvis

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Folklore Photo - The Hole In the Floor and Adolphus's Wake

This week's folklore photo might not look like much, but it comes with a great story, and is a very good example of how intangible cultural heritage and our built heritage are intertwined. 

We've been working on an oral history of the Jenkins House in Durrell, Twillingate, which was owned for a portion of its history by Adolphus and Lucretia Jenkins. 

According to oral history, Lucretia contracted tuberculosis and suffered in the home for many years with the disease. She was confined to her bedroom while her daughter Leah Jenkins cared for her, surprisingly Leah never contracted the disease herself. While Lucretia was sick her husband Adolphus passed away. Adolphus was waked in the home, which was tradition at the time. Bedridden and unable to leave the upstairs of the house, Lucretia still wanted to see her husband one last time. The family decided, instead of trying to bring her downstairs they would saw a hole in the floor by the side of her bed so she could rest and still be able to see her husband, so that is what they did. Today, the cut in the floor is still recognizable by the newer boards that fill where the hole once was. 

Corey Sharpe remembers his Grandmother Leah recounting the story;
“Well, I tell you about that now. I never told anybody about it before. When father passed away, they waked him downstairs. So Lucretia was bed ridden upstairs with TB and separated from the family. She wanted to see her husband while they had him waked. So what they did, instead of bring her downstairs, they cut a hole in the floor so she could look down from her bed and see him. So the floors are to stay like that.”
You can download the full oral history report on the Jenkins House in PDF format here.

- Dale Jarvis