Thursday, November 18, 2021

History of Lebanese Businesses in NL - Help tell the story!

 (ad for J. Basha's Corner Glass Shop, Curling, 1957, Western Star)

Heritage NL is working on a project to document and share historical information about the establishment of Lebanese businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we'd love your input. If you have relatives who worked with or for a family-run Lebanese enterprise, let us know! We're looking for memories and stories, old family photos we might be able to scan, or people who might be willing to sit down for a cup of tea and do an oral history interview. Or maybe you just want us to keep in touch about the information we gather! Help us tell this fascinating story!

Fill out the survey here: 

Join us at The Rooms on November 25 for a photo presentation on NL's Lebanese heritage: 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Penton Forge, Joe Batt's Arm

Penton Forge, October 2021.

During the first week of October, Andrea and I were on the road. We visited Change Islands to do a People, Places and Culture workshop and Fogo Island to do some fieldwork. During our visit we stopped in to the Penton Forge in Joe Batt's Arm.

Penton Forge, circa 1970s.

This forge was built in the 1930s, and used until the 1970s. We met with Madonna Penton who had reached out about the forge. Her late husband Leo, and his younger brother Tim worked on getting the forge back up and running.

Leo with some of his grandchildren digging up horseshoes from the ash bed.

Tim is continuing the work on the forge including installing clapboard on the outside. Leo and Tim's grandfather Peter Penton who was trained by another local blacksmith, Jimmy Besso.

Peter Pentons certificate dated in 1940.

This short video shows some older photos of Penton Forge, and shares some of the memories of the blacksmith shop.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Heritage NL Craft at Risk

Two of the province’s leading cultural bodies are worried about a decline in traditional craft skills.

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its traditions and culture, heritage skills, arts, and crafts. Some of those, like rug-hooking, have seen a resurgence in interest. Others, like birch broom making or Indigenous basket-making traditions, face an uncertain future.

Concerned about the loss of traditional know-how, Heritage NL and the Craft Council of NL are working to document these crafts at risk and developing a new funding program to encourage the sharing of heritage skills.

The Heritage NL Craft at Risk List 2021 features 55 crafts, 10 of which are listed as critically endangered. These include things such as bark tanning, harness making, and the fabrication of tin flat-bottom kettles. An additional 32 crafts are listed as endangered, while 12 crafts are listed as currently viable. One craft, rope making, is listed as having become extinct in the last generation.

Heritage NL Craft at Risk List 2021

“The promotion and support of craft producers in the province is a vital part of maintaining and developing the cultural diversity that makes Newfoundland and Labrador unique,” says Rowena House, Executive Director of Craft Council of NL. “This furthers the preservation of traditional craftsmanship while pushing the boundaries of fine craft among the provincial producers.”

Recognizing the importance of tradition-bearers to the transmission of craft, Heritage NL has developed a new grant program designed to pass on these skills at risk. The new Mentor-Apprentice program has funds of up to $10,000 per grant, split between a teacher/learner pair, to help maintain those crafts which the organizations have listed as either critically endangered or endangered.

Heritage NL Mentor-Apprentice Program

“One possible project could be a master boatbuilder taking on an apprentice during the construction of a regionally-specific boat type, for example,” says Dale Jarvis, Executive Director of Heritage NL. “Our staff will work with the mentor-apprentice team to help focus their final product, and to record and photograph their work for posterity.”

There are three deadlines for the pilot granting program, in December of this year, and February and April of 2022.

The project is supported by the Labour Market Partnerships program, Department of Immigration, Skills and Labour, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Information on both the list and the granting program are available through the Heritage NL website -


For more information contact:

Dale Jarvis, Executive Director
Heritage NL
709-739-1892 x1

Thursday, October 14, 2021

How to Run a Scanning Party

Carbonear Scanning Party, July 2021.

Are there photos in your community you would like to preserve for future generations? Do you want a visual record of the people, places, and events in your town? Would you like to have an accessible archives of photographs?

Your community should host a Scanning Party!

A Scanning Party is an informal photo collection session for heritage groups, small museums and archives, or town councils. Community members come to a Scanning Party prepared. They bring their own photographs to be scanned at the event and then taken back home with them the same day.

The goal of a Scanning Party is to help digitize and preserve community photographs as well as make them accessible to community members.

We've put together an easy how to guide to help you learn how to host one in your community. 

Click here to view the guide!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Living Heritage Podcast Ep208 Industrial Heritage with Anatolijs Venovcevs

Twin Falls plant.
Photo courtesy of Anatolijs Venovcevs. 

In this episode of the Living Heritage Podcast we talk with Anatolijs about industrial heritage in Newfoundland and Labrador and specifically his fieldwork in Labrador this summer. We also chat about the impact industrial heritage has on the landscape, the history, and the people of a place.  

Anatolijs Venovcevs is a PhD candidate whose work looks at the legacies of mines, mining towns, and mining development that occurred during the twentieth century in Labrador, Canada and the Kola Peninsula in Arctic Russia. His research interests include contemporary and industrial archaeology, mining and extractive industry, Soviet history, Northern and Arctic Canada and modern ruins. 

Open pits at the IOC mine in Labrador City.
Photo courtesy of Anatolijs Venovcevs. 

Living Heritage is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.

Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Heritage Update 085 - September 2021: Root Cellars, Research, and Rita Remembers Labrador!

In this edition of the Heritage Update newsletter: our new intern Sarah Roberts brings you up to date on our Digital Museums of Canada project tracking the history and evolution of root cellars in the province; Michael Philpott shares a summary of the research we've been doing on St. George's Anglican Church in Brigus; Lara Maynard has a report on our workshops and training program; Andrea O'Brien documents the work we've been doing with the Town of Fortune to reimagine a purpose for the old Victoria Hall Masonic Lodge #1378; Terra Barrett visits with  Rita Fitzgerald in North River (photo above) and reminisces about life on the Labrador; while Dale Jarvis fanboys about a historic potato. 

Download the pdf here:

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Hurricane Larry forecast ends Heritage NL’s lucky workshop weather pattern

Media release 

For immediate release

From: Heritage NL

Date: 08 September 2021

Hurricane Larry forecast ends Heritage NL’s lucky workshop weather pattern:

It looks like Hurricane Larry could put an end to Heritage NL’s lucky streak of good weather for outdoor workshops this year!

“Since our traditional skills workshops series launched this summer, we’ve been very lucky with weather during outdoor events, avoiding even rain showers. We’ve had workshops in cemeteries with people cleaning and repairing old headstones on the Southern Shore and in Salvage, done a bit of masonry repointing at the Anglican Cathedral in St. John’s, and built wriggle fences in Ferrryland and New Perlican,” says Lara Maynard, Heritage NL’s training coordinator. 

But now that Environment Canada has issued a Hurricane Watch on top of a Tropical Cyclone Information Statement, Heritage NL has had to make the call to postpone this weekend’s clapboard workshop scheduled for Port de Grave.

John Duchow, a carpenter who specializes in heritage restoration, was set to lead a workshop on repairing clapboard at Porter House Museum in Port de Grave this Friday and Saturday. That wooden building began as a fishing family home in the early 1900s, is a Registered Heritage Structure, and currently has some siding issues that the workshop would help address with a teaching opportunity. But potential high winds and rain could make it unsafe for registrants to travel to the workshop, climb scaffolding, or impossible to do the basic clapboard repair tasks or painting.

“We’ll reschedule the workshop for the spring,” says Maynard. “And cross our fingers that we’ll get a new lucky streak with our Newfoundland weather!” 

Meanwhile, anyone who would like to follow the organization’s calendar of workshops as they are booked is invited to follow Heritage NL on Eventbrite (, or website or social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) pages.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Parachutes and Petticoats - Exploring a peculiar NL legend with folklorist Nicole Penney #FolkloreThursday

Parachute Petticoats
By Nicole Penney

Do you know the store of the girl whose life was saved by her dress?  

As the tale goes, a young girl fell from a very high cliff but was not injured. She couldn’t remember anything about the fall, but it was generally accepted that the wind was so high that it gathered under her dress and parachuted her safely to the beach… some 200 feet below! 

The Baroness Bomburst floating back to earth in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

In the version relayed to me, the girl is named Janis aka Jane/Janay Phillips and the event took place around 1935 in Bonavista, between Spillar’s Cove and Cable John Cove.  

Upon researching the details of this account, I discovered many more examples of life-saving dresses. As it turns out, the “parachute petticoat” is a well-used media trope. In Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s dress puffs out, allowing her to drift, unharmed, down the rabbit-hole. There’s also the Baroness Bomburst floating back to earth with the help of her petticoat in another Disney film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The so-called parachute petticoat has been utilized over and over in TV and movies, especially cartoons. 

Interestingly, it seems the trope may stem from reality. There are numerous historical accounts of dresses, particularly hoop dresses, saving lives. According to The News and Observer, a Raleigh, North Carolina newspaper, a woman by the name of Mrs. Louisa Biggs Station Yates was travelling on the Mississippi River when the steamer caught fire. Mrs. Yates jumped into the water and was saved by her hoop skirt, “which was fashionable in those days.” 

The book Bridging Saint John Harbour by Harold E. Wright includes a story from Saint John, New Brunswick about a Victorian woman who threw herself in the dark waters of the Reversing Falls, a series of rapids in the Saint John River. She was saved from certain doom when her “her hoop skirt acting as a parachute.” 

The following event occurred in Munfordville, Kentucky and was compiled by Edith Bastin as part of the Polston/Poston Family Index. According to Bastin, Nancy Josephine 'Josie' Harrod Edwards aka Granny Edwards, often told her grand-daughter about the adventurous stories of her life. In one such story, Granny Edwards and Grandpap Edwards were walking to Munfordville from their Rowletts home and as they walked across the Green River via the railroad trestle at Munfordville, they heard a train coming. Grandpap climbed over the edge and held tight to the railroad cross-ties for the train to pass. While Granny was holding the cross-ties, the train was rumbling overhead and she lost her grip. As she fell to the ground, her big hoop skirt ballooned out and let her down easy. The hoop skirt again acted as a parachute!
There’s also Mary Kingsley, an English ethnographer, scientific writer, and explorer whose travels throughout West Africa and criticism of missionaries helped shape European perceptions of African cultures and British imperialism.  On more than one occasion she fell into a game trap, a deep pit dug by hunters to catch unwary animals, and found that her skirts saved her legs by snagging on the sharp spikes of ebony. Not quite a parachute petticoat, but a life-saving dress nonetheless.  

The account of Ms. Janis Philips, isn’t even the only parachute petticoat story found in Newfoundland and Labrador.  A letter from Franklin Arbuckle dated May 29, 1945, published In the St. John’s Telegraph, recounts the story of “Lover’s Leap”, a cliff located between Ship Cove and Blow Me Down.  

According to residents, in 1864 a young couple, Charles Dawe and Brigitte (Biddy) Warford, were leaning on a wooden rail on the eastern gulch in Daniels Hole as they had their goodnight kiss. Suddenly, the rail gave way and the two fell more than 60 feet to the beach below. Brigitte survived with light injuries, but Charles was seriously injured. 

According to local residents, the area known as Lovers Leap, near Patrick’s Pier, in the community of Blow Me Down on the Port de Grave Peninsula, was the inspiration behind Frank Arbuckle’s painting, “True Lovers Leap, Newfoundland,”

Gerald W. Andrews states in “Heritage of a Newfoundland Outport: The story of Port de Grave, 

“It was surmised that both were saved from instant death by the fact that Biddy was wearing a hoop skirt which acted as a parachute to slow their descent, and it hooked in to a ledge before their final impact.” 

Brigitte carried her love to safety, Charles recovered and they went on to marry. It was later discovered that the rail had been sawed.  Apparently Brigitte’s family disapproved of the relationship and her brother, Azariah, came under suspicion. However, it would never be proven. 

Alice falling down the rabbit hole in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951)

If you’re questioning the veracity of these stories, you’re not alone. I mean, the stories sounds plausible enough but can a dress really save a life or is this the stuff of legend? To answer that, we need to look at what exactly a legend is. 

According to folklorist Elliott Oring, “legends are considered narratives which focus on a single episode, an episode which is presented as miraculous, uncanny, bizarre or something embarrassing.” Our parachute petticoats definitely have the miraculous, uncanny and bizarre going for them. Also, legends are set in an historical time and often makes reference to real people and places. Life-saving dresses cover this aspect of legend as well. Moreover, the structure of a legend by its very nature makes the question of its “truth” subjective. Legends often depict the improbable within the world of the possible and force us to negotiate the truth of these episodes. The dress stories leave us to ponder not only the limitations of gravity but also petticoat aerodynamics. 

Sadly, it seems our parachute petticoats might be too good to be true. Upon closer examination, the stories are likely an example of migratory legend. That’s not to say a dress couldn’t save a life, but these tales have all the hallmarks of a legend. But as far a legend goes, the truth of the story isn’t really that important anyway. Legends are told because they are interesting, entertaining and amazing stories that require the audience to examine their worldview. Legends are valuable folk narrative because they not only entertainment us, but require us to question our sense of the normal, the boundaries of nature, and conceptions of fate, destiny and coincidence. 

But there’s so many newspaper accounts of this actually happening. How could the parachute petticoat be a legend if the story was documented in the media? This is actually another characteristic of legend. Many urban legends have been reported on in the media as though they were true. Take for example the century-old legend of the alligators that supposedly infest the sewers of New York City. 

Having made the news repeatedly over the years, it was first reported in a 1907 article that described a worker in Kearny, a New Jersey town about 12 miles from Midtown Manhattan, who was bitten by a small gator while he cleaned out a sewer. The media often legitimises a legend by reporting on it and by doing so, helps transmit it. 

It’s said that journalists came from St. John’s to interview the Jane Phillips and her mother for the papers. I suspect this story is a local legend but would love to find evidence that it actually occurred. If you’ve heard this story before, please feel free to reach out! 

Nicole R. Penney 
Archival Assistant 
Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Explore to your Heart’s Content with this self-guided walking tour

In 1612, John Guy of Cupids visited Heart’s Content, calling it an “excellent good place for fishing.” Over the next 300 years Heart’s Content grew into a thriving community, but it was the landing of the trans-Atlantic cable in 1866 that changed the world and gave Heart’s Content international status as the first gateway of communication between Europe and North America. 

This year, new visitors to the community can explore the town’s history by walking in the footsteps of fishermen, plantation owners, shipbuilders, and cable workers. 

Working in partnership with Heritage NL, the Heart’s Content Community Development Corporation, has produced a self-guided walking tour pamphlet for visitors and staycationers exploring the historic Trinity Bay town. 

“Visitors to Heart’s Content have a natural curiosity about the cable station and the many styles of buildings in the surrounding area,” says Ted Rowe, Chair of the Heart’s Content Community Development Corporation.”

“This section of the town was designated a Registered Heritage District a few years ago and now we have a detailed map to guide them through the area and highlighting points of interest.  The tour gives a feel for Heart’s Content as it was over a hundred years ago and enhances the historical appeal of the town.”

The release of the walking tour map is part of Heritage NL’s mission to promote a better understanding of the historic places of the province. 

“Registered Historic Districts highlight the culture and significance of a place by showcasing and preserving the natural and architectural significance of that area,” says Heritage NL chair Dr. Lisa Daly. 

“Town or district maps, such as this one, share that with the community and visitors alike. Heritage NL is pleased to be able to partner with communities like Heart's Content to create such programs and initiatives.”

Printed copies of the map are available for curious walkers and heritage enthusiasts free-of-charge at the Baccalieu Gallery, located in the heart of the district, beside the Heart’s Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site. Digital copies can also be downloaded for printing at home from the Heritage NL website ( 

View the map:

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (Heritage NL) was established in 1984 to stimulate an understanding of and an appreciation for the historic places and intangible cultural heritage of the province. 


To arrange an interview, contact

Dale Jarvis, Executive Director
Heritage NL