11By Gerry Feehan
This is the third of four parts in the Newfoundland series. Scroll down to find Part 1, Gros Morne, and part 2 North America’s Oldest European Settlement
If Newfoundlanders weren’t so damn friendly we’d have been on time for our Jiggs dinner.
Terra Nova National Park is situated in eastern Newfoundland, 399 sq km of rugged rock, trees and wetland, wrapped around idyllic fingers of Bonavista Bay. The Trans-Canada highway bisects the park, then continues southeast toward Come by Chance and eventually the capital, St. John’s, on the Avalon Peninsula. It was early October. Terra Nova was still open for business, but quiet, so we had our choice of primo campsites. As we checked in I grabbed a bag of firewood. It was going to be a cold night, with frost expected. The ranger stopped me, “No sense you paying for wood. The folks in site 17 just bought a big load. Just go over and join them when the fire starts.”
And so we did. And that’s how we met Burkey and Bev. Even before we reached their roaring fire, Burkey spotted us timidly approaching from the shadows, and without a word, pulled out spare chairs and began pouring drinks. It was Thursday before Thanksgiving. The Burkes were setting up camp, preparing for the arrival of friends and family, and prepping for the big occasion: Sunday’s Jiggs dinner. After a fun evening of chatter (interspersed with a few tunes from my ever-present ukulele) we rose to bid adieu. “You’ll come for dinner Sunday?” asked Barb. I did some quick calculating. We had a week left on The Rock but had yet to visit St. John’s. Plus there was the Irish Loop and Bonavista Peninsula to explore. And we had a long drive back west to Port Aux Basque, almost 1000km, in order to catch the ferry on Tuesday.
“Sure,” I said.
On Sunday we awoke to a gorgeous morning at the Cabot Highway RV Park, a few kilometers from the town of Trinity, on Bonavista Peninsula. (The intervening 3 days and our St John’s/Avalon/Irish Loop drive will be recounted in the fourth and final yarn of this series.) When we reached Trinity I headed straight through town, bound for the local pier, as I am wont to do. Preoccupied by the brightly painted clapboard homes, 19th century church spires and scenic fishing stages (houses hanging over the water used for cleaning cod), I failed to observe that the roadway was becoming dangerously narrow.
We ended up trapped on the town boat ramp, pointed seaward. There was no way to turn the motorhome around. Florence was starting in on my (justly-deserved) beratement when a boat pulled up to the wharf. “What are you after doing down there, b’y?” asked the operator with an amused look. With his guidance I was able to slowly reverse position and get the RV pointed away from the slippery slope and safely back toward land. I offered my thanks. “No trouble,” said he, bobbing in his boat. “I’m taking friends out for a tour of the bay this lovely morning. Would you and your wife like to join us?” I did some more calculating. It was a two-hour drive back to Terra Nova. Jiggs dinner was at 3pm. “We’d need to be back to shore by 1pm,” I said. “No worries,” he replied, “I’ll have you at the dock by noon at the latest.”
It was a fantastic outing. Skipper Bob and his partner Bonnie run www.trinityecotours.com. The tourist season was almost over and the day’s trip was just for fun. Although the usual fare is $90 a person, they refused to take our money. We followed the rugged coastline, where the remains of the ancient Appalachian Mountains slip into the sea. In Trinity Bay, while a whale spouted to starboard, we came alongside a fisherman hauling up net and cleaning cod. He offered us a bag overflowing with fillets and, with the waive of a hand, made it clear he wouldn’t accept payment.
As we motored into a protected, hidden bay, the remains of a long-abandoned village came into view. Bonnie told us, “This place is known as Ireland’s Eye. On the other side of the island is a spot called Black Duck Cove. That’s where my dad lived until he was 11years old. In the mid 50’s the government began a resettlement program to get people who lived on remote islands to move to the mainland where there would be better access to services like hospitals and schools.”
In some respects it was forced relocation. Many people, rather than abandon their homes, floated their lodgings to the mainland communities. “The old place on Ireland’s Eye was left behind but my grandfather floated a house from Pope’s Harbour to New Bonaventure in August 1965. It was a saltbox style, with the porch and bathroom added later.”
Life was hard on The Rock 50 years ago.
Time flies when you’re playing on the ocean. It was after 2pm when Bob idled the boat back into the marina. We bid a hasty thank-you and adieu and raced for Terra Nova. When we arrived at the campground it was getting dark. All sites were vacant save one. Bev and Burkey were just breaking camp, headed back to Clarenville.
“We are so sorry,” I apologized. “No problem,” said Bev. “You said you were coming for scoff so I knew you’d be here. I did up a couple of plates. They’re still warm.”
A traditional Newfoundland Jiggs dinner consists of turkey, dressing, gravy, bread pudding, carrots, turnip, cabbage, mashed potatoes, pease pudding, figgy duff – and boiled salt beef. For dessert Barb likes to do blueberry crumble and partridgeberry cake topped with hot vanilla sauce. Simple really. And easy to whip up, especially from the cramped confines of your trailer, in a campground, in the cold. Each platter held enough food for three Jiggs dinners. Burkey laughed and told us that a Newfoundlander’s idea of fine dining is a full plate. I offered him two fresh cod fillets and, although it was a little like carrying coals to Newcastle, he graciously accepted.
Florence and I were the only campers in Terra Nova that night. As they drove away Burkey said, “No sense you buying firewood, there’s plenty left.” Bev waived goodbye and they rolled out of our lives.
I looked at the overflowing feast, loosed my belt and dug in.
Next time: St John’s and the Irish Loop
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He lives in Kimberley, BC.
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence live in Kimberley, BC!
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600-year-old gold coin discovered in Newfoundland could be oldest found in Canada
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A history enthusiast in Newfoundland has discovered what may be the oldest known English coin ever found in Canada.
Provincial archeologist Jamie Brake said Wednesday that he knew he was looking at something very special when Edward Hynes sent him photos of a gold coin he’d found this past summer. The coin has since been determined to be about 600 years old, which predates the first documented European contact with North America since the Vikings.
“It’s surprisingly old,” Brake said in an interview. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
How, when and why the coin wound up on the island of Newfoundland is still a mystery.
Hynes found the artifact at an undisclosed archeological site somewhere along Newfoundland’s south coast. The exact location is being kept quiet, Brake said, so as not to attract treasure seekers.
Hynes was not available for an interview Wednesday, but Brake described him as a “super intelligent” man with a keen interest in Newfoundland’s history. He said Hynes contacted his local heritage society right away when he first spied the coin.
“He really did exactly what we would hope someone would do under circumstances like this,” Brake said.
Through consultation with a former curator at the Bank of Canada’s currency museum, it was determined that the gold coin is a Henry VI quarter noble. With a face value of one shilling and eight pence, the coin was minted in London between 1422 and 1427.
That’s about 70 years before John Cabot landed on Newfoundland’s shores in 1497 after setting sail from the English port of Bristol.
But the coin’s age doesn’t mean someone from Europe was on the island before Cabot, Brake said. For example, it could have been part of a later settler’s collection. It’s unlikely that it was in circulation when it was lost, he said, adding that it was worth quite a lot of money in the 1400s.
“It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect migratory fishers to be walking around with,” he said.
Last November, officials announced the discovery of a coin in Cupids, N.L., that was minted in Canterbury, England, some time between 1493 and 1499. That coin — a “half groat,” which was worth about two pennies at the time — was said to be the oldest English coin found in the country.
This latest discovery trumps that find. Brake described it as a thin circle of solid gold, slightly smaller than a quarter and weighing a little more than a dime. To figure out how it wound up on Newfoundland’s south coast, Brake and his team will now flag the spot at which it was found as a site of interest and put together a plan to explore it.
“We’re definitely interested in learning more,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Local artist records original song for Remembrance Day with video showcasing Red Deer’s military history
Editor’s note: This article was published in 2020. It was extremely popular in the Central Alberta region so we wanted to circulate it again this year, now even more poignant with the war in Ukraine. The video uses many images that are familiar to Central Albertans and pays tribute to Central Alberta soldiers who have deployed internationally over the years.
This spring, a singer and songwriter friend of mine from Red Deer, Shelly Dion, came to me with a song idea that had, in her words, been “knocking around in my head for the past 30 years”. She said that she really wanted to pay her respects to the people who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to go to war.
The song is called “Lay Me Down”, and it’s a very fitting song for this time of year. We decided to get together and record a simple version of the song. Then I sent her off to see musical wizard, Red Deer’s Heath West of Medodius Design. Heath came up with some excellent improvements and we recorded it in his studio this fall.
As Honorary Colonel of 41 Signal Regiment in Alberta, I’m always looking for opportunities to promote the military, our Regiment’s members, and of course at this time of year, to acknowledge the sacrifice made by the men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. “Lay Me Down” hit all the right notes.
With some help from Counsellor Michael Dawe, long-time archivist for the City of Red Deer, I gained access to some wonderful historic photos that helped me to tell some of the stories of Red Deer’s military history. At the same time, I wanted to help the members of our Regiment honour the many local members who have volunteered to put their lives and careers on hold to deploy internationally to places like Afghanistan, Golan Heights, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and more recently Ukraine and Latvia. This project allowed me to both profiles some local history and recognize our more modern history. Thanks to WO Drew Adkins of 41 Signal Regiment for his help in coordinating photos from our wall of fame inside Cormack Armoury.
The above video is the result. Take some time to learn about our local military history. Do you know who Cormack Armoury is named after? You’ll also learn about local members of 41 Signal Regiment (2 Sqn), many of whom actively serve in the Armed Forces today. You may even know some of them as neighbours, friends, and co-workers. Please take a moment to acknowledge their service, and on November 11th, attend a service, and at the very least, take a moment at 11 AM to be silent and consider how lucky we are to be at peace in our country.
“Lay Me Down” is written and performed by Shelly Dion and produced and engineered by Heath West. Musicians: Bagpipes Glenn MacLeod, acoustic guitar Heath West, electric guitars Lloyd Lewis, drums Phil Liska, Bass Doug Gagnon.
Click to read more on Todayville.
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