Ye brave Newfoundlanders who plough the salt sea,
With hearts like the eagle so bold and so free,
The time is at hand when we’ll have to say
If Confederation will carry the day.
Men, hurrah for our own native Isle, Newfoundland,
Not a stranger shall hold one inch of its strand;
Her face turns to Britain, her back to the Gulf,
Come near at your peril, Canadian Wolf!
Cheap tea and molasses they say they will give,
All taxes taken off that the poor man may live;
Cheap nails and cheap lumber, our coffins to make,
And homespun to mend our old clothes when they break.
If they take off all taxes, how then will they meet
The heavy expenses on army and fleet?
Just give them the chance to get into the scrap,
They’ll show you the trick with pen, ink and red tape.
Would you barter the right that your fathers have won?
Your freedom transmitted from father to son?
For a few thousand dollars Canadian gold
Don’t let it be said that our birthright was sold.
Newfoundland Anti-Confederation folk song (1869)
Faithful readers of this blog know that my sainted mother was from Newfoundland. My mother and my father after my birth in Paris, Illinois, due to my 21 year old Mom being deeply homesick, lived in Newfoundland from 1957-1961. My brother was born there in 1958. Newfoundland never being an easy place to make a living, for all its stark beauty, my family returned to Paris, Illinois in 1961 so that my father could obtain employment, and that is where my parents lived for the remainder of their lives, and where my brother and I were raised.
Newfoundland was granted dominion status on this day in 1907. During World War I, Newfoundland had a proud war record, its regiment in France being granted the signal honor of being designated the Royal Newfoundland regiment. Alas war debts, the Great Depression and corrupt politicians bankrupted the nation and Newfoundland, with its legislature suspended, and a governor appointed by Great Britain, became a colony, in all but name, again in 1934.
In 1948 a referendum was held to determine the future of Newfoundland, with three options: restoration of dominion status, confederation with Canada, and a continuation of being a colony of Great Britain. The Brits made it quite clear that they could no longer afford to subsidize Newfoundland. There was some sentiment among Newfoundlanders to ask the US Congress for statehood, but supporters of that idea were unable to get it on the ballot. In the first referendum held, a narrow plurality of voters chose dominion status, with confederation with Canada coming in a close second. In the second referendum the option for continued colonial status was dropped. Confederation supporters, some of them, prior to the second referendum, appealed to religious bigotry by arguing that Catholic bishops were telling Catholics to support dominion status, which an overwhelming number of Catholics did support. In the second referendum 52% of the votes were cast for confederation, so Newfoundland joined what prior generations of Newfoundlanders had often referred to as the Canadian wolf! It was still a topic of some controversy in the Sixties among my Mom’s relatives! Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The things you find on Youtube! I loved this album and this song, Ghost of Bras d’ Or, when I was a kid. Part of my Mom’s Newfoundland record collection. I always thought that Dick Nolan sounded like Johnny Cash, and I see that he was called the Johnny Cash of Newfoundland. I am sad to also see that he passed away in 2005, but his music endures. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. There’ll Always Be An England. This was always a favorite of my sainted mother. It was played frequently during World War II in Newfoundland when she was a child. Newfoundland sent off a very high percentage of its military age male population to fight, about 10% of the entire population served in the British armed services and Merchant Marine during the War, and some 900 Newfies died in service. (On a per capita basis that is roughly the equivalent of the US war deaths in World War II.) Mom always remembered how many Newfoundland fathers, sons, brothers and uncles never came back from that War, and taught her sons to remember this sacrifice by a small nation.
This sacrifice was typified by the stories she would tell about Uncle Bill Barry, her uncle, my great uncle. Uncle Bill was a fun loving Irishman and a boxer. He joined the Royal Army in 1939, saying that “Someone has to teach the Limies how to fight!” He served throughout the War, and was in combat from D-Day to the fall of Germany. Uncle Bill was a fighter indeed, and his courage earned him promotion to sergeant after his platoon took a village. He was placed in charge of the village. He told his men to do as he did and led them on a raid of a local wine cellar. The Lieutenant in charge of the platoon found Uncle Bill and his men dancing in the village square, all blind drunk, when he got back. The first thing he did was to bust Uncle Bill back to private, which did not upset Uncle Bill nearly as much as the hangover he had in the brig the next day. Continue reading