Tag Archives: outport culture

St. Matthew’s Church – the Ascension

Happy Easter from Baccalieu Consulting. The church has always played a major role in communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On this Easter weekend, we are celebrating the Resurrection and the Ascension and the hope that they have brought mankind. We are recognizing all the blessings that God has bestowed on us in this beautiful part of the world, where people are free to enjoy their lives in peace and security. At the same time, many of us are also remembering to pray for and give as much help as possible to those that do not enjoy the privileges that we do as part of Canada. Through caring, we can help others.

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Provincial Historic Commemorations Program

Last week, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the first-ever designations under the newly-established Provincial Historic Commemorations Program. The program is designed to  recognize and commemorate distinctive aspects of our province’s history, culture and heritage. Dildo Island, which represents more than 2,500 years of occupation by various cultures, was commemorated as a Place of Provincial Significance.   Kelly Russell, well-known fiddler and tireless promoter of Newfoundland and Labrador’s traditional music, was recognized under the category of Tradition Bearer.

Because we worked on the  Baccalieu: Crossroads for Culture Project and have worked closely with clients in the Dildo area, as well as with Kelly and his family through the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation and “A Time in Pigeon Inlet,” we have in depth knowledge about the two choices.

One of Kelly Russell's music collections.

Kelly Russell, at the March 3rd Award Ceremony, with his book of musical notation.

Kelly Russell

Like almost everyone in the province, I was familiar with Kelly Russell, the fiddle player, but until “A Time in Pigeon Inlet,” I did not know that he is also a skilled storyteller,  a producer and director, and recorder and arranger of music. With his company Pigeon Inlet Productions, he has produced Tales from Pigeon Inlet (3CD set, featuring 30 original recordings of his father, Ted Russell’s works) and a number of other compilations of music and spoken word by the best know performers in the province.

He has developed and printed two unique books of musical notation:  Fiddle Music of Newfoundland & Labrador – Volume 1 – The Music of Rufus Guinchard & Emile Benoit, containing musical notation to over 250 fiddle tunes learned from master fiddlers Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit. Volume 2 is also now available, containing tunes from 25 other fiddlers around the Province including several fiddlers from Labrador.

Needless to say, over the past two years, I have gained tremendous respect for Kelly’s contribution to the culture and heritage of the province, and he is very worthy of the name Tradition BearerA Time in Pigeon Inlet which he produces in cooperation with the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation, helps to preserve the legacy his father, Ted Russell and to preserve the traditions and culture of outport Newfoundland.  His own website, Pigeon Inlet Productions, www.pigeoninlet.com,  provides information about the items he has produced, and his contribution to ensuring future generations are aware of our traditional music.

Dildo Island

Dildo Island was also an excellent choice. Dildo Island, is relatively unknown outside the region, although it is a treasure of international interest on many levels.  The fact that so many different cultures chose to live there, speaks volumes.  The island is located in area which is visited by seals, whales, and various types of birds.  Fish swim in the water and the land provides quantities of berries and other editable plants. A caribou migration path was located in nearby Blaketown, and various types of small animals such as rabbits and beaver live in the woods. The various  cultures that occupied the island took advantage of the abundant food supply. In spite of the many excesses of hunting and fishing habits during the last half of the  20th century, the island, the waters around it, and the Dildo area are still home to many species of plant and animal life on land and in the water.  Dildo and Dildo Island can be the site for marvelous hiking trips, studying the natural history of the area.

Journey Through Time

Journey Through Time

Everyone loves a good story and the story of human habitation on Dildo Island is an amazing tale. I was first introduced to that story by William Gilbert, chief  archaeologist, when Baccalieu Consulting worked with him to produce a booklet for the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation entitled Journeys Through Time: 10 Years of Archaeology on the Baccalieu Trail. The amount of   documentation and the number of artifacts that have been found are truly amazing, and William Gilbert has an ability to tell a detailed technical story in plain, coherent language  that is easy to understand.

In 2005, we were project managers for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures, which brought together a large number of groups and individuals, including William Gilbert, to tell the   17th century history of the region, in preparation for the Cupids 400 Celebrations, which are taking place this year.

Tools of the Dorset Eskimo

Tools of the Dorset Eskimo

For a person who loves history and anthropology, the ability to be able to handle items that people used on that island over two thousand years ago is unimaginable. It was fascinating to learn that the Dorset Eskimo over 1000 years ago actually fashioned lamps which burned seal oil and that they produced serrated blades on their cutting  instruments.

It was eerie to read Henry  Cout’s 1613 account of landing on Dildo Island.  He entered a Beothuk home where the fire pit was still warm and examined the inside, seeing how they slept.  When he was ready to go, he left gifts for the Beothuk that own the home. The following day, when he returned, he found the Beothuk had left a gift of cooked meat for them. It is heartbreaking to  read his plea, saying do no harm to the Beothuk  people, in the light of later events.

More Information about Dildo Island

If you are interesting in following the story of Dildo Island and of the visit by the Cupids colonists, you can find detailed information.

From Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures – “The Beothuk at Dildo Island”  (available in English and French )

From Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures – Henry Crout’s letter to Sir Percival Willoughby, Summer 1613 transcribed by William Gilbert  (available in French and English)

If you want to find more information about the archaeological dig, and the various cultures that occupied Dildo Island, you can find detailed information.

From Baccalieu Digs  (website of the Baccalieu Heritage Corporation, maintained by William Gilbert, chief archaeologist) – Dildo Island

And, to find information about events and activities of Cupids 400, you can see Cupids Cove Chatter.

Accommodations in the Region

If you are interested in visiting the area, we maintain websites for a number of accommodations.  These accommodations consist of B & Bs, Cottages, RV and Camping Parks and range in cost.  The whole area covers a radius of about 40km, so if you stay in one place, you are with easy driving distance of all other parts.

Cupids area:  Blumblebee B & B (Brigus), Roaches Line RV Park & Cottages (Roaches Line), Rose Manor (Harbour Grace), and Klondyke Cottage (Bay Roberts)

Dildo area: George House Heritage B& B and Inn By the Bay (Dildo)Blueberry Hill B & B (Cavendish)Ocean Delight Cottages (Whiteway) and Ocean Delight Cottages (Heart’s  Delight)

In addition, we maintain the website for Northern Bay Sands RV and Camping Park, which is also on the Baccalieu Peninsula.

We also maintain the website for Northern Avalon Tourism Association – Accommodations – All the accommodations listed are within an hour of the Cupids – Dildo area.

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Filed under Baccalieu Trail, Bay Roberts, Clients, Cupids 400, Environmental Protection, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northern Avalon, Provincial Historic Commemorations Program

The Rock… from Many Perspectives: Newfoundland Photography.

Living in Newfoundland and Labrador inspires photography.  The spectacular setting of the capital of St. John’s, as well as the unique local housing, such as Jellybean Row, and Quidi Vidi Village, are frequently photographed.

In “Outports,”  located on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean,  the ever changing moods of wind, light, and water are a photographer’s delight.  Because the province is very sparsely populated, nature is on the doorstep… many varieties of birds and other wildlife are frequently seen;  wildflowers, trees, and other plant life is always on display.  And of course, rocks and rocky seascapes are everywhere.

Our own photos of Bay Roberts and nearby communities on the Northern Avalon can be found on Flickr:


Because of the quality and variety of  Newfoundland Amateur Photographers who display their works on Flickr and blogs, we have been using these for time as a source for regional photos for both print and websites.  After finding a suitable photo, we contact the person who has posted it and ask for permission to use the photo, assuring him or her that we will credit the work in any publication.    Almost without exception, they have given permission.

Below is a listing of some sites we check very frequently for the quality of their photos:

Karen Chappell  Location: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Karren Chappell - Family views Iceberg

Karren Chappell - Family views Iceberg


Lloyd C. Rees: Location: Chamberlains, CBS (On the other side of Conception Bay from Bay Roberts) – photos of seascapes, birds, wildflowers, historic photos.

Lloyd Rees - Sailing near Bell Island

Lloyd Rees - Sailing near Bell Island


Clyde Barrett: Location: Bishop’s Cove, Conception Bay North (On the other side of Spaniards’ Bay Harbour.) photos of birds, seascapes, icebergs, wildflowers, boats.

Clyde Barrett - Young Bald Eagle

Clyde Barrett - Young Bald Eagle


Geoff Whiteway : Location: St. John’s.  He teaches at the Marine Institute, which is affiliated with Memorial University, in St. John’s.  His photos have a unique look and feel.

Iceberg Off Shore by Geoff Whiteway

Iceberg Off Shore by Geoff Whiteway


Jean Knowles : Location:  St. John’s.  She is a Tour Guide in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her photos are of scenery, wildlife and flowers.

Jean Knowles - Iceberg from Signal Hill

Jean Knowles - Iceberg from Signal Hill


Mark Robertson Tsang: Location: West Coast Newfoundland. He is a ski instructor/coach in the winter months and is also a tour guide.  His photos of wildlife and plants are amazing – he even uses the correct biological terms.

Mark Robertson Tsang - Great Northern Peninsula

Mark Robertson Tsang - Great Northern Peninsula


I will be presenting another list in the near future.  There are just too many to include in one posting.

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Filed under Admiral's Coast, Baccalieu Trail, Bay Roberts, Brigus, Carbonear, Killick Coast, Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northern Avalon, Photography, Tourism, Western Newfoundland

11 Distinguishing Traits of Newfoundland Outport Culture.

11 Distinguishing Traits of Newfoundland Outport Culture.

1. Respect is part of life.

People have been accepted and respected for who they are. If they are a bit “strange” or “touched in the head,” people in the community make allowance for that. Older people in the community are frequently called “Aunt” or “Uncle” out of respect, even if they are not related. (In Pigeon Inlet, “Aunt Sophie,” “Uncle Mose,” Grandpa and Grandma” Walcott, and the hangashore “Jethro Noddy” represent this tradition.)

2. Two Degrees of Separation exists in outports.

If you hear a person’s last name, you have a good idea what part of the province he or she is from and within a few minutes talking you can find someone who knows someone that you both know. (Just 2 degrees of separation) There is a bond of kinship. In David French’s plays, the story of the Mercer family, a name associated with Bay Roberts, is followed trough three generations. When the Couger Helicopter went down off shore, almost to person, everyone in Newfoundland outports knew someone who knew a friend or relative of the people from Newfoundland outports who tragically died.

3. Music – instrumental, singing, and dance have always had a large role in people’s lives.

There are songs that have been passed down through several generations that most people know and can sing along with, including “The Squid Jigging Ground,” “She’s Like the Swallow,” “Lukey’s Boat,”  and “I’se the By.” Traditional “Times” featured singing and dance.

4. Story telling grew out of isolation.

Stories of events in the community (sometimes written in verse), ghost stories and fairy stories have been passed from generation to generation. In the days before modern telecommunications, media and transportation, people were isolated in the winter months and entertained each other with stories and recitations. Each community had several well know story tellers. Ted Russell enshrines that tradition in his “Smoke Room on the Kyle.”

5. Traditional food is served.

Fish and brewis, fish cakes, duffs, flipper pie, bakeapple jam – and other recipes are known by most people. Certain foods are cooked in special ways for Christmas Eve or Good Friday, or other holidays and celebrations. At Newfoundland times and weddings, traditional foods are served. In many homes, even today, there is a traditional menu of  meals for each day of the week – for example, fish was served on Friday.

6. Heroes and characters are well known through generations.

“Characters” were eccentric people. In a gathering, each person tried to tell one better about things that community “characters”  had done. “Heroes” are people of the community, sometimes sea captains, sometimes people who had miraculous escapes from disaster,  who had achieved amazing feats, and whose stories are told and retold.

7. Language and dialect differs from outport to outport.

Each community has a slightly different accent (often based on the part of England or Ireland from which their ancestors came). Use of phrases and names of places are unique to that community. Often the names of places have a story that relates to the name. The Klondyke Causeway in Bay Roberts was built at around the time of the Klondyke Gold Rush. It was a time when the fishery had failed and the economy was in a state of decline. People that were hired to work on building the causeway felt it was the town’s version of the “Klondyke.”

8. Nicknames are very common in outport communities.

Because a number of people in some communities have the same family name and first name, each branch of a family has a nickname which is well known in the community. In Bay Roberts and surrounding communities the name Graham Mercer is very common, so each family has its own nickname. The names were sometimes named after the occupation – “Painter” and “Baker.” Sometimes named after a long forgotten incident – “Fox” another Mercer nickname is perhaps named after an incident with a fox. The Mercers through generations are called Joey “Fox,” or Fred “Painter” and everyone in the community knows which from Mercer family that person originated.

9. Various demoninations of the Church have played an enormous role in outports.

Activities in the community are determined by the church calendar – advent, Christmas, lent, and Easter; and church organizations such as the CLB, UCW, play roles in community life. They were even more important in the past, sometimes having a negative impact, but more often helping people through hard times and tragedies.

10. The sea was the reason for existence for most outports, so it dominated life.

The seasons associated with the fishery give a cadence to community life. Stories are told of well-known Captains, voyages, and dangers. Building boats and parts for ships, preparing and mending nets and pots, preparing fish for market, were a major part of life.

11. Survival skills have been honed by a harsh environment.

Many outport dwellers had an ability to do many things well. Men knew all about fishing, but many were carpenters, wood workers, painters, boat builders, loggers, and farmers. Women were homemakers, but they were also skilled gardeners, seamstresses, needleworkers, and community organizers. Most families cut their own wood for building and for fuel, grew and preserved vegetables for winter, remade old clothes for younger children in the family, coloured old flour bags and hooked them into mats, and raveled old sweaters, using the yarn to make new ones. Although the term was never used, recycling was common. Little was wasted. “This Bear Got Heart” (http://www.thisbeargotheart.com/) is an example of this tradition. Betty uses old clothing to make teddy bears and decorate them with traditional needle crafts.

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Northern Avalon Tourism Association

The Northern Avalon Tourism Association [NATA] has been a client since 2006 when the Baccalieu Trail, the Killick Coast, and the Admirals’ Coast joined to form one tourism organization. Previous to 2006, we worked with the Baccalieu Trail Tourism Association. In the past year, the NATA website has had 138,427 visitors and 381,674 page views. In the month of July, there were an average of 544 visitors per day and about 1262 page views.

The major work that we do for the Northern Avalon Tourism Association is developing and maintaining their website www.northernavalon.comand designing the Northern Avalon Tourism Guide. The print guide, which is published by Transcontinental Press in St. John’s is approximately 72 pages in length.

Both the website and the printed guide follow the shoreline around the Northern Avalon Peninsula, starting in Whibourne and ending in Logy Bay, Outer Cover, Middle Cove.

The guides contain information about all the tourism businesses in the region including accommodations, activities, tours, arts, crafts, music, restaurants, shopping and services. They also contain information about the regions’ many festivals and events, hiking/walking trails, and museums.

John Guy at the Cupers Cove Soiree in Cupids

John Guy at the Cupers Cove Soiree in Cupids

Both contain information and many pictures of each of the communities along the coast. One of the interesting features of the Northern Avalon Website is “Find that Town.” The website has a separate page for each town in the region that does not have its own website [the pages contain a link to each tourism business in the that town] , and links to the websites of the larger towns that have their own websites. It also has descriptions of a number of smaller uninhabited islands off the coast including Baccalieu Island, Carbonear Island, Dildo Island, and Kelly’s Island.

Dildo Island

Dildo Island

One interesting feature of the website is information about surfing and surf kayaking in New Melbourne.

Surfing in New Melbourne

Surfing in New Melbourne

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Filed under Admiral's Coast, Baccalieu Trail, Killick Coast, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northern Avalon, Tourism