Tag Archives: Ted Russell

Culture Days 2010 in Bay Roberts


Bay Roberts, like many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, has always been subject to the whims and whallops of the Atlantic Ocean. We were very fortunate last weekend for two reasons. First – our town (unlike many communities along the eastern coastlines of our province) was spared the worst effects of Hurricane Igor. Second – we enjoyed a wonderful weekend with “Culture Days.”

While we cannot forget our friends and neighbours who have been subjected to such destruction and suffering, we want to acknowledge this weekend which celebrated a way of life which has always been dependent on the Atlantic Ocean.

Gus Menchions [95 years old] cuts Kyle cake with Sandra Roach of the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation
Gus Menchions [95 years old] cuts Kyle cake with Sandra Roach of the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation

More photos from Culture Days at the Amalgamated Academy on Flickr > >

Labrador Fishery Television Broadcast at the Amalgamated Academy

The first event was a celebration of the people from the community who participated in the Labrador Fishery. Principal Violet Parsons-Pack, her staff and the student body of the Amalgamated Academy took part in the presentation through their internal television broadcasting system.  David Gill, technology specialist, set up the production in the Resource Centre.  Students operated the cameras and teleprompter.

Program of Labrador Film Festival

  • A reading each of the 17 verses of Ted Russell’s  “Smokeroom on the Kyle” by a student representative from each class.
  • Showing of 4 Video interviews (approximately 10 minutes each)  with seniors who participated in the Labrador Fishery which were produced in 2009 by the Bay Roberts 50 Plus Club, students of Ascension Collegiate High School, and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation with funding by New Horizons Canada. The interviews were with Cecil Greenland of Coley’s Point (104 years old);  Emmie Roach of Coley’s Point (90 years old); Gus Menchions of Bay Robers (95 years old); and Ralph Greenland of Coley’s Point (80 years old.)
  • Cutting the SS Kyle Culture Days Cake (prepared by Powell’s Supermarket) by Gus Menchions, special guest for the Film Festival and Sandra Roach, General Manager of the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation.

Cooperation from Principal Violet Parsons-Pack, staff and students of the Amalgamated Academy was outstanding, especially since the school was closed for two days due to Igor.
Culture Days - Violet Parsons-Pack, Principal; and Corey Morgan
Principal Violet Parsons-Pack and Corey Morgan, Performing Arts Teacher

“Salt-Water Moon” by David French

Robyn Brockerville and Bobby Hogan
Robyn Brockerville as Mary Snow and Bobby Hogan as Jacob Mercer.

Jerry Mercer, who had produced “Salt-Water Moon” by David French for his summer theatre at the Victoria LOL#3 Museum and Playhouse, happily agreed to produce the show on  Friday and Saturday night for Culture Days.  The feeling at the show was unbelievable!!  “Salt-Water Moon” echos voices from our community’s past – from “charming tooth aches” to warding off “fairies” with  bread crusts to the evils “truck system” to traveling on the SS Kyle. It was as though the audience and actors were “one,” laughing out loud and crying together.
Marc Warren, Director and Jerry Mercer, Producer
Marc Warren, Director and Jerry Mercer, Producer

More photos from “Saltwater Moon” on Flickr > >

Techniques of the Pigeon Inlet Quilters

Mayor Glen Littlejohn - Quilt and Community
“Mayor Glen Littlejohn – Pigeon Inlet Quilt and Community

On Saturday afternoon, the Pigeon Inlet Quilters met with interested members of the general public to discuss techniques of landscape quilting in general, and specifically the the subject matter of the Pigeon Inlet Quilt and how it was made.

Ready for questions about landscape quilting
Ready for questions about landscape quilting

More photos from the Pigeon Inlet Quilt on Flickr > >

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The SS Kyle – Part of Our History


The Kyle

Originally uploaded by eracose

Driving along Veterans’ Memorial Highway near Harbour Grace, I am always torn between looking down at the Kyle in the harbour and looking across the road at the Harbour Grace Air Strip [which is perhaps disconcerting to oncoming traffic.]

The Holdin’ Ground Project

However, it was not until we began working on “The Holdin’ Ground Project” that I realized the full impact of the Kyle on the lives of people in Conception Bay North. Dale Jarvis, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer for the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador,was part of the audience at the Holdin’ Ground Project Launch.  He pointed out that the towns of Conception Bay North – Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Spaniard’s Bay, Bay Roberts, Brigus, and Cupids (just to name the larger towns) are very well known for their ties to the Kyle and the Labrador fishery.

Many of the older citizens interviewed participated in the Labrador fishery at some point in their lives, and many of them traveled to coastal Labrador on the Kyle.

Mrs. Emmie Roach (88) tells of going to the Labrador on the Kyle as young woman.

Cecil Greenland (104), Gus Menchions (94),  and Ralph Greenland (80) also describe going to the Labrador.  See other interviews that were part of the Holdin’ Ground Project  > >

Ted Russell’s “Smokeroom on the Kyle”

As part of  “A Time in Pigeon Inlet,”  Ted Russell (through the magic of recording), Kelly Russell, Russells the Corner,  the Pigeon Inlet Players, and the audience read Ted Russell’s “Smokeroom on the Kyle.”  Ted Russell, who grew up on Coley’s Point, must have heard many stories about the Kyle .

“A Time in Pigeon Inlet” is held Saturday nights until September 4 in Bay Roberts > >

Victoria Loyal Orange Lodge #3 Museum and Playhouse

In addition, Victoria Loyal Orange Lodge #3,  which  has been resorted and opened to the public as a play house and museum by Brenda and Jerry Mercer, has a 10 Foot Hand Made Model of the Kyle.

Information about the Victoria LOL #3 Museum and  Playhouse > >

The Pigeon Inlet Quilt

The Pigeon Inlet Quilt which was recently donated to the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation by the Pigeon Inlet Quilters Guild has two blocks based on “Smokeroom on the Kyle.”  The top left block  is “The Kyle” by Norma King and the block with the pot bellied stove almost in the middle of the left side is “Inside the Smokeroom on the Kyle” by Heather French and Enid Penney. [They even have “coal” – made of labradorite – in the bucket.]  In order to make the block, they consulted older members of their family who could remember what it looked like.  [The quilt is on permanent display at the Bay Roberts  Visitor Information Centre on Veterans’ Memorial Highway.]

Quilt based on "Chronicles of Uncle Mose."
Pigeon Inlet Quilt

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Filed under Baccalieu Trail, Bay Roberts, Brigus, Carbonear, Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northern Avalon, Spaniards Bay

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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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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