Posted by: alexhickey | June 22, 2019

On Finding a List

Sometimes you come across a faded photograph of a nearly forgotten relative inside the cover of an old, rarely opened, family bible or a recipe for delicious looking shortbread cookies torn from a magazine and tucked inside a cookbook whose worn edges are stained from years of turning and flipping by busy hands in a kitchen.  Then, there are times when you find something that captures an event; something that draws from the pages of time, the names of people. Names who were part of a singular event at a particular time and place.  Names of people whose lives have faded from current memory, whose contributions to community are no longer known to most of us.

While conducting research for a larger piece of writing I am working on I came across a Letter to the Editor of the Evening Telegram in St. John’s, NL, dated November 30, 1918.  As I write this, that makes it almost 101 years since it was written, a century, four generations ago.  A pair of shoes, a jacket or living room furniture becomes ‘old’ rather quickly in comparison.  What made this delightful discovery so unique and intriguing was not the news story from a time when Newfoundland was at war and many of our young men were falling on battlefields and young women were driving ambulances, and tending to the dead and dying in hospitals here and in Europe.  It was a list from one community among many who were affected by that war, a community that sent fourteen men to fight and motivated men and women at home to support their efforts any way they could.

The list which the Evening Telegram shared with its readers that Friday afternoon chronicled contributions to the Imperial Red Cross Fund.  Miss May Randall, secretary to the local Red Cross organization and possibly a teacher in the Church of England School, canvassed the town of St. Jacques during the month of November collecting funds. As we look through the amounts of money contributed it is important to keep in mind that a dollar in 1918 would be approximately equal to sixteen dollars today.

November, 1918 was a volatile weather month on the south coast of Newfoundland. Rainfall accumulation reached 74.7 mm and snowfall amounts totaled 23.6 cm.  The average temperature was around minus 2 Celsius with temperatures dropping below freezing after the middle of the month.  That’s when Miss Randall would most likely have been making her door-to-door collection of donations to the war effort.

  • Dr. C. Fitz-Gerald       $100.00
  • D.J. Burke                 $10.00
  • T.Burke                    $10.00
  • Mr. St. Croix              $3.00
  • Mr. Ralph Skinner       $3.00
  • Samuel Young            $5.00
  • John Young                $5.00
  • Randall Young            $5.00
  • Mr. J. Pine (English Hr.)$1.00
  • Stan. Burke               $1.00
  • Mrs. D. Burke Sr.        $1.00
  • Mrs. J. Burke              $1.00
  • Mrs. John Drake         $1.00
  • E.J. Tibbo                  $1.00
  • In Memoriam D.Y.P.    $1.00
  • W.J. Burke                 $1.00
  • Bert Skinner              $1.00
  • Mrs. Isaac Dinham     $1.00
  • Mrs. B. Lynch             $1.00
  • Mrs. Thos. Evans        $1.00
  • William Drake            $1.00
  • Mrs. Albert Dinham     $1.35
  • James Young              $.50
  • Mrs. Katie Burke         $.50
  • Mr. Staples                 $.50
  • Mrs. Cluett                 $.50
  • Mrs. Kate Skinner       $.50
  • Mrs. Dyett Sr.             $.50
  • Mrs. Jas. Skinner        $.50
  • Mrs. Mary Skinner      $.50
  • Geo. Tibbo                 $.50
  • Bertha Young              $.50
  • Mrs. Penny                 $.50
  • Mrs. C. McCarthy        $.50
  • Michael McCarthy        $.50
  • Mrs. James Whalen     $.50
  • James Fiander            $.50
  • J.T. Fiander                 $.50
  • Mrs. Jas. Whittle          $.50
  • John Power                 $.50
  • Mrs. J. Dawe               $.50
  • George Yarn                $.50
  • Ted Evans                   $.50
  • Mrs. Levi Noseworthy   $.50
  • Mrs. John Noseworthy  $.50
  • Mrs. Clem Noseworthy $.50
  • Lesser Amounts          $2.30

Total`                               $151.85

This list is not a documentation of all people living in the community at that time given that it was a voluntary donation initiative. Names of many residents are absent; however, it does give us a glimpse into our past and a peek at the capacity of residents to donate to the cause.  The largest contributor was Conrad Fitz-Gerald, the medical doctor whose practice was based out of St. Jacques.  Denis Burke and Thomas Burke were business men with retail/ wholesale, and commercial fishing interests. Albert St. Croix was the Relieving Officer.  Ralph Skinner was a vessel owner and sea captain.  Samuel, John and Randall Young were also business owners with retail/wholesale and commercial fishing interests.

James Pine was a resident of English Hr. West who was either working in St. Jacques or visiting when the collection was carried out.

Eight of the contributors had relatives serving in the war. Mary Skinner’s husband William was serving in the British Navy with the Merchant Marine.  Kate Skinner’s son Edgar who was serving with the Newfoundland Regiment and at the time had been captured and was being held prisoner by the Germans. Dr. Fitz-Gerald’s son Reg was serving with the Canadian Infantry out of Saskatchewan.  Sarah (James) Whalen’s son James was also serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  Agnes (William) Burkes son Albert was serving with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.  James Pine’s son Aloysius was also serving with the Regiment.  Denis Burke’s son Frank was serving alongside the Canadians and William Burke’s son was serving with the Regiment.  There were six other men from the harbour serving at the same time.

We don’t know how many people contributed to make up the $2.30. It is interesting to note that those with lower amounts are listed last and those who gave less than $.50 didn’t get their names mentioned.

Mrs. Dyett Sr. would be Edgar Dyett’s grandmother Ellen.  Mrs. D. Burke Sr. would be the mother of D.J. Burke.

This list of names brings history alive in a very small way.  We get to see who donated to the Red Cross fund, their names and their contributions. It reminds us of what many small remote communities were concerned about a hundred years ago.  They genuinely felt their donation would assist the troops in winning the war and hopefully bring their loved ones back home.  As with most historical documents we can only determine so much information without getting into speculation and conjecture. Neither can we easily access those documents and derive as much information as we desire.  The unknown is always tantalizing such as the puzzling entry on the list In Memoriam D.Y.P., obviously a donation made in memory of a deceased loved one; but who is D.Y.P.?

Environment Canada Historical Weather Statistics

The Evening Telegram, November 30, 1918

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