NL GenWeb

Bonavista Bay Region ~ Central District

From Helvick Head To Hescut Point: The St. Brendan's Irish

The information was transcribed by ROBERT ROYLE & ROBBY FOLLETT with the permission of TINA BRODERICK MARTIN, July 1999.
While we have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.

From Helvick Head To Hescut Point:

The St. Brendan's Irish

Tina Broderick Martin

Photo by C. Falk Foto, Gander, Nfld.

The title "From Helvick Head to Hescut Point" may require a word of explanation. Helvick Head is the southern point of Dungarvin Bay in County Waterford, Ireland. Most of our settlers have been traced to the four or five counties surrounding it. Hescut Point is the lighthouse point in Shoal Cove, St. Brendan's largest settlement. Its proper name is Haircut Point but I have chosen to spell it as the islanders pronounced the word. The two names were chosen to represent the ancestral search of the St. Brendan's Irish for a new home. This booklet is an attempt to capture at least part of their history. Constraints of time and money forced us to do a less than thorough history. Some elements have been explored briefly, others not at all. It is quite possible that there are errors and omissions, that we hope to remedy at some later point. It's like Uncle Tom Walsh's song: you might find a three leg but we'll mend it bye and bye.


A community history is never the effort of one person but a product of the collective memory. A big thank you to all of the people who talked with us about the past and contributed their old photographs. I am especially grateful to my brother Bill, who did most of the legwork, and the various other relatives who were drafted from time to time. The late Uncle Pad Casey, who remembered six generations of some families' history and took the time to teach it to curious young people, was a major contributor. John Whalen, one of the island's older living residents was similarly helpful. Help from relatives and neighbours is expected at a time like this but two men whom I had not known previously took the time to sort through years of their own research notes to provide me with information. A special thank you to: Dr. John Mannion of the MUN Geography Department and Tom Beresford of Corner Brook.

I would also like to express my appreciation to:

  • Dan Croke, Father Shea, and Dan Broderick for their slide collections
  • The staff of the Provincial Archives
  • The staff of Maritime History
  • Captain Stone
  • Father Mike Hynes
  • Charlie Falk for the cover photos
  • The Departments of Education & Municipal Affairs
  • The Post Office
  • Archdiosce Archives
  • Ron Kelly, Gerry Newhook and Bruce Sparkes
  • for the advertising
  • Mrs Nell Hennessey and Mrs Nell Bridgeman
  • Drs MacPhearson and Hancock at MUN Geography
  • My husband and family, who put up with my absences
  • Margie, at Quikprint, who put up with all of us.
The largest island in central Bonavista Bay was called Cotterell's in the earliest records. As a child, I embraced the romantic notion, expressed by Archbishop Howley, that it was a corruption of the name Corte Real, after the famous Portuguese navigator. However examination of the records and consultation with the experts failed to produce any evidence to back the theory. It seems much more likely that the name, which is a surname of both England and Ireland derive from the name of one of the fishing captains who used the area in the heyday of the migratory fishing fleet. Bonavista Bay was used by the English fishermen from the 1600's and a large wooded island with several harbors would not have been overlooked. Cotterell had been shortened to Cottle's by the time most of our ancestors arrived. I am not implying that the English were the first to use it. The French were also active in the Bay and the tales of Frenchmen buried on Connors' Point might have some credence. It would also be a mistake to assume that the first users were white. Recent excavations at The Beaches have uncovered a Maritime Archaic Indian site with the possibility of other cultures, perhaps the Beothic. Indian graves in Shoal Cove have long been a part of our folklore.

I approached this work expecting to find that settlement had occurred earlier than the mid 1800's which most family tradition had suggested. After all, the area had permanent settlers going back to the 1700's. Greenspond, Gooseberry Islands, Fair Island, Barrow Harbour and Flat Island all supported growing populations years before. The largest and most hospitable of the islands could not have been ignored. After a year of study I am forced to conclude that permanent settlement was indeed delayed. However, I believe I have found the answer and it does, in part, support my own belief that the early settlers of the Bay could not afford to waste such an island. Land on Cottle's was being used by the Gooseberry Islanders for farming, firewood, hoop making and timber.

There is plenty of evidence of Gooseberry Island use of the land. The geologist Jukes, writing in 1840, tells of a Gooseberry Island farmer who made a living entirely from the land. Gooseberry Island production far exceeded the capability of its available soil. Charlie's Back Cove, Hayward's Cove and Daley's Cove bear the names of Gooseberry Islanders. While we have no evidence that Hayward actually lived there, we know that Tim Daley wintered in Daley's Cove, presumably to be closer to a good supply of wood. Charlie Burry certainly lived in Shoal Cove and at least six families held land on the island. Many of Cottle's first settlers lived on Gooseberry Island and other islands first; indeed some continued to live there well into the 1870's. Three English Protestant families lived in Shoal Cove long after the arrival of the Irish immigrants.

The mass settling of the three outside coves (Hayward's, Dog and Shoal) in a relatively short period at mid century seemed to have resulted from a collective decision on the part of the Irish Catholic element, who had been shifting around Bonavista Bay, to make a community for themselves. They were already a community in the religious sense - intermarrying, sponsoring at each other's weddings and christenings. This group had been restlessly moving since their arrival from Ireland a generation or two previously. They had families who would benefit from the institutions of church and school. A community would make such things possible and the large island seemed to offer an appropriate setting.

Two factors about these people probably contributed to the next and final name change of the island. They were descendants of Irish immigrants who held tenaciously to their Catholic faith but for the most part had been converted from farming to a seafaring life by necessity, in the Newfoundland of the last century. The first priest sent to shepard this strange flock was mindful of both aspects of their lives when he decided that Cottle's island was no longer appropriate as a name for their community. He chose, instead, the name of St. Brendan's, the legendary Irish Bishop and patron saint of navigators. In the 6th century, Brendan set out in search of the "isles of the blessed" believed to lie beyond the western ocean. He journeyed for months in a boat made of oxhide stretched over oak ribs. Whether he reached Newfoundland is debatable but Tim Severin's voyage in 1976 proved that it was possible. In fact, 'The Brendan'reached land just 30 miles from the island and true to our seafaring heritage a St Brendan's man was on the John Cabot when she went out to offer assistance. We don't know how close Brendan himself came but his "pillars of crystal" suggest that he got close enough to encounter the ice field that has been plaguing his namesake every spring since. It is worth considering at this point that it is some indication of the priest's position at the time that he didn't bother to inform anyone in authority of the name change. Official maps and charts record the island as Cottle's Island to this day. To officially change the name would take a formal petition and a lot of red tape so no one has ever bothered. For the benefit of any non-native reading this: St Brendan's, on most maps, appears as a synomyn for Shoal Cove.

This booklet will trace the history of the island, which though the last to be settled, is the only isolated settlement remaining in Bonavista Bay. It will attempt to present a picture of the origins of the first settlers, their work, their social lives, their education, their interaction with the world, and the role of the Church in their lives. It will trace the ups and downs of population and the evolution of social institutions and government services. The role of its women and the importance of the schooner fleet will be examined; the latter in somewhat general terms since it is the subject of another work, in progress at the moment by one of our captains. Since all of these will overlap in time, it is difficult to operate chronologically. The various sections will weave backwards and forwards in time.


There is no doubt that the earliest settlers on Cotterells were English Protestants. Three families resided in Shoal's Cove and were joined for a brief period by a fourth. The first recorded birth was in 1849 in Church of England records. Suzanna of Charles and Ann Burry was baptized on Nov 15. Edward Vater (of Dorset, England) and wife Susan had five children on the island and an early daughter Caroline had a child there herself in 1869. The Burry's had another child in 1856 and a second Burry family appear briefly in 1853 with the birth of Thomas to Jacob and Mary Burry. Ben and Sarah Saunders had three children in Shoal Cove between 1865 and 1871. John and Susan Golden had a child baptized in 1869. It is possible that Susan is the 20 year old Burry girl. This child was baptized by Ben Saunders, so one can assume that its health was precarious enough to make waiting for the Greenspond minister risky. Interestingly enough, when Ann Vater married Nathaniel Goulding of Hay Cove in 1877 she is still recorded as being from Shoals Cove. In the fifties, Burry and Vater acquired land grants to their property, along with Ben Parsons who had two. Ben Saunders did not register his land. At least one Irish Catholic worked with this group. Martin Berrigan, a cooper, sponsored some of their children as well as many of the children of the Irish group that moved in the fifties. He does not appear to have wife or children of his own and it can be speculated that he was employed by Vater and Burry in what was probably a cooperage business over on the point. The only reminder of this group lies in the name "Charlie's Back Cove" and the expression "you Vater" to someone who has made a mess of some enterprise.

The mid century mark saw a centralization along religious lines occur within Bonavista Bay. Within 12 years (1845-1857) the scattered pockets of Irish Catholics had started to congregate. In this time 107 Catholics moved from Greenspond, Pinchard's Island, Black Island, Barrow Harbour and Gooseberry Island's and 128 Catholics appear on Cottle's Island. That is not to suggest a complete transfer because Gooseberry Island retained 43 Catholics with the continued presence of the large Hynes family, the Beresfords, Cashins and some of the Dooleys. Some Catholics were already entrenched on Burnt Island and, for the most part, remained there. Nevertheless, it is possible to imagine that some collective decision was taken to move in and occupy the large island that was functioning as a farm and woodlot for prosperous Gooseberry Islanders. Whether this decision was influenced by the attending clergy is unclear. Certainly, such corralling of the flock would make the Shepard's job so much easier as well as allow the development of Catholic schools, a goal since 1832. Perhaps it was simply the desire of a group, who had been rootless since leaving Ireland a generation or two earlier, to find themselves a home of their own. The almost simultaneous arrival of over 100 Irish Catholics on Cottle's in the early 1850's was to change its history forever. The specifics of who, when and from where will be dealt with a little later as I pursue each family.

The take over was not without incident. The English settlers had the best of both worlds - easy fishing access from Gooseberry Island and spacious farmland in Cottle's. I suspect that the movement to permanent living arrangements for the families already discussed and the securing of early land grants was an attempt to stave off the Irish invasion. Two events in the 50's speak of the tension of the times. The "goat war" of Shoals Cove, which involved an actual landing of Gooseberry Islanders intending to put down the goats that presumably were destroying their crops. This incident, which is supposed to have involved guns, could have become very ugly indeed. Pad Bridgeman is credited with having averted trouble with the time honoured tactic of "the best defence". The second event may well have been in retaliation for the first and was foolhardy to say the least. It consisted of an act of extreme provocation on the part of the Irish Catholics. It seems that on July 12 when the Orangemen were holding their annual parade on honour of King Billy, the Irish decided to hold their own. It is not known if the Irish living on Gooseberry Island took part, but a group from Cottle's brandishing the Harp and Shamrock went in boat to Gooseberry Islands and paraded through the community daring their neighbours to stop them. That the two incidents ended without bloodshed and a minority group survived on both islands for the next 20 years, suggests that neither group took the rivalry too seriously.

The original settlement involved only the 3 outside coves, Hayward's, Shoals and Dog. All 19th century records use Dog; the change to Dock appears to have been made in this century. Shalloway Cove was not settled until the 1870's, although some of the families were related to the first settlers. Anyone looking for records might be surprised to find ancestors listed as Hayward's Cove , who in fact have never lived there. This is because the original settlement was often called Hayward's Cove, Cottle's Island. I assume this resulted from the fact that the original parish property, cemetery, school, post office and government wharf was all located in Hayward's. Many of the earliest settlers lived in Dog Cove; the first birth recorded on the island to a Catholic family occurred in Dog Cove in 1850. The Aylwards, Connors, Smiths, Broomfields were all in the first wave of settlement. The Caseys, Daniel Brawders and two Turner families settled in Hayward's. The White's, Mackeys, John Walsh, John Dooley and Bridgemans squeezed into Shoal's Cove along with the existing English families. By 1857 Dog Cove had 42 people, all Newfoundland born and all R.C. Hayward's Cove had 37, two born in Ireland, all R.C. Shoal's Cove reported 60, 1 born in England, 2 in Ireland, 11 Church of England, 49 Catholic.

I have traced the founding families as far as time and the accuracy of the early records allowed. There are several problems that make it impossible to be absolutely certain on some people. One is the murkiness that exists in the records prior to 1820. There were periods when a priest was unavailable or did not reach to all areas. Dean Cleary writes of mass baptisms, of marriages and baptisms performed by ships captains, clerks, or anyone literate. Many early ceremonies were performed by Protestant clergy either by necessity or to conform to rules that required all such ceremonies to be recorded by the Established Church, regardless of the persuasion of the participants. Since marriage certificates did not contain names of parents and so many families used the same first names, it is sometimes difficult to sort people out among their numerous brothers and cousins. Sometimes a researcher has to make a good guess, based on age, sponsors and proximity of other family members. The absence of early death certificates, the habit of using the name of a dead child for a subsequent birth, and the number of second marriages all add to the problem of positive identification of people in the distant past. I will present the known information on the founding families and in some cases speculate on possible connections. The only order of presentation is by coves. The families remaining on Gooseberry Island will also be done since all of them contributed wives to the original settlers, even though their own resettlement was later and roughly corresponds in time to the Shalloway Cove settling.

CASEY: The Caseys were traders from Cloyne, Co. Cork, with a room in King's Cove in the early years of the nineteenth century. William died in 1815 at King's Cove. There was obviously a full family here since several girls married in the twenties: Mary to Maurice Devine of Co. Cork (1820) and Betsy to James Connors (1828). Those girls are established as sisters to Michael, Bill and Tim because of the presence of the boys at the weddings. William married Mary Power in 1826, Michael Casey married Mary Meagher in 1831 and Tim remained single. After selling the room in King's Cove to a man named Rey, the three Casey brothers appear in several places before settling on Black Island in the 1840's. Several of their children were born there and they left it to move to Cottle's in the 50's. There is some indication that the Caseys may have lived briefly in Dog Cove since there was a Casey's Beach there. That they were early in the settlement period is obvious from their location in the best sheltered part of Hayward's Cove.

BRODERICK: All of the early records present this name in its Gaelic form of Brawders as the early settlers and the Irish speaking priests would have pronounced it. Daniel is a bit of a mystery, appearing in the 1840's around Greenspond and Gooseberry Islands. Family tradition had him coming from Youghal but a thorough search has failed to substantiate it. Hayward's Cove held only two people who were born in Ireland and it is fairly certain that they were his wife Elizabeth and her sister Mary Anne (wife of Pad Turner). The most likely scenario is that he was connected with William Brawders from Youghal who married Anastasia Kennedy of Greenspond in 1826. Since Daniel married Elizabeth Beresford in 1843, he is obviously not a product of that marriage but he might have been a child from a previous marriage. Daniel, William and two other Brodericks (Tom and Michael) appear in Greenspond during the 40's. In 1843 Daniel married Elizabeth Beresford and settled on Gooseberry Island, where the first of his children were born. He moved to Cottle's in the first wave of settlement occupying the current family property in Hayward's Cove, between two pieces of Casey land.

TURNER: It was a popularly held belief that the Turners must have been converts to Catholicism because all other Turners in the Bay are Protestant. I have found no evidence to suggest that this was so. An Irish Turner was buried in Trinity in 1815, indicating the presence of a Catholic group quite early. The Church of England minister officiating makes it clear he is not interring one of his own flock but doing the decent thing in the absence of Catholic clergy. The St. Brendan's Turners all derive from the union of John Turner and Johanna Ryan. Their marriage is recorded in King's Cove R.C. records in 1815 with the notation that they had previously lived together. There is no mention of conversion either in his case or that of his sister Rebecca who married James Norris in 1822. The Mary Turner who married Jeffrey Kean of Waterford in 1803 may well be another sister and there was no mention of conversion in her case either. John and Johanna had five sons: John (1816), Bill (baptized in 1821 but born before the marriage), Abe (1819), Tom (1824) and Patrick. Bill, who married Honora Fitzgerald in 1836 and Pad who married Mary Beresford in 1841, were original settlers in Hayward's Cove in the 1850's. The other three remained in Keels until the Shalloway Cove settlement in the 1870's and which time they also moved to Cottle's. All of these families were established before moving: Abe married Margaret Burns in 1842, John & Sarah Walsh in 1843, Tom & Ellen Fennel in 1850. Several girls, who were probably sisters also married in the King's Cove - Keels area: Rebecca & James McCormick, Catherine & John Walsh 1844, Joanna & Nick Kelly, 1840's.

CONNORS: This is an example of a family which is difficult to sort out because of too much information rather than too little. It seems that two families , one from Wexford and one from Waterford, contributed to Bonavista Bay's population in the early 1800's. To further complicate the issue, both families had Timothy as a commonly used name. I have concluded that the Waterford branch is the one which produced our line of Connors though a case could be made for the Wexford group. The Waterford branch intermarried with the Caseys (through the marriage of James to Betsy Casey) and the name Tim seems to have entered the Casey family for the first time soon after. Tim Connors married Kitty Rey (presumably the daughter of the man who bought the King's Cove room from Caseys). Our original settler Tim appears to have been born in 1829 to Jim and Betsy. He married Bridget Aylward and moved to Cottle's in the 50's. William Connors who appears at the same time is either a brother or a cousin.

AYLWARDS: This family has the distinction of being among the first settlers in the bay and on the island. The problem with that, of course, is that by the 1850's they have grown to such numbers that sorting them out is not easy especially when so many have the same first names. They probably all descend from the original James who had a plantation in Keels in 1772. He moved to King's Cove before 1800 and is said to be the first settler there. In 1805 James and William Alyward shared a room in King's Cove and James had a room in Open Hole (now Openhall). He also claimed Bullock's room in Keels. Those two are probably sons of the original James since the rooms were claimed by inheritance. A James Alyward, planter, died in King's Cove in 1832 leaving a widow Hannah and ten children. His oldest son, also called James, was most likely the man who married Kitty Gready in 1828. Given the number of children in that family and the possibility of Bill also having a similar number, it is easy to see where confusion can occur. Some of these families remained on the south side of the bay and the King's Cove records do not always indicate place of residence. You are forced to make judgements based on the names of the people with whom a group is associating to determine where they are at a given point in time. I will attempt to deal with the five males who were on this side of Bonavista Bay in settlement period. Three marry and settle in Greenspond: Jim (married to a Rogers) and John and Pad (both married to women named Lush). I have not attempted to trace those three beyond Greenspond: many of the Catholics there moved to the St. John's area, perhaps they did as well. Two moved to Cottle's in the early days of settlement: Mike, who married Margaret Walsh in 1850, was probably the Mike born to James and Kitty Gready in 1828. Bill is harder to pin down because King's Cove records show a Bill marrying Catherine Barker in 1830 and a Bill marrying Margaret Murphy in 1836. In addition two Bridgets marry early Cottle's settlers: Pad Bridgeman and Tim Connors. Obviously two branches of the family were feeding into the island and it is difficult to say with certainty whether Bill and Mike were brothers or cousins.

BROOMFIELD: Stephen Broomfield was baptized an adult in 1844. This could be a conversion but the records do not say so and adult baptisms were not uncommon in the days when services of the clergy were irregular. He married Martha Smith and moved to Cottle's in the 1950's. The origin of this name is not certain. Some suspect it to be a corruption of the English Bloomfield but an Ann Brumfield married in St. John's in early 1800's to a Wexford man was apparently Catholic and using the name as it was pronounced on St. Brendan's.

SMITH: John Smith from County Tipperary was present in Greenspond in the 1820's. Two brothers, probably sons of the original settlers, Bill and John marry in Greenspond in the late twenties and thirties. John married Johanna Kennedy and Bill married Mary Bryan of the Youghal Bryan family who were planters in Greenspond. It is unclear if the two men moved into Cottle's with the first wave of settlers. They both certainly appear in the records as sponsors to children of their relatives but John is not shown as having children himself here. Quite possibly his children are already born before the migration since he married in 1828. Certainly Smith females, daughters and perhaps a sister, figure prominently in early settlement. In fact, the first two children born to Irish settlers on Cottle's are born to Smiths: Ellen of William Smith and Mary Bryan, and Margaret of Martha Smith and Stephen Broomfield. Margaret Smith was married to early settler Sam Brown and Suzanna to Michael White. A Catherine Smith was married to Michael Kelly on Burnt Island in the same time period. It is difficult to say for certain that all of these wives were from the same Smith family because a group of County Cork Smiths were also living across the bay. Given the amount of interaction with Greenspond and Gooseberry Islands (where some of the marriages took place) it is fair to assume that most were.

BROWN: Original settler Sam Brown, who married Margaret Smith in 1846, was most probably the son of the Michael Brown on Gooseberry Islands in 1825 since the witnesses at the wedding were John Brown and Emilia Hynes. Whether Michael was descendant of William Browne of Poole (agent for MacBraire and later a merchant himself) or connected with the Wexford Browns, who were in King's Cove as early as 1815, is difficult to tell. Certainly there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest that the Cottle's Brown was converted to Catholicism.

BRIDGEMAN: This family proved to be the easiest one to trace because of their limited numbers in Newfoundland. Pad Bridgeman married Patience White in King's Cove in 1822. His son Pad was born in 1825 and married Bridget Aylward in 1843. Two other Bridgeman's appear briefly in the records in the early period: Mary and Peter. We have no information on them. There were Protestant Bridgeman's from Devon in St. John's prior to this but the Bonavista Bay group appear to have been Irish Catholics. Patrick moved to Cottle's in the fifties, apparently accompanied by his father who is said to be buried on the Shoal's Cove Broderick's land. Though Bridgeman appears as a sponsor on Black Island we have no proof that he lived there. Perhaps he was carrying the priest around the Bay in his boat. All St. Brendan's Bridgeman's are descendants of this line.

WHELAN: Like the Turners, the Whelan name figures in two different settlement periods. The Black Island Whelan's: James and wife Mary White moved to Cottle's with their fellow Black Islanders, the Caseys. John Whelan, who married Margaret Cashin in 1854 on Gooseberry Island remained there until the 1870's when the family built a fishing room on Cottle's and moved up. Another John Whelan married a Batterton and lived in Greenspond. Relationships, if any, within those three groups are unclear. Confusion is heightened by the fact that the name sometimes appears as Phelan.

MACKEY: Thomas Mackey of Faha, City of Waterford was married in 1803 to Martha Richard (Pichard) and became a planter at Bonavista. His son Thomas married Susan Oldford of Salvage in 1829 in the famous rowing elopement. Thomas was living in Bonavista at the time, though he may have been working up in the bay. I'm doubtful about the elopement story because several of her relatives are with them at the wedding. He must have had a big punt if he rowed them all across the bay. Thomas and Susan (who is mistakenly called Ailworth in at least one record entry) moved to Cottle's in the early fifties along with their son John, who married Ellen Beresford in 1855. The Edward who married Bridget White in 1858 was probably another son. John and Susan had some of their last children on Cottle's despite their 1829 marriage.

WHITE: Four adult males appear on Cottle's in the fifties as well as several females who marry original settlers. It is unclear if all are from the one family or if there are cousins involved. Some of these appear to have been on Gooseberry Islands at first. Joseph was married to Mary Long and Sam to Mary Elliot prior to settling on Cottle's. Thomas married Suzanna Mackey in 1856 and Michael married Suzanna Smith in 1865. This family may have descended from the Bonavista planters William and Edward White of the 1830's. There is also the possibility that they derive from the 5 sons of twenties lighthouse keeper Jeremiah White of Wexford. With a name so common and murky records it is difficult to pinpoint this family accurately.

WALSH: This man is not to be confused with the Shalloway Cove settlers, although he may have been related to them. Shoal's Cove John Walsh married Mary Anne White in 1856 and went to live in the vicinity of the current power house. I believe he is the John Walsh who was on Gooseberry Island and had a child with Ann Hynes in 1850. He seems to have moved to Cottle's with the Whites. There are so many John Walshs in the KCRC registry that it is difficult to say for certain whose son he was. There were several Wexford Walshs married in King's Cove in the twenties and at least one branch from another county.

DOOLEY: The Dooleys lived on Gooseberry Island in the forties and James remained there until the final resettling of the Catholic element. John married Catherine Beresford in the 1850's and moved to Cottle's. Since his later children were born on Gooseberry Island, I assume that he returned to the family property for some reason. Catherine, a sister, married Pad Beresford and continued to live on Gooseberry Island until the Beresford family moved. James Dooley moved to Cottle's when he left Gooseberry Islands. This family came originally from Plate Cove.


BERESFORD: This family, though not a founding family of Cottle's via the male line, played a tremendous part in the early settlement as can be seen from the number of wives provided to founders. It is also one of the few families to be traced precisely to their origins. Philip Beresford and Johanna Rielly emigrated from Dungarvin, County Waterford around 1830 with several children. Their daughter Catherine is reported to have been born at sea: son Patrick was born in St. John's in 1832. The Book of the Beresfords gives Mary Ann (Pat Turner) as born in 1823 but her headstone suggests 1819. The obituary of Elizabeth (Daniel Broderick) has her 78 when she died in 1901, which would make her birth in 1823 in Dungarvin. Bridget, who married William Crotty of St. John's in 1856, was also supposed to have been born in Dungarvin. It is not certain if Ellen who married John Mackey in 1855 was born in Newfoundland or Ireland. The remaining children were born in Newfoundland: Thomas in 1834 (married Sarah Blackmore and Catherine Miles): Anastasia in 1840 (married Holwell). For some particular reason, the Beresfords are sometimes referred to as Blackmores in parish records. Even the married girls who have been called Beresford in earlier records mysteriously become Blackmores in later ones. I don't know if it's possible that the Beresfords, who had bought Black's room on Gooseberry Islands had assumed the name for business purposes. That would hardly account for Elizabeth Broderick appearing as Blackmore in parish records. Philip Beresford did not live to see the settlement of Cottle's. He died in 1843 from exposure after swimming to catch a drifting boat while cutting wood on a nearby island several weeks earlier. Johanna and the boys remained on Gooseberry Island until the 70's movement into Cottle's.

CASHIN: This is another family who contributed to Cottle's settlement through the males of the line made only a brief appearance here in later years. Richard Cashin (wife Mary Fennell) was in Bonavista Bay as early as 1813. In 1822, in debt to MacBraire, King's Cove, he offered his property for sale and took his effects, including a skiff, to Gooseberry islands where he planned to reside. (Bonavista Court Records) This couple raised a large family on Gooseberry Islands. Richard, Michael, Patrick and Peter Cashin held land on Gooseberry Island by the 90's. When the Gooseberry Island Catholics moved Richard lived briefly in Hayward's Cove before moving to Gambo with the others. Cashin females remained as wives of William Hynes (Joanna), John Whelan (Margaret) and Henry Turner (Elizabeth).

HYNES: James Hynes married Betsy Noonan prior to 1825 but this may have been a second marriage for him since a James Hynes had married Rebecca Bryan in 1815. The Noonans were on Gooseberry Island, the Bryans in Greenspond. Their children were: Edmond 1825 (married Emma Pond), William, also baptized in 1825, Sarah, 1829 (married a Cashin), Ann (married John Mesh in 1850), John, 1849. Tom who married Catherine Hartery in 1855 may have been an early son or a nephew. If the Ann who had a child with John Walsh is not the same one who married John Mesh in 1850 there was probably a second Hynes family in the area. Several Hynes females married the Cashin men of the 70's and remained on Gooseberry Island until near the end of the eighties. The Hynes men began to move to Cottle's by the early 80's.

CROKE: The Cottle's Crokes descend from Michael (1847-1911) and Ellen Mesh. This is an unusual name in Newfoundland and I suspect Michael is connected to James (married Johanna Dwyer of Fogo, 1823) and Richard (1803, St. John's). Both were from County Wexford. The Croke's lived on Gooseberry Island until the end of the eighties when they moved to Penny's Cove. In 1923 they moved to Shoal's Cove to their current properties.

MESH: John Mesh was baptized an adult in 1844 and married Ann Hynes in 1850. This probably represents a conversion as other Meshs occur in Protestant registries in the bay. He remained on Gooseberry Island until the last group moved to Cottle's at the end of the 80's. A brother, James, also lived on Gooseberry and a sister married on Burnt Island.


Meanwhile the Cottle's community was increasing steadily as the grown sons who had arrived with early settlers started families of their own and as they were joined by other migrants. The Hogans arrived in mid sixties with two girls marrying into Dog Cove and Edward marrying Bill Turner's daughter Ann and moving on to Turner land at the bottom of Hayward's Cove. Edward was the son of Tom Hogan and Elizabeth Long (born 1837). The Dwyers arrived from Burnt Island and remained until the deaths of Paddy and Mary in the twentieth century. The family of John Miles and Bridget Coleman were present in the early years but then disappear from the records. John Miles who marries Margaret Broomfield in the eighties may have been a son of the original settlers.

The Rielly's were added to Shoal's Cove in the seventies with the marriage of Catherine White and Tom Rielly who had appeared in Gooseberry Island records in the 60's. There were Riellys across the bay in the 20's and 30's, (Philip and Daniel appearing as sponsors). Phil Beresford's wife was of that name and she appeared to be accompanied by a brother since a Rielly sponsored their first Newfoundland born child, Patrick in St. John's in 1832. The only other possibility of a connection lies in a marriage that occurred in Battle Harbour in 1832 between Tom Rielly and Catherine Whelan. Since both names occur later on Gooseberry Island it is possible that this marriage produced our Tom. Shoal's Cove Irish population increased with the marriages of the second generation of settler children. The emigration of the English group freed more land and several Hayward's Cove families, Brodericks and Turners moved into Shoal's Cove as their numbers increased. The name Lane was added with the arrival of school teacher Edward Lane (wife Catherine Ducey). Another Lane from the south side of the bay, Bill married a Hynes and lived over on the point for a while. The Kellys completed the Shoals Cove settlement with the arrival of Frank (wife Martha Miles). Frank was born in 1886 to Maurice Kelly and Bridget MacDonald. Maurice was probably the Maurice born to John Kelly and Elizabeth Connors in 1863 but since there were so many Kellys around Greenspond, Pinchards Island and Burnt Island in the early 1800's it is difficult to be certain.

Two new family names were added to Dog Cove in the 1880's with the marriage of John Samson to Suzanna Broomfield in 1880 and the birth of John Colbert to George and Martha Broomfield in 1883. Samson probably came from Flat Island and Colbert from Conception Bay. In the early twentieth century, Tom Devine married Ann Aylward and settled here. Donovan and Mason would complete the names of Dock Cove later in this century with the marriages of two men from Trinity bay to Aylward and Devine girls.

Hayward's Cove picked up one additional name: Rose, through the marriage of David to Mary Turner. This family lived at the extreme upper edge near Ron Turner's property today. George Paul completed the names of Hayward's Cove with his marriage to Elizabeth Turner in the twentieth century. There were several children born to island girls and outside husbands who may have worked here for a while but the families did not stay. The remaining name to be added to the original community was Fennel and since that was related to the Shalloway Cove settlement it will be dealt with in the next section.


The prettiest and most sheltered part of Cottle's had gone unsettled for over 20 years. Perhaps it was because of the distance from the fishing grounds in a time of oars and sail. It is hard to believe that it wasn't used to shelter boats as it has been for a century afterwards. Certainly its name suggests that it may well have been used as early as the migratory fishing fleet days for a shalloway referred to a type of a boat used to move supplies between Greenspond and the planter stations in the bay. There is a story that people on the other side of the island did not know that settlers had arrived in Shalloway Cove until a woman walked out of the woods up in Shoal's Cove. I find this a little hard to believe since the three Turner men who were early settlers in Shalloway had two brothers living in Hayward's Cove and operating schooners. It's a safe bet that the families would have communicated their intentions and the existing settlers would probably have assisted in the move. The Shalloway Cove families were, mainly, established families on the south side of Banavista Bay who were being caught in the land and berth squeeze that occurred as families multiplied rapidly. Most were mature men with early children grown to near adulthood. The families were related to one another by blood or marriage. They were linked to early settlers on both Gooseberry Islands and Cottle's via their sisters and aunts. Fennel females, for instance, had figured in settlement since the first Mary came to Gooseberry Island with Richard Cashin. While it is relatively easy to trace the families to the other side of the bay, the common nature of the surnames and first names of this group makes it difficult to sort them among their cousins on the other side.

FURLONG: The St. Brendan's Furlong's derive from Martin (born 1839 & Bridget Fennel. He was the son of Patrick Furlong and Margaret Heany (married 1836). I have not been able to establish for certain the parentage of Patrick. I suspect that he is a brother to James and John (children of John & Mary Ryan) who were baptized in Trinity in 1825 but not infants at the time. I suspect that Patrick may be an older brother who had been baptized earlier to the south. Both James and John had children named Patrick, indicating that the name was in the family.

RYAN: This was a prominent name in King's Cove - Keels area for some years. The Irish merchant family had extensive property and many ships in King's Cove, Trinity and Bonavista. Because of the number of families with the name it is difficult to be certain of relationships. Shalloway Cove's original settlers were brothers Pad (wife Mary Fennel) and William (wife Johanna Fitzgerald). They appear to be sons of William (wife Mary Martin). Many of their children were born in Keels, including Pad's daughter Elizabeth who taught school in Shalloway Cove in 1892. An earlier Miss Ryan, who taught in the Haywards Cove school may have been a relative as well.

BYRNE: The Byrne's are supposed to be from Thomastown, County Kilkenny. Whether it is a respelling of the earlier name Burns (as in Abe Turner's wife Margaret) or a totally different name is unclear from the records since different priests seem to use the two interchangeably. Brian Byrne (wife Johanna Walsh) was one of the early settlers in Shalloway. He was married in 1880 on Cottle's. Johanna was the daughter of the founding Walsh family who were early settlers in Shalloway Cove.

WALSH: This early Shalloway Cove family appears to have arrived at the same time as the Shalloway Cove Turners. Dr. Mannion's research indicated that Johanna Ryan, who had been married to John Turner and produced the Turner children, had remarried Robert Walsh after Turner's death. I was inclined to doubt the connection to our Walshs until I found that Johanna Walsh was buried beside two Turners in our graveyard. This would seem to indicate that John Walsh (wife Margaret Fennell) was the son born to Robert and Johanna in the 1830's. This would make him step brother to the Turner men of Hayward's and Shalloway Coves. The location of the Walsh and Turner properties in Shalloway Cove would seem to suggest a connection between the families.

FENNELL: This family, remembered as Shoal's Cove residents in later years, were originally in Shalloway Cove. The Fennell family was widespread on the south side of Bonavista Bay from the early 1800's. They were involved in the fish and shipping trades and had premises in Newman's Cove. John, Tom and Patrick Fennell all came to Shalloway Cove. John moved to Gambo and Patrick married Mary Larkin in St. John's in 1893. A number of females were involved in the island's settlement as well: Bridget (Martin Furlong), Mary (Pad Ryan), Margaret (John Walsh), Ellen (Tom Turner in 1850) another Ellen (Mick Aylward in the 70's). Though several of the girls were sisters, the generation gap suggests that at least two were aunts of the later group. There are four Fennell families as early as the twenties: it is difficult to accurately pinpoint all children since so many names are repeated. The four probably all relate to the original Richard in Newman's Cove. My best guess is that most of ours derive from the Plate Cove family of Thomas and Ellen Walsh but John and Elizabeth, who have children in the forties are also possible. Obviously the Turner and Walsh wives are more likely to be sisters than daughters. Mary Fennell, who married Richard Cashin in 1822, was probably a daughter of the first Fennell. The Fennells moved to Shoal's Cove with Tom's marriage to Johanna Hynes. They were involved in business, ran a schooner, operated the post and telegraph offices and for a while kept a "public house" or liquor establishment.

The final additions to Shalloway Cove came with three marriages to Turner females. Mike Hennessey married Abe Turner's daughter Bridget: Tom Knox and John Kean married Tom Turner's daughters Johanna and Ellen. Knox and Hennessey were winter men from around the St. John's area. It is possible that Knox was connected with the Tom Knox from England who married Johanna Maddox in King's Cove in 1849. John Kean was from the Burnt Island Kean family. Penney's Cove, where the current ferry wharf and fish plant is located, may have been used by the Pennys in presettlement days but was settled in the twentieth century by Fitzgeralds from Keels. These Fitzgeralds had contributed wives to each wave of St. Brendan's settlement. Bernard, Edward, Patrick and Henry Fitzgerald all lived in Penny's Cove but the families have all died out or moved away. Henry and his wife moved down to Ryans after the death of their son. Penny's Cove, empty for years, is now enjoying a resurrection with the building of a hotel to join the fishing and transportation businesses established there in recent years.


Nothing, beyond their religion and Irish origins, characterizes St. Brendan's people more than their love affair with schooners. From their earliest days they built, owned, mastered and sailed in schooners. John Turner's 50 ton "Mary Anne" is the earliest one of which we have record (1863). In a 60 year period, 1875-1935, the Newfoundland Ships Registry records some 60 vessels, ranging from 17 to 60 tons. This list only includes ships built or owned on St. Brendan's. Another whole category, ships built and owned elsewhere but mastered by St. Brendan's men, was missing from that calculation. In 1911 with a population of slightly over 500, St. Brendan's had 22 schooners. This was an increase of 14 from the 1901 figure of 8. Obviously with that many schooners, virtually all of the population was involved in the usage in some way. Even with the employment of hardy boys and girls, schooner owners would have to look for some crew from outside the community. Undoubtably some potential marriage partners entered the community via a berth on one of these schooners.

Why so many schooners in such a small area? Part of the answer lies in the direction of the Newfoundland fishery at the time. As the population grew on the old English shore it was becoming more and more difficult to acquire fishing berths and waterfront property for everyone to pursue a land based fishery. Depending on the fish to come to a particular spot placed the landsman in a risky position in bad years and already the Newfoundland cod fishery was experiencing bad years. The schooner solved two problems, allowing the fishermen to go after the codfish in the relatively underutilized northern waters and relieving the overcrowding in eastern bays. By the time St. Brendan's was settled, Bonavista Bay was being very widely fished by the people of the communities which had been founded so much earlier. There really was not a lot of fishing ground available to those new settlers.

The Newfoundland schooner fleet was growing rapidly as locally constructed vessels replaced the English migratory fishing fleet. The development of the seal fishery and the creation of a local supply industry, as Newfoundland's population expanded to include hundreds of small communities far removed from the Avalon, both provided other sources of income for schooners apart from their primary fishing role. A schooner was expensive to build and maintain. It simply was not feasible to own one for fishing alone. However, if there were ways to make money from March to December, then a move to schooner ownership was a natural progression for an ambitious man who might have been a successful shore planter a century before. The group who came to St. Brendan's were resourceful family men with sons and brothers to provide the labour and heavily wooded Bonavista Bay at their backs to provide the raw materials. Is it any surprise that they would seize upon the trend of the times and set about the building and sailing of schooners? A schooner man's job was a full time one. With a break of a few weeks around Christmas time, you belonged to the schooner the rest of the year. Winter involved woods work either to produce freights of firewood or railway ties to be carried to St. John's and sold in the spring or timber for building and repair. Spring meant that painting and outfitting the vessels had to be done and fishing gear placed in readiness. In the early days schooners were also used for sealing before the Newfoundland Seal Hunt became dominated by large steamers. A dangerous venture it must have been in those little wooden sailing ships and some years ice conditions were such that few of them could get far. Nevertheless, they tried and under good conditions got an early start on the year's wages with a successful hunt. King's Cove merchant James Ryan wrote in his diary in 1890 that he was outfitting Bridgeman of St. Brendan's for the seal hunt and we can assume that the other schooner men of the island would have been doing the same.

When navigation opened in the spring, the schooners would make one or more trips to St. John's to bring in supplies and bring out the fruits of the island's winter labours in the woods. There might be several shorter jaunts to King's Cove, Greenspond or Bonavista since many of the vessels were owned or supplied by merchants in those ports. Then it was off to the northern fishery on the French Shore or the Labrador. This voyage was heavily dependent on ice conditions to the north. When all conditions were good and a schooner managed to get early passage and good fishing, it was possible to make a second labrador voyage. If you made it home before the end of July then a second voyage was feasible. Many times though it took the summer to use all your salt and get home with your fish in time for drying. Some years the return was so late that the schooners had to go across to Nova Scotia to ship fish, having missed the last large boat shipments. The Kean Brothers is shown in a mainland newspaper high and dry in the Bay of Fundy after just such a venture. Normally though a schooner's fish was shipped to the outfitting merchant at his premises and the crew then went about collecting fish from the landsmen on the east and northeast coast and delivering this catch to the merchant for a fee. Following the fish collection, the remainder of the fall was spent in carrying any available freight around the bays. By December frozen harbors and storms tended to put an end to the sailing season. Some schooner men found jobs with the larger vessels which carried the fish to Spain or the West Indies. At least two St. Brendan's sailors met their deaths on those voyages: Mike Bridgeman and Walter Hynes. Bridgeman is remembered for having appeared to Fr. Badcock for Communion on the night of the storm which took his life. His brothers, who survived the storm , were on another ship, suggesting that this overseas passage was a relatively common occurrence at the time. Regardless of whether their sailing was on local or foreign ships, getting home for Christmas at the end of their sailing year was the goal of schooner men.

Though the work was hard and often dangerous the life of a schooner man was more varied and interesting than that of many of their more stationary descendants. They had a mobility that many nine to fivers must envy. They met new people all the time and visited and socialized with friends and relatives all down the shore. At my husband's home in Brent's Cove, the porch was built by the Furlong cousins of his grandmother. Stormbound in one of the nearby ports, they walked miles through the woods, helped with the construction and in good St. Brendan's fashion stayed to christen the new structure with a square dance afterwards. Such casual dropping in on friends and relatives of the larger Irish community and indeed with fishing buddies from all places along the way was characteristic of their lifestyle and certainly served as a break from the confining nature of shipboard life. Young men often found sweethearts and some wives on those voyages. Perhaps one of the reasons that St. Brendan's never seemed to be afflicted with the inbreeding that was characteristic of so many small communities was that the mobility of our schooner men gave them plenty of opportunity to seek wives elsewhere and new bloodlines regularly joined the community. I don't mean to imply that only the men were involved in the schooner life. The female role in this lifestyle will be examined in another section. It has long been accepted that the sea exacts a price for the livelihood it provides. Sometimes the price is the destruction of the vessels themselves and our history is all too full of wrecked and burned ships. The Tinker Bight photo is graphic evidence of what the fury of a North Atlantic storm could do to a harbor full of sailing ships. Fire onboard was every sailor's nightmare: there was so little that could be done. One of my earliest memories is my father's nonchalant explanation that he had returned early from a trip in the bay because his bunk was burned but there were also tears that night for the gallant A.W. Bridgeman, that he had left in flames at Lakeman's Island. Sadly, it was not ships alone that the gods of the sea claimed as ransom. There are men, boys and girls on the list and many names have been lost in the mists of memory.

  • Mike Bridgeman (1890's on a voyage from Spain)
  • Walter Hynes (turn of the century, overseas voyage)
  • Kate Connors (lost in a shipwreck, Grey Islands)
  • Mike Hennessey (1898 Greenland disaster)
  • Tom Hogan (1921 drowned at Indian Hr.)
  • Gertrude Turner, 16 (1924 from burns on schooner)
  • Bernard Furlong (1924 in hospital at St. Anthony)
  • John Walsh, 11 (1929 on Labrador, unknown causes)
  • Mike Bridgeman (1933 collision Silver City/Ethel Collet
  • Martin Furlong (1935 drowned at Gros Water Bay)
  • Martina Furlong, 18 (drowned on the Labrador 1944)
  • Captain Jim Croke (died on the Labrador)
  • Ernest Keel (knocked overboard by main boom)
What was the fate of schooners in general? I guess, like all things they went full circle. They probably brought us to this island (literally), gave us a reason to remain, grew with us and coloured our perception of who and what we were and having served their purpose passed into history. The growth of their numbers parallelled the population growth in the early years but by the time our population peaked in the 1960's the schooners and their way of life was already dying. Though they had the modern progression from sails to engines, they could not compete with roads and trucks of the post Confederation era. Perhaps their last heyday was in the closing years of World War II when 13 Labrador schooners were based at St. Brendan's. By the 50's the number had shrunk to 3. Centralization of hundreds of isolated communities and roads put through to hundreds of others sounded the death knell of the schooner. There was no longer cargo enough to be transported by sea. The individual schooners ended their days in various ways. Some like the one in our cover died as had many sisters before in beaches and harbors as food for sea creatures, others like The National Convention saw new life as converted yachts and at least one was sold abroad and lost at sea before she reached her destination. a few, though not ours, became museum pieces and tourist carriers. They were a proud and vibrant part of our past and our identity is forever entwined with them. The photo pages which follow is our salute to their era. The sailor Brendan was indeed an appropriate patron for the ships and crews.


The following is a sampling of the many stories from our past. Some of the details may have been lost or changed in the retellings and my own memory may be faulty on others. Like most of our stories they involve spirits, schooners and humour.


Shortly after the Broomfields acquired this schooner from their merchant, they began to hear strange stories about her. It seems a man had been killed by falling from her rigging and the vessel was supposed to be haunted. No other crew could be found to take her. Undaunted, they set off for their Labrador voyage but soon learned that the stories were true. Daytime was relatively uneventful but no one could sleep a wink at night. Hatch covers would lift and fall, stove lids hurl themselves in the air and cooking gear appear to take wing. Morning would find a serene ship, with no sign of damage or intrusion. The poltergeist phenomena continued unabated until the frazzled crew reached Battle Harbor and refused to go further. The skipper knew he would have to do something to save the voyage. It happened that Bishop March was on his summer visit to the Labrador and word reached Captain Broomfield of the presence of the man of God in Battle Harbor. Approaching such an exalted person was not to his liking but he saw himself with little choice. The Bishop willingly came onboard, sent the crew below and engaged in some sort of exorcism. There was great altercation between cleric and spirit, most of it heard but not understood by the men. The spirit seemed unwilling to leave but depart he finally did. The Bishop blessed the ship and crew and sent them on their way. While this solved the problem for the St. Brendan's men, it seems to have created a new one for the stationers at Battle harbor. The spirit is reported to have terrorized the harbor for the rest of the summer. I guess a further exorcism must have been required the following year.


For this story I am indebted to P.K. Devine's "Old King's Cove" and I retell it for its St. Brendan's connection. The latter part of the last century saw a lot of exploration for minerals in Bonavista Bay. Since many of the islands are remains of extinct volcanos, the possibility of valuable deposits of gold and other mineral could not be overlooked. Carroll, who no doubt left us Carl's Mine on Pitt Sound Island, was over in the bay on a schooner prospecting. Since both he and his right hand man Ned Martin had relatives on St. Brendan's he stopped a while to visit and was much taken with a new pup that someone had. He bargained to buy the pup on his return and went on to his job. Carroll, a quick tempered man, charged his crew that he would fire any man who overlooked a single piece of white quartz. The exploration took more time than he had figured and the time passed when he should have been back to buy his dog. Not wanting to leave his promising site, he dispatched Ned Martin to St Brendan's to get the pup. Ned got down to the island, went on the spree with the crowd and it was several days before he sobered up and remembered his mission. He found that Carroll's pup had been sold to someone else and the only one remaining of the litter was an ugly little mutt with one black side to his face and one white one. Fearing his master's temper, he thought it unwise to return both late and unsuccessful, so he took the pup. Carroll, who was as superstitious as he was short tempered, was enraged when he saw the dog. "It's the devil you've brought me" he roared, fearing for the success of his mining venture. "But sir, you told us not to overlook any piece of white quartz", said Martin, sheepishly, "I thought that's what the white on his face might be".


A family of MacDonald, presumably from the Melrose area, lived for some time at Chalky Head. Late one winter, tragedy befell the family when their house burned, killing the parents and several children. The kindly Protestant who reached the scene after the fire undertook to take the bodies to a Catholic community for burial. Ice conditions prevented them from reaching St. Brendan's and they were forced to inter the remains on Lakeman's Island, without benefit of proper burial services. Some time later, a schooner from St. Brendan's carrying the priest on his regular rounds to visit the other Catholics in the bay, harbored for the night at Lakeman's Island. It seems that all hell broke loose almost immediately. Hideous shrieks and lamentations filled the air and the crew were terrified. Eventually someone remembered the graves and decided that the priest was the object of the spirits' unrest. The priest was rowed ashore in the dead of night and left alone, at his own request, to perform the burial service. Afterwards, he signalled for a boat to take him back and a peaceful night followed now that the spirits had been properly laid to rest.


Captain Fennell had just returned from an extremely bad voyage to the Labrador. To add insult to injury he was forced to unload at the merchant's premises directly behind Skipper John Broomfield who had a bumper load. As if the shame was not hard enough to bear, the merchant had the bad taste to comment "You should have followed Broomfield". Captain Fennell nursed the insult all winter and when spring came decided to get his revenge. As his schooner was being provisioned for the Labrador, Fennell entered the merchant's office and laid his compass on the desk.

"What do you want me to do with your compass, Skipper? Is it broken?" asked the surprised merchant.
"I don't need it" said Fennel.
"Don't need it! How are you going to get to the Labrador without a compass?"
"I'm going to follow Broomfield", replied Fennell.

A schooner skippered by John Kean, voyaging to the Labrador shortly after World War II, had a strange adventure that does not appear to be credited to spirits. Crossing the Straits on a fine night, the schooner was abruptly jolted with such force that a trap skiff being towed behind came onto the deck and crashed into another stowed on deck. The vessel and gear received enough damage to force them to return to St. Anthony for repairs. There was no evidence of collision; no other ship travelling that night encountered difficulty; and there were no submerged rocks. The only possible explanation , beyond a supernatural one, is that the vessel encountered an unexploded mine left over from the war years.


I'm not sure if the Aylward in this story was a resident of St. Brendan's or one of their relatives who stayed across the bay but I include it since he is obviously one of the models used by Fr. Fitzgerald in the creation of his composite character Demon Dan. It seems that, in 1883 Aylward in command of the Comet and several schooners from King's Cove were fishing at Quirpon on the French shore. Seeking to improve their luck, they moved on to Cape Onion. There they encountered a Frenchman, who considered himself "captain of the room" and he ordered them to stop fishing. The rest complied, although they were legally entitled to fish. Aylward refused to stop and the Frenchman cut their lines and confiscated sails and oars from all schooners . Aylward struck the Frenchman several hard blows with a gaff and was set upon by a large group of French. Despite the uneven odds, he managed to escape. After a day or two sails were returned to the other schooners but Aylward's were held until the arrival of a French man-of-war. The sails were then ordered returned and the Comet was allowed to leave the area.


The earliest residents fished with handlines from their boats. In 1857 they produced 1240 quintals of cured cod fish and 2.5 tons of cod oil. They also used seal nets to catch seals. As we have already seen, they rapidly progressed to the building of schooners and acquired the mobility to chase fish to other parts and to travel to the ice floes to pursue seals. There was some use of seines and cod nets in the early years but after Whitely's invention of the cod trap it was widely accepted as the best way to catch cod in large quantities. Traps and trap skiffs were used at home and on the schooners. At least one family, the Walshs, were involved in the bank fishery for a period of time. By 1890 lobsters were making up 10% of the exports from Newfoundland and most outports, including St. Brendan's, had several canning factories. The fishery, even when it was good, could not provide for full time livelihood. Farming was an essential part of our settlers lives from the start. In the very early years, with a small population, the island produced 900 barrels of potatoes and supported over 150 farm animals. There is some evidence to suggest that St. Brendan's exported farm produce to the other islands of Bonavista Bay. The cutting of firewood and timber, for sale to Conception Bay and the St. John's area, was also a means of acquiring some hard cash for the purchase of necessities. Hoop making for the fish trade seems to have been a part of the island's auxiliary employment since its founding. The cutting of railway ties was also common well into this century. Naturally, not all of the work involved cash value. The residents were busy improving their properties: clearing land, building fences & adding new homes for sons and daughters. They also built, with free labour, the schools and churches which served the community in those days.

Three factors around the turn of the century changed the work patterns of island residents: steamers, the railway and paper mills. Together they provided the option of seasonal migration for wage work. Some of these migrations involved whole families going into the Bay for woods work but the greater number involved the men only. The woods work took them as far west as Lomond but most of the early work was in Indian Bay and the central Newfoundland area. The steamships took many to the ice floes but many more embarked farther afield to work in Sydney and the Boston States or up the St. Lawrence to Montreal. Of course, not all who travelled that distance returned but they are the subject of another section. Many longtime residents of the island had work stints away from home for varying periods of time before returning to home and family. It was to become a feature of St. Brendan's life that continues to the present. Though it placed a tremendous burden on those left behind, particularly the wives, it was seen as the only way to maintain a decent lifestyle. Later in this century the mines, the American bases and the development of Labrador towns all provided the same opportunity for men, who though fishermen by trade, had made themselves competent enough in construction to take advantage of the work.

The fishery itself remained for St. Brendan's largely a Labrador fishery. Most of this was done in our many schooners, each of which provided for 5-8 men and a girl. However, many families had an early history of working as stationers on the Labrador. They would be freighted down in schooners or steamers, fish from their summer stations and return in the fall. Most of the island's crews of the 20's and thirties worked Battle Harbor - Snug Harbor stations. With the demise of the schooner fishing fleet and years of failing fishery at home, the early 60's saw a return to this system with as many as eight crews working in the Domino - Spotted Islands - Griffins Harbor area. It was a measure of the changing emphasis on education that several of the crew would join their families only after the Public Exams had been written. Their fathers and grandfathers had regularly missed 2 or 3 months of school to accommodate the fishery in the past.

The home fishery was changing as well. It had expanded to include more species but bad years and outside employment had reduced the numbers involved. The 60's brought the introduction of a new type of vessel: the long liner. Unfortunately, the first two (the Joan and Annie Byrne and the Blue Flier) came at a period in which the fishery was in decline and both were subsequently sold. The smaller vessels which succeeded them have met with a little more success and the addition of the caplin, crab and flounder fishery has provided the owners with more options. Meanwhile, there has been a revival of the regular shore fishery and at least 50 men and women are now involved in the industry. The building of a holding plant in 1977 gave all fishermen the opportunity to ship their catch fresh, removing the inconvenience of waiting months to ship salt bulk fish. The decision to extend UIC benefits to fishermen made the last few decades a little easier but it is still an enterprise that is filled with uncertainty. The present problems with fish stocks add to the worries of the men and women involved but there is always the hope that the fish will return as they have done after all the bad years in the past.

The present provides more nonfishery jobs than earlier years. Employment is provided by the ferry, the fish plant, the schools, shops, community projects and the power plant. Some residents have always been employed in sea going jobs which allow them to return to the island when they are off shift. There is still a lot of seasonal migration when jobs are available in the construction trades and most young people will try at least one mainland expedition as did their fathers and grandfathers before them. Like most other Newfoundlanders, the people of St. Brendan's hope for a time when their sons and daughters will be able to stay at home if they choose.


My students of Newfoundland Culture have a perception of the role of women in the past that is one of abject drudgery. They see women as oppressed by men, overworked and confined to their little coves and harbors. Though the hard work cannot be disputed, the picture is not a very accurate one. Actually the women of our past had far more status and mobility than those of us who grew up in the 1950's would suspect. Remember they were part of a schooner culture with the males absent from the community for substantial periods of time. Women had full responsibility for houses, gardens, children, and animals. In many ways, they were efficient managers of large family properties. For example, Aunt Peggy Walsh not only raised a family and delivered babies; she supervised a large fishing operation and even travelled to the Grand Banks on the family's banker. The one thing that stands out when you examine records is their mobility. The number of excellent professional photos of the islands girls and women suggest that they made regular trips on the schooners. With the coming of steamers, many travelled away to work, sometimes as far as the Boston States. Even the earliest women appear to have travelled around the bay, appearing as spomsors at christenings and weddings, after they were settled with children on Cottle's. Juke's as early as 1840 speaks of giving rides to females travelling between the islands.

I've always assumed that a female marrying outside her community a century ago would have said goodbye to her family forever. Imagine my surprise to learn that my own grandmother, Martina Walsh of Fleur de Lys, had gone home to her mother to have her second child as casually as a St. Brendan's girl today might join a relative in St. John's or Gander. Her husband was going fishing on the Labrador so he simply dropped her and her firstborn off on the way down and returned to pick up his increased family in the fall. Similarly, Bessie Ryan who was married in the White Bay was regularly visited by her brothers and cousins and sent her teenage daughter up for a summer to visit the relatives on St. Brendan's. If such mobility was routine in my own family's past, I can only assume that it was common practice in other families as well. In later years, girls from the island, working away from home in service, speak of catching rides to Fair or Burnt Island and getting home with the first relative or friend to pass that way. Of course, almost all families allowed their older girls to work on the schooners of their fathers, brothers and neighbours. As the schooners congregated in Labrador harbors, there were many opportunities to mingle with boys and girls from other communities. Many lifelong friendships and a few romances blossomed from these voyages. Girls raised in the staid, confining atmosphere of the 1950's often envied their grandmothers and aunts.

It is not my intention to minimalize the hard work or the dangers of the lifestyle of the early women. I have shown that some paid the same price as the men for the privilege of being a part of schooner life. I don't believe it was a very easy task to cook and clean on a schooner rolling in a North Atlantic gale. There couldn't have been much privacy for a girl who had to work in such close quarters with 5 or 6 men. Many of our older females are eligible for Veteran's Pensions today because they worked in the submarine infested waters of the Straits of Belle Isle during World War II. Schooner life was not exactly a cruise on the Love Boat.

And what of those who stayed at home? Their lives were filled as well. They had children, lots of them, with the help of neighbours and midwives. Medical assistance was rare and most of our people were brought into this world by women like Anastasia Mackey, Rebecca Bridgeman, Ellen Walsh, Peggy Walsh, Bridge Aylward, Jose Hynes and Lizzie Furlong. When things went wrong, many babies and some mothers died. Perhaps the saddest part of examining the records is finding that most families lost children, either in childbirth or from early childhood diseases. Looking at ten deaths from meningitis in as many years, it's easy to imagine the anguish of mothers who had to sit helplessly beside those dying children. But life had to go on. There were gardens to be sown and weeded, houses to clean, living children to be fed, fish that had to be spread on flakes, schools and church to be scrubbed, the sick to be tended and the dead to be prepared for burial. All of these things were accepted components of a woman's life.

Even in such busy times, it was not all work. There was time for fun. There were card games and visits with friends, berry picking expeditions and church social events. Many of the women were fine singers and step dancers and regularly entertained at house parties. Women who married into the community from outside brought their collections of song and story and enriched our island's culture as a result. Songs are, to this day, identified as being "his grandmother's song", indicating a song brought to the community by an incoming female.


The Catholic faith was the mortar that bound the bands of Irish immigrants scattered along the coast of Newfoundland into a community unit. From the 1700's onward Irish priests, stationed first in St. John's and later in more northern missions, attempted to keep their far flung flock together by visiting the outports periodically to legitimize unions and baptize the children. Services were held in fish stages, houses and merchant's premises. Our earliest ancestors probably attended Mass in MacBraire's store in King's cove, which was used for a church until one could be built. Those early priests, most from comfortable Irish towns, must have endured great hardship as they tackled the stormy North Atlantic to bring the word of God to the east and northeast coastline. They journeyed as far north as Battle Harbor on some of the early visits.

A glance at the records of our founders shows that they were a community of faith before they became a community in fact. They appear to have journeyed, sometimes from great distances, to have their marriages performed by a priest or to attend christenings and marriages of their relatives and neighbours. By the time they assembled on Cottle's their numbers had grown sufficiently to warrant regular visitation from the King's Cove parish. Previously they had been visited by both King's Cove and Trinity, indicating that the priests probably took turns with the difficult task of administering the islands. Some of the gaps in the KCRC records are filled by the records called Bonavista Trinity Roman Catholic. Even with the establishment of the Cottle's community, the extra travel was not over for priests or parishioners. Greenspond, Burnt Island and Gooseberry Island were still visited or the Catholics journeyed to Cottle's for ceremonies. Bloody Bay, Traytown, and Gambo later joined the list of places to be administered. A history of King's Cove Parish, printed in the Monitor in March 1980, suggests that Father James Brown, the first Newfoundland born priest was actually stationed on Cottle's in 1862. I have found no one to substantiate this although the Catholic population on the north side of the Bay had certainly grown large enough to make it a feasible solution. Certainly, there was no church on Cottle's at the time and would not be for nearly thirty years but that fact would not have deterred any of the priests of the time. A church was more the exception than the rule in most of the communities served.

A parish location must have been chosen early because the island's first formal graveyard was begun on the site beside the Chapel Hill. The priest's property was a complete working farm and the imposing house that is pictured on the parish page of this booklet. The property stretched from the berry picking area that we called the Priest's farm to the area behind Casey's fence, where the school and original parish hall were located. The present graveyard is all of the property that is in current use by the parish. The church was built over a period of several years and finished in 1891, with father Badcock appointed as pastor. His parish included Burnt Island, Gambo and the few Catholics remaining in Greenspond and the Wesleyville area. This church was not called St. Gabriel's since that saint would not be canonized for 30 years yet. The church appears to have been called appropriately 'The Star of the Sea'but early records simply refer to the parish as St. Brendan's Parish.

The original church served the community until the 1920's when, with an expanded population, the parish moved from Hayward's Cove to the present central location. The old church was dismantled and the materials reused - even the rock foundation went to ballast the new government wharf. Father Walker supervised the building of what was to be a masterpiece. Master carpenter Jim Mackey laboured for years, with hand tools, to carve the intricate woodwork in the high ceilings. The church was dedicated to St. Gabriel, who had been canonized in 1920. This is the church that most of us remembered fondly and which played such a major part in our childhood. A strongbox, placed in the cornerstone and containing some documents pertaining to the past of the parish, was opened prematurely after fire levelled the building in 1979. The contents ignited before anything could be saved except some old coins.

The loss of a church at a time when both population and numbers of priests were decreasing seemed to spell "the end" for St. Brendan's Parish. The building was underinsured and the diocese was not anxious to back a loan for replacement. St. Brendan's people did what they have always done; they buckled down to work for what they wanted. Good investment, good luck and a massive fundraising campaign, that reached out to all its expatriates, provided the funds to build the third church on the site of the second. It is smaller, more economical to maintain and lacking the impressive woodwork of its namesake but the present St. Gabriel's is quite adequate for these leaner times and allows us to celebrate the centenary of the parish with an appropriate edifice. We are doubly blessed in having maintained a resident priest through most of the hundred years as well.

Here are some of the milestones of parish history. The first marriage on Cottle's was John Mackey and Ellen Beresford in 1855; the first couple married in the new parish were: Alfred Lane and Bridget Brawders in 1891, the first in the original St. Gabriel's: Pad Casey and Catherine Walsh: the first in the second St. Gabriel's: Daphne Alyward and Ron White. The first Catholic baptism on Cottle's was Ellen of William Smith and Mary Bryan; the first in the new parish: James of James Whelan and Margaret Aylward in 1891; the first in the new St. Gabriel's: Thomas of Pad Kean and Anne Sullivan, Dec 29, 1924; the first in the second St. Gabriel's: Rhonda of Ron Broderick and Pauline White.

Who were those priests who served us over the years? They ranged from farmers to poets and all points in between. In addition to their regular duties of administering the sacraments, they were community leaders who were expected to lobby government officials, orchestrate community decisions and arbitrate disputes. They were policemen as well as judges of mortality and kept tight reins on their flock. To be "read out from the alter" as the Irish put it was the ultimate humiliation and guaranteed to bring the sinner back into line. They pulled teeth and administered drugs in a community that rarely saw doctor or dentist. As late as the 1960's, the Department of Health shipped a bi-annual supply of common drugs to be administered at the priests discretion.

The community leadership role must have been the hardest to fill for not everyone is suited to politics. The problem with engineering community decisions is that you frequently get the blame when the consequences of the decisions arise. They had some assistance from The Holy Name Society, which despite its religious name, often dealt with secular matters. The Alter society was the female equivalent but their work tended to deal mainly with practical matters of maintaining vestments and utensils. It was not until the advent of Community Councils that some of the political burden was lifted from the priest. The council, which began in 1953, was originally formed to deal with the Shalloway Cove road issue after vehicles made their appearance on the island. The priest remained a central figure in the days of the early councils and it was not until the seventies that the Community Council assumed full community leadership and freed the priests from this "spokesman of the community" role.

The people of St. Brendan's gave the priests loyalty and cooperation and saw it as fair return for the services rendered by those "lone eagles of God". Even if they disagreed with the priest, they did so with respect and deference. To close this section let us salute them all: Badcock, Finn, Mackey, Walker, Pumphrey, Fitzgerald, Terry, Shea, Hawco, Shallow, Parsons, Walsh, Hearn, Dunne and Antle.


Unlike some parts of Newfoundland, Bonavista Bay had an early history of attempting a school system as soon as the population reached a level to warrant it. St. Brendan's was no exception to this rule. Our community's first school was probably the Catholic school on Gooseberry Island which remained in service until the last Catholic families moved to Cottle's. The school moved as well and saw years of service afterwards as the structure that we knew in Hayward's Cove as "Mrs. Bridge Hogan's house". The first school building on Cottle's itself was built in Hayward's Cove on the original parish grounds near the Chapel Hill. The Roman Catholic School Report 1875 has the following entry: "The school at Hayward's Cove, Cotterell's Island was not visited but I received from the teacher, whom I met in King's Cove, the necessary statistics. The school house is a new erection and at the time not quite completed yet. There are 40 children on register, 25% of whom attend daily. Eight are writing on paper and twenty cyphering in elementary rules. Teacher: Miss Ryan Salary: 20 pounds 15 shillings"

In 1877 there were 36 students in attendance on Cotterell's and 29 in the Catholic school on Gooseberry Island. By 1879 Edward Lane was in teaching in Cotterell's and teachers will note that while his salary was 130 per year, Miss Sullivan on Burnt Island was only receiving 80. (Salary for male and female teachers were different in those pre-union days). With the arrival of the Shalloway Cove families came the construction of another school. This one was located near the present Knox property and was in operation as early as 1888. Johanna Turner was the teacher there in 88, while John Sullivan was master in the Hayward's Cove school. 1892 shows a staff change with Josie Turner listed as St. Brendan's and Bessie Ryan (of the founding Ryan family) in the Shalloway Cove School. Sarah Cashin taught on Gooseberry Island and Joseph Mackey on Burnt Island during this time period.

We know that the teachers of the times had but minimal training and had to cope with all grades and all levels of ability. An examination of the writings of some of the early students of the system shows how well the teachers prepared them. They managed somehow to deliver a full program and even to get into extracurricular activities. Just 17 years after the opening of the school we have a write up in the Evening Telegram detailing a full concert program presented by these students and teachers. A copy of their program, together with the one of this past year, is included in this booklet. It is also worth noting that from the earliest days we had begun the practice of producing our own teachers as well as sending out hundreds to teach in other communities.

The school on the hill was replaced by one on the site of the parish hall, probably around the same time that the church was moved to the current location. The Shalloway Cove school was replaced by the structure that still stands today on the road to the ferry wharf. Dock Cove acquired a school of its own in the twentieth century. St. Theresa's served its population until the sixties brought all students together in the expanding main system. Records for the forties show Dock Cove School having years without a teacher. I don't know if this is an error or if there was insufficient population or no teacher available in those years. Rita Donovan was the last teacher in this school, which closed in 1968, bringing its elementary children over to the main system.

Meanwhile St. Joseph's had been built on the site of the present clinic but its population had already outgrown it by the 50's and two rooms in the parish hall had been pressed into service to accommodate the high school and primary students. As the island population peaked in the early 60's, the need for a larger school was obvious. It was 1965 that St. Gabriel's Central High School, serving the high school students of all four coves, was opened in 1965 with Ron Hynes as principal. St. Brendan's finally had a modern facility with a full complement of 13 teachers between the two systems. The Shalloway school functioned as an elementary until the end of the 68-69 school year and closed to allow all island students to join the main body.

The sixties were the glory days of education on St. Brendan's. Just as the island was reaching its maximum population so was the school. Enrolment peaked at 277 in 1965, even before the introduction of kindergarten and Grade 12. The number of graduates of St. Gabriel's reached 37 in 1971. The hall was commandeered as a gymnasium, physical education classes started, off island trips for volleyball and field days entered our lives. There were teachers for every subject and every elementary class. Kindergarten was added in 1966 and there was a growing perception that our facilities were as good as those found anywhere. One hundred percent of the first graduating class of St. Gabriel's went on to university or nursing school. The percentage in the following years was almost as high. Almost all of the teachers had university degrees by the 70's.

Unfortunately the golden years of the sixties and early seventies was not to continue. Outward migration took many families away and the declining birthrate did the rest. By the eighties, St. Gabriel's, which now had a gymnasium added to it, had become an all grade system. St. Joseph's was demolished and the present clinic built on its site. In the initial years portable units were needed to accommodate all students but within a few years the structure built to house 5 grades was accommodating 13. Inevitably, multi-grading returned to St. Brendan's and at present 8 teachers attempt to provide a full K-12 program for less than 100 students. Since most of the teachers are graduates of the system in its heyday, they must wonder sometimes if we are not indeed going backwards in a hurry.


Entrance music: Miss Mullowney and Miss Turner (harmonium)

Mr. Wm. Lane (violin)
Welcome: Miss Aggie White
Songs Miss B Aylward

Miss Maggie Beresford
Recitation: Master J. Lane
Song: Miss A Broaders

Miss J Hynes
Recitation: Miss Josie Turner
Song: Masters D Beresford

& P. Aylward
Recitation Master M.J. White
Song: Misses M.E. Aylward

& L. Brien
Recitation: Miss E. E. Hynes
Song: Misses B Bridgeman

& M Rielly
Recitation: Miss Ella Whelan
Dialogue Misses Josie Turner

& Cissie White
Recitation: Miss May White
Song: Masters D Beresford

& P Aylward
Recitation: Miss Aggie White
Song: Master J Turner
Dialogue: Masters M. White, R Whalen, W Rielly

Miss Maggie Aylward
Song: Miss Josie Turner
Recitation: Master John Turner
Dialogue: Misses Aggie White, Josie Aylward,

M. Beresford, J.G. Turner.


Recitation: Toast to the Irish Greg O'Reilly
Song: Shadows of the Pines Nell Ryan
Step Dance Music: John Casey Len Casey, Ceil Ryan, Jack Walsh, Nell Bridgeman
Group Singing: 3 selections 20 adults (male and female
Group Singing: I never will marry 12 adults (female)
Comedy Act:
Betty Howse & Terry Kean
Song: County Down John Whelan
Recitation St. Patrick's Day Evan Broderick
Song: 4 Green Fields John & Michelle White
Square Dance Students Grade Five boys and girls
Songs: 4 selections John Broderick, Harold Kelly, Ray White
Recitation: St. Peter Jim O'Reilly
Song: Bonnie Young Irish Boy Bessie Turner
Group Singing: This Land & Outport People School Students
Song: Boyhood Memories Pats Furlong
Comedy Act: The Census Mike Bridgeman & Cecilia Broderick
Recitation: The Ragged Jacket Darren Aylward
Song: Hibernia's Jane Mrs. Margaret Croke
Step Dance Double Jack Walsh
Songs: Lukey's Boat etc Lions Club
Closing: St Patrick & anthems Adult Group & M. Croke


In the early days of settlement there were not a lot of government services available to the outports. People tended to rely on themselves, their neighbours and God. The community is older than Responsible Government so little was gotten or expected in the first years. As the government developed it was expected to assume the obligations of a postal system, transportation system, rudimentary medical and education services and emergency poor relief.

A government wharf was built in Hawyard's Cove and the mail was routed there in summer via the steamers but there is some indication that previous to their calling at Cottle's, mail was sent to Greenspond and picked up by the postmaster (Daniel Turner) in boat. With the coming of the Newfoundland Railway, winter mail was sent by train to Glovertown and brought to the island by carriers in boat or on foot. This will be discussed more thoroughly in the section on the post office.

The bad times of the 1880's forced Cottle's residents to seek a government service they would not have wanted: poor relief. In November, 1887, the Evening Telegram published a petition to the Colonial Secretary begging emergency supplies of flour, molasses and tea for the nearly destitute families of Cottle's and Burnt Islands. The list of families without supplies to last the winter includes almost the whole population of both islands. The closing prayer of the petition shows how reluctantly they asked for help. It reads: " If our government could get our merchants to take limber, hoops, etc or any public work, they would live independent of any paper relief." Times would probably not be as bad again until the thirties depression brought "brown flour" and "six cents a day".

Medical services were only available in larger centres and most of the problems that now send us running to doctors were dealt with at home by family, neighbours or the priest. There was a clinic in Greenspond with at least two doctors in the 90's but, since patients had to be rowed there, it was often too late when a doctor was reached. Such was the tragic case of young Paddy Turner, 16 and getting ready to go to St John's to college in the fall. He was accidently shot in the thigh by a young friend. By the time he reached Greenspond and the attention of Drs. MacDonald and Murray, he was unable to overcome the combined effects of shock and blood loss. A more comfortable but longer route to medical attention lay in taking the patient to St. John's on the steamer or on one of our schooners heading south. Some of the island's residents managed to reach medical help this way; a few, like Phil Turner in 1895, survived the trip but died after reaching hospital. It was not until Commission Government started its Cottage Hospitals and placed one of them in Brookfield, that St Brendan's residents acquired reasonably easy access to a hospital - if you can call 20 miles in an open boat "easy".

As the community and the government grew together other government services played a part in the lives of our people. There were Road Boards, Fire wardens, government school inspectors, government wells and even a government bull to service the community's cattle. The latter proved to be so much trouble that it eventually had to be destroyed. Apparently, it terrorized the neighbour and had the epic story of its demise (undoubtedly exaggerated by years of retelling) has become a classic island legend.

Honourable Minister
The following are the Minutes of a public meeting held in the Parish Hall, St. Brendan's, on December 10, 1953, for the purpose of electing their first Community Council.
The meeting was opened by Rev. Father Shea, P.P. who explained the purpose of the meeting and then introduced Mr. H.U. Rowe of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Supply, who acted as scrutineer for the election.

Mr. William Bridgeman was elected Chairman of the meeting.

The following nominations were received:

John Ryan, Proposed by Thomas Hynes, seconded by John Croke.
Thomas Hynes, J.P. proposed by E. O'Reilly, seconded by Joseph O'Reilly.
Wm. Bridgeman, proposed by John Broderick, seconded by John Mackey.
Moved by John Croke, seconded by Mike Bridgeman that nominations cease. Carried.

Because there were no further nominations it was not necessary to conduct a ballot. The following, therefore, constitute the Community Council for the year 1954.
John Ryan
Thomas Hynes
William Bridgeman.

A cheque in the amount of $2000.00 was passed to the Council by Mr. H.U. Rowe.
At the conclusion of the meeting Rev. Fr. Shea expressed, on behalf of the Community, his appreciation of the Department's interest in the welfare of St. Brendan's.

Wm Bridgeman (signed)

H U Rowe (signed)


The early settlers reached Newfoundland on sailing vessels and did their early migrating within the island the same way. For day to day transportation it was "skiffs, punts and gunning boats and everybody rowed." All of these were equipped with sails for the times when fair winds allowed a break from the rowing. Cottle's settlers had acquired thirteen boats, large and small, by 1857 and these would have been used for transportation as well as fishing. Land transportation would have been done by walking until the coming of horses in the twentieth century. There was some early use of oxen but that would have been reserved for the carrying of heavy burden. There does not appear to have been any extensive use of dogs. Surprisingly, they had Road Boards to look after the island roads as early as the 1990's. Some of the first members were: Wm. Ryan, T. Connors, J. Turner, J. Bridgeman, J. Hynes, J. Whelan, and Fr. Badcock.

Travel around the bay was done in the larger fishing boats and the many schooners that islanders used. People routinely hitched rides with schooners on their way to Greenspond, King's Cove and St John's to seek employment or medical care or simply to attend at a relative's wedding or christening. Steamships added the dimension of regular scheduled travel and many emigrating sons and daughters took their first steps to a new life via the Dundee, Malacoff, Home, Segonia, Kyle or Glencoe. Many, who simply sought temporary employment in Sydney, The Boston States or Montreal embarked the same way. After Confederation, the steamer service was taken over by a long line of CNR boats on the St John's to Lewisporte run.

The amount of walking done was astonishing. Even the very old walked regularly to Mass from as far away as Shalloway Cove. All commerce and visiting between coves was done by walking or rowing. Once the railway came through, men sought employment in woods operations by walking to the train in Glovertown or Gambo. Indeed, they often walked all the way to the woods camps. They often speeded the process in winter by using homemade skates to propel them faster over the frozen reach and rivers. The man who refused an offer of supper in Shalloway Cove because he was "just done in Gambo" must have been making good progress on his skates.

Naturally transportation of this nature is not carried out without a great deal of cooperation from your neighbours. The people of St. Brendan's owe a great debt to those wonderful residents of Squid Tickles (Burnside) and Hare Bay, who year after year, provided them with lodging and sometimes with boats to get home in. Hundreds of men arrived, often late at night, and were taken into those homes and provided with a warm place to sleep and dry their clothes. The men carried grub boxes but often those would be empty from the journey. If so, they were given a share of whatever the people had for themselves. If weather conditions, a punt would be loaned to take them on their way. If conditions were bad, the boat might be refused but not out of concern for its safety. Many times the hospitality would be extended for days or weeks as the kindly neighbours refused to let them leave for home until it was safe to do so. The full measure of their contribution to our way of life is evident in the fact that, despite all the dangerous travelling, no lives were lost except for Ed Furlong, who fell through the ice while walking alone at night in 1938.

As population increased in Bonavista Bay more formal travelling arrangements became necessary. With regular travel by train to the interior of central Newfoundland and to St. John's, a regular passenger boat service from the islands became a necessity. St Brendan's was served for years by boats calling at Burnt and Fair Islands and later by the Flat Island boat. Eventually a series of our own boats, privately owned and subsidized only by the mail contract, came into service. Billy Walsh's "Miss Shalloway Cove" and Ned Mackey's "Miss Malta" carried passengers and mail for a number of years and Bridgemans, Furlongs and Ryans were all involved in the transporting for shorter periods. With the building of the Trans Canada Highway train travel diminished and the departure point shifted to Burnside for a shorter run to the mainland.

By the mid sixties St. Brendan's had acquired a fair number of vehicles and an expectation of services. It was in large measure due to the persuasive ability of the Father Shallow that the government was successfully lobbied to subsidize a car ferry service. Mike Ryan's little "Right Wind" could barely carry two cars loaded across her deck but she signalled a new era in St. Brendan's history. It was the end of the total isolation feeling and offered a mobility to island residents that had been felt before. Within twenty years, it became routine to run off the island to shop, bank or visit. Winston Saunders "Linda Anne" replaced the Ryan boat and gave years of service before moving to the Greenspond run. She also provided St Brendan's residents with their first practice at public protest. In 1979, when she was scheduled to be removed for repairs, the replacement vessel was without capacity to carry cars. The residents refused to let her be taken until a suitable substitute could be found. It would not be the last time that they would have to fight for ferry service. The third boat to serve the island was Wilbur Weir's "Green Bay Transport, the current regular. By mid eighties the Government of Newfoundland had decided to replace the various private ferry services with its own central system, using boats it then owned. St Brendan's was to be assigned the "Sound of Islay", recently released from the Ramea run. The boat was slow, difficult to handle in wind and totally incapable of handling the ice conditions. A massive protest movement, including a media blitz and a community demonstration on the steps of the Confederation Building, resulted in the government decision to buy the Transport. Though a little small for the current volume of traffic, she has served the island well and has seldom required ice breaker assistance on her runs. Only extreme ice conditions , like those of this winter, have caused interruption in the service.


In the work-filled days of our ancestors there does not appear to have been a lot of time for fun. Certainly many times of the year were extremely busy but there was still time for socializing, especially in winter. Visiting neighbours was much more common than it is today. There were many store-loft and kitchen parties for work purposes which progressed to parties as the night wore on. Many homes were noted for regular card games with 45's as the game of choice. Yarning, telling tall tales, and frightening one another with ghost and fairy stories were all means of self-entertainment that served to pass the time. Even boat launching, barn building, church cleaning and sheep shearing provided opportunities for people to swap news and enjoy each others company.

Singing was an integral part of community life and not just in a "spree" situation. Men and women sang as they worked and kept the old ballads of their Irish homeland alive for generations by passing them on to sons and daughters. They also picked up new songs of sea tragedies, war songs and American western ballads in their travels on schooners and to the lumber woods. It was a matter of pride for a singing person to acquire new songs to add to the island's store. In time, much of the island's history was recorded in locally written songs, which told of Labrador voyages, lumberwoods ventures and humorous local happenings. In the past the latest creation of Uncle John Samson, Uncle Pad Casey, Uncle Frank Kelly or Jim Bridgeman was as eagerly awaited as the latest release of Paula Abdul is today.

Dancing was a major component of the entertainment picture. Almost everyone participated in the "set dancing". The American term "square dance" seems to be adopted lately but in the past it was "the set". The music was generally provided by accordions, although an occasional fiddle was used. In a pinch, many residents were able to provide chin music by "singing the tune" for the dancers. The mummers in their ponderous clothing were entitled to a rough "planking her down" but the real show case for exceptional dancers was step dancing, usually done singly or in pairs. Both men and women excelled in this particular art and some families appeared to have exceptional talent. It was not uncommon, as late as the 1950's, to see talented youngsters perfect their steps on somebody's newly laid planchion. The arrival of modern dance put an end to all of this and the waltz, the twist and the jive became the object of young dancers' ambitions. The traditional dancing faded into the background except for an almost clandestine practice by a few families.

Pranks seemed to have figured largely in the lives of young men who had never heard of "Trick or Treat". In fact, the treat was the thrill of shifting some old fellow's punt or woodhorse and getting away with it. Playing ghost to frighten the timid members of the group usually met with great peer approval and often served to stimulate a greater effort to outdo the feat the next night. Hallowe'en was not kept for the extra emphasis on ghost tricks and spirit yarns but Bonfire Night, a few nights later was observed with gusto. At such times a little harmless "swiping of anything flammable was fair game. Of course, the possibility of getting caught in the act added to the excitement of the event.

Young people's games were a lot common than they are in this age of television. Organization was ad hoc until the coming of softball and volleyball leagues of the last few decades. Nevertheless, each cove had its regular competitions of tiddly, rounders, longsteps and football (when someone killed a pig). Hockey on the "mesh", Hennessey's Pond and Cashin's Pond, provided hours of fun after "bought" skates and pucks made their appearance. The absence of proper equipment was not a problem though and many games were also played in someone's field with a squat milk can or a few inches off the top of a turn of wood.

In coves where the population was small, girls were often drafted to make up a team for ball, hockey, or tiddly. Similiarly, many boys were dragged off to popular spots in the beach where large flat rocks provided an appropriate chalkboard for a game of "school". Even in the school yard, where ball games were usually rigidly sexist because of larger numbers, boys could often be included in the "girl's games" of Farmer in the Dell and King William. They would often refuse to sing "that silly stuff" and Pig in the Ring was much more to their liking.

Long before General Hospital, the women had their "soaps" and they were quite the social occasion. In the days when few could read, they gathered at the homes of postmistresses to hear the latest from Family Fireside or weekly episodes of serials printed in the Catholic Record. If a few hard words had to be skipped, it did not take away from the enjoyment. Later they gathered around radios to hear and discuss "The Second Spring" and Portia Faces Life".

Official holiday times revolved around the Church calendar with Christmas heading the list. It was literally "twelve days of Christmas" with Old Christmas Day (Jan 6) occupying a spot of almost equal importance with Dec 25.There were a few quiet times to recover but the festivities went on almost nonstop. A pot of soup was required fare in every house on St Stephen's Day to assist the revellers in their recovery. The "crowd" (mostly male) was expected to make it to every house in the cove, be treated with drink and grog bits and return the hospitality by entertaining the occupants with song, recitation and dance. The quality of the entertainment might depend on the location of your house in relation to the starting point, since some would drop out or be "under the weather" before they made it to your door. St Patrick's Day, a respite from the Lenten fast, was a time to celebrate our Irish heritage and sense of community and the routine was similar to Christmas but shorter and usually preceded by an Irish concert. Easter Sunday and Lady day (Aug 15) were observed in similiar fashion.


Emigration has been a part of this island's history since its founding. The Dooley's, Cashins, Briens, and Miles are all examples of families that moved on to other parts early in the settlement period. Although migration was primarily into the island until 1910, the size of families dictated that not all would remain on family land for many generations. As early as the 1890's there was a landward movement in Bonavista Bay that took many island residents father into to the bay to capitalize on new developments in the lumber industry and to find new homes away from the isolation of the island. This movement continued with the development of the paper mills, the Buchans mine and the base at Gander. Many St Brendan's families contributed several families members to the developing towns: the Beresfords of Grand Falls - Windsor-Buchans, the Gambo Broderick's, Traytown's Whites and Walshs, Gander's Hogans and O'Riellys, Buchans' Turners.

Not all migration was to places so close to home. Many took longer journeys; some to be lost to us forever except for the return of an occasional son or grandson seeking roots. Transportation in the early days was so time consuming that visiting was out of the question for the earliest emigrants. Many had gone to the New England states to participate in the building of large American cities. Others went to the mining town of Sydney, Nova Scotia or out to Vancouver to work in the other ocean. The Second World War left some in England and Scotland and the postwar building boom took many to mainland Canada, primarily the Montreal and Toronto area. Between 1945 and 1951 the migration rate was an estimated 20 per year.

Who were the emigrants and why did they go? Certainly, they were not, as many outsiders imagine, penniless hordes who drifted to the cities of America to take whatever menial labor they could find. They were extra sons of well established families who could afford to let them go and, in some cases, to assist them in the move. Family property could not have supported all of the six generations that have inhabited the island; nor could our precarious fishery. There had always been a high migration rate of females since marrying outside the community had been a factor since settlement. However, economics dictated that some of the males would have to go as well. If you take any founding family and calculate the offspring of six generations, you will arrive at numbers in the vicinity of three hundred. Common sense will tell you that they could not have subdivided land that far. Our migrants left for the same reason that their ancestors left Ireland: to find the space to carve out their own niche in the world.

The Britans, who studied the island in the 1970's, suggest that St Brendan's lost more of its sons in good times than in bad. I suspect that there is more than a little truth in the theory. After all, migrating was an expensive venture. The outgoing members required passage money and enough capital to provide them with accommodations until they secured wages. In a bad fishing year , the extended family could not spare money to give them or the loss of their earning power to support the family unit. It would be the prosperous years that would make that luxury possible.

How did the migrants fare? Well, I suppose it's inevitable that in a hundred years of migration there would be a few who fell on hard times. The overwhelming majority, though, did very well for themselves. Taking whatever work came their way at first, they soon moved on to better things. Working in the construction and heavy equipment movement trades , some progressed quickly to running their own businesses. Like the emigrants today, they found or created jobs for other family members and assisted them in emigrating. Many went on to employ fellow countrymen and make a substantial contribution to the communities in which they found homes.

For a small number, the work and the homes they found would prove to be no safer than the seafaring life they had left behind. Many families received tragic news of a loved one who had been lost to the jobs they had left home to seek. The list includes:

  • Pad Turner (1900?) railway accident
  • Tom Beresford (1934). Cartier Bridge construction
  • James Aylward (1941). Gander
  • Frank Walsh (1919) Sydney
  • Gordon Fennell (1960) construction accident, Toronto
  • Greg Turner (1962) construction accident, Toronto
  • Patrick Aylward (1985) plane accident, Labrador
  • Patrick Beresford (1969) highway accident
  • Raymond Furlong (1972) car accident, Manuels
St Brendan's did not have a large combat role in the world wars but its secondary contribution was considerable. The only combat casualties I can be certain of were Michael Broderick and Bill Hynes who died in France during World War I. John Francis Hynes was a volunteer who survived the war but did not return to St Brendan's to live. Other residents were conscripted but the war ended before their training period had been completed. During the Second World War, a number of island residents were involved in the Navy, Merchant marine and forestry. They were: Herb Turner, Jim Croke and Cyril White in the Navy; Leo Hynes and Greg Furlong in the Merchant Marine; Lou, Leo and Cyril Aylward, Jim and Jack Samson, Pat and Mike Turner, Dave and Jack Hynes, Cyril and Lou Broderick, Jack Hogan, Jim White and Tom Mackey in the Forestry. Since our schooners kept running through both wars to keep supplies moving to Europe, all of our men and women who crewed them are considered members of the merchant marine auxiliary. The men serving overseas returned safely except for Jim White who died in Scotland and Cyril who married and stayed. Herb Furlong brought back a Scottish war bride to join the St Brendan's Irish.


Many of the island's sad moments have already been enumerated under the headings of Schooners and Outward Migration. Unfortunately, too many tragedies struck here at home. Often they involved multiple deaths. Such was the case when lightning killed Billy Colbert and his grandfather Jimmy Hynes in 1930; fire claimed Bern and Tracy Aylward in 1980; and drowning took the lives of cousins Tom Turner and Pad Aylward along with three nonresidents in a 24 hour period in 1984. The seas around the island took four Furlongs: Gerald and Terry in 1969, Edward in 1938 and John in 1930. In 1937, a son of Ig Furlong was killed by a collapsing wood pile. I believe an early Croke girl was burned. I'm sure that the early years probably had its share of tragedies which have been lost to memory except for the shooting of Paddy Turner, which happened to be recorded in the newspapers of the time.


Much has been written about centralization of late; a great deal of it romantic nonsense. Those tragic tales of poor fishermen dragged from homes they loved is at best exaggeration, at worst pure fabrication. It has become fashionable to berate the governments of the past for their economic mistakes. As far as Bonavista Bay is concerned it is important to note that centralization had begun long before the Smallwood Government instituted the Resettlement policy. Movement up the bay and into the St. John's area had already emptied Gooseberry island and much of Flat Island. Their leaving had more to do with the changing economic focus than with any policy.

Nevertheless, the Smallwood government did arrive at a decision that the people of the hundreds of isolated settlements would be more easily provided with the amenities of life that they were beginning to expect in the post-Confederation world if those people could be brought to more accessible locations. One cannot quarrel with the economics of that decision whatever the human rights arguments might be. Human rights only become a factor if people were literally forced to move and certainty they were not, whatever social and political pressures may have been applied. It is not my purpose to debate the pros and cons of resettlement but two factors are obvious: the people of St Brendan's did not succumb to the pressure to move and have benefitted a great deal from the fact that most other island communities did move. No one will dispute the first and if you think the second to be in error ask yourself how long we would have to wait for electricity and a ferry service if there were several hundred islands looking for the same thing. Modernization, such as it is, could never have become to outport Newfoundland while its population was as scattered as it was in the 1940's. The cost would simply have been too prohibitive.

The question remains as to why the St. Brendan's people stayed. Well, they didn't all stay and I'm not referring to the outward migration of some family members, which had been a factor since our earliest days. I'm talking about the resettling of entire families, quite of their own accord and without any importance attached to the few government dollars that may or not have been taken. We lost many prominent and established families in this time period. They went for the most sensible and unselfish of reasons: a better life for their children. Certainly a larger centre could offer larger schools, more opportunity, access to medical facilities and recreational facilities. Many of the communities who lost as many families as we did folded up and followed. That St Brendan's did not is probably due to several factors. One was our sheer size, 825 people in 1961. Many of the communities that died had considerably smaller population. Ten years later the population was 662, diminished but still a viable population. Another consideration was who and what we were. That little pocket of Irish Catholics had taken and held a home in the middle of largely Protestant Bonavista Bay. If some way could have been found to move the community enmasse, I suspect that a lot of people might have opted for it. Certainly many women, remembering lost babies or worrying about sons trying to make it home for Christmas, would have wished that the isolation could be taken away. Many fathers, like mine , worried if staying might mean condemning sons to the same harsh, uncertain fisherman's life that had been his own.

What of the pressures that other people lament? Where were "the government men who came bribing and preaching"? Well, actually it was a little more subtle than that but the pressure was undoubtably there. Former Pastor Ray Hawco, writing in his thesis for the University of Alberta, states that he was informed by the Bishop that he would be the last priest sent to St. Brendan's as the place was scheduled for resettlement. There was to be no improvement of school or parish facilities; nothing that would encourage people to remain. Similarly whenever he approached the MHA for the district, Premier Smallwood, the message was "you'll get what you want for your people as soon as we get them moved up here" (Glovertown South being identified as up here). It was not the first time that Church and State had collaborated in deciding what its people wanted, regardless of their real preferences. There were no extended propaganda campaigns, no hysteria, no fights bigger than the usual dinner table arguments. Perhaps they assumed we would follow the lead of other communities. Unlike some communities we did not have a powerful merchant pushing the issue. Our merchants probably had more to gain by staying. Perhaps it was, as some have suggested, we simply could not agree on where to go without loss of identity. Perhaps it was sheer Irish mule-headedness. Whatever the determining factor, the community stayed and all our lives are different as a result of that decision or lack of decision if you prefer to see it that way.

St. Brendan's had survived the Centralization movement but there were many who saw it as only a temporary reprieve. Many people still expected the community to die a natural death. The fishery had dwindled to next to nothing, young people were acquiring college education and moving on to work and marry elsewhere. I remember a prediction that Mr. Mike Hynes' house would be the last one built. It was generally expected that my generation would leave the island and that the parents would follow of necessity when they had finished their working years. Certainly a great number of that generation left home never to return except for visits. From the mid sixties onward the picture changed somewhat. The appointment of Bill Shallow as parish priest was certainly a milestone in St. Brendan's history. Whether the government had begun to doubt the wisdom of resettlement and was beginning to soften its stand on expenditures or whether it was Shallow's own refusal to take no for an answer is a matter of opinion. What is not in dispute is the results: Electricity, improved roads, a new school, the ferry service and a new post office. Suddenly St. Brendan's had joined the twentieth century and the reasons for leaving certainly weren't as apparent to the older people. As for the young, they continued to leave, of course: to learn, to work or to marry. This had been happening for a hundred years in greater or lesser degree depending on the times. By the 70's though a new trend had developed. A lot of those young people came home to work and/or live. There were a number of reasons for this. Certainly the cost of land and houses on the mainland played a part in the decision. A brief resurgence in the fishery as other jobs became scarcer played a role. The accessibility that the ferry provided allowed many people who worked away from their homes anyway to commute as readily from St. Brendan's as from a mainland location. Whatever their reasons for coming or staying, those young people reopened most of the existing houses and built at least 20 more by mid 70's. The community appeared to have a new lease on life.

Modern life had intervened in more ways than one and the increase in new families did not mean that the population would return to 1960's levels. The birth rate has dropped on St Brendan's as it has everywhere and families no longer have children over a 20-25 year period. The influx of new families slowed to a trickle; older citizens died or went off to join children living elsewhere. Two schools became one and the enrolment steadily dropped so that multi grading became a fact of life for our students. As this is written the population has dropped to 350 and people are again wondering if the community will survive. The future is uncertain but one could argue that it has always been so.


  • A Year Book and Almanac of Newfoundland 1897
  • Ryan Family Papers, 1880-1905
  • Seary: Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland
  • Devine and Lawton: Old King's Cove, 1944
  • Howley: Name Lore (articles in Newfoundland Quarterly)
  • Parish Records: KCRC, BTRC, BRC, Greenspond Anglican
  • Beresford, Thomas: Research notes
  • Mannion, Dr. John: Research notes
  • Hawco, Ray: Thesis to University of Alberta
  • Britan, Gerry and Ronnie: various papers to Columbia & MUN
  • Evening Telegram (1870-1905)
  • Maritime History: Shipping Records
  • Jukes: Reports of geological studies of Nfld 1839-41
  • Fitzgerald: Lone Eagles of God, 1949
  • Severin, Tim: The Brendan Voyage, 1978
  • Post Office Records
  • Department of Education Records
  • Municipal Affairs Records
  • Byrne, Pat: Westmoon (song)
  • The Monitor 1980
  • St Brendan's Parish Records
  • The collective memory of scores of St Brendan's residents
Photo by C. Falk Foto, Gander, Nfld.
© Robert Royle, Robby Follett, Tina Broderick Martin and NL GenWeb
Bonavista Bay Central