Thomas F. Nemec, PhD|
Department of Anthropology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
For publication in The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Vol. II, J.R. Smallwood and R. Pitt, eds.
Students of the coming of the Irish to, and settlement in, Newfoundland face a formidable task: primary data is scattered along both sides of the Atlantic, no book-length treatments of the subject have been published, and archaeologists have not yet unearthed material evidence which sheds light on the initial connections between the two islands. A similar view was expressed by the noted cleric, historian and toponymiste, M.F. Howley (1888:167-8) who wrote "that while It should be an interesting study to trace the origin and progress of this silent but ever on flowing stream of immigration...as yet no records have been found to throw light upon it."
Likewise, almost a century later, F.W. Rowe (1980:211) writes that "The origin of Irish settlement in Newfoundland is a matter of speculation and controversy."
Lacking firm evidence and a definitive treatment of the subject, what can be said of the initial connections between the two islands, the later migrations, and eventual settlement? If we scrupulously avoid unsubstantiated statements by amateurs and deal exclusively with data supplied by reputable scholars, the results, although more meagre, are far less contentious. In this regard, special recognition must be given to the works of two Memorial University professors, Keith Matthews, a maritime historian (hereafter K.M.), and John Mannion, a cultural geographer (hereafter J.M.). Beginning in the 1960s their primary research has led to significant revisions of the historical record vis-a-vis Ireland and Newfoundland.
Ireland and Newfoundland: Initial Connections
As an adjunct of the Age of European discovery, reconnaissance and exploitation Newfoundland cod began attracting fishing fleets of several western European nations by circa. 1500 A.D. Although the Irish were closer (less than 1,800 nautical miles) than any continental European population, for various reasons they did not participate in the Newfoundland trade until late in the 1600s, and even then Irish traffic was a mere "trickle" in comparison to English activity (K.M., 1968: 334). In 1681, for example, one ship embarked from Dublin and Limerick to pick up saltfish at Newfoundland for sale to markets overseas (K.M., 1968:181). Similarly. Mannion states "there is no evidence of any regular Irish involvement...until after around 1675" (1977a:1). Likewise, Grant Head states that "The earliest notice of the Irish in Newfoundland was probably the Irish sack ships there in 1679 (1976:97). Apparently, therefore, traffic between the islands prior to the late seventeenth century was virtually nil (Prowse, 1895:44, 58; Lounsbury, 1934:34-5; Innis, 1934:37).
The meagre amount of Irish commerce with Newfoundland can be attributed primarily to English domination. At the same time, a number of secondary factors, as Matthews points out, played a significant role. These included: civil unrest; insufficient private capital, suitable shipping, and local markets for saltfish; and lack of a skilled class of artisans, which in turn, denied Ireland the opportunity of meeting the manufacturing needs of the trade.
Although Irish trade and commerce with Newfoundland initially was of meagre proportions, large numbers of Irish themselves were directly involved in the Newfoundland fishery. After 1675, as Mannion points out, fishing vessels from England's West Country began calling in the spring of each year at the Irish ports of Youghal, Cork, New Ross, and Waterford in particular on their way to Newfoundland (J.M., 19 71:33; 1980:27). Besides taking aboard cheaper 'wet' provisions (salt pork and beef, butter, cheese and porter), tallow and woolens than could be obtained in England, they also availed themselves of a ready source of cheap manual labour -- Irish 'youngsters' as they were called -- for employment in the fishery at Newfoundland (Howley, 1888:168; Prowse, 1895: 200-1). Following Irish usage, the term, "youngster," simply meant that the labourer or servant was usually unmarried and not that he was in fact a child or adolescent. Because of the cost of transatlantic passage, "youngsters" normally worked for two summers and a winter in Newfoundland before returning home. While Prowse indicates that Irish "youngsters" were commonly oppressed and ill-used by their masters, the English "planters, " Matthews suggests that this was an intrinsic attribute of the master-servant relationship - -regardless of their respective nationalities.
By the eighteenth century the number of Irish "youngsters" or servants involved in the Newfoundland fishery had increased considerably. Lounsbury attributes this largely to passage in Great Britain of the Newfoundland Act of 1699 (1934:301). For according to the legislation, masters of English ships sailing to the island were required to employ a certain percentage of "green men" or apprentices. Since the latter were more readily available in Ireland, the Act could have resulted in increased use of Irish labour. In Matthews' opinion, however, since there was no machinery in operation for enforcing the Act it was rendered ineffectual.
The proportion of Irish did increase, though, for other reasons. To begin with, queen Anne's War with France resulted in a shortage of Englishmen in the fishery, as many were either pressed into naval service or fled inland from the seaports and coasts for fear of impressment. Another contributing factor was the depression in the Newfoundland fishery between 1711 and 1728, which led English fishermen to seek elsewhere for employment. Lacking such alternatives, though, the number of Irish "youngsters" at Newfoundland increased markedly. But since the fishery was an especially risky economic venture at this time, it was not uncommon for fishermen to be abandoned without pay on the island by ships' masters, some of whom went bankrupt. Left to their own devices, the Irish often had to make the best of difficult conditions, including lack of gainful employment each winter, harsh climatic conditions, inadequate shelter, disease, malnutrition, prejudice and religious persecution.
Although Irish involvement in the fishery may have increased during the early eighteenth century, it does not follow, as some have suggested, that Irish settlement of the island necessarily ensued. For regardless of whether a fishermen was English or Irish, the fishery itself was still largely migratory in character, and as such, its personnel were transient: residing on the island just for the duration of the summer fishery. This migratory adaptation coupled with poor census data makes any estimation of the size of the resident population extremely difficult.
Certain isolated references, however, are made to the presence of Irish settlers on the island beginning in the seventeenth century. Thus, Rogers (1911:79) mentions in passing an Irish "inhabitant" of St. Mary's Bay who was discovered "poaching" beavers with some Indians near Cape St. Mary's in 1662. And Rowe (1980:11) maintains that "there were some Irish settlers in St. John's prior to 1675...." However, it should be noted that Matthews in 1968 (p. 335) dates Irish in St. John's no earlier than 1705. But he also refers to an Irish presence at Ireland's Eye, Trinity Bay by 1675. Additional early references to the Irish can be found in the diary of the French missionary priest, Abbe' Daudoin, who accompanied the D'Iberville expedition in 1696-7 (Howley, 1888:150-156) He mentions in passing Irish at Brigus [Brigue], Heart's Content [Havre Content] and Carbonear [Carbonniere].
How these Irish settlers became established in Newfoundland is still a matter of considerable speculation and debate. The list of possible causes includes labour shortages, abandonment, severe economic and political conditions in Ireland, defunct colonial enterprises in Newfoundland, and the long-standing custom of some ships' masters of leaving behind a portion of the crew every winter to maintain or build cookrooms " (bunkhouses) , " stages, " "trayne vats" (for cod oil),wharves, and boats (Prowse, 1895:59).
Irish Settlement in Newfoundland
If Matthews (1968:335) is correct, the "first great inflow of Irishmen" to Newfoundland followed the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and the subsequent cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and France. The first influx of Irish came, therefore, not as a result of the seventeenth century colonial adventures of Baltimore, Kirk, Falkland or Vaughan (Gnomic, 1972:17 ; l975:182-4) but as an adjunct of the expansion of the West of England Newfoundland Ship fishery. Two factors in particular contributed to the influx: first, the inability of planters to recruit sufficient English servants to satisfy the growing needs of the fishery and second, the increasing desire of many Irish to flee their homeland (K.M., 1968: J 335-6). Although it is difficult to say now which of the two factors was more important, it should be noted that the Irish at this time could not ignore any opportunity such as Newfoundland which presented itself. As J.H. Plumb in England in the Eighteenth Century (1966:180) describes the plight of the Irish:
"It is bitter but true that the English were responsible. They had invaded Ireland; conquered it, and, in spite of repeated rebellion, mastered it. Each rebellion had been followed by harsh retribution. The land had been taken away to compensate the victims and to pay for the alien administration which the conquerors had imported. Its economy had been rigidly and absolutely subordinated to England's".
It is not surprising to learn then that (Plumb, 1966:179)
"Thousands shipped themselves to the plantations on terms little better than slavery, which were preferable to the slow starvation at home".
As if English oppression was not enough, several major crop failures in Ireland between 1726 and 1741 resulted in widespread famine (Head, 1976:92-4). And last but not least, transportation to, and cheap American foodstuffs were available at Newfoundland.
By 1720 sufficient members of Irish were arriving to alarm at least the British convoy commander. He felt the Irish might side in some future conflict between the English and French with the latter (K.M., 1968:337); just as thirty Irish servants in Conception and Trinity Bays had joined the French in 1697 after having been mistreated by their English masters (J.M., 1977a:2)
By 1729 reports indicate that the Irish comprised the ethnic majority at Placentia, the former French "capital" on the southern Avalon. Elsewhere, except for the southern Avalon, the Irish were still a minority (J.M.:, 1971:35; 19771:1). According to the first reliable census, that of 1732, the Irish comprised a mere ten per cent of the resident population and less than forty per cent of the seasonal migrants (J.M.,:19 71:3 5) . Indeed, if Mannion is correct, Irish residents in Newfoundland between 1730 and 1740 numbered no more than five hundred (1973:2). Lounsbury states that while some "Irishmen came as members of fishing crews, others arrived as passengers to seek employment from planters and by boat keepers" (1934: 301). Matthews, however, differs with Lounsbury on this matter. He believes the Irish operated primarily as inshore fishermen and "shore men" who fished inshore or worked ashore curing or "making" fish. Ships' crews, on the other hand, continued to be manned, in his opinion, largely by West Countrymen until the late eighteenth century when the demand for fishermen and seamen exceeded the supply available from the West Country. As a consequence Irishmen, including those from the hinterland who lacked experience, were hired to meet the increasing demand.
If the increasing rate of Irish migration to the island in the eighteenth century can be taken as a reliable indicator, the inshore fishery itself was an increasingly worthwhile economic pursuit. But while many Irish were no doubt attracted because of this seasonal activity, many nevertheless experienced severe hardship due to the almost`complete lack of gainful employment in Newfoundland during the remainder of the year. Matthews provides an eloquent description of their introduction to the island and subsequent plight (1968:336-41).
"Many were (like English servants) brought out in response to 'orders' placed by planters with their merchant suppliers, but others came out 'on speculation'-tricked by fast-talking Irish or English captains into believing that Newfoundland was a paradise. The latter found little difficulty in obtaining employment during the season but were often 'cast adrift' in the winter, when starving and 'naturally prejudiced against Englishmen and Protestants' they had no choice but to riot and plunder".
This process of entrapment, however, began to diminish after 1750 when Justices of the Peace on the island began to exert pressure on planters and merchants not to abandon servants. Acting in the public interest, winter justices sought to ameliorate the immediate, although not underlying, cause of civil disturbances a growing, rootless class of abandoned servants. A further development by 1760 saw acceptance of a "common law" which stated that fishing servants had first lien on their bankrupt employers' effects. At the same time planters and merchants alike sought to encourage their best servants to remain behind on the island. Labour shortages aggravated the need for skilled and experienced servants, especially those prepared to enter into long term agreements with their employers. And in many cases where servants had gone into debt with their masters, they had no legal choice but to remain.
Although the rate of Irish migration to the island continually increased throughout the eighteenth century, British interests voiced little alarm--at least to begin with. Luckily for the Irish, English entrepreneurs thought more of their profits than of any potential threat posed by the Irish influx. Ship captains and merchant adventurers in particular profited directly from the "carriage" or passenger trade between the British Isles and the "western plantations" and colonies (K.M., 1968: 336-41). In addition to Irishmen, they also recruited unmarried Irish girls to come over. While they were not charged passage directly, the planters who bought them as "wives" paid the ship captains in fish. Accordingly, they were loathe to sacrifice profits from the passenger trade unless forced to do so by the Crown.
Planters likewise found profit in the Irish since they constituted a cheap and readily available source of labour. Similar to the merchants, they were usually quite willing to defend their servants as "loyal and hardworking subjects" of the Crown (K.M., 1968:336-41). The only discordant note was sounded by planters in St. John's, who felt threatened possibly by the growing population of Irish in the port. Forming approximately fifty per cent of the resident population of St. John's in 1742, the Irish by this time also "outnumbered English winter residents in almost all harbours between Placentia and St. John's," i.e., the southeastern Avalon.
Although merchants, adventurers and Planters employed the Irish and were evidently satisfied with them, certain naval governors during the latter half of the eighteenth century expressed considerable outrage over their behaviour. Indeed, they held them responsible for a good deal of the disorder committed in the winter" (Lounsbury, 1934:301). In addition, they were opposed to their Catholicism and the potential political disaffection it implied. Fishing fleet commodores also condemned the practice of bringing out Irish labour from "inland places and gaols" when they were intended for work in the fishery (K.M., 1968:336-41).
Their views, though, were offset by merchants like Saunders and Sweetmans of Placentia, who wrote in a "Letter Book":
"I would advise you "ever to send out more English youngsters than will just clear the vessel...they never, any of them stick to the place or have any attachments to it. As for hard labour, one Irish Youngster is worth a dozen of them".
With the establishment of a resident Population by the mid-eighteenth century, certain areas of the Southeast coast came to be numerically, and later culturally, dominated by the Irish. St. John's, though, formed an ethnic boundary as it was not only comprised of roughly equal proportions of West Country English Protestants and southeast Irish Catholics, but it stood at the geographic mid-point between the respective areas of concentration of the two groups: for northwest of St. John's, along the relatively well populated shores of Conception and Trinity Bays in particular, the Irish constituted only twenty per cent of the resident population in 1742, according to one estimate [Lounsbury, 1934:301; K.M., 1968:339). Even following the "precipitous rise" in Irish migration to the island in the mid-eighteenth century the essential pattern of distribution did not change: the English clustered together in the harbours and coves along the Island's east coast northwest of St. John's and the Irish located along the extreme southeast coast between St. John's and Placentia (J.M., 1971:35). Up to the present time, this demarcation, despite exceptions, has not only endured but become even more pronounced. But before any such demarcation occurred, the Irish made substantial inroads into former Protestant English strongholds, such as Harbour Grace in Conception Bay, which for awhile at least was to become the main centre of Irish mercantile influence on the island. In time, however, Irish communities northwest of St. John's, with the prominent exception of the east coast of Conception Bay, diminished, and in some cases entirely disappeared. Eventually, only a few scattered settlements of Irish northwest of St. John's were to survive into the nineteenth century, just as the English fishing "capitals" along the southern Avalon were eventually transformed into predominantly Irish communities.
The actual distribution of both English and Irish along the old English Shore (east coast and Avalon) as of 1758 is detailed on a map drawn by Mannion for his doctoral dissertation (1971).,
Large-Scale Irish Migration to Newfoundland
The number of Irish passengers coming to Newfoundland, as Mannion points out (1980:27), ...grew gradually, from around, 1,000 persons in the 1730s to 2,000 in 1750 and on to a peak of more than 5,000 a year in the late 1770s and 1780s, when the total summer population was around 30,000. By this time the Irish comprised more than two-thirds of the total number of annual passengers to Newfoundland from the British Isles.
This continually growing influx coincides with the introduction and development of local industry. In essence, with the advent of new or expanding primary, secondary and tertiary industries on the island in the latter half of the eighteenth century, its economic "carrying capacity" increased and it became capable of absorbing much larger numbers of Irish, as well as English and Scottish, immigrants. This increased carrying capacity soon came to function as a "safety valve" for the excess population, which in turn had resulted from the increasing inability of the Irish economy to employ its own manpower. In other words, to properly understand the sizeable influx of Irish to Newfoundland, prevailing conditions in Ireland, as well as Newfoundland, must be considered. This is apparent from a number of sources, including Dillon's description of conditions in Ireland at this time (1968:32-3)
The Irish at home were living under the most wretched conditions. They tried to survive by cultivating small parcels of the most unproductive land, meted out to them by the English land owners. This bit of land amounted to what O'Faolain calls "a quarter acre of rotten sod." Under the old Irish system the Irish and had been freeholders, holding their land incontestably for three generations at least. Under the new system, they were leaseholders, that is, they held their land from year to year and paid heavy rents to the landlords. They had become mere tenants or peasants on land which had once been their own. They had little hope of improving their lot, and they were starving to death by the thousands. They also suffered religious persecution....
The question arises, however, whether Dillon's description is universally applicable to all parts of Ireland, and in particular to the southeastern counties which provided the great majority of migrants to Newfoundland. Mannion maintains to the contrary that southeastern Ireland was "the least densely populated portion" and that its "peasant farms were far more substantial and rural wealth far greater than over most of the rest of the country" (1973:9-10). He believes instead that migration was stimulated by a combination of less dramatic but more complex factors: (1) the unwillingness of peasant farmers to subdivide commercially viable farms for their sons' use, (2) lack of sufficient alternative employment due largely to increasing mechanization and industrialization, and (3) the inability of towns and cities to absorb unprecedented population growth. In addition, he maintains that migrants were recruited from amongst the sons of the more successful farmers, rather than the impoverished. Also, he takes issue with the popular notion that there was an immediate upsurge in immigration to Newfoundland following the "Wexford Rebellion" (the unsuccessful uprising of the "United Irishmen" in 1798) and the Act of Union in 1800.
As a result of the factors Mannion mentions, in combination with new opportunities which were emerging in Newfoundland, Irish began migrating to the island on a considerably greater scale in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Any estimate, however, of the numbers or rate of migration is well nigh impossible by its very nature. For the emigration to Newfoundland was still in part a continuation of the migratory adaptation effected earlier by fishing servants or "youngsters" (J.M., 1971:36) Accordingly, although examination of the available fishery censuses will provide figures on migratory fishermen and winter residents, these figures inevitably conceal any distinction between genuinely permanent residents and the variety of transients who resided for a time on the island: annual visitors (e.g., ship fishermen), servants who resided for the duration of their indenture, planters who spent their working lives on the island but then retired to their homes across the sea, and so forth. Mannion (1971:35) estimates that seasonal migration of Irish from Waterford during the second half of the eighteenth century "rose to a steady stream sometimes exceeding 4,000 persons per year." His estimate coincides with that of archbishop Howley (1888:402-3), who in turn was repeating an estimate made originally by Arthur Young, an English traveller in Ireland between 1776 and 1779. As Howley recapitulates Young's description:
"The staple trade in Waterford is the Newfoundland trade...the number of people who go as passengers in the Newfoundland ships is simply amazing, from sixty to eighty ships and from 3,000 to 5,000 persons annually. They come from most parts of Ireland, from Cork, Kerry, etc. Experienced men will get 18 to 25 pounds for the season, from March to November. A man who never went will have from 5 to 7 pounds and others rise to 20 pounds, the passage out they get, but pay home 2 pounds. An industrious man will bring home 12-16 pounds with him, and some more."
Additional impetus for Irish emigration stemmed from British legislation passed in 1803 which specified much more stringent requirements for passenger vessels (Dillon, 1968:32-3). Henceforward ships were required to carry specified quantities of food, a doctor, and to provide adequate space for passengers. Previously, according to Prowse (1895:404), passengers had been transported like cattle.
Their sufferings in crossing must have been terrible, only exceeded by the horrors of the middle passage on board an African slaver.
Apparently, it was not uncommon for them to be subjected to disease, starvation and exposure. Implementation of the new legislation resulted, however, in a fare increase from ten shillings (K.M., 1968:599) to much higher prices which few could afford. However, since the Act's provisions applied to all vessels travelling between the British Isles and North America, with the exception of those bound for Newfoundland, its immediate effect on Irish emigration can be readily appreciated. Another factor which worked in favour of emigration to Newfoundland was the fact that with the exception of New England, the North American mainland, including what were to become the Maritime Provinces, was still relatively undeveloped.
While certain of the causes of the Irish emigration to Newfoundland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries now seem clear, its actual scale and magnitude has not been clearly defined. What does seem clear, though is that between 1803 and 1831 relatively large influxes of Irish came to the island and an as yet undetermined percentage established permanent roots. Mannion estimates' that between 1797 and 1836 the island's Irish population quintupled (1973:2).
The trickle of emigration increased in the 1770s and '80s, but the eighteenth century flow was completely dwarfed by the influx after 1800....in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, 30-35,000 Irish arrived in Newfoundland. The flow was punctuated by two major spurts: 16,000 arrived between 1811-16, and 8,000 between 1825-31. Not all stayed, of course, but by 1836 there were roughly 38,000 Irish living here, more than five times the number in 1800. They now comprised roughly 50 per cent of the total population of the Island.
Throughout this period St. John's was the principal port of disembarkation for the immigrants. It is not surprising to learn, therefore, that the City's Irish element increased from 2,000 in 1794 to 14,000 in 1836 and that as a result it became "the first substantial immigrant Irish urban ghetto" (J.M., 1971:39). These estimates corroborate a traditional figure repeated by E.B. Foran to the effect that over 10,000 Irish migrated to the island between 1805 and 1815, the majority of whom disembarked in St. John's (1937:253). Since the period of the greatest influx was concentrated between 1811 and 1816, it coincided almost exactly with the War of 1812. Following Prowse (1895:404) possibly, K. Matthews (1968:599) estimates that in 1814 alone over 10,000 immigrants arrived, the bulk of whom were from Ireland. According to Howley (1888:402-3) 3,026 men and 373 women arrived in St. John's in 1815, but William Adams states that 5,000 arrived (1932:71)
Many immigrants apparently landed at "ancient fishing capitals," such as Trepassey (Nemec,l973a: 15-24), and then dispersed along the coast. In the process of dispersal, exposed headlands, offshore islands, small coves, and dangerous bights which hitherto were unoccupied because of their relatively unfavourable topography were permanently settled. It may well be that many of the island's smaller outports were established in this way in the early nineteenth century. But just how many Irish immigrants bypassed St. John's in this fashion remains an entirely open question. For even the widely accepted estimates of disembarkation at St. John's have been questioned by the sociologist, Ralph Matthews (1970:29). He is particularly sceptical and uncertain of the evidence upon which various authors have based their estimates. He questions, for example, Prowse's figure of 10,000 immigrants landing in 1814 and any unsubstantiated estimates, such as that of A.H. McLintock, who states that between 1811 and 1830 24,000 Irish came to the Island (1941:126-7). However, since R. Matthews himself adduces no new evidence to the contrary, estimates by scholars such as Prowse should not be rejected out of hand merely because no source is cited.
It is generally agreed that the great majority of Irish immigrants stemmed from southeastern Ireland. Monsignor Flynn, for example, states that eighteenth century immigrants originated primarily from the extreme southeastern counties: Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary (1937:274). Research by Mannion, however, into Irish migrations to North America indicates that this perspective must be revised (1971:23ff). For not only did the great bulk of the emigrants embark from the ports of Waterford, Wexford and New Ross, but they were for the most part natives of Counties Wexford and Waterford. The single most important source was Waterford. In fact, according to Mannion, over ninety per cent of Newfoundland's Irish came from an area within forty miles of Waterford City (1971:6) It is interesting to note that Virginia Dillon arrived independently at similar findings in her research on the "Southern Shore" of the Avalon Peninsula. After: surveying some of the existing graveyards along "the Shore," she concluded that "all these Irish origins are on the rivers served by New Ross in County Wexford and Waterford" (1968:54)
But despite the fact that the great majority of Newfoundland Irish emigrated from essentially the same region in Ireland, Seary, Kirwin and Story as of 1968 had found no evidence of families from the same or neighbouring localities joining together to form communities in Newfoundland (1968-11). Keith Matthews, on the other hand, suggests evidence to indicate that there were two cases at least in which migrants settled near former neighbours: (1) the Irish population at Placentia in the eighteenth century which was derived apparently en masse from Waterford and (2) the feuds and rivalries brought over from Ireland which characterized relations between Wexford and Waterford men in Conception Bay settlements in the early nineteenth century. While additional evidence could be marshalled in support of Matthews' contention (Foran, 1937:253; J.M., 1971:37), it is nevertheless curious that many Irish apparently did not resettle near former friends and neighbours.
Irish Adaptive Adjustments in Newfoundland
While Newfoundland's economic carrying capacity and concomitant ability to absorb immigrants had increased considerably by the turn of the century, even greater capacity developed during the War of 1812. For during the war years from 1812 to 1815 the island found itself in the unprecedented position of virtually monopolizing the saltfish trade. This can be attributed to the fact that the island's usual competitors on both sides of the Atlantic were either at war or else prevented by blockades from marketing their fish. As a direct consequence of the war, therefore, Newfoundland became the major supplier. Subsequently, demand exceeded supply and fish prices in Newfoundland increased from a pre-war range of ten to fourteen shillings per quintal (112 pounds) to twenty and as high as thirty-two shillings by 1814 (Rogers, 1911: 154-5). These price increases had a greater impact on resident or sedentary, as opposed to migratory, fishermen in Newfoundland due to the demise of the West of England-Newfoundland ship fishery which had disappeared, according to Matthews, before the war by 1810 (1968:598)
But inflated prices for fish benefited not only local planters and their servants, they also attracted migrants to the island. In addition, the growth of local industry provided settlers, both new and old, with a more secure economic base upon which to build their lives. Thus, for example, with the emergence and expansion of the seal fishery in the eighteenth century, a boat-building industry grew correspondingly. Henceforward, settlers could augment their traditional income from the summer fishery with further gainful employment in the winter. In essence, settlers could now look forward to year-round, full-time subsistence production (fishing, hunting, trapping, gardening and etc.), plus supplementary employment in those secondary industries such as boat building which derived from expanding primary industries. All in all, the island was never more ready to absorb a large influx of immigrants than during the War of 1812. But even greater numbers of immigrants were attracted than can be adequately explained by the growth of industry on the island. An additional factor, which should be considered, therefore, is the fact that during the war vessels from the British Isles could not enter American ports. Thus, while many migrants were attracted to, and had decided to settle in, Newfoundland, many others simply had no choice since ships travelled no further west.
In the aftermath of the War of 1812 Newfoundland's prosperity came to an abrupt end (Rogers, 1911:154-5) Norwegian and French saltfish once again began to appear and compete on the world market, and in the Mediterranean area in particular. As a consequence, not only did the price of fish fall to pre-war levels but traditional rivals once again began to displace Newfoundland in European markets. In a short time, increasing competition, in combination with high import duties in consumer countries, led to a severe economic depression on the island. Short-term factors such as the withdrawal of English military forces from the Iberian Peninsula also contributed to the initial severity of the depression, as they had been heavy consumers of saltfish while in the field. But the depression still might not have struck the island so hard had it not been "spoilt by war." For as Rogers describes the island's plight (1911:154-5)
...bankruptcy was universal, writs of execution fell like leaves in vallombrosa, and starvation was imminent. Peace, which brought ease, plenty, and blessing elsewhere, brought hardship, penury, and despair here.
With the onset of the depression, the tide of Irish emigration diminished considerably. Those Irish unfortunate enough to emigrate to the island in the immediate post-war years found the residents in dire economic straits that rivalled those which forced the emigrants themselves to leave Ireland. Browse tells us, for example, that near Renews on the "Southern Shore" a group of "...Irish emigrants left their ship at the edge of the ice, and crawled on shore on their hands and knees, to add more sharers in the already inadequate rations" (1895:406). Their emigration reached even more tragic proportions as many were brought out under false pretences. This is made clear by the Chief Magistrate in a letter to Governor Pickmore in 1816 (Pedley, 1863: 307)
There were heartless men in Ireland, who, for no other gain but that of passage money, put out attractive advertisements setting forth what a Goshen in Newfoundland [sic] invited a wretched peasantry, and having crowded their vessels with miserable dupes, and exposed them to the storms of the Atlantic turned them ashore at St. John's to shift for themselves, without any possible means of subsistence or getting employment.
Because of a coincidental combination of factors stemming from the unrelenting depression and harsh climatic conditions, the size of the island's population, especially in the larger centres, came to exceed its carrying capacity. This situation reached its peak in 1817-18 during the "Winter of the Rals." Prowse provides a graphic description of the crushing chain of events which led up to that famous winter (1895:404-5)
In the winter of 1815 the capital and all the outports were in a state of actual starvation...losses and insolvencies... had ruined the credit of our merchants. Importations of provisions were quite inadequate, and, to add to the general misery, emigrants were flocking in from Ireland. By Christmas 1816, when communication with the outside was virtually shut off, the dread spectre of famine threatened our unfortunate Colony...in the terrible season of 1817-18, known...as the 'Hard Winter,' and...as the 'Winter of the Rals?' In the former season, starvation alone had to be contended with; now famine, frost, and fire combined, like three avenging furies, to scourge the unfortunate Island.
As a consequence, many of the Irish immigrants who arrived during the immediate post-war period continued on to the mainland, if at all possible. Indeed, it is more than likely that the majority of the 1,100 people that were transported from the island by the British government to Ireland and Nova Scotia in order to ease conditions were of Irish origins (Rogers, 1911:154-5) Of those who remained, a large number probably relocated from disaster-struck St. John's to the outports, especially where individuals or families could mobilize bonds of kinship, friendship and former co-residence in Ireland in order to facilitate resettlement.
Although Prowse (1895:406) records a brief respite in 1818, Matthews maintains the depression which began in 1816 did not relent for fifteen years. Nevertheless, 8,000 Irish migrated to the island, according to Mannion, between 1825 and 1831 (1973:2). In part they may have been goaded on by the famine of 1821-2 plus other conditions in Ireland as reported by E.P. Thompson (1972:472).
The mass eviction of peasant 'freeholders' between 1828 and 1830 swelled the numbers travelling on the crowded boats to Liverpool and Bristol. But England was 'far from being their Mecca, and is indeed the last place they would willingly approach'. The more fortunate, who could save the passage money, were emigrating to America or Canada....
Contemporary descriptions of conditions in Ireland at the this time were not unlike those which were published as a consequence of the infamous famines of the 1840s. Assuming the following description is not exaggerated, one can appreciate, therefore, why depressed economic conditions in Newfoundland in the post-war era did not deter some Irish from settling (1836, as quoted by Thompson, 1972:472)
Their habitations are wretched hovels, several of a family sleep together upon straw or upon the bare ground... their food commonly consists of dry potatoes, and with these they are... obliged to stint themselves to one spare meal on the day....They sometimes get a herring, or a little milk, but they never get meat except at. Christmas, Easter, and Shrovetide.
But whatever the causes of the post-war influx the result, as Mannion points out, was that "as late as 1828 there were probably more Catholic Irish in Newfoundland than in any other province or state in North America" (1973:1)
From 1831 onwards Irish migrants increasingly bypassed Newfoundland and disembarked at the east coast ports of mainland North America. This shift was linked in turn to a shift in the main shipping lanes of North Atlantic commerce (K.M., 1971:45). As Mannion describes the situation, timber had displaced cod in the war's aftermath as the primary component of British North American trade with the British Isles. Consequently, St. John's, Newfoundland was replaced as chief disembarkation point by Saint John, New Brunswick and Quebec, since thousands of Irish now sought cheap transport on the`timber ships travelling to those ports. Because this shipping bypassed American ports, at least initially, what was to become the mainland of Canada (in 1867) attracted more Irish immigrants than the United States until after 1840.
By approximately 1831, therefore, the limits of Irish settlement on the island, which had been roughly set in the latter part of the eighteenth century, were firmly fixed. This also takes into account the considerable English emigration to the island, which until recently, had been effectively masked by the greater magnitude of the Irish influx (K.M., 1968:600; W.G. Iiancock, 1977:32). For the English (and to a much lesser extent, the Scots) who arrived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries continued to settle, at least initially, along the east coast northwest of St. John's. Consequently, they did not as a rule impinge on the Irish, who likewise continued to cluster principally along the southern Avalon. The only areas of significant ethnic overlap were the "North Shore" of Conception Bay and the St. John's region. This basic geographic distribution has never changed, despite continued dispersal by both major ethnic groups throughout the nineteenth century. Thus, while the English dispersed to Labrador's South Coast and Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, West and South Coasts following the withdrawal (by no means total) of the French from the "French Shore," many Irish moved west from the Avalon Peninsula probably via Placentia Bay, to the Burin Peninsula on the South Coast. In essence, therefore, the Irish clustered along the island's extreme southeast corner, while the English concentrated on the east coast and in addition formed scattered settlements elsewhere.
Although the island's population was not substantially increased by immigration following 1831, its size nevertheless continued to soar upwards. Following the official census returns, the sociologist, Ralph Matthews, estimates the total population in 1822 at 52,000 (1970:31). By 1836 it rose to 73,618 and the Irish component by itself constituted 38,000 or over half this total (J.M., 1973:2). The total population made an even greater jump to 96,295 in 1845 and by 1857 it had climbed to 122,638. The last major increase in the nineteenth century occurred between 1869 and 1884 when it rose from 144,368 to 193,124. While it climbed even further to 217,037 by 1901 this was hardly as great an increase. Following the lead of Rogers (1911:240), R.Matthews maintains that the dramatic upsurge in the island's population, which took place principally in the nineteenth century, was due simply to natural increase (1970:32). While it is obvious that "the population quadrupled itself " (Rogers, 1911:240), there were no major economic or technological changes taking place which might explain the considerable increase. After reviewing the extant labour force figures, R. Mathews likewise concludes that "the character of the island did not change much during this period" (1970:31). An alternative hypothesis which might explain the population increase is that the ecological and cultural adaptations (which includes technological, economic, social, political and ideological adaptive adjustments) of outport settlements along the island's coasts achieved a level of efficiency or refinement in the nineteenth century sufficient to allow not only larger-scale populations, but in addition, a much larger number of settlements themselves, Besides explaining gross population increase, this hypothesis also explains the growth in the number of settlements--approximately 1,350 by 1900--a point R. Matthews does not discuss.
In conclusion, it seems clear that the great majority of Irish emigrants arrived at Newfoundland long before the infamous famines of the 1840's drove a million or more Irish to North America, and the United States in particular. In essence, the Newfoundland Irish were ensconced as fishermen and subsistence producers in outport settlements along the coast of the southeast corner of Newfoundland long before the major waves of nineteenth century European emigration reached the shores of North America' (J.M., 1973:2)
The Irish In Newfoundland
The Irish In Newfoundland 1623-1800
In 1623, Lord Falkland, who planned on founding a colony on the Southern Shore of the Avalon around Renews, had a book published for him in Dublin, inviting Irishmen to participate in his venture. According to the early seventeenth century poet of Harbour Grace, Robert Hayman, some of Lord Falkland's settlers came, but there is nothing to indicate for certain that they were Irishmen. There is an oral tradition, however, among the people of St. Mary's Bay, that their ancestors were Irish settlers brought out by Falkland who, being hounded from the Renews area, made their way to St. Mary's Bay, where supposedly their descendants live to this day. Information available, however, does not support such tradition, as St. Mary's appears to have been under the control of the French from 1662 until 1713, and there does not seem to have been any regular inhabitants there until after the Treaty of Utrecht. It is true that there is mention that the French captured the bailiff from the Ferryland colony on his way to arrest an Irish inhabitant, who with the aid of Indians was trapping in the St. Mary's area in 1662 and it is possible that he had come from Lord Falkland's colony, but there is no supportive evidence for this contention. All that can be said is that this appears to be the first positive reference to the Irish in Newfoundland.
by Michael J. McCarthy
Many theories have been advanced concerning the Irish in Newfoundland in the early seventeenth century, but there is very little evidence to substantiate them. It would appear that there was little if any Irish involvement in Newfoundland in the first half of the century, but that towards the end of the century the Irish were coming to Newfoundland. In 1696, M. Baudouin, the chaplain to D'iberville during the raids on the English settlements in Newfoundland, reported the presence of Irish servants at Brigus, where eight were taken when the French burnt the town. At Heart's Content an Irishman was in charge of the defences of the community, but surrendered without a fight to the superior French forces. Baudouin also reported that the English masters treated their Irish servants like slaves, and that some of the Irish joined with the French in attacking the English settlements. Baudouin stated that the Englishmen were ordinarily willing to exchange prisoners on a one to one basis with the French but demanded three Irishman for each Frenchman released. From this report it would seem that by the end of the seventeenth century there were a number of Irishman either migrant or settled in the island. Evidence indicates there were Irish settlers at Ireland's Eye, Trinity Bay, in 1675, and in 1676 an Irish merchant from Waterford was reported to have visited the French colony at Placentia. However, until the middle of the eighteenth century, the Irish population of Newfoundland (although growing steadily, as expressed by the concern of various convoy captains and early governors) did not really make its presence felt. The majority came as 'Irish Youngsters' --the term 'youngster' in this sense meaning an unmarried man shipped as a servant for usually two summers and one winter and others as soldiers in the various regiments stationed from time to time in Newfoundland. At Placentia, the first English soldiers to take over f rom the French in 1714 were four companies of Irish soldiers raised in Ireland by Colonel Moody, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Placentia.
It is also worthy of note that for the first half of the eighteenth century, despite the alarm expressed by the authorities at the rapid increase in the number of Irish coming to Newfoundland, no special laws were passed against them, and they were treated like all other members of the community. By 1749, the Irish servants were beginning to take their complaints of ill-treatment and non-payment of wages to the Governor or his surrogate, finding that here they could obtain the justice often denied them in the local courts, where more often than not the Justices of the Peace were the very employers that they were petitioning against.
Thus, in 1749, two Irish servants at Carbonear, Michael Mooren and David Careen, petitioned the governor for redress against the cruel treatment they had received from the servants of John Pike. Both the men had been seized and dragged aboard a galley belonging to John Pike which was anchored in Carbonear Harbour. Here they were stripped and tied to the shrouds of the galley and whipped by John Pike and his servants -- Thomas Fling, James Poor, Edmund Redman and George Pierce. Mooren was given forty lashes and Careen eighty, all this (the two men claimed) without any provocation on their part. The governor, Rodney, ordered John Pike and his servants to appear in court to answer the charge, but they did not appear. The governor then issued a warrant for their arrest and sent a very stiff letter to the local Justices of the Peace at Carbonear:
Your behaviour in this affair has obliged me to reprimand you in this manner, for remember gentlemen I am sent to administer justice to rich and poor alike without favour or partiality You likewise by the oath you have taken as Justices of the Peace are obliged to do the same, in the neglect of which you will not only forswear your self but be liable to be severely punished according to the law AND YOU MAY DEPEND UPON IT, I AM NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH IN THE EXECUTION OF MY OFFICE.
Pike appeared in the St. John's court and paid damages of twenty and fifteen pounds
respectively to Mooren and Careen.
We find that the Irish had gained control of property about that time, for in 1750 Margaret Reardon (otherwise known as Whelan's widow) on returning to Waterford, Ireland, had sold to Ed Cockran of St. John`s, a half meadow near Freshwater on the North side of the town. The sale was registered by order of the governor.
However, the violent nature of some of the Irish fishermen and their hatred of England is best illustrated in the actions of one Patrick Poor. While fishing off Cape St. Francis, Poor threw a stone and broke the arm of Thomas Parr who was fishing in a boat nearby, without any provocation from Parr, saying as he threw the stone: "Damn you, the King, and your country". Parr then brought suit against Poor for the assault and was awarded damages by the governor and the court. In the same year, 1750, an Irish servant at Harbour Main named Lawrence Kneves appeared at a court of Oyer and Terminer at St. John's for the murder of a fellow Irish servant, James Kelly. Witnesses attested that Kneves and Kelly had been drinking at the room of James Moores with a man named John Cuddy. Cuddy told Kelly to go home, and he was going, when Kneves called him back to have a mug of "Rip" -- a mixture of rum and spruce beer. Kelly and Kneves had words and got into a fight. Cuddy tried to separate them, but another Irish servant at Harbour Main named Darby Callaghan came up and encouraged them to fight saying that if anyone interfered, he, Callaghan, "would knock him down". Then Cuddy went home, but returned fifteen minutes later and found Kelly dead on the ground. The chief masters at Harbour Main visited the body and drew up and signed a statement which was produced in court.
"This is to certify to whom it may concern that we the under named persons being informed of the death of John Kelly, servant to Mr Philip Enco, went on Friday the 27th. and examined strictly into the cause thereof and by all just circumstances and appearance do find that said Kelly was barbarously murdered and abused, his head being battered severely and his handkerchief so taut about his neck that it was impossible to put a knife point between the flesh and handkerchief. Given under our hand in Harbour Main. July 27th, 1750"
Roger Balte X his mark
John Woodford X his mark
James Moore X his mark
It was proved that Kneves and Kelly had been good friends up to the time of the drunken quarrel, and Kneves was found guilty of manslaughter. As a result, Kneves (who came f rom County Kilkenny, Ireland) was sentenced to be burnt in the hand with the letter "R", and to be returned to Ireland.
In the same year the governor heard the petition of two men from Trepassey, Maunce O'Toole who was charged with a debt of eleven shillings and six pence, and Cornelius McAulift who claimed he had money due from his voyage. The governor was able to settle both cases. At Placentia John Clarey petitioned the governor to help him obtain his wages from William Welsh, a merchant of the town, which was done; and Stephen Delaney petitioned against Samuel Springling for his passage back to Ireland, but this was settled out of court to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.
From the available records it would appear that at the mid point of the eighteenth century there was little or no serious trouble with the Irish population, which in 1753 greatly outnumbered the English in the majority of communities, but from the available accounts it would appear that they were taking a more active role.
Women were scarce in Newfoundland and were often the cause of rivalry that sometimes ended in violence. A case from Trepassey in 1751 illustrates this point. John Rose of Trepassey complained to the governor that on March 3, 1751 five men -- Matthew Kennedy, Robert Wheeler, James Ward, John Mahar and James Stafford -- entered his house by breaking down the door, then beat his servants Patrick and Simeon Fennessey, 'to the effusion of their blood'. The evidence indicated that a woman from Trepassey, Ann Stephens, had been the cause of the trouble, and had been in the company of the men during their attack on Rose's house. The governor ordered each of the men to receive thirty-nine lashes, and for Ann Stephens to have someone act as security for her good behaviour or she too would taste the lash.
Between the years 1750 and 1755 an ever-increasing number of Irishmen appeared in court either seeking redress from the oppression of their masters, or their rightful wages of passage home to Ireland. Irish masters showed no more mercy in their treatment of Irish servants than did English masters, and as a case in point, we find in 1753 that John Flannigan of St. John's petitioned against Thomas Flannigan for non-payment of wages or passage home. Irish servants often tried to avoid paying their lawful debts just as did their masters. Thus, in the same year at Placentia a group of Irish servants (William Bryan, Michael Sullivan, Daniel King, Edward King and John Bryan) petitioned against paying the captain of the brig that had brought them to Placentia because of his cruel treatment of them. Their complaint was proved to be false by the testimony of two other passengers on the same voyage -- Captain Hogg, and Richard Welsh, a merchant of Placentia. The court ordered that the money be deducted from their wages to pay the captain for passage out to Newfoundland.
Although some historians would have us believe that the Irish in Newfoundland at this time and those coming out were 'hungry destitute Irish peasants', the records prove otherwise, for it appears that as in the case quoted earlier of Flannigan, some of the Irish at least, were masters who hired servants for the fishing voyage. Others were agents for English firms, as was the case with a prominent Irish resident of Harbour Grace, Mr. Felix McCarthy, who besides having ships and crews of his own acted as agent for English firms in the collection of debts in Newfoundland. At St. John's in 1754 the assistant constable of the town was a William Murphy, and at Placentia in 1753, licences to keep a public house were given to Timothy O'Keefe and Mary Clarke, and to Thomas Kennedy and Edward McCarthroy. From this evidence it would appear that by the middle of the eighteenth century some of the Irish had risen to the lower middle class social position in the island, and that up to this time the Irish inhabitants and migrant population suffered under no laws other than those which applied to all the residents of Newfoundland at the time. However, in the Fall of 1754, an incident occurred which was to result in special persecution for the Irish Catholics, and in laws and regulations designed to curb their growth in the island. This was the brutal murder of a St. John's plantation owner and magistrate, Mr. William Keene, Sr. Involved in the robbery and murder were ten persons (including a woman and three young solders -- all of them Irish) and with the exception of the soldiers, all residents of Freshwater Bay near St. John`s. After the robbery and murder of Mr. Keene, one of the party, Nicholas Tobin, an Irish resident of Freshwater Bay, turned King's evidence, thus escaping prosecution. His evidence was very alarming to the authorities, for it showed the casualness with which the group planned the murder and the impunity with which they put the plan into execution.
According to Tobin's evidence, about two weeks before the robbery and assault on William Keene he had come from Freshwater Bay in a skiff with Robert Power and Eleanor his wife, Matthew Halleran, Edmund McGuire, Paul McDonald and Lawrence Lambly. On the way, Eleanor Power asked Tobin if he knew where they were going. He said he did not, and she told him that they were going to take William Keene's money, as she knew where he kept it. At this point, Lawrence Lambly asked Tobin to join in the robbery and Tobin agreed. They went to the King's wharf, where they landed, and were joined by Hawkins, one of the soldiers. They continued to Mr. Keene's summer house where they were joined by the other members of the group involved in the robbery. Here the robbers swore to be true to each other and sealed the oat by kissing a prayer book. The time was midnight.
Then, before proceeding to Keene's house, three of the robbers (Halleran, McGuire and Lambly) went to see if the coast was clear. They came back and reported that there were people in the fish stages near Keene's house, splitting fish. As a result it was decided that no attempt on Keens's house was possible that night, so they returned to Freshwater Bay.
A few days later they came back, this time walking overland to St. John's. They met at the summer house, where the soldiers joined them. They had two muskets and two bayonets which the soldiers had brought and Halleran carried the top of a scythe blade, as he had done the first time. Halleran was sent to Keene's house to spy out the land, and came back and reported that again they would have to change their plans, as the boat of William Keene Jr. had just arrived at his father's wharf, and there would be too many in the Keene house for them to attempt the robbery that night. Before leaving the summer house they agreed to meet again at the first opportunity and carry out their plan.
On the morning of September 9, 1754, Tobin went to Freshwater Bay to Robert Power's house, and it was agreed that the attempt should be made that night. He returned to St. John's about three o'clock, and informed the soldiers. They went to Keene's place about ten o'clock and by twelve all the members of the party had arrived. They then proceeded to arrange their forces.
Tobin was appointed watchman near Mr. Squarry`s room, close to Keene's house. He was given a musket and told to fire on anyone who might seek to examine him too closely. Robert Power was stationed at the corner of Ed Whealand's house with orders similar to Tobin's. Denis Hawkins also stood guard for those who went in to rob the house. They were Eleanor Power (dressed in men's clothing), Ed McGuire, Matthew Halleran, Lawrence Lambly, John Moody, and John Munshall; Paul McDonald keeping guard at Mr. Keens's door.
The party appointed to enter then broke down the door to Keene's house, went in and brought out a case that Eleanor Power said contained the money. Lambly and Halleran also took a number of silver spoons that they had found, and the robbers assembled at the summer house to divide the spoils. McGuire broke open the case and it was found to contain nothing but liquor. Tobin then described the events that followed in this way:
" Then Eleanor Power and Lawrence Lambly both went from us. This deponent further saith that on being disappointed he and Denis Hawkins were for going from the others but John Munshall took hold of him and said we should all of us go down to Mr Keene's a second time, and Ed McGuire said that he would shoot any that went from them, and that he was sorry that he had not shot the woman. John Munshall told this deponent to take one of the bottles out of the case and drink a dram. The deponent further saith that Edmund McGuire said that he would be revenged upon Mr. Keene for something that had passed before, and the said Ed McGuire and Matthew Halleran said if they could not get the money, and if Mr. Keene would not tell them where the money was they would punish him. Then, we all except Eleanor Power and Lawrence Lambly went down a second time to Mr Keene's house. Denis Hawkins and this deponent were placed at Edward Whealand's door, each of us with a gun in our hands to keep Edward Whealand in his house that he might not come and make a noise, Robert Power stood in the main path with a gun in his hand and Paul McDonald stood at Mr Keens's kitchen door. Edmund McGuire, John Moody and John Munshall and Matthew Halleran entered the house, and this deponent further saith that Matthew Halleran told him that he and Edmund McGuire went from the kitchen up stairs into Mr Keene's room where they found him in bed, and that he, Halleran, took out a box from under the bed and that Mr. Keene waked upon which Edmund McGuire put the quilt over Mr. Keene's head. Mr. Keene then rose up in his bed and with his hands put out the candle, which the said McGuire had in his hands and caught hold of Halleran by the leg and cried out "murder" and that the said Halleran told him he struck Mr. Keene twice with the scythe which the said Halleran had in his hand, and that he had done his business and he could not recover. And this deponent further saith that Edmund McGuire told him that he gave Mr. Keene a stroke with the butt end of a musket and that he had some of Mr. Keens's blood on his hands, and that the said McGuire took a pair of knee buckles and one single buckle, and this deponent further saith that Robert Power say'd when they were disappointed the first time of getting Mr. Keene's money that the best way was to go down the second time and if Mr. Keene would not show them where his money was they should punish him in a way that he would not recover. This deponent further saith that he never saw John Moody at anytime at their meetings before that the robbery and the murder was committed and further saith not.
Following the testimony of Tobin, two other persons gave evidence, the two surgeons, Thomas Allan and John Burton, who had attended Mr. Keene from the night of the attack until his death on September 29. They gave as their opinion that Mr. Keene had died as a direct result of the wounds inflicted on his body on the night of September 9. There being no other witnesses the prisoners were asked if they had anything to say in their own defence.
Edmund McGuire testified that he had nothing to say in his own defence -- but declared that only he and Halleran had been in the room when Mr. Keene had been wounded, that he had had a gun and Halleran a piece of an old scythe with a sharp point, that he, McGuire, had given Mr. Keene a blow in the breast with the gun. He identified all the members of the group and said that he had seen Halleran strike Mr. Keene with the scythe. He also said that Robert Power had proposed murdering Mr. Keene but he had refused.
Robert Power, Eleanor Power and Paul McDonald stated that they had nothing to say in their own defence but that they were not guilty of murder. John Moody told how on the night of September 9 he had been doing guard duty when McGuire approached him and after swearing him to secrecy had persuaded him to come on the adventure with him. He had not been a part of the other two attempts but had come on the spur of the moment, and he begged the court, not to take away my life. Then John Munshall said that he too had been recruited by Edmund McGuire, that he had had no part in the murder but together with John Moody had guarded the servants' door in the kitchen, that McGuire had come down covered with blood and that Robert Power had first said they should kill Mr. Keene, but then said he would not go in the house if he thought they intended to kill Mr. Keene, and that it had been Halleran who had cut Mr. Keene. The others pleaded in a similar way. They did not try to deny being at the house to rob but excused themselves from being actually involved in the murder, and begged that the court would spare their lives.
Then the charge was given to the jury, who retired for half an hour and brought in a verdict of guilty for all charged on the two counts of felony and murder. The prisoners were asked again if there was any reason sentence should not be passed on them, and they replied there was not, throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. Sentence was then passed in the following manner:
That you Edmund McGuire, Matthew Halleran, Robert Power, Eleanor Power, Lawrence Lambly, Paul McDonald, John Moody, John Munshall and Denis Hawkins, be sent back to the place from whence you came and from thence to the place of execution and there be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead, and the Lord have mercy on your soul.
And that you Edmund McGuire and Mathew Halleran after being dead and taken down, are to be hanged in chains on some public place when and where the Governor shall be pleased to appoint.
On the tenth of October, 1754, McGuire and Halleran were hanged and their bodies were hung in chains. On the following day Eleanor Power and her husband Robert were hanged at noon, but their bodies were buried near the place of execution.
The other prisoners were then ordered by the governor to be confined to the 'brig' of the fort, until His Majesty's pleasure should be known concerning them. Two years later three of them were still in irons at the fort; two others had either escaped custody or died. They were later pardoned by the king, but transported from the island.'"
However, the affair was not ended. The following summer, William Keene Jr. obtained a declaration from a James Kennedy (who was fishing at Greenspond) concerning the plan to rob his father, and it appeared that other persons had had knowledge of the planned robbery but had not notified the authorities nor warned the threatened person. The declaration given by Kennedy was as follows:
The declaration of James Kennedy says that sometime in the month of March in the year 1754 as he was coming from the River of St John's, he met Lawrence Lambly and Matthew Halleran above George Jacques house, who asked him if he would go with them to rob Mr. Keene's house, for they were informed by Robert Poor's wife that he had a great deal of money by him and that if he would go with them to rob Mr. Keene's house he should have a part as they and Poor's wife would go and rob the said house. He answered them he would not go, then they charged him not to discover them to any person which he promised them he would not, and sayeth he never had any other discourse with them or any other person about the affair afterwards. Taken before me in Greenspond this 8th. day of September, 1755.
On the fifteenth of September, 1755, Kennedy appeared at a court of Oyer and
Terminer and gave the following evidence:
The following declaration taken at the Court House 15th September 1755. The witness James Kennedy further confesses that at some time before the mentioned Lawrence Lambly and Matthew Halleran asked him to go with them to rob Mr. Keene's house, Lawrence Kavanaugh met him in he path and told him he kept bad company and mentioned Matthew Halleran and Lawrence Lambly, and that Halleran and Lambly said they would go about Easter and rob Mr Keene's house, if the said Kennedy would go along with them, who answered that he never would and that he never kept company with the two men afterwards, but the latter end of May went to Witless Bay and
took service with John Carey and did not return to the place until after the said Halleran and Lambly were executed.
Kennedy was found guilty of being an accomplice to the crime and was sentenced to be burnt on the right hand with the letter 'R' and then to be transported. However, what really made this incident affect the attitude of the English towards the Irish was the fact that although persons who would not take part in the crime had fore knowledge, they would not betray their fellow countrymen, as in the case of Kennedy. (Kennedy's statement that Lambly was executed is not correct).
Another fact that struck fear into the hearts of the English was the fact that Keene was murdered in part because he was a justice of the peace, for in his testimony, Tobin (the robber who turned King's evidence) had revealed that McGuire had wished to be revenged on Keene for something which had passed between them previous to September 9. The same Edmund McGuire had in February of the year of Keene's murder, been found guilty of assaulting the constable and his assistant Andrew W. Murphy, and it had been recommended that he should be closely confined to the fort and then sent out of the island. In the meantime he had planned and carried out the robbery and murder of Keene. As a result, the English authorities decided that something would have to be done to check the growth of the Irish population.
It should be pointed out that murder in the mid-eighteenth century was not an uncommon crime among the Irish in Newfoundland. The difference in the case of the Keene murder was that here it was not the result of a quarrel between Irish servants who were drunk or in temper, but rather a well planned robbery, ending in the assault on and death of a prominent citizen. A typical murder of the age was the case of William Murphy, a fisherman at Fermeuse, who murdered a fellow servant named William Quinn over some criticism of his fishwashing. The Quinn murder took place on July 6. 1752, on a fishing room. The affair started when four men, William Murphy, William Quinn, Bryan, and Maurice Haggerty, the owner of the room, were washing fish. Quinn found fault with the way Murphy was washing the fish and proceeded to slap Murphy across the face with a wet fish that he had in his hand. Murphy in turn slapped Quinn across the face with a wet fish. Quinn then took the mop handle and hit Murphy over the head with it. Having done this. Quinn went to find Haggerty, who had left the stage, to complain about Murphy. Murphy pried loose one of the flake loungers and waited for Quinn to return. When he did, Murphy beat him about the head, killing him. At his trial Murphy had to have Edward Cockeran of Fermeuse as a translator as he, Murphy, spoke only Gaelic. He was sentenced to be transported, but received a Royal Pardon and was set free in 1753.
Another case which would have been considered a typical Irish murder took place in 1754, on Christmas night at Bay Bulls. Around eight o'clock in the night Martin Doyle got in a scuffle with his servant Robert Garmar, and killed him. Doyle's testimony at the time of the court hearing gives some insight into how the Irish inhabitants celebrated Christmas in the mid eighteenth century,
I, Martin Doyle do hereby say that on the 25th day of December, at night, I came into my house and found Milos Keef, Martin Doyle Jr., and Robert Garmar seated on a settle, the latter with a mug of flip in his hand. Milos Keet took the mug of flip out of his hand and threw it on the fire, and observing that I lift my finger beconing of him for so doing, the said Milos Keet then forced against me and throw me in the fire. I took no notice of that but the said Milos Keef being intoxicated in liquor, used my apprentice in the same absurd manner and at the same time abused my wife by striking her on the soft eye which bruised, on sight of which I laid hold of Milos Keet to put him out. I acknowledge myself somewhat in liquor at the time having been drinking at William Dunne's, and in the scuffle with him someone took hold of me from behind my back, with his hand on my handkerchief, whom I thought to be Milos Keef, but not knowing the person or who also, I by shrift made an advantage of gaining my knife and cut my handkerchief by which means I cleared myself of Milos Keet, and at the same time I heard them say Robert Garmar was cut, and then mention I had cut him, I said, if I had cut him, I would cure him if I could. We left off our scrimmage then and there and they sent for the Doctor. I intending to go to bed having then partly undressed, when at the same time Milos Keef advanced to me with a pair of thongs in his hand, and struck me over the right eyebrow which smothered me in blood I called out to my son and said I was murdered, and no further have I to say, so help me God!
John Bourke was called as a witness and testified that he had been at Doyle's house about seven or eight o'clock on Christmas night, having come from James Glyn's house, where he had drunk four mugs of flip. He testified that Garmar was seated with Ellis Layman on a settle in front of the fire. Robert Garmar was in liquor but had a mug of flip in his hand, from which witness took a part. Layman did not share the flip. At the same time there was in the house Martin Doyle, his wife, Milos Keet and Martin Doyle, an apprentice of the said Doyle's son, who were amusing themselves in frolicking about the house. Bourke said that Garmar got up and went out to make water and wind, and when he came in he was wounded and all bloody. The witness said he saw a cutlass in Martin Doyle's hand, which he took and gave to Doyle's son or the apprentice, and then he went home.
Called as witness. Martin Doyle stated that they had all sat by the fire and amused themselves with liquor, after he had fetched Martin Doyle Sr. home from Dunne's, and that he was too drunk to know what had happened until his master took him with him, to fetch the surgeon, Doctor Spry, who came and dressed Doyle's head wound, as well as Garmar's wounds, and he had nothing further to say. Then John Doyle, the son of Martin Doyle Sr., gave testimony that:
I, John Doyle, son of Martin Doyle Sr., do hereby declare on solemn oath that on the 25th day of December, my father was up to William Dunne's and there passed away the time until towards evening when I went with my father's apprentice to fetch him home. I found him much in liquor, he came with us about the hour of six or seven o'clock to his own house, but when I went after him there remained in the house only my mother and children and the deceased, Robert Garmer, but on my return with my father and his apprentice there was Milos Keet dancing about the house and seemed to be drinking, who acknowledged that he had been up to James Glynn's house, and Robert Garmar sat at that time on the settle, but with no visibly signs of hurt. I was employed in various errands about the house afterwards but in the several intervals came in John Bourke, Ellis Layman, and James Ryan. They fell to their humour of dancing and disputes arose among them, particularly while I was helping the children to bed and my mother retired to a bedroom to lake care of an infant she had in her arms, at the same time I came out I found John Bourke going away which he did in about a quarter of an hour afterwards but Ellis Layman was gone before any dispute arose. Yet Milos Keef was there and continued though much in liquor before and after the fatal strife wherein the deceased suffered, and he was by the strenuous forms of my father and mother, though he really wanted the bed, was turned by them out of doors, after he had voluntarily rose again Milos Keef did with a pair of tongs strike my father on the head and my mother likewise did receive a blow on her head but unknown to me from whom I was so incapacitated and frightened in the fray that happened that other particulars might have occurred which I am a stranger to, but I have this further to add that I was not present when the fatal blow was struck. .
After the doctor had testified (and it appeared that Garmar was not killed instantly but died later of his wounds), the jury gave their verdict: that Doyle was innocent by reason of the fact that none had seen him strike the fatal blow and that he was to be discharged from the court after paying the court charges -- an unusual verdict since a person found not guilty normally did not have to pay the court charges.
From the murder cases examined it can be seen that when bloodshed was between Irishmen the court tended to be lenient, especially if drinking was involved. In the Keene murder, however, the motive was different, the planning had been done for several months prior to the crime, and the victim had been one of the establishment. The following year the new governor, Dorrill, took strong measures to curb the Irish.
In mid-August, the governor wrote to the magistrates of Harbour Grace:
Whereas I am informed that a Roman Catholic priest is at this time at Harbour Grace, and that he publicly read mass which is contrary to law, and against the peace of our sovereign lord the king. You are hereby required and directed on the receipt of this, to cause the said priest to be taken into custody and sent round to this place (St. John's) and in this you are not to fail.
The magistrate answered on August 22:
Hr. Grace August 22, 1755
As there is but little prospect of catching more fish this season, the scheme of the fishery shall soon be filled up and sent you, as concerning the Roman Priest of whom you were informed that he read public mass in Hr. Grace, 'twas misrepresented to you, 'twas at a place called Caplin Cove somewhat below the Hr., for if he read mass in the Hr., I should have known and would have secured him. After he was informed I had intelligence of him he immediately left the place and I was yesterday informed he was gone to Harbour Main.
To His Excellency Richard Dorrill Esq.
Governor and Commander in Chief
Over the Island of Newfoundland
Sir Your most obedient servant George Garlandl'
Troops were sent to Harbour Main to catch the priest, and an oral tradition says that
the priest was surprised, but made his escape over the hills to the neighbouring harbour of Conception Harbour (then called Cat's Cove) where he was hidden. Several of the older residents were supposed to have known the name of the person who reported the presence of the Irish priest to the authorities, but kept the name secret because there were still descendants of the informer living in Harbour Main in modern times.
The priest was not taken, but the persons who attended mass were punished, and even those who had had their property used without permission had their property destroyed. The first court concerned with those charged with the crime of attending mass was held at Harbour Grace on September 15, 1755:
By Thos Bumell Esq. Deputy of Surrogate to Governor Dorell Esq:
Whereas it has been represented to me at court held this day at Hr. Grace, at which you George and Charles Garland were present at which time it did appear that public mass was celebrated according to the Church of Rome in one of Mr Stretches storehouses on Sunday, July 26, 1755. Although it appeared he was not in the harbor that day but most of his men and women servants was there and the door was being locked to prevent any such congregation to assemble for which neglect in him we think proper to fine him the sum of ten pounds sterling and the said storehouse to be burnt down to the ground. Which fine is to be made use of towards defraying the expenses the governor shall be at in sending his deputy in the Nonhern Circuit of the island.
I do hereby require and direct you George and Charles Garland HM Justices of the Peace to see the said sentence put in execution tomorrow morning by eleven o'clock, 16th of September 1755, Given under my hand at Harbour Grace .
It would appear from this court case that the governor's information had been correct. Despite Mr. Garland's denial, public mass had been said at Harbour Grace.
The following day, September 16, the Irish were in trouble for their patriotic activities and their threats of violence and general terrorizing of the Protestant citizens of Harbour Grace, whom they appear to have greatly outnumbered at this time:
Whereas it has been represented to me at a court held at Harbour Grace at which time did appear by evidence that George Tobin, master of the brig 'St. Patrick', had Irish colours and sometimes hoisted at the ensign staff, and his English colours hoisted on his jack staff to bid defiance to
the English and Jerseymen of the Harbour, and it did appear that all this was done to stir up a spirit of rebellion among the Roman Catholics of this Harbour, they being so far superior in number to the Protestants, in so much that it is a difficult matter for them (Protestants) to bury their dead, and they have been obliged to make use of all the force they could assemble to prevent their insolence whilst they were burying their dead. We therefore think proper to fine the said George Tobin the sum of ten pounds for his insolent behaviour.
At the same court it was also proved that Anthony Fitzgerald, master of the ship 'Simile Snow', also hoisted Irish colours with Tobin with a similar intent of stirring up sedition and mutiny. He too was found guilty and fined five pounds. The court then moved to Harbour Main and again the full force of the law was levied against those who had permitted or attended the mass offered by the itinerant priest. The first case was against Michael Katem (Keating) who by his own confession had permitted the priest to say mass in his fish store, and he himself attended. He was fined fifty pounds, his fish store was to be demolished and he himself was ordered to quit the harbor after selling all his possessions, and this was to be accomplished before the twenty-fifth of November ensuing. At the same court Michael Landrigan was fined twenty pounds and had his house and stage burnt down for the same crime. Also fined for attending mass were Darby Costley, Robert Finn, Michael Mooring and Ronald McDonald, their fines varying from ten pounds to two pounds ten shillings, all in sterling. All concerned were ordered to 'quit' also the island of Newfoundland at the same time as Keating. It would appear that Keating turned informer, for the court sat again on the same day to hear the same charge which was levied against another group of Harbour Main men:
At a court held at Harbour Main, September 20, 1755, at which you Charles Garland was present, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, at which time did appear before us Martin Donnelly, John Sennon, John Devereaux, Robert Tobin, John Gusho, William Welsh, Tom Ryan, Mick Hanlon, William Murphy, Michael Hannigan, Thomas Connolly, George McDonald, John Rossena, Tom Hoiden. John Welsh, John Clancy, Robert Breman, all of which are Roman Catholic and servants to Michael and did all join in celebrating public mass in his fish store for which we think proper to fine viz: M Donnelly one pound, John Sennott two pounds, Deveraux two pounds, Tobin one pound, Wm Welsh, Ryan, Hanlon two pounds each, Wm. Murphy three pounds, Connolly one pound, McDonald two pounds, Holden three pounds, J. Welsh three pounds, Clancey three pounds, which fines the above persons do pay to Michael Katen or order, towards making good the damage he received by demolishing of his fish room.
To Michael Katen, Harbour Main, given under my hand at Harbour Grace
20th. of September, 1755
The fines collected from Keating and the first group of men were to go towards 'the
building of a gaol at Harbour Main in order to secure any vagabonds that shall desert
from any port of this island.
On September 22. 1755, the governor of Newfoundland issued new regulations governing Irish Roman Catholics coming to Newfoundland:
Whereas a great number of Irish Roman Catholics are annually brought over here, a great part of which have but small wages, so that after paying their passage to this place and the charges of clothing etc. during the fish season, their whole wages are spent and they have not the wherewithal to pay their passage home, or purchase provisions for the winter by which means they not only become chargeable to this place, but many robberies and felonies are committed by them to the great loss and terror of His Majesty's Loyal subjects in this island. This is therefore to warn and give notice to all masters of ships or vessels which bring passengers to this island that after the fishing season they carry from hence the whole number and same passengers they bring here except such as may have my order to remain in this island, and hereafter they are not to fail, as they will be proceeded against with the great severity the law in such cases will admit.
Given under my hand
at St. John's September 22, 1755
The 'robberies and felonies' included the Keene robbery and murder of the year before. However, the charges against the Roman Catholics in Conception Bay, for attending mass, were not yet finished. A court was held at Carbonear on September 25, 1755:
Whereas at a court held at Carbonear the 25th of September at which you Mullins and Garland were present at which time it did appear that public mass was celebrated according to the Church of Rome in William Pike's house which was then inhabited by Morthaugh McGuire and Morgen Hogan. Neither of them appearing to answer the charge laid against them, we think proper to fine McGuire twenty pounds and Hogan fifteen pounds and they to quit this place and this island on or before October 10th ensuing, and the said house to be demolished and said fines after paying ten pounds for court fees, the remainder to go towards paying for the damage to the house.
Sept Crawley of Carbonear was convicted of the same crime and had his house demolished. It was cold comfort for Pike to have the remainder of the thirty-five pounds levied as fines against McGuire and Morgen as it was obvious they had fled the community or they would have been compelled to appear in court. The Kennedys from Crocker's Cove did not escape either. Not only had they attended the mass but Kennedy and his wife had been married by a priest:
Whereas at a court held at Crocker's Cove September 25, 1755, at which you R. Mulms and Thomas Garland was present at which time it did appear before us that public mass was read in Terrence Kennedy's house and the said Kennedy and his wife married by the priest which does appear from the confession of Mary Kennedy, his wife.
We therefore think proper to fine said Kennedy the sum of ten pounds sterling money for payment of court fees and to burn his house down to the ground and that he quits this place and likewise this island of Newfoundland on or before October ensuing. Given under my hand at Crocker's Cove September 25th., 1755.
This sentence to be put in execution by R Mullins and T. Garland HM's JP's for Conception Bay.
Kennedy, however, like Keating before him, seems to have involved his neighbours, or at least to have profited from their involvement, for a further group of his servants were also fined:
Whereas at a court held at Carbonear September 25th. at which R. Mullins and C. Garland were present at which time it appeared that J. Whelan, Nick Leoline, Ed. O`Brien, Darby Conners, Wm. Kennedy, Wm Hennessey, John Power, Mick Hickey, Pat Whelan and Nish Scanline, all which are servants to Terrence Kennedy and were at mass with him for which we think proper to fine them eighteen pounds ten shillings .. which fines are to go to Terrence Kennedy towards defraying the damages he sustained in burning his house.
Given at Carbonear. September 25th.. 1755
To Terrence Kennedy
This persecution of the Irish Catholics in Conception Bay shows clearly that Irishmen like Michael Keating at Harbour Main, Terrence Kennedy at Crocker's Cove, and Felix McCarthy at Harbour Grace, were already established as large planters with a number of servants under them.
The people at Harbour Grace were at this time dismayed by the settlement of Irish at Riverhead, and a petition was sent to the governor:
The Humble Petition of the Principal traders and inhabitants of Harbour Grace:
That your petitioners have for some time past been greatly injured by losing their cattle, sheep etc., which they suspect have been stolen by persons which inhabit the same place but revendousing in several little houses lately erected in the upper end of the said Harbour. That the persons who dwell in the said huts or houses are people of loose and bad character harbouring numbers of idle persons which from their not entering service make them suspect of being guilty of said crime. Signed:
Nicholas Tynt, Stephen Wittle, William Dawson, Philip Payne, Nick Juer, Ed. Coombs, Tom Parsons, Robert Andrews, M. Streetch, Henly Wethers, Mary Martin, Ed. Snow, William Martin, Francis Sheppard, John Martin
The petition was accepted by the governor, but nothing happened and the population of Riverhead today is descended from these Irish settlers. The religious persecution continued and on September 26, 1755, John Kennedy was tried in absentia for being an Irish Catholic:
John Kennedy is a Roman Catholic and an inhabitant of this island contrary to law and being summoned several times to appear before us and he not appearing to the said summons, we think proper to fine the said John Kennedy the sum of six pounds sterling for payment of court fees -- and he to quit the island before the tenth of October ensuing.
This was the last trial in this series of active persecutions against the Irish Roman Catholics. Though restrictions were passed from time to time, they were never again so severely enforced as by governor Dorrill in 1755. It seems obvious that the Keene murder had really stirred up the English authorities to make things a bit hot for the Irish in Newfoundland.
The records also show that the Irish population was not confined to the Avalon Peninsula, but that (both settled and migratory) they were scattered around the various communities in the Island. Trinity, Bonavista and Fogo Island had Irish settlers and servants by the mid-eighteenth century.
In 1759 David Lacey of Trinity petitioned the governor that he had supplied John Doyle and his brother (both of Trinity) with provisions to the amount of five pounds sterling, which John Doyle refused to pay. The governor ordered Mr. William Reeves, Doyle's master, to stop this money from his wages and pay it to David Lacey. In the same year Andre Churchwood, one of the main planters of Petty Harbour, was ordered by the governor to pay his Irish servant, Patrick Power, the amount of seven pounds and ten shillings plus his passage from Ireland, which was the amount agreed to by Churchwood in Power's shipping papers, or to appear in court at St. John's to show why he did not pay. At Tilting Harbour on Fogo Island there were complaints also in the same year. First, Patrick Murphy of Tilting was ordered to pay to William Keene the sum of one hundred and two pounds one shilling and three pence. Francis Fleming of the same place complained that his master William Chalk had paid his wages in fish and had then taken the fish back. The governor ordered Chalk to pay Fleming sixteen pounds less three pounds ten shillings, which was Fleming's account with Chalk.
In 1759, five men, the servants of Samuel Intsham, appealed their destitute condition to the governor. They were Martin Fennin, Patrick Currity, Richard Poley, John Lynch and Patrick Walsh. The governor ordered their master or his agent to look after them until they found a new master or passage to Ireland. At Trinity, Matthew Hennessey, who had been servant to Michael Tracey and John Welsh, complained of the treatment he had received from his masters. He said that without any provocation, Michael Tracey came behind him when he was at work and beat
him most inhumanely, stripped him of his clothing and took his shipping papers from him. The man begged Tracey to return his shipping papers, but Tracey would neither give him his papers nor take him back in his employ. The governor ordered the master to pay his servants. At Oderin in Placentia Bay, John Roach seized a plantation called the 'Blue Beach' from the mother of Jack Crawley. Richards: the governor ordered Roach to return it to its rightful owner.
In 1762, a merchant of Trinity, John Lemnon, fled for fear of a French attack on the community and then refused to pay the wages of his Irish servants who had fished for him. The governor ordered Lemnon to pay his servants the amounts due them according to an agreement signed in the spring: Philip Murphy, twenty-three pounds; John Connoll, ten pounds; and a similar amount to Pat Coffee, William Keefe and Edward Walsh. At the same time Pat Whelan sued Pat Ducey for non-payment of his wages, and was successful in having the governor rule in his favour.
In the same year there was an interesting case at Harbour Main where Robert Finn, a master in poor circumstances, offered Nicholas Welsh thirteen pounds for his summer wages or a boat with masts and oars, if the fishery miscarried, and five pounds fourteen shillings in "truck" for his winter wages. Finn had neither paid the wages nor given the boat at the end of the season. The governor ordered him to pay the just wages due the man concerned. On the same date, John Keating, of Ochrepit Cove, CB, also petitioned against his master John Way for non-payment of wages, which the governor also supported, and ordered Way to pay his servants.
At Tilting Harbour also there were complaints from the Irish servants. William Sullivan of that place presented a petition to the governor that he had served John Power of that community from September 29, 1761 to August 1, 1762, at which time he was obliged to leave his master (Power) for want of provisions. Sullivan offered to discount for the time lost, but Power would not accept it, and further refused to honour a note of hand for three pounds five shillings and eight pence. The governor did not make an immediate decision in his favour, but ordered an investigation into the complaint.
At St. John's, in the same year, an Irishman, John Stacklhaid, appeared at a court of Oyer and Terminer charged with the rape of a Torbay woman, Esther Merrifield, wife of William Merrifield, who had also been present at the time the rape was committed. The rape took place on July 26 in the common path about halfway between St. John's and Torbay.
Three witnesses were called, the first being the victim, Esther Merrifield, who had appeared before Michael Gill and given her evidence as follows:
Appeared before me, Michael Gill Esq., one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the District of St. John's, Nfld., Esther Merrifield the wife of William Merrifield of Torbay in Nfld., being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelists declared that on the 2nd. of July last, John Stacklhaid, an Irishman did in the common path about halfway between this place and Torbay, when in company with other Irishmen, forcible commit a rape on the body of the said Esther Merrifield. The said John Stacklhaid did also at the same time threaten to murder the complainant, Esther Merrifield, after having by threats driven the said William Merrifield from his said wife, some distance, she also further declares that one of the other Irishmen did also forcible commit rape on the body of the complainant but she does not know his name.
In the court she reaffirmed her statement, adding only that Stacklhaid had threatened her with a great stick, and had carnal knowledge of her body twice. She added that she had been unable to report the crime earlier because at the time of the rape the French had been in possession of St. John's.
Her husband, William Merrifield, testified that he had been present when the rape was committed, but had been driven away by Stacklhaid and his companions, though he could see what was happening. A third witness was a sixteen year old Irish youth, John Chanter, the third companion of Stacklhaid, who said he also was present at the rape.
There being no other evidence, the jury withdrew, and after two hours returned with a verdict of guilty. Stacklhaid was then sentenced to be hanged. He confessed that he had the Friday night previous set fire to the gaol to engender his own escape.
On the ninth of November, Governor Graves ordered his execution, on the grounds that not only was he guilty of rape, and setting fire to the gaol, but it had also been shown that he had co-operated with the French during their occupation of St. John's, and was thus guilty of treason, so that the governor did not as was usual with rape cases request clemency from the crown, but had the sentence of the court carried out immediately.
The actions of such Irishmen as Stacklhaid gave a bad name to all the Irish, though the number appearing in the courts for violent crimes was very small. The majority of the Irish lived peaceably with their neighbours, and their fights were usually the result of the consumption of too much liquor. Except when the governor intervened, they were usually at the mercy of their masters, being aliens in race and religion to those in power Yet, it should be pointed out to the everlasting credit of these all-powerful governors, that when cases of injustice to the Irish regarding their
rightful wages came to the governor's attention, his decision was usually with the fishermen, and the statement made to the magistrates of Harbour Grace by Governor Rodney in 1749 would also apply to most of the later governors. Even when they were framing rules and regulations to limit their number, the Irish were still entitled to justice as regards their rightful wages.
It seems from the records that some of the masters attempted to use the excuse of the French having captured St. John's to defraud their servants. One case has already been given from Trinity. Another occurred at St. Mary's in 1762, when John Ryan of that place was accused by Thomas Townshend of having seized some property from Townshend knowing that the French were in possession of St. John's. The governor ordered the Fishing Admiral at St. Mary's to help Townshend get his property back. The following year another Irishman, William O'Brien, was ordered to repay Thomas Keates of the same place for the wet and dry fish he had taken from him, as well as for the salmon that O'Brien had stolen at Salmonier. O'Brien had also taken bread and other goods that Keates had had in his store at Salmonier. O'Brien had taken all these goods without giving any account to Keates, with the exception of
four tierces of salmon that O'Brien had given to Keates' servant, Maurice Aherne. The thought that Newfoundland might be in the process of changing leaders seems to have brought about a fair amount of stealing and open robbery.
In the same year, 1763, an Irishman named John Dunien, who was fishing at St. Juliens, became involved with a French captain over the right of the English to fish on the 'Treaty Coast". Dunien, it would appear, had fishing premises at St. Juliens, but a French captain claimed the room, under the "fishing Admiral's right to first choice of fish room in a community". Dunien became so obstreperous in his altercations with the French that Governor Falliser ordered him deported, and to be whipped if he returned. On finding out that Dunien had escaped being deported, Palliser ordered that anyone giving him employment should be fined fifty pounds. This is an example of an Irishman helping to assert the claim of Newfoundland to the ..French Shore" as early as 1763.
On the thirty-first of October, 1764, Governor Palliser issued a new set of orders designed to cut down on the number of idle persons, especially Irish Catholics remaining in Newfoundland.
The orders were:
The better for preserving the peace, preventing robberies, tumultuous assemblies and other disorder of wicked and idle people remaining in the country during the winter, ordered:
All Justices of the Peace for Newfoundland were to carry these orders into execution and copies were to be posted and read in all courthouses.
- That no Papist servants, man or woman shall remain at any place where they did not fish or serve during the proceeding summer.
- That not more than two Papist men shall dwell in one house during the winter except such as have a protestant master.
- That no Papist shall keep a public house or vend liquor by retail.
- That no person shall keep dyeters during the winter.
- That all idle and disorderly men and women be punished according to law and sent out of the country.
The following year, Mr. Felix McCarthy and his men at Harbour Grace were in trouble with the magistrates. Mr. Justice Garland of Harbour Grace complained to the governor that when he went on board a ship captained by one O'Brien, and owned by Felix McCarthy, to arrest a man under a warrant to charge him for being concerned in a riot at that place, the crew of the ship rose up with muskets and other weapons to keep the magistrate from doing his duty. The governor ordered the ship's crew seized with the exception of the captain, and the owner was advised to get a new crew.
On September 18, 1765, Mr. Felix McCarthy and his servants, Denis Neal, Aty Nagle, Dan Sherridan, Dan Leary, James Rodrigues, Mick Dunne, Andy Latmore (all crew of the ship "St. Charles"), James Maheny, James Welsh, Darby McCarthy and William Cantwell appeared in court to answer to the charges of riot, and of helping rioters escape. The last five were charged with having rioted in order to prevent Mr. Justice Garland from entering the ship "Francis and Elizabeth" to arrest Nagle and the others. All were found guilty and were sentenced as follows: Denis Neal three dozen lashes on bare back at St. John's and the same at Harbour Grace, all the others with the exception of Mr Felix McCarthy to receive one dozen lashes on the bare back at Harbour Grace. Mr. Felix McCarMy was ordered to pay all the charges of the court and a fine of thirty pounds towards building a jail at Harbour Grace. William Cantwell was ordered to be remanded until a second charge against him by Mr. Ebezsn Ward was further investigated. Here again apparently there is clear evidence that there were two classes of Irishmen in Newfoundland, fishing servants or sailors like Denis Neal and the others who could be lashed, and upper class persons, as in the case of Mr. Felix McCarthy who could be fined, but not whipped.
At Harbour Main, in 1765, an Irish woman Mary McDonald was given the governor's permission to hold a fish room until someone with a better claim than she came forward with proof of a better title, and no person whatsoever was to turn her from the fish room she occupied. In the same year the question of price difference between St. John's and the outports was brought to the governor's attention by Thomas Murphy, who complained that he had been charged exorbitant prices for goods supplied him outside St. John's. The governor's solution was simple, Murphy had to pay only at St. John's prices.
At Toad's Cove on the Southern Shore, in the same year, a man named James Cockeran, in a fight with his servant James Fling maimed Fling's hand so badly as to prevent his fishing. Fling appealed to the Governor, who ordered Cockeran to appear in court. There it was shown that Fling had started the fight and nothing was allowed by the court for loss of wages or time. Two doctors had treated Fling, and the governor, who scolded them soundly for presenting an exorbitant bill, said they would get nothing for their services as a result. The court did order, however, that Cockeran pay six pounds ten shillings, and three pounds ten shillings be given Fling for his passage home.
At St. John's another case of a master trying to avoid paying his servants on the excuse that the French had occupied St. John's came to light in 1765. The governor after an investigation, found that Maurice Welsh the master, had received no hindrance from the French occupation of St. John's and ordered him to pay Michael Healey and John Healey their just wages as they had in all ways been faithful servants. However, it had taken three years for the men to receive Justice.. At the same time the governor had the master of the brig 'Good Intent' before him for carrying sixty fishermen to New England, which was contrary to law. As punishment, the governor, who was trying to reduce the number of Irish in the island, ordered him to carry sixty persons home to Ireland. At the same court, another interesting case appeared when a fisherman named Joy petitioned against his wrongful dismissal for being drunk, when he claimed the liquor was supplied by his master, a gentleman named Pelter. The governor ordered his deputy, Dan Burr, to investigate the matter, and if it was proved that the master had got drunk with his servant on liquor supplied by the master then Mr. Burr would judge the matter according to law and the custom of the island.
In the Newfoundland of the eighteenth century, women masters proved to be no different from their male counterparts. Thus, in 1766 we find the governor ordering Mrs. Ann Woodford to pay immediately the passage from Ireland of her servant Denis Cahill, which was set down in his shipping papers or she would "answer the contrary at her peril."
At the same court there was a case involving a row between two servants of Mr Will Ousley of St. John's. In the row, John Cummings cut off two fingers of Pat Alwand's hand, leaving him unable to work. The court ordered that Cummings' wages be paid to Alward, so that he could take passage to Ireland and retain the remainder for damages.
James Kelly and James Walsh of Trepassey, servants to James Jackson, also appeared in court in 1766, complaining that their master had brought them from Ireland to Newfoundland, and supplied them with goods to the full amount of their wages, so that they were now destitute, with no money to pay their passage home to Ireland nor to buy food and lodgings for the winter in Newfoundland. The governor was very angry with Jackson, as this was contrary to the orders he had issued, and would, he felt, if practices like this were permitted, result in the country being filled with rogues and vagabonds. As a result, the governor ordered the justice at Trepassey to sell sufficient of Jackson's property to maintain the two men during the winter.
In the same year, 1766, the governor became aware of a murder on the Labrador, at a place called Forteau, where in a fray between a ship's crew, an Irishman named Nugent was barbarously murdered. There was also reason to believe that the same crew had murdered another man at the island of Bois during the same summer. The majority of the crew, with the exception of Nugent and a man named Dillon, appear to have been British. They were arrested and brought to trial at St. John's.
Another interesting sidelight on the customs and manners of the time, which shows how men were punished for being slack in their master's work, is shown in the case of Mr. John Lewington against his servants. He brought his men to court on a charge that they had neglected a whole day's work, when other boats on that day had had a good catch. The governor had the day's catch averaged and then made the crew of Mr. Lewington pay double the amount as a lesson for neglecting their duty. Thus Thomas Sully, the boat's master, was fined two pounds and his crew members, Pat Kelly and Martin Power, one pound each.
Another case which involved the appearance of the French on the Southern Shore, occurred at Brigus South in 1766. Fearing a French attack, James Keating and Cornelius Conner of that community fled, leaving their fish and oil on the flakes and in their stages. However, Thomas Molloy of Bauline came, and seeing the fish and oil unprotected, seized it and carried it away without giving any acknowledgement to the owners. He was ordered to give a proper account of what he had taken and to compensate the rightful owners.
Another problem for the merchants in the various communities was made known to the governor. It seemed that some people had contracted debts with a merchant and then moved to another settlement to avoid payment. In a letter to William Welsh, a merchant in Placentia, the governor said that he had issued an order that no person would be allowed to live in a new settlement unless he had a pass signed by a justice of the peace that he was free of debt in the settlement he had left. A new problem presented itself in 1766 to the English authorities: the arrival of a great number of poor women from Ireland, and the governor issued the following regulations to deal with it:
Whereas great numbers of poor women are frequently brought into this country and particularly this port [St John's] by vessels arriving from Ireland who become distressed and a charge to the inhabitants and likewise occasion much disorder and disturbance against the peace of Our Sovereign Lord the King, Notice is hereby given to all masters of vessels arriving in this country that from the first day of April next, no women are to be landed without security being given for their good behaviour and they shall not become chargeable to the inhabitants.
Hugh Palliser. July 2, 1766
This edict from governor Palliser probably originated with the case of Thomas Pendergrass, who had been refused payment of his wages by his master John Blackney at St. John's because of his being involved with a woman servant of the same master. Palliser wrote:
Nathaniel Brooks Esq. being ye merchant who receives ye voyage of John Blackney is hereby ordered to pay to ye petitioner Thomas Pendergrass, on or before the 16th, inst., the wages due to him for service performed to his shipping papers in proportion to the time he served, without any deduction on account of his intercourse with a woman, servant to the said Blackney, or appear before me on or before the 20th. inst., as he will answer the contrary at his peril. Mr. Justice Brooks is also to order the woman who occasioned this disturbance to leave the country, and oblige the master of the ship who brought her to carry her away." Palliser was obviously a believer in the old Newfoundland proverb: "it's a man's place to try and a woman's right to deny", and so the woman servant was the one punished.
In 1766, the main merchant at Conche, White Bay, was Andrew Pinson. He, like Jackson at Trepassey, had given his crew enough liquor so that all their wages went to pay for it, leaving them destitute. The majority of the men were Irish. One crew was made up of Mick Kelly, William Mahany, Tom Tidman and John Lyon. As they had been left destitute by their master's supplying liquor the governor ordered one of his boats sold to pay their passage to Ireland. The next day, having observed the verdict in favour of these four, ten more of Pinson's men appealed their destitute condition for a similar reason. These were Pat McNamara, Andrew Cufford, Andrew Sullivan, Mick Power, Mick Whalen, Dennis Cunningham, Pat Lyons, William Hayes, John Bryan, Don Dehen. The governor also found in their favour, and Pinson's agent was ordered to pay their passage home.
By 1766, smuggling with St, Pierre was a new problem for governor Palliser, and the Irish in the vicinity of St. Pierre were, like their English counterparts, involved. Among those caught and charged was Bryant Flaharty of Long Harbour, Fortune Bay, who was sentenced to have his property sold to pay his creditors, the remaining amount to be used to pay his passage back to Ireland.
In 1767, John Foot brought a complaint against his boat crew members for neglecting their duty, in not doing according to their agreement the best of their endeavours for the good of his voyage. He proved in court that his voyage was short ninety four quintals of what his neighbours had, due to the lack of endeavour of his crew. The crew argued that they had a poor boat, and the governor in making his decision took this into consideration but found that they had been guilty of not doing their duty and cut their wages accordingly in the following amounts :George Johnson six pounds, Mick Hickey two pounds, Moses Cavanaugh two pounds, James Burn six pounds, Ed. Flaherty three pounds, William Burke three pounds and Ed Burke three pounds. Although the name of the community is not given it would appear to be at Fortune where Foot was an English form of Faut, one of the original French colonists of Fortune prior to the Treaty of Utrecht.
In 1767, it came to the governor's attention that two Irishmen had taken possession of a fishing room at Tilting on Fogo Island. He promptly issued the following edict:
Whereas it hath been represented to me that Cornelius Lenehan and Maurice Power hold and possess a fishing room at Tilting Harbour, with sundry fishing works thereon, not erected by themselves, nor at their expense, that the said two men, Lenehan and Power, are not qualified to hold a fishing room according to the act of the 10th.and of the 11th.of William III, which require that every fifth man shall be a new or "Greenman" from Britain yearly, besides the coast to the northward of Bonavista being held by the King's orders, declared all ships rooms for concurrent fishery of English and French ships. I thereby authorize any British fishing ship qualified as such with the usual fishing certificate to take possession of and use said room at Tilting Harbour and the said Power and Lenehan on sight hereof are immediately to quit same to any fishing ship that may claim the use of it or accommodate themselves otherwise as they may agree.
In the same year an Irish fisherman, Thomas Grant, appeared in court at St. John's, and told the magistrate that he had come from Ireland in the spring to serve in the fishery, but being old, he had not been able to find a master to employ him, and now too old and infirm to work he wanted to return to Ireland. The governor ordered that as he had been brought out by a ship's captain who had not bothered to see if the old man could get a position in Newfoundland, Grant was not liable for his passage out. The governor also had him sent back to his own country. At the same court, John Cahill's order of execution was given to take place on October 17, 1767 between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning.
The intention of a merchant at Greenspond to defraud his Irish servants was also disclosed by the court. It seemed that James Hayward of Greenspond had hired an insolvent debtor, Pat Duncey, and supplied him with a craft and provisions for the fishery. Duncey then engaged thirteen fishermen. Hayward signed a note that he would be responsible for the servants' wages. However, when the voyage was done he collected the main part for payment for supplying Duncey, leaving Duncey with no money to pay the servants' wages. The men (Jeremiah Daniel, Pat Ducey, John Carey, Ed. Pendergrass, Maurice Mulchey, Richard Maugher, Tom Kearnich, William Calimon, Pat Bryan, Matt Power, John Higgins, Lawrence Bryan and John Daniel) petitioned the governor, who counteracted Hayward's plan, by making him responsible for the passage of these men to Ireland, and giving the men the authority to enter Hayward's house and take up lodgings, eating sufficient food to sustain them without any fear of the law.
A similar case also appeared at Harbour Grace, where Felix McCarthy did exactly the same thing. by using Thomas English as Hayward had used Duncey. McCarthy too was ordered to pay the wages of the men: John Fowler, William Nugent, Matt Kennedy, Maurice Walsh and John Mead, and their passage home to Ireland. An order was sent to Justice Garland that if McCarthy or his agent did not provide passage home, then the men were to quarter themselves on McCarthy or his agent for the winter and they were to see that the men had sufficient food. He was to do likewise for the servants of Morgan Sherridan, whom McCarthy had used in a similar manner.
Before leaving in the fall of 1767, Governor Palliser turned his attention to the activities of the Irish settlers at St. John's and sent the following notice to the magistrates of the town:
To The Magistrates of St. John's:
Whereas a great number of huts are erected, possessed and inhabited by Irish Roman Catholics in this Harbour who entertain and keep in the country a great quantity of rogues and vagabonds to the great disturbance of the peace and danger of his majesty's subjects' lives and to the exceeding great prejudice of the fishing trade. You are hereby authorized and directed immediately to pull down such huts or houses and suffer no more to be erected.
Hugh Palliser October 23, 1767
In 1768, the following Irish people resided at Ferryland:
John Brien, Edward Murphy, Garrett Fitzgerald, Mary Shea, Mick Power, Con. Morrissey, Joseph Morey, Mike Shea, Paul Kelly, Stephen Moores and Mick Shea.
At Petty Harbour, in July of 1768, an Irishman named John Dunne assaulted Captain Pins, the fishing admiral at that harbour. An Irishman from Ferryland was hanged at St. John's. At Fogo, the following Irish servants were left in distress by their master and had to be sent home by the naval officers: Tom Conners, Ed Murphy, Tom Tracey, William Kennedy, John Cull, Mick German, Barry Denoly, Robert Brennan, Robert Supple, and William Drakes.
In 1770, Governor Bryon re-issued the laws regarding Irish Papists with a slight change. They now read:
The masters of Irish servants shall pay their passage home. No man or woman who is a Papist and did not fish or serve in this harbour during the summer shall be permitted to remain here during the winter. That only two who are Roman Catholics be permitted to dwell in the same house except such as shall have a Protestant master. No Roman Catholic shall keep a public house or vend liquor by retail. That the children of Roman Catholics born in this country be baptized according to law.
Despite such regulations, the Irish continued to reside in the country and to migrate yearly for the fishery. In 1771, an Irish family brought themselves into the notice of the law at Fogo. The fishing admiral of that community and several of the principal inhabitants complained to the governor of the disorderly conduct of one Mary Bond, lately wife of one Joseph Bond, bye-boat-keeper at Fogo. They petitioned that the governor send Mary Bond back to Ireland, her native country. The governor, however, gave her another chance. He advised the admiral at Fogo to admonish Mary and to tell her to stop her disorderly conduct. If she did not obey, she was to be placed on the first ship bound for Ireland.
In the same year an Irishman at Bonavista committed the unpardonable crime of marking of someone else's property. The governor wrote to the magistrate at Bonavista :
Whereas you have represented to me that an Irish Papist, a servant, a man without wife or family has put up mark posts on a fishing room within your district with an intent to build a stage and flake thereon for possession of same as his RIGHT OF PROPERTY, which proceeding is contrary to the Act of William III.
I do hereby authorize you to immediately cause the mark posts above mentioned to be taken down and warn the person offending not to presume to mark out any other fishing room again as his property or he will answer to the contrary.
The next year a list of persons too indolent to work was compiled by the Justices of the Peace of the St. John's district. The persons named had no visible means of support, and the governor ordered them to provide themselves with passage to their homeland. If any were to be found after the last passenger ship sailed for Ireland, the Justices were ordered to punish them to the utmost severity of the law. This order was given on October 20, and the people named in the list were: Pat Walsh, Power and Taylor, Peter Kelly & his wife, Joan Power , Widow Rawrns, Robert Whylay (alias Walsh) Pat Clancey , Eleanor Power, McDonald and his wife, Thomas Matthews, Old Nugent, Peter Blade, cobbler Robert Fling, James Fling, John Sinnot,Wm. Bishop (either to separate from Mary Hutchingson or be sent home) James Walsh (for opposing constables in the execution of their duty) Cahill's wife and Children [Cahill had been hanged in 1767]
The governor, besides issuing a list of those who had to return home or endure the full power of the law, also ordered that all planters and others had to pay the passage home, at the end of their service, of all their servants. Also, all masters of passenger ships were directed to take on such persons. If men remained in the country, their previous masters were responsible for any violent act or robbery they might commit.
Pat Walsh in 1772 petitioned against the cruel treatment he had received from his masters, Martin Neale and William Fitzpatrick, of Placentia. He had been shipped for a guaranteed wage of 17 pounds for the season, plus his passage from Ireland. On July 6 he was taken sick His master turned him away and abused him, and would not pay his wages. The governor ordered that Walsh should be paid according to his shipping papers.
In 1774, the magistrates of Bonavista discovered that a group of Papists had settled at Bird Island Cove near Bonavista, and here offered in the words of magistrate Keene, 'assistance when they flee from the law to all evil persons.. where stolen goods have been conveyed and which is become a pest to society". They reported the same to the governor and asked for the removal of these Irish papists. The governor ordered the magistrates to use all legal means to drive them out and send them home to Ireland.
At the same time in St. John's an Irishman named Timothy McCarthy fell into debt to the tune of sixty-four pounds. As a result, he had to give up to John Keith, and permit him peaceful occupation, of the place commonly known as Cowell's Plantation. "to have hold and enjoy the said dwelling houses," etc., until the sum sixty-four pounds nine shillings and four pence was fully paid to John Keith or assignee.
Not content with setting up a Papist Irish community at Bonavista, the Irish were also violent towards the women at that community, and Daniel Hogan, Will Maney and John Linegar were arrested and brought to St. John's to be tried for rape of Ruth Parrot and Margaret Ryan. The cost of the trial and keeping the prisoners amounted to forty pounds, nine shillings and three pence, which had to paid by the imposition of a small tax on the residents of the Bonavista district.
In St. John's in 1774, we find one of the few occasions when a person of an Irish name supported the Anglican church. The record for July 12, 1774 shows Catherine Fitzpatrick paid one pound two shillings for a pew in the new Anglian church. Also we find that Catherine and James Fitzpatrick were included in the New Anglican church board. The following year Mrs. Fitzpatrick was rewarded for her church activities by being given a new piece of land in lieu of a piece that had been taken from her when the fort expanded.
In 1775, there was trouble among the Irish at Caplin Cove on August 14, for on that day, James Walsh, a fisherman, was murdered by William Keefe, also of Caplin Cove. The magistrate at Bay Bulls had Keefe taken into custody and sent to St. John's for trial. There was also trouble in Bonavista, for the property of William Keene had been broken open and goods taken by John Burke, Wilfred Ryan (alias Burke) and John Sweeney. They were sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to transportation. First, however, halters were placed around their necks and they were made to walk under the gallows. At Bonavista, Patrick Welsh was ordered to be punished for scandalous behaviour not specified.
At Harbour Grace and Carbonear a number of servants who had been shipped in Cork, Ireland, petitioned the governor that they be returned, as their masters would not pay their way, the governor ordered them sent -- the cost to be paid by their masters. At Chapel's Cove CB, John Terry, a boat-keeper for some years, had a debt of one hundred twenty six pounds six shillings and six pence with George Davis of Carbonear. Terry, however, left his premises and went to the USA. Davis was given possession of his property until the debt was paid.
In the same year, 1775, three servants to James Jackson of Trepassey enlisted in the Nova Scotia Volunteers. They were John Barren, Martin Brennan and Larry McDonald. Jackson complained that he had advanced them money towards their fishing wages. The governor ordered them to return to finish out their contracts at Trepassey. Three other Irishmen in St. John's were in trouble also, John Doyle over a plantation and Lawrence Hallahan and Lawrence Dalton for forgery. The first was held at the King's pleasure, the second was given a pardon by the governor.
In 1776, there was another "Fray.. between some Irish in St. John's and as a result John Cahill, a merchant, was murdered. A witness said that there had been a lot of drinking at Cahill's house that day, and many visitors. About eight or nine o'clock some men looked in the front window of Cahill's house. Cahill was heard by the witness George Keating to say: 'Damn you, you rascals, how dare you look in the window," and then he went out and there was a sound of fighting. Later he saw some men coming with sticks in their hands. Another witness, Sam Jutsham, saw seven persons go out of Cahill's house, and saw them fighting on the path, saw two boys or "low men" stoop and pick up stones, and hand them to the men. Then the witness heard Cahill say, "if you can't get sticks, get stones , to his boys. He heard one boy say, "Master, they are Quigley's men".
The prisoner said he was passing by the house and the shutters were open with a great noise within. He stopped to look and out came Cahill and struck him with a stick, as did Samuel Power, who came out with Cahill. The prisoner was found not guilty and discharged.
In 1777, the governor issued an order regarding Irish women coming to Newfoundland:
Whereas it has been represented to me that the ships and vessels that come from Ireland frequently bring unmarried women and young girls who are destitute of friends and come over with no other view but to be hired as indentured servants that on their arrival and having hired themselves to masters have proven to be with child, which is attended with difficulties to the master and is the cause of bringing many incumbrance upon the inhabitants of this island and of this place in particular.
These are therefore to forbid all masters of vessels from bringing any women as servants from Ireland on pain of forfeiting ten pounds for every person so found on board or that can be proved by information to have been brought over by them and I do further declare if any woman be hired to a master on shore and she proves to be with child at the time she was hired her master shall not pay her passage, and if discovered after he pays then he shall be refunded the money.
Oct 10, 1777 J. Montague
The Irish continued to keep things lively at St. John's, and in 1780 there is an account of a complaint by William Clancey that Denis Power forced entry into his room when he was going to bed "on Monday last.., and beat both him and his wife". Power's defence was that he was drunk.
John Mahany of St. John's was also brought into court on the charge of breaking the peace by keeping a "disorderly house.., and having arms belonging to the king in his possession and publicly proclaiming his intention to resist arrest if any one came to take him. This information was given by Corp. Alex Cambell of the Forty-Second Regiment, who had gone to Mahany' s house to buy tobacco. He asked Mahany if he feared the press gang which was roaming the streets of St. John's at this time. Mahany's answer was that he was..afraid of no bugger that would try to take him, while he had three loaded muskets and a hanger. Cambell examined one musket but found it empty. He also reported to the court that Mahany went abroad at night with a cane with a sword in it. When the soldiers went to investigate Cambell's complaint, they found the muskets and ammunition belonging to the fort Mahany could not account for. Mahany was fined twenty pounds and imprisoned in the fort. Here, he got into further trouble for telling his guard, John Ellis the constable that he would get it when Mahany got out of jail, which frightened the constable and got Mahany into more trouble.
John Doyle, an inn keeper of St. John's, was committed to the gaol for suspected murder of his wife, Catherine Doyle. At Renews, John Murphy was appointed agent of James Sutton Esq. & Co to recover from Robert Eustace sum of 7,000 pounds sterling.
At Petty Harbour, Patrick Dawson found out what it was like to have a suspicious master. He saw a dog running across a flake with a piece of beef in its mouth, He took the meat from the dog and was carrying it back to the cook room when his master John Nagle, accused him of stealing it and dismissed him from his service pay. Nagle was ordered to take Dawson back and pay him his wages.
On September 29, 1780, Michael Darrington, Thomas Burke, John Mahor and Jack Crow (all Irish and labourers), and Patrick Crow, a tailor, late of Trinity, attacked and beat to death a man named Gallin using shovels and a cutlass at the house of John Mahany, who was later imprisoned for keeping a "disorderly house".
Darrington was imprisoned on H M. Cygnet in irons, but succeeded in breaking free. He was captured quite by accident at Bay Bulls, but was armed and considered dangerous. He was sentenced to be hanged: the other men were transported back to Ireland.
Two Irish women are also mentioned in the records for conduct unbecoming ladies. They were Catherine Connol and Mary Power, who went on board a vessel called the "O'Sean", which was berthed in the harbour of St. John's, under the pretext of being paid for washing they had done for the sailors and to sell bread. However, they brought liquor to the sailors contrary to the law and the governor's edict. At their trial they were described as 'bad people, having kept disorderly houses for a considerable time", and were fined ten pounds each. In the same year three Irish soldiers, Corporal Jeremiah Connell and privates Maurice Murphy and John Gleeson were condemned to be shot for desertion. The governor, however, after studying the verdict, tempered justice with mercy, saying that it was a new regiment and that the men could do useful service elsewhere. He pardoned them on condition that they enlist in another regiment for seven years' service on the coast of Africa.
In 1784, the Irish population received freedom to practise their religion. The edict granting religious toleration was published by the governor, J. Campbell, on October 28, 1784, and reads as follows:
Pursuant to the King's instructions to me, you are to allow all persons inhabiting this island to have full liberty of conscience and the free exercise of all such modes of worship as are not prohibited by some; provided they be content with a quiet and peaceful employment of same, not giving scandal to the government.
It appears, however, that a number of Irish priests had been in the island and a Father Kena, an Augustine friar, had been ministering to the Irish Catholics at Placentia from 1776 until 1783, whe he returned to Ireland. He was succeeded by another Irish priest, Father Landergan. Following the edict of toleration in 1784, Father Landergan became more demanding on his parishioners and, as a result, complaints were sent to the governor, who dispatched the following letter to the magistrate at Placentia:
October 19, 1785
Mr William Saunders having represented to me that there is a Romanish priest named Landergan at Placentia of a very violent and turbulent spirit, who has given interruption to Mr. Burke, a regular sober man of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and that unless the former is sent out of the country, the peace of the place is in imminent danger of being disturbed. I desire you will cause the said Landergan to be put on board the first vessel that may sail for England or Ireland.
To the magistrates at Placentia
I am Sir Your Humble servant
Father Landergan, however, did not wait to be transported but left Placentia and travelled to the North East Coast of Newfoundland to minister to the Irish Roman Catholics of Fogo Island. Dying in poverty in a fish room, he was buried in Tilting Harbour, where his grave can still be seen. He too was succeeded by another Irish priest at Placentia. The granting of religious freedom did not mean, however, that the Irish were welcome in Newfoundland. A letter from the governor of the day to the first Roman Catholic bishop of Newfoundland states this very clearly: The governor wishes to acquaint Mr. O'Donnel that so far from feeling disposed to allow an increase of places of religious worship to the Roman Catholics of this island, he very seriously intends to lay those already existing under very particular restrictions. Mr. O`Donnell must be sensible that it is not in the interest of Great Britain to encourage people to winter here and he cannot be ignorant that many of the lower order of those who stay now would it were not for the convenience with which they obtain absolution here go home for at least once in two or three years, and the governor has been misinformed if Mr. O'Donnel instead of advising them to return to Ireland does rather encourage them to winter in this colony.
In an effort to cut down crime and violence in St. John's the governor in 1786-87 attempted to reduce the number of public houses in St. John's from twenty-four to twelve. On October 17, 1787, the principal merchants of St. John's protested pointing out that as a result of the reduction in the public houses at a time when servants had finished their work and were awaiting passage home to Ireland, many of them would be around the streets as they would have no place to congregate and this could well result in civil disorders. Two years later in a report to the British authorities the governor suggested that the merchants may have been right.
The year 1789 is an important date in the history of the Newfoundland Irish, for in the summer of the year the populace of St. John's, or at least the non-Irish populace, was very alarmed by what appeared to be the dumping of a cargo of Irish convicts in Newfoundland. In a letter to W. W. Grenville in London, dated Sept. 20, 1789, Governor Millbanke stated that the peace of the island was disturbed by a number of Irish convicts who were landed at Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour and soon after made their way to St. John's and the other principal harbours, where they committed various depredations upon the fishermen and other inhabitants. Describing in rather naive terms the state of the island before the landing of the convicts, the governor wrote:
Until the arrival of these wretches in the country, open and professed villainy was it seems totally unknown among the lower order of people employed in the fishery, but since their arrival frequent punishment for crimes unknown before their arrival, had taken place.
In the same letter the governor described how on July 20, 1789, a number of men and women came into St. John's by land from Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour. After close examination, it appeared that these were convicts from Ireland who had been put ashore at Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour from a vessel named the 'Duke of Leinster' from Dublin, and the number appeared to be 102 men and twelve women. No satisfactory account could be obtained of the supposed destination. The merchants agreed that the convicts should be taken into custody and confined to a place away from the town. This was probably the first concentration camp in Newfoundland. In the absence of the governor, Lt. Governor Elford helped by supplying guards to the camp, and the merchants supplied the food. For ten days all went well. Then the food stopped coming from the merchants, and the hungry convicts were very angry and there was fear of mutiny in the camp. Elford saved the day by supplying the convicts from the army stores until the arrival of the governor and his party later in the summer. In the meantime the St. John's magistrates organized an investigation to obtain as much information as possible about the occurrence. A sailor, Richard Robinson, who not having signed articles, and not liking the way things were going, escaped from the ship at Bay Bulls while convicts were being landed. He said that the men and women were convicts because they had been brought to the ship under guard and chained. He said that they had left Dublin on June 14 and landed at Bay Bulls on July 15. One of the convicts, James McGuire, said that about three days out from Dublin, one of the convicts, (a priest, named Father Tee) who had been convicted of forgery, was put on a ship bound for England. He also said that except for the convicts with money, they had been chained in pairs on the voyage from Ireland to Newfoundland.
The magistrates also compiled a list of the convicts and their crimes from those who were being held in the camp outside St. John's. The convicts were as follows: John O.Neil, aged 20, Dublin convicted of stealing waistcoats, sentenced to 7 years transportation. Remarks: the best shoplifting in Ireland. James Wyler, aged 20, Donaghadee, County Down, convicted of robbing a man's watch in Stephen's Green, sentenced to death (reduced to transportation) Matt Dempsey, aged 21, Conslee, King's County, convicted of picking a lock and stealing a pawnbroker's ticket, sentenced to death (reduced to transportation)Denis Newehan, aged 19, Dublin, accomplice to Dempsey, sentenced to death (reduced to transportation). [Far a complete list of convicts, crimes and sentences, please see appendix].
On the arrival of the governor, a committee of merchants and traders applied to him to consider the dangerous state of the island from the persons now in it, particularly the persons who had been landed at Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour. These persons were under guard at St. John's, and the committee wished the governor to consider finding a way of raising money to send the supposed convicts back to either England or Ireland.
The committee suggested that a special tax of ten shillings per ship engaged as a
merchant ship or banker, four shillings per shallop and two shillings per skiff, be imposed on all ships in the colony. From the money raised, St. John's would bear half the cost and the rest of the island the remainder.
This plan from St. John's was rejected by the other communities and the governor then gave orders that each district was to raise "such sums as they think proper". Ferryland gave ninety pounds on October 20, 1789, and the other communities agreed to pay their share, thus agreeing with the governor's plan to send the supposed convicts home, or as many of them as could be found. The governor ordered all magistrates to send to St. John's for this purpose all suspected escapees from the convict ship or the camp at St. John's.
On September 17, 1789, the following advertisement was issued by the governor's office in St. John's:
Masters and Owners of ships willing to take on board as passengers and convey to England between sixty to eighty men and women and find them with 21/2 Ib. of bread, 2 lbs. of flour, 3 Ibs. of pork, 3 pints of peas, and 1/2 Ib. of butter and seven gallons of water each per week, are desired to deliver tenders in writing sealed and addressed to the governor at the secretary's office between the hours of ten and eleven in the forenoon. The vessel to be discharged 14 days after her arrival at Spitehead or to be allowed demurrage, which is to be mentioned in the tender.
By Command of the Governor
A Graham, Sec. 17 Sept 1789
The contract was awarded to Captain Robert Coysh of the brig "Elizabeth", and the final terms of the agreement were that seventy-four men and six women were to be returned. The governor was to provide the irons to shackle the prisoners, and the captain the guards. The convicts were received on board the ship on October 8, 1789. The captain was ordered to treat them well and to see that their needs were provided for as laid down in the contract. However, only seventy-three men were embarked, together with the six women.
The names of those who were listed on the ship's passenger list were:
John Welsh ,William Thilson ,Patrick Neale,Thomas Taylor, John Killan, John Nugent, John Moors, James Moore, John Neal, Man Dempsey, John Coyle, Tom Ellis, James Bailey, Pat Mulloney, Pat Leigh, John Grant, Mick Murphy, Nick Carpenter, John Mahoney, William Butler, Patrick Nugent, William Warpole, John Sales, James Murphy, Nick Pendergrass, Tom Lindsay, John Trilly, John Gainford, Tom Lahey, John Smith ,Charles Byant ,John Vinn ,Joe Poley, John McGuire, Dan McElles ,Mick Flinn, Abe Pellate, Robert Fisher, John Bryne, Bah Maney, Patrick Dunne, Pat Sullivan, John Crook, Tom Kelly, Mick Delaney, John Mansfield, John Burke, John Halfpenny, Patrick Hart, Patrick King, Michael Ryan, Tom Shannon, Tom Dunne, John McCarthy, David Hagis, Nick Sullivan, Tom Ryan, Con Brisseham, John McDornret, Mark Kelly, William Franklin,Tom Byme,Dan Carew, John Horley, Tom Conners, Anthony Young, Tom Cahill, Patrick Healey, Patrick Leonard, Robert Robinson, Don Stirid, William Linehan,Charles McCarthy,
Mary Maloney, Mary Ar, Judith Kelly, Eleanor Watson, Mary Connoll, Nancy Farrell
Received on board the Elizabeth and Clare
October 8th. 1789. Robert Coysh, Master"
From this account it would appear that twenty-nine men and six women of the total who landed from the convict ship remained in the island.
A few more of the 'convicts' were apprehended after the ship sailed, and a greater interest was evidenced in sending back as many Irish fishing men as could be sent. Thus, John Regan and Peter Menegna were to be sent from St. John's to Fermeuse to Ireland by their former master, "if he could be prevailed upon to do so". Also there is a notice that Thomas Walsh, James Ryan, John Freeman and Patrick Lawlor escaped from the "convict prison.on October 23, 1789. The Sheriff's records for the same year show that a number of men had their passage paid to Ireland by
the Sheriff. On October 22, the following account was given:
Mick Quirk... passage to Ireland .....2 pounds
Thomas Halleran...passage to Ireland.....2 pounds
For whipping, and then her passage to Ireland,one of the Women convicts ..... 18 Shillngs
Morris McCarthy... passage to Ireland.....3 pounds
Ed Mahoney...passage to Ireland.....3 pounds
Walter Dunphy ... passage to Ireland.....3 pounds
Lundrigan...passage to Ireland.....3 pounds
William Malone ... passage to Ireland.....2 pounds
Peter Dwyer... passage to Ireland .....2 pounds
Thomas Martin .. passage to Ireland.....2 pounds
Paid Thomas Waksham for the passage of 17 men, women and children sent back to Ireland by order of the Justices.
Another Irishman was transported from the island in 1789, in the person of Thomas Power of the City of Waterford, Ireland, but in 1789 a resident of St. John's. He had broken into the house of William Thomas and others and had stolen goods to the value of ten pounds. He pleaded guilty and threw himself on the mercy of the court. At the trial it was proven that William and Margaret Penney had received the stolen goods from Power. They were sentenced to seven years transportation with Power
The problems with the Irish in 1789 made them even more dangerous in the eyes of the authorities, who were convinced that the Irish priests in the island were not to be trusted. Thus, Governor Milbanke wrote to the magistrates at Ferryland:
As I am authorized by my commission to administer and give or cause to be administered or given the oath mentioned in the act passed in the first year ..to the security of His Majesty's person and Govt, to all and every person as I shall think fit who shall at any time or times pass into this island or shall be resident or abiding here, I must desire you that you will not on any account whatsoever suffer either of the R C. Priests at Ferryland to exercise the duties of their function until they shall have taken and submitted to the same oath of which you will not fail to provide me with a copy."
At Bonavista there was trouble in 1789 with an Irish servant. Sam Desney, a planter of Bonavista, had an Irish servant named John Hurley, who, when he drank, became very violent and abusive. Desney had words with his son, and Hurley took the son's part against the father. Desney ordered him out of doors, and told him not to come back again in his service. The next day, Hurley had sobered up and Desney took him back and gave him "meat and bread". In the evening of the same day, Hurley had words with a fellow servant, John Flearty, and in anger tried to hit Flearty with the fire tongs. According to a witness, William Malone, Hurley was always making ..an oration and disturbance". Malone took the tongs away from Hurley and Desney turned him outdoors again.
Then Desney latched the door of his bedroom, and Hurley came back in the house and called from without that if he did not unlatch the bedroom door he would blow his brains out. Malone was also in the bedroom with Desney. They heard Hurley go to the gun rack in the kitchen, and he came back to the bedroom door and said: "By Jesus, you buggers, if you don't open the door I'll blow your brains out!" Desney told him that if he tried to break down the bedroom door, he would fire at him through the door.
Hurley then attempted to break down the door and Desney fired through the door killing Hurley, who was found lying in the hall, a gun by his side. Malone went for the constable, Michael "Kearty," and Desney gave himself up. At the trial in St. John's, the verdict was manslaughter in self-defence, and Desney was released. The case, however, shows the dangers that attended in having Irish servants, and their reaction when they were in liquor.
The following year, 1790, an Irish servant murdered his master on the fishing grounds, disposed of the body with the aid of his companions, and attempted to flee to the mainland. The affair began when Captain Henry Brooks and his crew were getting bait in Trepassey Bay. Brooks had words with one of his crew, Cornelius Bryan, who killed the captain with an axe. Having killed Brooks, Bryan made the rest of the ship's crew swear to help him or at least not to give him away when they came to port. With the help of another member of the crew, he tied the body of the captain to a grapnel and threw it overboard.. They then sailed the boat to Burin, St. Lawrence and St. Peter's, and from St. Peter's went to Nova Scotia. In the night, however, one of the crew changed course and brought the ship back to St. Peter's where Bryan was betrayed to the authorities. For his crime, Bryan was sentenced to be hanged and his body suspended in chains, while the crew members who aided him were transported. On October 25, 1791, two other Irishmen, Patrick Murphy and John Noddy, were convicted of forgery and sentenced to be hanged on October 26, at the time Bryan was hanged.
In 1788, the Irish 'youngsters' received a compliment from a business firm at Placentia, but the business firm was Irish too, so this may have coloured the opinion. The firm was Saunders and Sweetman, and Sweetman wrote in the firm's letter book.
We have been vary lucky in having no runaways this spring, we have lost but two men and an English boy. I would advise you never to send out more English youngsters than will clear the vessels. The most of all that ran away from here, the winter before this were English youngsters and boys. They never care any of them to stick to the place, or have any attachment to it: but for hard labour an Irish youngster is worth a dozen of them.
In a similar vein, the Newman and Hunt Company wrote to their agent, James Downing, at Sligo, Ireland about recruiting Irish "youngsters.':
Consult with Mr. Hume how you are to proceed to get youngsters. Endeavour to ship for our use twenty healthy, strong men, to whom you may give from six to eight pounds, and their passage out to be clear now, and if you can get them to ship for two summers and one winter, that is to be clear, November 1798, you may give them fifteen pounds, which we prefer to one year's service. If you can meet with such people as a carpenter or mason or blacksmith, such people as are worth two pounds more, the same by coopers but they must ship to be employed in the fishery not confined to their trade. If any choose to go out as passengers, take them at five pounds each.
Among the names that appear on the lists of "youngsters" and sailors on the ships of
Newman and Hunt, are Hynes, McCarthy, Mitchell and Clarke, names which are found in Fortune Bay to this day. In 1796, there is a note that Captain James Rich was loading salt at Cork for St. Lawrence but that no carpenter or supplies would be included for the voyage, or "winter passage" as it was called.
In1800, an officer making a tour of the South Coast reported few Irish in Fortune Bay, but one of them named Kinsella brought attention to himself, and the naval officer reported to the governor as follows:
The people in this bay seem pretty quiet, no complaints of magnitude. There is one character troublesome however in the bay (an Irishman) it appears that when he drinks he seems very dissatisfied, and behaves in a disorderly way and fakes great pains to get others to join him, but there being few Irish in the bay and he about fifty years old with a wife and two children.
The name of the man was Owen Kenchely (Kinsella), and Captain Falks, the naval officer, sent him a letter threatening him with transportation from the island if he created more public disturbances.
In 1792, some Irishmen were convicted of the crime of destroying birds in Conception Bay and of stealing feathers (proclaimed a crime by the governor in 1787 on the grounds that the birds not only supplied food, but also acted as warnings of approaching land to ships. The men convicted were Joseph Barbour, Daniel Coffee and John Shea. They had killed birds, stolen feathers and eggs, and were sentenced to be whipped publicly.
All the magistrates were ordered to place the names of the defendants and their punishment in a conspicuous place in each District."
On October 18, 1794, some of the Irish inhabitants became involved in attempt to rescue prisoners taken by a press gang from HMS "Boston', a warship then in port. It happened because Captain J. N. Morris of the "Boston' received orders to proceed with the trade (ships) bound to Portugal and Spain (as convoy guard) His crew was fourteen men, less than needed to man the ship. He requested permission from the governor to post bills for volunteers, and the governor expressed surprise and told him to get his men by any means in his power. On October 24, no volunteers having offered, and, expecting to sail the next day, he ordered Kerr and Lt. Lawry on shore in the evening to bring off such men as they might find idling about, which service they performed without interruption or riot.
The following morning, he gave up such men as were claimed by their masters. Eight men remained, who seeing that they were to serve in the ship anyway, volunteered to be eligible for the bounty. After the ship's company had refused, the commanding officer sent Lt. Lawly with two men in the employ of Mr. Noble to get the wages due to them and their clothing.
Lawry went in a cutter, with no arms except a dirk, accompanied by four of his crew and the two new "recruits" to get the men's clothing. On the way back they were met by a large mob of people with wattles and clubs, who came by a lower road, and attacked the lieutenant and his party in an attempt to rescue the two "pressed" men. In the scuffle, Lt. Lawry was killed.
Soldiers were dispatched to the scene, and two of the ringleaders, Garret Farrell and Richard Power, were arrested. A third man, William Burrows, evaded arrest, and fifty pounds was offered for information leading to his capture. St. John's was in turmoil over this riot, led it appeared, by Irishmen. The inhabitants, according to one report, exhibited great alarm and disquiet, and businesses were shut down, for fear of what might happen. The ringleaders were to be tried, but if the governor (who was on the point of leaving) left on schedule, although they might be tried they could not be executed until the next summer when the governor returned. As a result, the Grand
Jury asked Governor Wallace to remain a few extra days to see that punishment was swiftly imposed as a warning to other would-be rioters.
Action swiftly followed. The governor agreed to delay his sailing, and the wheels of justice turned swiftly. On October 30, 1794, the Chief Justice, D'Ewes Coke, informed Governor Wallace that Farrell and Power had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. On the same day, (and, it has been suggested, before the trial), the governor's order of execution was given, adding that the bodies of Farrell and Power were to be given over to the surgeons for dissection and anatomization, the only case of men being "hanged, drawn and quartered" in the history of Newfoundland. Pedley in his History of Newfoundland described it thus:
Addition to the capital penalty was made in this case for the first time in Newfoundland. The Sheriff was ordered to deliver the bodies to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomized. Here was an instance of swift retribution The criminals had been full of lusty life and riotous liberty on the Saturday evening. On Tuesday they stood in peril before the tribunal of justice. On Wednesday they heard the sentence of death passed on them. On Friday they were danging lifeless from the gallows and on Saturday -- all within a week -- they had probably become the mangled offensive material of the dissecting room.
From this account it would appear that Pedley was unable or unwilling to admit to the
savagery of the sentence of "hanging, drawing and quartering". The result of the swift retribution that overtook the ringleaders of the riot was that the principal inhabitants, meaning the English settlers of St. John's, were able to rest more comfortably during the winter.
While the Irish at St. John's in 1794 were rioting and being "hanged, drawn and quartered", the Irish population was flocking to join the militia at Placentia to defend their harbour against any attacks. A list of the inhabitants who subscribed their names contains many Irishmen, for the majority of settlers at Placentia in 1794 were Irish. The volunteers were:
James Downs, William Colbum, James Oakley, Clement Nicollee, Josiah Blackbum, Pat Devine, Edmond Power, Lawrence Barren, James J. Squires, Thomas Vicquers, William Rogers, Hany Paul, Frank Linnard, William Rose, John Mackleroy, Richard St. Croix, John St. Croix ,John Vicquers, Sam Collins, John Collins, William Collins, Thomas Collins ,Pat Mooney, John Hunt, James Connolly, Cornelis Collins, William Newman, Robert Mooney, William Lambe, William Miller, Pat Miller, William Masters, Ambrose Parnell, Thomas Breen, Owen Carroll, Mick King John German, Richard Cormick, John Couch, Charles Cook, William Hooper, William Peddle, William Redmond, James Martin, James Maddoke, Thomas Blanch, James Walker, Martin Foley, John Green, James Bryan ,Thomas Payne, Daniel Lee, Edmond Walsh, Jeny McGrath, Philip Hearne, Mike Blanch, John Gibbons, Tom Mullowney, James Walsh, William Devine, Tom Grant, Pat Murphy, John Lambe, Robert Green, John Lambe Jr., John Fitzpatrick, Charles St. Croix.
In 1798, there was no change in feeling towards the military when Captain O'Kennedy of the Sixth Regiment was stationed at Placentia, even though he had to quarter his men on the citizens because of the condition of the barracks at the fort. There was a change in feeling towards the military though, when O'Kennedy's 'Sixth" was replaced by the "Royal Nova Scotia Fencibles" This regiment attempted to bring its ranks up to full strength by "trepanning local men who were under the influence of liquor". One Irishman, Pat Donahue, was fined forty shillings for making the assertion:. "They must be hungry Sons of Bitches to trapann a man for three dollars", this being the amount paid for each new recruit.
In 1789, the year of the Wexford Rebellion in Ireland, the Governor, Admiral Waldegrave, wrote to the Duke of Portland concerning the Irish population and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which was largely composed of men of either Irish descent or natives of Ireland:
May I be permitted to represent to your Grace that no such indulgence (the granting of leave to the Chief Justice to leave the island for a period of lime) can be granted for the present, without a risk of its being attended with the most fatal consequences to the island of Newfoundland. Your Grace is well acquainted that nearly nine-tenths of the inhabitants of this island are either natives of Ireland or immediate descendants from them and that the whole of these are of the Roman Catholic persuasion. As the Royal Newfoundland Regiment has been raised in the island it is needless for me to endeavour to point out the small proportion that the native English bear to the Irish in this body of men. I think it necessary to mention this circumstance, in order to show your Grace how little dependence could be placed on the military in case of any civil commotion in the town of St. John's.
The governor's words were to prove prophetic, for within a year the "United movement was established in Newfoundland, and soon found willing men among the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The members of the association joined by an oath, which seems to have consisted of three parts:
1st. 'By the Almighty Power above I do persevere to join the Irishmen in this place: then he kissed the book."
2nd. 'I do persevere never to divulge the secrets made known to me.: ..kissed the book."
3rd 'I do persevere to aid and assist the heads of the same, of any religion':..kissed the book."
The Wexford Rebellion seems to have had some effects in Newfoundland, for the parish priest at Placentia, Father Bourke, was afraid to remain in Newfoundland where he was known and went to Halifax, because he was involved in some way with the uprising.
The movement grew in Newfoundland and by February 1800, the leaders of the group felt strong enough to plan a rebellion that envisioned the murder of all the Protestant or English merchants of St. John's and their supporters, the looting of the city, and the escape of the men involved to the United States. A letter from J. Odgen, dated July 2, 1800, describes the plot and the resulting consequences to the plotters.
St. John's, Newfoundland
July 2, 1800
I am sorry to inform you, that a spirit of disaffection to our government has manifested itself here last winter and in the spring. The first symptoms made their appearance about the latter end of February, by some anonymous paper posted up in the night, threatening the persons and property of the magistrates, if they persisted in enforcing a proclamation they had published regarding hogs going at large, contrary to a presentment of the Grand Jury. We advertised a hundred guineas reward for the discovery of the author or authors and the inhabitants viewing it in a very proper light, as the commencement of anarchy and confusion and destruction of all order, handsomely came forward in support of the magistrates, and offered two hundred guineas more, but I am sorry to say without effect. The next step, still more alarming, was a combination of between forty and fifty of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, to desert with their arms, with a declared intention, as appeared by a leger left behind them of putting every person to death who should try to oppose them. This they put in execution on the night of the 24th. April. Their place of rendevous was the powder shed, back of Fort Townshend, at 11 at night, but were not joined in time from Fort Townshend or Fort William. We know not the reason why the party from Fort Townshend did not join them, but at Fort William, Colonel Skinner happened to have a party at his house very late that night, presenting the possibility of their going out unperceived at the appointed hour, and the alarm being made at Signal Hill for those who quitted that post, the plot was blown, when only nineteen were met who immediately set off for the woods, but from the vigilance and activity used in their pursuit, in about ten days or a fortnight, sixteen of them were taken, two or three of whom informed against the others, and implicated upwards of twenty more, who had not only agreed to desert, but had also taken the oat of the United Irishmen, administered by an arch villan, Murphy, who belonged to the Regiment, and one of the deserters who with a sergeant Kelly and a private have not as yet been taken. We do not know nor was it possible to ascertain, how far the defection and the "united oath" extended through the Regiment. General Skerret ordered a general court martial upon twelve of those taken, five of whom were sentenced to be hanged and seven to be shot; the former were executed on the spot where they met in the powder shed, the other seven were sent to Halifax to be further dealt with as his Royal Highness should think proper. Those also implicated by the King`s evidence were sent in irons to Halifax and the Duke of Kent has at length removed all the regiment, except two companies of picked men to headquarters, and has relieved them by the whole of the 66th Regiment who are now here. Various have been the reports on this business: the town to the amount of 2, 3, or 400 men mentioned as privy or concerned in this business, and of acting in concert with them, at least so far as to destroy and plunder, and set off for the States, but no names have been particularly mentioned, so as to bring the proof home. In fact we were at one time in such a situation, as to render the policy of acting very doubtful, until more force should arrive, as we knew not whom we could depend upon for support in case of resistance, having every reason to believe the defection was very extensive, not only through the regiment. but through the inhabitants of this and all the out harbours, particularly to the southward [Southern Shore almost to a man have taken the United Oats, which is 'To be true to the old cause, and to follow their heads of whatsoever denominations". Although these heads are not to be known to them till the moment a plan is to be put in action, all this one of the evidences has declared originated from letters received from Ireland. Although a United Irishman, he was yet but a novice and was not so far let into the secret as to know who the letters were addressed to, or who from. Although we are at present without any immediate apprehension of danger we have no reason to suppose their dispositions have changed or that their plans of plunder, burning & c., are given up, but only waiting a proper opportunity to break forth. The most probable time for such an event would be towards the close of the winter, when the ships of war are absent, the peaceable well disposed part of the community off their guard, and no possibility of succour for two or three months, or even conveying intelligence of our situation.
To the honourable
Vice Adrmral Waldegrave & etc.
I have the Honour
to be Sir J. Odgen
A young officer, William Adams, wrote to his father in England concerning the conspiracy. He said that all were to have been assassinated, that is, the officers and the merchants, "by some hundreds of Irish inhabitants" who were involved in the plot. Only fifty soldiers in his Regiment, he stated, were involved. He claimed that he had been suspicious and had said so to the governor.. In his opinion, all the vagabonds should be sent out of the colony every autumn. He claimed that oaths were secret and that they were sworn to betray their dearest friends to support the United Irishmen. The pass word on the 24th. was to have been "Liberty or Death". His letter was dated April 30, 1800."
Another young officer, Thomas Tremlett, wrote to his father at the same time:
Since the rebellion began in Ireland their emissaries have been administering oaths to the Irish in every part of the island ... if the miscreants go to extremities you shall have no cause to blush for me'.
And he added a postscript to the effect that if they came through and got help Halifax, then "Pat in town will be quiet in future'
One question concerning this conspiracy is how the men involved were betrayed. None of the official letters are clear on this point, though the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland, Bishop O'Donel, seems to have been involved, and there is a vague mention of a young woman from Ferryland having been the betrayer. Podley gave the credit to Bishop O'Donel for informing Major General Skerret of the impending danger:
As the time for the projected crime drew near, Major-General Skerret at the head of the mutinous regiment, and holding chief authority in St. John's, in the absence of the governor (for it was in April -- months before the usual time of the arrival of His Excellency), had information given to him of what was in preparation. How that information first leaked out there is no authentic evidence to show. It is said to have been conveyed from Ferryland. But all the testimony on the matter concurs in assigning to the Roman Catholic Bishop Dr. O`Donel, the credit of acquainting Major-General Skerret of the danger which was impending and of cordially and most usefully aiding to counteract the plot and to prevent the outbreak, urging on the Major to deal with the soldiers and undertaking himself to deal with the misguided populace.
A little further on Pedley speculates on the Bishop's source of information:
The ultimate aim of the conspirators was not made known, as their guilty enterprise was nipped in the bud. And as the knowledge of the Bishop concerning it was doubtless derived from the confidential communications of the confessional, it was not to be expected it would be published by him"
The Bishop himself in writing to try and obtain a pension from the British Government
spoke in not so favourable terms of his Irish flock:
Loyalty and services have been approved of, and fully acknowledged by every governor and particularly Major-General Skerret who found himself under great embarrassment in 1799/1800 as having no force by land or by sea to oppose a most dangerous conspiracy formed against all the people of property in this island. Petitioners was fortunate enough lo bnng the maddened scum of the people to cool reflection and dispersed the dangerous cloud that was ready to burst on the head of the principal inhabitants.
The question that intrigues is: Did the Bishop violate his confessional oath to save the community? He certainly stood well with the English authorities following the breaking of the threat and was awarded a pension by the British Government on his retirement to Ireland for the good services he had rendered to the crown. Bishop Howley quotes it as 'a beggarly pension of 50 pounds per annum'.
However, the question of how the news of the proposed mutiny came to Bishop O'Donel is likely to remain forever unanswered. That the good bishop had a horror, bordering on the fanatical, of revolution can clearly be seen from his reaction when French officers, prisoners at St. John's, but at liberty to move freely around the town, came to mass at his church:
We had 300 French prisoners here during the summer. Their officers were at liberty and I must own that I did not like to see them coming every Sunday to my chapel with large emblems of infidelity and rebellion plastered on their hats it was much more pleasing to see three companies of our volunteers headed by their Protestant officers, with fifes and drums, coming to chapel to be instructed in the duties of religion and loyalty
This was indeed a strange choice for an Irishman, even making allowance for his being a bishop. In fact, so well did Bishop O'Donel and his priests instruct in the duties of religion and loyalty, that the Irish population of Newfoundland formed "Priest Conscience", and were at the sway of their religious leaders even in the field of politics in the years to follow.
Despite the threat of rebellion and mutiny, however, it is apparent that the Irish had risen to places of prominence in their adopted homeland. A glance at the list of persons licensed to operate public houses in 1797 gives some idea of the growth of the Irish. The persons licensed in St. John's from Michaelmas 1797 to Michaelmas 1798 were:
Michael Little, John Cox, John Bolan, Sarah Martin, John Cahill,William Power, Patrick Flannery,
A. McNamara, William McCarthy, William Welsh, Patrick McDonald, Andrew St. John ,Peter Lyons, Michael Mara, James Maher, John Flood, John Brophy, George Shepherd, David Power, Michael Welsh John Nevean Phil Harrahan Thomas Murphy Daniel Delaney William Pendergrass
Mark Codney, Dominic King, Michael Welsh, John Widdicombe, Edmond Doyle, Michael Hanlon, Patrick Redmond, John Power, Thomas Murphy.
From this information it is obvious that at the turn of the century many of the Irish were prominent middle class citizens. In the decades to follow, their numbers were again to be swelled by greater waves of immigrants from the homeland who in their turn would face the trials and tribulations of trying to settle in a strange land. They would also meet with oppression from those in power, but would survive and mingle with their Newfoundland born Irish cousins, their English and Scottish neighbours and the occasional French to form the common ancestors of our present Newfoundlanders.