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A Primer on Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John’s is the capital city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador [NL]. Originally the province was called Newfoundland although the province consisted of both the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador. In this web-site, reference may be made only to Newfoundland. This is when we are referring to only the island portion of the province. St. John’s, not to be confused with St. John, New Brunswick, is located on the most easterly shores of the province which is also the most easterly region of North America. It is serviced by an international airport located about 15 minutes away, by car, from the centre of St. John’s.


How far can reunion visitors [the family] expect to travel to reach St. John’s? As the crow flies, Bermuda is closest at 1200 miles. Toronto is next (1300 miles), then London (2300 miles), then Calgary (2700 miles) and Sydney Australia is 11,000 miles away. With the exception of Australia, St. John’s is a relatively central location for a family reunion. If flying, family travelling from the United States can expect good connecting flights.


The population of Newfoundland and Labrador is approximately 500,000, of which about 160,000 live in St. John’s and the surrounding area. The city, and province in general, is enjoying a period of relative prosperity and it shows in ways that can delight the visitor. We are known for our rugged coastline, marine birds and mammals. NL is also a province known for its friendliness. The people are supportive of the arts and sciences. Per capita, St. John’s has a very high density of musicians, artists and actors and the downtown social scene is worth the visit for those who are so inclined. 


St. John’s is a popular convention centre and accommodation is tight during June, July and August. Book your room at the Sheraton sooner than later. Visitors will find many fine pubs and restaurants in St. John’s, and we have excellent centres that portray the geographic, present and historical significance of the province.


Will the family be able to relate to Newfoundland and Labrador? Here are some thoughts. The family tree shows that Samuel Lennard [1829-1892] and his half-brother Frederick [1822-1894] grew up in Leicester. Samuel and his family immigrated to North America in 1870 and manufactured textiles. Frederick and his family manufactured footwear in Leicester and in Bristol, where Frederick’s son Thomas Lennard founded the firm Lennard Limited.


Bristol is known for its seaport.  Fishermen from Bristol had fished the Grand Banks of Newfoundland since the 15th century and began settling Newfoundland permanently in larger numbers in the 17th century. The Bristol Society of Merchant Ventures’ established colonies at Cuper’s Cove [1610] and Bristol's Hope [1618]. John Guy established the colony at Cuper’s Cove, now called Cupids.

St. George's, Bermuda, was settled in 1612 and made Bermuda's first capital. It is considered to be the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World. Settlement of Jamestown, Virginia predates 1612 but the present Jamestown is not at the same location as the original. Similarly, Cupids does not occupy the exact same location as the original Cuper’s Cove. Hence the distinction that St. George's is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New Word. The emphasis here is on “continuously”.

Bermuda and Newfoundland were part of the same Anglican Diocese for 80 years from 1839 until 1919.  Rev. Aubrey S. Spencer was the first bishop and Bishop Edward Feild was the second Bishop of Newfoundland and Bermuda. Family will have the opportunity to attend church at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the oldest Anglican parish in Canada. 


The family reunion of 2015 will occur during the 100-year anniversary of the First World War [1914–1918] and Newfoundland and Labrador is a fitting place to honour our forefathers who contributed to the war effort. Australia, Canada and Newfoundland are thought to have come of age during the first Great War. At this time each of these countries was a Dominion, independent within the British Commonwealth.

The Gallipoli Campaign was the first major battle undertaken by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  Anzac Day, 25 April, 1916 remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, more so perhaps than the official Remembrance Day. The equivalent in Newfoundland history was during the first day of the Battle of the Somme during which the Newfoundland Regiment took huge losses at Beaumont-Hamel. This occurred on 1 July 1916. It may be of interest that the Newfoundland Regiment also fought during the Gallipoli Campaign and was the only North American unit to do so. The regiment did recover from Beaumont-Hamel and Beaumont-Hamel was its only defeat during the war. The regiment attained sufficient recognition that it was granted the title “The Royal Newfoundland Regiment”.

For Canada, the battle of Vimy Ridge [1917] was the first occasion when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together and thus became a Canadian nationalistic symbol of achievement and sacrifice.

Newfoundland and Labrador has also had close connections with the United States.  During the Second World War the US leased an army base in St. John’s, an air force base at Stephenville and a naval and army base at Argentia. The construction and maintenance of the military infrastructure changed the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador which had been heavily dependent upon the fishery. Local people found work for good wages during the construction of the bases. Men and women continued to find employment in the operation of the bases once construction was finished. This brought much needed currency into the country. After the war, Newfoundland and Labrador continued to be strategically important to the US although its military presence was eventually phased out when the base at Argentia was closed in 1980. During the height of the US presence social values as well as scale of economy affected the lives of the people. 

Newfoundland joined Canada in 1947. However, for much of the time since then it received equalization payments, a federal government program that ensures that comparable levels of public services are provided across the country. In 2008, NL became a “have” province and not only ceased to receive equalization but probably now contributes to it. By 2008 oil revenues, corporate income taxes, commodity prices and retail sales were finally sufficient for the province to be self-supporting. Those attending the 2015 reunion should find that they are visiting the province at a good time. They will discover a people proud of the past and optimistic about the future.

Finally, there is a connection between S. Lennard & Sons Limited [Dundas] and Newfoundland: At the 1975 reunion, Jack Lennard learned that Tineke and John Gow would be moving to Newfoundland.  St. John’s has an old and venerable department store called Bowrings. Uncle Jack related that the mill in Dundas shipped textiles to Bowrings and these travelled across the island aboard the Newfie Bullet, the train that traversed the island before the present day Trans-Canada highway. Apparently, between the time shipments left Corner Brook on the west coast of the island and arrived in St. John’s, on the east coast, a considerable portion of the shipment would go missing. In response to this Uncle Jack and Uncle Bert used special packaging that reduced the pilfering and this was used mainly for shipping to St. John’s. It appears that, coast to coast in Newfoundland, Lennard’s Mac Dee underwear was popular.


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