a bite-sized podcast about Newfoundland

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NewfoundPod: Buy A Broom In May, Sweep Your Family Away

Hello and welcome back to NewfoundPod, a bite sized podcast about Newfoundland. I’m your host, Debbie Wiseman and this is another mini episode. I had planned to release an episode about the Colonial Building Riot, but I haven’t finished it and rather than rush through it, I thought I’d release this instead. Today I’m going to tell you about a couple of Newfoundland traditions regarding the month of May.

The first saying you may have heard of is a warning against purchasing a broom during the month of May. It goes “Buy a broom in May, sweep your family away.” Variations also include sweeping your friends, your fortune or even your own life away. You could also sweep the head of household away. Some superstitions even warn against using a broom at all during the month. The origins of this superstition have been lost over time, but it seems to have both English and Irish origins. In fact the superstition was so strong in Ireland that they even refused to make a broom during the month.

Another tradition revolved around the inevitable snowfall in May here in Newfoundland. While some other places are enjoying the spring weather, we know we will have a few more snowfalls at least. Our Irish ancestors suggested gathering some of that May snow in a bottle, letting it melt and dabbing it on your face to fade freckles. Personally, I like freckles. In my research, I of course consulted the writing of folklorist Larry Dohey, who said “A face without freckles is like a night without stars.” I completely agree.

Another use for that May snow that was collected was to cure ailments, specifically, sore eyes. Traditionally, the seal hunt ended around this time of the year. Fishermen refused to wear goggles, considering it “unmanly” and as a result, suffered from snow blindness. The May snow was said to soothe the sting from that. It could also be used to treat a sty and other ailments.

Thanks to Dale Jarvis and Larry Dohey, as always, for their tireless efforts in researching and preserving Newfoundland folklore. I’ll include links to their work in the show notes.

Thanks for listening today, and I’ll be back next week with a full episode. Talk to you then!

Dale Jarvis
Larry Dohey

NewfoundPod Mini – Lady Helena Squires

The First Non-Stop TransAtlantic Flight From Newfoundland to Ireland

Hello, and welcome back to Newfoundpod, a bite-sized podcast about Newfoundland. I’m your host, Debbie Wiseman, and today I’m going to talk to you about the first non-stop transatlantic flight, which originated here in Newfoundland 100 years ago. I’ll also tell you about the plans to celebrate the anniversary here locally. 


The Aviation History Online Museum (Site inactive)
Century of Flight

One Hundredth Anniversary
CBC: The 1st successful transatlantic flight, 100 years ago, set to be celebrated in St. John’s
Aviation History Newfoundland Labrador
Alcock and Brown 100 (Ireland)


NewfoundPod Mini – Newfoundland’s Connection to Titanic

It’s iceberg season here in Newfoundland. Just check out Facebook and you will see some great photos being shared. And I completely acknowledge that this is probably just me, but when I hear iceberg, I think of the Titanic. Confession – I am obsessed with the Titanic. I have been for as long as I can remember. Today I am going to tell you about the Newfoundland connection to the disaster.

The RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on April 10, 1912. On her maiden voyage on April 14th, she hit an iceberg and sank in under 3 hours. The accident occured about 600 km south of Newfoundland. Only 710 of the liner’s over 2200 passengers and crew were saved. A Newfoundland sealing vessel called the Algerine recovered the last body in May of that same year.

The distress signal sent out by Titanic was first heard at the lighthouse at Cape Race, Newfoundland. There were three lighthouse keepers there at the time, Walter Gray, Jack Goodwin and Robert Hunston, along with 14 year old Jimmy Myrick, a relative of one of the other lighthouse keepers. They had been receiving messages since Titanic set sail, from people wanting to be among the first to pass messages along to family and friends in the United States while on board her maiden voyage. But that night, the message was different, and much more urgent. A CQD, which stood for Come Quick, Danger was received. Now, there is some controversy as to who received this message. Officially, it was received by Goodwin. However, many years later, Jimmy Myrick confessed that he was actually left alone for a short time at the controls and was the one to receive the distress call. This would have been against protocol and would have cost the men their jobs, so Jimmy was sworn to secrecy and only revealed this later in life after the keepers had passed away. Goodwin was on his way back into the room and he took over. He called for his superior, Mr. Gray, who stayed on with Jack Phillips on board the Titanic and relayed messages to other ships, to officials and to the public, doing his best to help.

Following the disaster, a ship was chartered that would act as a permanent weather station of sorts, positioned at the Grand Banks to be on the lookout for icebergs and report any sightings to stations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

People assumed the Titanic sank in one piece, and there was always talk of trying to raise her. It wasn’t until 1985 that Robert Ballard was able to find the wreckage and it came out that she had actually split in two prior to sinking. The wreckage will probably never be able to brought up from what is now known as Titanic Canyon, but earlier this year, expeditions to the site were announced. Did you know that more people have gone to space than have seen the Titanic wreck in person? I’d love to go, if anyone feels like springing for the $100,000 ticket for me.

My obsession with Titanic
The Rooms: https://www.exhibits.therooms.ca/titanic
Want to dive down to the wreck of the Titanic? It costs only $100K

Theme Music: Club Seamus by Kevin MacLeod

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NewfoundPod Mini 001 – Ode To Newfoundland

Hello, and welcome to the very first NewfoundPod mini episode! Today I’m going to tell you about the Ode To Newfoundland.

The Ode to Newfoundland is the provincial anthem of Newfoundland and Labrador. The song started as a poem, written by the Governor of Newfoundland at the time, Sir Cavendish Boyle, in 1902. He had reported to Newfoundland from England the year before and wrote many poems dedicated to the rugged island he’d fallen in love with. The first time the poem was performed publicly was by Frances Daisy Foster, at the end of a play called Mamzelle which was performed at the Casino Theatre in St. John’s. The song was set to music composed by ER Krippner, who was a German bandmaster, music teacher and music store owner living in St. John’s. The song became so popular that articles in newspapers appealed to the Governor to adopt it as Newfoundland’s National Anthem. He agreed, but decided to change up the music, either for a more dignified sound, or to make it appeal to a wider audience, depending on the source. He also bought the rights to the original music. On May 20, 1904, the poem titled Newfoundland was changed to Newfoundland: An Ode and became the official national anthem. It fell out of favour when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, but in the 1980’s, pride in our province was enjoying a resurgence and the song again became popular enough that it was named the provincial anthem. This was another first for Newfoundland, as we were the first province to adopt an anthem. The Ode is unique in that it celebrates the natural beauty of the province rather than patriotism.

I hope you enjoyed this very first mini! I’ll be back next week with a new episode. Talk to you then!