Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"In Aunt Elsie's Hay"

William Flynn's Children
Seated Lt to Rt - Michael, Mary Catherine, Gloria
Standing Rt to Lt - John, Bill, Helen, Mildred, Isabel, Joe, Anastasia, Clare and Frank

On two occasions during my visit home to Newfoundland, the summer of 2013, I was able to get together with my second cousins, the children of William Flynn, my mother's cousin.  To refresh your memory, William was raised by my grandfather Stephen Flynn Jr. after his parents died at a young age of Typhoid Fever. My grandfather brought him to live on Flynn's Hill with him and his parents in 1917.

William Flynn with some of his children
around 1950?
"Uncle Bill" as we called him, married Ellen Frances Healy and later built a house up the road from my grandparents, they raised a family of 13 children. I had met some of Uncle Bill's children when I was young, but some of them I had only heard their names from my mother's stories.  It didn't take long for us to become reacquainted, you know that feeling when it is as if you have known someone all your life. They welcomed me in,  I met their children and even some of their children's children. We had a very lovely time together, sharing stories, with lots of laughter and good food. They kept telling me I was just like my mother!
Gloria with her Great Niece
Here are a few of the stories they shared with me, of growing up on Flynn's Hill.

In Aunt Elsie's Hay

The first story was told by my 2nd cousin Gloria,  she starts by saying, when they were young they were always told to "Stay out of Uncle Stephen and Aunt Elsie's Hay!" from time to time they like to go up to the hayloft of the barn and hide out or play.

Gloria remembers one Christmas Eve, while attending Mass, my mother Mary and her sister Agnes were singing in the choir. She remembers the traditional Christmas Hymn, "Angels we Have Heard on High" being sung.  But when they came to the chorus,

Glo - ori - a,    In excelsis de - O!

She heard and interrupted something different, that went like this.

Glo - ori - a,      In Aunt Elsie's Hay - O!

Gloria thought her cousins were singing about her!  Telling that she had been in Uncle Stephen and Aunt Elsie's Hay! All the way home, she thought she was in big trouble, but nothing ever happened!

My Grandparents Barn
In Lakeview, Harbour Main, Newfoundland
I remember Aunt Agnes telling me, "they pitched a lot of hay upon the loft when they were kids. The hay was brought over to the barn by the horse and wagon, one would stand in the wagon and pitch it up to someone standing in the loft."

Cousin Helen on the Rt
with her friend Fay

Some Ancient Flynn

After a most delicious dinner, dessert was served, Apple Crumble!  My cousin Helen shared this story with me.  The apples she used to make the dessert came from one lone apple tree on Flynn's Hill.  She goes on to explain that these apples grew on a tree that came to be when "Some Ancient Flynn" threw away an apple stump while weeding potatoes!

Apple Tree growing on the Flynn Property

                                                                          The wood horse sits in silence,
                                                                              to guard an apple tree
                                                                             The house peeks out in waiting,
                                                                                for those it hopes to see.

                                                                                                             by Denise Flynn

Apples from my Ancestors! 
The Crumble was Delicious Helen!

More stories to share from my 2nd cousins, I am just getting started!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"A Newfoundland Summer Day"

Me with my brother Mike, sister MaryLeah and our Mom, Mary Flynn Dollen
on "A Newfoundland Summer Day"
Argentia Naval Air Station, Newfoundland - 1967 or 1968

Living in Newfoundland as a young girl, I have a few distinct memories of "A Newfoundland Summer Day".  I remember the strong cool wind blowing across my face and skin, and through my hair.  I remember the ever changing sky with thick billowing clouds that moved quickly out to the sea, leaving a crystal clear blue ceiling.  And while you may be able to wear your shorts or summer dress for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, you will for sure end up wearing your sweater or long pants by evening's fall.

In Wisconsin, where I live now, we have four pretty balanced seasons where sometimes the winters are extremely snowy with intense cold temperatures and the summers get incredibly hot and humid.  You always know it will change though, with time.  Newfoundland is different in that you may have Spring, Summer and Fall all in a Summer's Day!

During the summer in Wisconsin, come July or early August, there will be a break in the high temps and humidity, where the temperature will drop down to the 50's or 60's, just like it is today.  You will hear people comment, "I can tell, Autumn is on it's way!" but I always say, "It's just a Newfoundland Summer Day!"


Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Out on the Town" with Uncle Ray

After a short rest from the trip to Ship Cove, NL, I met up with my Uncle Ray for a night "Out on the Town", he told me we were heading to George St., located downtown St John's for a "bite to eat" and to hear some "Real Irish Music".  We parked the car close to downtown and headed out on foot.

Erin's Pub, Water Street, St John's NL - 2013
First stop, Erin's Pub on Water St.  Many lively people were lining up outside the entrance, as the rhythmic Irish Music found it's way out into the night air.  Uncle Ray was greeted by many friends old and new on the street.  We made our way closer to the opened door to take a look and to find the source of the captivating music.  Just inside, was a group of various musicians with fiddles, accordions, mandolins and more, all gathered around several small tables that had been pushed together making one large continuous meeting space.

Erin's Pub - Water St, St John's NL - 2013

I believe they were random musicians who had just showed up at Erin's Pub, looking for like-minded souls who wanted to play their instruments together, possible never having played together before, although sounding as if they had played together for years.

We stayed for a while enjoying the music, Uncle Ray leaned down and whispered in my ear, "There is more to see!" So we continued down the street a ways,then  turning right to climb the hill up to George St., as we walked Uncle Ray shared with me that as a young man, he would take his Grand Dad, John W. Tobin downtown from time to time, because he loved the Irish Music and loved being around the people.

Now, George Street is just a small street located in St John's NL, but is very well know for it's many bars and pubs.  The two block long street houses nothing but bars, pubs and restaurants. The street is open only to pedestrians in the evenings and during most of the business day, only being open to traffic in the mornings to allow bars to restock their goods. George Street has the most bars and pubs per square foot in any street in North America and is known to have bars that are open later than most others throughout Canada. Each year it is home to the largest celebration, the six-night George Street Festival which occurs in early August and concludes on the Tuesday night before the Royal St John's Regatta, which is set for the first Wednesday in August. The festival is rumored to be the largest of it's kind in North America! [1]
O'Reilly's Irish Newfoundland Pub, George St. St John's NL - 2013
Me with Uncle Ray - June 2013
"Out on the Town"

Next stop, Kelly's Pub on George St., and then O'Reilly's Irish Newfoundland Pub, before heading home.

So there I was on the famous George St., in St John's Newfoundland with my 78 year old Uncle Ray! (who held up better than I did) We had a great time "Out on the Town" listening to Irish music, dancing, laughing and meeting many friendly people from all over the world!

It was a night I will never forget, Thanks to my Uncle Ray!


[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wik/George_Street._St._John's
       George Street, St John's - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, April 17, 2014

St Patrick's Cemetery - Ship Cove

Just down the road from Ship Cove, is St Patrick's Cemetery.  I had never been to this cemetery before, but I had done some research through the Newfoundland Grand Banks Genealogy Site. So I knew,  I would find my grandmother's family,  Tobin, Follett and Coffey relatives buried here.  Also, I had this photo of Great Grand Dad Tobin standing by his wife's headstone, Mary Bridget Follett.

My time on "The Cape Shore" was limited, needing to get back to St John's by early afternoon and the weather was not very cooperative this day. ( I will tell you about Newfoundland weather a little later!) Today, it was raining and the wind was fiercely blowing, I thought having had lived in Chicago which is considered to be "The Windy City" would of helped prepare me for the wind in Newfoundland. But the wind in Newfoundland is much more intense than in Chicago! Being so close to the shore and being on an island in the Atlantic Ocean makes the wind much more prominent, I guess.

Aunt Doris found it hard to believe that I was stopping and actually getting out to take a look around the cemetery, she decided to stay in the truck and make a list of things she needed to do instead. I quickly made a plan, starting in the front on one side, heading toward the back and then coming back up the other side. I found a few familiar headstones, but not nearly the all the ones I wanted to. Dripping wet from head to toe, I headed back to the truck, disappointed I had not found my Great Grandparents, The Tobins, The image of Great Grand Dad standing by his wife's headstone flashed in my head. Remembering the shape of her headstone,  I turned and took one more look back at the cemetery, and there it was, over to the left of center!  I went back and I was right, Mary Bridget Follett and next to her, was her husband John W. Tobin, my Great Grandparents!

St Patrick's Cemetery, Ship Cove, Newfoundland - May 2013
Looking over the photos I took at the cemetery, I realized there were not any of older generations, John William Tobin was the third generation of the Tobins to live in Ship Cove.  John and Alice Skerry (the first settlers), Patrick Tobin and Alice Skerry Tobin, and Patrick Tobin and Alice O'Rielly.  I realize they may of had wooden cross marking their graves that at deteriorated over the years.  But I wonder, if possibly there is an older cemetery I may of over looked.

John W. Tobin
Mary Bridget Follett Tobin

A Headstone of a "Patrick Tobin" that had sunk into the ground
making it difficult to read.

As I was walking back to the truck, I thought, I am probably related to most of the people buried in St Patrick's Cemetery in one way or another, but that will need to be figured out the next time I return to "The Cape Shore"!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Great Grand Dad Tobin

John William Tobin 1874 - 1960 was my Great Grand Dad on my mother's maternal side.  He was born December 1st, 1874 in Ship Cove, Placentia Bay Newfoundland.  He was the youngest of ten children to Patrick Tobin and Agnes O'Rielly (from Dunville, NFLD)

"John Willie" married Mary Bridget Follett "Minnie" from Angel's Cove (the next town south of Ship Cove) around the year 1900. They raised seven children, Patrick Joseph, George (who died at age 7), Ellen Mary (my grandmother), James Joseph, Mary Christine, Agnes and Margaret Lucy.

Not many people get to meet their Great Grandparents in their lifetime or if they do they are so young they hardly remember very much about them. My Great Grand Dad died March 11th, 1960, the year before I was born. He was 86 years old and had       lived his entire life in Ship Cove.

I learned a few things about my Great Grand Dad from my cousin Edna during my recent visit to Newfoundland. "John Willie" was actually her Grand Dad, Edna's mother Margaret was his youngest child.

Edna shared with me that after Grandmother Tobin passed away in 1948, Grand Dad came to stay with them in Point Verde during the winter months.  She was just a young girl but remembers he always had a mustache.  As children, they were fascinated by his mustache and wanted to touch it. As they would slowly reach up to his face, Grand Dad would snap his hand at them trying to catch their hand. And so, the game became his game!

Edna told me, fishing was his livelihood, he learned to fish from his father, who learned from his father as well.

Edna described Grand Dad as a quiet man, she remembers he would always play the Tin Whistle and was really pretty good at it.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Ship Cove, NFLD

Ship Cove, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland - May 2013

In 1794 the first settler of Ship Cove, Placentia Bay Newfoundland was a man named John Skerry.  He came to Ship Cove with his wife Alice, and two young daughters, Catherine age 8 and Alice age 6, from Blackwater, County Waterford, Ireland.  Within a few years Patrick Tobin from Wexford, Ireland and James Brennan from Fadown, Ireland, landed at Placentia and made their way to Ship Cove.

The Skerry dwelling house was built on a level of land that had a current of fresh water running through.  The house was studded and had three small windows, a porch, two bedrooms upstairs, two bedrooms downstairs, and a rock chimney. [1]

My connection to Ship Cove is from Patrick Tobin who married John Skerry's youngest daughter Alice, they had five daughters and three sons, Patrick built his house in the southeast corner of Ship Cove.

The Southeast Corner in Ship Cove -  May 2013
My Tobin Family History is as follows:
                                     Patrick Tobin - Alice Skerry (one of the first settlers)
                                       (unknown)        1788-1838
                                                Patrick Tobin - Agnes O'Rielly
                                                   1826-1914        1828-1887
                                                           John William Tobin - Mary Bridget Follett
                                                                 1874-1960                1874-1948
                                                                        Ellen Mary Tobin - Stephen Flynn Jr. (My Grandparents)
                                                                              1904-1987           1895-1981

By the early 1900's, the population of Ship Cove was 52 residents, the first school was built in 1909. My grandmother Ellen, was born in 1904 and was probably one of the first students to attend the school. she continued her education and became a teacher herself. (I am not sure where she taught school)  In 1914, Ship Cove had a thriving fishing Industry.  The first motor boats were being used and there were ten boats and approximately twenty fisherman.  Although Cod was the main species, some tired their luck at Lobster and for several years two men from Nova Scotia, Johnny Snares and Jesse Masters, operated a Lobster canning factory in Ship Cove.

By 1935, the population had increased slightly to 66 in 12 families with 11 dories and four motorboats. The 49 acres supported 10 horses and 30 cattle.  There were also two factories, and blueberries, partridge berries and cranberries were collected on the barrens.  The first bridge was built in 1937. [2]

Gradually, the fishery came to an end, and Ship Cove was mostly abandoned in the 1960's and 70's   Many young men left Ship Cove to seek work in the lumber woods or at the US Naval Base in Argentia.  [3] 

Today, there are two remaining families in Ship Cove, descendants of first Patrick Tobin. Stan Tobin and one of his sons, they operate a Slater house that produces organic beef.  Mr. Tobin's wife, Delores operated a Creamery for many years, which was recently sold. [4]  

On the west side of the road there was one older home still standing, my guess is it was probably built around the early 1900's, around the time fishing was thriving in this community.  Across the road, was the newer home and business of my distant Tobin cousin, he was not home at the time I was in Ship Cove, so I just took a look around and admired the beautiful picturesque view.  I walked up the road a bit from his house and found this wood studded foundation. I remember my cousin Edna telling me that my great grandparents house ( John Willie Tobin and Mary Follett) had been moved and then burn down, but that was many years ago.

After my blog entry "The Tobins", I received a message from a second cousin Monica, she states her mother was Mary Tobin daughter of Patrick Tobin 1901 - 1982 (My Great Uncle) and Hilda McGrath.  She recognized her Great Grandparent's photo of John and Mary Tobin, I had posted and she shared, "I fished in the lagoon, caught eels and trout there.  My grandfather Patrick, ran the store and the post office in Ship Cove." Uncle Ray had shared a story of how my grandmother  (Ellen Tobin Flynn) talked about how as children they always played in the river by their house. It was their job to pick the berries.

As a young girl, I remember driving from Argentia to Ship Cove, I was sitting in the back of the car on the right side, as we came in I remember seeing the flakes and stages set up in the cove, I asked," What was that, what are they doing?" I was told "that is how they dry the fish".

Fishing and farming established by my ancestors is still carried out on this land today.


[1]  Cape Shore Cultural History
         http://www.k12.ca/fatima/cultural.htm      pages 12 & 13

[2]  History of Ship Cove

[3] Ibid [1]

[4] The Compass - Ship Cove Resident talks life, work, philosophy

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Visit to Point Verde, NFLD

After visiting Argentia, on the Western Shore of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, we continued down Hwy 100, just a little south of Placentia to the town of Point Verde.  My mother's cousin Edna lived in Point Verde, as did her mother Margaret and father William Greene.  Great Aunt Margaret Tobin Greene was my grandmother Ellen Tobin Flynn's younger sister.

My grandmother, Aunt Margaret and their family grew up just south of Point Verde in Ship Cove, Newfoundland.

It was a beautiful, cool crisp spring day in Newfoundland when I caught up with my cousin at her home in Point Verde.  Edna and her husband Eugene were just coming back from a sailing/fishing trip to Merasheen Island.  They invited us in for some hot tea and fruitcake. (Traditional Newfoundland Hospitality)

Edna and I
Point Verde Newfoundland - May 2013
View from Edna's House in Point Verde
looking out toward Placentia Bay

Patrick Tobin's House
Ship Cove, NFLD

Lt to Rt My grandmother Ellen, her brother Patrick Tobin,
his second wife Fanny and Great Aunt Margaret
Ship Cove - 1966's?

I found the above photos in my mother's collection. I remember the photo on the left specifically, I remember going to visit Uncle Patrick and his wife Fanny in Ship Cove that day, I was just a young girl about 5 or 6 years old. It is nice to have a photo of my grandmother's family. I showed Edna the photo of the house (on the right) that I believed to be my Great Grandparent's House,  John and Mary Follett Tobin, Edna informed me that that was not their house, but their son Patrick's. She goes on to say, that my Great Grandparents house had been moved and then burned down, they then lived in Patrick's House. 

I asked Edna if her mother ever talked about what it was like growing up in Ship Cove, she replied, "My mother never talked much about the old days, except for how hard they always had to work for everything.  She did not talk about the past nor about bad things that had happened in her life. It was just how she was, it was how most of the older folks were!" Edna also told me,  Aunt Margaret did not like when anyone would come around asking questions about genealogy, she would often ask, "What do you need to know that for?"

Wedding Day - abt 1945
William Greene and Margaret Tobin
Painting of Aunt Margaret and Uncle Willy's House
 hanging in Edna's House
Point Verde, Newfoundland

Site of Aunt Margaret and Uncle Willie's House
Point Verde, Newfoundland 2013
Margaret Lucy Tobin Greene was born March 15th, 1915 in Ship Cove, NFLD, she was the youngest of eight children to John William Tobin and Mary Bridget Follett, she married William Greene in 1945, they raised 4 children in Point Verde, NFLD,  William died in 1978, he developed Leukemia and died of a Heart Attack. After William's death, she lived with her daughter Edna and her family for 22 years,  helping to care for her grandchildren. Edna states her mother was a bit of a "Homebody" she took one big trip in her life to visit her sisters in New York, when she returned she said "I had a great time, but will never do that again." Aunt Margaret died December 24th, 2000 of Bladder Cancer at the age of 85 years.

My mother often spoke lovingly of Aunt Margaret and was very fond of her. I remember visiting her as a young girl and playing out in her garden.  After my conversation with Edna, I wonder what Aunt Margaret would think of me, asking so many questions about the past? I guess the response I would give her, is that, family history matters, our ancestor's lives and the work they did was important. It  paved the way for our future. And, I would really like to know about them!

Next stop, Ship Cove, Newfoundland.