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Month: March 2021

Placentia Court House

Placentia Court House

On the 28 June, 1902, Sir Cavendish Boyle laid the cornerstone for the new courthouse in Placentia. Replacing the first Placentia Court House erected in 1774, the architectural design of this wooden building reflects another time. The mansard roof and beautifully curved brackets work in accordance with the evenly spaced windows. Together, these help to frame the noble clock, a feature that distinguishes this noteworthy aspect of the Placentia area landscape. At one time, the clock was a tower. The government of the day later removed the tower, leaving a flat roof. However, it is still possible to see where the upper portion had once existed.

Without question, the current Courthouse emerges from a rich past. During the 1780s, the local authorities permitted the Catholic populace to use the old courthouse as a house of worship. In the summer of 1786, Prince William Henry (later William IV) visited Placentia, acting as magistrate. Britain was officially a Protestant country by this time and thus, he forbade this particular use of the building.

As the decades wore on, the old courthouse remained in continual use, with no repairs or improvements being made. Consequently, the building became dilapidated and in fact, it was listed among the four outpost courthouses in the worst condition. Given this situation, the Grand Jury repeatedly urged the Government to either repair the building or replace it with a new one.

Accordingly, in 1902, under the guidance of Magistrate William O’Reilly, the Government finally took down the old courthouse. In its place, the government erected a new building, one likely designed by architect William H. Churchill. He had been responsible for erecting other courthouses Newfoundland. Although somewhat smaller in size, the courthouse bears a striking similarity to others such as the Bonavista Court House of 1897-99.

Officials laid the cornerstone of the new building in 1902 and it was subsequently completed later the same year (see Under the Clock by Honourable G. Barnable). During its use as a courthouse in the twentieth century, the building had several purposes, such as the Postal Telegraph and Customs Offices, the Gaoler’s residence, the Constable’s residence, the Court Room, Gaol and Magistrate’s offices.

However, with recent changes, the Placentia Courthouse is no longer being used for judicial purposes. It closed as a court centre on the 31 January, 2009 and is currently a circuit court of Harbour Grace. In addition, the space is being used by Eastern health.

Regardless of its use, the courthouse holds an unmistakable place in the landscape of the Placentia area, encapsulating a wealth of history.

Time Period Represented: Early 20th century

Cape St Mary’s

Cape St Mary’s

Located at the southern tip of the Cape Shore, Cape St. Mary’s can lay claim to a rich and diverse identity. It is an identity that touches on the many ecological, social and cultural attributes of the area.

Nowadays, Cape St. Mary’s is best known for the Ecological Reserve that covers approximately 64 km2 with 54 km2 comprising the marine portion. Although it had been recognised as early as 1964 as a Wildlife Reserve, with the enactment of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador designated Cape St. Mary’s as an Ecological Reserve in 1983. Fittingly. the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act states its intention to “preserve special and representative natural areas in Newfoundland and Labrador.”


Given this aim, the Ecological Reserve is home to a wide array of the seabirds, flora and fauna that make a home in this unique part of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Ecological Reserve or the Cape, is the location of one of the six gannetries that are located in Atlantic Canada and is the fourth largest in North America. Along with gannets who annually nest on a sea stack (often referred to as Bird Rock), about a twenty minute walk away from the Interpretation Centre, a host of other seabirds can also be seen in the sky or nesting on the cliffs below. Casting an eye around, one may spot black-legged kittiwakes, Common Murres (Turres), Thick-billed Murres, Great and Double-crested Cormorants (Shags), Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls (Saddlebacks).

Alongside the seabirds, land birds also nest at the Cape. Some of these birds include Horned Larks, Water Pipits, Kestrels and Common Ravens. Seaducks, such as the endangered Harlequin Duck also winter off the coast of Cape St. Mary’s. And on a good day, one may be lucky enough to spy a few other species who periodically visit the Cape, including Humpback, Fin and Minke whales.

Plant Life

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve occupies an ecoregion known as the Eastern Hyper-Oceanic Barrens. And so, the flora and fauna nest and whirl amidst a land that is punctuated by its beautiful trees and plants. There are areas of tuckamore (a spruce tree bent and entangled by winds on coastal shores of Newfoundland), primarily of the balsam fir species. A view of the landscape will also reveal a plethora of beautiful irises (Beach Head Iris) that bloom in the summer as well as alpine moss and Pink Crowberry in the open barrens.

Given the nature of this part of Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the objectives in the management plan of the Ecological Reserve is “to foster scientific studies.” Such studies help to ensure the integrity of the Ecological Reserve.

Social & Cultural Life

However, prior to its current identity as an ecological reserve, the social and cultural life of the region included Cape St. Mary’s. In 1860, the Government of Newfoundland built a lighthouse on what would, a century or so later, become the Reserve. Since this time, it has ensured that the boats could safely navigate the sometimes hazardous waters of Placentia Bay. John O’Reilly, the father of Thomas O’Reilly, the Magistrate of Placentia from 1877-97, was one of the lighthouse keepers. Places such as Golden Bay, Lear’s Cove, Branch or other communities have been founded by these individuals.

The lives and the memory of these men, women and children can be found echoing on the Cape and still animating the history that brings it to life. Since 1999, the Cape St. Mary’s Performance Series has showcased the rich cultural history, music, stories and photographs of Cape St. Mary’s, as well as other places in the province. It is a fitting event that celebrates the rich identity and mosaic of Cape St. Mary’s.



Why Not Give it a Try

Whether it’s due to daily struggles to find food and water or those tied to illness, paying rent, getting a job, and finding food, stress is a reality for most of us. Now, in particular, the challenges facing many due to the arrival and response to Covid-19 has led to a significant degree of stress. And most importantly, stress kills.

As a result, people have sought means by which to deal with the stress in their lives. Meditation, in particular, has gained ground because we are living at a time when many of us are experiencing a great degree of stress.

Stress is a natural part of our lives and results from the challenges and uncertainties we may encounter. Any perception of danger will trigger, through hormonal signals, an automatic response system in our bodies. This is known as a fight-or-flight response. The key thing to remember is this mechanism is intended only for short-term and life-threatening problems. Some refer to it as our “survival mode.” We are not intended to be in “survival mode” for the long-term. But we are.

Enter meditation. For a thousand years or so, meditation has been with us. It was once one of those things that only people of a certain belief would do. We would never look askance at an array of men in long robes meditating, seeking to find spiritual illumination. It’s something we’d expect. But these days, things have changed. It’s almost like mediation has finally hit the main stream. People of any ilk will now casually note how they meditate every morning or evening. It’s believed that globally, 200-500 million people meditate. That’s not a small number. What’s going on?

If you looked online, you’d encounter any number of definitions and explanations for “meditation.” But most understand it as almost a mind-body medicine. The intention is to minimise our scattered thoughts about our past and future. So, it has a calming effect with the idea being for us to find a sort of inner peace and tranquillity. I improves our mental well-being and soothes the many and varied stresses of life of work. As well, it can help with such things as insomnia and getting back to sleep during the night.

For me, the idea of meditating was something I’d certainly heard about. Still, it had never occurred to me to even seek it out and definitely not to try. Then one day, I was chatting with a friend who actually meditates and he suggested I give it a shot. Sure, why not, I thought.

And I really wanted it to work. I made myself as comfortable as possible in my chair. I dimmed the lights, and closed my door, all to ensure a peaceful surrounding. This is generally the recipe for beginning a meditation, which may or may not be guided by someone speaking. Then, the idea is to focus on a word or a phrase (known as a mantra) or even your own breathing. I imagined that I’d rise from my chair afterwards, arms out-stretched, now a smiling renewed and reinvigorated person. That didn’t happen.

It was peaceful and calming, to be sure. Throughout, I’d be trying to calm myself and follow the words of the person guiding the meditation. Still, however much I tried, my mind would continue to drift. Before I knew it, I’d be thinking about something that had happened during the day. Either that or my minds would be going over a dilemma that may have occurred in the recent past. Then I’d hear the person guiding the meditation calmly say “stay present”! I’d realise I wasn’t. And then I’d desperately try to come back in tune with the meditation.

If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. It happens. When I began reading different ideas about meditation, one of the things I learned is it’s expected for our minds to wander while we’re meditating—until we get a little more experienced. For instance, while we may be focussed on our breathing and if our mind begins to wander, just gently direct it back to your breathing. Don’t worry.

Dependent on whom you ask, you will find online references. It can be anywhere from seven types of meditation to 23 and more. Here’s an article that explains a few of these types of meditation. There will no doubt be one or two that might just fit your personality.

Meditation may not be for everyone. But it is certainly worth a try. It is something that has certainly stood the test of time. Although we live in stressful times, there is no need for these stresses to overwhelm us. Give meditation a try.


An Easy Gift

An Easy Gift

This is an easy “Act of Kindness” to do. Not much effort is required and it takes only a moment … How about giving someone a smile? Whether it’s a gift you give to a friend, member of your family or someone you don’t know, the result is the same. Without question, it will brighten their day. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll pass it on …

Every Day We Can Make a Difference

Every Day We Can Make a Difference

We all have bad days, rough patches in our days and weeks. So, how about offering a word or two of encouragement? It may be a family member or a friend. Let them know that you are thankful for them and that you appreciate having them in your life. You can encourage someone with words, a hug, a gift or even an email or phone call. It is so simple to do. Go ahead, make a difference in someone’s life!