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Month: January 2022

Placentia Cottage Hospital

Placentia Cottage Hospital

When walking eastward along Orcan Drive, one will encounter a large open area just after Mt. Pleasant Street. Seems quiet and placid. But up until 1996, this was the site of the Placentia Cottage Hospital.

During the Early Days

Originally built in 1935 in Argentia, the cottage hospital could not remain as the site had been slated as the new location for the. Consequently, the cottage hospital was moved to Placentia (sometimes referred to a Townside).

The cottage hospital system was a development of the Commission of Government, a body that was in office from 1934-1949. The cottage hospital system had been used in places such as Scotland which had a similar geography to the island of Newfoundland. Hence, the cottage hospital system, as well as the Cottage Hospital Medical Care Plan (MCP), started in 1935.

It was as this time when a cottage hospital was built in Argentia, most likely due to its accessibility by rail and water. However, things changed with the onset of war. And after high ranking officials from the United States and Britain discussed the issue throughout 1940, the decision had been made. The Argentia peninsula would indeed be given to the United States for a military base. But these plans overlooked one thing. For hundreds of years, there’d been communities of people living on the land intended for the base.

What was merely a series of signatures for the land to be ceded to the United States from Britain and Newfoundland, was far more grave for those living in Argentia. It left deep scars and heartbreaking memories were seared into the minds of many from Argentia, memories that would readily traverse the generations. Certainly, institutions such as the Argentia Cottage Hospital would need to be moved. But everything had to go, both living and dead. By the time construction began on the U.S. Naval Station, Argentia, there was no indication anything had been there previously.

Up and Running

Plans had gotten underway and by August of 1941, construction on the Placentia Cottage Hospital began. It would prove to be a boon for many, as there would be higher paying jobs associated with the construction. After working full speed ahead, the Placentia Cottage Hospital opened its doors officially on the 27th November, 1942. Dr. Paton was the first physician and he was assisted by Sister Reddy who dealt with managing all other operational elements of the hospital. Several other individuals fulfilled other positions including nurse’s aide, laundry, cook, laundry, and janitorial issues.

By 1949, Placentia Cottage Hospital was joined by thirteen of the eighteen hospitals that were built. These included hospitals in Old Perlican, Markland, Burgeo, Harbour Breton, Come By Chance, Stephenville Crossing, Bonavista, Norris Point, Grand Bank, Placentia, Brookfield, Gander and Botwood. Except for northern parts serviced by the International Grenfell Association, cottage hospitals were constructed throughout Newfoundland (since 1965, no cottage hospitals were built).

Making Improvements

From 1946, Dr. Collingwood practised at the Placentia Cottage Hospital. A few years afterwards, one of the biggest improvements was the use of the Lady Anderson as a hospital ship. It would mean that the people living on the islands would not have to travel to Placentia for health care.

Things were steadily improving. In 1953, after requesting additional healthcare professionals, Dr. Collingwood was joined by Dr. Iain Hugh Murray Smart and Dr. Nicholas Daly. Several years later, on 1st July, 1960, Dr. Collingwood retired. He was succeeded by Dr. John Munro Ross. Not long afterwards, on the 20 September, 1961, a new eight-bed maternity ward officially opened, something Dr. Collingwood had been requesting for years. Another much-needed addition was a small nursery that had space for six cribs or so-called “isolettes.”

End of an Era

Over time, the approach to health was changing and the cottage hospitals became part of a more extensive health system comprised of Hospital Boards and Regional Boards. On 1st April, 1989, the Placentia and Area Health Care Board took over the operation of the Placentia Hospital from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. And then on the 22nd June, 1996, the cottage hospital building was officially closed and its role in the healthcare for the communities was replaced by the Placentia Health Care Complex.

Although the Placentia Cottage Hospital remained a part of the landscape for two more years, at this time, it was taken down thus ending an era. However, the Placentia Cottage Hospital has undoubtedly left a wealth of memories in its wake.

Recipe for Kindness

Recipe for Kindness

We all enjoy sharing recipes. Although the original author of this particularly perfect recipe is unknown. Still, I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

2 heaping cups of patience

1 heartful of love

2 handfuls of generosity

1 headful of understanding

A dash of humour

Sprinkle generously with kindness

and plenty of faith

Mix well

Spread over a period of a life time

Serve to everyone you meet.



To be as free as a bird

To be free. Three words that are likely the most cherished to speak and perhaps more, to truly believe. In Canada, most of us would readily claim freedom as a quality or state of being that describes our lives. Still, like every word, when cast in a finer nuanced light, it reveals a few of the more jagged edges of the word—the restraints of our most hallowed freedom. So, how free are we?

However simple the word, freedom possesses a boundless depth of meaning. When we find it in the dictionary, the various definitions revolve around not being “restricted,” “controlled,” and “constrained.” Other explanations note how we are somehow “not being subject to” or “affected by” something or someone. It seems simple.

For many of us, to be free is a way of being that is thoroughly ingrained in us. It is virtually sacrosanct. In other words, not only is it sacred, it is something we feel should never be taken away from us.

Although, whenever we think of the many freedoms we enjoy, there is often a “yes, but” that follows in its wake. For many of us, this is an expected understanding of our freedoms, the invariable caveats. So, many of us are indeed free to wander along the streets and byways that traverse our various towns and cities. We are not deterred by the dangers that prevent many around the world from doing likewise. “Yes, but,” you may say.

True. Our freedom to roam is indeed sometimes contingent on the fact we do so in places where the dangers of crime are less apparent. Often times, there may be certain regions within a city more prone to such dangers and we feel less free to simply take a walk. Otherwise, in certain locations, with nightfall, people may feel more restricted by the fear of crime. They accept that yoke on their freedom.

Likewise, we are largely free to listen to whatever music catches our fancy, again provided we do so in a manner that considers others. Would others like this type of music? Would it be offensive to someone listening? Periodically, we do encounter restrictions. These often take the form of censorship, of which there are countless examples around the world.

But overall, any notion of freedom must just work in harmony with our ethics, morals, and values. Fundamentally, they act as the crucial lodestars guiding our lives and our freedoms. If something we are free to do fails to be in accord with our values or morals, we feel less inclined to continue. For instance, many vegetarians, less so vegans, may follow a diet free of meat and other meat-based products primarily due to its health benefits. Still, there is a large group who do so based largely on their personal ethics and morals.

Taking this into account, we are left with the difficult question. Our ethics, morals, and values may function in close concert with our freedoms. But who’s ethics, morals, and values?

This is where more recent restrictions to our freedom come to the fore. In recent years, many have faced the censorship imposed by social media outlets such as Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram. Facebook, for one, works in coordination with the United States government to guide what is being shared on the platform. As an example, freedoms to post are guided by beliefs that must follow the accepted line regarding such things like treatments, recoveries, or deaths related to covid.

Meanwhile, Youtube has prevented people from watching videos that supported treatments for Covid that included ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies rather than strictly through vaccination. Undoubtedly, our freedoms are being impeded, guided as they are by a set of ethics determined not by ourselves, but by organisations such as Facebook and Youtube.

Sometimes, we may even be encouraged to accept those restrictions given the efforts to ensure some other element of our safety is maintained or improved—our health or our online security. Maybe so. However, it is in our best interests to scrutinise such claims with a keen eye to our personal ethics, morals and values.

So, in general, how free are we? Perhaps it’s best to understand freedom as being somewhere on a sliding scale wherein on one side lies total freedom and on the other, complete restrictions. Ideally, most of the time, we’re somewhere in the middle.

Throughout our lives, we may experience efforts to nudge us onward or unreservedly thrust us toward further restrictions of our freedom. But freedom is something we must all hold very close to our hearts. After all, we must remember, to accept even the smallest constraints to our freedom can be a consent that is ultimately difficult to rescind.

St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre

St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre

Photograph of St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre at present. (Source: Lee Everts)

Everything old is new again. Those words perfectly reflect the situation for St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre. Now almost a year old, the Centre has already demonstrated a needed role for hosting events in the Placentia area. Although not long ago, as many would recall, prior to being a cultural heritage centre, St. Luke’s functioned as a church. And since its inception centuries ago, this church has had a multifarious history, rich in details and complexity.

History of St. Luke’s

The most recent incarnation of St. Luke’s was a church built in 1905. However, it replaces a church built in the 18th century. And still deeper into the realm of history, this church was itself built on the site of the oldest Catholic church in Newfoundland. This original church was built in 1689 by the Récollets (Recollects) friars. However, there is an old map dated from 1662 that actually depicts a church built on the site where St. Luke’s is located. Yet, the church is potentially at least a century older.

This is an image of Domingo de Luca’s Last Will and Testament (Source: Placentia Area Historical Society)

Domingo de Luca was a member of a fishing expedition hailing from the Basque country. At the time, the Basques were in Placentia. It was no doubt part of a regular trip they would have been taking annually to Placentia where they would come to fish in the sixteenth century. Misfortune has fallen on Domingo de Luca during the year 1563. He had grown ill and eventually, he was to lose his life. However, before dying, he made out a Will and most notably, he requested that his body be laid to rest in Placentia.

“I ask that if the will of God Our Lord were served to take me by this illness from the present life, that my body be buried in this port of Plazençia in the place where those who die here are usually buried.”

His Will is now the oldest known original civil document written in Canada. Clearly, this must have been a place where his fellow countrymen had been laid to rest. It also implies there was indeed a location, at the time, where the Basque were laying to rest their people. It is no doubt the same location where Basque headstones were later located in the cemetery surrounding St. Luke’s. It was a Roman Catholic church at the time.

In 1903, Rt. Rev. Michael Francis Howley published a paper covering the work he had done in Placentia at St. Luke’s Anglican church. His efforts were in part intended to raise awareness to the fragile nature of the stones and how, if left, they would soon be lost. He focussed on several headstones, the oldest of which dated to 1676. However, one would assume this to be the identical location where, just over a century earlier, Domingo was laid to rest. Those Basque headstones are now on display at O’Reilly House Museum.

Noteworthy Citizens

An image of Richard Welsh’s grave marker (Source: Lee Everts)

St. Luke’s cemetery has also been home to other noteworthy citizens of Placentia. One of the headstones belong to Richard Welsh, a well-known figure who hailed from New Ross, Ireland. In 1753, Welsh began what was to become a highly successful merchant firm in Placentia. The headstones also tell of people such as Sir Joseph Blackburn or Elizabeth and William Hobson whose memories are also affirmed in the cemetery.

Image of St. Luke’s Anglican church built in the eighteenth century.

Not long afterwards, the English royalty of the 18th century also left its mark when Prince William Henry (later King William IV of England) came to Placentia as a Magistrate. In 1786, he presented the church with a silver Communion Service and a Coat of Arms. While the Service is now at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, the Coat of Arms is still to be found hanging in St. Luke’s Anglican church.

Next Evolution of St. Luke’s

Given its wealth of history, St. Luke’s Anglican Church was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure in 2011. However, the actual parishioners for the church had been dwindling and in October of 2020, it was closed and deconsecrated. It was then sold to the Placentia Area Historical Society (PAHS) for one dollar.

In recent years, during the summer months, the PAHS has been offering tours of the Centre. In the past year, several events were offered, including workshops for seniors by the Placentia Area Development Association. Local artist Christopher Newhook instructed one of these workshops on painting.

Quilting and painting lessons at St. Luke’s Cultural Centre (Source: Christopher Newhook).

St. Luke’s also served as a workspace for Colleen Tamblyn, as archaeologist working on ceramics from Fort Louis/New Fort. She also did two presentations at St. Luke’s entitled “Archaeological Ups and Downs” as well as “Ceramic, Colour and Community.”

The Centre was used to launch A Hard Road to Forgiveness, a novel by local author Lee Everts, as well as by an international harpist who offered a performance. Individuals have also been able to attend art classes and lectures at the cultural centre.

Every summer, an Escape Room Game in which the players solved puzzles to complete it is offered. And with the arrival of winter, Christopher Newhook offers the annual winter solstice, an event that showcases the depth of artistic talent in the Placentia area.

Over the centuries, St. Luke’s has continued to evolve. Yet, from its origins some time in the sixteenth century as a place of worship for Basque fisherman thousands of miles from home to now, as a centre for cultural heritage, it is much the same. St. Luke’s remains at the heart of the community, a place where people come to express themselves, share and find some sort of peace.


Barkham, Michael M. 2014 “The Oldest Original Civil Document Written in Canada: The Last Will of Basque Sailor Domingo de Luça, Placentia (Newfoundland), 1563” University of Cambridge

Spirit of Rocks on Placentia Bay

Spirit of Rocks on Placentia Bay

As the sun sets, anyone driving along the Cape Shore highway north to Placentia couldn’t miss it. Like a glowing ember, it’s red rock warms the heart, giving way to wonder. It soundlessly beckons us to understand its deep history. When we do, it reveals a storied past that reaches to a time long before any human set foot on islands such as Merasheen or Red Island. These rocks that comprise the islands are not dormant and empty. Rather they are representative of the resonant spirit within our landscape.

Millions of years ago, the earth began to write the story of the land below Placentia Bay. No doubt, it was quiet at times. To be sure, there were no birds yet to punctuate the rare silences that defined the period. They had yet to come. For much of the time, however, it would have been a time defined by turbulence with roaring and explosive ejections jettisoned from the cracks in the earth. Molten lava would have seeped out, hotly glowing before it gradually cooled.

Each of the islands have their own identifying characteristics, the result of a unique story stemming from their origins. In very much more recent times, the islands came to be the home of many generations who plied their trade in the fishery, wood-cutting and gardening, the pillars of the time. Although, countless millennia earlier, these islands had a different story to tell.

Photograph of Merasneen (Source:

We would have to close our eyes to imagine the maelstrom of geological events that defined the time. Owing to an explosive past, Merasheen Island and the Ragged Islands are composed of something called Hadrynian basaltic (751-833 Million Years Ago — Mya) rock. That simply means it was a rock formed from the solidification of molten rock. It’s an intermediate composition between dactite (a volcanic rock formed by rapid solidification of lava that is high in silica and low in alkali metal oxides) and rhyolite (the most silica-rich of volcanic rocks). Combined, they are known as rhyodacitic.

This merely reflects the ongoing and vigorous nature of the earth as it regularly spewed the molten rock that formed these islands. Added to the rocky mosaic on Merasheen were metamorphosed (transformed by heat or pressure) into silica-rich sandstones and shales. The island’s landscape is characterised by its relatively high relief and steep cliffs. Its shorelines are also less jagged due to faults and folds that followed a more NNW-SSE trend, the general orientation of the island. Nowadays, all is quiet, but it belies a highly boisterous past.

A little to the southeast of Merasheen lies Red Island, aptly named for its firey-coloured landscape. Millions of years ago, the region danced to the roar of molten lava surging from below. Eventually, a plume of lava known as a pluton or outcrop, would cool and over time, plate-tectonics, the jigging of the landscape, would expose the island on the surface.

These plutons were composed of granite resulting in Red Island’s vibrant hue. The plutons have been dated from the Devonian period, around 416 Mya to the Carboniferous period (318 Mya). And since people began to occupy the islands, it has naturally come to be known as Red Island. Elements of other islands, namely Bar Haven and the Ragged Islands also owe their origins from the depths of the earth. The rocks of Red Island also fractured in a particular manner along right angles, thus yielding its steep, but low cliffs and rolling interior.

In time, what changed the story was an ice age. Millions of years later, around 25,000 to 10,000 years ago, glaciers trailed over the landscape. With them, they readily carried their burden of rock, or ice-contact sediment known as till that was carried by the glaciers from many distant sources. This led to a range of formations, some of which were drumlins (an elongated hill or ridge of glacial drift), flutes (long ridges on the ground parallel to the glacier’s movement), and crag-and-tail (a plug of hard rock like granite with a “tail” of softer material in its lee) features. These formations are spread out over Placentia Bay’s bed, now hidden below its vast undulating waters.

Walking amongst the rocky outcrops and rolling hills affords us with an opportunity to pause and absorb the depth of time which surrounds us. We may touch the granite of Red Island or any of the other islands and surging within us is a feeling of deep respect and awe that resonates in our hearts. It is almost incomprehensible the time from when these rocks first began to form. Millions of years seem beyond our comprehension of time. Yet, here they sit. They offer distinct evidence of the timelessness that surrounds us. It is palpable. For a moment, running our hands along the various ridges and indentations on the rock or simply standing before a towering cliff, we feel the energy the silent rocks emanate. And for just a moment, we feel a connection with something that is much greater than ourselves. An eternal spirit.


Brushett, Denise 2008 “Late Wisconsinan Glacial History of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, As Interpreted From Seabed Geomorphology and Stratigraphy,” Master of Science Thesis, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL

Catto, Norman 1998 “The pattern of glaciation on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland” Géographie physique et Quaternaire 52 (1), 1-24



Beauty. Its complexity is equally mesmerising, mysterious and charming. We may look at an opulent sunrise with its rich canvas of purples, pinks and golds and utter in awe how it is undeniably the epitome of beauty. At the same time, we may spot an individual, striking in their appearance and remark how this individual is really quite beautiful. What exactly do we mean when we gasp, extolling the breathtaking beauty of someone or something?

Mathematics of the Golden Ratio

For some, the notion of beauty has been very specifically defined over the millennia. It’s been known to some by the Greek letter “phi,” while to others, as the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion. Mathematically, it came down to a very special number that occurs when one divides a line into two parts. Here’s where it gets interesting. The long part of the line divided by the short part is equal to the whole length divided by the long part. That special number is 1.618 or phi.

For some, in a meticulous and defined way, it is a proportion that will never fail to yield an incomparable beauty, be it in art, architecture, music or in nature. The proportion can be found in the Pyramids of Giza, certain pieces of music such as Erik Satie’s Sonneries de la Rose+Croix, Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” Michaeolangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” as well as the simple and magical shell of a snail. Some very specifically used the Divine Proportion in their work. For instance, Salvador Dali employed it when painting “The Sacrement of the Last Supper.” Not only was the canvas very close to a golden rectangle, the multi-panel window is a dodecahedron whose “surface area and volume are simple functions of the Golden Ratio.”

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,”

Albeit superlative in their excellence, can these works of art and other examples represent the full extent and broadest understanding of beauty? No one would question the immaculate beauty of a snail’s shell nor any of the other scenarios where the Golden Ratio has been admirably employed. Still, there is an element of beauty that still defies the mathemetical boundaries established by the Golden Ratio.

One of the various definitions of beauty is “a beautiful person, especially a woman.” That may seem straightforward. Although, this particular definition has led to interpretations that have ironically paved the way to discontent and sadness. What has happened is many of us have standardised our interpretation of what exactly is a “beautiful person, especially a woman.” Magazines, celebrities on film, advertisements and any number of multi-media sites flood our lives with images of the ideal woman and man. We are overwhelmed by an imposed interpretation of what is beauty. A man must be tall and strong. A woman must always appear young, be slim or possess an hourglass figure, with features such as a narrower facial shape, high cheekbones, longer eyelashes and fuller lips. How many match up to these specific ideals of beauty?

But there is hope. Other definitions of beauty provide a hint of how we can free ourselves from these rigid and society-driven definitions. The dictionary also defines beauty as a “combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind.” Those are the moments that punctuate our lives and they can be found in numerous situations. That sunrise we witness is captivating, a sign of beauty we feel deep in our hearts. It takes our breath away. There is the beauty which brings us to our feet as we watch a master musician magically bending melody and rhythm. At other times, we may watch a dance that magnificently blends heart-resounding beat with a soaring and swirling sashay. These events touch our hearts and are ones coming from within us, a part of our very spirits.

Likewise, when we think of those society-driven images of beauty thrust in our faces, we again must look within. We could be looking at an individual who defies all the standards of beauty as defined by society. Still, when we momentarily close our eyes and listen to their words, we hear a voice speaking words of kindness, joy, and compassion. And then, when we re-open our eyes, we are witness to a man or woman who, by their words, have been transformed into images of magnificent beauty. But in order to do so, we needed to delve within to find the true nature of beauty. It is there in our hearts. Make no mistake.