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Month: April 2023

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie rocked back and forth, the chair creaking in its familiar way. It was so lovely to sit near the front window, the sun unencumbered by the sheers. She’s glad she’d asked Olga to remove them. Olga was her new caregiver and she was a blessing.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Her heart was racing as she watched her Penelope play with an imaginary mouse, most likely. She put her hand to her chest. It was nothing to worry about. It’d done that sometimes in the past. Penelope was probably as old as Gwennie was in cat years. Like Gwennie, she obviously still had some life in her yet. She smiled at the thought. Goodness, last time she thought about it, she reckoned she was around 98. One loses track. It’s like that when you reach a certain age. The numbers cease to matter.

She shimmied forward on her chair, thinking she’d go get a cup of tea. That would be nice. Gwennie’d already had something to eat for supper and so, all she really wanted now was something small. Maybe she’d have one of the biscuits Isabelle had brought.

Getting up Gwennie felt another sharp pain in her chest. That one concerned her. She got up with a little effort ….

Her head tilted back as she swung high. Back down again and her sister pushed her again, laughing.

Image by Petra from Pixabay

“One more time, Gwennie and then it’s my turn, okay,” Gwennie’s sister said, squealing with delight as she pushed her again.

“Push one more time, Ida! One more time,” Gwennie said, yelling at the top of her lungs, giggling all the time. Ida pushed her one more time and then they both let the swing slow down so Gwennie could jump off. They switched and Gwennie used all her might to pull the swing back as much as possible and then with a laugh she pushed Ida. They did that for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a beautiful Sunday and so they were given a little extra time to play. But they still had chores to do. So, Gwennie spent part of her day helping her mother with the sewing and knitting. Her mother was mending her father’s trousers and Gwennie was darning her brother’s smellie socks—at least that’s what she always thought. Ida was in the kitchen and her brothers were with their dad in the woods checking on the snares.

“Yeah, thanks,” Izzie said, as she took the forms from Ryan. They’d already wrapped up her body and placed it on the stretcher. It was a small town and so, they both knew Gwennie.

“It was her heart,” Ryan said.

“Geez. Why worry? I think she was closing in on a hundred. When ya get to that age, you’ve lived your life to the full, is what I think. So, it’s okay to say good-bye,” Izzie said, as they rolled the stretcher out to the ambulance.

“Well she had a good run, that’s for sure,” Ryan said as she slammed the door closed.

Clambering into the ambulance, Izzie’s mind was on Gwennie. “Yeah. But you know what I always wonder. I think about when they’re unconscious and already pretty much gone, in their minds, do they go anywhere?”

“Don’t know. I think they’re just gone.”

“Y’know. I think they go back to a time in their lives when they were happy, truly happy — not a care in the world. I bet many go back to their first home,” Izzie said.

“Ah well, we all know you’re a dreamer,” Ryan said, smiling at Izzie. Checking behind him, he drove off.

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Homelessness is a condition we all agree is worth eradicating. Easier said than done, we may say. While in urban areas it’s signs are obvious to even those fervently disinterested. Although many do ignore its presence, it’s not easy to overlook that person sleeping on the bench along a busy thoroughfare. But homelessness leaves less of a trail in rural areas.

Plus, homelessness is a condition that easily disappears behind the more apparent ideals we hail regarding rural life—peace, comfort, an idyllic quality. In either case, homelessness is a social ill that can be rectified. Once it’s identified, there are methods to ensure its abolishment. Sometimes, people just need to know there’s someone there who can lend a hand.

Recognising Homelessness

For many, small towns are an unspoiled refuge, places seemingly far beyond the roar of the city. They’re places where those who choose to live there can enjoy many quiet moments of peace slipping by, little tread of the day remaining. Yet, it often disguises certain elements that fail to harmonise with that tranquility.

Homelessness, being one of these conditions, is therefore too often hidden from our view.

Harsh realities like crime and, in particular, issues such as homelessness are like splinters that can disrupt that serenity. And because they are “out of place” with the doctrines of rural life, they are less noticed.

Homelessness, for one, is certainly not a defining characteristic of small town life. Ask anyone in the myriad small towns that dot Placentia Bay, or small towns anywhere, for that matter, about the presence of homelessness and I can guess the response—“Huh?” they might say. “We don’t have homelessness here,” they would assert.

It is also a matter of homelessness not adhering to the visual keys with which urban homelessness has become synonymous—people on the streets or in missions. It’s hidden.

Homelessness simply doesn’t always accord with the idyllic reservoir of rurality. Thus, we may fail to see it. So, our goal is to find ways to shed light on these more malignant aspects of life. If left to metastasise, homelessness will go on to weaken the people who comprise the community.

What is Hidden Homelessness?

According to Statistics Canada, hidden homelessness sits within the rubric of those who are “provisionally accommodated.” According to the federal government, these individuals are using emergency shelter and other system supports because they have been unable to secure permanent housing, Hence, they remain functionally homeless.

People sometimes need to sleep in their cars. (Source: Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

These individuals may be staying with relatives or friends—couch surfing. Sometimes, we’d find them living in their cars or trucks. They are “hidden,” as they do not take advantage of homeless supports or other services and are not adequately housed.

Who Can Help

Identifying those in need of assistance is one of the most difficult tasks when addressing hidden homelessness. However, most people who are encountering problems regarding homelessness are likely going to avail of some form of social assistance.

The Placentia area, Cape Shore, Whitbourne service providers who offer resources for families would be one of the sources of assistance. Regardless of their needs, people would be reaching out to these types of organisations.

No doubt if people are challenged in their attempts to find affordable housing, there are likely other problems tied to food or employment. Thus, organisations offering services such as employment assistance and food banks play a central role.

Another key service provider would be ones tied to mental health and addictions. People who are homeless are more susceptible to mental health problems. These organisations are likely also going to be assisting people encountering problems finding housing. Finally, organisations focussed on housing will clearly be a central player in the issue of difficulties identifying permanent housing.

The Personal Touch

The various reasons homelessness has remained invisible are true. Yes, homelessness has countered the pastoral facade that encompasses many rural communities. And yes, homelessness is largely hidden from the general view in rural areas.

However, it becomes apparent that one of the primary rationales for the concealment of homelessness in rural areas is simply because there’s no one who can provide any assistance.

The organisations above certainly offer a more informed glimpse of rural homelessness. However, organisations such as those who deal with housing or homelessness are not the only ones needed. What’s needed is a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW), someone who can offer more of a personal touch. This is someone on the frontline whose sole goal is to assist people with their attempts to locate permanent housing

Housing Outreach Worker

Since November 2021, the Placentia area, Cape Shore and Whitbourne area has benefited from the efforts of a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW). Notices were placed in the various communities to make people aware of the services offered by the HOW. Gradually, people began to get in touch and avail of the HOW’s services.

As soon as the word had gotten around the HOW was in place, people appeared daily requesting assistance. So, it seems one of the primary things necessary is to ensure someone is able to offer guidance.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The HOW who currently works in the Placentia area, Cape Shore area and Whitbourne area is also there to offer assistance for the clients who’ve availed of the services. Sometimes, it’s just a quick chat on the telephone. A lot of times the programmes need to be deciphered. It’s essential as it conveys a genuine interest and concern in making certain their problems are being solved.

Turning the Tide on Homelessness

It may appear simplistic to state that all we need is to ensure someone is there to provide assistance. And not only just assistance, someone is required who can show compassion and be genuinely interested in solving homelessness. In the end, though, perhaps all people need to solve one of the most burdensome problems is time.

Time is needed to patiently identify the heart of the problem—what is necessary, who needs to be contacted and so on. Time is required to follow-up with the various services and organisations needed to get someone housed. Time is also necessary to speak with those being helped to assure them, very simply, they do indeed matter.

Mysterious Archaeological Finds

Mysterious Archaeological Finds

Image of the excavation at Fort Louis (New Fort NE Bastion excavation 2007) (Source: Steve Mills).

Many times archaeologists can only greet some artefacts with a furrowed brow. Their response can only be maybe a slightly more articulate version of ‘huh?’ Now, sometimes there’s an iota of context that can provide a modicum of identity for the artefact.

They may have the location within a known site and they’ve maybe got some idea of the time. So, they’ve definitely got a bit of the ‘where,’ as well as the ‘when.’ As for the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why,’ they’re stymied. The only thing we know or certain is the creator was invested in sharing a message. That’s all.

An Inscribed Rock

In Placentia Bay, members of the public encountered a rock bearing a curious inscription. Located in Haystack, Long Island, it’s anyone’s guess what the inscription means. Urve Linnamae had conducted archaeological surveys on some of the Placentia Bay islands.

She had identified sites potentially of Maritime Archaic and Dorset Pre-Inuit origin. However, as noted by later archaeologists, the inscriptions were likely made using a metal tool. This would’ve removed Maritime Archaic or Dorset as a possiblity as neither possessed metal tools.

Image of inscription in Haystack, Long Island, Placentia Bay (Screenshot from “Graffiti”)

It’s anyone’s guess what the inscription was intended to mean. John Robinson who published Olde Founde Land in 1997 pointed to it being a reference to the voyage of St. Brendan, occurring in the mid-500s AD and recorded in 950 AD. Maybe.

John Robinson’s explanation was possibly a form of postdiction, wherein our minds fill in the unknowns in an effort to complete the story. So, we take what we do know and try to make some sort of sense of it. He had little else to go on.

Locals in the area referred to it as ‘the Frenchman’s letter,’ knowing the region was initially settled by the French. However, they were simply basing it on the presence of French and an ignorance of the French alphabet. It’s largely much like the English alphabet, but as expected, the locals didn’t realise. Again, it’s anyone’s guess. Thus, at the moment, the only person or people who know the origin of the writing are those who originally inscribed the symbols.

Doodling or Something More

Hopping over to Jerseyside, in the Town of Placentia on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay, we find another mystery. Located in the Fort Louis excavations that took place in 2011, the archaeologist, Matthew Simmonds, revealed three pieces of slate (page 161). They were presumably roof tiles.

Curiously, each had an image inscribed on its surface. One was a sundial, the slate etched with Roman numerals I to XI, minus the IV. Another possessed a two-masted sailing vessel with the rigging and portholes visible. One also had a drawing of a two-masted sailing vessel, its two masted sails, yard arms, rigging and hull planking. A final one possessed what appeared to be a woven basket.

It’s difficult to see, but these are the slate rocks possessing images found during the Fort Louis dig (Source: Matthew Simmonds).

Were these drawings made for a particular person? Or were they just the casual doodles of an individual with a passing flavour of artistry? We haven’t a clue. Still, there’s beauty in the intention of communication with someone.

Any writing is simply a form of communication, one with ourselves or someone else. If it’s simply a set of characters that’s been written, ones we can identify as letters or numerals, we may understand. However, much like in these instances, we not have a clue of the message being shared. All we do know is that some form of communication was occurring.


In the end, whether it’s the characters on the rock, the odd designs on the pieces of slate or any number of mysterious finds archaeologists uncover, there’s one thing they hold in common. They are each a desire to share an idea over time and space. And we may never have any notion of that idea. But it’s much like encountering the pathway, knowing it once led to some unknown destination.

We have no idea of what, in particular, the creator was seeking to share. It offers a glimpse of the connections that held people together then as it does now. And we’re certainly not averse to putting together the known quantities in various ways and then simply guessing. Much like John Robinson, we take some known knowledge and then somehow incorporate it into our mystery.

Moreover, there’s an element of poetry in not knowing. Everyone’s imagination can forever fly to the stars with their best guess. That’s the allure of a mystery. We’d love to finally discover the hidden meanings behind these mysterious finds. Still, we remain in awe of the quiet and hidden intentions they embody.

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Birdseye View of the Placentia Health Centre (Source: Lee Everts).

The Placentia Health Centre is a relatively recent addition to the landscape of the Placentia area. It emerges from a long history of healthcare. Undoubtedly, it reflects an ongoing investment in healthcare.

Placentia stands as part of a strong healthcare network. Recent changes, however, are adding tension to the healthcare system. The goal will be to hold onto a system buoyed by a rich heritage of healthcare.

Early History

As early as 1698, health was already a concern for residents. At this time, there was apparently a hospital located in Placentia near a lime kiln used for the construction of forts and fortifications such as Fort Louis.1

A first edition of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, in Spanish (left), and a copy printed in 1714 in Latin and English (right). ( Source: Wikipedia).

As the years progressed and following the War of the Spanish Succession, Placentia was ceded to Britain from France in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Placentia became the military headquarters and continued to provide medical services. However, as more people settled in the Placentia area and on the islands of Placentia Bay, health became a personal or community responsibility.

Thus, care and maintenance of health was approached using a mixture of beliefs, home remedies and knowledge derived from past experience. This art and skill of healing was often equal to what the medical profession would offer years and decades later in hospitals. Certain people within the community would have been regularly called upon to provide medical assistance for injuries—births, deaths and so on.

Health in the Twentieth Century

Nevertheless, more needed to be done. Hence, it was the Commission of Government2 who, having taken office from 1934 to 1949, recognised the need for a greater investment in healthcare. Charged with reviving the ailing the economy of the Dominion of Newfoundland, one of the initiatives of the Commission of Government was intended to rectify health inequities across the island.

The Commission of Government borrowed a scheme used in Scotland—cottage hospitals. They were ideal as they could be used to service a population that was widely dispersed. One of the first cottage hospitals was situated in Argentia. However, when an agreement was made with the United States to permit their use of the land for a military base in Argentia, the community and everything else, including the hospital, needed to be moved and resettled.

Photograph of the Placentia Cottage Hospital (Source: Anonymous).

The hospital was then moved to Placentia. Hence, by 1949, thirteen of the eighteen hospitals 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.

Under the Commission of Government, nursing stations were also dotted around Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with the cottage hospitals, hospital ships provided floating clinics. For instance, the MV Lady Anderson serviced close to 75 settlements along the southwest coast of Newfoundland. Afterwards, it plied the waters of Placentia Bay where it was also used to transport patients to and fro the Placentia Cottage Hospital.

Entering the Modern Era

Since the early 1940s, the Placentia cottage hospital remained as a sentinel for the provision of health for the Placentia area. However, change was on the horizon. In April of 1986, the Lions Manor Nursing Home opened its doors. Ten years afterwards, the heritage of health in the Placentia area continued to evolve when the Placentia Health Centre was built.

Then, two years later in October of 1998, the bricks and mortar of the old Cottage Hospital were taken down. Nonetheless, its memory as a place where residents could seek health care has remained safely housed in the touching stories of residents.

Current Health System

Despite its rich background, the current healthcare system for the Placentia Bay area, as a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, is beset with challenges. Top of the list are wait times for various surgeries. In a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at 60%, Canada topped the list along with Norway in terms of wait-times for medical care.

Photograph of William H. Newhook Health Centre (Source: Eastern Health).

Other challenges also stress the system. Nowadays, Emergency Rooms (ER) are closing in rural centres in Newfoundland and Labrador. It places a strain on the health system. The William H. Newhook Health Centre closed in Whitbourne, forcing residents to either go to Carbonear, St. John’s or Placentia. First and foremost, it’s an additional burden for these residents who are distraught at the loss of their Health Centre, as well as for the receiving ER.

Other rural areas across the country, Manitoba and British Columbia are reeling from the same closures. So, this is definitely not a problem restricted to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unquestionably, there is a lot of room for improvement for health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. The situation at William H. Newhook Health Care centre merely serves as a representation of what can happen in any of the communities, such as Placentia.Hilda Whelan, the mayor of Whitbourne says they’ve just been exceptionally lucky no deaths have resulted from the closure of the Health Care Centre.

Not so for others apparently. When the Canadian Institute for Health Information on “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes” for Newfoundland and Labrador, the province did not fare well. While Canada as a whole rated 65. Newfoundland and Labrador scored an 87, well below average performance.

On a Final Note

The health care in the Placentia area surroundings has been in existence officially since 1698. Undoubtedly, the heritage of health in the Placentia area is deep and interesting, one firmly etched into its identity. In the 17th century, the investment in health was a top priority. The goal is for it to remain an integral part of the landscape in the years to come.


Antle, Sarah 2022 “Patience running out in Whitbourne, as emergency room remains closed for 7th straight week” CBC NL

Canadian Institute For Health Information 2023 “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes details for Newfoundland and Labrador”

Kulkarni, Akshay 2022 “Emergency rooms in rural B.C. were closed for equivalent of around 4 months in 2022, data shows” CBC

Modjeski, Morgan 2022 “Emergency room closures in rural Manitoba a growing concern after patient dies being turned away” City News Everywhere

Savoury, George 1975 The Cottage Hospital System in Newfoundland (St. John’s : Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Simmonds, Matthew 20122 “The 2012 Field Season at Fort Louis, Jerseyside, Placentia” Provincial Archaeology Office, 2010 Archaeology Review, March 2011 Volume 9

Wilhelm. Henrike 2023 “Frustrated Whitbourne residents protest ongoing ER closure — and promise more rallies to come”


1. The source for this information is unknown. Although it is reasonable to assume that forts would contain hospitals to address the needs of their soldiers.

2. The Commission of Government was appointed by the British government which took control of Newfoundland in 1933. Economically, Newfoundland was in dire straits. The general feeling was that Newfoundland needed to take a rest from responsible government for the moment.