Only in Newfoundland

Kingwell By Kingwell, 24th Apr 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

Although a visitor to Newfoundland today would not encounter the customs or sayings that could be found here sixty years ago, there are still those who continue the old ways. The Queen’s English might in some cases, remind one more of the days of the first Queen Elizabeth, than that of Queen Elizabeth II.

1: Why change came slowly.
2: Folk Medicine and Superstition

Why change came slowly.

Newfoundlanders are known for their unique accent and often for talking very fast. Sometimes too they are also known for their quick wit. A friend of mind had just gotten back home after working in Alberta for two years. On the first day on the job, his boss had told him “I don’t understand you, you’re talking too fast” – to which my friend replied – “I guess you’ll have to listen faster”!
While some might wonder why change came so slowly to Newfoundland and Labrador, a quick look at its history provides readily accessible clues. For some three hundred years it was illegal to settle in the then British colony, this however did not prevent many hearty men and women from taking up residence in well hidden coves and inlets along its rugged coast. Many would no doubt question why anyone would want to make their home in such a barren land, in complete isolation from most of humanity, but once again history itself may contain the answer. Doubtlessly, some were adventures as every generation has those who desire to do what would be unthinkable to most. Others were probably sold on the idea of independence or of being landowners, something that was only the privilege of the nobility in the old world. Then too, those were times when one could be hanged for stealing a loaf of bread and there would be those who because of some such indiscretion could not return to their homeland.
The coast Newfoundland is riddled with thousands of smaller islands, some too small to be settled but others big enough for a small city. It was to these islands that many of the earliest settlers flocked, often just two or three families in a particular inlet. Here men made their own laws, for there was no other. Here too generations were born lived and died without the benefit of schools, churches or medical attention. Some never ventured beyond the horizon of their particular community or interacted with more than a few dozen other individuals in their entire lifetime. The language spoken was that of their forefathers, as were the traditions, folk medicine and superstitions. A few Christian prayers were handed down by word of mouth and memorized by the children of each generation. Even after, the ban on settlement was lifted, most continued to live in much the same way. When the various religious denominations began sending clergy to the region, they would sometimes have to begin by baptising all the residents of a community!
Small children played games of Elizabethan England, boys as young as eight years went fishing with their fathers, and helped to fell and chop the trees necessary for firewood and building houses, stages and wharves. Girls of the same age were helping their mothers with the baking, cooking, carding and spinning wool, and knitting, for all clothes was made by hand. Some women started families as young as thirteen, though their husbands might be twice their age. In many cases, having helped raised their younger siblings they were well prepared even at such a young age, to manage a household. Eventually, the churches began sending schoolmasters from Britain to the largest communities but it would be a long time before the small coastal areas saw the advantages of learning to read or write.

Folk Medicine and Superstition

Home remedies were common even when I was growing up in the 1940’s and early fifties and some were quite good. In earlier times however such remedies were adulterated with superstition. One that I remember hearing about as a child was that a green ribbon tied around the neck would stop a nosebleed – and there were those who swore that it worked. May snow was bottled and used as a remedy to cure sore eyes. The seventh son of a seventh son was thought to have magical powers and be able to cure most ailments by a simple touch.
Some home remedies such as treating a cut with turpentine, a liquid taken from the bark of the evergreen tree, worked very well. The turpentine would be applied directly to the cut, wrapped in a clean cloth and the bandaged changed every day. The turpentine prevented infection and helped the cut to heal. Boils were treated with a poultice made from bread soaked in water, and molasses. This combination would draw the infection out of the boil. A cough could be cured by drinking a mixture of kerosene oil and molasses – the truth of which I’m delighted to say I cannot vouch for!
Next:
Words and sayings.
Place Names.

Tags

Accent, Baptism, Boils, British Colony, Christian Prayers, Clergy, Complete Isolation, Folklore, Home Remedies, Kerosene And Molasses, Kingwell, Poultice, Queens English, Schoolmaster, Seventh Son, Superstition, Turpentine

Meet the author

author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar Shirley Shuler
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Excellent article, Kingwell.

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Thank you Shirley.

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author avatar madugundurukmini
25th Apr 2013 (#)

good content

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Thank you friend.

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author avatar Vartika
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Informative!
Thanks for the share, Mr. Kingwell.

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Hi vartika, Thank you for visiting and commenting.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Great page, I grew up hearing many of those same sort of remedies...we always had a dose of cod-liver oil and molasses in the spring and fall to ward of flu and colds...we of the coast line are a hearty history Kingwel that's for sure-LOL...many thanks

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

You are right Delicia. Thank you for visiting.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
25th Apr 2013 (#)

oops- it should say have a hearty-not are-:0)

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Unraveling history makes us eager to learn more and your narration makes it much more so, thank you Kingwell - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Hi Siva, Thank you for following and there will be more. Hope you continue to enjoy.

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author avatar Mariah
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Very good read kingwell different days and times. Simple ways of life but with on going traditions which could be considered as an
Odd society living in ignorance of
The outside world.
Very interesting facts
Thank you for the share
Mariah

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Hi Mariah, Happy that you found this interesting. There will be more articles to follow.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Excellent! I don't remember learning these things in school. too interesting I guess.

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2013 (#)

Hi C.D, History can be interesting or it can be boring depending on if you talk about facts or make the people involved come alive.

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author avatar Songbird B
25th Apr 2013 (#)

An informative article Kingwell, and as always, you bring it to life..Interesting and enjoyable my friend\0/x

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author avatar Kingwell
26th Apr 2013 (#)

Thank you Songbird.

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author avatar Johnny Knox
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Interesting and informative article, Kingwell.

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author avatar Kingwell
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Johnny

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