Newfoundland notes, St. John’s and environs

“Canada’s youngest province and Britain’s oldest colony” is what some of them say.

About 60 percent of St. John’s is Irish in background, and most people in the city above age 45 have a noticeable Irish accent, albeit with some Canadianisms thrown in.  Those accents are close to those of Waterford, Ireland, and many Irish from the southeast of the country came over in the 1790-1820 period.  The younger residents of St. John’s sound like other Canadians.

If you walk into the various pubs and houses of music, of which there are quite a few, you are most likely to hear offshoot forms of acoustic Celtic folk music.

The scenery of St. John’s reminds me of the suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand.  On top of that, many of the homes are Victorian, as in the Wellington area.  In St. John’s the row homes are called “jellybeans” because of their bright colors.  They are in a uniform style because of a major fire in the city in 1892.  A jellybean house near center city now runs between 300k-400k Canadian, the result of a big price hike once some offshore oil was discovered.  The city is hilly and the major churches are Anglican, even though the Irish migrants were almost entirely Catholics.

Indians and Filipinos are playing some role in revitalizing the city.  Not long ago about one thousand Ukrainians arrived.

In the Sheraton hotel the old mailbox is still “Royal Mail Newfoundland” and not “Royal Mail Canada.”  Newfoundland of course was a dominion country of its own from 1907-1934, and a legally odd part of Britain 1934-1949, when it joined Canada through a 52% referendum result.  In 1890 a NAFTA-like trade agreement was negotiated with the United States, but Canada worked Great Britain to nix the whole thing.  A later agreement in 1902 was in essence vetoed by New England.  Newfoundland had earlier rejected confederation with Canada in 1860.

Newfoundland ran up major debts in WWI, and tried to relieve them by selling Labrador to Canada.  Canada refused.

Apart from the major museum (“The Rooms”), there are few signs of the indigenous.

Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message on Signal Hill on December 12, 1901.  In the 1950s, Gander was the world’s busiest international airport, because of all the planes that could not cross the Atlantic directly.

As you might expect to find in a small country, but not in a small province, you regularly meet people who seem too smart or too attractive for their current jobs.  Many head to Calgary, but a lot of them don’t want to leave.

It has the warmest winter of any Canadian province.

Terre is the place to eat.  The scallops are excellent everywhere.  Fish and chips are a specialty too.

I would not say it is radically exciting here, but overall I would be long St. John’s.  If nothing else, it makes for an excellent three-day weekend or nature-oriented week-long trip, and I hardly know any Americans who have tried that.


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