‘Oh, she’s a Joey baby’

Josh
Josh Pennell
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Woman is thought to be first baby born in Newfoundland after Confederation

Marg Skehans has likely not been any more controversial than the moment when she was born. That’s because she’s the first baby to be born in Newfoundland after this province joined Confederation.

Marg Skehans

“When I was really, really young, my relatives and (family) friends would say, ‘Oh, she’s a Joey baby.’ That went over well with some of the family, but not so well with others,” Skehans says.

She was born about a minute after midnight on April 1, 1949. The province’s union with Canada took place at 11:59 a.m on March 31, the history books say, to avoid Newfoundland’s joining Confederation being considered some kind of April Fool’s Day joke.

Skehans was born at home on Bell Island, delivered by Dr. Walter Templeman. The hospital on Bell Island is named after him.

Although she has never been given any official certification or recognition as being the first Newfoundland Confederation baby, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on the part of the good doctor.

“He had tried for years to get recognition, I guess, for himself too for borning the first baby after Confederation,” Skehans says.

Whatever the doctor was hoping for never happened.

There was never any recognition given to either.

Skehans is the aunt of MHA David Brazil.

“He went ballistic trying to get it certified,” Brazil says of Templeman.

The controversial nature of Confederation didn’t help the doctor get people to listen to his desire for official certification, Brazil figures. Whether the province should have joined Confederation is still a debate that heats up today from time to time. There are also those that are convinced the vote was fixed and this province was never meant to join Canada.

Skehans says politics has never been a huge interest of hers, but she’s fine with the permanent link she has with what might be the province’s most controversial political move.

When she was really young, Skehans says, she would hear people saying she was born after Confederation and she would just wonder who this Confederation person was they were talking about who was born before her.

“Every time there’d be a birthday, it was talked about,” Brazil says.

He even remembers that on the 25th anniversary of Confederation, people on Bell Island started talking again about getting Skehans recognized for her birth date and time.

The April Fool’s Day birthday did bring plenty of humour, though. As a teacher, she says, she was given countless bricks, sponges and cardboard covered in icing that students used as a gag to fool her on her birthday.

Perhaps being born on April Fool’s had something to do with honing Skehans’ great sense of humour moreso than her political interest.

“It’s not surprising, when my mother was 42 and my father was 62, that I should show up April Fool’s Day. I don’t think I was planned,” she says.

She also jokes about how lucrative her birth was, given that she was likely the first baby that qualified any parents for the baby bonus.

As for not being officially recognized, Skehans isn’t sweating it. And neither is her family.

Given that a prominent, respected surgeon logged the official time of her birth, they’re all convinced of her birthright.

“It’s hard to beat 12:01 a.m,” says Brazil.

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Bell Island, Brazil Canada

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Recent comments

  • Jane (Judy} Gloster
    April 05, 2014 - 11:34

    There should be some form of recognition, that was an important event at the time. How well I remember those days, many would rather NL become a part of the USA, in those days Fort Pepperel, (Air Force Base) Argentia (Naval Base} were a big part of the community.

  • stephanie
    April 05, 2014 - 10:33

    Who was the last Newfie born befor confederation?

  • edwardsweeney
    April 05, 2014 - 06:52

    Great Story