If you’re Irish, come into the parlour

Peter Jackson
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It’s just not good enough that St. John’s has gone so long without a gratuitous Irish suburb.
Thanks to former premier Danny Williams, we’ll soon have one the size of Gander.

Galway, that fourth largest city of the Emerald Isle, is now the

new name for Williams’ 2,400-acre development on the other side of Mount Pearl.

Williams chose the name to honour his mother, whose surname is Galway. But it’s hardly a surprise he went with some Irish moniker.

This is the premier, after all,

who launched “Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground,” a permanent exhibit at The Rooms depicting

“the close relationship that exists between Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador, spanning hundreds of years to present day.”

Visitors are encouraged to “find out why so many people from Trepassey to Tilting describe themselves as Irish Newfoundlanders.”

A capital idea, that, notwithstanding the fact there’s no permanent exhibit celebrating our connection with … oh, I don’t know, England, France or Portugal?

Time for a rewrite

The desire among Eiro-Newfs to rewrite the landscape is understandable. The city is rife with reminders of our British colonial past.

We have Duckworth and Gower streets, named after governors, as well as Kensington Drive and Cornwall Avenue.

And Empire Avenue must surely stir the bile.

True, we do have Dublin Road and Belfast Street, but then the Scots have Edinburgh Street and Aberdeen Avenue.

We even have a nod or two to Wales, such as Burry Port Street and Vaughan Place. It makes my one-quarter Welsh blood surge with pride.

I wasn’t so proud several years ago when a group of Welsh descendants tried to stir up a little tribal passion on St. Andrew’s Day. I did a writeup for The Telegram, but my exuberance for fair comment got the better of me and I referenced, ever so delicately, the rather unpolished performance of the resident church choir. I was immediately disowned.

In any case, despite all the reminders of British colonialism, we’re often led to believe St. John’s is Irish to the core.

Apparently we all grew up under the thumb of the priest. How else could so many Irish bands thrive in one small community?

Have ye got a tin whistle, laddie? C’mon, there’s always room for another.

St. Paddy’s Day is not just another holiday here. It’s a national fête. In some ways, we are more Irish than the Irish.

You don’t think so?

Ask former Irish PM John Bruton. He spent as many Paddy’s Days on George Street as he did on native soil.

So, now we have Galway — which is a three-syllable word, by the way, pronounced “Gall-a-way.” Don’t believe me? Listen to Anna McGoldrick.

And our Ireland away from Ireland is complete. Or is it?

A 2011 census found well over half of this province’s residents identified ethnocultural ancestry as Canadian first.

And among those reaching for ethnic homelands, 40 per cent chose England, while 20 per cent cited Ireland.

Alas, only half of one per cent traced their heritage to Wales. I am in a lonely minority.

But this is not, I assure you, an Orangeman’s rant.

There is something markedly more colourful about the Irish heritage in Newfoundland than most of the others — including those of our aboriginal landlords.

I have happily consorted with some of the most authentic Irish descendants around, and even managed to marry a woman with roots in County Cork.

What’s so surprising about the 2011 census, however, is that it occurred to less than one per cent of respondents to simply tout their ancestry as “Newfoundland.”

Jaysus! Whatever happened to that pride Danny gave back to us?

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor. Email: pjackson@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: The Rooms

Geographic location: Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador, England Emerald Isle Wales Trepassey France Portugal Cornwall Avenue Dublin Road Belfast Street Edinburgh Street Burry Port Street Vaughan Place George Street

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Recent comments

  • Colin Burke
    February 13, 2014 - 08:34

    Mr. Jackson's column might have mentioned that Danny may be even more Welsh than Mr. Jackson: Danny's surname seems to be Welsh and I have reason to believe much of his ancestry is as Welsh as some of mine. As for the comment someone made about telling from his accent that a person is from Fortune Bay, I doubt that it can be done: my native outport St. Jacques had an accent much different from those of the "Blormers" three miles away: there was not, I believe, a "typical Fortune Bay accent." The "Blormers," by the way, for people not familiar with the area, occupied Belleoram.

    • Sub Sandwich Bay
      February 13, 2014 - 11:53

      We have tribes of Griffiths in Ship Harbour. This is as close to the Silurians as you can get! Same 'Welsh slate' in Burgoynes cove lured in a few Welshmen. It's Welshman everywhere! Prince Madoc was here sure ya knows, his descendants, all Metis now like the rest of us.

  • Cashin Delaney
    February 13, 2014 - 02:49

    I don't recall any history of a native, aboriginal landlord-class, or Beothuk Government administering "A Pale" on the Avalon at any time, or any enterprising Inuit middlemen used as rent collectors on St. Brendan's crew (so that’s why he didn’t stay!)? Maybe the hidden history of these rapacious, secret, land tycoons was covered up in an attempt to paint the evil Beothuk cabal in a less greedy light, and absolve them from responsibility for the decline of the Viking presence due to the bursting of the sod-house bubble?? Newfoundland is Irish, just as South Carolina is African. Yes there are a good many black people there, many who couldn't name five African countries, nor speak a lick of any native African language, nor having preserved much, if any, of the native culture due to such "hasty exodus and transplantation". These hard-working people were much too fixated on cotton and codfish to notice their own language disappearing. I remember the first time I signed into the post-production Voisey's Bay camp. Are you: 1)Innu 2)Inuit 3)Métis 4)Labradorian 5)Newfoundlander 6)Other As a supporter of the Innu Nation, a man of British-Inuit lineage concieved in Wabush and raised on the Burin Peninsula – I didn’t have a solid answer ready. My Mother is from Battle Harbour and I had worked all over Labrador, and almost every corner of Newfoundland, since 1996. I would not have selected ‘Newfoundland and Labradorian’ even if it was an option that day, as this is layering another absurdity on the whole farce, a foolish Franken-name born of greed, stupidity and political wrangling in an era of perpetual rebranding. I selected 'Other' on the check-in sheet, in a mildly amused confusion, and so did my co-worker from Sudbury. We accepted our temporary fate as 6th class corporate citizens. I was once, but have since ceased to be a member of the Labrador Métis Nation via attrition, but am still métis of course, as I was accepted into the Labrador Metis Nation in 2000, but have not attempted or desired to rejoin the rebranded organization. I prefer my small “m” métis status, and my worldly, mysterious otherness, to the scrabbling for status that is bringing us to greater division, and continuing our ‘conquerediness’ within Canada. John Ralston Saul has remarked that Canada is a Métis Nation, and we are all, small ‘m’ métis. Discuss.

  • saltydog
    February 12, 2014 - 16:40

    what was the purpose of this column? Of all the things to write about you choose to deliver an editorial talking about the Irish presence in NL, because Williams names his real estate after his mother's maiden name (whatever the connotation or purpose). I am from the southern shore and quite proud of my heritage. I don't run around shouting begorahh and such. I live as somone from Newfoundland., however its unmistakable to say what part of the island I'm from, as much as it is to place someone from the Northern Pennisula,or Fortune Bay. What ever lilt or turn of phrase I have is something that should be good to hear in this increasingly homogenized world. NL is full of accents and speech patterns, back grounds and cultural ties to Europe and elsewhere that enriches. When you build your real estate development, you can call it for any part of Wales, India, japan or any other part of this earth you choose.

  • DON II
    February 12, 2014 - 09:45

    If Premier Danny Williams really wanted to properly promote authentic historic notoriety and prominence to the Irish in Newfoundland and Labrador his Government should not have promoted and funded the Cupids 400 Celebrations in the town of Cupids in 2010! The Cupids 400 Celebrations were designed to promote and celebrate the purported landing of British merchant John Guy at Cupids in 1610 where he allegedly established the Sea Forest Plantation. If the Government of Newfoundland had done proper historical research it would have discovered numerous historical documents, letters, Royal Charter Land Grants and 17th century maps which clearly show that John Guy did not land at Cupids and did not establish either the Sea Forest Plantation or the Cupers Cove Plantation at Cupids! The historic documents, maps and John Guy's own letter of October 6, 1610, clearly show that John Guy landed at Cupers Cove near Salmon Cove (now Avondale) and that his personal grant of land which he named Sea Forest Plantation land was located near Avondale and not at Cupids. The historic documents and maps clearly show that Cupids Cove was never known as Cupers Cove! Historic documents and newspaper stories from the late 1800's and early 1900's reveal the religious and politically motivated reasons why the town of Cupids was afforded the historic distinction of being the landing place of John Guy. The religious and politically motivated actions of the Protestant clergy, Protestant politicians, the Protestant establishment and even by Protestant Judge Prowse in the late 1800's and early 1900's were undertaken to ensure that historic documents showing that John Guy landed and established the Cupers Cove Plantation near Salmon Cove (now Avondale) were questioned, edited, dismissed, omitted or suppressed from public view and opinion! The boundary of the Colony of Avalon included all of the land from Ferryland to Petty Harbour to Salmon Cove (now Avondale) to Placentia and back to Ferryland! The people living in or near Avondale and Ferryland are predominantly of Irish heritage and faithful to the Roman Catholic religion. It was simply not acceptable to the Protestant clergy, Protestant politicians and Protestant establishment of the late 1800's and early 1900's, when the Cupids myth began in earnest, to admit that the historic landing of John Guy and the location of the famous Cupers Cove Plantation and its annexation into the Colony of Avalon all occurred in predominantly Irish and Roman Catholic areas! Hence, the fictional attachment of John Guy to Cupids was created to distort and suppress the historic facts and deprive the Irish at Avondale and Ferryland of their historic connection to John Guy. If Premier Danny Williams had been made aware of these historic facts he may not have been so quick to instruct his Government to promote and fund the fictional historic celebrations at Cupids! Premier Williams should have been informed that neither John Guy nor Henry Crout ever mentioned a place called Cupids in any of their letters to England and that Edward Wynne, the Governor of the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, referred to the Cupers Cove Plantation near Salmon Cove (now Avondale) which was located within the boundary of the Colony of Avalon, as our "Northern Plantation"! It appears that Premier Williams missed a golden opportunity to promote and afford the descendents of the Irish at Avondale and Ferryland the historic notoriety and prominence derived from their well documented historic connection to John Guy and the Cupers Cove Plantation. The Government of Newfoundland instead ignored the historic connection to John Guy of the Irish at Avondale and Ferryland and arbitrarily afforded the notoriety and prominence of a fictional historic connection to John Guy to the English at Cupids! The fact remains that the first official English settlement in Canada was actually located and established near what became a predominantly Irish area at Avondale and not at English Cupids! The Government of Newfoundland continues to promote the Cupids myth by creating the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site which purports to commemorate the historic Cupids Cove Plantation. The historic Cupids Cove Plantation is a fictional place, created by the Government of Newfoundland, which was never mentioned by John Guy or Henry Crout in their letters and is never mentioned anywhere in the entire historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador!

  • david
    February 12, 2014 - 08:38

    First it was Glencrest...I guess he thought he was Scottish back then. If the little emperor just had a little more egotistical bravado, he could change the name every month....Prague, Paris, Rio de Janeiro.....price it in Euros and let the lemmings fight over it.

    • yo mama
      February 13, 2014 - 04:40

      Why you mad bro?

  • Too Funny
    February 12, 2014 - 08:26

    "I have happily consorted with some of the most authentic Irish descendants around," is strangely similar to "I'm not a racist, I know a black person".

    • Frank
      February 12, 2014 - 13:30

      TooFunny: ...except when he's throwing in similarly tongue-in-cheek references to his own Welsh heritage. But go on anonymously making accusations of racism, that's ... actually, no. Please stop that.