Vivian Pallard has a well-worn path made to the airport these days. She is a descendant of the famous Bowrings, and in timing with the 100th anniversary of the opening of Bowring Park, her family is having a reunion. A historical gathering may be a more appropriate title since it will be the first time some of the people will have been here to meet their relatives. About 15 months ago, Pallard and her family started tracking down Bowring descendants so that their gathering would coincide with the Centennial Bowring Park celebrations.
“There are hundreds of them and I knew that. but I’m not always in contact with the crowd in England and since the (Bowring) company is no longer connected to the family it was going to be harder,” says Pallard.
When asked how many she convinced to come, there’s a lot of fuss over names and numbers being repeated on the other end of the line. Pallard is at the airport again waiting on another pickup and it’s clear her excitement is real — if not a touch overwhelming. About 50 people are coming from places including Hong Kong, Tasmania and, of course, Europe.
Benjamin Bowring arrived in Newfoundland in the early 1800s and was Pallard’s great-great-great-grandfather.
“This is the motherland of Bowrings,” Pallard says. “It all started here.”
The business Benjamin Bowring started evolved into Bowring Bros. Ltd. with his descendants. In 1911, they were celebrating 100 years of business in Newfoundland. To commemorate the event, they wanted to give a gift to the city of St. John’s. It was the 50-acre Rae Island Farm, which was bought on behalf of the Bowring company and presented to the city. That 50 acres that has grown to 200 and is a true iconic landmark of St. John’s.
“It’s nice that it stayed what it was — a family park where you can just go and relax,” says Pallard.
When her father died they dedicated a bench to him in the park.
“When I’m having a rough day I’ll go down and sit on Dad’s bench and always — it doesn’t matter what time of year it is — always there’s people walking in the park.”
Of course, some of the people coming for her reunion may know the history of the Bowrings and the park in St. John’s, but will not have a connection to it or the family they have here.
So what is drawing them?
“The answer I got from a lot — ‘Always meant to come and didn’t ever have a reason,’” says Pallard.
One woman who is coming is now 100 years old and was at the opening of Bowring Park on July 15, 1914. She was just three months old.
“It’s just been fun to find them,” Pallard says of her relatives. “I’m hoping that everybody who has come is going to go back with positive tales and we’ll get a few more of them out here. It is, as I say, the motherland. They should be out here.”
During the weekend there were events for children and adults to celebrate the Bowring Park centennial. On Tuesday — the actual 100-year anniversary — there will be a re-enactment of the opening of the park.