Today is National Heritage Day and Canadians are invited to celebrate Heritage by learning about our country’s immense historical, cultural and natural heritage. Newfoundlanders & Labradorians have deep roots and are strongly connected to our many aspects of heritage.
I took the opportunity today to explore one of our cultural icons off the Great Northern Peninsula – Sir Doctor Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. I began by reading a couple of new chapter’s of Ronald Rompkey’s “A Biography Grenfell of Labrador“. This work of Canadian History had received such comments from The Globe and Mail:
Ronald Rompkey shows that Grenfell went beyond being a doctor or a missionary to become a cultural politician who intervened in a colonial culture. Grenfell of Labrador provides a vivid picture of the man and the social movements through which he worked.
There is an abundance of social history here and all of it is worth knowing – The Globe and Mail
I still have many pages of this work to read, and look forward to hearing about how Grenfell set-up his missionary work focusing on health care. He believed that advancing employment and education was a means to promote healthy lifestyles, so his mission developed schools, an orphanage, cooperatives (fishery, retail, forestry, craft), industrial work projects (agriculture), and aspects of social work. His mission, the International Grenfell Association gained international status in 1914. It will be celebrating its 100 year in 2014.
The legacy continues, even today as the Grenfell Historical Society continues to operate a museum, archives and interpretation centre that has thousands of visitors throughout the year. There are regular craft nights and a focus to retain the Grenfell Handicrafts and use the famous “Grenfell cloth” in its clothing.
I dropped by the Heritage Gift Shop and purchased the coaster below. If you would like to make a purchase on-line visit: http://www.grenfell-properties.com/STORE/
I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on an aspect of heritage. We can learn much from where we have come, as we plan for the future.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
- Giving the Gift of something Handmade cannot be Beat (liveruralnl.com)
More developments in Conche, NL according to News Release:
P.O. Box 29, Conche, NL A0K 1Y0
Tele: 709-622-3500 Fax: 709-622-3510
For Immediate Release Contact: Joan Simmonds/Colleen McLean 709-622-3500
THE FRENCH SHORE HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO LAUNCH
THE CENTRE FOR TEXTILE ART
CONCHE, NL ———- On July 26, 2011 the French Shore Historical Society will officially open a Centre for Textile Art. The purpose of the Centre will be to encourage the art of handmade textile crafts and to promote the art and history of textile-based traditions, especially of the Northern Peninsula. The Centre will focus on the historical textile development of northern Newfoundland by acquiring, preserving and making accessible a research collection of textiles and relevant documents. It will sponsor exhibitions, conferences, symposia, oral history projects, publications, fellowships and grant funded initiatives.
Since its founding in 2000, the French Shore Historical Society has showcased textile work by craftspeople in the region, including exhibitions of hooked rugs, knitting, embroidery, and included textile objects in its permanent exhibit. It has sponsored several workshops on textile art and in 2009 added the unique French Shore Tapestry, embroidered by women from Conche, as a major part of its exhibit.
In 2010, as a foundation for developing the centre, a research project was undertaken by the French Shore Historical Society in partnership with the Port au Choix – St. Anthony Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat. The purpose of the research was to document the traditional craft skills on the Great Northern Peninsula, with particular attention to crafts using or creating textiles. An inventory of the research, done by Memorial University student Lisa Wilson, can be accessed by visiting the MUN Digital Archives Initiatives.
In the Fall of 2010 a steering committee was created and consists of:
Anne Manual – Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador
Barb Hunt- Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook
Brenda Stratton – Dept. of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development
Candace Cochrane – Quebec Labrador Foundation
Denise White – Dept. of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development
Gerry Pocius – Memorial University of Newfoundland
Joan Simmonds – French Shore Historical Society
Lisa Wilson – MUN Research Student
Nina Mitchelmore – Regional Planner for Rural Secretariat
Susan Furneaux – College of the North Atlantic
The French Shore Historical Society is a non-profit organization founded to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the communities of Conche , Croque, Grand Oies/St. Julien’s and Main Brook on the Northeast coast of Newfoundland. The FSHS has successfully managed many projects which have created great economic benefits, employment opportunities, and great tourism potential on the Great Northern Peninsula.
The Opening will be a Basket Weaving Workshop with Helga Gillard . Funding was provided by the International Grenfell Association through fundraising efforts of the French Shore Historical Society.
Sir Doctor Wilfred Grenfell, a visionary for the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador instilled in others the opportunity for greater economic development. A visit to the Grenfell Interpretation Centre in St. Anthony illustrates many hand hooked rugs on the walls, as well as available at the gift shop. A video played notes that women should send their stockings to Labrador. This would allow the material to be recycled and hooked into rugs.
I enrolled four weeks ago into the basic mat hooking course, offered by the College of the North Atlantic, St. Anthony Campus at my local high school, which is 10 minutes from where I lived. I have a love for life-long learning, especially skills that stemmed from necessity.
The class has eleven people registered. Most are nearing retirement or are retired, some are even senior citizens. It is quite safe to say, all are older than myself with the exception of our instructor. Ms. Gaulton, a graduate of the CNA Textile studies program learnt the rug hooking process and continues to create her own unique designs. Youth like Ms. Gaulton will continue to inspire others to learn, be creative and retain elements of local culture.
Rug hooking is no longer a necessity, as it was in the past. I was told by a co-worker, women would hook rugs out of potato sacks to place by bedside to protect their feet from the chilling cold of winter. They did not have a choice not to have these skills. Those with a high skill-level were also able to sell to the International Grenfell Association, a specialty designed rug. A visit to a Personal Care Home in Flower’s Cove brought back memories for some residents who proudly say they hooked mats for Grenfell Handicrafts. Today the definite loss to preserve our culture is more and more evident. I am curious as to why did our parent’s generation not continue to practise such a useful skill? Most did not have large families, what consumed their time? Did our parents just become victims of mass consumerism and not producers? This inability to pass on tradition has a domino effect on the future generations. Typically, one learns from a parent, guardian or close relative various skills during childhood. These generational gaps, without proper bridging will see many skills lost in the near future.
There is interest in the revival of this tradition as I continue to tell people of my enrollment, which to my excitement, includes youth. The interest grows knowing that the course is offered in their own community. General interest courses offered at satellite locations can create an environment to learn and continue on an individual or group setting after the last class is over.
Live Rural NL –
- My First Traditional Hooked Rug… (liveruralnl.com)
- A Happy Hooker – As I learn the traditional skills of rug hooking. (liveruralnl.com)
- Rug Hooking – Learning the Process (liveruralnl.com)
As I continue with my vacation on June 27, 2010…no trip to St. Anthony could have been complete without a visit to Grenfell Historic Properties. The scene was 1892 when Dr. William Thomason Grenfell, a new practitioner of the UK decides to join the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fisherman. Dr. Grenfell came to rural regions of Labrador during that first year. Medical and social conditions were so deplorable that led Dr. Grenfell to return, but with the help of a couple of doctors, nurses and a hospital boat. His mission had began to bring medical, social services and hope through preaching to the people to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Grenfell had a passion and strong belief to make life better for those around him. His faith in himself and the inspiration he had on others led to monumental developments which started the Grenfell Mission.
He began developing cottage hospitals, fundraising and expanding services to various regions. By 1912 he had established the International Grenfell Association, which gained international recognition by 1914. Dr. Grenfell had began to take on many ambitious projects including developing schools, orphanages, social services, preaching, industrial projects (Grenfell Handicrafts), co-operatives, and agricultural sites, as well as authoring books, articles and creating artwork to sell in the form of Christmas cards. Additionally, Dr. Grenfell began promoting the mission to many renown and influential figures from across the world including former Presidents of the United States, Prime Ministers of England and Prime Ministers of Canada, as well as industrialists and other philanthropists who became supporters and donors.
Dr. Grenfell was an icon and has forever left his mark on the development of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. In his career he had established a number of hospitals and medical services, founded the International Grenfell Association, written 33 books, numerous articles, was knighted, inducted in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Memorial University’s Western Campus is named in his honor, he has his own distinguished fabric, known as “Grenfell Cloth”, Grenfell Drive carries his name and he has forever left a special place in my heart.
Sir Doctor Wilfred Thomason Grenfell is a role model. A man who stood for something, especially for the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The life changes and improvements that occurred in these regions because of him is expansive. After a visit to the interpretation centre, I asked myself, how did he manage all of these things? You could say he was well-rounded and a “jack of all traits”.
One short post can not do justice to this titan of a man, so there will be more on him and his contributions in the future. I’ll leave on the note that we are privileged to have many explorers, adventures, pioneers, missionaries, industrialists and settlers come to rural Newfoundland and Labrador and build the roots for the special place it is to all that has had the opportunity to experience it for themselves. Dr. Grenfell may be gone, but he is not forgotten and his legacy gracefully lives on. There are others who have come and gone since him and many more to follow. We all have our place and contributions to make, ensuring that Rural Newfoundland and Labrador flourishes with all the success it rightfully can achieve!
Stealing a line from Dale Carnagie, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” Tell yourself that three times out loud.
Together we can achieve the things we think we can not. Believe and we will prosper…