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A Royal Screech-In from the woods

There is a rite of passage for those who visit Newfoundland & Labrador and want to be an honorary citizen – this ritual is known as the Screech-in.

I brought this custom to the Czech Republic as part of the Canadian Nation to Nation celebration in 2007. With 1500 people at the Face2Face Club, some dressed in Halloween Customs (myself a Canadian Mountie), enjoying pancakes with maple syrup, nanaimo bars, Ceasers and lots of trick or treat items. The visitors were given a presentation of all-things Canadian and then a game was played. The Canadian Lumberjack Challenge for Honorary Citizenship:

Round 1 – Three Individuals chug a bottle of Canadian Maple Syrup

Round 2 -Two Individuals chugging a giant Molson Canadian Beer

Round 3 – Had myself as Captain Jack and my trusty assistant Sparrow deliver a Screech-in wearing a poncho and yellow rubber boots. We determined the stage was owned temporarily by the Newfoundlanders, which permitted the Screech-in ceremony. As the person completed the tasks he was made an honorary Newfoundlander. In turn, because Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 – he would also be an honorary Canadian.

This was the first visit to Newfoundland and Labrador for my German friend, my Swiss friend had been before and was Screeched-in at Christians Bar on George Street. It was my pleasure to break out the South Wester and let the ceremony begin. My first from the woods…

Each Screech-in ceremony has a few variations depending on who is delivering it. I always ask “where ya from?”  “Do you want to be a Newfoundlander?”

We begin by talking like a Newfoundlander and throwing out a few lines. After talking like a Newfoundland. I ask ’em to get down on their ‘knucks. It typically gets a puzzled look. After a few repeated requests they get down on their knees.

Then they get the stamp of the Newfoundland map drawn on their forehead. Since, I was in the cabin, I improvised with an ice candle (icicle). Then I usually take the salt water and baptize them; however, in this case I used pond water.

Next we sang a tune and danced a little jig. After talking, dancing and being christened, next the person must dress like a Newfoundlander.

Since we were in the forest, I did not have my trusty rubber suit, rubber boots or hat. Instead I handed over my South Wester’ hat and had him put on my wooden rackets (snowshoes w/sealskin). I was not handing over my sealskin boots, belt or wallet.

After looking like a Newfoundlander – one must eat like a Newfoundlander…First Newfie Steak which is bologna.

Normally, I’d have some Purity Rum n’ Butter Kiss candies (quintessentially,  from Newfoundland & Labrador). Instead this time, I included my Swiss friend and he handed over a Lindt chocolate ball.

Next is the Screech Rum! Before we drink though – we always get the person to say:

“Indeed it is me ol’ cock and long may your big jib draw”  – I point out my translation:

“indeed it is’:  here we are

“my ol’ cock”: cock comes from Olde English meaning buddy or friend. So: my old friend

jib: sail of a ship

draw: gust of wind

If a good gust of wind hits a sail of a ship, one will have smooth sailing.

Translation: Here we are my old friend, smooth sailing.

Leave it too a Newfoundlander to made a long and fancy way of saying cheers!

Down the hatch. Next comes the Kissing of the Cod. Now since the moratorium in 1992, it is quite difficult to get a cod fish. I won’t get on a rant about that today. So instead we used a whitefish or smelt that was caught by us a few days prior.

The facial expressions are priceless…Pucker Up

After completing all the tasks, my friend has been granted the rite of passage by the Royal Order of Screechers – presented his certificate of being an honorary Newfoundlander.

If you come to rural Newfoundland & Labrador, check with the local pubs. If you are not successful, look me up as I would be happy to conduct the Screech-in ceremony, so you too can be an Honorary Newfoundlander.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
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The Roving Newfoundlanders

Newfoundlanders & Labradorian’s continue to roam the world, passing on talents, exploring and making history. I’ve been reading Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland: Songs of the People from the Days of our Forefathers. Compiler and Publisher, Gerald S. Doyle (1892-1956) was one of Newfoundland’s most successful businessman, establishing a province-wide pharmaceutical and home products business. Additionally, he had a passion for preserving culture. His newspaper, “The Family Fireside” was provincially distributed, provided good advice and noted first-hand accounts about the social and economic conditions of rural communities, as well as promoted his products. He certainly was a very savvy businessman. He has done us all a remarkable service through his publications. We now have preserved in time these songbooks for us to enjoy, reflect and compare with current Newfoundland folk songs.

Newfoundlanders  are known for being musical and having our own unique folk songs. Today, I will share with you “The Roving Newfoundlanders” taken from Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland

The Roving Newfoundlander

  • As I was setting in my homestead on day
  •          while all alone,
  • I was thinking of my countrymen and
  •         where they had to roam,
  • From England to America, Australia and
  •        Japan
  • Where’er you go you’ll surely find a man
  •        from Newfoundland.
  • They’re the pride of every country, good
  •        fortune on the smile!
  • They climbed the heights of Alma, and
  •        crossed the river Nile,
  • They sailed unto Vancouver, you’ll find it on
  •        the roll,
  • And on the expedition went nearest to
  •       the Pole.
  •  
  • It’s way out in South Africa where hogs
  •       they stand so high,
  • They used their guns and bayonets the
  •       Boers for to destroy,
  • Where cannons roar like thunder
  •       destructions on the plain
  • You sons of Terra Nova, you fought for
  •       England’s fame.
  •  
  • ‘was Nelson at Trafalgar the victory
  •        did gain,
  • The Americans fought the Spaniards for
  •        blowing up the Maine;
  • She sunk with all of her gallent crew,
  •       that gay and gallant band,
  • They’re sleeping in their watery graves like
  •       sons of Newfoundland.
  •  
  • When my mind been bent on roaming, ’tis
  •       something sad to tell
  • Out in the mines of Cuba one of my
  •      comrades fell.
  • His age had scarce been twenty-one, just
  •      entered in full bloom,
  • On the eighteenth day of June was
  •      summoned to his tomb.
  •  
  • They sailed the Mediterranean, I’ve heard
  •       the clergy tell,
  • They went out into Egypt, from that to
  •       Jacob’s Well,
  • They’ve fished the Northern and Grand
  •       Banks from every hole and knap,
  • They are the tyrants of the sea, they
  •       fished the Flemish Cap.
  •  
  • And now my song is ended, I think I have
  •       done well,
  • My birthplace and my station I’m trying
  •      for to tell.
  • I’ve spoken of every nation, I’ve freely won
  •      my race,
  • I am a Newfoundlander belongs to
  •      Harbour Grace.

My grandfather at 80 years, passed away this June. He had a remarkable memory and ability to rhyme off anecdotes, jokes, stories, poems and other lines from days gone by. I only wish we had greater written accounts of all his knowledge and tales. He is sadly missed. So take time and write down that traditional song, story or event, it can help us preserve our Newfoundland & Labrador culture as  we continue to advance in society. In the early 1900’s we may have been required to own a newspaper company to reach the mass of a province; however, today we have social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and others to reach the world.

Live Rural Newfoundland –

CCM

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