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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

Black Gold: Famous Newfoundland Screech

During the Napoleanic wars in the early 1800’s Newfoundlanders sold fish (when we say fish in Newfoundland, we refer to “codfish”) to parts of the Carribean, as markets to Portugal, Britain and other parts of Europe were too risky. In return these schooners would return to the island filled with rum. Still today, Famous Newfoundland Screech is imported from Jamaica and Bottled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation in St. Johns, NL. I sit and drink their Limited Edition tonight, which pays tribute to the past as it potrays an old-style image of years ago. This is a fine aged Jamaican rum, which is full flavoured and robust, yet remarkably soft, a well rounded rum……black gold.

For those who know me well, know I enjoy the sweet taste of our Famous Screech on occasion. However, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, most Newfoundlander’s I know depict Screech as strong and somewhat vile. I think my first attempt at a Screech and Coca-cola lasted near two hours. I remember it being somewhat unpleasant. However, I am resilient and never gave up with my attempts and now Newfoundland Screech is a rum of choice for me. I take great pride as I take each swallow of the black gold.

We have a famous ritual known as the “Screech-In”, which was adapted as a marketing campaign  developed around this liquor. I assume it was done to boost sales to visitors, as most locals I know still won’t stand to touch the stuff.

A Screech-in is a ceremony that enables first-time visitors to the province to become honourary Newfoundlanders. Many variations exists and it is a long time custom in many older bars, in which a person eats Newfoundland steak “balogna”, takes a shot of Screech, kisses a codfish and says “in’deed it’is me ol’ cock and long may your big jib draw” along with a few other tasks. If successful, the person gets a Certificate from the Royal Order of Screechers noting their special accomplishment. To explain the saying…

  • indeed it is: here we are
  • me ol’ cock: cock comes from Old English of your “buddy”, meaning my friend
  • jib: sail of a ship
  • draw: is a gust of wind

So here we are my friend, long smooth sailing. It is a fancy way of saying all the best for a worry free life or cheers. Leave it to us Newfoundlanders to make things complicated. 🙂

I had the opportunity to conduct a special Screech-in Ceremony, which at the Canadian Nation-2-Nation party while studying in Prague, Czech Republic at the Kamikaze (Face-2-Face) club in front of hundreds of people. Each week a different country had the opportunity to host a party teaching other exchange students and residents about each others Home Country. It was a Halloween celebration and about 20 Canadian Exchange students had the opportunity to host the party. We made Ceasars as a welcome drink, pancakes with maple syrup, nanaimo bars (a big hit) and lots of Halloween candy, pumpkins were carved and we were well dressed. I was a Mountie, we had cowgirls from Calgary, Canadian bacon and real lumber jacks. We showed a presentation highlighting our beautiful country and then played a game. It was elimination style…best two of three to chug maple syrup, next best to shotgun a giant can of Molson Canadian advances to have the opportunity to become an Honourary Canadian. Well, then I make my appearance…Captain Jack with my bright yellow rubber boots (thank you Theresa) from the waters of the Strait of Belle Isle with today’s catch “carp” (Czech speciality). I baptized the person with the salt water, got them down on their knucks, thought em’ how to do a jig, drink the screech, kiss the carp and say the words. Truly a great sport and totally deserving of being a resident of our beautiful island. We all danced the night away and I have many fond memories of that night. Thank you everyone….

Screech has become a big part of my tradition to pass on to others. This past Christmas I sent many mini bottles to past co-workers in Edmonton, to Tobias, Reto, David, Marcel, Valerie, Nacho (RIP) and many others. Soon too Benoit you will have the chance to become an honourary Newfoundlander….I hope you all enjoy the black gold as much as I do.

Cheers,

CCM

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