Friday, November 30, 2007

Folklore and Ghost Stories, Part II

Well, there were a few nice responses to yesterday's post asking about local stories and folklore concerning ghosts, fairies, superstitions, the supernatural, etc. I'm going to post two of them below, anonymously. If you've got more, send it along to --- contributions are the blog's lifeblood!
The first one is with regards to the devil at a dance on Red Island. It's a local story I've heard a few times myself --- does anyone know any more specific details, such as when this was reputed to have happened?

There was a story about a stranger at Red Island who went to a dance and the dancers could not stop dancing after he arrived. It is said that it was the devil. Ask around and you might find out more about this story.


The second concerns the spring or well that runs out from under Cemetery Hill in Placentia (I've always called this Swans Spring). I had heard that drinking from it meant you'd never leave Placentia (or, you're destined to always come back). The rest of it is all news to me! Is there anyone else with info about this spring or well? I know (as PATH's comedic skit 'Dirty Laundry' reports) it was abandoned as a water source sometime in the 19th century, because of fear of run-off from the cemetery.

Have you heard anything about the Old French Well under Cemetery Hill and what some locals have said about it? For instance, I've heard about a French soldier's finger that was cut off and thrown into its depths? And weasels that will spit in your eye if you go near it after dark? And if you drink from it you'll never leave Placentia.... or something like that?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tales of Ghosts, Fairies, and the Supernatural

Perhaps because I've been reading Wonderful Strange, a collection of supernatural stories from Newfoundland collected by Dale Jarvis (of St. John's Ghostwalk fame), but today I'm wondering . . .

Here in the Placentia area, do you have any stories of ghosts? fairies? unexplained or weird events? Or even just a bit of information about a house that you'd heard was haunted?

Please email them to or drop them off at the Placentia Public Library (the blog's headquarters). If you're afraid of people saying you're foolish or crazy, we'd be more than happy to respect anonymity if it's requested.

I'll start.

I grew up in and around the Burnt Woods in Southeast (Bond's Path). There were a lot of children in this neighbourhood in the 80's and 90's. Some were adamant that the curve of road just past the turn off for Lannon's Place and Burnt Woods subdivisions (heading away from Placentia) was haunted. A ghost was supposed to appear there at midnight every night.

At the time, the only building on that bit of road was the old abandoned (now restored) cabin. The old schoolhouse just before the curve had been recently torn down; none of the new houses that are there now had been built. I'm sure we were just easily spooked kids and these abandoned old buildings, the lack of lights, and the encroaching woods were to blame. I never saw a ghost anywhere near the Burnt Woods, and older folks who I've mentioned it to are not familiar with the story.

Another possibility is that the story began as an easy way for parents to get their kids to keep curfew. I know for sure there were some nights when you'd be flying on your bicycle or running fit to kill yourself, to make sure you got past the curve and safely home before the witching hour struck.

Now, working at the O'Reilly House last summer, there actually were a number of minor yet unexplained events . . . .

. . . . but I want to hear stories, first. Remember, email them (or anything you'd like to see here!) to or drop them to the Placentia Library.

- The Maintainer
(Michael Collins, if you've been curious who's been running this particular ship)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Railway Station Replica

Bernard Penney has kindly sent along this picture of his intricately carved model of the old Placentia train station.

As always, click the image to view it larger!

Bernard writes: After developing an interest in woodworking and having a special interest in trains, I decided to make a model of the Placentia Railroad Station that was built in 1888 in the Coalyard on Jerseyside. After approximately 720 hours of work this is the result.

It certainly is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship and work of art, reflecting our history and a lost piece of our architectural heritage.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tourism Associations

Tom O'Keefe has been kind enough to email us this story, which appeared in last week's Charter.

A Perfect Fit: Tourism Associations Merge to Form New Group.

A precis: The Irish Loop and Avalon Gateway tourism associations have merged to form the Southern Avalon Tourism Association. The two organizations, representing the Southwest and Southeast Avalon respectively, still exist as separate entities when it comes to other issues such as rural development, but they've joined forces on Tourism.

Here is the new board of directors for SATA, photographed at the merger. They are (back row, left to right) Billy Luby, Rick Hayden, Margie Hatfield, Jeff Peddle, Chris Mooney; (front row, left to right) Elaine Murray, Stan Cook Sr., Maureen Sullivan, Marjorie Gibbons, Martha Mullowny, and Calvin Manning.

Calvin Manning, executive director of Avalon Gateway, sums up the motive behind the move: "What they're promoting is not that different than what we're promoting. We're promoting coastal scenery, we're promoting our Irish heritage, we're promoting bird watching, whale watching, archaeology – archaeology in Ferryland, archaeology in Placentia.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Is "bienvenue a la ville de Plaisance!" the limit of your French? Feel like you should know a bit more, living in the ancient French capital as we do? Well, here's a great chance to knock the rust off your ol' francais.

On Wednesday nights, from 7-9 pm, Margie McFarlane will be leading classes in French. These are open to the public, and happen in Classroom 7 at the College of the North Atlantic's Placentia Campus. The classes are free, but there is a suggested donation ($2), with the money going to L'Association Francaise de Plaisance.

Learning a second language has proven benefits, beyond opening up job opportunities with the federal government and honouring our local heritage. In fact, Being bilingual actually boosts your brain power!

Anyone who is interested in can email Margie at for more information or to register.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Laval Come Home Year 2008

Laval High School is celebrating its 40th and likely final year in 2008 (since our shiny new state-of-the-art high school is due to open its doors in 2009).

Thousands of students (an estimate --- does anyone have an exact figure?) have walked its corridors, learned in its classrooms, and socialized in the Centre Block. To commemorate the massive and lasting impact Laval has had on the community --- and to give it one last hurrah from all its alumni --- 2008 has been designated Laval High Come Home Year.

Festivities will take place July 17-20, 2008. All sorts of events are in the works: concerts, open-houses, walking tours, fireworks, family activities, and more.

The re-union's website has plenty of info for the interested and the curious. They're currently looking for photos from days-gone-by, to post on the site.

Tell your friends!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Skewed weathermaps

If you're anything like me, some maps of Canada can be irksome. Why? Well, because we're so far east here in Newfoundland, they cram us into the upper-right hand corner of the map. You'd swear we were next door to Greenland, to look at them.

Well, the next time you want to give a smug "oh-you-must-be-used-to-the-cold" Mainlander a little trip, ask him which city is further south, Vancouver or St. John's. The answer? Why, our dear old St. John's Town, of course, by 187 kilometres too (so here in Placentia, we're more than 200 km south of that balmy BC metropolis).

Just as a trivia fact, we're also further south than Paris. In fact, the French Capital of Newfoundland (our own Plaisance, naturally) is 179 km to the south of the French Capital of . . . er . . . France.

If you click below, you'll see a little display I made up, with the aid of Google Earth. (In fact, all of these figures were calculated with Google Earth . . . what a great time-waster!) This is if major Canadian cities were on the same east-west latitude as St. John's.

As always, click to enlarge the image

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Marine Atlantic's Latest Controversy

Only a few months after volunteers got sick in their lifeboats*, Marine Atlantic looks like it's in trouble again.

It turns out their vessel Atlantic Freighter has a bad case of the ol' asbestos. It turns out Marine Atlantic has known this since the early 1990's. The assumption was that the asbestos were safely contained, but it turns out this may not have been the case.

Beyond Marine Atlantic's too-brief summer presence in our community, there is another local link to this story. As reported in the Charter, a Ship Harbour resident and Marine Atlantic employee has suffered prolonged exposure to the deadly chemicals. The Charter reports that the man's doctor predicts a 90% chance that he will suffer asbestos-related health problems in the future.

Marine Atlantic denies any wrongdoing and says previous air quality tests showed no problems. Look for further developments.

*during a mock disaster in the Bay of Islands

Monday, November 19, 2007

First snow of the year!

The ground isn't frozen so it won't stay, but we got our first snow this afternoon, November 19. Lots of people get poetic about first snows, but this light dusting seems a little anti-climatic to me!

Grouse in Southeast

Two big grouse, right out on the lawn!

(click to enlarge)

Sometimes nature puts on an impromptu show; it's one of the benefits of rural living.

As always, if you've got a picture you'd like to share, please email
it to

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy One-Month-aversary to us!

The Placentia Blog has officially been rolling for a month now! You might note the first post is actually October 3, but I installed visitor statistics software and started promoting the blog on October 15.

In that time, we've had 129 visitors from 8 countries. They've visited the blog 227 times, viewing 435 pages.

Thanks, everyone! Remember to check back regularly for updates! Also, remember, if you'd like to see something here, just email us: --- we're always thrilled to hear from people!

- The Maintainer

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Placentia Christmas Cards

Local artist Chris Newhook has been kind enough to forward to us this display of his Placentia Christmas Cards.

Click to enlarge the image and get a better look!

They feature beautiful wintery scenes from Placentia past and present. Starting in the upper left and going counter-clockwise, we have:

- Placentia Courthouse, 1902
- Mount Pleasant, 1900
- Placentia Church and Convent, 1890
- Orcan River, 1905
- St. Luke's Anglican Church
- Winter View of Placentia from Le Gaillardin
- Santa on Castle Hill
- Lower Road, Dunville
- Ship Harbour

Anyone interested in these cards can reach Chris at

Friday, November 9, 2007

Placentia's Floodplain

Since it's such a rainy day, I thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at Placentia's flood-y history.

Tropical Storm Chantal was a bit of anomaly, as floods go. Up until the 1990's, it wasn't rain that would flood us, it was tide, and it wasn't Dunville or Ship Harbour or Southeast or Point Verde that was at risk, it was the flats of Placentia itself.

Check out this flood risk map, from the Water Resources Atlas of Newfoundland. As you can see, naturally most of Placentia floods approximately once every 20 years; the lighter pink floods once every 100 years. It seems only the area from the Star Hall through to CONA is in the clear. The historic district of town seems to be most at risk.

Unfortunately, Old Placentia's prognosis is not good, from an environmental point of view. According to a Memorial University-run website, although the embankment facing the open sea and the seawall all along the Orcan protects us now,
"it will be increasingly difficult to protect Placentia from floods" "if one of the effects of global warming is a rise in sea-level."

I guess we'll deal with it as we always have done. Placentia has had some terrible floods over the years, and in future entries I'll delve further into this aspect of our history. It's part of the geographical nature of the town --- we're Newfoundland's version of Venice or New Orleans.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Rushoon (courtesy Dark Horse NF & Lab blog)

While the main focus of this blog are the communities from Ship Harbour to Branch (perhaps also Long Harbour and the northern reaches of St. Mary's Bay?), we're always happy to consider Placentia Bay at large. Thus, we were more than happy to receive an email from the maintainer of Dark Horse Newfoundland and Labrador, who has written an informative and enjoyable 'snapshot' of the Placentia Bay community of Rushoon.

First settled around 1830 by a couple of fishermen from England, it gradually grew in size. By 1921 the population was 130, and swelled to 232 by 1945, a good reflection of healthy fish stocks, and source of reliable work.

You can read the whole thing here.

Local Placenames

This is a partial (and perhaps only partially correct) list of local placenames in the Placentia area. If you know any that aren't listed here, or wish to correct one that is, please email, or even just leave a comment on this entry.

Some of them are commonly known, others less so. Many seem to be falling out of use.

Brulee - The marshy area behind the (new) hospital and the mall.

Swans - An older area of town, around the base of cemetery hill. Does anyone know the approximate boundaries of Swans? Does it extend over to St. Edward's School and the Star Hall, or is it just around The Boardwalk bar and lounge?

Sleepy Hallow - The stretch of homes above the Regatta Grounds.

Bond's Path - From Blockhouse Hill to Smelt River. Thought of as part of Southeast by many, but historically a separate community. Older homes seem to center on the brook that flows in the valley before Burnt Woods. Does anyone know the name of this brook? We grew up calling it Bond's Path River.

Crevecoeur - The cliff facing the ocean, just west of Freshwater.

Herring Cove - On the North East Arm, around the turn-off for Ferndale.

Glen's Cove - The landward side of the brackish pond or barachoix (crossed by a causeway) just past Point Verde. This was a community in the past; the old highroad went around the coast and crossed a small bridge at the brook at the base of the cove/pond.

There are plenty more --- this is just a hastily composed collection. Please feel free to add to it, or correct things that are here!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fall in Placentia

Fall in Placentia

It's been windy and wet today and yesterday, but the weather was glorious earlier in the week. Clear, crisp but not cold --- perfect for a walk on the boardwalk.

This photos is courtesy of Michael Collins, and was taken a few days ago. Click to view a large version.

Remember, if you've got pictures of your own, email them to us at

We welcome all submissions.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Silent Time - Paul Rowe's Book Launch

Paul Rowe reading from his first novel, The Silent Time, at its launch at the Placentia Public Library on the evening of October 29. 55 people attended the free event.