History of Holyrood
There are several accounts as to the origin of the name Holyrood. In “Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose” edited by Kenneth Sisam, rode is given as meaning cross and is listed as being the old English word rod. Holyrood was found on John Thornton’s map of Newfoundland of 1675 as being spelled ‘Hollyrode’. There is no dispute as to the meaning of the rode or rod but there are several theories as to how the name came to be given to Holyrood. According to E. R. Seary (1971) the application of the name was not religious, but rather the name was probably transferred to the area from Holyrood House in Edinburgh in the early 1600’s. There are others who feel that since the roots of the settlers were predominantly lrish catholic that the name was in fact religious in origin. One theory that also made the rounds in school children’s research was that the landscape itself suggested a cross. However it came to get it, the name stuck.
The parish then adopted the cross as its name and came to be known as Holy Cross Parish. Recorded settlement in Holyrood began in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. However, oral tradition has it that Martin O’Neil was the first settler and that he settled in 1689. We have no evidence to either substantiate or reject the claim. However, the O’Neil property was located right in the center of the main beach area – certainly a logical location for the first to arrive. A Newfoundland Government registration of property conducted in the early 1800’s records some of the earliest settlers. Some of the names recorded were those of James Walsh, Thomas Curreen, George Witch (Veitch), Aaron Luce (Lewis), Francis Beson (Besso), Cornelius Kennedy and James Healey. These people are recorded as receiving property grants for land in the 1780’s and 1790’s.
Although some purchased property, most were recorded as ‘cut out of the woods.” Because settlers were of Irish Catholic descent and their traditions have been so strong in this part of Conception Bay it has always been assumed that most of the early settlers came over directly from Ireland during the various waves of immigration that left that country in the 1800’s. Certainly in our history there are a number of families which can trace back their ancestry to specific areas of Ireland. However, in researching this book it was interesting to note that many of the old established names in Holyrood were also well established names in Harbour Main. Names like Hickey, Healey, Crawley, Walsh, Fewer, O’Neil, Mullowney, Penny, Quinlan and Joy were registered land holders in Harbour Main in the odd 1700’s. Since Harbour Main was settled much earlier it is quite probable that many early settlers in Holyrood had moved further in the bay from Harbour Main. A more complete list of early Harbour Main names is contained in the information section of this book.
As with most Newfoundland settlements during the 1800’s, the fishery was the focus of economic development. However, because Holyrood was so far in the bay from the inshore fishing grounds, this aspect of fishing was not as important. Instead the focus was on the Grand Bank, Western and Labrador fisheries which drew most men from the settlement each summer and the sea] hunt during the spring. 4 Bait, such as caplin and squid, were plentiful in Holyrood harbour and contributed substantially to the local industry; not only from a procurement aspect but also the service and supply of fishing vessels which came to Holyrood for bait.
This early involvement with distant fisheries would have a major impact on the lifestyle of the people of Holyrood for well over a hundred years. Men were accustomed to working away for long periods of time, and wives and families were accustomed to maintaining the home front without their men-folk. In later years, when the Newfoundland fishery collapsed on several occasions, men from Holyrood travelled wherever they needed to go to find work, while retaining their homes in Holyrood. This development thus reduced Holyrood’s dependence on any single economic development. For example, in the 1890’s when the fishery was in chaos, Holyrood men could be found shipping on the Great Lakes, building the subways of Boston, searching for gold in the Klondike, working in shipyards in Philadelphia and Seattle,and a host of other occupations. While many moved away a remarkable number maintained their families and homes in Holyrood.
This involvement with the Labrador and Grand Banks fisheries created a fleet of “bankers” which were the large vessels that sailed to the various fishing grounds.It has been said that at one time one could walk across North Arm harbour on the decks of bankers sheltering from weather. This proliferation of banking schooners also spawned a host of banking captains. A later chapter deals with them in more detail.
In the early 1800’s agriculture also became an important undertaking. Because of the vagaries of the Newfoundland fishery early settlers began to become more self-sufficient in foodstuffs to reduce their dependency on the fishing income. By the mid 1800’s farming had become so important to the local economy that “area residents petitioned the government to improve roads so that markets would be more accessible.” 5 According to a Census at the time the common crops of Newfoundland were grown as well as oats. Sheep, poultry, horses, swine and cattle were raised.
The early to mid 1800’s saw the development of a community in Holyrood. In the 1830’s a road was developed which followed the shoreline around the bay and connected the area to St. john’s. The Census of 1836 reports Holyrood as having a school and in 1839 yet another was established and taught by a Mr. Woodford. Although it wouldn’t become a full-fledged parish until some 50 years later a mission church was established as early as 1830 and was serviced by a traveling priest who was established initially in Harbour Grace and later in Harbour Main. A cemetery was adjacent to this Mission Church, the use of which was discontinued in the 1870’s. Many of the early headstones, carved from Kelly’s Island stone, still remain today in the old cemetery garden on the north side.
By the latter half of the 1800’s Holyrood began to mature. Property as we know it today had all been settled. Immigration of new families slowed, while the population grew with children and grandchildren of settlers marrying and remaining within the community. The development of the railway in the 1880’s had a tremendous impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the community. The railway suddenly made St. John’s and Carbonear an hour away by a comfortable coach. Port aux Basques became less than 2 days away and Boston could be reached overland (except for Gulf Crossing) in less than a week. Coincident with the railway was the development of telegraph communications, and changes in mail delivery. Mail from St. John’s and other rail points became destined to Holyrood to be relayed to Harbour Main, Chapel’s Cove, and St. Mary’s Bay via the Salmonier Line. In addition to the men who became employed directly with the railway, telegraph and posts, a service industry was created to accommodate the people travelling. Holyrood’s beautiful scenery provided the backdrop for a tourist industry. Suddenly, workers in St. John’s could take holidays and picnics alongside their favorite rivers and fishing holes in little more than an hour from home. Small hotels and boarding houses developed all over the community. This tourist industry flourished in Holyrood until the 1960’s when the availability of motor cars and the construction of the Trans Canada Highway across the island opened up new opportunities to the traveling public.
The availability of the railway to Holyrood had an impact on the fishing industry in the community. Because people were suddenly able to travel and communicate with the rest of the country in relative ease, they were not isolated to the same degree that many other communities in Newfoundland were. (Most of coastal Newfoundland was completely dependent on water for travel and communication.) Consequently, when the fishery went into its various declines in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s people had relatively easy access to new employment opportunities. The mine on Bell Island in the 1890’s, the pulp and paper at Grand Falls in 1909, and later the mines at Sydney, N.S. and the development of Corner Brook in the 1920’s all provided alternatives to the fishing industry. As we get into the chapter on Holyrood families, we will read about the men who made careers of leaving home in the spring to work in the Boston states or the Great Lakes and return home again in the fall.
The Labrador and Grand Banks fishery gradually began to decline during the first decades of the 20th century. The bait fishery was sustained with visiting banking schooners. In 1932 John J. Carroll built the first mechanically refrigerated “cold storage” plant in Newfoundland and could now provide bait for longer periods, as well as developing a cottage industry of freezing and shipping blueberries.
The decline in the fishery and the opening of new opportunities elsewhere took its toll of Holyrood’s population. In 1921 there were 1050 people in Holyrood; by 1935 there were 951, and by 1945, 707 people. The Depression Years of the 1930’s were also felt in Holyrood. However, the diversity of occupations now reduced the severity that haunted other communities completely dependent on the fishery. The depression with the fishery followed by the creation of the U.S. and Canadian Military Bases in St. john’s and Argentia all but eliminated the fishing industry in Holyrood. By the 1950’s and 60’s only a handful of people fished and the bait fishery was reduced to a seasonal operation.
The post-war period and Confederation saw yet another socioeconomic change in Holyrood. From a population low of 707 in 1945, growth increased almost 3-fold over the next 30 years. This was due to the postwar baby boom and the fact that many children of this boom remained in Holyrood and established families. In addition, the community once again saw an immigration of people to the area. The development of industries such as the Golden Eagle (Ultramar) Oil Refinery and the Newfoundland Hydro Electric Generating Station as well as the increased government services sector all added employment to the area. However, it is probably Holyrood’s proximity to St. John’s that transformed it into a “Dormer Community.” Today, by far the majority of working residents are employed in St. john’s and have chosen to live in Holyrood and commute on a daily basis. Consequently, the core of business in the community is in light services to the residents.
With the creation of the oil refinery and the general growth and development in the late 1950’s steps were taken to formalize the community into a town. In 1961 Holyrood was first incorporated and shortly thereafter a Board of Trustees was appointed to run the municipality. Eight years later the Town of Holyrood was created and the first Town Council elected. By 1982 town services included a water and sewer system, recreational facilities, a fire hall, garbage collection and street lighting. In 1967 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established a detachment.
Over the years a number of various industries have existed in Holyrood. Besides the fishing in the 1800’s an attempt to develop a copper mining operation was started in the mid 1800’s. This attempt was apparently unsuccessful and the remnants of this excavation can be seen on the seashore of the North Arm hills.
As we will see in later chapters, employment was gained in service industries even as early as the mid 1800’s. A ferry service was operated between Duffs on the south side to Chapol’s Cove as a short cut to carry mail and passengers from St. John’s to Harbour Main and outlying communities-The development of an overland mail service to St. Mary’s Bay and Placentia created the Salmonier Line and the host of service houses along the way. The development of the railway only served to enhance these existing services. The taxiing and lodging of travellers from St. Mary’s Bay to connect with the trains substantially increased the number of people employed in these areas. In the late 1800’s several popular hotels were in operation: Veitch’s, Butler’s, Lewis’, O’Rourke’s and others. In later years Frank Bennett and Jim Crawley and others operated motor taxis from St. John’s to St. Mary’s. The development of the Argentia Naval Base in the 1940’s greatly increased the traffic through Holyrood. The Salmonier Line was upgraded for heavy vehicular traffic. The movement of people at the time was such that anyone with a motor car got into the taxi business.
Restaurants and snack bars opened up. Hickey’s, Crawley’s, Dunphy’s, Furey’s, Davis’, Godson’s all established businesses to serve the travelling public. Furey’s in particular grew into the thriving ‘Fleetline BusCo. Ltd.” with their fleet of buses operating between St. John’s, Bell Island, Carbonear and Argentia. This service industry flourished until the 1960’s when the Trans Canada Highway permitted travelers to by-pass Holyrood to and from St. John’s, coincident with the phasing out of the Argentia Naval Station and the rail passenger service. During this same period the tourist industry also flourished. Holyrood’s scenic setting together with the availability of an adequate service industry made it a natural choice for weekenders and holiday-goers. During those days anyone with a bedroom to spare took in “boarders” during the summer months.
Servicing the fishery was also an industry. Perhaps the most notable in this field was the Carroll Cold Storage. Initially, James Carroll and later his son Jack operated a fresh and frozen bait supply for the Labrador and Bank fisheries. In the beginning ice was cut from ponds in the winter to keep bait chilled in summer. Later, the first mechanical refrigeration unit in Newfoundland was installed to improve methods. Numerous people over the years were employed with the Carrolls’, either directly or through selling fish, bait or berries to them. In recent years the “Cold, Storage,” has been utilized more for the landing of fish and bait for transport to centralized processing plants.
The, last 30 years saw the development of several heavy industries in the community. During the 1950’s the new “provincial” government of Joseph Smallwood began a program of establishing manufacturing industries at various places around Newfoundland. One of these was a plant manufacturing rubber products. The “Superior RubberCo. Ltd.” was begun in the early 1950’s but only lasted about a year before closing.
In the late 1950’s Golden Eagle Oil Refinery Ltd., was created on the shores of the south side. This facility covered an area of about 80 acres and took over two years to construct. When completed it employed about 75 full-time workers as well as many part-time and seasonal workers. Over the years the refinery flourished and expanded from its initial capacity of 70(X) barrels a day to over 15000 barrels a day by the mid 1970’s. The refinery’s workforce brought many new residents and families to the community. Alas, the refinery became one of the causalities of the economic downturn in the oil industry in thc, early 1980’s. The refinery capability was discontinued at that time and the facility used for storage of products refined elsewhere.
In the late 1960’s Holyrood was chosen as the site of an oil fired electric generating station. Once again it was boom times with the influx of workers and their families during the construction period.. To date this industry still flourishes.
A side from the refinery and the generating station the next largest industry in Holyrood in recent years is once again in the service industry. In the early 1970’s a number of people developed facilities for the care of senior citizens and patients requiring special care. Today 7 facilities: Woodford’s, Quinlan’s, Kennedy’s, Kirby’s, Condon’s and Crawley’s all provide care and services to over 100 people and employ over 35 people directly.
Today the majority of residents are engaged in a diversity of occupations. Residents include doctors, dentists, pharmacists, architects and engineers, money managers, nurses, social workers, teachers,artists,police officers and numerous others in varied walks of life. In addition, Holyrood has exported as much talent again. Holyrood continues to grow and change, yet still maintains the peaceful flavour and rural charm that makes it a nice place to live.
HISTORY OF HOLYROOD – FOOTNOTES 1.Sisam, Kenneth, Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose, Oxford University Press, London 1967, Glossary.
This History of Holyrood came from the book “Come Ashore to Holyrood by Mary Veitch