We scoured the world's collected knowledge to compile these facts and legends about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
Born: around 385 to 387 AD in England
Died: March 17, year 461, at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland (source)
Patrick was born in England, in an area under Roman control. His father, Calpornius, was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. This was before the Church began requiring vows of celibacy from their clergy. While on his mission in Ireland, he missed his father and mother, Conchessa, but felt he couldn’t return. “God knows what I would dearly like to do. But I am bound in the Spirit, who assures me that if I were to do this, I would be held guilty,” he writes in one of two surviving documents confirmed to be written by Patrick. (source)
Patrick was taken from his home at a young age and sold as a slave. He was sent to County Down, Ireland, where he tended sheep and swine. After six years as a slave, he escaped to France. Tradition states Patrick had a vision in which he was told to return to Ireland. After the vision he began the process of becoming ordained, returning to Ireland as a bishop in 432. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is built on the site of a church Patrick built in the year 445. (source)
Things you thought you knew about St. Patrick
The legend of St. Patrick using the shamrock to teach about the Catholic concept of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost – dates to the early 1700s. There is no evidence that Patrick actually used a shamrock as a prop while converting people to Christianity.
Patrick is credited with driving all the snakes from Ireland. The truth of the matter is there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with. One theory explains the source of this legend as figurative, rather than literal. The serpent represents either paganism or evil, which Patrick was on a mission to drive from the land
In 1931, four years after recorded dialogue first appeared in film, Newfoundland and Labrador became the setting for Canada’s first “talkie,” The Viking. Centred around the seal hunt, the film tells the story of two sealers, one brave and one “jinxed,” who begin the hunt as enemies and end up as friends.
In addition to filming on location in Quidi Vidi, the director and producer accompanied actual sealers on a Grand Banks expedition in order to add a sense of realism to their film. After showing the completed movie to a private audience at the Nickel Theatre in St. John’s, director George Melford was dissatisfied with the Grand Banks scenes and decided to shoot new footage of a second hunt – this time aboard the SS Viking, the film’s namesake.
On March 15, 1931, while attempting to film a scene involving exploding icebergs, Varick Frissell, the film’s producer; Alexander Penrod, the cinematographer; and 25 other crew members and sealers were killed when dynamite brought by the film crew exploded, destroying the ship’s stern and ultimately sinking the vessel. Despite the tragic accident, The Viking was completed and released only three months later.
Reader Eric Quinlan of Tiverton, Ontario recently sent in this photo of a mystery object that was found in Newfoundland more than 70 years ago. He writes, "My sister-in-law’s father found it on the beach in Botwood in 1942. It’s a hollow brass cylinder approximately 3.5 inches in length and just over 0.5 inch in diameter. The item on the left screws into the hollow of the cylinder. The item on the left also has what seems like a miniature spoon on its end, albeit the 'spoon' is quite shallow. It appears this item was manufactured in England and may have something to do with the Second World War."
If you recognize this object as something you once used or owned - or even if you have a good guess as to what it may be - please help solve the mystery by leaving a comment on this article, or by calling 1-866-640-1999. We’ll share what we learn from you in a future issue.
We were overwhelmed with responses to our last "mystery object" (pictured below), which turned out to be a component of a seaman's hammock. Have a listen to some of the interesting responses we received via our toll-free submission phone line.
Courtesy Lloyd Pretty
Jonathan Seaward, retired chief petty officer with the Royal Canadian Navy, offered the following explanation.
Watson Strong wasn't long figuring out our mystery.
Wayne Grasser explains why he is more than a little familiar with "hammock clews."
For those of you who'd like to see how hammock clews are made, reader Orville Reeves sent us a link to this video.
Are you in possession of some object that defies explanation? Submit a photo of it here, along with a description of where and when you found it, and with the help of our readers we'll try our best to solve another mystery.
Valentine’s Day, a time of love and tenderness and fond thoughts of cherished ones. But imagine it’s 500 years ago, and you’re a lonely sailor thousands of miles from your homeland, exploring the far reaches of the world. You’ve got land in your sights and love in your heart. So it would make sense then, that these long-ago, possibly lovesick, folk might have been moved to christen our towns, coves and bays with tender-sounding names – wouldn't it?
Take Cupids, for instance. Upon entering this historic town on the Baccalieu Trail, we imagine the average tourist visiting from upalong might mistakenly assume the place owes its romantic name to that adorable arrow-weilding cherub. After all, the scenery here looks like a fitting home for the ultimate matchmaker. The truth is though, the town shares no connection with Cupid. In fact, in the early 1600s John Guy brought settlers to a place called Cuper’s Cove. Over the years the name took on many variations – Cubbit’s Cove, Cuperts Cove, Copers, etc. – and finally the present-day name, Cupids.
Doting Cove. Based on the name, some lonely fella might stroll into this cove waiting to be tended on hand and foot by the most loving and attentive women in the world.
The truth behind the name: This scenic cove near Musgrave Harbour is actually named after a doater, a Newfoundland term meaning an “old seal”…which is probably not loving and attentive – and definitely not what any lonely fella has on his mind.
Flowers Cove. It sounds like a heavenly place where the land is carpeted in a beautiful wash of colourful flowers each summer.
The truth behind the name: Located near the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula, the beauty of this seaside town really does make it heavenly, and yes, flowers do grow here! But the name, given by Captain Cook in the 1700s, is actually derived from flour – not flowers. However it wasn’t Cook’s fondness for baked goods that led to the naming of this cove. Rather, back then, “flour” was the name for the white scum of breaking waves. Ahh, the romance of the sea.
St. Bride’s. Could this pretty town on the southern Avalon Peninsula really be named after the little known patron saint of the newly wed? Think again.
The truth behind the name: St. Bride’s is named after Bridget, one of Ireland’s patron saints.
L’Anse Amour. This French name for the picturesque community on the southern Labrador coast translates to “Cove of Love” in English.
The truth behind the name: The above description is the truth – just not the whole truth. According to the website Labrador Coastal Drive, that’s a romanticized version of the original, slightly less warm and fuzzy-sounding, name “Anse aux Morts” – or Cove of the Dead – likely named for the many shipwrecks in the area.
Heart’s Delight & Heart’s Desire. In the case of these neighbouring Avalon Peninsula communities, reality is sweeter than fiction. According to the book Newfoundland and Labrador Place Names by David E. Scott, Heart’s Delight was named by “weary travellers who were ‘delighted’ with the beauty of the place.” Of nearby Heart’s Desire, Scott goes on to say, “Tradition has it that early travellers, after first seeing Heart’s Delight, desired to keep on hiking up the shore to see what they then named Heart’s Desire.”
Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Place Names by David E. Scott
The Short Circuit Dream Fund is a charity created by William Short, a 17-year-old Marystown Central High School student, that makes the dreams of critically ill children in Newfoundland and Labrador come true. To find out more about this story, see the April 2010 issue of Downhome.
Click on the video below to see Carter FitzPatrick of Little Bay, NL get his wish come true, and learn his touching story. Also, take a look at the video "My Brother, My Passion" about the Short Circuit Dream Fund.
Recently I received the following letter from reader Dave Potts. His predicament is not exactly unusual for property owners on the windswept terrain of Newfoundland. He writes:
Dear Ross; My wife and I own a five-acre parcel with a small home at Cape Ray, Newfoundland – the last house before the lighthouse. I think the local folk refer to the area as the barrens or something like that. There is not a tree on the property. There is about 18 inches of moss/topsoil above good ol’ Newfoundland rock. I am looking for advice as to the type of trees that I should plant. I have in mind tamarack, spruce and, although I do not see them growing locally, white pine. I am looking for some advice and was wondering if there are trees available through the government forestry service.
Dave, I am familiar with the area and your unique natural landscape. One of the main reasons why there are no native trees is because of the wind and poor soil. You also need a seed source from other trees in order for them to get established naturally. Trees and shrubs can be transplanted, but there are limitations with your type of landscape. I don’t think you will be able to find suitable plant material at a nursery. You need to transplant native trees and shrubs that are growing in exposed areas nearby.
The timing for transplanting is critical. You have about two weeks in the spring – as soon as the ground thaws out and before new growth starts. I don’t recommend fall transplanting in this situation. When choosing a plant, remember that the smaller the tree or shrub, the easier it is to transplant and get established. You don’t gain anything by planting large trees in windy areas because they may not take root. Smaller trees will start to grow faster after transplanting and you will have a much stronger tree. For example, a 12- or 18-inch white spruce is a better choice than one that is three or four feet tall. It is a good idea to select the trees and shrubs for transplanting from an area that is exposed to the wind and where they are not crowded together.
The technique for transplanting from the wild involves digging around the tree while at the same time pulling it up, to get as much root as possible. The roots of the tree or shrub should be immediately covered with plastic to keep it from drying out. The exposed roots should not be allowed to dry out even for an hour or so. Also, the organic material that accumulates underneath trees in the forest contains organisms that help trees get established and grow. So it’s a good idea to collect some of this and mix it with the soil when you transplant the tree on your property.
Do not use fertilizer when transplanting. However, a small sprinkle of lime mixed with the soil would help. Make sure that the soil is packed tightly around the roots to eliminate air pockets. If you did well and chose a small tree, it won’t need any special supports after transplanting. After planting, mulch the ground to prevent any plant growth around the base that would compete with the tree for moisture and nutrients. And if the tree happens to be dry, it should be watered when planted and again every few days for a month or so. No pruning is necessary the first year except for broken branches or branches that are growing in the wrong direction.
There are several species of trees that I would recommend for windy areas. The native white spruce, Picea glacua, is well adapted to the wind and provides shelter in the wintertime. As you mentioned, the tamarack, Larix laricina (or juniper, as we call them in Newfoundland) is another good choice. The native alder, Alnus crispa, can be trimmed to make a hedge. I do not recommend pine because it is not well adapted to wind and salt spray.
In general, I would recommend maintaining a natural landscape with its unique characteristics. The old-fashioned picket fence made with small round spruce could provide some shelter and blend in with the landscape. A fence made with driftwood would be another choice. The plants that are now naturally growing in the barrens should be preserved as much as possible. Pathways made with gravel or wood can provide easy access. Good luck with your project.
Got a gardening question for Ross? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, in honour of St. Patrick, we’ve put an Irish spin on a traditional comfort food... Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce. We have to confess to enjoying this dessert for breakfast on occasion. Perfect on a cool morning and a wee tipple first thing gets you revved up for the day! Tee hee. (Actually the alcohol is burned off during the cooking, but the flavour of the whiskey first thing in the morning is a decadent treat!)
We use multigrain bread, so we feel a little more virtuous about enjoying this dish anytime; but in fact, the nutty flavour and firmer texture of the multigrain works exceptionally well and we now prefer it to using white bread. You can use a mixture of any bread you have left over, including baguette or other specialty loaves – even cinnamon raisin bread. Unless the crusts are very thick or the bread is very dry, you don’t need to remove the crusts.
You also have several options with baking dishes: individual ramekins, muffin cups or a larger baking or casserole dish. You can prepare the bread pudding in advance of a party, as it rewarms beautifully in the microwave or stove oven. But while the pudding freezes very well, the sauce does not. So make the sauce just before serving.
Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 cups cubed stale bread – about 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup raisins (golden raisins are nice)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar (you can use a little less)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in microwave (about a minute depending on the power of your microwave). Toss bread in butter to coat all the cubes. If making individual bread puddings, divide bread amongst eight ramekins or muffin cups; scatter raisins evenly over top. Otherwise, place bread in a medium-sized casserole or baking dish and scatter raisins evenly.
Using the same bowl (why wash more dishes?), make the custard by whisking together remaining ingredients until sugar is dissolved and eggs are well broken up. Pour liquid over bread and raisins (distribute evenly for individual servings). Let sit 5 min., then toss to be sure all bread gets soaked with the custard.
Bake 20 min. until puffed and golden brown. Check for doneness by inserting the tip of a paring knife in the middle. It should come out fairly clean (a little wet is okay).
Irish Whiskey Sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup (2 oz) Irish whiskey (you may substitute another spirit, or replace with milk)
You can make this in the microwave or on the stovetop. Microwave: In a microwave-safe vessel with plenty of head space (to allow for boiling), whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add butter and corn syrup. Microwave 40-60 seconds until melted. Whisk until smooth. Add milk and whiskey and return to microwave. Cook for 1 min. intervals, whisking in between until sauce is thickened to the consistency of gravy or custard (may take 3-5 min. total depending on the power of your microwave). Whisk in vanilla. Serve over warm puddings. Stovetop: Mix dry ingredients together same as above. Add remaining ingredients except vanilla and cook, whisking over medium heat until smooth and thickened. Stir in vanilla and serve.