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Harbour Grace museum wants residents to share stories on Historic Places Day

The old train station in Harbour Grace was recently renovated on the inside and received a new paint job. Andrew Robinson/The Compass
The old train station in Harbour Grace was recently renovated on the inside and received a new paint job. Andrew Robinson/The Compass
HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. —
Patrick "Pat" Collins
Patrick "Pat" Collins

Give much thought lately to the antique washer your mom used to have when you were little that now sits unused in the garage, or perhaps pop’s old saddle from his horse-riding days that you’ve held on to all these years?

There's no primary sources to confirm it, but oral history has suggested these antique skis were once used by Bishop John March in Harbour Grace. Patrick Collins got them from Bill Luffman. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
There's no primary sources to confirm it, but oral history has suggested these antique skis were once used by Bishop John March in Harbour Grace. Patrick Collins got them from Bill Luffman. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Well, Patrick “Pat” Collins and the Conception Bay Museum would love for you to join in on an event that will share the memories and stories of Harbour Grace’s residents through public heritage displays. These displays will be set up at St. Paul’s Church Hall as part of the community’s celebration of Historic Places Day.

It’s a first-time event, according to Collins, who chairs the board responsible for the museum, located in a 149-year-old building that once served as Harbour Grace’s customs house.
Historic Places Day is an initiative of the National Trust of Canada, an organization dedicated to protecting structures of historic importance. On Saturday, July 6, many historic properties across the country will open their doors to the public. In Harbour Grace, the Otterbury Schoolhouse and Harbour Grace Railway Station will be open for free to the public. Both buildings’ origins date back to 1884.

The one-room Otterbury Schoolhouse was built in 1884 in Harbour Grace. Andrew Robinson/The Compass
The one-room Otterbury Schoolhouse was built in 1884 in Harbour Grace. Andrew Robinson/The Compass

“We decided as a board we would take on trying to bring (in) ordinary Harbour Grace citizens to whom the history belongs,” explained Collins. “It’s their heritage, it’s their culture, and we’re trying to figure out a way that we can bring them into the fold and the whole concept of celebrating all that we’ve had and all that we’ve accomplished.”

In addition to visiting sites like the one-room schoolhouse, railway station or museum (which will also have free admission that day), Collins wants residents to consider what historic relics they may own and think about the stories linked to them. If there’s something worth sharing, Collins would encourage anyone to sign up for the event at St. Paul’s Church Hall, which runs from 2-5 p.m. This could range from pictures and old articles to physical artifacts they hold dearly.

One item in Collins’ possession that he feels ties in nicely with this concept are an old scythe that once belonged to his grandfather, John Collins, of Riverhead, Harbour Grace. The elder Collins would use it to cut the tall grass in fields.

This scythe belonged to the grandfather of Patrick Collins — John Collins of Riverhead, Harbour Grace. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
This scythe belonged to the grandfather of Patrick Collins — John Collins of Riverhead, Harbour Grace. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Another interesting piece of history he’s held on to is a set of antique skis that he got years ago from local entertainer and shoe repairman Bill Luffman (Luffman recently died at the age of 84).

Although he cautions this cannot be confirmed through any primary sources, Collins’ understanding is the skis were used in the early 1900s by local Catholic Bishop John March.

“He would ski to the various missions,” Collins said. “We hope that people will buy into this and come out and enjoy it. It’s not something that’s for study. It’s not something to be bored with. It’s something that we hope … they’ll brag about their families and brag about their loved ones.”

Knowing how deeply rooted some families are in the town’s history, Collins expects there could be some great items to display and stories to tell.

“I think it’s the story behind the object or the story behind the article or photo that we’re hoping they’ll share,” he said. “For example, with Bishop March’s skis, when Bill Luffman had his shoe repair place open on Harvey Street, some 30 years ago I went in and I saw those there, and I said, ‘What are those?’ He said, ‘Well they belonged to Bishop March. I got them from the groundskeeper, his name was John Thomey.’ And he told me, ‘These are skis that Bishop March gave (Thomey) for his good work while there.’”

While relaying the story from a long time ago, Collins admits he could be wrong about the first name of the groundskeeper. Collins ultimately purchased the skis from Luffman.

“It’s the story behind the objects,” he said.

If anyone would like to book a table for free to take part in the event at St. Paul’s Church Hall, they can contact Brenda at 596-7549 or Anne at 596-6815.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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