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Province honours local fish merchants

Two local fish merchants were among the practices, events, traditions and people honoured this month through the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program.

Andrew Robinson/The Compass
The Ridley Offices building at Point of Beach in Harbour Grace is 177 years old.

Nineteenth century fish merchants Thomas Ridley and Roger F. Sweetman were part of a group recognized for contributing to Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic development at an early stage in its history post-European settlement.

Ridley operated his business in Harbour Grace, and the Ridley Offices building from 1838 still stands to this day. Ridley Hall, Thomas’ residential property built in 1834, was left in ruins following a fire in 2003. He was the first merchant to use a steamship in the annual seal hunt.

Roger F. Sweetman first moved to Placentia to help look after the affairs of his family’s business, Saunders & Sweetman, in the early 19th century, with his father Pierce directing the business from Waterford, Republic of Ireland. He inherited the company after Pierce’s death in 1841 and helped maintain its position as a major mercantile presence along the south coast and parts of the southern Avalon until his own death in 1862.

The third 19th century fish merchant honoured was John Bingley Garland of Trinity.

The Provincial Historic Commemorations Program was established in 2010. It has made 31 designations since then. The program encourages the public to nominate notable aspects of the province’s heritage and culture.

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